1. The most important thing about buying a new bike is to make sure it fits. The only way you'll know if the bike is right for you is to size up the bike and make sure that the bike's geometry matches your body's geometry. Ask questions and do some research.
mtn. biking 101
2. If possible, try to find a shop that will let you demo the bike on real dirt. Five minutes in a parking lot won't cut it. You wouldn't buy a car without a real world test drive, and a bike should be no different.
3. Don't belive the hype. Just because your favorite rider or best friend rides a certain bike, that doesn't mean that's the best one for you. Have an open mind and be realistic about your needs and ability.
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  1. #1
    Jwo
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    How do I get over the fear of downhill speed?

    Hi Everyone,

    I am new to this forum and new to mountain biking. Just started 3 weeks ago. I've semi-enjoyed it so far. I have had some bad spills and have some pretty bad scars on my legs already. My biggest fear is catching speed when going downhill. How do you get over this? Any suggestions? I really want to get out there and not be scared.

  2. #2
    Round is a shape!
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    Wear more protective gear, and just do it. There are shin/knee guards that DH/freeriders use. There are also body armor, helmets, ect ect. Untill you feel good about things. But an accident is just that, you can never predict when things will turn for the worse.
    Common sense isn't so common....

  3. #3
    The Martian
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    I'm going through the same problem right now.

    I've been riding long enough now that I know I have the skills to go faster than I do but I'm a bit of a wimp (despite the fact I've yet to wipe out going downhill...came close yesterday though).

    The past few rides I've been selecting fireroad type trails that I'm used to and relatively confident on. I then force myself to think "do I REALLY need to be in my brakes right now or can I take this turn". I've found thinking that and forcing myself not to think "O my gosh I'm going to miss and fall off the side of the mountain" has helped me build speed over the past few weeks comfortably. In fact yesterday I didn't touch my front brakes at all and rode some of the hill with both hands completely off the brake levers. I also make a pact with myself ahead of time that it's ok to get some roadburn just not go over the handlebars; of course I think that for me finally falling will help me in the end (I'm strange like that).

    It's about time for me to try some things with a bit more difficulty than a fire road, but alas there aren't many available to me at the moment.

    I agree with the other poster though. If you are beating your legs up that much you may want to get some pads (I just wear a soccer pad on my right leg, chain ring side). Also remember that it's ok to go slow until you get the hang of your technique and can safely go faster.

  4. #4
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    Jwo Hi Everyone,

    I am new to this forum and new to mountain biking. Just started 3 weeks ago. I've semi-enjoyed it so far. I have had some bad spills and have some pretty bad scars on my legs already. My biggest fear is catching speed when going downhill. How do you get over this? Any suggestions? I really want to get out there and not be scared.
    I was the same when I just started. Just to let you know... It's better to catch speed going downhill then it is to brake down. Try it once, you won't fall. After that, you'll just enjoy doing it. I bought some protective gear recently but they seem to get more in the way then let you enjoy yourself

  5. #5
    exacerbated member
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    My best recommendation for you is to take it slow.

    Fear is a function of anticipating your perceived inability to deal with the unknown. It is the most basic of our instincts, and the one most responsible for our survival.

    There is no shame in taking your time to learn the basics of control and finesse, to hone your feelings of reaction and proper degrees of compensation for your new bike.

    I have over 25 years of mtn biking experience and even still when I encounter a new technical rock garden or strangely cambered turn for the first time I slow down and savor it, study it, re-ride it, again and again seeking to learn the secret of its perfect line.
    With time and miles will come confidence in both your bike and yourself.

    Take heed Grasshopper, to learn every nook and cranny of the envelope before you try to push its boundary’s.

  6. #6
    pronounced may-duh
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    Quote Originally Posted by WorldWind
    My best recommendation for you is to take it slow.

    Fear is a function of anticipating your perceived inability to deal with the unknown. It is the most basic of our instincts, and the one most responsible for our survival.

    There is no shame in taking your time to learn the basics of control and finesse, to hone your feelings of reaction and proper degrees of compensation for your new bike.

    I have over 25 years of mtn biking experience and even still when I encounter a new technical rock garden or strangely cambered turn for the first time I slow down and savor it, study it, re-ride it, again and again seeking to learn the secret of its perfect line.
    With time and miles will come confidence in both your bike and yourself.

    Take heed Grasshopper, to learn every nook and cranny of the envelope before you try to push its boundaryís.
    I agree with this guy. Are you racing? If not then why do you need to go faster? The point is to have fun and get some exercise but mostly have fun. So go as fast or as slow as you want. Ride so you are successful. Success breads confidence. Soon you will be more comfortable at speed and riding will feel more natural and less like your forcing the issue. Just do what makes you happy.

  7. #7
    bi-winning
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maida7
    I agree with this guy. Are you racing? If not then why do you need to go faster? The point is to have fun and get some exercise but mostly have fun. So go as fast or as slow as you want. Ride so you are successful. Success breads confidence. Soon you will be more comfortable at speed and riding will feel more natural and less like your forcing the issue. Just do what makes you happy.
    I was going to suggest riding behind a more experienced rider, but i think the above may be a better idea while you are still building skills and confidence.

  8. #8
    MTB'er in Training
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    From a fellow newbie I can say...take your time...no need to rush...

    I have had a few spills...but all mine were slow falls on technical stuff (for my skill level). We have some fun downhills at the trails we ride regularly...the first time I took the downhill I went REAL slow...but with each time down it I would remember the best line for my skill level, and time after time I would get faster and flow better with the trail...now I am going 25mph+ down the hill with no problems at all...yeah, there are still sections I slow up on...but I have FUN doing it and best of all, I don't kill myself!!
    "Havin' a good time, here today...Watching the sun shine, matinee...Never the wrong time, time we stay...Living the moontime, time we play"

  9. #9
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    And of course having good tires that you are confident in does help a lot!
    [SIZE="2"]Life's a bi&*h & then you Ride![/SIZE]

  10. #10
    OMG!
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    As with learning any new skill- start small and work your way up. It's good to push the envelope, but you need to know your limits.

    A good way to get better quick is to find a hill you like and do it over and over. Go slow your first time down, and then make improvements from there.

    Have fun and be safe!

  11. #11
    Jwo
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    This is all really great advice. I do need to take it slow and not feel the need to push it so much. I think one of the problems was that I was riding with guys who are MUCH better than me and I felt like a slowpoke. I wont let that get in the way from now on. I'll let them go in front and I will catch up with them later!

  12. #12
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    Good advice above. Hit those breaks. That will stop the fear of going too fast.

    Besides not having the experience there are also many different types of riding. I think different people enjoy different aspects of it. This is why there are the different categories.

    So perhaps what your friends are enjoying is something that you are not that interested in and may have nothing to do with lack of experience.

    Different strokes for different folks (is that how that goes?) ! Give yourself time to decide
    Not much for a man to ask I dare say.. the simple maturity to ensure a limitless supply of clean socks.

  13. #13
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    I got this quote somewhere- "Speed hasn't landed people in as much trouble as braking has".

    Now this is not to say that you should just bomb the downhill run and smash everything in your path.... as several people have said- take it slow, and build up the confidence, that will help you gain trust over your bike handling skills.... and do wear a helmet.
    "Winners never quit. Quitters never win. But those who never win and never quit are idiots."

  14. #14
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    Lower your seat on the descents.

  15. #15
    Orange Yeti 575
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    I'm new too, but maybe a few rides ahead of you. Like others have suggested, I picked up some downhill pads even though they are overkill for the trails I ride.

    I had a fall into a cholla cactus that took my nerve away and wearing the pads out for the next two or three rides helped me ride without fear--not that they would have helped much with cactus. Once I got my nerve back I left them at home. I never wear them now.

    Also, I did some drills. The cause of the cactus fall and others was loss of momentum on uphills and not being able to clip out reflexively. I found a grassy soccer field and rode as slow as I could seated and standing. I practiced clipping out too.

    Lastly, I picked up a couple of books. I'm a reader and it helped along with riding three times a week to practice.

    I still scare myself at least once on every ride but itís because Iím having fun trying to improve in small bits.

    Donít practice frustration. Try a just little more than you can do until you get it then try a little more.

    Good luck and have fun!

    Dan

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jwo
    Hi Everyone,

    I am new to this forum and new to mountain biking. Just started 3 weeks ago. I've semi-enjoyed it so far. I have had some bad spills and have some pretty bad scars on my legs already. My biggest fear is catching speed when going downhill. How do you get over this? Any suggestions? I really want to get out there and not be scared.
    I would listen to your fear. We all have different levels of eye hand coordination. Some people can react twice as fast as another person so i would not try to keep up with the JOnes.

  17. #17
    Baton Rouge, LA
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    Use Johnny Drama's Method

    Quote Originally Posted by Jwo
    Hi Everyone,

    I am new to this forum and new to mountain biking. Just started 3 weeks ago. I've semi-enjoyed it so far. I have had some bad spills and have some pretty bad scars on my legs already. My biggest fear is catching speed when going downhill. How do you get over this? Any suggestions? I really want to get out there and not be scared.
    I'm in a similiar situation. I just started yesterday, and found myself looking down some imposing descents, all scared and alone. But, I followed the lead of Johnny Drama from the HBO show Entourage, and recited the following line 3 times:

    You are not a {female body part}

    Hope this helps

  18. #18
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    I don't have downhills where I live but the general principles would apply. Familiarization, practice and taking it one step at a time so to speak.
    Just like having a break from riding for a few years you would find that you have to build up your confidence on loose gravel and around corners again. How do you do that? Well you start off slow and go faster as you get used to it and more confident. I imagine the same thing would apply for downhill and this mirrors the top advice others have given you. Do it slow or at whatever speed you're confident with, and go that little bit faster each time. If you fall then maybe you're at your limit or maybe it was just a split moment mistake.

    I know what it's like to be scared of riding down let alone riding down fast, where I used to live there were some short, rocky, loose, steep and rutted downhills (not a dh course by any means) probably not the best to learn on but I'd give it a go and if I made it to the bottom without getting off the bike (an xc hardtail) then it was a real accomplishment for me. Mind you there was never anyone watching as I ride solo most of the time, I guess riding with others (or where there are others) can do two things - lead you to be a bit of a show of and try to do things you're not quite capable of or on the other hand you have someone to watch & learn from.

    And I seem to be rambling on again.

    Just ride at your own ability, push beyond it a little at a time & enjoy.
    [SIZE="2"]Life's a bi&*h & then you Ride![/SIZE]

  19. #19
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    my biggest advice would be weighting and unweighting especially in the corners, the more you ride you'll become more comfortable, and really pushing down hard in the corners will help you gain speed and lay off of the brakes

  20. #20
    Never Give Up!
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    Wear more safety gear and take it easy. Just dont "go for it" take it slow the couple first times, then when you get comfortable with it, you can do it with no problems.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jwo
    Hi Everyone,

    I am new to this forum and new to mountain biking. Just started 3 weeks ago. I've semi-enjoyed it so far. I have had some bad spills and have some pretty bad scars on my legs already. My biggest fear is catching speed when going downhill. How do you get over this? Any suggestions? I really want to get out there and not be scared.
    Can't believe no one has mentioned these-

    1) Get out on an open, deserted, paved road with a good runout and learn what fast really is and how the bike feels at speed. You should be able to clock well over 20mph, even on your first try. This will give you a feeling for the forces a speeding bike experiences w/o any of the risks you'll find in the woods. The more comforatble you are on the road @ 30, the more comfortable you'll be on the trail @ 15mph.

    2) Learn how to use your brakes. Get up to speed on the same road and see how long it takes you to come to a stop. Gradually get more aggressive at stopping till your wheels start to break loose. Really spend a lot of time doing this. Chewing through a set of tires is not a bad idea. (The stock ones that come on any bike usually suck anyway)

    3) Notice how your bike functions under hard braking. Sucks huh? Plus, your forearms get tired. Don't drag your brakes!!!! Most of going fast is not top speed, but maintaining a speed 2-3mph higher than your buddy for long periods of time. Scrub speed hard when you need to, then get right back up to speed. You don't pedal for no reason- don't brake for no reason.

    4) Go back to the woods. Woods are all about percieved speed, rather than real speed. Once you know you can go to zero from much faster, you'll be way more confident and willing to let it hang out.

    Getting faster at many stages is more a function of mental than physical. Free your mind and your brakepads.
    I call for a mandate to allow only road bikes on trails to limit our speeds and increase our line picking skills-FB

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by 9.8m/s/s
    Can't believe no one has mentioned these-

    1) Get out on an open, deserted, paved road with a good runout and learn what fast really is and how the bike feels at speed. You should be able to clock well over 20mph, even on your first try. This will give you a feeling for the forces a speeding bike experiences w/o any of the risks you'll find in the woods. The more comforatble you are on the road @ 30, the more comfortable you'll be on the trail @ 15mph.

    2) Learn how to use your brakes. Get up to speed on the same road and see how long it takes you to come to a stop. Gradually get more aggressive at stopping till your wheels start to break loose. Really spend a lot of time doing this. Chewing through a set of tires is not a bad idea. (The stock ones that come on any bike usually suck anyway)

    3) Notice how your bike functions under hard braking. Sucks huh? Plus, your forearms get tired. Don't drag your brakes!!!! Most of going fast is not top speed, but maintaining a speed 2-3mph higher than your buddy for long periods of time. Scrub speed hard when you need to, then get right back up to speed. You don't pedal for no reason- don't brake for no reason.

    4) Go back to the woods. Woods are all about percieved speed, rather than real speed. Once you know you can go to zero from much faster, you'll be way more confident and willing to let it hang out.

    Getting faster at many stages is more a function of mental than physical. Free your mind and your brakepads.
    Good point about perceived speed. I would add to this that you should try looking further up the trail. This will make it seem like you are going a it slower so maybe you won't freak out so much.

  23. #23
    Baton Rouge, LA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yolden Gears
    Good point about perceived speed. I would add to this that you should try looking further up the trail. This will make it seem like you are going a it slower so maybe you won't freak out so much.
    It's always good to set your sight far ahead of you. Let's you anticipate the move you need to make to get around obstacles. Something I transferred over from my 4x4 offroading.

  24. #24
    Dilberto
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    I drive a Porsche, as a racecar driver. Do you think I blaze a new track at full speed, the very first time out? That's suicide! Every driver(or, rider) "learns" a new course slow at first, then gradually building speed, as each turn, twist, rut, etc. becomes familiar. The more comfortable you become with a circuit- the more speed you can achieve. And, like the man wrote earlier- stopping is just as important.

    The first time I drove a go-kart, I thought I was the shizz....and nearly killed myself, by flipping the kart, going WAY too fast. Now driving a $100,000+ racing Porsche- I take each new turn S L O W. All-in-all, with everything- there is a learning curve. Confidence and speed is the result of reaching the top of it.

    -ZA

  25. #25
    Jwo
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    So I hit the trail again this weekend and it was SO much better. Mind you, it was a more manageable trail with some downhills and uphills but nothing too crazy. I listened to your advice and took it slowly and took some more risks if I felt up to it. I completed the downhills and got off the bike for some tight switchbacks or really narrow singletrack over cliffs. I was not hard on myself and didn't feel bad about getting off the bike if needed!

    Thanks again for all your advice. I am definitely getting out there and not giving up!

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