Illustration of downhill rider

What kind of mountain biker are you? #4 The Downhiller

If you've ridden a mountain bike for any length of time you'll recognise the various sorts of riders you're likely to meet on the trails. In this mini series we take a look at six very different sorts of mountain biker, now it's the turn of the downhill rider…

Downhill racers like to think of themselves as the alpha males of the mountain bike community – faster, gnarlier and cooler than everyone else. Of course not everyone is like this, but turn up at a downhill race as a noob and there’s a tangible air of snobbery around the pits. Becoming an accepted member of the gang isn’t easy and requires you to not only be fast as hell but look the part too. If you want to roll with the clique, here’s how to do it…

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Get kitted out

You need to be riding the latest bike and technology to be taken seriously. Buying your full-carbon race machine with custom-tuned suspension may require you to sell a kidney, but it’ll be worth it. That is, until it gets scratched to bits crashing in a rock garden. A better option is to get mummy and daddy to buy it. You need to look ‘factory’ (in other words, look like you ride for a World Cup team), so your riding kit should be full racer pyjamas, colour coordinated with your bike. Get your name printed on the back so everyone knows it’s you coming down the hill.

Side on shot of Santa Cruz V10 29er
You gotta have the right sort of bike for downhill racing, right?
mountain biker race jersey with name and number on the back
If you’re serious about downhill it’s important to get your name on your jersey and to go as bright and lairy as possible with your kit

Go riding

You’re going to have to leave your days of clocking up big miles in the hills behind you. As a UK downhiller, your weekends will now consist of standing about in a muddy field waiting to be shuttled up the hill for a three-minute descent. Make the most of these few runs though, because you’ll be paying nearly £100 for the privilege. Going biking outside of race weekends should not be referred to as riding any more, but rather ‘training’. Everything you do should now be focused on making you faster – having fun is secondary and Strava is your new best friend.

Riders sitting in the back of an uplift trailer being towed up by a tractor
The uplift vehicle removes any need for ever pedalling uphill ever again

Look the part

You’ll be laughed off the uplift truck if you make any style errors. Having any skin showing between your knee pads and shorts is a big no-no, known as the ‘gaper gap’. Never wear a full-face with the peak down or without goggles, and going bullet (aka peakless) is a cardinal sin. Body armour should be avoided, because a sense of self-preservation ain’t cool. Roost guards are OK though, as they look ‘moto’ and that’s on- trend. Don’t talk to anyone you perceive to not be as quick as you. Instead, treat slower riders with an air of disdain and elevate your status among your mates by mocking their riding style and wearing of last year’s kit.

Go racing

Race locally and practise the track in secret beforehand – that way you’re more likely to get on the podium. Avoid the big races on harder tracks and against faster riders because you’ll get beaten and that’s not going to attract sponsors. In the uplift queue, be very vocal about the wild inside line you’re doing, that you claim is five seconds quicker than everyone else’s. After the race, if you find yourself midway down the results table, fabricate stories about crashes and mechanicals to hide the fact you just got scared and grabbed the brakes.

Podium position number one
Be selective and cunning about the races you enter to optimise your chance of taking the podium!

Flood social media

Whenever you’re not riding, your face must be glued to the screen of your phone, shamelessly self-promoting yourself on Instagram. Turn your Facebook profile into an athlete page and film a ‘sick edit’ (video) with your wannabe videographer friend, talking about your goals for next year and your dream of being a pro rider. It’s absolutely imperative that you hashtag everything for maximum exposure. Photo suggestions include posing with a sponsor’s product, or topless on a turbo trainer. #training #recovery #livetoride #thelocalshopwhoaregivingyou5%offfullretailprice.

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