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How to Descend on a Mountain Bike

There are two ways to descend on a mountain bike, actually. We’ll teach you the way that doesn’t involve rolling, falling and broken bones.


  • Step 1: Lower seat height Lower your seat until your knee is just shy of a 90-degree angle when the crank is at the 9 o’clock position with your foot on the pedal.
  • Step 2: Stand up on the pedals Stand up on the pedals while going downhill. This lets the rear wheel hop around and roll over rocks and bumps without bucking you into the bushes.
  • Step 3: Keep your weight back Keep your weight back, with your legs and arms slightly bent. That way your arms and legs can act like shock absorbers and flex if you hit an obstacle with the front tire.
  • Step 4: Use your rear brake to slow Use your rear brake to slow down, and be careful not to lock the tire into a skid.
  • Step 5: Use both breaks in an emergency If you have to stop suddenly, throw your weight back – pelvis behind the seat if possible – and squeeze both the front and rear brakes while keeping the bike straight.
  • TIP: If an obstacle is too daunting to ride over, like a boulder or a cliff, don’t be a hero – just stop, carry your bike past it, and keep going.
  • Step 6: Keep up your momentum Use your momentum to help you through difficult sections of sand, water, rocks, or mud. If you slow down, you’ll get stuck or crash.
  • TIP: If a hiker or cyclist is coming uphill on the trail, they have the right of way. Stop and let them pass before continuing on.
  • Step 7: Break before turns Brake before turns and then roll through them. If you need to slow down, use your rear brake exclusively.
  • FACT: On the Kamikaze Downhill held at Mammoth Mountain in California, mountain bikers can reach speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour.

You Will Need

  • Mountain bike
  • Helmet
  • Bike gloves
  • Sunglasses

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