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How to Master Steep Downhills

What goes up, must come down

How do you like the feeling of the ground suddenly getting steeper and steeper, dropping away in front of you? you were happily cruising along the flat when your front wheel disappears quicker than you can blink. dive, dive, dive! You hang on for dear life only to get thrown forward over the handle- bars and left wondering “what just happened?” It is almost enough to put a beginner off motorcycling all together. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way.

A Step Back

So, here are the rider profiles: Grant’s experience lies in road riding. Stacey is a mum that figures she really should get into more of this dark side so she doesn’t get left behind in the pits, while dad and the kids have all the fun. Unfortunately jumping and sliding in the dirt holds no attraction to her at all so she is still in two minds about the whole thing. It is my job to give her the skills that help change her mind.

Both Grant and Stacey are on smaller bikes for starters, although Grant found the 230 a little small and the bars a bit low for a 1.8m rider and jumped on the Ktm 300 before too long. The smaller bikes made it easy for them to gain confidence off road. But don’t be fooled – these mildly tuned trail bikes can still act like a crazy wild mustang if treated wrongly, so listen carefully to the advice of the motorcycle equivalent of wildlife commentator, David Attenborough.

“A 230 can be compared to the common horse. If you are relaxed, it will behave. If it senses fear then you may be in for a wild ride. It will not be forced to do something. This work horse needs a balance of freedom and guidance so, as its master, you must aim to work as one with your animal.”

Motocross decentRunaway Train

This short but steep downhill is a perfect example. If you get the balance wrong you will be too free in the legs and too controlling in the arms, not letting the front come up to you. That forces your head back and when the front eventually drops you will have no room left- your arms will extend and all hell breaks loose. Either you will get thrown forward or will end up ripping the throttle on full. We’ve all been there and it is terrifying!

Your strength needs to come in your legs, not letting them bend too much. Freedom comes through letting the handlebars come to you. now get out there and give it a go!

Even the most placid person who has ever put on a helmet knows that the competition naturally flows.Motocross Decent - Fail

So, if you compare Grant and Sta- cey on the way up the hill you can see she has the best balance of solid lower body and free arms. Her body does not tip back at all. that meant Grant just needed to get his knees back a bit so he too could safely get his head over the front up the steepest bit, enabling him to let the front drop safely.

Role Reversal

The battle then shifted as they hit the drop backwards. After a briefing and demonstration on getting close to the handlebars before the front dropped down the hill, it was Grant who really got down on time, where he could then squat so his butt was well back. Ideally those arms would never get quite as straight as they were, but he was pretty close.

Stacey let her guard down a bit, the fear showing in her knees which she bent forward as the front dropped, meaning she got her head back (and arms straight) so her bum couldn’t get as far back. the main problem was a rut forming on the other side, a mean little combo that doubled the fear factor. The way to overcome that was by helping her find a new line so she was comfortable to get her style sorted. She could then use that style to conquer the rut – maybe next time. The fact that she was hitting this obstacle and doing it so well was a huge accomplishment in itself so there was less room to be fussy!

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