I have a hard time improving my mountain biking skills unless I am actually watching someone or practicing it myself. I glaze over when looking at technical descriptions and diagrams about technique and body positions. So I will not do that here.
But there are a few things you can keep in mind on every descent that will give you the base skills to improve. After awhile these will be automatic but until then – here are my top 4. I’ll keep it simple so you don’t over think any of this.
Parallel Pedals – You must keep your pedals at the 3 and 9 o’clock position when going downhill. Which means both knees are bent. If one leg is straight your pedal is too close to the ground and it will hit an obstacle and throw you off your bike. Of course you can, and should, pedal when needed.
Speed– Going slow is not safe- period. Almost all my crashes over the years came from rolling too slow over obstacles.
Look ahead – Look 5-15 feet in front of you. Not at your front wheel or directly at that rock you want to avoid. By looking ahead you will also naturally go faster. And when going faster look farther ahead.
*If there is a technical section then yes you want to first look at it but that is best to do while off the bike. Once you know the line (and are confident) point and shoot.
Bike/Body separation – The best way to explain this is that you need to be relaxed and in a neutral stance over your bike. Balanced over the center all the weight on your pedals and not on the seat. You are hovering over the seat, you have a light grip on the handlebars, your arms are slightly bent to absorb bumps, and your legs and feet are your suspension. Your body is telling the bike where to go with slight and gentle moves and you trust your bike and tires.
Of course there is a lot more to perfect descending but think about these 4 skills and I’m confident you will see an improvement.
I took the picture below from pro rider Sara Kaufmann’s website. She is ready to roll in this picture!