Coming back to DH

Forums Mountain Bike Forum Coming back to DH

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  gar29 4 years, 3 months ago.

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  • #127775

    I need up to date advice, but first, some background.

    I used to ride DH on a hardtail… that was about 15 years ago. I kinda lost interest at one point and stopped riding for a long time. The last couple years I started riding a bit just to get around and found myself taking longer than necessary rides, then I ended my $100 bike one afternoon in an excited mood on one of the side trails to the bike path. I tried to fix it, no good, none of the parts were conveniently available. So I got upset and spent a grand on a GT sensor comp 29er. I’ve been loving it and thought I’d enjoy getting in dirt again… I did, so much that I spent my first day at keystone, "really breaking it in" I thought. I quickly found that my breaks weren’t up for the task on steeper hills, I found myself reeeeally wishing for another several inches of travel, and spent a good amount of time behind my seat, trying to get my gravity down. But I had the time of my life and I cant wait to go back.

    I plan on going again this weekend, renting a few DH bikes over the span of the next couple weeks (until the park closes for the summer) then spend the winter saving for one of my own. I want to know what makes a good DH bike now, What hardware is unacceptable? What hardware is a must have? Am I a dork if I wear arm guards? I have gear, I know how to fit a bike, I semi-specifically know what I’m looking for but I’d like advice/opinions to hone my aim.

  • #127776

    If you’re looking for something that is a good descender but will still climb, I’d suggest looking at the 27.5 (650b) wheel size. Most of the more aggressive bikes are in that wheel size now. A few of my favorite brands are Santa Cruz, Ibis, Rocky Mountain and Norco, but that is pretty subjective, there’s lots of good bikes out there and it boils down to what you’re comfortable on. From personal experience riding technical downhill trails, 29er wheels are just to big and clunky to handle the technical stuff. They’re great going up and on flowy trails, but just aren’t nimble like 26 or 27.5 wheels.

    If you’re looking for something that will bomb downhills and still can be used for riding up trails, you are picking a good time to look at bikes. One of the big pushes in the market currently are Enduro bikes, which are basically aggressive all mountain bikes created around the idea of all day rides/races where the downhill is important but still need to be ridden up trails.

    I would look for something with a minimum of 140mm forks. Since you’re concerned about braking performance (understandable!), I would look for or upgrade the front rotor to 180mm or 203mm. Through my own experience, Shimano brakes work great. I have Deore, which is the same as SLX and XT but with a few less bells and whistles. You can’t go wrong with any of those 3 models. One thing I really like about Shimano brakes is they’re super easy to bleed and maintain. On your GT, you could upgrade your front rotor for $30 or $40 dollars and will notice a big improvement in braking. The bike came stock with 160mm rotors. To go to a 180mm rotor you need 180mm post to post adapter and rotor. I have that rotor, it is really nice! Keep an eye on your brake pads, Shimano comes stock with resin pads, which wear fairly quickly. If the wear is too quick, you can swap them with metallic pads when it is time. Drop a post here if you want any info on bleeding those brakes, they’re Shimano m395s and aren’t bad to do.

    Pure park style downhill bikes are a totally different animal. I ride Northstar in California and see a lot of Santa Cruz and Specialized for downhill bikes. Interestingly, I’ve been seeing quite a few Lapierres lately. I haven’t taken the plunge on a big hit bike, preferring to spend my money on something I can use for more than one type of riding.

  • #127777

    I forgot to mention armor. You won’t look like a dork at a park. I’ve moved to soft armor, but still have a set of hard 661 pads. I prefer the mobility of the flexible soft armor, but if I was riding a lot of double diamonds, I’d be wearing something a bit more heavy duty!

  • #127778

    Thanks for all the input, man! I was considering getting something that would make an easy transfer from my 29er. But I think after I have a feel for what bike I want, I’ll probably go used. Mostly because, I’m a pretty big dude, and if I dropped 6k on a DH bike, just to smash it in one day, I’ll be pretty upset. If you’re looking, so far I reeeeeally like the new specialized "demo". It looks a little weird, but it’s the kind of bike you immediately feel connected with.

    I have soft gear that I usually stuff into my camel back, no chest rig though, i still feel kinda dorky wearing it all. I was comparing some of the nicer break sets out there, releasing that the stock breaks on my GT are NOT meant for any sort of lengthy stress… bummer. Def looking into some nice hydros as i type this as well as some fork mods. Though I don’t think I’ll be taking my 29er to the park again, there’s just too much temptation to go down gnarlier paths, I can’t stay away!

    I do have another question though, is a heavy bike preferential to a lighter bike when riding parks? I don’t know why it would be, but twice I have heard of DH riders bragging about the massive weight of their bike, at the park and at the DH shop here in town.

  • #127779

    Hi there Dan and welcome to the forum!

    One thing I wanted to suggest is to stop concerning yourself with what others are going to think about what you’re wearing and wear the amount of gear that you feel sufficiently protected and comfortable with. Leave the GQ ride look and missing gear for the younger generation that heals more quickly and can have their parents feed them while their bones knit.

    As for why the DHers giggle at their heavyweight bikes – it’s because they don’t have to pedal ;)

  • #127780
    "schwim" wrote

    As for why the DHers giggle at their heavyweight bikes – it’s because they don’t have to pedal ;)

    Or "my bikes bigger than your bike…" 😆

    From my experience on weight–dh bikes are heavier because they’re beefier built. The extra gusseting, big triple clamp forks, heavy duty wheels, etc. all add up to more weight. I wouldn’t brag on having the heaviest bike, there is really no reason… I was watching an interview with a world cup dh rider recently, and they were talking about bike weights. He said that he liked a lighter bike because he was able to maneuver it better in a lot of situations.

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