Don’t start downhill mountain biking, unless …

You’ve seen the insane videos, the wild race runs and impressive skills from downhill mountain bikers. Now you can’t get the idea of dipping your toes into this sport or even start downhill mountain biking yourself out of your head. (That’s how I got started with DH too!)

If I had to start over again and debate if DH is the right sport for me to get into, I’d go through the following checklist:

Check your Budget

I hate to break it to you, but Downhill MTB is a pretty expensive sport — one of the more prohibitive biking disciplines and only a little less expensive than motocross.

That’s because the top DH bikes are approaching price levels of MX bikes (you can get good models for under $ 5000 tho). Of course, you need some gear items and protectors that can add up. Don’t forget fuel, accommodation and lift tickets for bike park trips. And then there are spare parts, regular service and replacements when eventually something breaks (and it will).

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Downhill is not easy on the gear.

The financial barrier of entry is quite high and so are the ongoing costs. Calculate an initial investment of at least 3000 USD or more. The time of 2000 USD DH starter kits (like I had) are basically gone. One more argument for renting a bike before going all in.

Access to trail areas and Bike Parks

Bike park trips are not only costly but also kind of the main goal since DH is riding downhill only – no uphill. That’s done with a gondola or shuttle. And those are only available in dedicated trail areas or “bike parks”.

You should have some at a distance you could travel at least a couple of times per year. Otherwise, there’s no point in having a DH bike that can’t go uphill. If you don’t have any bike parks near you, the time for traveling or live in a flat country, sticking to regular MTB is probably the better choice.

Your risk appetite

Here’s what you probably thought I’d start with: Downhill is dangerous. Or at least it can have high consequences for mistakes. But that’s also what makes it intriguing, right?

And if you’re thinking about trying it, you’re probably the right person for it. The danger zone pulls you right in. And for anyone on the fence: It’s not as dangerous as it looks. There are levels to it and you can (should) start easy.

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Not the view you want to have – but one you’ll sooner or later experience when riding DH.

That being said, you will most likely crash at some point. The sooner you can accept that, the less worried you’re going to be. Silly mistakes happen to every one of us once in a while.

Mental strength

You see, you don’t have to be a mentally strong person to begin with. Start where you are and your mental strength will grow by itself – simply by doing something that’s kind of scary.

And the way to progress is to get out of your comfort zone and try progressively more and more scary stuff. Go faster, jump further, ride steeper trails or rougher terrain. If you’re into pushing and testing yourself DH is 100% for you.

Physical fitness & strength

Similarly, your fitness level will increase as well. But not a lot honestly simply by the fact that bike park days are few and far between. Maybe once a week if not less regularly.

This means you need to bring a solid foundation into riding downhill. Or ride enduro or trail more regularly. If you’re overweight, weak or have little stamina, you’re simply not going to have as much fun. You need to take more brakes, can’t ride as fast and probably end the day earlier than your fitter riding buddies.

My home gym to keep myself fit with kettle bells, dumbbells, resistance band, and a spin bike.

Equipment maintenance

Being your own mechanic is part of the game. DH is hard on the equipment so expect to break some parts along the way. Sometimes there is a bike shop nearby, but oftentimes there is not.

Bringing spares is half the battle – actually knowing how to use them is the other half. When out in the woods, basics like changing a punctured inner tube, plugging a tubeless tire and swapping brake pads are essential wrenching skills.

Are you prepared to get your hands dirty and learn at least the basics?

Riding buddies

And last but not least a lighter topic: the community.

MTB is an individual sport and a team sport at the same time – one where we’re all on the same team. That’s to say it’s way more fun, safe, enjoyable and less stressful to ride in a group. You can learn from better riders way faster than on your own.

And the after-ride beers taste better together. So bonus points if you have friends to tag along.

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Julian Mat is a former bike shop owner and editor of Suspension Traveler. He has been riding Downhill MTB and Enduro for over two decades.
Julian has poured all his accumulated knowledge, best-kept secrets, and proven guides into Suspension Traveler, to make it the go-to resource for gravity mountain bikers.

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