It would seem that descending would be one of the easiest
skills to pick up quickly. And for many, it is. For
others they never seem to improve. Number one reason
. . . Fear. This is not always easy to overcome. Quickest
way to reduce some of that fear and gain confidence
is a nice set of protective clothing. I ride with Azonic
Knee/Shin and Elbow guards and a Giro Switchblade Helmet.
Bell, Core Rat, Roach and Fox also make good stuff.
Once you've fallen and don't feel anything, you lose
some of that tentativeness.
aren't gonna make you a better descender though. A few
techniques that I have learned to adapt over the years
Back - Depending on the grade of the hill, get
farther and farther back behind your seat. Don't be
afraid to have the seat in your gut and your butt
right above the rear tire.
On - Keep a relaxed grip on the handlebars (I
worry when I suggest this). I keep a very comfortable
grip that tightens when I approach anything bumpy,
rocky or technical. This keeps my hands from killing
after any ride that is long and bumpy (Porcupine Rim).
I use only my index finger for braking during easy
to moderate descents and switch to index and middle
when I need more braking power. Adjust your brakes
so you can completely lock out without pulling them
to the grips, yet keeping them close enough for you
to grab comfortably.
Braking - Brake BEFORE the turn. Just like they
tell you in drivers-ed. Try not to lock out your brakes
(especially the front!). Do not brake through technical
or rocky terrain if you can help it. You end up locking
up a lot easier and run a higher risk of flatting
out or worse crashing. Brake before the technical
section to a speed that you feel comfortable, then
take the path of least resistence.
Ahead - Keep your eyes quickly scanning way in
front for new obstacles and technical sections. You'll
have to pick lines quickly. Don't get worried when
your line ends up taking you over baby head sized
rocks. Tighten you grip, but let the bike go where
it wants to go while still maintaining balance. I
find that my bike can sometimes pick the best lines
on it's own.