Ruby Does Downhill | Junior Jackson

April 20th, 2017

By Andrew Dodd in Features

Ruby Does Downhill – Our Junior Jackson Reporter Gives DH a try…

Words | Ruby Davison  Photos | Chris Davison 

Over the past few years Great Britain has excelled in one particular area of mountain biking – Downhill Racing.

Last year saw both British men and women taking the top spots at the end of an amazing season of racing. With athletes like Rachel Atherton completing a never done before perfect season, and upcoming stars such as Tahnee Seagrave getting faster with every season its clear that our country is doing something right and that the sport is breeding new talent every year.

I was offered the loan of a downhill bike recently, and decided that I really wanted to give downhill a go to see what it was all about…

Ruby Does Downhill

With the loan of a downhill bike and all the kit – Ruby couldn’t say no to giving it a go! Photo | Chris Davison

Ruby Tackles Gawton DH

With some help from our friends at Sixsixone and expert tuition from Tony Williams at Evolve MTB, we headed down to Gawton Gravity hub near Tavistock to see how I’d get on.

Ruby Does Downhill

We reckon Ruby looks like a right pro! Photo | Chris Davison

I’d already been to Gawton in the summer last year riding for a day at a girls gravity weekend, but that was when I was riding a fat bike so I was interested to see how different it would be using a proper downhill bike, and wearing all the proper protective gear.

The things you can expect to find at a gravity centre like Gawton are rock gardens, drop offs, big berms and jumps. There are a selection of trails to choose from, which are graded according to the features they have – so you know which ones are best for your skills. We started on the trails which I had been on before, HSD (High Speed Descent) and Proper Job.

Sessioning Gawton

Ruby Does Downhill

Tony helped Ruby pick her way down the course, and work out how best to approach technical obstacles Photo | Chris Davison

Tony walked me down through the first few sections of track talking me through all the different features and how to tackle them. Once on the bike I tried to remember all the information that he had given me, and rode the different sections over and over – or ‘sessioned’ them as its known.

Each time getting quicker then the last as I started to get used to how the bike felt, and let myself trust it a bit more each time. Downhill trails can look pretty scary so its always best to get some proper coaching before you just ride down. Tony from Evolve has been racing downhill for many years, and like most mountain bike coaches will have a huge amount of experience and advice that they can give you.

Walking down the trail first is a great way of spotting possible hazards, and so a good way of helping you spot which line you will ride when you are on your bike. This is what all the pro riders do at race tracks, as picking a good line can mean the difference between crashing or winning.

The Tools For The Job

Ruby Does Downhill

In case you don’t know what makes a downhill bike different, Ruby put this diagram together… Photo | Chris Davison

Downhill bikes are designed purely to be ridden at speed downhill over obstacles. A long slack frame, wide grippy tyres and long travel soft suspension mean that they grip the surface and are stable as you race down the steep tracks and over the rocks and roots that cover the trails.

Ruby Does Downhill

Photo | Chris Davison

Its also important to be wearing the right kit when you ride downhill bikes as its very likely you will come off or crash whilst finding your limits. Body armour; full face helmets; neck braces; goggles; trousers and a jersey will protect you and cushion the blow of any crashes you may have when learning.

The UK has lots of places that you can try downhill riding such as Bike Park Wales – which has a huge amount of trails that you can mix up and change each time you ride down before getting the uplift bus back up to the top. Downhill riding gets better and better with each run you do, and if you really get into it you could always think about entering a race.

Ruby Does Downhill

Photo | Chris Davison

The Forest of Dean hosts the Mini Downhill series which is a great place to give it a try. The series is known for fun relaxed atmosphere and is run on shorter slightly easier trails – so attracts lots of new riders all wanting to give racing a go.

Ruby Does Downhill

Photo | Chris Davison

I thoroughly enjoyed giving downhill a go and was sad to see our test bike go back. But after riding some proper tracks and realising what a downhill racer has to do I’m really looking forward to watching the pro’s race down the tracks as the season kicks off this year in a few weeks.


Make sure you tune in to the World Cup DH races LIVE if you can, as the live commentary and coverage that Red Bull put on is amazing! 

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