What are Downhill
Mountain Bikes?


downhill-mountain-biking



Downhill mountain bikes are burlier and heavier than cross country, all mountain, and freeride bikes. They are designed with the purpose of riding downhill as quickly as possible down a trail or race course designed for downhill riding.


A downhill bike needs to be strong and durable to accommodate jumps and big drops while riding downhill.

Geometry

Downhill bikes have slacker head tube angles and shorter wheelbases like the bike shown below. This provides more stability on downhill technical terrain. They are not efficient for climbing and tend to be more sluggish on flat ground than other full suspension bikes.


I live in Colorado, and many of our ski resorts have developed mountain biking trails that are great for downhill riding. They often offer downhill bike rentals and chairlift rentals so you can just enjoy the downhill part.


Rocky Mountain Flatline Pro Bike 2012

Suspension

A downhill bike has suspension in both the front and rear. It will often have between 170 and 220 mm of suspension.

Downhill bikes may have coil or air shocks. Coil shocks are more durable than air shocks, but they are also heavier. Because of the importance of durability with less of a need to reduce the weight of a downhill bike, most have coil shocks. Recently, more are being manufactured with air shocks, however.

The sag of the shocks on a downhill bike should be set between 35 and 45% of the shock's total travel. This is a higher percentage than cross country, all mountain, or freeride bikes. For more information on how to set sag, please visit our suspension page.

Most types of mountain bikes use single crown suspension forks, but downhill bikes use dual crown forks, also sometimes called double crown forks.

Single crown forks are able to provide up to around 7 inches of travel. The crown, stanchions, and sliders are all below the steering tube.

On dual crown forks, the stanchions top out at the top of the bike's steering tube, allowing them to provide more travel. Dual crown forks provide more stiffness, support, and travel to handle big hits. They are better for tracking and control over rough stuff at higher speeds.



Dual crown forks are heavier than single crown forks; however, they are becoming lighter as technology improves.



Frame

The frame of the downhill bike is usually made of aluminum alloy or maybe steel. Carbon has not historically been a material of choice for downhill bikes; however, more companies now offer carbon options as advances continue to be made in the ability to make strong, durable, and beautiful carbon mountain bikes.



Components

Downhill mountain bikes have one chain ring with large, high gears for pedaling at fast speeds downhill. The chain ring is often around 36-38 teeth and is sandwiched between a bash guard, which protects it from rocks and other obstacles, and a chain guide, which holds the chain in place. A front derailler is not needed since there is only one chain ring.

Downhill bikes have wider rims and beefier wheelsets for durability and to accommodate larger tires, which often range between 2.5-2.7 inches. Downhill tires are wide and knobby and often made of a sticky and soft rubber for better gripping power.

Downhill bikes usually have flat pedals with pins poking out of them that stick in your shoe, which usually has a sole made of sticky rubber. Flat pedals are usually preferred over clipless pedals for downhill riding so it is possible to get out of the pedals quickly when necessary.

Hydraulic disc brakes with larger diameter rotors are commonly seen on downhill bikes for greater stopping power.



Where to Find Downhill Mountain Bikes

Some companies offer at least one downhill bike in their line-up. Reputable companies that offer downhill mountain bikes include the following:


Giant- Glory

GT- Fury

Specialized- Demo

Trek -Session

Yeti -303 WC



Return to Types of Mountain Bikes page

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