Steep, loose downhill turns

Hi Lee, I’d like to start off by commending you on your book and website. It’s not common that you can become substantially better at a sport by merely reading up on it but thanks to you, it’s happened to me. Currently, however, I’ve been running into some difficulties that I’m hoping you can help remedy.

I live and SoCal and almost everything around here becomes loose at this time of the year. I seem to be having the hardest time descending on loose winding steeps. I try leaning into the turn but it feels like I’m going to flip over because decline is so steep.

When I try to press the front for more turning traction the tire feels like it’s going to break loose at any time… and it has causing me to go OTB on several occassions. Got any suggestions?

Also, I’ve been trying to study clips of downhillers and came across this one:

This guy seems to be throwing his tail out a lot to make the turns and he looks so smooth doing it. Is this what I should be striving for? If so, how? Is he using his rear brakes to break the traction so he can throw out rear like that? Or is he just loading and unloading? Would less knobby tires be something to consider in order to do this? Help!


Hey Dexter,

Thanks for the kind words.

You’re describing a pretty complex situation. Let’s get after it:

This guy

1. He’s riding a fun trail. Eight minutes of love!

2. He is a good, smooth rider. You can see he’s having fun and really working the trail. Excellent.

3. He’s good at loading and unloading the bike. You can see him unweight a bit before each corner then load into the corner. That light moment helps him fold the bike into the corner. The heavy moment helps the bike stick to the ground. The more aggressively you pump from turn to turn, the more it looks like you’re throwing your tail out. And the better you can rock these turns. It’s a lot like aggressive skiing.

4. He is weighting the front end and letting the front wheel track. I promise he is neither holding the bars straight nor steering; he is letting the bike’s geometry do what it’s designed to do. Awesome.

5. It looks like, at least in some of the turns, he is skidding his rear wheel loose. That is not a technique you want to focus on. In the best turns, he’s weighting the front end to keep it tracking, and the rear wheel is breaking loose on its own. Nice.

As for you

1. Dial in your neutral attack position. Heavy feet, light hands! On steep descents, practice keeping your feet heavy and hands light. That proves you’re balanced over the middle of the bike. When your default position is balanced, everything else gets better.

2. Practice loading and unloading your bike into turns. I love the flat-ground pumping drills. They are fun and build awesome skills.

3. When you lean your bike, let your bars turn however they want. DO NOT hold the bars straight or steer them. Let your bike’s front end do what it’s designed to do. Your OTB adventures probably came from steering into the turn. When the wheel catches — bam! — over you go.

4. For extra steep/loose/sketchy turns, practice shifting your weight forward onto the bars WHILE LETTING THE FRONT END TRACK THE WAY IT WANTS. This is very tricky — a definite expert move. If the rear wheel drifts outside, so be it. But that is not the goal.

The almost-40-year-old minimalist style. Me.

The future-Yeti-factory-pro two-wheel-drifter style. Joey Schusler.

I hope this helps. Get out there and rip it!

— Lee

Know more. Have more fun!

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