The word “downhill” literally translates to “down the hill. It is an extreme sport that involves a fast descent down a slope with obstacles. This sport is fraught with danger, because the cyclist reaches a speed of about 40 km / h, and the average height difference over the entire route is 80 meters. It is clear that such can be engaged only a professional rider, virtuoso controlling a bicycle. The body is subjected to considerable loads during the extreme descent. Therefore, a bicycle for downhill should correspond to its owner: to be powerful, durable and reliable.
How did downhill skiing appear?
The first extreme race took place in the late 1980s in California. Especially for it was equipped with a track, which later became known as “Repack Road” due to the fact that the condition of the bikes after the descent on it left much to be desired. The race involved bicycles equipped with primitive braking systems and tubed tires. A few years after the event, its organizers and direct participants opened a mountain bike manufacturing company. Thus Charlie Kelly and Gary Fisher became the founders of a new sport discipline.
Mountain bikes were in obvious demand, especially in the 1980s. And downhill bikes started to be mass-produced in the 1990s. A great contribution to the development of the sport came from the first UCI Mountain Bike Championship, held in 1990 in Durango, Colorado. It was from this point that the era of serious competition can be started.
The cyclist’s equipment
Extreme sport means the necessary protection. Equipment is not only a prerequisite for the competition, but also the main element to protect the health and life of the rider. Ammunition can protect the rider from serious injury and tragic consequences. Downhill equipment includes:
- A full-face helmet that covers the cyclist’s face, head and jaw;
- goggles that are wide and tight-fitting to protect your eyes from dust, sand, insects, and flying debris
- gloves made of water-repellent material to protect the hands;
- a cycling suit with special shorts that provide a comfortable fit, kneepads and elbow pads to protect the joints in case of a fall;
- leg guards to protect your limbs from rocks and branches;
- athletic shoes with rigid soles that ensure reliable traction of the foot with the pedal and the road surface.
Extreme sport discipline implies serious equipment. Bicycles for downhill – a kind of mountain bikes, which have certain features due to the specifics of high-speed descent.
Most often, downhill bikes are made from durable aluminum alloy: they largely meet the price-quality parameter. You can find models made of titanium and carbon fiber. Bikes for downhill are designed so that the stroke of the rear suspension is in the unreal wide limits – 7-10 inches (178-254 mm). There are other features as well:
- A frame of specific geometry with reinforcement in strategic corners. This is due to the fact that the cyclist jumps over obstacles a lot. The frame of a downhill bike can be made of aluminum, titanium, steel or carbon
- Front suspension with a range of up to 20 cm, rear suspension up to 25 cm. This softens the shocks during the descent. Shock absorbing fork has 1 or 2 crowns.
- Wide wheel rims are 26 inches in diameter with an increased number of spokes, which noticeably increases rim safety and durability.
Some professional athletes give preference to 29-inch wheels, that is, bicycles-niner. They have certain advantages:
- Wide tires with aggressive treads that provide reliable grip on the wheel.
- Wide handlebars for comfortable control of the bike.
- Hydraulic disc brakes.
It should be noted that the bike before going down the hill must still somehow be lifted up the hill. At major competitions, special elevators are used for this. But sometimes athletes have to lift the bike themselves, which weighs from 10 to 14 kg.
Beginner conquerors of the peaks should with great responsibility approach to the choice of a bike for downhill. Beginners need to hone their skills to handle a regular mountain bike to perfection, and then decide for what you need a DH-bike: for short rides at high speed, or for extreme competition. You can’t say that downhill models are good for leisurely rides in the park. You have to keep in mind that these models are designed with the specifics of the sport in mind. In any case, the current range allows you to meet the needs of both beginners and experienced cyclists. In addition, it is always possible to buy a bike to order.
One of the main elements of the bicycle frame, which must have sufficient strength and endurance. The integrity of the entire structure and the safety of the cyclist during the descent depends on the frame. A key parameter of choice is the material from which the bicycle frame is made:
- Aluminum alloy. A fairly common material, which is characterized by sufficient strength. Sometimes magnesium is added to the alloy, which lightens the construction and increases the strength of the frame. In budget models, zinc is used.
- Steel. Despite its strength, steel frames are rarely used. The fact is that the material is too heavy for bicycles in this category.
- Carbon. The most durable frame material, which can withstand severe mechanical damage. Frames made of carbon are much stronger than aluminum frames, but at the same time it is quite an expensive material.
Chromium molybdenum was particularly popular at one time, because it “did not get tired” when bent. This meant that cracks in the frame could be re-welded without detracting from the strength of the entire structure.
Special suspension allows the cyclist to achieve high speed (accelerating up to 70 km / h) and perform jumps. The most common is the 4-linkage system, which allows the wheel to move exclusively upwards without shifting towards the saddle. 1-Lever suspension also makes it easy to pass areas with bumps, but with this system, the bike will be much less sway when pedaling, which is of some importance when going down stony hills.
Optimal for downhill is a shock-absorbing fork with two crowns, which allows to reduce the load on the frame and handlebars, increasing rigidity for torsion. A similar system is used in motorcycle designs.
The most commonly used wheels are 26-inch wheels. Since 2014, some models are equipped with a rim diameter of 27.5″. There are bikes with different wheels: 26-inch wheels at the front and 24-inch at the back. Wheels are strong and heavy, with a large number of high-quality spokes that can withstand heavy loads and powerful jumps.
The bike’s rideability is largely determined by the correct wheel assembly. It is best to buy them from a trusted manufacturer. Tires have a steel cord, deep relief and an aggressive tread pattern – these qualities provide maximum traction with the road surface.
DH bike tires are made of thick rubber to prevent punctures and cuts.
Shock absorption system on both wheels. Rear suspension travel varies from 100 to 200 mm. Single or twin crown forks with strokes from 180 to 250 mm.
The brake system of a bike for downhill should be as effective and reliable as possible. It is clear that the choice is not necessary to choose from the budget options. Optimal variant – disk (4-6 piston) brake increased diameter (up to 220 mm).
Most often there are models with only the rear derailleur. The fact is that when going downhill, there is no special need to change gears in a large range. Athletes prefer SramX7, SramX9 and Shimano models. But experts recommend to pay attention to shifters of the American manufacture: they are developed specially for models for downhill.
For better controllability of bikes and maximum maneuverability handlebar should be wide enough (760 to 820 mm) with a short stem and adjustable angle.
Top downhill bikes
When it comes to downhill competitions, a fraction of a second is crucial. There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a model. And since the sport has become very popular, the manufacturers of downhill bikes strive to surpass their competitors and create bikes that are unparalleled. We have ranked the best models and offer a look at the top of the best bikes for downhill:
- ELTRECO. A popular bicycle brand of Chinese-Korean origin. Bikes are assembled at factories in South Korea and the Celestial Empire, design centers are located in Japan and Australia, and the head office is in Russia. Bikes coming to the Russian market are tested in accordance with the European system of quality assessment. The manufacturer offers a decent range of electric bicycles, and also pays great attention to the creation of environmentally friendly transport. The following downhill models deserve special attention:
- Prismatic II Carbon 2000W Electro bikes (2016) is a two-paddle model with a carbon frame, equipped with a 500w motor. It comes complete with hydraulic disc brakes, 24-inch wheels, and an 8-star cassette. The cost of the model ranges from $5400 (385,000 rubles).
- Sparta New Lux (2016) is a two-saddle model with a solid aluminum alloy frame. The bike is equipped with a sharp motor rated at 500w, hydraulic disc brakes and 24-inch wheels. Approximate cost – $ 3400 (243 000 rubles).
- SCOTT. The Swiss company, which released its first bike in 1986, is characterized by original technological solutions. Aerodynamic handlebars, frames weighing less than 1 kg – these are just a few of the engineering achievements that surprised the world. Among the most successful models are:
- Gambler 710 (2017 release) – a bike for real professionals, easily overcoming the tracks of any complexity. The model is equipped with 27.5-inch wheels. The Gambler 710 features a lightweight but sturdy aluminum alloy frame, fork with 230 mm stroke, adjustable carriage height and steering tube angle.
- The Gambler 730 (2016) is a model with a 6061 aluminum frame and a Shimano hydraulic brake system. Distinguished by multifunctional settings that allow you to overcome slopes with obstacles of varying complexity.
- GIANT. The cycling giant from Taiwan. The company was founded in 1972 and almost immediately took a leading position in the European and American markets. GIANT plants and factories are located in Canada, Japan, USA, Australia and Europe. The use of carbon frames without welds, paint coating with maximum economy of raw materials, the development of the rear suspension “Maestro” – this is just a small part of technological innovation, which surprised the whole world. The most striking representatives of the bicycle collection:
- Strange – bike with aluminum frame, 27.5-inch wheels and hydraulic disc brake system. Other features: double rims, 9 speeds, Shimano Alivio derailleurs. The cost of the bike ranges from $2000 (a little over 140 thousand rubles).
- Glory 27.52 is a model equipped with hydraulic disc brakes and a solid frame of lightweight aluminum alloy. The cost is about $3500 (250,000 rubles).
- CANNONDALE is an American company known for its heavy-duty, hand-assembled aluminum frames. The quality of the bikes is eloquently demonstrated by the lifetime warranty on the bikes (provided that the bike was purchased from an official dealer network). The first bike was introduced to a wider audience in 1984. Currently, the company’s range of more than 150 models that are popular in all countries. The cherry on the cake:
- Jekyll 3 model (2016 release) – professional-level bike, equipped with an aluminum frame, hydraulic disc brakes. Complete with 27.5-inch wheels. Price of pleasure – $ 4,800 (343,000 rubles).
- MERIDA. The cycling brand, founded in 1972, produces all categories of bikes. In terms of “price-quality” it surpasses many famous competitors. The European office is located in Germany. Bikes have won many competitions, Olympics and championships in MTB disciplines. Some of the most outstanding models include:
- One-Twenty Juliet is a bike with obviously feminine design and character. It comes with a solid aluminum frame, 27.5-inch wheels, hydraulic disc brakes and a special anatomical saddle. The cost of the bike – $ 4700 (335 thousand rubles).
- Merida One-Forty is a professional two-saddle model with high dynamic characteristics. The bike features maneuverability and reliability. This unit is for real professionals, ready to conquer more than a dozen peaks. The cost of bicycles about $6,000 (about 430,000 rubles).
- CUBE. The German manufacturer from Bavaria founded its company relatively recently – in 1993. But in such a short time it has managed to win the love and appreciation of athletes. Model collection of bicycles numbers more than 200 items. The recognized German quality, improved aerodynamics, a strong frame and lightweight bikes are just a small list of obvious trump cards against competitors. The most prominent representatives are:
- Cube Fritzz 160 HPA (2014 release) – the category of semi-professional bicycles with 160 mm fork travel, 27.5-inch wheels and disk braking system. Price of pleasure – $ 2400 (a little more than 170 000 rubles).
- The Stereo 120 HPCPRO 29 (2014) is a professional downhill bike equipped with 29-inch wheels and Shimano Deore disc brakes. The cost is $2500 (almost 180 thousand rubles).
Separately, we should mention another bike on which Rachel Athernon has won all the competitions in which he took part. It’s a Trek Session. The price of this pleasure is almost $10,000 (about 700 thousand rubles). And what did you want? Pedigree is in trend nowadays.
Recommendations for use
Bicycles for downhill, like no other category, need constant care and control. The condition of the bearings and the lubrication of the major components should be checked first. Before each run it is necessary to check the degree of filling of tires, adjust the position of the handlebars and saddles. Particular attention should be paid to the serviceability of the brake system. Remember that negligence can cost you money.
The skill of downhill skiing is honed over the years. To succeed in your endeavors, you need to train regularly: learn to redistribute your body weight, breathe properly and even pedal. Of course, it is important to have a professional or semi-professional bike, which is designed with the specifics of the sport such as downhill.