For me, the sport of mountain biking has always been more about the experience itself while the health benefits were simply a bonus. So, does gravity mountain biking improve my experience? And…
What is Gravity Mountain Biking?
Gravity mountain biking is an exclusively downhill form of mountain biking in which a rider would begin at a high elevation and use gravity to propel themselves downhill. Gravity mountain biking offers a high speed experience that can only be found through the careful utilization of potential energy.
What Makes Gravity Mountain Biking A Unique Experience?
The short answer is that it is one of the most extreme version of the sport. What I mean by this is that gravity mountain biking riders achieve speeds which would scare most riders while traversing difficult and obstacle rich terrain. All while being covered in protective gear as with gravity mountain biking the expression “It’s not if you get hurt its when you get hurt” could not be more useful advice.
Is there a “correct” way to fall off an MTB? Read my article on How to Fall off a Mountain Bike without getting hurt. (Link to Article)
Because of the highspeed nature of the sport gravity mountain bikers are often forced to ride over obstacles which, in any other situation, would be avoided. This can include things such as fallen branches, large rocks, and most commonly divots in the trail. This means that the rider must instead use technique and skill to avoid a crash and continue riding onwards.
The combination of extreme speeds and jumps with the insane challenge of going through obstacles, which, one is bound to encounter at these high speeds is where the appeal of gravity mountain biking comes from. Gravity mountain biking is essentially the most exciting form of mountain biking while also being the least beneficial to your health. Although, just because it isn’t as physically straining as many other forms of mountain biking, due to the fact that you’re only going downhill, doesn’t mean that it isn’t difficult.
In fact, gravity mountain biking can be the most difficult form of mountain biking. While each trail will differ in how steep it is and how many obstacles it has, it is safe to say that you need to have some experience to do gravity mountain biking. Getting used to the speeds and quick decisions which come with gravity mountain biking should be a gradual process in which a rider starts with a small descent and then builds upwards as they get more and more comfortable.
What Kind of Mountain Bike is used for Gravity Mountain Biking?
The best, and safest, type of mountain bike to buy if you’re looking to get into gravity mountain biking is a downhill mountain bike. Downhill mountain bikes are built for durability and stability over everything else. Often with a very slack front tube design the angle will almost always be less than 65 degrees. Additionally, a downhill mountain bike will be much heftier than other types of mountains bikes coming in at around 30-35 pounds. These features along with a suspension system with high travel in both the front and back are what allow downhill bikes to withstand the unparalleled beating they get from downhill riding.
Some specific features that make a downhill mountain bike optimal for gravity mountain biking include the braking system, the drivetrain, the suspension, and the tires. A good downhill mountain bike will be equipped with hydraulic disk brakes 200m in size or greater. Moreover, a chain guide to prevent derailment. The bike should have a full suspension with the front forks having 7-8 inches in travel and a rear travel of 7-10 inches. The tires of a downhill mountain bike are standardly 27.5 inches in diameter for improved durability and up to 3 inches wide to maximize stability.
Do I Need an Uplift in Gravity Mountain Biking?
An uplift is essentially the same thing as a ski lift when skiing or a transport van when canoeing. It is a vehicle which will transport both the rider and their bike to the top of a hill or to the head of the trail and then drop them off. This service is particularly useful in cases where it would be difficult to return to a spot of origin such as a parking lot at the top of the trail where the rider would have to ride uphill a great distance to return to.
However, an uplift is not required to do gravity mountain biking. Many downhill trails, in fact, will not have an uplift. Either because of an inability to get a vehicle onto the trail or simply a lack of demand for there to justify the cost of one, most downhill riders are stuck riding, or walking, their bikes up and down the hill by themselves. To find out if the trail you’re going to offers an uplift you can look on their website or simply call them and ask.
5 Popular Gravity Mountain Bike Parks in the USA
- Snowmass Bike Park:
Although this bike park only features 4 trials they are definitely quality. Custom built by well-known gravity trail designer Gravity Logic these trails are sure to create a great weekend trip for just about any rider.
- Angle Fire Bike Park:
Located in the Rocky Mountains this bike park has long been hailed as probably the best in the South West. With 36 total trails, many of which are downhill, this park would be a great gravity mountain biking destination.
- Killington Resort:
The largest downhill mountain bike park on the east coast the Killington Resort has over 45 miles of trials one with a total 1700 ft of descent. Also, if you’re into skiing then the Killington Resort just so happens
- NorthStar California Resort:
Lift served and fully equipped with mountain bike and mountain bike safety gear rentals this mountain bike park is the largest in California’s beautiful Tahoe Lake area.
- Snowshoe Bike Park:
While having trial types for just about anyone the snowshoe downhill trials are amazing. Coming in at around 4 miles total with 1500 ft in descent this trail is packed full of technical challenges.
Are there Gravity Mountain Biking Races?
Yes, although it might not be as simple as looking up gravity races near me on google and then signing up. Many gravity races will be branded using other terms or be specialized in some way. Examples of these are downhill races and enduro races.
Downhill races are pretty much what they sound like. The entire idea of the race is to get to the end of the trail in the shortest amount of time possible. Depending upon the format of the race there is either a single or double attempt at getting your fastest time.
Enduro races are similar to downhill races although much longer. Enduro races are races in which riders are timed on a series of descents which are broken up by mandatory, untimed, uphill portions. Although the main objective of getting the lowest time possible still stands.
How to Be Safe When Gravity Mountain Biking
- WEAR PROTECTIVE GEAR! The number one thing you can do to minimize the level of danger that comes along with gravity mountain biking is to be properly equipped with safety gear. A helmet in absolutely necessary along with body armor such as leg/knee/arm/elbow pads. Clothing which covers any portion of skin can also be useful if you’re riding on gravel or other abrasive terrains.
- Ride within your skill level. If you’re a beginner then don’t go on trails which include jumps or descents that you can’t handle. As with most extreme sports just start small and work your way up as you get more comfortable.
- Know that you are going to crash. It’s going to happen. So, prepare for it. If possible try to not ride alone, if possible its always best to ride with friends who could help you when you get hurt. Also, something most people don’t think about is health insurance but if you’re going to be doing a lot of gravity mountain biking then it is pretty much a necessity.
- Make sure to do an almost religious pre-ride check on your bike. Not only do you need a bike that can handle the terrain but you need every part of it to work right. Make sure to have proper mountain bike tire pressure as to, hopefully, not encounter any blowouts or snake bites. Additionally, because you’re going downhill brakes ae incredibly important. If you’re brakes aren’t working at 100% then don’t attempt a gravity mountain bike trail.
I highly recommend you read my MAINTENANCE CHECKLIST article. In it you learn how and when you should be maintaining your MTB. Plus fins out what the “drop test” is.