What better way to spend a day than to head into the plantations, walk in the dappled sunlight, breathe fresh air and watch people flying down a hill over rocks and jumps on two wheels. Well, flying would perhaps be what the downhillers do. I think if it was me, it would just be falling.
I know very little of downhill except that it is adrenalin inducing for the rather skilled individuals that look danger in the face and somehow combine technical skill and speed in cannoning down hills and running through technical sections of rocks and coming out fairly unscathed at the bottom (sometimes). I do know that just watching it makes me want to try it out (at a much slower pace) and definitely causes my little adventure cells to jump up and down like minions trying to get attention.
I was lucky enough to catch KZN Downhill Champs at Cascades in Pietermaritzburg with camera in hand and to meet some interesting folks along the way who filled me in on how the sport is growing in KZN as well as South Africa. I was also fortunate to get a ride up the hill and down as well, which made me appreciate the vertical descent and the gravity of the sport. If there is one thing I realised, it is that this is no ‘hop on a bike and go’ situation. Hours and hours of practice and many roasties (and perhaps broken bones) are put in before this kind of skill is built. So, I looked up on some basic tips (from mountainbike.about.com) for those considering starting out on downhilling:
- Choose your line – Check out the course on foot (before you climb on the bike) and plot the best ‘line’ through the course.
- Keep your feet flat – Keep your weight evenly distributed on the pedals and your feet flat with your strongest foot forward.
- Stay loose – Keep your knees and arms bent to absorb the shock. It also makes it easier to maneuver the bike and reduces unnecessary fatigue from gripping too hard.
- Stay back – Move your hips further back behind the seat for best balance and so that the pedals carry the majority of weight
- Master it –
- Walk it first to plan you line
- Shift your weight behind your seat
- Look ahead and past the obstacle to prevent you from riding into it (trees are pretty hard normally, but even harder at speed)
Other than this basic information, if you are interested in getting involved in this sport, you can visit http://www.kznmtb.co.za/ for further details and for photos of the event, you can check out KZN Mountain Biking Downhill Champs and Downhill and Enduro event information.
If you are interested in seeking out some pristine mountain trails in the area, you can select one of the following links and plan your route:
As for me, I am going to play with the idea of starting a new sport a little, until I am somewhat more fearless. Maybe I will venture out and enjoy a few more of the downhill events around Pietermaritzburg’s hills as well as the company of these somewhat adrenalin infused folks before I hop on a bike …. unless anyone wants to take a newbie under their wing?