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Go Fast, No Engine: Downhill Mountain Biking Will Scratch Your Speed Itch

Time:2019-01-11 19:48Turbochargers information Click:

Engine fast Downhill Mountain

I'm a fairly obsessed skier. As such, downhill mountain biking always seemed like an excellent activity to do during the off-season, those eight to nine months without snow on the ground. In fact, a lot of the top pro skiers do it. So I thought, why not? It looks fairly straightforward.

Despite a few mumbled "You're crazy" and other such statements from The Drive editorial staff, I loaded the awesome DiamondBack Mission Pro downhill machine on the no-less-fantastic Volkswagen Golf R, and took off for the Mountain Creek bike park, in New Jersey. Of course, it was slightly more complicated that that: turns out, mountain biking requires a good amount of gear, most of it to prevent injury: helmet, goggles, shoes, gloves, spine protection, elbow and knee pads. Full body armor is optional. But, long live the carrying capacity of hatchbacks, because I got all of that loaded into the diminutive Golf R, and off I went. 

The Drive

Mission Pro on the back of the VW Golf R.

A surprisingly accessible adventure

A nice thing about mountain biking is that you don't need to purchase all the gear just to give the sport a try. The local mountains have packages including bike, helmet, and knee- and elbow protection that will keep you safe. If you really get into the sport, you'll want your own gear, but such packages are a convenient and affordable way to start.

In the beginning I thought—naïvely, as it turns out—there would be a decent amount of common skills between skiing and mountain biking. As it turns out, except for taking a ski lift up the mountain, not so much. On the bright side: You know how to ride a bike, right? Well, same thing.

I couldn't find any instructor available when I showed up, so I just asked the 16-year-old from the shop. He gave me two pieces of advice: Have both index fingers on the brakes at all times, and your feet level. Turns out, those are two crucial pieces of knowledge. 

Here is the most surprising part of the sport: I had a blast from the first run. This is very unusual. If you think about other extreme or adventure sports—skiing, snowboarding, surfing, and kitesurfing all come to mind—the first few days are fairly miserable. It is hard to enjoy those sports with hardly any skills. Downhill mountain biking is the exception. Even on the fairly slow green slopes, it's a blast. 

The Drive

A gondola run up the mountain.

The Drive

You can't see it, but trust me, we're smiling.

After the third or fourth run, things start to fall into place a bit. You even feel emboldened to try some of the wooden modules and a couple of small jumps. You also start to get a feel for the bike, so naturally, speed increases. Then we moved on to some blue slopes. (Black slopes, which are high-speed and full of rocks, force you to let the bike figure out its path as you react; we weren't at all comfortable attempting riding at that level, and so decided to leave those for another time.) 

Surprisingly, the mountain was pretty much empty. Except for the bike shop, the lodge at the base was mostly closed, giving it a ghostly feel. On the upside, there was zero line for the lift.

The whole process is far easier than skiing during the high season: park at the bottom of the mountain, around the corner from the lift; put all your gear on; immediately jump on the ski gondola that's set up to accommodate mountain bikes; charge down whatever slope you find appropriate to your level. Rinse and repeat—it only gets more fun the more practice you have. Take an optional lunch break. We brought along a brilliant picnic. Do the whole thing again in the afternoon. We played it safe on the first day, finding the early runs to be pretty taxing, and didn't push our fatigue level too far. No crashes to report. Well, no major crashes; there might have been a minor mishap or three.

Given the ease, low barrier to entry, and high level of fun for the adrenaline-minded, I can't recommend this highly enough.

The Drive

Editor's note: Yes, our writer is French. Why do you ask?

Gear

While we (thankfully) didn't test our safety gear against any major tumbles, it's just common sense to equip yourself with as much safety kit as possible. Here's everything I used. 

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