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You find yourself riding more technical terrain and have toyed with the idea of trying “downhill,” but something about it intimidates you. Hey, don’t worry, first time dher’s have all felt that way before. Eventually you’ll come to enjoy it and find it very fun and rewarding. So here’s a few things to help you get started on downhill mountain biking.


Do I need a downhill specific mountain bike?

Not necessarily. If you’re just starting out, the best thing to do is go with what you have. A basic XC bike with 4″ of travel can get you started. Basically what I’m saying is, try to see if you’d like DH first. There’s no need for you to drop all this money on a new bike and find out that you really don’t like it. Another option is to borrow a DH bike from a friend or rent one from a local shop.


Do I need body armor and a full face helmet?

Yes, protection is always good. Besides you can convince the wife to let you buy stuff because it’s going to keep you “safer.” Get some knee/shin guards as well as some elbow pads, you’ll be glad you did. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve crashed where the pads saved my skin. The good thing about a full face is it protects your money maker. This crash could have messed up Moe’s beautiful face, but lucky for him, the only thing he got was a bruised ego.


Go with someone that has been downhilling before.

For safety sake, go with people that currently ride downhill. For the most part, DH people are very friendly and always love to show the trails and techniques to newbies. Besides, going with people means someone has your back. If you get injured or have a mechanical, you can rely on them to help you out.

Having a group setting also helps you develop great bike handling skills. What I’ve learned is that everyone has a different way of riding. For me, I like to get other rider’s opinions about the best line to take. During the recent race series, I spent time with my team mates, Wes, Art and Corey on choosing the best lines. I had previously rode the course one way, but after consulting the guys, they all pointed out quicker and safer ways down the mountain. The input you’ll get from other people is uber worthwile and can eventually help you become a better rider.

Ride more, even if its XC or just on the street.

This one I can’t stress it enough. Getting your cardio level up and your bike handling skills honed will make a huge difference in how you ride downhill. Believe it or not, but DH riding is EXHAUSTING! You actually use quite a bit of energy riding down the mountain. Plus in some cases, you have to hike your bike up before you go down. Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because you show up to the mountain with the best equipment, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be good at downhill. There’s some value to riding XC and learning how to handle your bike properly and getting into riding shape will do wonders to your DH experience.

Here’s a prime example of a first time DH rider. You may have seen this video before, but I’m going to show it again. Randy has NEVER been downhilling. He’s showed interest in it and when he had the opportunity to join me at Southridge he jumped on it. Though the video shows him doing well, I have to let you know that he did crash a few times before we shot the video. But he had a blast riding.

RL and Randy @ Fontana from RL Policar on Vimeo.

What are you doing sitting there reading this? Go out there and try downhill NOW!

Leatt-Brace DBX Comp – Protection for your neck!

Posted by Joe Solancho On February - 15 - 2011

In our sport of downhill (DH), whether you are racing or just riding downhill trails, nothing boosts more confidence than having the right protection. Other than the obvious – helmet, you can now have protection for your neck. The Leatt-Brace DBX Comp employs the patented Alternative Load Path Technology (ALPT) which minimizes movement of your neck upon a crash.

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SRC Winter Series 2, Photo by Jason Cleghorn, www.cleghornphotography.com

The Leatt-Brace, maker of the moto neck brace has come out with a specific brace for bicycles – the DBX Comp (Downhill and BMX). Although similar in appearance as the moto neck brace, the DBX Comp is constructed with thinner pads, ¼” thinner vs. the moto. The DBX helps protect riders from head or neck impacts. The ALPT helps disperse the energy that is typically transferred to the neck, resulting from an impact to the head and assists in the transferring of forces away from the vulnerable neck structures to less vulnerable areas of the body and is pivotal in the design of all Leatt-Braces.

The DBX (and other Leatt-Braces) helps protect the rider from the following scenarios:

- Hyperextension: Extreme bending of the head in a rearward direction
- Hyperflexion: Extreme bending of the head in a forward direction
- Lateral Hyperflexion: Extreme bending of the head to one side
- Posterior Hypertranslation: Movement of the head relative to the neck, at ninety degrees to the neck.
- Axial Loading (when combined with Flexion, Extension and Lateral Flexion): Helps prevent axial loading when the axial forces act in combination with bending moments or shear forces. As an example, this typically occurs when your head is forced downward and forward (Hyperflexion) or downward and backward (Hyperextension).

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Specs on the Leatt DBX:

- Injection molded
- Glass reinforced
- Nylon neck brace system
- Designed by medical professionals and motorcycle enthusiasts to help prevent extreme neck movements upon a crash

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The DBX Comp’s key parts are the neck brace which are two pieces – front and back. The front includes the piece that sits on your chest and the back piece includes the thoracic member. The front and back are connected by “pins”, one on each side. A strap is included to keep the brace in place (optional).
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Side view of the DBX Comp

The most important part of wearing the DBX Comp is the fitment. It’s imperative that you are properly fitted to ensure you have the maximum protection. The DBX Comp comes with four pairs of pins to accommodate various sizes:

- Short Pin (0mm)
- Medium Pin (10mm)
- Long Pin (20mm)
- Long Pin (30mm)

Having the Leatt-Brace too big (loose) or too small(tight) can affect the way the brace protects you. The DBX Comp can also be opened or closed on either left or right side. There is a hinge closure that locks onto the pins.

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The extra pins; the medium is mounted in the DBX

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View from the back with the thoracic support

In the racing circuit, I’ve also noticed that the Leatt-Brace has inspired confidence to many riders of all levels. From Professionals to Beginners, they are no longer wearing body armor. Note that body armor is a personal preference, however if you do decide to wear it in conjunction with the DBX, you have to be sure that the thoracic piece is sitting flat on your back and is under the spine protector. Armors that have been in production with thicker chest padding and spine protection will not work well with the DBX… again, proper fitting is key. They now have body armor out in the market that is designed specifically to “fit” with the Leatt-Brace.

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Wearing the DBX Comp in the Southridge Finals without body armor.

Real life experience: Since wearing the DBX Comp, I’ve personally experienced how the Leatt-Brace can save your @$$! Jan. 9th 2011 Fontana Winter Series #1, practice run – I was following RL Policar down the DH course. At some point I bobbled at a technical section which caused me to stop and redo. At this point RL was long gone. I continued down the course with out anyone to follow. I came up to a section which was a roller/drop off. I should have stayed on the right side where it was a fairly easy roll. Not knowing which way to go, I went left and the rocks started to gap. End result – Over The Bars (OTB). Point of impact was the right side of my head and I rolled over, slamming my right hip onto the ground. I’d hate to find out what would have happened had I not been wearing the DBX. I walked away with bruises on my right hip, leg and buttocks.
OTB sequence
My crash in January. Photo by Tibor Fazekas, www.tibiphoto.com

ALPT:
DBX1

Not too long before my OTB, I learned that one of my friends, Perfecto (Perf), crashed while on a casual downhill ride. He was at a local secret DH spot in So Cal with a lot of jumps. Now this guy can hit the jumps… but sometimes we all have mishaps. So what happened – Perf crashed hitting his face first, shattering his helmet. A typical face-plant type accident without a Leatt-Brace, the force of the impact is typically transferred from the ground to the helmet; through the helmet to the scull and scull base where it is then transferred through the neck to the back (thoracic spine). With the Leatt-Brace, the force will instead transfer from the ground to the helmet, through the helmet onto the Leatt-Brace once impact is made. Some of the force will then be transferred to the brace and dispersed to the less vulnerable parts of the torso. If the impact is significant enough, the brace is designed to fail in crumple zones (similar to those seen in cars), thereby helping to absorb some of the energy of the impact.

See before and after pictures below. Had he not been wearing the Leatt-Brace, he would have had a serious injury.
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Perf’s helmet when new

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Helmet after the crash

ALPT:
DBX2

So does it work – YES it does! Both scenarios mentioned above could have easily resulted in a more serious injury. Able to walk away from it is priceless. We should always think safety first. Leatt-Brace DBX has other models available – The Ride, the Comp I or II and the Pro. The DBX Comp retails for $395.00. For more information, visit Leatt-Brace at www.leatt-brace.com.

Ride Report: Hummingbird Trail, DH in the Valley

Posted by Joe Solancho On February - 9 - 2011

Saturday group rides have been a staple to my schedule for quite sometime. My group of friends typically frequent the various Orange County trails… however from time to time, we’ll explore other Counties.

This past Saturday we ventured to Simi Valley (just past the Los Angeles area) to a trail called Hummingbird. From Orange County, it’s a good 1.5 hour drive… a bit far but definitely worth the downhill that was in store for us. For sometime I’ve heard how fun Hummingbird is… it didn’t disappoint!

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Early start, 6:00am truck and bikes read to roll

Our group met at the end of Hummingbird trail. There were about five other cars that met us there. From here we left one car, then doubled back to Rocky Peak (previous freeway exit) where we can catch the trailhead for Hummingbird. Getting there was a challenge on big bikes… needless to say, there were a lot of hike-a-bikes. A few of the guys that were on lighter bikes were able to pedal up.

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At the top of Hummingbird Trail

Below is a video of our first run. From the start until the end it was pure descent. There was maybe one short pedaling section but if you carried enough speed, it’ll carry you to the top. Hummingbird reminded me of Sedona, AZ but without the red dirt. There were tons of unique rock formations, several of which were on the trail and you had to maneuver through.

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A truck load of bikes!

Our second run was down another trail just before Hummingbird. It’ll remain nameless as it seemed to be a “secret” trail. I wouldn’t want to ruin it for the locals. Just to give you an idea – it’s filled with jumps, step-ups, drop-offs, plus more… If you like all of these and have excellent handling skills, this trail is for you. Unfortunately none of the guys were familiar with this trail and our ride did not flow as we were trying to get around the tougher parts. But for sure this trail rocks!

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Myles looking down the trail… pretty steep

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Exiting out of the tunnel

Hummingbird was a blast! Looking forward to the next trip to the Valley!

Weekend Ride and “NO” Race Report (OTB in practice)

Posted by Joe Solancho On January - 10 - 2011

This past Saturday my ride was at Turnbull Canyon in Whittier, CA. Since southern California has been pounded with rain and storm for the past several weeks, this would be the first dry weekend for riding… In addition majority of Orange County’s trails are still closed due to the rains. Needless to say there were a lot of mountain bikers that flocked to Turnbull.

My group of friends consisted of about 15 guys. On the trail we met another group of friends which had 10 guys… so we had a big group ride!
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Heading to the trailhead

One highlight of the ride was my friend, Dexter, invested in the Shuttle Buddy. This is a motor assisted contraption that mounts on the rear wheel of your DH bike.
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Basically this is a self-shuttle for those who can’t pedal up the mountain. This would be his first trial with the Shuttle Buddy. From where we parked our cars, it’s about 1/8th of a mile to the trail head. The Shuttle Buddy motored him like a mo-ped. For awhile it sounded like a lawn mower was following me. Unfortunately his Buddy crapped out on him halfway up the first climb on dirt so I never got any details on how it was working for him.
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An Intense 951 faster than a 19lb carbon bike???

Onto the trail… conditions were excellent! There were a few wet spots but nothing that would cause trail damage. As always, Turnbull is a fun trail. If you’ve been there, we made our way down the switchbacks to 7th Street. This is a fast descent after the series of switchbacks. From here we climbed up a different set of switchbacks and headed to a singletrack called A-line. If you haven’t been there, below is a video of the downhill sections we rode on Saturday.

On the same day was the first race of the Southridge 2011 Winter Series. As you read SSuper Dan’s race report (the post prior to mine), while I was making my way to Fontana, he was tearing up the course on his singlespeed. Congrats Dan!!!

For 2011 I decided to move to the Sport Class. Registered and ready for practice RL, Wes and I headed up for a run. This would be the first run for RL and I. Prior to riding we walked about halfway down to check out the course. Not too bad, although there were some steep, roll-able sections.
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Sport number plate for 2011

Making our way down I was following RL. At some point I wobble at a section where I stopped and we were separated. Now I was making my way down without anyone to follow. I reached a steep section where I should have gone right, instead of left. On the right was much smoother transition; the left were rocks that gapped. Into the drop, I knew I was going over… I hit the ground – lights out! I’ve never felt pain like this before. Immediate pain on my right butt cheek radiating down to my leg. Fortunately there were people there that assisted me. Photographer Tibor Fazekas (www.tibiphoto.com) captured a sequence of my OTB. They stopped practice until I got my bearings. They eventually helped me off the course and EMTs came up to tend on me. Fortunately nothing was broken, just got my bell rang.
Joe
Coming into the section. Photo by Tibor Fazekas, www.tibiphoto.com

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wadding up with my bike. Photo by Tibor Fazekas, www.tibiphoto.com

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Photo by Tibor Fazekas, www.tibiphoto.com

While the EMTs were working on me, they resumed practice and guys started coming down again. A series of guys come down, then one of my friends comes through and does the exact same thing I did but slams his head onto a rock! Result – broken helmet and a couple of gashes on his head. This was not good… The EMTs started working on him to stop the bleeding. We eventually made our way down the course where they loaded us on the shuttle vans and took us to the bottom. I ended up going home, bruised and very sore. Needless to say, no racing the following day. Come to find out that there were a lot of casualties from this race. It was tough all around… :(

Xpedo Face Off XMX17AC Pedals

Posted by Joe Solancho On July - 15 - 2010

New from Xpedo are their Face Off XMX17AC platform pedals. These are the pedals that I am using with my new Intense Uzzi VP. Check them out… these are sweet looking pedals!
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The Face Off XMX17AC are aluminum pedals with a cromoly spindle. Although classified in their website under the BMX category, these are fully compatible for any type of biking – especially downhill (DH). As a matter of fact they have been perfect on my downhill runs! I’ve been using the Face Off XMX17AC for about one month now and I cant rave enough on how well my shoes grip onto them.
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There are ample pins – 15 on each side to be exact. Each set of pedals comes with a pack of replacement pins.

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The Face Off XMX17AC are low profile pedals that come in six cool colors to match your color scheme. For more information and to see their other products, go to www.xpedo.com. Specs from their site are listed below:

XMX17AC

Weight: 380g/pr

Body: Aluminum 6061 CNC

Spindle: Cromoly

Bearings: 1 Cartridge

Bushings: 1 DU

Pins: Replaceable straight pins

Seal: 1 Rubber

Color: Black, Gray, Red, Gold, Light Blue, Navy Blue

Greetings from Woodward West – Tehachapi, CA

Posted by Joe Solancho On April - 24 - 2010

The Moe and I made our annual trip to Tehachapi, CA for the second leg of the 2010 California Golden State Kenda Downhill Championships. This year it appears that it will only be the two of us as our other teammates were not able to make it. After a 3hr drive from my house we arrive at Woodward West just as practice started. Weather was a cool 60 degrees, quite the opposite from last year. As a matter of fact there is still snow at the mountain just behind the venue.
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The Moe armored and ready for practice.
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My sled for this race is my new bike an Intense Uzzi. I finished the build late last night, just in time for our trip.
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After registration The Moe and I briefly walked the course. We were surprised to see our teammate Wes “GQ” Castro. He was at the top part of the course taking pictures and video.
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We had a total of four practice runs. The course is totally different from last year’s – it has rock gardens, berms, table tops, off-camber turns and a ladder. Totally FUN!!!
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The Moe and Wes walking back to the car after practice.

The Moe and I have a new approach on racing. We will attempt to bring intensity to our game and hope to do well tomorrow. Wish us luck!

Kali Avatar DH Helmet

Posted by Joe Solancho On April - 6 - 2010

Kali, a San Jose based company, maker of fine helmets and protective gear, came out with the super light helmet for 2010. The Avatar – weighing in at only 849 grams! This has to be one of the lightest in the industry for a full face helmet. Mine weighed in at 852 grams, so production is on target.

At Sea Otter 2009 is where I had my first glimpse of the Avatar DH. Brad Waldon the engineer was still toying with ideas on how to make this a better helmet.
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The Avatar was still in its infancy stage… fast forward to Interbike 2009, the Avatar was in its final stages prior to full production. Kali showcased their 2010 helmets and products which included different graphics of the Avatar.

I started using the Avatar this January 2010 during the Southridge Winter Series. It caught a lot of attention with its killer graphics. When asked about it, I would let the inquiring minds hold the Avatar to feel how light it is. They were all amazed! I used it on five races as well as local DH rides. The Avatar DH is comfortable. It has ample padding through out the inside of the helmet. Also with its 12 vents, your head stays cool while under pressure.
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How does the Composite Fusion hold-up? I had first hand experience testing its protection and durability. During Winter Series #4, as I approached the lower rock garden I went OTB (Over the Bars), face/head first onto a rock…OUCH! The Pop’Out system for the visor worked as it was designed. Rather than just breaking from the tabs or forcing my head into another direction, the visor “popped out”; in my case it folded down over my goggles. The helmet absorbed the impact and I was not hurt. I was able to get back up and finish my run.
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The Avatar uses the same patented technology as their other helmets called “Composite Fusion” in their protective gear. It is a proprietary ultra light molecular co-curing technology that produces stronger components, lighter and more precise fitting gear. Unlike common helmets which construct the shell and the energy absorbing foam (EPS) as two separate units, Kali’s Composite Fusion incorporates the EPS foam as part of the shell, thus transferring the impact energy into the EPS foam more efficiently. What does this all mean – increased protection, better for your head.
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Product description:

The AVATAR™ Helmet is lightweight. Damn light. In fact, the only thing more interesting than its light weight is how strong it is.

Utilizing patented COMPOSITE FUSION™ in-molding technology for a perfect shell/liner connection, this full-face helmet also features a revolutionary mix of Kevlar, Carbon Fiber and Fiberglass in its shell materials. These materials form perfectly into a skeleton of expanded protection allowing the overall use of softer CONTEGO™ EPS foam. What’s it all mean? Light. Strong.

Weighing in at just 849 grams, the AVATAR™ helmet provides the new reference in lightweight, full-featured and expanded coverage downhill biking helmets.

Product Features:
• Tri-Weave Shell featuring Kevlar, Carbon Fiber and Fiberglass materials
• COMPOSITE FUSION™ Shell/Liner Connection
• Low density CONTEGO™ EPS foam for greater impact adsorption
• Integrated Airflow System
• Washable, adjustable, anti-microbial fit pads
• Breakaway visor

Safety Compliance:
EN 1078, CPSC

Graphics/Colors:
OSLO: Khaki Matte, White/Blue Shiny, Red Shiny
HH Vs. ROCK: Black Shiny

Sizes:
XS, S, M, L, XL
MSRP $279.00
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Kali products are MtnBikeRiders.com Tested and Approved! To see more products from Kali, visit their site at www.kaliprotectives.com

Review Disclaimer

Race Report – SRC Winter Series DH Race #1 Jan 10th 2010

Posted by Moe Ramirez On January - 12 - 2010

On Jan 10th I headed out to Fontana for one last practice run and my first DH race in the sport category. After a few mishaps in my first couple races, I managed to finish out 2009 with some success in the beginner group and decided it was time to move into sport.

The DH course was a mix of previous Southridge Racing Co courses. With the upper 1/4 from November’s Southridge Challenge and the next 1/4 from July’s Fontana City Nationals. This meant a couple cool lines in the upper section with some berms and fast sections. A rocky chute into soft sand that took out many riders followed by some of the dustiest, loosest S-turns in SoCal! This was followed by a nice g-out hip and then a long pedal to cross the fire road into the usual rock garden and the dreaded wall!

Thank goodness the course was familiar because following the previous day’s XC race I just had nothing in the tank and managed just two practice runs before calling it a day due to exhaustion.

Sunday was a beautiful day and I whipped out the Vholdr Contour HD 1080p helmet cam to record my run. At 2:52 I’m neither happy nor dissatisfied with my time (7th in sport 27-34), I know I’ve got to get quicker if I want to podium, but with three total practice runs, it wasn’t a bad outing.

I’ve got to thank the team sponsors for their help, especially KHS bicycles for the demo Lucky 7 bike to use! Evomo and Hoss for the cool clothes, IceToolz for the tools and Serfas Optics and Ergon for helping us be comfortable.

Interbike 2009 – One Ghost Industries

Posted by Joe Solancho On October - 6 - 2009

A new company that caught my attention at Interbike was One Ghost Industries.  Based out of Oregon, CA they had these three prototypes that were very impressive.  Check ‘em out below, good looking bikes!   At the time there weren’t a lot of information on availability, however we just recently received notice that they are ready to take orders for 2010.  For more information go to www.oneghost.com or go to your local bike shop and inquire.

2E8J0124 by you.Genken – Endurance / DH

2E8J0125 by you.Longbow – Super D Race / Log Travel Trail bike

2E8J0128 by you.Wakizashi – Slopestyle/4X

Interbike 2009 – Foes Bikes

Posted by Joe Solancho On September - 26 - 2009

Below are some pictures of Brent Foes’ bikes. He has always made one of the best looking bikes… but I think he’s made his masterpiece. Check out the custom trike and the hottie modeling it! :)

2E8J0231 by you.

2E8J0230 by you.Long travel beaut!

2E8J0223 by you.check out the top tube

2E8J0224 by you.…and the custom stem/handlebar/gnurled grips combo

2E8J0225 by you.The baddest little trike – double clamp fork!!!

2E8J0227 by you.                         welding on the top tube…

2E8J0228 by you.check the axles…

2E8J0226 by you.                          Grrrr….

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