What is it?
“It’s racin’ and kicking a*s on the north shore, getting’ 10 ft hucks an’ stuff off just 8” of travel. Sorted”… Obvious really.
Downhill mountain biking is really the glamour end of the mountain biking world. Back when mountain biking (MTB) first grew out of road cycling, it was mostly about getting off the beaten track and out into the hills. As riders became more sophisticated, technology became more specialized, the mountain biking sport fragmented into cross-country and downhill, much like skiing (with even the occasional fluorescent, lycra all-in-one making an appearance.) Cross-country mountain biking became the less glamorous, but a much, much bigger market while downhill mountain biking appealed to only the hardest of hardcore riders.
When the sport started, all the major manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon to produce loss-leading downhill MTB products to enhance the sexiness of their overall brand. Most early customers were hardcore nutcases who received products free through sponsorships. Every time a new bike went out for test it came back mangled, broken and ‘still under warrantee’ which is why any major MTB manufacturer with any sense quickly canned the market and went back to basics. Since then, products have become more specialized, much more durable and look more like motorbikes, with about 8-12″ suspension on the back and 10-12″ on the front.
A good site which will tell you everything you need to know is www.pinkbike.com
Where can I do it?
Basically, all you need is a sheer cliff face and a set of wheels and you’re pretty much there. Actually normal, and even sane, people can get involved by entering a race. Usually there will be categories for beginners that don’t involve a 20 ft drop. The best way of finding out about races is through bike magazines or through websites.
What kit do I need?
You need a bike which weighs more than your house. It should have full suspension (both front and back) and will probably cost about $1500-2000. You can often hire them at resorts fro $20 per day.
How difficult is it?
It varies immensely, from simply starting at the top of a hill and trying to find your way down, to professionals who literally push the boundaries of human endurance. A couple of things you should probably know before committing yourself to a life of broken limbs:
North Shore is the term given to the crazy wooden constructions that downhill mountain bikers call jumps. I think the term came from Hawaii.
The purpose of North Shore is to allow you to do great Hucks – jumps with mid-air freestyle panache. If you really want to see what I’m talking about, go to www.ratemyhuck.com and check out some of the ‘phat air’.