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How to Master Downhill Racing on Snow

By Adam Marsal

With your speed exceeding 90 km/h while going down elbow-to-elbow with 200 other people, you should better hold on you to bars! The recent Chinese Downhill winner Michal Maroši explains how to survive a mass downhill mania on snow without getting hurt.

The bike

I’d choose a downhill or freeride bike with a lot of front and rear suspensions and a rather slack head tube angle. Clipless pedals should be replaced with platform pedals with relatively large flat area for your winter boots to rest on. Studded tyres with metal spikes are banned for safety reasons, so I’d recommend mounting tyres with aggressive tread pattern for heavy mud conditions. This would give you the ultimate traction desired on snow. Apart from the hydraulic disc brakes, there’s no power that would stop you effectively in the sub-zero temperatures.

The gear

Winter boots and insulated gloves are a must. Don’t forget to test the gloves before the race to ensure they give your fingers enough sensitivity for good handling. Mirrored lens in your goggles should be replaced with clear ones to provide brighter vision even when the daylight starts fading during late afternoon rounds. To stay warm, I’d recommend putting on your complete ski or snowboarding wear. The knee, elbow and back protection can be worn either over or under your clothes. The use of full face helmet is compulsory at most of the DH races, and snow racing is no exemption.

Lukas Wagneter / Red Bull Media House

The tactic

This is so individual. There’s a crowd of 200 riders storming down a slope at Chinese DH events so it’s better to fight for your space. While somebody likes to stay in group to prepare a good starting point for an attack from behind later in the race, for me, the race is all about quick start. You need to find the right place in the pole position and then run for your life to be among the first ones to grab their bike and steal the front position from others. You will need a lot of speed! I always do my best to refrain from braking during the whole race in order to ride as fast as possible. I suppose this is the only way to achieve the best results.

Lukas Wagneter / Red Bull Media House

The ride

On snow, accurate handling is even more crucial than on muddy trails. To avoid stumbling over the soft surface, push your centre of gravity slightly over your seat to keep your front wheel rolling smoothly through the snow. And focus on your balance!

Lukas Wagneter / Red Bull Media House

The race

Wanna try it yourself? You can choose between the legendary Glacier Bike Downhill in Saas Fee, Switzerland scheduled for March 11 and the Slovak franchise of Chinese Downhill, which takes place in the Jasna mountain resort on March 18. For endurance riders, there’s the Sarene Snow Bike event in the French resort Alpe d’Huez with a 16km-long track starting at Le Pic Blanc (3330m) and finishing at Huez (1500m).