Steve Peat – 2009 Downhill World Champion
At one point Steve Peat looked destined to be the eternal bridesmaid. A string of second place finishes left downhill racing’s most popular character without the World Championship win he so desired. But in September 2009, in Canberra, Australia, the big man’s luck finally changed and he joined mountain biking’s most exclusive club.
Clear rough sections
Don’t get tangled up in rocks and roots; exploit the terrain to jump the chaos (see photo, top).
- These trails are not steep, they’re not gnarly downhills, but they’re really fun because you hop over stuff and there are lots of rocks and roots to play on.
- I always try and get over the rough stuff. Rough stuff definitely saps speed. If you hit stuff your bike is going to rattle around more and you’re going to get bounced off line.
- I look for any kind take-off point or landing point in any trail whether I’m riding cross-country or downhill. It’s good to go light over rough stuff and get another little pump.
- I’m coming down into a rough section and I’m looking far enough ahead and popping over the rough stuff, but making sure I land on a backside so I get a little bit of pump out of the trail.
- On this particular one I’m going from the left hand side of the trail to right hand side to set-up around a bit more rough stuff. Then I’m popping over a root, which allows me to get back over to the left to open up the turn. There’s a little bit of a kicker I can use before it. I’m loading the suspension into the hole and letting it come into my body afterwards to get that bit of extra height.
- Because of that rock on the exit, you’ve got to get up and over it to the backside. I’m getting the front wheel down first and I’m using the suspension to hop up into the air. It’s a loaded suspension jump not a bunny-hop.
- I’m looking three steps ahead. My mind is processing twenty to thirty metres in front of me. I’m taking in three features; my head’s looking at the end of that section while my body is already doing what I’ve processed in my head. It’s not an easy one to teach.
Staying high on off-camber
Stick to slopes you never thought possible by adopting Peaty’s signature knee-in position and riding on the edge of your tyres.
- Weight the outside foot and get on the edge of your tyres.
- Keep your bike lent into the hill to get the grip on the side of your tyres.
- Read the terrain; where’s the grip? Use these spots to weight and unweight.
- I like to get the bike lent over between my legs because I’m quite tall and bandy legged. I get my centre of gravity over the bottom bracket and then I use the axis to turn it onto the edge of the tyres. I’m over the bottom bracket, so I’ve always got that balance but I can move the bike in and out on the edge of the tyres.
- I have my knees turned in. I know where the top tube is so I know I’m in the right position. It’s body memory.
- Unweight over roots because if you ping off them it’ll just send you down the hill.
- Start off as high as you can because at some point you’re going to get dragged down the camber.
- Always look ahead and pick your spots to head for.
- You want to do your braking before you come in, so you carry your speed along the off-camber.
- Try not to hit your brakes on the off-camber because you’re the bike is at an angle. If you hit your brakes you’ll bring the bike upright, which will force you down the camber.
- Sometimes you get the grippiest surface because fewer people have ridden on it.
Stay relaxed in the air
Jumping into a corner I always turn my bars the opposite way in the air. When you do a jump, most people get sort of stiff; they go straight and they land straight. If there’s a corner after it takes you longer to get lent over for that corner. When I jump I turn my bars a bit because then you’re in control of your bike. Jumping and turning the bars to the right a bit you’re already starting your turn before you land then. When you land you’re already lent over.
A lot of people are very stiff through their upper body. Instead, bend your elbows and push and pump the bike. I class my arms and legs as extended suspension.
Last of the late brakers
A lot of people leave their braking too late and brake in a turn, which sends your body weight up and you mess up the exit of the turn. The main thing is to make sure you’ve done your braking before you get into a turn. Then carry your speed out of the turn.
I don’t like the dull feeling when you plough through everything. On a trail bike I like to have my suspension quite stiff. I like to feel the bike under me and feel the trail. I use the trail to jump holes and pump for speed. Being clipped in helps me with line choice and getting light over rougher sections.
Feel the pressure
I also like my tyres pretty hard. Because of the way I ride, I push into turns and I weight the bike into stuff. If the tyres are too low they just roll.
Notes on big wheels
With a 29er the biggest thing I notice is that it definitely carries speed better on flatter trails, or not too technical rocky trails. It’s slower to get lent over into a turn, but once it’s in position it rails really well.