How to get fit for downhill

Fitness coach Alan Milway explains how to prepare your body to attack the descents

Understanding suspension and tyre pressure are essential for downhill racing

Downhill racing (DH) is a hugely demanding sport. Although you’re not pedalling continuously, legs can turn to jelly just controlling the bike over roots and rocks. Without strength in the trunk and upper body, you’ll lose your posture and position on the bike as fatigue sets in, which can lead to mistakes.


Top racers don’t just want to survive a downhill track, they want to attack it. That means exerting huge power in every pedal stroke and having the strength to put the bike exactly where they want it, while resisting the forces as they career down a rocky race track.

DH training revolves around high-intensity interval sessions, building strength and power in the gym, and other work such as improving trunk (core) muscles and controlling posture.

It’s important to train the body to withstand crashes, focusing on mobility, strength and general flexibility

It’s also important to train the body to withstand crashes, focusing on mobility in areas such as the shoulders, strength at the end-range of movements and general flexibility. Because DH is a skill-based sport, riding technical tracks forms a big part of any rider’s preparation too.

Skills focus

Look for technical tracks that are challenging to ride – and go riding with others, who can help you improve, show you the best lines and encourage improvement.


Building sprint training into a ride is easy, competitive and fun, but often overlooked. Set up a start line away from the start of the downhill trail and sprint into the section. Improving power during a fun ride is the best way!

Cross training

Head to a pump track or BMX track to sharpen those skills and link up with your downhill riding.


Bike set-up

Downhill bikes are so advanced now that understanding how your bike works will make a big difference. Suspension and tyre pressures are the first things to adjust and learn about.