Steep downhills and dropoffs scare me when I'm off-road riding. Any tips?
You bet. Here are ten tips that will help:
1. First, make sure you wear a good helmet for safety in case you fall. Wear quality gloves, too, to protect your hands.
2. Slow well before you get to the tricky section because hitting it with too much speed can be disastrous.
3. The big risk is flipping forward over the handlebars. Avoid this by getting your weight way back, scooting your butt off the seat and back over the rear wheel (your stomach should be over the seat), supporting your weight with your legs. Lowering your seat also helps.
4. Go down at a safe speed but don't brake too hard because you may skid and lose control.
5. Use your front brake carefully, It's an important control on downhills but hit it too hard or at the wrong time and you'll go flying.
6. Going too slow can be a bad thing. Often a little (don't overdo it!) extra speed increases stability a lot.
7. Hold onto the bars firmly but keep your body relaxed. A sure, steady grip assists steering control and a relaxed body makes it easier to make small moves to keep your balance.
8. Don't follow ride partners too closely or you won't be able to see the hazards clearly.
9. If you're using clipless pedals, adjust them so you can get your feet out in a hurry if you start to topple.
10. Practice helps a lot. If a hill scares you, work up to it by trying the easier parts of the slope and walking the extreme stretches. As you practice on trickier hills, you'll build skills and improve.