What’s Your Gear? Downhill Mountain Biking

Parents, are you tired of letting your kids run/ride/paddle circles around you? Then take a hint from Doug Minor, two-time State Masters Champion in downhill mountain biking, and get back on the bike yourself.

When Minor’s son got into mountain biking a few years ago, the former motorcycle racer decided to try to keep up. Today, his son is in college, and Minor is cultivating sponsor relationships and dominating local downhill races.

“I have a bit of a competitive bug,” says Minor, who is the reigning champion in Washington’s 50+ Expert class, and also competed at the 2006 UCI Masters World Championship race in Sun Peaks, B.C. His race performance and dedication to the sport have won him several sponsorships, and he’s currently working on two projects: coordinating the upcoming Bicycle Butler Beacon Blowout and putting together his new bike. What’s the gear that’s going to get this 51-year-old through his next decade of racing?

Bike: Minor just received his new Transition bike frame. “I haven’t even got it put together yet,” he says. In fact, he doesn’t even have all the parts, but he expects the seat, handlebars, stem and other parts to be furnished by one of his sponsors, Syncros or Sunline. The suspension, though, will come from RST. “It’s a brand that doesn’t get a whole lot of respect in the U.S., but they’ve been providing me with lots of quality hardware and I provide them with a lot of feedback.”

According to Minor, the norm in downhill mountain bike racing is full suspension in the neighborhood of seven inches of travel (the amount the suspension compresses), but Minor says, “I’m not as smooth as I used to be, so I figure the bigger the better.” He’ll be riding with 8 inches of travel when he rolls his new bike out this spring.

Gear system: “I’m old school with an 8-speed cassette, because of the simplicity and durability,” says Minor. “I tend to be a little harder on my gear so I go with durability over lightweight.” Most people don’t realize that even though downhill mountain bikers are going, well, downhill, there’s a lot of pedaling involved. “It’s a full sprint, you’re either pedaling or carrying speed through the places you can’t pedal.”

Pedals: Minor prefers not to go clip-less, using the Syncros Mental pedals. “I like to be able to tweak my feet around,” he says, so he uses a platform pedal with aggressive treading and sticky soled shoes. “I love my SixSixOne Dually Takis-those things really grip. It’s the next best thing to being clipped in, they really do hang on tenaciously.

Eyewear: Dirty Dog.

Helmet: The SixSixOne Hurricane Flight helmet. It’s a Snell-approved motocross helmet, important for racing in what he calls the “old and brittle class.”

Body Armor: The SixSixOne Pressure suit, with a chest plate, elbow and forearm covers, shoulder cups, and “armadillo-type articulated spinal protection, so there’s a lot of great protection in something you just throw on. You can just throw a jersey over it and still have a billboard for all your sponsors.” Minor also wears the Race knee and shin guards by SixSixOne. In downhill racing, he says, “protection is the name of the game.”

Gloves: The SixSixOne Cedric gloves. “They’re the mountain biking equivalent of brass knuckles.”

Jersey: Preferably something moisture-wicking and short enough not to get caught on the seat while maneuvering. However, “I haven’t had a lot of choice-it’s dictated by your sponsors and what they provide for you,” says Minor.

Shorts: Minor wears the SixSixOne Race shorts with removable hip pads for warmer days, and the Royal Racing Future Combat pants for colder weather.

Minor’s absolute must-have gear? “My helmet,” he says, and he’s also a fan of head-sweats, which come in handy for keeping his hair in and the sunburns out between races. And there you have it, you young athletes coveting sponsors, and you parents who would kill to keep up.

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