Q. How is a race run?

A. Scottish Downhill Association run races are a timed run down a taped course, Saturday is practice day, you will then get 2 hours of practice with 2 race runs on the Sunday, and the best time is counted towards the results. Normally you need to arrive at the course on Saturday about 8.30am, same with Sunday, if it is your first time, then walk the course, so you dont get any nasty surprises. You must sign-on before you go to the uplift, a rider must have a valid race number on their bike before you can get on the course. Sign-on is situated in the car park normally, suitably marked with ‘SIGN-ON’. If it is your first race then you will be issued with your race number, this should be attached to the front of the bike, normally just below the handlebars, make sure the number is visible, it is used by the start marshall and especially the timing people at the finish, so make sure it is clean!!

So how do you get to the top? Well, trucks (we use cattle trucks) transport you up the forestry roads to the top of the course. On practice day the start is informal, just push to the start gate and go when you are ready. If it is your first run, then wait for a gap, everyone who has entered is on the course, so the top riders are in amongst the first-timers. Please read the rules, the top riders are serious about racing, if a rider is catching you he will shout ‘rider’ (loudly), you should make way for him/her as soon as you can. Difficult sections nearly always have an easier route, go easy on your first run and stop (well away from the racing line) and watch others, in fact you will see many riders stop and push back up to try difficult sections again and again (this is called ‘sectioning’).

On race day (Sunday), there is a shorter allotted time for practice, this is really just to practice full race runs in race day conditions, you may not be allowed to section the track on race day. Racing normally starts at 11.30am on Sunday, The sign-on area will have all the timing details, if there is a large entry, then racing may need to start at 11.00am. Each entrant has a designated start time, which is in category order, this is posted up at sign-on. It is very important you are at the start in time, each rider is released at thirty second intervals, if you are not there on time, you may not be allowed to race. The start and finish marshall’s and the timing people have the run sheets, so if a rider is run out of sequence, it causes great problems. Basically you should allow an hour to get from the pit area to the start, why an hour? well there may not be a lorry waiting to leave, or maybe the first lorry is full. It is also best to check you bike over in the pits as well, you don’t want something silly ruining your race run!

Q. Do I need a special Downhill Bike

A The best and cheapest way to start is by using a hardtail, which has front suspension but no rear suspension, these will cope with the track, although it will be slightly bumpier! You must however use a good quality frame as the bikes take a lot of punishment, a good bike shop should be able to advise you. Unfortunately a cheap full suspension bike from a general bike shop even up to 500 will not handle the forces generated by a Downhill Course, it will result in a broken frame and at worst, injury. There is plenty of advice on Downhill Forums like www.descent-world.co.uk, also visit a specialist bike shop, they will be able to advise on the best kit.

Q. What protective clothing do I need?

A The nature of downhilling is that a spill is almost a certainty, so make sure you have the best protection you can. A full face helmet is now compulsory, The SDA advice is to get the best helmet you can afford, it is the most important part of all your kit. Giro and Troy Lee Designs are the most popular makes at the moment, but SixSixOne, Fox and Bell also make good quality stuff. Keeping at the top, goggles are also useful in muddy conditions as a lot of mud can be thrown up by the front wheel. The next most important item is body armour, In 2007 new minimum body armour rules were introduced, you should familiarise yourself with these rules, which are on this website.You will be able to buy any number of Downhill Jerseys, the top brands being Fox, Troy Lee and Royal, same with the Shorts. So why do Downhillers wear shorts and not full Race Pants like motocrossers, well motocrossers don’t have to pedal and shorts offer more movement, although pants will give more protection. Footwear is the next item, basically there are 2 types, flat pedals or clip-on pedals. If you are starting out then Flat Pedals are the way to go as you will have many dabs as you are learning. However as you progress you might want to try clip-on pedals, cleats in the bottom of special shoes clip into the pedals holding the foot to the pedal, you just twist to the side to unclip. Finally, a good pair of gloves is another essential element, natural reaction is to throw your hands out in a fall, enough said! It also helps with grip on the handlebars. Talking of handlebars, you will need ‘bar-end plugs’, which are fitted into each end of the bars to make them solid, if you fall heavily on the bars without them, they can be very dangerous! The start commissaire will not let you race if you do not have bar-end plugs in.

FLAG SYSTEM – Marshals and First Aid are on course on both Saturday and Sunday. Marshals have 2 flags and a whistle, the whistle is just to warn the crowd that a rider is approaching. If he waves a yellow flag, this means caution and you should adjust your speed accordingly. The most common instance of a yellow flag is a rider has fallen on the track but is unhurt and is picking himself/herself up. A Red Flag means STOP, You must stop immediately, the most common instance of a red flag is a rider has fallen and is injured and First Aid may have to attend to him/her on the track. On Race day there are no yellow flags, as you are now in timed race conditions, only the red flag applies. Only the race commisaire can decide on a red flag, the marshal will radio the commisaire for advice, the commisaire will then decide if it is a red flag situation.

Finally, the paddock is one of the friendliest places at a race, many people comment on how open everyone is with offers of help and hints and tips. So while your waiting in the queue for the uplift and you notice some trick piece of kit, or if you are just plain unsure about what to do next, ask, cause you should get a reply!


Juveniles, Expert and Elite must have Race Licences.Please follow this link to the British Cycling website membership page, there are 2 parts in getting a Race Licence, you first become a member of British Cycling and then select the option of having Race Licence on the application form. Please do not send Race Licence applications to the SDA, they go to BC in Manchester as it says on the form! http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/web/site/BC/mem/membership_join_page.asp