I started riding mountain bike tracks on a trail bike. The Trek Fuel was a great bike to start on, and it flowed and jumped really well. It was easy to ride on jumps, it held speed down harder trails, and bounced over ruts easily. But I wanted to start racing, and this bike just wasn’t very good down the harder trails. Over time, I got faster and faster, but after a while I noticed I had stopped improving. At first, I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t improving. But as I attempted to go faster, I realized it was because of the ruts. With not much travel, it was just a bit rough.
So I looked at some downhill bikes. At first I decided on an Intense M16, but eventually I bought a 2020 Commencal Supreme. I chose a Commencal because it matched my riding style more than the Intense.
When I bought it, we were in lockdown, and all of the bike parks were closed. Weeks later, I got to the bike park. I didn’t notice much difference, apart from that I was faster with the downhill. Later still, I realized that the downhill was far easier to go faster.
When I had researched downhill bikes, I had found that downhill bikes are quite hard to ride on flat ground. I didn’t find this. I found it easy to ride on the flat.
The hardest thing I found was doing jumps on a downhill. It had much more travel than the trail bike, and when I did jumps, I kept going tail-heavy and nearly crashing. I compensated for this by finding small ruts in the lips of the jumps and using those to push my front wheel down. I have learned to do jumps on the downhill well now, and I now prefer jumps on the downhill rather than the trail bike as on the trail bike I think I’ll go nose-heavy and crash.
I prefer the secure feeling of the downhill bike to the easy speed of the trail bike.
The downhill is easy to go fast down harder trails and is much better for steep and rough terrain, but is harder to maintain speed over jumps.
The trail bike is best for enduro and cross-country trails, and holds speed well over jumps and drops.
Overall, to lift your game speed and jump-wise, choose the downhill bike over the trail bike.