Embarking on the adrenaline-fueled journey of DH Biking is a thrilling plunge into the heart of extreme sports. For fearless athletes, conquering the twists and turns of downhill tracks becomes an art, a dance with danger. In this high-stakes realm, our protective activewear emerges as the unsung hero, safeguarding athletes like Marjo from the unforgiving perils of the DH Biking terrain.
DH Biking, a heart-pounding pursuit down steep, obstacle-laden tracks, demands a unique blend of strength, fitness, and an acceptance of risk. A global community of athletes, united by the love for this extreme sport, understands the allure of bucket-list-worthy trails and the inherent danger that comes with them. It was amidst this excitement that Marjo, a Finnish DH athlete, experienced a crash, leading her to express gratitude for our protective activewear.
Marjo's Journey: A Testament to Protective Activewear in DH Biking Safety
Meet Marjo Laaksonen - a self-proclaimed middle-aged adrenaline junkie who found her passion in Downhill Biking. After a dislocated wrist incident, Marjo credits our protective pants and shirt, worn beneath a hard-shell armour, for sparing her from more severe injuries. In her own words, she shares, "Without your protective pants and shirt...I would have definitely broken my thigh and ribs." Marjo's testament underlines the indispensable role protective athleticwear played in her safety net.
Marjo’s message to us on Instagram (translated from Finish). You can connect with Marjo on Instagram here: www.instagram.com/ho0p1e
Gladly, Marjo's recovery was swifter than anticipated, thanks to the assistance of a skilled surgeon and her physiotherapist Antti. Her post-injury message resonates with the importance of protective activewear in reducing downtime and facilitating a faster return to DH Biking or any other sport you choose to engage in.
DH bikers don an array of protective gear, with Marjo's setup featuring a protective jacket, back protector, shoulder, elbow, chest and knee pads, a full-face helmet, and a neck brace. Yet, what sets her apart is the additional layer of protection she swears by - protective activewear, providing crucial coverage for vulnerable areas.
“Under my protective jacket, I use the STEAKS® Contact Wear (note: AUAU Athletics produced protective activewear under the name STEAKS® Contact Wear until 2022) Smackanawa Vest as it protects my ribs and collarbones. I still have not found any other protective wear with these pads. I also wear STEAKS® Full Crash Pants to protect my thighs, hip-bones, sides of my hips and tailbone. So far, they have been the most protective crash pants while being comfortable enough, even on warm summer days. It is important to have gear that allows you to move and is comfortable; otherwise, it will be left behind.”
Wisdom in Motion: How Age can keep you safer in DH Biking
Many elements are out of a Downhill Biking athlete’s control, and the speed with which they rip down the trails can make situations even more chaotic. Accidents in DH Biking can occur due to unexpected soil conditions and mental fatigue. While this uncertainty is most likely part of the thrill for many athletes, it means one needs to be mature and smart to prevent the worst.
Aging in the world of extreme sports brings wisdom, affecting gear choices. Marjo highlights the shift towards fuller coverage as athletes age, balancing comfort with the realization that preventing accidents becomes paramount. Improved gear quality ensures both comfort and protection, making it seamlessly integrated into the DH biking experience.
“Some people only wear helmets, knee pads and maybe back protectors. But the older you get, the more likely you are to use gear because of the time it takes for recovery. People my age use full coverage, but it depends. Some people use more gear than they do when they go for casual rides when doing something new and challenging, which means the risk of injury is higher. But you never know. I had my first injury at the end of the track when I was trying to break on loose sand, slipped and dislocated my shoulder. Generally, the older you get, the more you realise you can actually hurt yourself and are not invincible. You also have other shit to do, you have work, and many have children. You have to be able to take care of your family. So, if you can prevent an accident, of course you do.
Another big point is that the gear nowadays is more comfortable than ten years ago. If the gear is good quality, you hardly notice it is there, and it does not bother you when riding.”
A peek into Marjo’s high-energy training days. Training sessions depend on people’s moods and energy and can range from chilled-out “Sunday Riding” to days that are made for challenging jumps. © Marjo Laaksonen
Mind Over Terrain: Marjo’s biggest challenges and payouts in DH Biking
While high-speed descents and unpredictable conditions contribute to the thrill of DH Biking, Marjo emphasizes that the greatest challenges lie within the athlete's mindset. Staying cool-headed, focused, and pushing boundaries without compromising safety become paramount. She echoes, "The biggest challenges are inside your own head."
Beyond protective athletic wear, successful DH Biking is a holistic endeavor involving mental and physical preparation, along with proper equipment care. Marjo advises on the importance of good insurance and overall physical health, underlining their roles in preventing accidents and aiding recovery.
“Many people think that DH biking is extremely dangerous, but your own actions can affect how dangerous it is. Good protective gear, proper care of your bike and learning in your own time prevent injuries effectively. But when it happens, as it always does at some point, good insurance helps you through the whole process. When you start doing so-called extreme sports, you have to be mentally prepared that something might happen; in the end, we are dealing with not just high speeds, but also constantly changing riding conditions. This means you have to be prepared for possible injuries requiring surgeries, long sick leaves and the possibility of a decrease in functional capacity. As said, I cannot point out enough the importance of good insurance. Good endurance and overall physical health also play a part in both preventing accidents and getting back on track after accidents.”
In the heart of the DH Biking community, the joy of the sport extends beyond the risks. Marjo cherishes the camaraderie, the shared passion, and the sense of belonging that DH Biking fosters. As she poignantly puts it, "Downhill is good for your body and soul."
“Downhill is good for your body and soul.”
While Marjo enjoys participating in MTB competitions and a spot on the podium, her primary kicks come from something completely different. For her, the magic of DH Biking comes from the challenge and excitement of the sport. Marjo enjoys sports that engage her mind, either artistically or through adrenalin-infused concentration required for sports such as Downhill Biking. While these are the reasons that initially attracted her to DH, her experiences within the DH community bring her so much happiness, they might just be the reason she stays.
“The most rewarding part of DH biking is - without a doubt - the people. It is an easy way to find like-minded friends. At bike parks, it does not matter where you come from, as we all share the same passion. Even if you go to a bike park alone, you never have to ride alone; you always find friends - old ones and new ones. Some of the coolest people I have met during my adulthood were in bike parks. I have made life-long friends and found people I can call “sister from another mister”.
DH Biking is also a great way to exercise; it is so fun that you do not even realise you are doing quite a tough workout, and you get fresh air almost every day for many hours. It also challenges your mind and keeps your brain engaged and active. Downhill is good for your body and soul.”
Marjo cherishes the DH community: Klapy ry (Klaukkalan Pyöräily ry) Crew Love (left image) and Marjo (right) with her Sister From Another Mister Suvi (right image), © Marjo Laaksonen
When Marjo speaks about a typical day at the bike park, it is easy to understand how people can get hooked on DH Biking. The training sessions are communal, and different experience levels ride together. People’s moods and energy influence their individual training schedules of the day - with the athletes taking it easy some days and hitting challenging jumps on other days. The more experienced riders help newer riders check lines, and everyone learns from each other and, at the end of the day, hangs out for chats and snacks. When visiting new tracks, Marjo finds friendly locals who show her around unfamiliar terrain in Facebook Groups.
With exciting DH tracks available all over the world, travel is generally a big part of the DH experience. Some of Marjo’s favourite tracks include Klaukkala at the Tornikeskus Bike Park (tornikeskus.com/bike-park), about 15km from Helsinki in Finland and Bräckebäcksleden in Åre, Sweden (aresweden.com/are-bike-trails/brackebacksleden/), which she got to ride last year. Currently, Marjo is recovering from a shoulder injury, but she is already dreaming about new adventures. After her recovery, she plans to visit Morzine Bike Park in France (bikemorzine.com/morzine/information/morzine-bike-park), which has been on her DH bucket list for a while.
Hooked? How to get involved in DH Biking!
Puss Camp - for women bikers
For everyone interested in learning more about DH biking and asking themselves where to start, Marjo has a few tips. Her #1 address for women riders, especially beginners, is Puss Camp (pusscamp.com, website in Finnish), a community for women riders that offers biking training and a yearly event in August at Sappee Bike Park (sappee.fi/en/sappee-bike-park/). Bike enthusiasts from all over Finland and some even from central Europe meet up there for a weekend of Enduro, DH, Gravel, XC and E-Bike workshops and meet like-minded people and new friends.
Alamäkeen ajokaveria - for Finnish bikers
If you are based in Finland, Marjo recommends joining the Facebook Group Alamäkeen ajokaveria (facebook.com/groups/2759190087693248), in which more than 2000 Finnish cyclists chat and arrange meet-ups.
SUOMI DH - for spectators and fans
For people - like us - who are too scared to ever try out DH Biking themselves and for DH enthusiasts around the world, we recommend this documentary on YouTube about the pioneers of Finnish DH Biking: https://youtu.be/4-9bFtKSvaY?si=DHoe0eyyyjx39UjB (Full Movie)
Are you ready to conquer the downhill trails? Explore the world of DH Biking with confidence. Discover our range of protective activewear and join the community committed to the thrill of extreme sports. Your safety is our priority.
If you have a similar story of protective activewear keeping you safe in the past and would like to share it, get in touch! Help us inform and educate athletes about the benefits of protective activewear.