What is downhill mountain biking?
Downhill mountain biking is a style of mountain biking that emphasizes fast, technically complex descents of mountain bike trails. Downhill mountain biking tends to focus on using trail obstacles like roots, logs, rocks, cliffs, and streams and brooks as enhancement, not hindrances, to the ride. Downhill mountain bikers thus engage in highly stylized rides down mountain bike trails, using these obstacles as zones in which to exhibit their skills and individual flair.
I want to buy a new downhill mountain bike, but don't know which frame material I should get - there are so many out there! Can you suggest a good frame material?
You have four options when looking at frame materials for a new downhill mountain bike. First of all, you can opt for the traditional steel - or cromoly, as bike enthusiasts euphemise it - frame. Traditional steel framres are great in that they are durable, have relatively high shock absorbtion rates, and can last forever. The downside to an all-steel downhill mountain bike frame is that they are HEAVY, and can rust if chipped and then exposed to water. Another option for you is aluminium. Aluminium is great because it is light and will not rust. Aluminium moutnain bike frames can be expensive, or they also run cheap if they are a lower-grade model. Aluminium frames are light, but they can also break easier than steel frames, and are a little more difficult to handle on a trail. You can opt for a carbon fiber frame, but carbon fiber downhill mountain bikes are expensive, and with all the abuse and rough handling a downhill mountain bike is bound to get, a carbon fider frame runs the risk of breaking too easily, and too soon. If you are an avid downhill mountai bike enthusiast, and have money to spare, I would recommend purchasing a titanium mountain bike frame. Titanium is light, rust-proof, and one of the strongest metals out there. But, if titanium is out of your price range, then I would suggest either steel or aluminium.
Should I get a downhill mountain bike with dual suspension, or save a few bucks and just get a mountain bike with front suspension?
Dual suspension is a great idea, but you are right, it will increase the cost of any downhill mountain bike significantly. Dual suspension mountain bikes have suspension coils on both the front fork of the bicycle, as well as on the rear axle of the mountain bike. Depending on whether or not your suspension is based on a coil in oil model, or one with air pressure, your bike will be more efficient and easier to ride. If you choose, however, to go with a front suspension only, or hardtail, mountain bike, you can always purchase a seat stem suspension coil - a suspension coil placed on the stem of yuor mountain bike seat that will reduce some of the impact of the bumps and divets you are likely to experience when going on a mountain bike trail.
Should I ride with clipless pedals or standard platform mountain bike pedals?
For added security and maneuverability when going on a downhill mountain bike ride, you should use clipless pedals. Clipless peals ensure that your feet won't fly off the pedals when yuo take big jumps or land, and they allow you to cycle more quickly and efficiently. Clipless pedals are also better because they take the pressure off of your knees when you cycle - the impact from jumps and bumps will hurt your knees enough, so why not take away from the trauma and use clipless pedals? If you are engaging in a more low-impact style of mountain biking, like cross country mountain biking, you could use regular mountain bike platform pedals, though clipless pedals are still advised. Make sure, thuogh, that whatever mountain bike shoes you get, you have hard, rugged soles and a clip (should you choose to ride with clipless pedals) that is inset in the sole enough to provide good traction if you have to walk or carry your bike through the woods.