Musings of a Mountain Biker

WORDS Gilly Grateley

Hi, Gilly here. Do you know your berms, biffs and booters? I do now, after having the absolute pleasure of meeting local lad Timmy Curtis, to get the lowdown on everything downhill.

What is downhill?

It’s a racing discipline of mountain biking, where riders aim to get the fastest time from top to bottom. Not for the faint-hearted, the tracks are usually purpose-built and are steep with a mixture of natural and man-made obstacles such as rock gardens, banked turns, jumps and drops. Not surprisingly, the riders protect themselves with body protection, full-face helmets and sturdy shoes.

The commitment doesn’t stop there; the bikes are quite specific too. They are typically heavier and stronger than regular mountain bikes; they have full suspension, usually with a large coil shock at the back and lots of travel to get over the obstacles. Plus, the gearing is designed for speed over climbing. Everything is compact and hardwearing to avoid getting damaged, with a low geometry frame, usually 26 wheels, thick tyres and powerful brakes. 

So, back to Timmy Curtis, remember where you heard that name because I’m sure this guy is going places. I heard about him from one of his colleagues in the Coast Supply Co. shop in Lagos, where he works part-time as a bike mechanic whilst still in full-time education, to fund his passion for downhill racing. He agreed to meet up with me for a chat and a ride.

We headed out to a private purpose-built downhill track where Timmy trains and without making me feel too old, or too stupid, he coached me over some small rollers and down a short section of track with a few berms (baby bumps, jumps and banked corners to you and me). And do you know what, I did OK for a beginner. The main learning point for me was the attack riding position; being out of my seat with arms and knees bent, hips back, chest down and head up. I’m no stranger to getting out of my seat for short downhill sections of riding, but the difference in the attack is to push off the bike and let the momentum help you over the features whilst keeping the bike straight when you get air – possibly where I went wrong when I recently hit a jump at speed, landed it but lost my footing leaving me with a nice pedal to shin scar!

The more confident I got, the more I enjoyed it and got out of it, so whilst this was only a short introductory session, I can see how addictive this type of aggressive riding could be. 

Timmy is certainly addicted. At only 15-years-old and after competing for less than one year, he has already placed first in 2 open-class National Championship stages – how good is that? It’s even more fantastic when you understand the distinct lack of public downhill parks in Portugal. Whilst there are several downhill trails, particularly in Monchique, Timmy knows of only one purpose-built park in East Algarve, which massively restricts his training for races. In fact, he is off to Wales very soon to get some specific track training ahead of his next competition. Looking to the future, he is planning to affiliate with the Portuguese Downhill Federation when he is 16, which will see him competing in a tougher field and potentially progressing his riding career into European competitions. 

I have to say I was totally impressed with his attitude and focus, not only building his own park for practice but his work ethic to help fund an expensive sport. The shop where Timmy works is not only super-cute and a great local place to hire all types of bikes, but it is also supporting him through sponsorship, covering the cost of bike parts and giving him valuable work experience as a mechanic – deserving of a nice little shout out, well done Coast Supply Co.

Likewise, if you want to follow Timmy or are in a position to help with further sponsorship, or just want to get in touch with him and share the downhill love, his Instagram contact is Timmy.Curtis2022 and you can follow him on Facebook –

That’s all from me for this month. Always happy to hear local success stories so if you would like to reach out and share yours, please email me at:

Until next month, happy riding and stay safe!


Share this edition