I just installed a set of Michelin Mountain X'treme 26x2.2 tires to replace my worn down WTB Velociraptors, a new Specialized seat and some studded platform pedals on my 18" 1999 GT aggressor(first gen, pre-upright redesign). We rode 7 miles this morning according to a friends computer and towards the end of the ride when the trails are leading back into the county park there is a steep decent that cuts through the hill to the park area almost making it an urban environment with benches and a walking path at the bottom. I was never able to even attempt this decent in the past mostly due to fear. When I would start it, it seemed so steep that I would feel as if I'm going to fall forward over my handle bars no matter how low my seat was. It reminds me of a reoccurring nightmare I'd have as a kid where my family would be driving in our old '88 Dodge van conversion vertically up a hill, and we were all scared that we were going to flip over and fall down to the bottom but of course we never did. That was two years ago, this time I jumped right in. I dropped my seat down, lowed my rear pressures a bit, and confidently eased in with as much weight shifted rearward as I could, I wished my arms were longer.
At the start I picked my line and saw it all the way down. "Stay to the left, stay to the left" was repeated in my head as my rear tire was locking intermittently and wanting to pull me into the groove to the right and picking up speed. As my poor SR Suntour MG80 was working overtime soaking up as much as it was designed to do, I was heavy on the V-brakes brakes yet still picking up more speed. It felt near impossible to keep my line considering the camber of the slope on the smooth side with the treacherous Grand Canyon to my right and I figured I was going in one way or another so I dove right in. I released a bit of brake, picked up more speed and steered into the groove. I had a sense of security as my rear tire was no longer locking up, but this time it was just bouncing over rocks at a ludicrous speed. My rear shimano derailure was having a seizure and my chain was slapping the frame like wookpecker on crack both audibly reminding me how I felt like I was standing on an inverted jackhammers. For a slit second I felt like I was good to go at about half way down the slope, then I saw a slight irregularity, a pit that made me consider bringing my limbs towards the mass but as we are fight or flight animals, I fought and attempted a small bunnyhop, just enough to take some weight off the front wheel to prevent my front wheel from getting completely eaten. After the hole was gapped, I shot out of the groove like a derailed train and was pretty much forced into a new line were I could essentially weave in and out to avoid serious thread to my direction of momentum. Before I knew it, the decent was evening out, my brakes started doing what they were meant to do... slow me down and I ran off into a grassy area to a stop where there was a family of 7-9 that had apparently watched me the whole way down, all with their jaws to the ground, clapping. The father said "that was insane, number 10!" most likely referring to a 10 point placard and I replied, "I was a little more scared than I looked." They laughed, I sh!tted a brick, and my buddies at the top "woot!"ed for me and met me at the end of the trail after I told them not to even think about it.
I don't think I could've done it with any less of a tire, because I was most definitely at the limit of both my skill and my bike.
Cliff notes: Conquered a man eating downhill in an entry level GT hard tail from 1999! Read it please!