I have bought a Giant Talon 3 recently. I was wondering if it could possibly be used for the occasional trip to one of my local downhill tracks. I'm just getting started in downhill and so I really don't want to have to buy a new bike unless it is necessary. I was also wondering if it would be possible to put a longer travel fork on my bike. It currently has a 100mm travel Suntour fork on it, but I was considering putting a new fork on it with a travel of around 150mm on the bike. If I was to put a new fork on the bike what the would the maximum size really be for my bike (27.5 inch wheels, and a medium size frame)
More than likely - The occasional small jump won't hurt the Talon, but landing big jumps will require perfection (Those forks will make surviving a bad landing next to impossible).
We would need to know what the trails were, and how difficult they are, but if they have 'easy' trails that have chicken lines around anything that cannot be rolled over, the bike can be used.
Yeah a light trail is fine, but nothing that's too hard. Giant builds some good bikes, but as you know, using a hardtail on a tough DH is like using roller blades skates for ice hockey. They have the same basic concept, and they both do the same thing, but on different surfaces.
If its a light trail with small features, it should hold up well. If you're like me, you just huck a jump and reflect on why you did it in the ICU, and with a fork like that, I foresee in my crystal ball something like that will happen. (Unless you're an über lit level 100 professional biker.)
Also, like @Batman said, you should save up the money, and rather than just replacing the front fork, buy a new full squish bike to really hit the trails.
Although some brands are more expensive, that expense saves from repairs and excess upgrades. Happy riding and good luck!
Yes, it is possible, and actually your approach is what I recommend:
Start with the bike you have. Ride according to your skill level and do not tackle obstacles that are beyond that level. As you progress you will both start to assess whether you will continue to pursue the discipline and where your bike limitations really are.
So, if for any reason you decide DH is not really for you, you haven't yet invested a lot in a bike you won't keep using.
I started DH with a 1999 cross country bike, that only last year was upgraded to disc brakes, I originally assembled it with linear pull (v-brakes) and I managed good result out of that when I was a beginner. Mi times where comparable to my competitors.
As I grew in technique and could afford a proper DH bike build, I did. No doubt I gives you more confidence and allows you to tackle bigger obstacles (jumps and drops actually), but the basics of the sport where already developing. (e.g. Cornering, handling on slippery terrain, line choosing, rockgardens, steep inclines. Those skills can be practiced on any bike and are useful for any mountain riding style)
Sometimes I ride my CX bike up the mountains and descend using the DH tracks (Do it only when there are no practice runs or competitions going on) an I can confirm most of the track segments are perfectly rideable, albeit a bit slower, specially in rock gardens. The only exception are the big jumps, drops, gaps. For everything else, just be careful and choose softer lines. Use the chickenways if necessary.
Regarding bike upgrade: I would recommend a better fork, not a bigger one. A longer fork may put too much stress on your frame to handle, and will alter the geometry of the bike not necessarily in a positive only way. On the other hand, a better fork of a similar size will be more effective and precise and will make riding more enjoyable, less tiring (good for practicing more runs a ta time). Another good upgrade may be a good set of tires (if your current ones aren't good enough) But other than that, do not invest in a lot of upgrades for that CX bike until you have a concrete plan for your DH rig.
In my particular case, I built mine from parts. Some of them where on the CX bike for a short time (pedals, grips, saddle). All of them items that could easily be transferred to almost any other bike. I dis not buy brakes, bottom brackets, etc until I had my frame, because all those parts may or may not fit.
Another advice that worked for me: I tested a few bikes from fellow riders of similar size than me. That allowed me to test a few different designs (4 bar linkage, single pivot, vpp.) and there was a particular one that I really liked how it handled, so when I bought my frame I knew it was the type I wanted.
You could do the same, or rent a bike if there is the possibility. That way con can test and decide whether certain type of bike fits you and the style you try to develop.