If you’re new to cycling or even been cycling a while, descending can cause a lot of fear. But let me put your mind at rest – it’s not your ability or ‘nerve’ that is lacking here, it’s just your descending experience. Descending fast and in control has nothing to do with ‘bottle’ – it’s all to do with executing super technique, concentration and being relaxed as you go.
All in all, you need to practice repeatedly to get better. There’s no such thing as jumping on a bike and ‘being fast’ at descending…it’s a skill that has to kept up to date, just like driving a car.
Even if you’ve come back to cycling after some time away – remember, your descending skills will be rusty, so take your time to build up skill again and confidence will soon be back.
In this first post I cover the basics of descending confidently and in control. For when you can descend confidently and in control – you go that bit faster!
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Above All Stay In Control:
No matter your ability, there is a rule you need to abide by at all times when descending: you must keep well within control of your speed down a hill. This means not taking risks, or even trying to ‘keep up’ with faster riders.
Tip: Ride "your own descent" at all times no matter how slow that might seem in the beginning!
Simple Trick | Get Familiar With Your Descents:
One of the first things to bear in mind when descending in a group, is those that know a descent well, will more than likely be faster than you! So if you don’t know a long descent, it’s best to recci it a few times beforehand and get to know it. This is one of the big reasons why the ‘local boys’ seem to be ‘fast’ descenders – usually it’s just the simple fact they ‘know the roads’ that bit better than you!
Watch Out For New Equipment And Descending:
The same goes with a new bike – get to know it. However excited you are to ride a new bike fast, never dash down a descent if a bike is brand new! Take your time to see how brakes respond and always keep in control.
Tip: It goes without saying you wear a helmet securely AND check your brakes work.
Relax, relax, RELAX!
You absolutely have to go with the flow on a long descent. Let the bike descend – let it run. Try not to hold onto the brakes all the way down. Much of this nervousness is due to not trusting your bike. As soon as you learn to relax and trust your bike, you’ll immediately find you’re a lot smoother and a little faster!
Tip: Go with the FLOW on a long descent: Let the Bike Descend - let it run and trust your bike!
Hands need to be on the drops (if using a road bike):
Using the drops gives you much better stability when descending, especially when braking. It’s also more comfortable too than gripping the brakes from the hoods, which make your fingers ache after a short time.
Getting down on the drops allows you to get into a more aero position, but remember to keep your head up at all times. Keep your knees close to the top tube, elbows in and get your torso as low as you can – without impeding your vision.
Pedal If You Can, Otherwise Keep Legs Aero:
If the road isn’t that steep you should pedal in the big gear. You need to keep good speed down a slope, so pedal where you can. When the slope is too steep, put your pedals fore and aft ‘horizontally’ so you’re more aero with knees in.
Sometimes when the road is very bumpy, I put my pedals horizontal to each other and lift your bum slightly off the seat. Use your knees as ‘suspension’ to absorb the bumps – keep hands on drops.
This technique can gain you much time AND comfort in a sportive or race where the descent is horribly bumpy….you just fly over the bumps like a pneumatic drill on steroids
Read The Road and Keep Looking Up Ahead:
This might seem impossible to begin with, but good descending starts with looking far down the road. Looking as far as you can down the road does three important things:
March 3, 2014 at 7:52 pm