I came from MTB and on the trails I feel pretty comfortable and descending faster than most of the folks but on the road after my first crash (2-3 years ago) I feel fear when descending fast or on hairpins or even high speed flat cornering… few weeks ago front wheel slide out in a wet/cold corner and I crashed and on my last few rides the fear even rised. Probably my deep CLX 64 aren’t helping and also cold and wet roads but even on the summer I lost a few races on the descends…
I think that I understand the technique but my fear prevents me to do it right… If there is no wind or I feel good and I go into flow I can do them really good but on most of the days something prevents me…
Do you guys have any suggestions how to overcome this?
The best advice I was given and feel like I can pass on is, try to relax.
Sudden movements or adjustments in line are often culprits. Try not to grip your bars too tightly and allow your whole upper body to be fluid. Being ‘stiff’ feels secure but it doesn’t enable you to adjust your position on the bike or absorb bumps in the road surface. That said, you know this from your history of mountain bike riding
Do you struggle more carrying speed into either left or right corners? Do you feel like you have pressure, lots of pressure, on the opposing pedal as you corner?
Simple things like adjusting your tyre pressure can really help too. I run my front tyre 5psi lower than the rear and I adjust my body weight forward on the saddle, in a effort to create greater contact between my front tyre and the road, before entering the corner.
In my honest opinion, cornering with speed is like sprinting or hitting a drop off. You have to practice, keep practicing and it’s probably not wise to go too big, too quickly.
Play racing simulation games to develop a feel for the traction circle and racing lines. You need to know when the tire will stick. Knowing proper lines, meanwhile, will let you can go fast without needing to use tire grip.
Ultimately, though, reducing fear is about doing something a lot of times without getting hurt.
This is a gradual process, though.
I’ve found that riding rollers and racing 'cross and gravel have given me a huge boost in confidence in my handling skills. Proof came in my last gravel race when I hit an oil slick while making a hard, fast left hand turn (literally looked up and saw a sign that said "Caution Fresh Oil). Bike slid out from under me, but I instinctively corrected and pulled it back up. I attribute that save to coming off my first season of cyclocross.
I think the biggest issue is vision due to fear. You have to force yourself to overcome fear and target fixation. Practice looking as far down the road as you can. Look far into the turn before you are in it and pick a line and keep your vision ahead of your line. This takes practice and doesn’t come naturally. The natural instinct once fear kicks in is to look at the edge of the road which is exactly what you do not want to do.
Also find a section of road that you can repeat over and over. This is a skill and requires skill work via repetition. I fight with this all the time when mountain biking.
Practice defeats fear. 2020 I spent all summer riding laps in neighborhoods and got pretty confident in cornering to the point of pedal strikes. 2021 I was chicken again and the skill didn’t come back riding straight lines. Can’t help you with descending other than it’s probably the same thing- do it slow and be scared until it’s not scary anymore. Drills to maintain, I guess.
I was a very poor descender until about 2 years ago. Now (and I use this as an illustration, not a brag) I’m in the top 30 on some quite tricky local descents with a few thousand attempts.
What I did was practice the descents I didn’t like again and again. I started in the dry, and tried to make sure I worked on both L and R turns.
Once a week, I would typically go up and down the same hill 10-12 times, starting very slowly, ingraining the technique, and gradually building up speed/lean. It’s a decent workout as well! After a while, the confidence comes.
It’s fine to be a bit more cautious in the wet, but there’s no need to be very cautious. Unless you’re going over markings/manhole covers etc, you should have plenty of grip unless you’re really pushing it. Or riding Gatorskins.
Nb - I should add there’s always the odd descent which is just hairy no matter what. I’m thinking very poor road surfaces, very narrow blind bends, etc. IMO those are just ‘get down in 1 piece’ descents, and aren’t worth the bother.
I disagree here…although it is a common recommendation.
Following a better descender can often out you in a situation you cannot handle, you panic and bail, leading to bad consequences.
the rider following almost invariably cuts the apex too soon. They follow the rider, not their line. So when the leading rider starts in on their turn, they immediately follow suit….but they are then entering the turn too early and not on an optimum line.
The biggest key, IMO, for better descending / cornering is looking through the turn. The old “Look where you want to go, not where you are going” saying. Those without a lot of experience descending look right in front of them, which leads to very tense technique. This exacerbates the troubles descending as well. Smooth cornering requires a lack of tension in the upper body.
Consciously turn your head to look through the turn and down the road. Not just 10 or 15 feet, but alll the way through the turn. And then you need to keep adjusting that view as you go through the turn, looking further and further down the road.
I’m a poor descender if I cant see or feel like I’m spinning out sometimes, Im not keen to get aero and pedal and cover the brakes too much. It doesn’t help that a mate who was fearless got it tragically wrong Practice does seem to be important though but there isn’t much round here to practice on. After a week or so in the mountains I do seem to improve although I’ll still be in the lower half of a group when it comes to descending.
I’m an adequate descender on the MTB but road terrifies me. Part of it is that my off-road brain takes over and wants to ride like I’m on the mtb which doesn’t work. Practice, and adding a dropper to my gravel bike has made a difference. I’ve hit over 50 mph on the road bike before but I have zero interest in that again. The guys that can descend really fast on road are super impressive. It’s a very specific skill set that requires less input and different body positioning than I’m accustomed to. A lot of it is just the sheer speed differential between MTB and road. 20mph is light speed on a trail where 40+ is for the road. Comes down to comfort levels so much. Practice body positioning and repeat downhills over and over again via a shorter hill that’s not too challenging.
I’ve had some really scary close calls on the road bike when I was trying to be fast downhill. A high speed wobble at 40 into some technical corners has stayed with me for ten years! Smooth is fast and when you feel yourself becoming tense it’s time to reset and try again. Repetitive attempts can help. Go through the same corner over and over again until it feels natural. Rinse, repeat.
When I started to take my motorcycle license (25+ years ago), the cones in a carpark were the first lesson.
The instructor had us look at the cones and try to navigate around them. It was damn near impossible. Once you get used used to looking past the object and focus on where you want to go, things were night and day.
As others have said, looking down the road affords you the time to make judgments.
I am just the opposite. I am fine on the road, but on the mountain bike when it gets really sketchy my road brain takes over. I really have to think about body position and not leaning with the bike when mountain biking. I used to do a lot of track days on road motorcycles so leaning my body to the inside of the turn is my default setting.