Steep & technical descents

Hi everyone,

Last year my club and I went for the most horrific climbs we could find… which of course meant the most horrific descents too.

I normally try to brake as late as possible and never touch the brakes again while cornering (the last thing I’d want is losing grip on a descent). How am I supposed to deal with the bike trying to accelerate a lot while cornering? Should I change my line choice to compensate somehow? Should I keep a slight pressure on my brakes to mitigate this effect? The latter option doesn’t seem very safe :joy:

How does your approach change when facing steep technical descents ( I mean stuff beyond -12% with lots of hairpins and 90° bends)?

I assume this is road riding? There are few simple reasons for safe and fast cornering. For one, if safety is your concern don’t try to brake as late as possible, it is okay to brake a bit early. worry about late braking when your looking to find seconds. Late braking carries the risk of braking too late, which screws up your line.

Important tips for safe (and quick!) cornering

  • Always look where you want to go. In hairpins this means looking way up, don’t stare at your wheel. At corner entry you fix your eyes on the apex and then guide your look towards the exit point. Try using the road such that you minimize the corners radius, i.e. entry wide, tight apex, exit wide. Some corners have steep pitches right around the apex, these are fun to turn into tightly and dump it straight down the steepest part.

  • Trust your tires and listen to them. Good tires lose grip gradually and they will announce when that’s about to happen with a scrapping or screeching noise.

  • Corner or brake, don’t mix those two. Decide on your desired cornering speed (slow is okay) and commit to not touching your brakes again once you release them before corner entry. This has two effects, it will keep you safe and stable mid corner and it will teach you to properly decelerate before the corner. Keep in mind that braking forces reduce the cornering load your tire can handle (not much of an issue on dry roads, more important on dirt), but the momentum your brake introduces also forces your bike upright. It makes your line unstable.

Long story short: Brake hard and once you’re done don’t touch them again. Trace your desired line with your eyes and your bike follows along by itself.


Thank you for your very detailed reply!
So the approach to very steep descents shouldn’t be all that different from normal ones I guess.

I also noticed that my previous bike, an aluminum bike with pretty relaxed geometry made me feel more “centered” on the bike. Ever since I switched to a more aggressive geometry I’ve been feeling like my front wheel bears much more of the weight. Is there any way to compensate this?

A dropper post. Nate would approve :rofl:


In the rare occasion I find myself coming in too hot on a corner, I shed speed by gently using the rear brake. I figure a slide from the rear tyre would be easier to recover from than one from the front tyre!

You need to put more weight through your outside pedal. It can be hard with both braking and the steep gradient pushing your weight forward into your hands but you want to be relatively light on the bars and put as much of you weight through your pedal as possible.


It may have been said, but brake in a straight line, weight on the back of the saddle, feet horizontal. To ditch speed quickly use both brakes progressively hard for a second or two, release a little then reapply, all the time pushing the bars away from you = keeps weight over the back wheel. The varying pressure on the brakes stops you locking up and loosing traction, albeit if on mud will be somewhat in the hands of the mud gods. Above all, stay calm, zen like. If it goes tits up, then learn from the experience to go slower next time.

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Weight the outside pedal as much as possible and get your weight nice and low. Dropper post is ideal for this :+1:

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I know it’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I could see the WT pros possibly experimenting with dropper posts in the near future. It’s only a matter of time before aero bikes are well below 6.8kg - if dropper posts mean that one could take a more aggressive and advantageous line downhill, I can’t fathom a reason why they wouldn’t at least try. Would probably require some customization to fit in the weird seatpost shapes of aero bikes, but I feel like that is not an incredible hurdle to surmount.

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If you have the feeling the bike is accelarating too much in the corner, you didn’t go into it slow enough. It can feel really slow, especially coming of a steep fast straight.


This is the very reason of my post. Going down a 17% hill I thought that I was going slow enough but the acceleration of the bike through the corner was way more than I expected. I guess that it just takes some time to get used to… and probably my corner speed wasn’t right to start with.

I think that I should make a conscious effort to put more of my weight on my outside pedal and see how that feels. On my previous bike I didn’t need to focus much on this since I always felt well balanced and only needed to focus on my line selection. I’m not saying I was an elite descender, but I certainly had fun overtaking people in the straights and pinning the apex with confidence. Since I upgraded to a better bike I crashed a couple of times (just got a little road rash) and all my confidence is gone. I feel like all my weight is on the front wheel and I struggle to lean much in corners. I also think I need to rewire my brain… somehow.

There may be times when you have no choice but to brake in a turn. This happens on MTB reasonably often. Just straighten your line slightly and brake carefully - or feather the brakes to prevent building up speed in the first place.

Maybe you should downgrade :rofl:

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Am I the only one that read the thread title as “Sleep & technical descents”? I was coming here wondering what the heck this was about, and to make a smartass comment such as, “I don’t recommend sleeping on technical descents.”

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Lol this is good advice nonetheless

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