We live in a hilly area so every outdoor ride includes both climbing and descending. I’m getting better at climbing - descending, not so much. I get very tense descending and go WAY too slow (husband jokes that I go faster uphill than down).
The roads we ride tend to be curvy/windy and in and out of shadow. Also, the roads aren’t super smooth. I’m always afraid of taking a turn too fast or hitting a bump or hole, so end up riding my brakes a lot more than I should.
I know I need to get better at this and will continue to practice, but any tips would be most welcome. Thanks!
Here are a number of existing topics I found via search, sorted from oldest to newest:
Another angle to explore - What bike and tires do you have? Some bikes are more stable at speed, and wider tires will smooth out the bumps.
In addition to Chads excellent list of links I’d just want to add some pointers:
- Brake before turning
- Aim for the apex
- Set your eyes where you want end up
- Practice, practice, practice…
Pick a combination of 2-3 corners to practice. Start slow, when you feel confident about your line you can increase your speed.
You could actually also search Youtube for videos of advanced motorcycle driving; same principles apply, we just got a smaller engine.
Depending on what’s available around you, riding a shorter loop with a descent you want to learn. That way you learn that particular road pretty well so you can focus on specific skills instead of worrying that there’s a pothole around the corner or how long a blind bend is, etc.
I have a Canyon Endurace with 28mm tires. I ride at 67psi. The bike feels stable and pretty smooth on our bumpy roads. I never feel squirrelly, but descending seems to have gotten into my head.
I’ve heard good things about the Canyon Endurance, its suppose to be a stable yet nimble bike. Some people swear by even wider tires, and even on flat ground I find hitting small rocks with 32mm tires at 25mph is a lot better than 28mm tires (and I’m a heavier at ~200lb / ~91kg). FWIW.
Take your time. Part of it for me was stuff ingrained from fast downhill skiing - relaxing and using body like a shock absorber to deal with bumps and undulations in the road.
Great sunglasses help in dappled sunlight conditions, but I still find it hard to see the road in those conditions at more than 30mph.
Lots of good stuff in the links above.
The above is all good advice, I would add that taking up mountain biking again has improved my road descending quite noticeably (and bike handling in general).
Old but good: Twist of the Wrist: The Motorcycle Roadracers Handbook Paperback – May 12, 1997
Find someone who knows how to corner, let them lead you and show you lines?
I had the fortune of having a semi-pro racer take me down a few descents once, it was eye-opening…
This x1000. I basically added 5mph to my comfort downhill speed on the road. In ~8 weeks
practice pushing your extended leg/foot (outside) down through the pedal. This is a simple technique and helped me tremendously.
Also session a corner until you get it or a series of corners. Confidence can be gained quickly once you get a corner right.
Practice over and over on the same quiet downhill road segment. As you get comfortable, you’ll find that you allow yourself to go faster. Once you’ve mastered that section of road go to another where the dh can be faster or even better start the DH practice from higher up on the one you’re very familiar with. Rinse & Repeat.
Obviously, this is something you cannot practice on a trainer; still it needs practice & patience.
Additionally, you could explore how long it takes for you to brake in an emergency. I do that whenever i switch outdoor riding between my road bike with disk brakes and my TT bike with rim brakes. The 60kph to zero is a lot longer with rim.
I haven’t looked at the links yet, so apologies if i’m doubling up here.
- Most important, imo, is to keep your weight on outside pedal. This is for grip on the road surface.
- Bend your elbows, so that your forearms are close to horizontal, and lean your weight forward onto the bar, more than down onto it. Doesn’t matter if you are on the hoods or drops; this gives you a stronger position to ‘resist’ any twitchiness and lumpy-road feedback, and have greater control of your steering. (For the men scratching their heads - your upper bodies are a lot stronger. This is unlikely to apply to you at all)
- line choice etc also nb, as I’m sure will be covered in those links.
Good luck! Descending is a lot of fun. May you find the flow
Really appreciate everyone’s suggestions as well as the resources @mcneese.chad shared. Obviously I need to practice and also see some concrete things to work on right away:
- looking further out. I have been looking pretty close to try to see faults in the road but that clearly isn’t a good idea.
- softening my grip. I will try riding in the drops on long descents as well. Part of the reason I keep a death grip on the bars is that I don’t feel like I’ll be able to brake hard enough, fast enough. I think braking from the drops instead of the hoods would make me feel more secure and let me loosen up.
- practicing my steering through corners. There were some great explanations in the resources Chad shared on how to practice transferring weight on straights first to get used to it. I steer a lot rather than leaning, so this will help.
I’ve picked out a good hill to practice on, so looks like I’ve got some hill repeats in my future.
Your body position can make a big difference. I’m 6’ tall so if I sit up at speed> 50kph, it’s a bit like braking because my upper body acts like a sail. If I suddenly sit up and hit the brakes hard, that’s a lot of braking at once.
If there’s a lot of crosswinds, being tucked in low in aero hides me from the wind minimizing its effects on me even though I’m going faster. The bike itself can make a difference too as some are more stable and others are more twitchy. I’m more stable and feel safer on my TT bike (felt IA) descending at > 60 kph than on my road bike (canyon ultimate) on same road.
Strong crosswinds could move you sideways. No big deal if you have the whole lane; more sketchy if you ride on a narrow road shoulder. Sometimes it’s possible to anticipate where there could be a side winds (a break in the forest let’ say).
Once you practiced that a lot, check out the Mumuku winds on Kona island.
100 times what asteryx says about finding a road segment to practice on. I’ve also found it helpful to breathe out on the corners - this helps me relax a little, lower my center of gravity, and feel calmer and in better control.
Good luck - descending used to really freak me out, so I worked on it a lot, and now I think it’s super super fun!
All good advice so far. One thing I would add is progress at your pace, not someone else’s. If you aren’t ready for that downhill, you’re not ready… and that’s ok.
MTB skills also helped me speed up my road descents. I follow MTB practices for taking turns on the road, and feel a lot more in control.
I’m no demon descender but as its the internet I’m going to offer my advice anyway:
I always hover my butt a tiny bit above the saddle to give the bike a little room to move and it stops every bump or rattle transmitting all the way up my body.
If its a long descent and you’re getting tense, you can sing out loud to yourself as you go to help relax. I’m pretty sure no one can really hear you anyway.