Descend Like A Missile
Twitchy on the downhills? Conquer your fears with these 10 tips.
Riding downhill is supposed to be the easy part right? Well anyone who has carved a long descent, knows that reaching the bottom can be as exhausting as the trip up. That, and the fact that a steep, twisty descent can cast fear into the hearts of many novice and veteran riders alike.
1) Confidence is key
Remain confident and focused and you’re 90% down the hill already. Hesitate and you’re destined for an unfortunate ending. If you think you can handle spinning down a hill at high speed, then you probably can.
2) Loosen up
Roll into a descent with stiff arms and too much weight over the front wheel, and you’ll be one bump away from an endo. Rather keep your upper body loose and let your bike follow the contour, keeping your body poised above the pedals. Straighten your arms to let the bar fall away, and let your seat slide forward between your legs.
3) Keep on pedaling
Instead of resting on descents, shift up to maintain your cadence – and increase your speed.
4) Keep off the brakes
Easier said than done. But even down ultra steep sections, try to stay off the brakes. If you must brake, slide back even further. Your rear tyre might scrub your shorts – it won’t hurt, but be ready for it. And remember to use the back brake only. Using the front brake is asking for trouble. Not only losing your momentum, sudden braking can cause wheels to touch. If this happens, be prepared to taste tar.
5) Maintain your balance
Downhills are all about balance. As you sweep through the turns, concentrate on keeping your core strong and tight as you crouch and manoeuvre your bike, shifting your weight from one side to the other.
6) Scan ahead
As you descend, watch for any hazards that might be in your path. Keep your upper body loose and your eyes as far forward as possible so you can absorb the bumps you see coming, and the ones you don’t.
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7) Tackle turning
Brake before the turn and power through it. Start on the outside of the turn, so you can cut toward the apex (never cross the road’s centre line). Your inside knee should be bent and your outside leg should be almost straight but not locked. Use your inside arm to keep you on track. Keep your weight firmly planted on your outside foot and push your inside arm further into the turn. The harder you push on your inside arm, the tighter you will turn.
It is not advisable to overtake if you are in a bunch, unless you are attacking. However, if you see a gap and wish to take it, shout a quick “passing right” to inform the rider in front that you plan on passing. Pedal quickly past and resume your line.
9) Aim for aerodynamics
Keep your arms in, crouch low and wear figure-hugging cycling clothing. These all provide better aerodynamics.
10) Hold your line
Probably the most important thing to remember (and not only when descending) is to hold your line. Holding your line ensures an accident-free descent. Simply choose a path down the hill and stick to it. Riders can then pass you with confidence.