Descending Tips (how to stop hands aching)

Ands
Ands Posts: 1,437
edited May 2010 in Road beginners
I'm off to the Alps in the summer. I've moved on from worrying about getting up the climbs...now I'm worried about getting down. :D

Can anyone give me some descending tips? My main problem is that my hands are aching by the time I get to the bottom of the descents, because of constantly pulling on the levers - and at the moment, these are descents that are only 2-3km.

Any advice greatly appreciated. :)
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Comments

  • nferrar
    nferrar Posts: 2,511
    Hmm brake less? Depends on the descent but a lot are mix of straight sections + hairpins so you can relax and stay off the brakes on the straights. Do you stay on the hoods or go on the drops? Personally I descend on the drops, gets you lower and less strain using the brakes (although guess depends how your levers are positioned).
  • redddraggon
    redddraggon Posts: 10,862
    Don't brake so much
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  • simon johnson
    simon johnson Posts: 1,064
    Grip exerciser?
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  • oldwelshman
    oldwelshman Posts: 4,733
    As mentioned previously I find it more comfy on the hoods to descend and contrary to belief on here is actually more aero if tucked in than on drops ( quote M.BAcksted following his wind tunnel testing).
    As others said, brush off speed before bends and ride through them off the brakes.
    Unless the descents are on very short steep switchbacks you should not need brakes much, unlike in uk where they tend to be shorter and steeper hilss requiring more breaking.
  • simon johnson
    simon johnson Posts: 1,064
    As mentioned previously I find it more comfy on the hoods to descend and contrary to belief on here is actually more aero if tucked in than on drops ( quote M.BAcksted following his wind tunnel testing).
    As others said, brush off speed before bends and ride through them off the brakes.
    Unless the descents are on very short steep switchbacks you should not need brakes much, unlike in uk where they tend to be shorter and steeper hilss requiring more breaking.

    Do you also brake from that position when descending?

    It makes sense that, if tucked properly, you'd be more aero on the hoods.
    Where\'s me jumper?
  • huuregeil
    huuregeil Posts: 780
    Slide back on the saddle as far as you can. This helps both your handling and your hands (more weight through your backside). Also means you can use the rear brake more without locking up the back.

    Let it roll between bends and practice braking hard and sharp. For more stability at high speed, rest a knee against the top tube.

    Relax and have fun!
  • Steve_F
    Steve_F Posts: 682
    The roads are also in better condition (generally) over there so not as much panic braking, mostly planned braking.

    I went over there on the mountain bike and did a lot of training with grip exercisers and a power ball. Very worthwhile. Even though I had pain in two of my fingers for months after being there I hate to think how bad it would have been without doing that.
    Current steed is a '07 Carrera Banshee X
    + cheap road/commuting bike
  • Ands
    Ands Posts: 1,437
    Thanks everyone. I had been descending on the hoods but soon found that the leverage required to pull on the top half of the levers was obviously greater than pulling on the bottom half of the lever. I have tried to descend more on the drops but then I am really stretching my fingers to reach the levers anyway. I am happy with the position of my levers but my hands are small and I still struggle with the reach to my levers on the drops. I am sitting back more too.

    Brake less?? Yes, you're probably right. It's probably lack of confidence at the moment and still not fully knowing the capabilities of me and my bike ( like cornering). I did try that approach on Saturday when my fingers were aching so much that I just decided to give up braking until I got near the bottom. :D Well, I'm still in one piece so it can't have been too bad! Just not sure that it's the best approach on Alpe d'Huez! (Been up and down a lot in the car and am well aware of what's [not] over the edge of some of those hairpins!) If I'm hurting after a 2km descent, what is 14km like?

    Sounds like the grip exerciser is a worthwhile investment?
  • huuregeil
    huuregeil Posts: 780
    Sounds like you either need to tweak the position of your levers/bars (e.g. bars rotated upwards a little, while bringing the levers down relatively) or you need new bars. Post a photo of your bars!

    Being comfortable in the drops - which also means being comfortable (and safe!) doing some serious braking from the drops - will make a big difference to your descending.
  • desweller
    desweller Posts: 5,175
    Maybe you need some of these to bring the levers closer to the handlebars.
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  • BenWatson89
    BenWatson89 Posts: 83
    Might seem like a silly point to make however make sure your cranks are at the correct angles when you are taking corners. So for a left hand corner your left crank should be up at the top of the stroke and your right crank should be at the bottom of its stroke. You can also add pressure on the right foot to get more grip. Then visa versa for right hand corners.

    Also remember to keep your yourself loose, dont panic and tighten up, it will make it worse. You will also be travelling at a generally lower maximum speed than hills in the UK due to the corners and hairpins. What sort of speeds are you confident at? Also if you are confident when descending on the drops I would suggest doing that as it will lower your centre of gravity.
  • Kingtut87
    Kingtut87 Posts: 105
    You could maybe get some interrupter brakes put on the tops of your bars to give you another position to brake from? This is what my Mum did last summer when she went to the Alps and it sorted her right out.
  • Pross
    Pross Posts: 42,390
    Use your body as an air brake too, as you come towards the bend and need to stop breaking make yourself big in the saddle to become as un-aero as possible. Do you have the adaptors you can get to reduce the amount of reach needed to the brake levers?
  • dennisn
    dennisn Posts: 10,601
    FWIW. Sitting upright in the saddle will help to slow you down a bit AND give you better view of the road in front of you.
  • nickwill
    nickwill Posts: 2,735
    The more relaxed you are the less tense you will be physically. A lot of the discomfort will come from being tense. The more you can flow through the bends, the easier and more exilharating it becomes. The more you descend, the less your hands will ache.
  • huuregeil
    huuregeil Posts: 780
    You will also be travelling at a generally lower maximum speed than hills in the UK due to the corners and hairpins.

    Errr... not in my experience at all!
  • nickwill
    nickwill Posts: 2,735
    huuregeil wrote:
    You will also be travelling at a generally lower maximum speed than hills in the UK due to the corners and hairpins.

    Errr... not in my experience at all!

    Im my experience I go much faster on the continent. The big hills in the Lakes and Dales are generally on narrower roads with sharper bends and much worse road surfaces. By contrast continental descents tend to be better graded with faster corners and encourage and reward faster decending.
  • Ands
    Ands Posts: 1,437
    I definitely need to get some of those shims to reduce the reach. I have read about them so will look into those.

    I have been trying to make myself as unaerodynamic as possible when descending! So I thought riding on the hoods in a more upright position would help.....it does but braking from the top of the levers is harder.

    Huueregeil - there is a link to my bike in my signature so you can see my bars there (they are short reach/shallow drop 3T Ergosum).
  • huuregeil
    huuregeil Posts: 780
    Nice bike, will be lovely to ride down the mountain :-)

    I'd say you could/should rotate your bars up a bit - you've got them set such that your hands on the drop section are a long way from the lever. If you keep your hoods fixed in space, while you rotate the bars up, the bottom of the lever will come closer to the lower part of the bar. Shims are worth trying.

    Another thought. I have those same 3T bars (and I have long fingers). I'd say they're not really short-fingered bars (despite the short-this-and-that marketing). Classic shallow drops are a far better bet if you've got reach issues, you can get the levers much closer to the drops with those than any other bar out there.
  • nickwill
    nickwill Posts: 2,735
    edited May 2010
    Re reaching the brake levers. If you set your blocks up so they are a bit further back from the rim, you can then squeeze the levers a bit more before you brake. In effect it means that the brakes bite when the lever is closer to the bars. This effectively reduces the reach for smaller hands. Sorry if I have explained this badly, but it does work.
  • maxlite
    maxlite Posts: 293
    Slim shims are great, got them on road and cross bike, also compact bars help with brake reach/comfort
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  • BenWatson89
    BenWatson89 Posts: 83
    huuregeil wrote:
    You will also be travelling at a generally lower maximum speed than hills in the UK due to the corners and hairpins.

    Errr... not in my experience at all!

    Id disagree, the corners as well as the uncertainty of what will be round the next bend will mean you are travelling slower. There again id suppose where you are based would make the difference.
  • redddraggon
    redddraggon Posts: 10,862
    What climb is this 2Km one? I must have done it, what with living in Warrington and now Manchester
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  • Ands
    Ands Posts: 1,437
    What climb is this 2Km one? I must have done it, what with living in Warrington and now Manchester
    I have been going out to the Peak District.
  • oldwelshman
    oldwelshman Posts: 4,733
    As mentioned previously I find it more comfy on the hoods to descend and contrary to belief on here is actually more aero if tucked in than on drops ( quote M.BAcksted following his wind tunnel testing).
    As others said, brush off speed before bends and ride through them off the brakes.
    Unless the descents are on very short steep switchbacks you should not need brakes much, unlike in uk where they tend to be shorter and steeper hilss requiring more breaking.

    Do you also brake from that position when descending?

    It makes sense that, if tucked properly, you'd be more aero on the hoods.

    Yes I always brake on the hoods and have no trouble at all as I brush off the speed steadily before a bend.
    IMPO people who say they have to brake on the drops as they cannot get enough leverage when on the hoods are either braking way too hard or have crap brakes :D
    I just do not feel comfortable on the drops descending.
  • oldwelshman
    oldwelshman Posts: 4,733
    Nickwill wrote:
    Re reaching the brake levers. If you set your blocks up so they are a bit further back from the rim, you can then squeeze the levers a bit more before you brake. In effect it means that the brakes bite when the lever is closer to the bars. This effectively reduces the reach for smaller hands. Sorry if I have explained this badly, but it does work.
    I actually do the opposite.
    My pads are very close to the rims and I need vey little movement of lever to brake which is why I guess I am fine on the hoods.
    It feels weird to me when the pads are long way from the rims and you have to pull so far on levers :D
  • jim453
    jim453 Posts: 1,360
    Climb off and get your mum to walk you to the bottom.
  • Ands
    Ands Posts: 1,437
    [IMPO people who say they have to brake on the drops as they cannot get enough leverage when on the hoods are either braking way too hard or have crap brakes :DI just do not feel comfortable on the drops descending.

    I am more confident descending on the hoods than the drops. But to pull the levers from that position is not so comfortable for longer periods (I am female so maybe my hands are smaller than yours and probably a lot weaker). It's fine on the flats - I always brake from the hoods. But to constantly feather my brakes going downhill is painful after a while. Maybe I am braking too much and will get used to a bit of speed after a while, but I don't think I'm braking hard - just a bit of feathering to cut rapid acceleration.
  • huuregeil
    huuregeil Posts: 780
    edited May 2010
    huuregeil wrote:
    You will also be travelling at a generally lower maximum speed than hills in the UK due to the corners and hairpins.

    Errr... not in my experience at all!

    Id disagree, the corners as well as the uncertainty of what will be round the next bend will mean you are travelling slower. There again id suppose where you are based would make the difference.

    Trust me, this is really not the case. Alpine passes tend to have excellent visibility (no trees, stone-walls, etc.), the hairpins can be a lot less tight than similar roads here, there are long weaving sections (i.e. no hairpins) where you can build serious speed, and the road surfaces tend to be a lot smoother and cleaner than anything here.
  • huuregeil
    huuregeil Posts: 780
    Ands wrote:
    But to constantly feather my brakes going downhill is painful after a while. Maybe I am braking too much and will get used to a bit of speed after a while, but I don't think I'm braking hard - just a bit of feathering to cut rapid acceleration.

    Ands, one more tip. Don't constantly apply the brakes. Learn to roll, then brake hard, roll, then brake hard. The reason for this is that constant brake application builds up a lot of heat in the rims and this can cause tyre blowouts. E.g.

    http://www.roadcyclinguk.com/richards-b ... /4554.html

    It's not really an issue in the UK, but can be in the Alps with longer descents and higher temperatures. Don't stress too much about it, just learn to brake properly, and keep your tyre pressures on the lower side of normal.