Scared on descents

jd843jd843 Posts: 79
edited 18 September in Road beginners
Hi

I’ve been cycling for a few years now, but something I still really struggle with is descending, particularly long descents with lots of bends and hairpins (e.g. descents in Mallorca).

I feel like I’ve read all the articles on this, watched all the videos, tried all the tips, but on sharp bends and hairpins I still end up bottling it, slowing down too much and “turning” around the corner rather than “leaning” as they say you should. Does anyone have any advice? Thanks in advance!
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Posts

  • webboowebboo Posts: 2,022
    Do you know someone who is safe but reasonably fast descender, if so ask then to lead you down a few descents even getting them to shout out when they are braking.
  • bobloboblo Posts: 360
    edited 7 September
    Why do you want to go faster? Is it because you think you should and are putting yourself under pressure to? If so, I'd forget it. There are always people faster than you up or down. In the popular areas, a lot of the faster descenders are not really in control and should the worst happen, they could come a real cropper.

    If you want to go faster because you're an adrenaline junkie but just have poor technique, all I'd say is work up to it. The more you do, the better you get. Concentrate on applying the research but maybe in sections. Do a bit of the descent applying your findings and do a bit without to give your brain a break. Keep riding descents but work the speed up, don't go banzai from beginning as your ambition could exceed your skill with obvious consequences (© Casey Stoner).

    Again, there is no right or wrong here. If you're happy descending at your speed or the way you do, stuff the rest. It's you that'll get hurt so keep that in mind.
  • amrushtonamrushton Posts: 558
    Get down at your own speed not the speed you think you should be going at. I have seen v.few great descenders and lots who thought they were and have come to grief. Safe is much better than lying in a heap or a visit to a hospital.
  • slowmartslowmart Posts: 3,699
    Fear goes from lack of knowledge or control. You will build both.

    Break everything down into a process.

    First of all relax, consciously regulate your breathing and relax you shoulders, arms and fingers.

    Look up at the point you want to exit, look for any road detritus/ furniture you need to avoid or manage as a risk.

    Lastly, regulate your speed to what your comfortable with, forget how fast as the requirement here is being smooth, entering and exiting the corner.

    Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

    Take your time, relax and have fun.
    And God created the bicycle, so that man could use it as a means for work and to help him negotiate life's complicated journey.
  • hdowhdow Posts: 133
    Yep, find a cycling or tri coach and get them to do a bike skills session. Tell them what you are after and after a couple of hours you'll be a lot better on all roads. You need instruction, pactice, feedback and progression. Improve your bike handling skills and you'll be a lot safer. I see too many other cyclist descending from Greenhow without the basics of braking, cornering, body positioning or reading the road. They look and often are a menace to themselves and other cyclists

    Forum posts and articles are not too good on the feedback or progression and many are full of basic errors
  • StillGoingStillGoing Posts: 5,004
    You need to be looking for the vanishing point or limit point as some call it. This is a basic skill taught to Police Advanced Drivers.

    The vanishing point is where the two sides of the road meet in the distance as the road goes around the bend. If your speed is correct, the vanishing point should move with your speed as you go through the corner. If you're too fast, the vanishing point will stay where it is, effectively getting nearer to you as you close in on the bend and you'll end up braking sharply. As you come to the apex of the turn, the vanishing point will move away from you telling you that you can start putting more speed on.

    You can also pick up what are termed information links such as the line of hedgerows, street lighting etc which tend to follow the highway and can tell you how tight a bend is. Don't be fooled into following the line of telephone lines as a guide as to which way the road goes though, as they often go through fields.
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  • DeVlaeminckDeVlaeminck Posts: 5,250
    Saying go at your own speed is fine but it's much more fun to be able to relax and flow down a descent at a decent speed and feel in control than to constantly feel you could and should go faster. If you are riding with pals and constantly arriving at the bottom well off the back then even worse. The other thing is if you are tense it's not necessarily safer anyway - just slower. Of course speed carries risks, ride within your ability but try and get your ability up.

    I was a fairly nervous descender for a few years so it is something you can sort. For me it was about speed - approaching 40mph I stopped thinking of technique and started thinking Christ this is fast and tensed up. From riding in the Alps I added 10mph to that - I know the OP has ridden in Majorca already but the more of that kind of riding you do the better.

    Anyway without writing an essay on it I disagree with the above about poor advice on the internet. I think it's all there and most of it outlined in this thread. It isn't rocket science - you don't need to know about counter steering, body position etc in fact it worries me slightly you talk about leaning into a corner that maybe you are over thinking it.

    For me the main things are line through the corner, looking through the corner and braking at the right time - anything else is at most icing on the cake - get those 3 basics right and you'll descend with 95% of riders. Ok maybe add in relax and avoid comfort braking - at times you do need to ignore the little voice in your head saying "what if ?"

    Aside from that your bike has to fit you and be working well - poor brakes, loose headset etc kills confidence - my old cross bike with Cantis the brakes either didn't work or induced fork judder - that didn't make for fast descending.

    Then just keep following the basics - listen to the advice above about aiming to be smooth - smooth will become fast .
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  • sungodsungod Posts: 11,709
    my bike - faster than god's and twice as shiny
  • jd843jd843 Posts: 79
    boblo wrote:
    Why do you want to go faster? Is it because you think you should and are putting yourself under pressure to? If so, I'd forget it. There are always people faster than you up or down. In the popular areas, a lot of the faster descenders are not really in control and should the worst happen, they could come a real cropper.

    If you want to go faster because you're an adrenaline junkie but just have poor technique, all I'd say is work up to it. The more you do, the better you get. Concentrate on applying the research but maybe in sections. Do a bit of the descent applying your findings and do a bit without to give your brain a break. Keep riding descents but work the speed up, don't go banzai from beginning as your ambition could exceed your skill with obvious consequences (© Casey Stoner).

    Again, there is no right or wrong here. If you're happy descending at your speed or the way you do, stuff the rest. It's you that'll get hurt so keep that in mind.

    It’s not necessarily that I want to go faster. At the moment, I’m so scared that I end up going ridiculously slowly on downhill bends, but I still feel unsafe. I just want to be safe, have good technique and not be going slower down a hill that I would go up it!
  • jgsijgsi Posts: 5,022
    Kudos for owning up .. you are not alone at being sh it at descending, but most are in denial (the, of course I am a brilliant driver syndrome) until you see some sh it poor examples of it.
  • shiznit76shiznit76 Posts: 588
    I'm terrible at descending, i let other folk in a group in ride with past me and go down at a pace i feel comfortable with. I don't race so this isn't a problem. Had a scare when went in to a corner descent too fast a few years ago, ended up on other side of road and if a car had been coming i probably wouldn't be here to write this today. Since them i am much slower going in to corners, if it isn't worth the risk why take it
  • nitrousoxidenitrousoxide Posts: 3,784
    There's very few descents locally I'll happily bomb down due to issues such as...
    Poor road surfaces
    Lots of debris
    Narrow roads
    Roads with sharp corners
    Motor vehicles
    Wildlife such as squirrels, deer and suicidal pheasants!
    ================
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  • timothywtimothyw Posts: 2,396
    To echo a lot of what has been said, you aren't racing - just go downhill at whatever speed you are comfortable at.

    Being comfortable is the key to it. When you tense up, you feel every bump on the road, become very aware of how fast you are going, and just get more nervous and tense.

    Brake early for corners. Enjoy the scenery.

    Ride more. Ride in all conditions - the more you know your bike and your own abilities, the more you will feel confident to push the speed up a bit.

    I'm a confident descender, but this comes from spending 10 hours a week commuting on the bike year round. I've done a couple of bike handling courses over the years, but my impression was that just practising the particular skill (eg cornering at speed) tended to have better results than making a conscious effort to put weight on a particular pedal/side of the handlebars etc
  • CrescentCrescent Posts: 1,133
    I think most "normal" people have a healthy sense of self preservation. I enjoy bombing down a hill as much as the next cyclist but there is always a point where I think "what if?" - I have a blow out, hit a stone, hit a pothole, an animal runs out in front of me etc etc. I start thinking about the consequences of it all going pear shaped. I can't get past that and it always ends up with me reining it in a bit. It also depends on the roads - I've hit 50mph in Mallorca on billiard table smooth roads and felt relatively safe but struggle when I touch 30mph on some of the roads near me. I watch, in awe, the likes of Alaphillipe, Nibali etc, who are regarded as great descenders and think "nah, that's not for me". There are other factors too - the pros race on closed roads so can choose the racing line and cut corners etc, the rest of us can't really do that so it is very difficult to recreate the techniques they use in the real world.
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  • jd843jd843 Posts: 79
    Thanks everyone - some useful tips here! :D
  • chaymckchaymck Posts: 185
    I've lost a lot of confidence after a few speed wobbles.

    Things that are helping me;

    Relax, I shrug my shoulders and wiggle fingers before going down hill. It may seen silly but I also force a smile!

    I found at 35mph I was panic breaking even on straight roads. I've found using the rear brake to gently modulate speed works best for me. Too much front brake was shifting my weight forward. Heavy braking was making things worse.

    Mine is in my head. I was nervous coming down some hills at 25mph but would happily sit in a pace line at 25 and above!
  • bobloboblo Posts: 360
    edited 9 September
    Please remember to hold some in reserve. It was mentioned up there ^ about pros being on closed roads but incidents do still happen. Someone just like you and me paid the price a few weeks back in the Tour O the Borders and I managed to find an errant vehicle on a descent a few weeks ago leaving me with a broken neck and and no cycling for at least 2 months.

    It's fun going fast and it's rewarding doing something well but it's betterer being in one piece.
  • It's the steep sharp corners under trees I hate, especially in winter when they have some slippery moss on them or wet leaves. You can't see the until it's very late and difficult to scrub the speed off. I'm normally quite conservative on those parts.
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 43,604 Lives Here
    jd843 wrote:
    Hi

    I’ve been cycling for a few years now, but something I still really struggle with is descending, particularly long descents with lots of bends and hairpins (e.g. descents in Mallorca).

    I feel like I’ve read all the articles on this, watched all the videos, tried all the tips, but on sharp bends and hairpins I still end up bottling it, slowing down too much and “turning” around the corner rather than “leaning” as they say you should. Does anyone have any advice? Thanks in advance!

    Hi mate.

    This a forum so everyone has an opinion. FWIW, here are mine. I bloody love bombing downhill, for context.

    1) your tyres will grip around corners a lot more than you think they will

    2) I find pressing really hard on the outside pedal during cornering gives you a lot of confidence; makes it feel like your bike is really carving through the road; give it a go, especially for faster corners.

    3) think about it less. Easier said than done but try to be on a bit of automatic.

    4) look where you want to go, not where you don't. Going around the hairpin, focus on the exit.
  • dodgydodgy Posts: 2,885
    As well as the excellent advice offered above, I think having confidence in your equipment is important.
    Inspect tyres, are the wheels secured properly, how about handlebar/stem/seat bolts, are they tight but not over-tightened etc etc

    I'm an average descender, I tend to go a bit faster than others because gravity is usually on my side.
    I always ride well within my limits, I go to the French Alps every year but go really carefully there, maybe 75% of what I am capable of. Just enjoy the ride and the views.
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 43,604 Lives Here
    dodgy wrote:
    As well as the excellent advice offered above, I think having confidence in your equipment is important.
    Inspect tyres, are the wheels secured properly, how about handlebar/stem/seat bolts, are they tight but not over-tightened etc etc

    .

    The guy wants to worry less, not more! It'll be fine!
  • jd843 wrote:
    Hi

    I’ve been cycling for a few years now, but something I still really struggle with is descending, particularly long descents with lots of bends and hairpins (e.g. descents in Mallorca).

    I feel like I’ve read all the articles on this, watched all the videos, tried all the tips, but on sharp bends and hairpins I still end up bottling it, slowing down too much and “turning” around the corner rather than “leaning” as they say you should. Does anyone have any advice? Thanks in advance!

    Hi mate.

    This a forum so everyone has an opinion. FWIW, here are mine. I bloody love bombing downhill, for context.

    1) your tyres will grip around corners a lot more than you think they will

    2) I find pressing really hard on the outside pedal during cornering gives you a lot of confidence; makes it feel like your bike is really carving through the road; give it a go, especially for faster corners.

    3) think about it less. Easier said than done but try to be on a bit of automatic.

    4) look where you want to go, not where you don't. Going around the hairpin, focus on the exit.

    All this. Also, it's about knowing how your bike will react to what you do. If you need a little bit more turn when going wound the corner, as well as pushing down on the outside pedal, pull down on the inside handlebars. Takes some practice, but means you have a bit more control.

    It's not necessarily about going faster, but about being in control when descending. Thinking you aren't in control just makes it less fun for me. I'm not a great descender by any means, but a few visits to big mountains have made me a lot better.
    and then the next thing you know
  • bradsbeardbradsbeard Posts: 304
    Funny enough like others here I found Mallorca safer than bombing down local decents.

    That was until I met a goat on Sa Calobra. Luckily for he and I we lived to see another day.

    But as most say go as fast as you feel comfortable.
  • dodgydodgy Posts: 2,885
    dodgy wrote:
    As well as the excellent advice offered above, I think having confidence in your equipment is important.
    Inspect tyres, are the wheels secured properly, how about handlebar/stem/seat bolts, are they tight but not over-tightened etc etc

    .

    The guy wants to worry less, not more! It'll be fine!

    I know, but you're confident about your equipment, then it's one less thing to worry about.
    It's why we were made to test our gas masks in CS chambers when I was in the forces, so you know the kit works*

    * possible it was a ruse to entertain the drill instructors.
  • I enjoy descending, and seem to be reasonably good at it (based on comments from members of my club, not my own ego :mrgreen: ). I've found the following tips/bits make it easier:

    1 - Confidence in the bike. Well maintained, everything tight as it should be. Any doubts you have about that slight headset wobble or possibly incorrectly inflated tyre etc need to be gone from your mind.

    2 - Always, always, always have something in reserve. Unless you're a pro cars will be coming the other way. If you think you're at your limit, slow down immediately.

    3 - Any racing driver will tell you the trick to cornering well is "slow in, fast out". It applies as much to bikes as it does cars. You will gain more time by being cautious on entry and getting the power back on earlier than you will by overcooking the braking and overshooting the apex.

    4 - Relax as much as you can. The bike needs to flow underneath you, if you're rigid, it will be too.

    5 - Look ahead. If it's right in front of you its too late to do anything about it. Learn to read the road ahead, both in terms of how sharp corners appear to be and what the surface looks like, potential changes in grip and so on.

    6 - Practice. I found a downhill section on a bit of road closed to cars in my local park that leads into a tightish s-bend, then made a habit of going up and down it regularly, building up my speed through the bends, getting to know how the bike feels, trying to find where the grip was etc

    7 - Have a bike with disc brakes :wink: :lol:


    Ultimately, it's like any other skill on a bike - the more you do it, the better you'll get :)
  • pblakeneypblakeney Posts: 9,719
    5 - Look ahead. If it's right in front of you its too late to do anything about it. Learn to read the road ahead, both in terms of how sharp corners appear to be and what the surface looks like, potential changes in grip and so on.
    At the same time you want to be looking where you want to go, not looking at what you want to avoid.

    But mostly this.
    6 - Practice.
    The above may be fact, or fiction, I may be serious, I may be jesting.
    I am not sure. You have no chance.
    veronese68 wrote:
    PB is the most sensible person on here.
  • aberdeenalaberdeenal Posts: 202
    I'm also terrible at descending borne from a speed wobble whilst descending the Cairn O Mount not far from where I stay.......this happened 6 years ago and still plays on my mind.

    I've cycled in the French & Swiss Alps and dreaded most of the descents - I must be the only person to get cramp caused by stiffness / rigidity on downhill sections :-( ha ha ha
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 43,604 Lives Here
    aberdeenal wrote:
    I'm also terrible at descending borne from a speed wobble whilst descending the Cairn O Mount not far from where I stay.......this happened 6 years ago and still plays on my mind.

    I've cycled in the French & Swiss Alps and dreaded most of the descents - I must be the only person to get cramp caused by stiffness / rigidity on downhill sections :-( ha ha ha

    Ah sh!tter, not much you can do about speed wobbles, but being loose rather than rigid helps.
  • aberdeenal wrote:
    I'm also terrible at descending borne from a speed wobble whilst descending the Cairn O Mount not far from where I stay.......this happened 6 years ago and still plays on my mind.

    I've cycled in the French & Swiss Alps and dreaded most of the descents - I must be the only person to get cramp caused by stiffness / rigidity on downhill sections :-( ha ha ha

    Ah sh!tter, not much you can do about speed wobbles, but being loose rather than rigid helps.
    My fear is steep slippery surfaces going into the bend where, despite braking, speed increases.
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 43,604 Lives Here
    aberdeenal wrote:
    I'm also terrible at descending borne from a speed wobble whilst descending the Cairn O Mount not far from where I stay.......this happened 6 years ago and still plays on my mind.

    I've cycled in the French & Swiss Alps and dreaded most of the descents - I must be the only person to get cramp caused by stiffness / rigidity on downhill sections :-( ha ha ha

    Ah sh!tter, not much you can do about speed wobbles, but being loose rather than rigid helps.
    My fear is slippery surfaces going into the bend where, despite breaking, speed increases.

    Why fear it? You can see what's up ahead, and the weather context will also help you anticipate.
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