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Regaining descending mojo

Hi,

I used (according to others) to be pretty good at descending, but a few years ago I had a high-speed off on a greasy mountain descent in the rain. Ever since then I can't descend anything like I used to, even in dry conditions. For instance there is a downhill corner I go round a lot towards the end of one of my training rides that I used to comfortably roll through at 23-24mph, and I once went 'round it at 30mph whilst trying (and succeeding) to drop some people :-) Now if I come in to that corner at even close to 20mph I tense up and jam the brakes on.

Any useful ideas or resources that people have used that might me help enjoy and descend fast(er) again?

Thanks in advance.

B

Posts

  • amrushtonamrushton Posts: 811
    Does it matter? I've always believed if I get down safely that's good enough for me. But otherwise you are going to have to 'get back on the horse'. It's a mind thing obviously.
  • joe_totale-2joe_totale-2 Posts: 1,195
    Wider tyres? They'll offer some more grip and also psychologically may make you more feel more comfortable about cornering faster.
  • nickicenickice Posts: 2,439
    amrushton said:

    Does it matter? I've always believed if I get down safely that's good enough for me. But otherwise you are going to have to 'get back on the horse'. It's a mind thing obviously.

    Age might also be a factor as you become a bit more cautious as you get older. I've never really seen the benefit in descending particularly fast but I know some people like the rush.
  • First.AspectFirst.Aspect Posts: 5,458
    I'm adding another vote to taking it a bit easy down hill. There is absolutely no upside to descending like Nibali on a training ride (other than man points).

    And honestly, if you've chucked it off spectacularly doing what you used to do, it sounds like slowing down is sensible. Put another way, just because you hadn't come off before doesn't mean that you were previously descending safely.
  • jamesesjameses Posts: 653
    Agree with the above - it's probably not what you want to hear, but unless you're actually racing, there's no point in taking risks downhill.

    As a cautionary tale, I've always been a decent (if not exceptional) descender. A few weeks back I was going down a hill I know well, took my usual line through a corner and met a car reversing to make room for a bus. I was lucky to get away with no more than some bruising, stitches to my chin and a totalled bike. It could easily have been so much worse, but it did make me realise that even descending safely, there's so much that can go wrong that's outside of your control.
  • davep1davep1 Posts: 777
    I'm another one from the school of hard knocks, I used to be a good descender, but nearly two years ago had a bad crash coming down Steyning Bostal. Broke my scapula, which isn't the worst bone to break, but I wasn't offered physio and it was stiff for a year, and any ride over 2 hours was uncomfortable. Just getting to sleep was awkward, getting in and out of the bath etc etc.
    When I broke it, I had been on some great rides and I was improving and looking forward to August in the Italian mountains; I thought I was getting to the point where I was the fittest I had ever been on the bike. Obviously I couldn't ride for weeks after, and it got me down, the winter commutes to work were harder and more misery-making than usual.
    Eventually I got some physio and things have improved, but still a 4 hour ride gives me grief. I am working hard and my goal is to get back to that stage in August 2018 when I think I am as fit as I can be on the bike, but going downhill fast just doesn't appeal any more.
  • super_davosuper_davo Posts: 579
    I'm with everyone on the "its not a race" side, but there is no harm in getting your technique perfect. If you have good technique and are smooth, then you can be relatively fast even descending well within your capabilities.

    Stuff like descending on the drops, keep your weight low, look round corners, brake before the corners, don't drag them between, slow in fast out, all that good stuff.

    That's much easier on proper mountain descents with hairpins etc. like you get in Majorca or the alps than it is on the short steep stuff like you get in the UK. And the more you do, and the better your technique gets, the more your mojo returns.

    So basically go on holiday to the mountains, think about your technique without worrying about how fast you're going, and your mojo will slowly return (but that doesn't mean you have to use it all the time).
  • cruffcruff Posts: 1,506
    Time, practice and confidence. Had exactly the same as you a few years ago - I was riding in France in the Fat Lad World Champs and got crashed out by a crazy Swede pulling a ridiculous move across my line on a descent. Ended up sliding into bushes and then a barbed wire fence - when I went to collect my shoe (came out when I unclipped) I realised I was about a metre from a 200 metre sheer drop. If I had gone through the flimsy fence I'd have been dead. For at least a year afterwards, I absolutely censored myself descending. It took a lot of patience, building myself up and practicing before I got the confidence to go fast downhill again. Even now I'm a lot more tense than I used to be, which translates to poor lines into corners and scrubbing off more speed than I need to.

    Find a descent you know well and ride it often, doesn't have to be that long - just one with a couple of corners where you stiffen up. Ride it in good weather and practice those corners until you can nail them. Then start doing that on rides where you aren't as familiar with the corners, but have done them a few times. Eventually it'll 'click' and you'll get your confidence back - then you'll find you don't get shelled. My personal bete noire is steep technical stuff. I can bomb it down steep straight descents or shallow 'power' descents with the odd non-technical corner, but I'm STILL nervous hitting hairpins - and living in the UK we don't have much chance to practice those.
    Fat chopper. Some racing. Some testing. Some crashing.
    Specialising in Git Daaahns and Cafs. Norvern Munkey/Transplanted Laaandoner.
  • mr.b-campagmr.b-campag Posts: 251
    Thanks everyone for your responses. For the most part I'd just like to get the enjoyment back, as descending was perhaps the aspect of riding I enjoyed the most. I do race occassionally and don't have any problem cornering in UK closed circuit races etc. but it's these hairpin turns on mountainousi descents that I struggle with and I'm lucky enough (most years!) to spend a fair bit of time outside the UK in a relatively mountainous area.

    I do wonder if it's because I'm conscious of my speed going into corners in training, whereas in racing I'm more focussed on holding the wheel? That said I've not raced down any significant descents for some years, but I might do later this summer.

    I understand the point about being older and more cautioous - I'd like to be a rider who can go through the corner I mentioned at 23.-24mph and (rightly) chooses not to go through it faster, even if I'm technically capable of it.

    Part of the reason I've looked at speed in trying to improve going through those corners is I'd read somewhere that you should go through the corner at the speed you're comfortable with and then increase that speed by, say, 0.5 mphs increments. But I think what I might do from this is put my computer in my pocker and just do some skills focussed rides based on feel.
  • cruffcruff Posts: 1,506
    There's definitely an element of following the wheel in racing on descents, but I've learned only to do that with riders who I feel comfortable following over the years (ie: riders who I know can descend well without taking stupid risks). Garmin off is always a good thing IMO - helps not to have numbers distracting you, especially when you can see the speed and it looks lower than you think you should be doing
    Fat chopper. Some racing. Some testing. Some crashing.
    Specialising in Git Daaahns and Cafs. Norvern Munkey/Transplanted Laaandoner.
  • ibr17xviiibr17xvii Posts: 505
    OP has my sympathies, I am exactly the same.

    I was never a demon descender anyway due to being far too soft / scared but in January I decked it spectacularly on some black ice at 30mph+.

    Not been back to the scene since & not sure I will although I have been up the hill the way I came down when I totaled it as the descent is a lot easier.

    It's deffo a mental thing - hairpins etc would make me go slow anyway but even if it's a long straight road with no obstacles or corners & on a decent day I'm still on the brakes as I'm thinking the worst all the time.

    I was careful (or so I thought) before, now I'm ultra ultra careful.
  • ibr17xviiibr17xvii Posts: 505
    cruff said:

    There's definitely an element of following the wheel in racing on descents, but I've learned only to do that with riders who I feel comfortable following over the years (ie: riders who I know can descend well without taking stupid risks). Garmin off is always a good thing IMO - helps not to have numbers distracting you, especially when you can see the speed and it looks lower than you think you should be doing

    Alex Dowsett said that he has his Garmin / Wahoo on the maps on a technical descent then he can glance down & see how the corners tighten up which I thought makes sense.
  • First.AspectFirst.Aspect Posts: 5,458
    ibr17xvii said:

    cruff said:

    There's definitely an element of following the wheel in racing on descents, but I've learned only to do that with riders who I feel comfortable following over the years (ie: riders who I know can descend well without taking stupid risks). Garmin off is always a good thing IMO - helps not to have numbers distracting you, especially when you can see the speed and it looks lower than you think you should be doing

    Alex Dowsett said that he has his Garmin / Wahoo on the maps on a technical descent then he can glance down & see how the corners tighten up which I thought makes sense.
    Please do NOT look at your Garmin whilst descending fast.
  • mfinmfin Posts: 6,724
    Hey, OP, are you on the same bike as you used to use? Some bikes have handling that just feels great being cornered aggressively and sort of invite you to push on whereas others can feel quite the opposite. Also, maybe go back to basics, corner in the drops, keep c of g low, weight the outside foot and the inside bar down, keep your eye further ahead at the point you want to go, get back to doing those things consciously until they become automatic again. It's a good feeling that maybe you need to get hooked on again. It must be difficult once you're fearful though, a lot of old folks get like that on bikes (some don't :) )
  • teisetrotterteisetrotter Posts: 329

    Wider tyres? They'll offer some more grip and also psychologically may make you more feel more comfortable about cornering faster.

    We are not in the TDF. Descend to enjoy. I have a wife and kids. Putting myself in hospital for some idiotic idea that descending fast is good is just about the most stupid idea I could imagine. I found all this out by being stupid.

    57 stitches, 3 days in the hospital, 6 weeks in bed. Took me two years to not flinch when a car came the other way on a descent. Be proud of being last to the bottom. then work hard training to be the one of the first up the hill which is the only thing that matters.
  • ibr17xviiibr17xvii Posts: 505

    ibr17xvii said:

    cruff said:

    There's definitely an element of following the wheel in racing on descents, but I've learned only to do that with riders who I feel comfortable following over the years (ie: riders who I know can descend well without taking stupid risks). Garmin off is always a good thing IMO - helps not to have numbers distracting you, especially when you can see the speed and it looks lower than you think you should be doing

    Alex Dowsett said that he has his Garmin / Wahoo on the maps on a technical descent then he can glance down & see how the corners tighten up which I thought makes sense.
    Please do NOT look at your Garmin whilst descending fast.
    Glancing at it if it's safe to do so is fine IMO.
  • First.AspectFirst.Aspect Posts: 5,458
    ibr17xvii said:

    ibr17xvii said:

    cruff said:

    There's definitely an element of following the wheel in racing on descents, but I've learned only to do that with riders who I feel comfortable following over the years (ie: riders who I know can descend well without taking stupid risks). Garmin off is always a good thing IMO - helps not to have numbers distracting you, especially when you can see the speed and it looks lower than you think you should be doing

    Alex Dowsett said that he has his Garmin / Wahoo on the maps on a technical descent then he can glance down & see how the corners tighten up which I thought makes sense.
    Please do NOT look at your Garmin whilst descending fast.
    Glancing at it if it's safe to do so is fine IMO.
    Of course. It is there on your stem after all. But I'm struggling to imagine a scenario where you could use your Garmin as a form of "pace notes" to judge how little you need to brake... "safely". It is a concept taken out of context anyway; i.e. a pro rider's comments on closed road racing being appended to an amateur on an open road.

    Rule of thumb is that your speed should allow you to react to anything that might happen in your field of view, whether that's gravel, water, traffic etc. So if you can't see around a corner you can't ride it like it is a closed road and so by extension the "Garmin method" is irrelevant.
  • ibr17xviiibr17xvii Posts: 505

    ibr17xvii said:

    ibr17xvii said:

    cruff said:

    There's definitely an element of following the wheel in racing on descents, but I've learned only to do that with riders who I feel comfortable following over the years (ie: riders who I know can descend well without taking stupid risks). Garmin off is always a good thing IMO - helps not to have numbers distracting you, especially when you can see the speed and it looks lower than you think you should be doing

    Alex Dowsett said that he has his Garmin / Wahoo on the maps on a technical descent then he can glance down & see how the corners tighten up which I thought makes sense.
    Please do NOT look at your Garmin whilst descending fast.
    Glancing at it if it's safe to do so is fine IMO.
    Of course. It is there on your stem after all. But I'm struggling to imagine a scenario where you could use your Garmin as a form of "pace notes" to judge how little you need to brake... "safely". It is a concept taken out of context anyway; i.e. a pro rider's comments on closed road racing being appended to an amateur on an open road.

    Rule of thumb is that your speed should allow you to react to anything that might happen in your field of view, whether that's gravel, water, traffic etc. So if you can't see around a corner you can't ride it like it is a closed road and so by extension the "Garmin method" is irrelevant.
    Less useful for us non pros absolutely but certainly not irrelevant.

    I've glanced down at the mapping on my Wahoo on a straight bit of descent to see what may be coming up if I'm not sure how tight a corner may or may not be & as above I'm far from a confident descender.
  • davep1davep1 Posts: 777
    I used to have speed as one of the larger numbers on my display; I could hit 50 mph a few times a year and had an ambition to get to 55 mph. Some hills are better than others for this, straight and wide, and if you go at the right time of day, little traffic. Then I had a big crash on Dartmoor on a "downhill corner lovers dream" of a corner, and decided not to chase that figure any more, I can't see my current speed on any of the screens. Max speed on rides is now rarely above 60 kph, never mind over 80!

    I wouldn't look at my screen on a fast descent, I'm not that familiar with the maps to trust the screen is an accurate representation of what is coming up. Plus at speed, it doesn't take long for small issues to become huge.

    I've also come to the conclusion that my bike is like an old Porsche 911, it's wonderful when you are on top of your game and completely focused. But if you're tired or lose concentration, or the conditions aren't ideal, it will exaggerate any mistake, certainly it won't help you out. I think I have had 6 crashes on it, broken bones two or three times, scraped most of the skin off my knees and elbows etc. I still love to ride it, but I take a lot more care than I used to.
  • First.AspectFirst.Aspect Posts: 5,458
    ibr17xvii said:

    ibr17xvii said:

    ibr17xvii said:

    cruff said:

    There's definitely an element of following the wheel in racing on descents, but I've learned only to do that with riders who I feel comfortable following over the years (ie: riders who I know can descend well without taking stupid risks). Garmin off is always a good thing IMO - helps not to have numbers distracting you, especially when you can see the speed and it looks lower than you think you should be doing

    Alex Dowsett said that he has his Garmin / Wahoo on the maps on a technical descent then he can glance down & see how the corners tighten up which I thought makes sense.
    Please do NOT look at your Garmin whilst descending fast.
    Glancing at it if it's safe to do so is fine IMO.
    Of course. It is there on your stem after all. But I'm struggling to imagine a scenario where you could use your Garmin as a form of "pace notes" to judge how little you need to brake... "safely". It is a concept taken out of context anyway; i.e. a pro rider's comments on closed road racing being appended to an amateur on an open road.

    Rule of thumb is that your speed should allow you to react to anything that might happen in your field of view, whether that's gravel, water, traffic etc. So if you can't see around a corner you can't ride it like it is a closed road and so by extension the "Garmin method" is irrelevant.
    Less useful for us non pros absolutely but certainly not irrelevant.

    I've glanced down at the mapping on my Wahoo on a straight bit of descent to see what may be coming up if I'm not sure how tight a corner may or may not be & as above I'm far from a confident descender.
    Doesn't tell you about camber, gravel, moisture, potholes or traffic. I suppose this concept is moderately harmless if you have some contingency anyway, but the OP is talking about pushing on and stretching his own limits somewhat. No one is going to convince me that looking at a screen is a good idea in that situation.
  • joe_totale-2joe_totale-2 Posts: 1,195
    When I'm near the top of a climb I've not done before I'll have a quick look at the map to see what the oncoming descent is like, I like knowing if there's any turns coming up.

    Once I'm on the descent it's all eyes on the road.

    Descending is one of the reasons I ride on a bike, I love the exhilaration of it. I've had a couple of spills but touch wood nothing serious.
    There's a thin line though between descending quickly and being reckless and I'd always err on the side of caution.
  • ibr17xviiibr17xvii Posts: 505

    ibr17xvii said:

    ibr17xvii said:

    ibr17xvii said:

    cruff said:

    There's definitely an element of following the wheel in racing on descents, but I've learned only to do that with riders who I feel comfortable following over the years (ie: riders who I know can descend well without taking stupid risks). Garmin off is always a good thing IMO - helps not to have numbers distracting you, especially when you can see the speed and it looks lower than you think you should be doing

    Alex Dowsett said that he has his Garmin / Wahoo on the maps on a technical descent then he can glance down & see how the corners tighten up which I thought makes sense.
    Please do NOT look at your Garmin whilst descending fast.
    Glancing at it if it's safe to do so is fine IMO.
    Of course. It is there on your stem after all. But I'm struggling to imagine a scenario where you could use your Garmin as a form of "pace notes" to judge how little you need to brake... "safely". It is a concept taken out of context anyway; i.e. a pro rider's comments on closed road racing being appended to an amateur on an open road.

    Rule of thumb is that your speed should allow you to react to anything that might happen in your field of view, whether that's gravel, water, traffic etc. So if you can't see around a corner you can't ride it like it is a closed road and so by extension the "Garmin method" is irrelevant.
    Less useful for us non pros absolutely but certainly not irrelevant.

    I've glanced down at the mapping on my Wahoo on a straight bit of descent to see what may be coming up if I'm not sure how tight a corner may or may not be & as above I'm far from a confident descender.
    Doesn't tell you about camber, gravel, moisture, potholes or traffic. I suppose this concept is moderately harmless if you have some contingency anyway, but the OP is talking about pushing on and stretching his own limits somewhat. No one is going to convince me that looking at a screen is a good idea in that situation.
    True but there's world of difference between looking at your screen & glancing at it.
  • paulbnixpaulbnix Posts: 516
    I also use the map page on my Bolt when I am descending an unknown hill.
    A quick glance definitely gives you a clue as to what is coming up.
  • mr.b-campagmr.b-campag Posts: 251
    Hi mfin I've got the same bike out there - a trek oclv in USPS colours! Interesting talk about tech but I'm pretty old school and this is mostly about cornering on roads I already know well. Agree it's back to basics and I will need to incorporate some skills sessions. The idea of pushing down on the outside pedal I get. Pushing with the inward hand on the bars I'm less clear about, though I've often seen it recommended. What is the thinking behind that?
  • First.AspectFirst.Aspect Posts: 5,458

    Hi mfin I've got the same bike out there - a trek oclv in USPS colours! Interesting talk about tech but I'm pretty old school and this is mostly about cornering on roads I already know well. Agree it's back to basics and I will need to incorporate some skills sessions. The idea of pushing down on the outside pedal I get. Pushing with the inward hand on the bars I'm less clear about, though I've often seen it recommended. What is the thinking behind that?

    It's semi nonsense. All this is about is getting the centre of mass low and over the contact patch. The inward bar thing sounds wrong to me as well.

    But I favour the not over thinking it approach. Unless it's intuitive you are still going to corner like Asimo the robot.

    Smooth is good and it will feel fast even if it isn't.
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