How to gain confidence descending?

zest28
zest28 Posts: 403
edited May 2023 in Road general
I always have been horrible descending steep mountain descents on my race bike, which has a super aggressive fit. Since I am basically leaning over my bike, I always have the fear of flipping over, eventhough this has never happened.

On my gravel or mountain bike, I don’t have any fear going 80km/h down the mountains though, as the weight distribution is more to the back and having a longer wheel base.

How do I get bigger balls as I never have been able to overcome this fear?
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Comments

  • DeVlaeminck
    DeVlaeminck Posts: 8,794
    I don't think there is anything that can take away that fear other than get your position, equipment and technique right and then practice.

    Fear of flipping forwards isn't one I've heard before though - basically even a 1 in 4 isn't so steep that that could happen unless you lock the front wheel. Maybe your fit isn't letting you get your weight back - saddle isn't pointing down is it ?
    [Castle Donington Ladies FC - going up in '22]
  • As you have said OP, it is a psychological block. You have to try and find a way to accept the fact you are not going to flip over.

    There probably won't be much you can do to alter your position or technique to offset things.

    Use a technique like exposure therapy. On a descent pick a short section of road where you can comfortably let the bike go at a higher speed (do the rest of the descent at a more catious pace). Do the short section over and over and as you progress lengthen the section/time spent at the higher speed.

    This subconsciously gets your brain used to the reality that you won't crash. Doing it in bite sized chunks gets your brain used to dealing with, and overcoming the fear.
  • Defblade
    Defblade Posts: 141
    Assuming you're on the drops (works a bit on the hoods, but not quite so well), get your elbows down level with your hands - that way, your weight is pushing into your palms and the bars, rather than being above/over them, which feels like it could produce that turning moment that would send you over forwards.
    Slide your bum back, even off the saddle to keep everything flat and low and pushing into the bars.
    Then allow your speed to build a little, break hard to bring it down again, and repeat, rather than constantly dragging the brakes to keep your speed low. The gaps between brakings will grow as your confidence does :)
  • sungod
    sungod Posts: 16,766
    this is quite good...

    http://www.flammerouge.je/factsheets/doidescend.htm

    but there's still the difference between knowing and doing, which comes with practice
    my bike - faster than god's and twice as shiny
  • rick_chasey
    rick_chasey Posts: 73,784
    edited May 2023
    I tried to help a few guys who had the yips and a couple simple things worked.

    We tried two things. First was just doing all the braking before you turn > even if that means you’re going in really quite slow.

    Second was just really pushing hard down on the outside pedal when turning. It really feels like you’re carving.

    Keep doing that and you’ll eventually feel confident enough to do the corner that bit faster.


    I’m all chat though > ever since my bike went from under me out of the blue on a (flat) corner, breaking my shoulder in the process, I’ve also got the yips so it happens to us all.
  • webboo
    webboo Posts: 6,087
    Follow someone you know who is a good descender, watch them not the road and follow their movements.
  • First.Aspect
    First.Aspect Posts: 15,253
    Lots of good advice here. I'd suggest repetitions of one good descent to build confidence.

    Personally I prefer descending on the hoods. No idea why, but I'm a fair bit quicker than average so whatever works. Another thing I find helps is practising really hard braking, so you know what it feels like. For your fear of going over the bars this might really help.

    And get used to hanging your ar$e behind the saddle when braking hard downhill. Makes a world of difference.

    One thing I have heard also works is find a damp field, switch to flats and trainers, and get used to how it feels when you slide. You will know what it feels like on a MTB, but a road bike is a whole different thing. You are going to fall off though, so take someone with you to get pictures.
  • slowmart
    slowmart Posts: 4,489
    Fear results from the unknown so identifying areas of concern will help build your ability and confidence.

    Grip, stability, mechanical failure…

    Learning to read the road such as camber, identifying holes, manhole covers, detritus along with using the vanishing point technique will all aid your speed.

    Personally I set my speed well before I turn into any corner as bike stability is paramount and braking forces on a banked over wheel is never a good combination

    Start slow and smooth and enjoy what you’re doing, your speed will come.
    “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring”

    Desmond Tutu
  • pblakeney
    pblakeney Posts: 26,232
    Find a local descent and go down it loads of times trying all the suggestions above.
    Practice makes perfect, just keep in your comfort zone. That zone should get faster with 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.
  • amrushton
    amrushton Posts: 1,257
    I've seen v.few great descenders in my time but a lot who thought they were. Often find people who have ridden motorbikes to have the right skills. Just get down safely is my thought
  • First.Aspect
    First.Aspect Posts: 15,253
    amrushton said:

    I've seen v.few great descenders in my time but a lot who thought they were. Often find people who have ridden motorbikes to have the right skills. Just get down safely is my thought

    Is thst an autocorrect from mountain bike, or are ypu talking bollocks?
  • DeVlaeminck
    DeVlaeminck Posts: 8,794
    Practice doesn't always make perfect. I remember when I first started cycling after maybe a year training with a few lads I met on here I started to go out with the local fast training ride with some good local riders like Dave and "Reg" Spencer, Andy Eagers. sometimes Rob Sharman. 30 miles in there was a cafe stop preceded by a long climb and a steep descent - I was super lean at the time and after a while on a good day could hang on on the climb but would get dropped on the descent - it just meant getting to the cafe 30 seconds after the first group but it was a bit embarrassing so I went out and practiced. Was starting to get the hang of it when my confidence outstripped my ability and I stacked it on one of the bottom corners. After that I was getting to the cafe well over a minute behind the front group...

    Thankfully they changed the route to a longer loop without that descent soon after. You do get better over time but the real step change in my descending was visiting the Alps.
    [Castle Donington Ladies FC - going up in '22]
  • rick_chasey
    rick_chasey Posts: 73,784
    Yeah I think once you get a feel for how much grip you can have via a single corner it’ll give you confidence to do it elsewhere.

    At least I’m trying to do that myself as I recover from my accident
  • daniel_b
    daniel_b Posts: 11,659
    @zest28 some fantastic advice on here already for you.

    Post a picture of your race bike side on, there could be some thing you could do temporarily to make it slightly less aggressive to help you in the short term.
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  • joeyhalloran
    joeyhalloran Posts: 1,080
    How does your gravel and road position differ?

    What are the two bikes and sets up? Head angle, stem length etc...?

    Have you compared the weight distribution?

    If you are comfortable on your gravel bike then it feels like an equipment/position problem.
  • feelgoodlost
    feelgoodlost Posts: 316
    Some great tips here. I'm a relatively poor descender on alpine roads and also guilty of grabbing a handful of brake when entering corners. I often let others head off in front of me on descents as I don't want to spoil it for them!

    One tip that hasn't been mentioned (and may be quite obvious) is to look at where you want the bike to go out of the bend. If you concentrate too much on the edge of the road/barrier etc. then you will instinctively head for that area.
  • First.Aspect
    First.Aspect Posts: 15,253

    How does your gravel and road position differ?

    What are the two bikes and sets up? Head angle, stem length etc...?

    Have you compared the weight distribution?

    If you are comfortable on your gravel bike then it feels like an equipment/position problem.

    Should a gravel bike position be the same as a road bike position? Are the frame geometries going to be the same anyway, even if the contact points are in the same positions?

    The answer to both is no.

    It could be a position problem that the OP has, but it is almost certainly a confidence and technique problem that can easily be fixed.

    There's also an expectation problem, in that confidence while descending can be achieved instantly by descending at a speed you are confident at. This needn't be fast, or as fast as someone else you ride with. Pain does after all increase with the square of speed if you come off.
  • rick_chasey
    rick_chasey Posts: 73,784
    Very few people fall off at full pelt.

    The main worry is the bend that then tightens just behind and beyond the visible corner, but again, that’s all about the above; getting enough braking done before the corner, looking where you want to go and trusting your tyres to grip (which is helped by pushing weight through outside pedal etc)

  • crescent
    crescent Posts: 1,201
    Like many cyclists, I watched in awe (and a bit of fear) the video that is doing the rounds of Tom Pidcock - Descent Disciples, I think. What struck me was how he seems to shift his weight back and drop very low when he looks to be close to overcooking it into a corner. I have been in Majorca this week and have done a couple of the amazing descents - Sa Batalla, Femenia, sa Creueta - and tried to emulate this, albeit at 30 to 40 mph as opposed to the 60mph he was hitting. I found it worked really well and allowed me to continue without touching the brakes, as I would ha e done previously. As others have said above, pushing down on the outside pedal also helps. Counter steering - steering slightly in the opposite direction of the corner as you lean the bike - is also a good technique.
    Bianchi ImpulsoBMC Teammachine SLR02 01Trek Domane AL3“When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race. “ ~H.G. Wells Edit - "Unless it's a BMX"
  • gethinceri
    gethinceri Posts: 1,556
    Counter steering is a bullshit tip for road cycling
  • First.Aspect
    First.Aspect Posts: 15,253

    Counter steering is a bullshit tip for road cycling

    It is an excellent way to finesse an unscheduled dismount though.
  • bikes_and_dogs
    bikes_and_dogs Posts: 130
    edited June 2023
    As an ex amateur enthusiastic sportive rider, I would view events with an attitude that I should try harder than normal. Hill climbing was my biggest challenge, I thought that getting off the bike and walking was for losers.
    However, I never really considered the dangers of pushing too hard going downhill.
    After ascending a tough climb and overtaking a number of riders, I was full of confidence. Soon after cresting I carried that confidence onto a damp Lake District descent. I thought it was okay to tip into a corner like the guys I had seen on TV, but there was a car on the other side of the road driving absolutely fine. I had to alter my line and finished up running wide, wounded and chastened.
    Brave descending is for folk that are paid for it.
  • pblakeney
    pblakeney Posts: 26,232
    The only differential between confident and stupid while descending is the outcome.
    Everyone is confident until it goes pear shaped, and it needn't be high speed either.
    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.
  • pblakeney said:

    The only differential between confident and stupid while descending is the outcome.
    Everyone is confident until it goes pear shaped, and it needn't be high speed either.

    Some stupid bike riders get away with risky behaviour - it doesn't mean that it's to be recommended. Stay safe.
  • pblakeney
    pblakeney Posts: 26,232

    pblakeney said:

    The only differential between confident and stupid while descending is the outcome.
    Everyone is confident until it goes pear shaped, and it needn't be high speed either.

    Some stupid bike riders get away with risky behaviour - it doesn't mean that it's to be recommended. Stay safe.
    That's another way of saying similar.
    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.
  • DeVlaeminck
    DeVlaeminck Posts: 8,794
    Risk taking is undoubtedly part of it - one of the best descenders I know I do remember over cooking a descent in the Peak and ending up over a barrier in a field. You do need confidence though - if you are nervous your safe descending speed is much less than when you are confident.

    Most mental descending I've seen was in the Marmotte coming down the Glandon. Was in a group of 6-8 passing plenty of others and a guy came past us like we'd never ridden a bike before, as they say, "levels".
    [Castle Donington Ladies FC - going up in '22]
  • crescent
    crescent Posts: 1,201
    edited June 2023
    Levels indeed.
    I was descending Ventoux in 2016, heading back to Malaucene, at just under 50mph, thinking to myself "I have never gone this fast on a bike before, I am absolutely pushing the envelope here". I was then overtaken in a matter of seconds by someone in an aero tuck. My imagination usually takes takes over above 40mph - puncture, debris on the road, mechanical failure, piano wire strung between two trees etc. Being confident and skillful is a huge part of it, but I think there needs to be a borderline "un-hingedness" as well.
    Bianchi ImpulsoBMC Teammachine SLR02 01Trek Domane AL3“When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race. “ ~H.G. Wells Edit - "Unless it's a BMX"
  • morstar
    morstar Posts: 6,190
    edited June 2023
    Steep descent near us has a tight bend near the top (but before you’ve really gained a lot of speed).

    After the bend, even just freewheeling, you can easily hit 40+mph before the later bends and poor surface kick in.

    As I’m riding up it one day. A guy descending comes round the bend and does a full blown sprint out of the bend. I have no idea what speed he was aiming for but I’ve never seen anyone ride it anything like that.
  • mrb123
    mrb123 Posts: 4,662
    morstar said:

    Steep descent near us has a tight bend near the top (but before you’ve really gained a lot of speed).

    After the bend, even just freewheeling, you can easily hit 40+mph before the later bends and poor surface kick in.

    As I’m riding up it one day. A guy descending comes round the bend and does a full blown sprint out of the bend. I have no idea what speed he was aiming for but I’ve never seen anyone ride it anything like that.

    Is it a Strava segment?

  • davidof
    davidof Posts: 3,058
    amrushton said:

    I've seen v.few great descenders in my time but a lot who thought they were. Often find people who have ridden motorbikes to have the right skills. Just get down safely is my thought

    I decend slower on my motorbike than on my road bike because I find the thing too damn heavy and the brakes hard work.

    As the OP claims to descend at 80kph on his gravel bike I can't see what his issue is. 80kph is pro speed, more or less, and if you come off at that kind of speed it is going to hurt... a lot.
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