A long descent on the road typically makes the list of situations that cause fear or lack confidence in cyclists. As with almost everything, the more you practice, the better you get.
This post provides tips on how to descend safely and gain confidence so that you can feel in control.
Tips on how to descend
Avoid looking down in front of your bike. Instead, look far ahead, where you want to go. That will help with balance and steering.
Assume an aero position. Place your hands in the drops, torso down, weight slightly back in the saddle. Elbows in close to the body, and engage your triceps.
Sit up to slow down
As you gain lots of speed and feel the need to slow down a little, use your body position instead of the breaks. Place your hands in the hoods and raise your torso (i.e., sit up up) to create more drag and slow you down. Doing this is usually better than using your breaks because it prevents an abrupt decrease in speed that can make you lose control of the bike.
Feather your breaks
When in aero position, keep the fingers on the breaks and “feather” your breaks as needed to control speed. Do this by very lightly and rapidly alternating pressure and release of the brakes. Doing this very gently helps control the speed without breaking too much or suddenly.
This is a tip I got from Tom Danielson. In steep, long descends in windy conditions, keep pedaling. Not to increase speed, but to increase stability. To accomplish this, you can be in your easiest gear or even pedal backwards! The important thing is to keep pedaling to prevent being tossed around by the wind. This has worked wonders for me, as I am a small, light rider and typically get tossed around.
Let us know your tips by posting your comments below!
Hmm.. for some reason, my brother just bought a sports bicycle last week even though he’s not even a competitive rider. Well based on this article, I think he should learn something from a professional before taking a ride anytime soon. You know, it was quite amusing to know that sitting up can actually decrease our speed when going down a hilly area using our bike.
Hi Amy, thanks for your comment. I would say that most of us just ride on our own (without the help of a coach) when we first start riding, and that is a good approach. Then, as we start to get more curious, we might look into learning more and hiring a coach.