7 Ways to Ride Downhill Like A Tour de France Cyclist (And Not Die)
Descents are free speed. You spend almost every second of a bike ride pedaling and working to move forward, but the descents are your reward and your opportunity to make up time
Professional cyclists execute risky descending techniques far above the skill level of most amateurs. However, all cyclists can gain valuable insights on how to ride downhill better and faster by watching their impressive high-speed descents.
So, what makes the difference between a beautiful, fast, and smooth descent and a nervous, wobbly one? Courage accounts for a little of it, but skill is the foundation of great descending. Skill instills confidence and confidence builds courage, and the combination of skill, confidence, and courage enables you to ride downhill fast.
If you’re not racing you don’t need to take big risks on descents, and it’s important to note that having great descending skills doesn’t mean you have to go insanely fast or take big risks. On the other hand, there is no downside to having the skills to be a great descender, because it will make you safer and more confident in all conditions.
Descending Skills Clinic
Everyone has to slow down for the corners, but the best riders take great lines, position themselves over their bikes perfectly, brake late and slow down the least; and those skills can either move you off the front of the pack or help you catch back on. If you go back and watch the descents from stages in the Pyrenees and Alps, here are some skills to watch for – and emulate the next time you ride downhill:
1. Think and look far ahead.
Traveling at 62mph you cover approximately the length of a football field (300 feet) every 3.3 seconds. With corners, rocks, potholes, etc. coming at you that quickly, you have to pick your lines early. Ideally, you want to set up wide as you enter a corner, cut through the apex, and exit wide. Choosing the wrong line on the entry makes it difficult – and sometimes impossible – to safely exit the turn and stay on the road.
2. Brake late, but before the corners.
You want to make dramatic changes in speed on the straightaway before you enter a corner, using both brakes so you are complete control of your speed. You may still be on the brakes in the turn, but if you were going 40mph in the previous straightaway, you want to bring the speed down to a safe speed for the corner – say 25-30mph – before the turn rather than trying to dramatically slow down and change direction at the same time.
If you go into a corner too hot and grab a fistful of brakes, you’ll either lock up the wheels and slide or crash; or your momentum will carry you so far to the outside of the turn that you’ll miss the exit and end up in the trees. The more advanced way to do this is to brake late; that is, hold your speed until you’re closer to the corner and use more braking power to slow down quickly. This technique has become even more prevalent with disc brakes, which have more stopping power than rim brakes. The trouble is, if you get it wrong you’ll end up overshooting the corner.
The above is a short excerpt from the full CTS TrainRight article, to read the full article, please visit: https://trainright.com/ride-downhill-like-a-tour-de-france-cyclist
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