There is no better feeling than flying down a descent on your bike. I just love going fast and the feeling of (high) speed on my bike. Good descending skills are an advantage, and races can be lost or won on descents. Today, I can say that I’m good at descending fast but that wasn’t always the case. Of course, many years of racing experience play a big role. But, I have also been specifically working on my descending skills.
Here are some tips on how to descend better and faster
Like any skill, the best way to become better at something is to really work on it. Ask someone that is good at descending to ride with you, and follow their wheel while descending. You can learn a lot of things that way, including how to choose a good line, when to brake and how to move your body on the bike.
Trust yourself and your bike. Start small and at low speed. Go to an empty parking lot, set up some cones or water bottles and train the basics. Get your cornering dialed in before you ride long, fast and/or tricky descents.
Hold your handlebars correctly. Have your fingers at the brake levers but don’t cramp. Relax! Place your hands in the drops, elbows bent and tucked in. If you aren’t pedaling keep your pedals level, knees slightly bent and tucked in, too.
Relax. If your body is tense it will transfer to your bike and makes it much more difficult to control and steer.
Don’t try any crazy aero tuck positions. It looks cool and it is very fast but it isn’t safe. Leave it to the pros. Also, those positions don’t allow for much recovery.
Distribute your weight. On particularly steep descents. slide slightly back in the saddle to move more weight on the back of the bike.
Pedal as long as you can. Only coast when you run out of gears. Keeping your legs moving is better for your muscles as it helps to keep them warm.
Look and think ahead. And by that, I mean far ahead. Looking just in front of your wheel is a bad choice when descending fast. Because of the speed, you need a lot more time to react. Look through corners, and put your focus on the exit of the corner. Remember: your bike will go whereever you focus your view.
Lean your bike not your body. Lean your bike in the direction the road bends and you will go through turns smoothly. No need to turn the handlebars or lean your body more than your bike.
Choose a good line. Approach a corner from the outside, cut it on the inside and exit on the outside. Outside- inside- outside: going to the outside of the road helps you to have better visibility as you process where the apex of the corner is and start looking for the exit. Hit the apex (center of the turn) on the inside to take the straightest line and maintain the highest speed through a corner. Take your line to the outside again at the exit of the corner.
Corner at speed: Brake before the corner -not during- and use both brakes. Never just the front brake. The inside pedal should be up, outside pedal down. It’s very important to put pressure on the outside leg. going into turn, keep head and shoulders over outside foot.
Practice, practice, practice.
ALP Cycles Coaching is a Boulder-based coaching company with three female coaches at the helm: Alison Powers, Jennifer Sharp and Patricia Schwager.
Each coach brings her own coaching strengths and personal experiences. Road racing, track, endurance mountain biking, time trialling, making the leap to living and racing in Europe – they’ve got you covered. Find out more about Alison Powers and her Alp Cycles coaching company at here.