Everyone thinks going downhill on a road bike is a piece of cake. Well there’s actually more skill involved then you’d believe. Stephen Cuningham, Coast to Coast ambassador and former Pro Cyclist give us some tips on how to descend in style.
As you know, it’s not all up hill to Victor, so spending time on your descending skills is equally important. Quite often we leave the biggest descent until the end of our ride when there are signs of fatigue and lower levels of concentration – so here are some descending tips to help focus you on getting home safely.
Looking ahead and choosing the right line.
One of THE most important things to get right is picking the right line. I often tell my clients to visualise straightening out the road as much as possible by looking a lot further ahead than you think. Naturally, you must always be aware of upcoming hazards directly in front of you, but taking a broader look will help prepare you for those traps sooner rather than later. Prepare your position on the road well in advance before reaching a bend, anticipate how sharp the corner may be and commit yourself EARLY to the corner. I often see riders turn into a bend far too late, forcing an increased angle on of the bike, unnecessary braking and far greater risk of sliding out or worse still, riding over the white line into oncoming traffic.
Committing earlier into a corner than you are perhaps normally accustomed to will help you ‘own’ the corner and have much greater control of what may lie around the bend. Then if a corner continues to turn on you, you are well prepared and can remain committed. If a corner isn’t as sharp as anticipated, you are in a great position to straighten up and hold your speed.
Putting weight on all the right places
OK this tip isn’t a green light to go out and eat a dozen eclairs before your next ride! The emphasis here is to focus on where your weight is on the bike when approaching and riding through a corner. Be sure to put as much of your body weight as possible on your outside leg. So if you are approaching a left hand corner, have your right leg at the 5.30pm point, that is, a little forward from directly down. This encourages you to make a conscious effort in pushing the leg down, helping tighten the frame and wheels against any forward inertia and gives you far greater sense of control. On tighter corners, this will also ensure you don’t clip the inside pedal, sending you flying! It’s also important to steer the bike through a corner through some added weight on the inside arm. Always avoid turning the handlebars when descending. You should instead lean the bike through the weight of the inside hand. This combined distribution of weight will have you railing down the most technical descent.
Be aware of the front or rear wheel slide
I hear of too many down hill crashes occurring due to a front or rear wheel sliding out from underneath. This is generally a result of the rider unnecessarily angling the bike or generally due to leaning far too late into a corner. Think about exiting a corner sooner than you think rather than following a corner all the way around. Look ahead for an early exit point and make use of the road you have. The safety aspects to this approach are considerable, first of all you end up having far more tyre and grip on the road and your body weight remains over the top of the bike.
So remember, the more upright you can be by taking a straighter line, the safer you will descend.
Naturally, you should always be acutely aware of motorists both in front and behind you and there is absolutely no shame in slowing down , pulling over where safe and allowing faster traffic to overtake, particularly on the likes of Greenhill Road.
So there you have it, a few pointers on making your descending safer and hopefully more enjoyable.
Coast to Coast is taking part on Sunday 3 April. Register for free when you choose to fundraise $150 or more The Smith Family and enjoy this legendar ride.