Descending is great, so here are our tips
on going faster, safer, and have having more fun. Look where you want to go. When descending, you need to look at the road
ahead and soak up all the information you can that will help to tell you how fast you
can go. But ultimately, it’s important to look at the line you want to take, not at
the things you want to avoid. You’ll find that you naturally ride where you look, so
take your eyes off that pothole. Brake before corners, not through them. As well as scanning for possible hazards,
looking at the road ahead maximises your reaction time, which is particularly crucial for cornering.
The fastest way through a corner is to stay off your brakes, as this gives you loads more
grip. That does mean though that you’ll have to do all your braking before you get there, judging your speed so that you turn without having to brake again. When you’re
really pushing it, this makes a big big difference. If you do brake through corners though, and
most of the time you can, do it smoothly. Don’t grab the brakes, you’ll easily lose
traction. Hold your bars on the drops to increase control
and lower your centre of gravity. Descending on the drops will give you all sorts of benefits.
Firstly, you’ll generally be more aerodynamic when on the drops, so you can go faster with
less effort. Secondly, you’ll have more control, as you’re much less likely to slip
off the bars if you hit a stone or hole, and thirdly, it’ll lower your centre of gravity,
so you can carry more speed through the corners. Use all the road available to you, but no
more. It’s a difficult one this one, given that
we almost all ride on open roads all of the time. Of course, you need to be aware of traffic
risks, but trying to smooth out corners makes a big difference to the speed you can carry.
Don’t follow a corner just because the kerb takes you there. Why not use more of the road
if you can and take a smoother line, clipping the apexes? Remember though, be sensible. Look for all hazards. Riding fast needn’t be risky, you just need
to be aware of the things around you, and that means paying particular attention to the road.
Be aware not just of corners but of other obstacles like potholes, gravel, rocks, oil
on the road, anything that you really don’t want to come into contact with at higher speeds. Move your body to optimise your weight distribution. Don’t be afraid to throw your weight around.
When cornering for example, place your weight through your outside foot, with the pedal
in the six o’clock position, and also through your inside hand to help force your tyres
into the road. Get this right and it feels like you are slingshotting around corners.
When braking, get your weight back to counter the force of deceleration. Moving your weight
for different situations is key to confidence and speed. Think about your tyre pressure, particularly
on wet roads. Let’s face it, along with brakes, your tyres
are the most important piece of equipment on your bike when descending – they’re what
provide you with grip through the corners, and so it’s important that they’re in
good condition whatever tyre you’re using. Secondly, think about the pressure you’ve
got in them – lowering it for wet days, to say 80 or 90psi, depending on your weight,
will provide you with a bit more grip. The type of tyre can also make a difference, some
simply outperform others on wet roads. Continental are a particular favourite amongst pro riders,
even if they can’t publicly admit it. Give riders around you enough space to do
unexpected things, particularly in sportives and gran fondos. You can control everything
that you do, but what you can’t control is what other riders or road users are doing.
On open roads, you need to be prepared for anything, and that means giving other cyclists
plenty of space, and making sure that you’ve got enough braking room for almost any eventuality. Don’t pedal through sharp corners in case
you strike your pedal on the road. This can be a really hard thing to judge,
but pedalling around sharp corners, or starting to pedal too early on the exit can lead to
your pedal making contact with the tarmac. This can be disastrous, as inevitably it’ll
cause your rear wheel to skip in the air, at which point you’ll be lucky not to make
contact with the tarmac yourself. It’s something which even the pros get wrong on occasion,
as this slow-mo of Alberto Contador in 2013 shows perfectly. Follow experienced descenders to learn. Sometimes you just need to be taken a little
bit out of your comfort zone to move your speed on a bit. You might think you’re on
the limit, but sometimes you can be shown first-hand just how much faster you can go.
Following another rider is a great way to learn, particularly taking their lines through
corners and judging braking. Be careful who you choose to follow though. Good descenders
are fast, but not all fast descenders are good. Lucky number 11: Have confidence in your equipment Start thinking about your front quick release
when descending and I can almost guarantee you’ll reach for the brakes. You need to
trust the integrity of your bike when you’re going quickly, and that could be fixed by something
as simple as having a routine pre-ride check to make sure you’re happy with your bike.