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  1. #1
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    How to speed tuck like Sammy Sanchez...

    Anyone who watched Stage 19 of the TdF saw SS bomb the backside of the Golibier in a full tuck position to bridge the gap up to the group of leaders. I, for one, was pretty dam impressed. He pretty much pressed his torso flat against the top tube, butt below the saddle, and hands on the bars close to the stem.

    I've tried it a few times but the bike gets nervous as I get above 50mph, which also gets me pretty nervous... I keep my pedals level and press my thighs against the top tube and knees against the forward part of the down tube. Am I not applying enough forward pressure to the bars?

  2. #2
    fuggitivo solitario
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    Few things:

    -He used different tucking positions on the descent. The butt-below-saddle tuck is one of the most unstable positions there is as it greatly shifts your weight forward. He did this for the straighter sections only.
    -I wouldn't do a full tuck on any road in this area. One is that most of the downhills are not steep enough to get you up to high speed, and the second is that i've seen deer crossing the downhills. It's one thing one you are in a race and have a lead car that scares away any critters, but it's quite different to be descending like that on your own.

    Edit: that said, i've done 47.5mph down Lake Welch Pkwy in an aero tuck; however, on the climb back up to Harriman, i saw the deers mentioned above.
    Last edited by echappist; 07-24-11 at 03:58 PM.

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    have you heard the expression.."don't try this at home"...if you and/or your bike is "nervous" at 50 mph...just don't do it.

    Some frames and wheels are prone to speed wobbles at 30+ mph, seems like large (60 cm?) steel frames can have this problem. I was descending a straight road of 9% at 45mph, and went past a guy in a speed wobble, scared the **it out of me, I thought we were both going down.

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    How much do you weigh?

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    Ok, now that we've got the disclaimers out of the way, really, how does Sammy Sanchez do it?

    Quote Originally Posted by kenji666 View Post
    How much do you weigh?
    157

  6. #6
    fuggitivo solitario
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    Quote Originally Posted by rushbikes View Post
    Ok, now that we've got the disclaimers out of the way, really, how does Sammy Sanchez do it?


    157
    how does one get to Carnegie Hall?

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    Senior Member wens's Avatar
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    [smartass response]follow the directions at maps.google.com [/smartass response]
    Do you think we're gonna make it? / I don't know unless we try \ you could sit here scared to move / or we could take them by surprise

  8. #8
    fuggitivo solitario
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    Quote Originally Posted by wens View Post
    [smartass response]follow the directions at maps.google.com [/smartass response]

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by echappist View Post
    how does one get to Carnegie Hall?
    Kind of expected the BF answer to be either HTFU or upgrade your piano components...

  10. #10
    Not actually Tmonk TMonk's Avatar
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    ^
    this isn't the 41.
    "Your beauty is an aeroplane;
    so high, my heart cannot bear the strain." -A.C. Jobim, Triste

  11. #11
    fuggitivo solitario
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    Quote Originally Posted by rushbikes View Post
    Kind of expected the BF answer to be either HTFU or upgrade your piano components...
    seriously, go back and rewatch the footage. Sanchez didn't do the full tuck the entire way down.

    weight has nothing to do with it, having a large pair, having the right geometry, and practice make you descend fast. A teammate who's 10-15 lbs lighter can descend a lot faster than i do on Lake Welch. I just happen to refuse to do anything unnecessarily dangerous. As he's from the hilly part of Taiwan, any road he rides up, he must ride down. He got a ton of practice that way.

    one last thing: why do you want to do a full tuck? I can power down most hills in the area at 42mph (say the state line hill), but a full aero tuck gives me only 39-40mph. It's quite frigging pointless if you are not racing, and even then, the risk:benefit ratio is higher than most things in cycling.

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    Full tucks are the only way to get above a certain speed, at least with normal gearing and normal cadence (like up to 140-150 rpm).

    To pull out of a full tuck takes less than half a second. I tested this after reading misguided advice on not using full tucks on public roads. Sure, there's a higher risk of something weird happening, but that's a risk we take every time we ride outside. I mean, who'd expect to get run off the road, then the car to back up and run over the bike, "just to be sure"? It happened around here.

    So, as far as tuck goes...

    Weight shouldn't be an issue. I've done full tucks at 103 lbs (college), broken 60 mph after sprinting to over 50 mph, burned my chin on my front tire on some high speed waves (chest thumping waves which I didn't know existed until I hit them at 50+ mph), etc etc. I've also done mid 50s (haven't broken 60 for a long time) weighing in from that low number to a bit over 200 lbs, like 215 lbs.

    Height is an issue, indirectly, because of frame stiffness and geometry. If you have any noodly bits up front (fork, head tube), the bike will get really unsteady. The original Giant TCRs were horrible on descents, wobbling almost immediately. Johan Bruyneel won a stage of the Tour on a bike and crossing the finish he had a wobble and almost crashed at the line (two man sprint - I think he was riding a Look frame). I watched two guys in a race a couple weeks ago wobbling virtually all the time, one big tall guy, one shorter smaller guy. All these bikes have something going on in the front end, either not enough weight up front, too flexy a fork, too flexy a head tube, something. A rock solid front end really helps with front end stability, hence everyone going with the large lower headset bearing, allowing the fork to be wider and stiffer.

    I noticed that my front wheel does not turn so I can notice, even when I'm making huge efforts, even when my body is moving around. Front wheel, when I look down, is going straight.

    So how do you tuck?

    First, you should be steering your bike with your hips. You should have almost no steering input to the bars. This is critical, not instinctive, and the way you ride in a tight field. It also allows you to let go of the bar momentarily without losing control of the bike.

    Second, start wherever on the bars. Since you're on a descent, you should be on the drops. You should not be on the hoods, and if you think this is wrong, it's your head, your helmet, just don't ride in front of me. You probably won't be on the tops because of the next bit. You'll probably do a little sprint to get up to speed, hit maybe 40-45 mph, comfortable effort shifting as you accelerate, get into top gear, spin it up.

    Third. Now you're going 40-45 mph, holding the drops. You're nice and stable, have easy reach to the brakes, good steering control, and if you hit some bump you can't see, your sweaty hands or wet gloves won't go flying off the hoods (ahem). Now you want to tuck. There are two options, both good for straight or slightly curving roads only. You cannot dive into a hairpin in either tuck.

    A. You tuck from the drops. I scoot forward until my arms/shoulders/chest kind of merge, chest typically just above the bars, head well over front wheel. By being on the drops you have best emergency control, i.e. scoot back onto saddle and you're in a great reaction position.

    I find this compromise tuck is good to about 50 mph, no more than that.

    B. You tuck the real tuck. This means getting narrow up front, getting your forearms and elbows out of the air. You should hold the bars right next to the stem (while seated). You know that holding the bars next to the stem allows you the most margin of error when making accidental steering inputs into the bars, right? For example, whenever you need to ride one handed for a while (without having to stop) you hold the bar right next to the stem, right? If you're getting a tow at over 50 mph on bumpy New England roads, you hold the bar next to the stem.

    This tuck is good to max speed. I've broken 60 mph in this tuck. Nowadays I'm self-limited to about 55 mph, partly because I suddenly got paranoid about crashing at high speed.

    Since you're holding the bars next to the stem you can actually ride one handed for a bit, like to push your riding partner forward to accelerate them. Pros do this somewhat regularly on long descents, esp when trying to get some action going.

    Question is how to recover from the super tuck when confronted with something unusual like a deer or a car pulling out of a driveway, or something expected like a switchback? You just reverse the process. The compromise tuck is easy, all you do is slide back and sit on the saddle. The full tuck is almost as easy - you just slide back (hands still holding next to the stem), then move your hands to the drops. On bumpy roads or when using aero wheels I do one at a time, on smoother roads or non-aero wheels I do both at once. Since grabbing the bars does NOT put any steering input into them (since I generally steer with my hips, so I'm used to not putting any input into the bars), I'm stable right away.

    I can do this in about 40 feet of road at speed, maybe 50 or 60 feet if I'm hauling. Granted I haven't started to hit the brakes or whatever but I can recover to my drops very quickly. This means I can tuck even in short sections of road between switchbacks (like down Palomar) or on sweepers out in northern CT where I sometimes ride.

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    Thanks for this. Although doesn't really help me understand how to overcome the twitchiness of the bike. When I'm in tuck (A), I have no issues because my hands are in the drops which gives me sufficient leverage to keep the steering stable. When I shift into tuck (B) with my hands next to the stem, I'm fine 'til about 50mph and then I can feel the bike get nervous so I usually go back into the drops and shift my weight back a bit. Who knows, like you said, may just be the bike...

    Also, about the whole leverage thing... I can see that your stability is greater riding with your hand close to the stem when you're riding with only one hand because you don't have the other hand to counter the weight. It's essentially like riding with no hands rather than risking oversteering in either direction with an unstable hand on the hood or drop. I'm having difficulty seeing how it's more stable if you have two hands available.

  14. #14
    Resident Alien Racer Ex's Avatar
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    Bike stability is somewhat inherent in the bike itsefl but mostly inherent in your position. If you're locked in and supported the bike will be more stable. And it does come down to the fear factor at some point.

    I end up with my shoulders leaning on the bars...hard to move that even if you hit a big bump.

  15. #15
    gmt Grumpy McTrumpy's Avatar
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    I use this position a lot. No issues with headshake/wobble/whatever. the bike gets more stable as speed increases.


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    Senior Member shovelhd's Avatar
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    I only do this if I know the road and the road conditions. If it's sketchy, then I'll stay low on the drops and keep pedaling. Driving through the road hazards tends to keep me more stable than letting gravity do the work.

    That's a nice shot of you, Grumpy.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by rushbikes View Post
    Thanks for this. Although doesn't really help me understand how to overcome the twitchiness of the bike. When I'm in tuck (A), I have no issues because my hands are in the drops which gives me sufficient leverage to keep the steering stable. When I shift into tuck (B) with my hands next to the stem, I'm fine 'til about 50mph and then I can feel the bike get nervous so I usually go back into the drops and shift my weight back a bit. Who knows, like you said, may just be the bike...

    Also, about the whole leverage thing... I can see that your stability is greater riding with your hand close to the stem when you're riding with only one hand because you don't have the other hand to counter the weight. It's essentially like riding with no hands rather than risking oversteering in either direction with an unstable hand on the hood or drop. I'm having difficulty seeing how it's more stable if you have two hands available.
    Twitchiness - I reread my post, I realized that I "wrote in gaps in my post" that pushed one line away from the others.

    "I noticed that my front wheel does not turn so I can notice, even when I'm making huge efforts, even when my body is moving around. Front wheel, when I look down, is going straight."

    My bike is inherently stable because 1: I chose/specified a bike with a rigid front end and rigid fork and 2: I don't steer when I ride normally, meaning when going in a straightish line. The first bit is easy to check, your bike will be unstable pretty much immediately, like at 30 or 40 mph.

    (Corollary to the stability thing - aero front wheels reduce stability. With a 60mm tall front rim I'm maxed out to about 50 mph, and 52 mph was pretty scary. Granted I was drafting an 18 wheeler so I was being buffeted by the wind, but still. I use box section front wheels when planning for fast descents. On the other hand a tall rear wheel stabilizes the bike, so I'll use a taller wheel for stability. I used a box front and Zipp 440 rear - tallest rim at the time - when I hit my record top speed. Nowadays it's usually a HED non-aero front Ardennes rim with a Jet9 on the rear.)

    If your bike gets twitchy closer to 50 mph (and you're not riding a first generation TCR fork or similar) then you may be inadvertently steering while you're riding normally, hence what I wrote in that misplaced line (unfortunately with no further explanation).

    Using two hands near the stem makes your bike significantly more stable while in a tuck. For me it's even more stable than holding the drops because I don't have fine enough muscle control to avoid steering inputs into the bars while going 55 mph and hitting bumps and moving over the bike as the bike hits high speed "pavement waves" and looking around to make sure things are clear and stuff. When holding next to the stem I can go full speed, hit minor bumps etc, and still hold a straight line.

    Also, I didn't clarify, but at 45-50 mph, with hands near the stem, I can reach out and gently push another rider. For example if I'm behind someone and gaining on them, I can roll up to them (speed delta maybe 3-8 mph, actual speeds might be +/-45 mph), hold out one hand, and give the other rider a nudge forward. I'll slow down a bit ("-x"), he'll accelerate ("+x"), and now we're working together at about the same speed. You can repeat this often to increase average speed on a descent. I only do this with riders with whom I trust my life because, frankly, I'm trusting them with my life at that moment.

    Finally you need to be looking up the road (or down it, on a descent). I'm looking pretty much where the road disappears from view, and if it's further than I can see, then I'm looking at the furthest point where I can distinguish major road hazards. I'm not super worried about little things, I can make minor trajectory adjustments, it's the foot deep pothole or the shoulder that disappears or the 4 way intersection coming up that worries me.

    I'm also looking for escape routes almost constantly. The scariest descents are those with no escape route, like heavy traffic on the other side of the road, a guardrail and a cliff on my side. Going 45 down that is more scary than going 55 down a hill with relatively soft bushes on one side or a creek or whatever.

    Finally it's a matter of steepness. I have to get into the mode to tuck on extremely steep hills (15+%), i.e. I have to get used to them. I also have to get over the idea that my inertia will prevent me from slowing naturally. I rarely descend down such things so it's a bit unnerving for me. Many of my current descents top out at about 10%, about 48-50 mph top speed if I sprint a bit, about 40 mph if I just coast. To hit descents where I feel like I can't even tuck (19%), where if I just coast I'm going well over 50 mph, that makes me nervous.

    When I first started racing someone mistakenly told me to hold the tops like I was doing a curl, so fingers up, knuckles down. This is how I was holding the bars when I burnt my chin on the front tire. Somehow I avoided crashing for years until I tried it with knuckles up, fingers down. I haven't burnt my chin since and I feel a lot more stable.

    When I first started my blog I swore I'd do a post with pictures of tucks, but I haven't done it yet. I still want to do it.

  18. #18
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    Watch for a few minutes then check out Sagan on the descent. Don't need a tuck to fly down a descent.

  19. #19
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    Watch out for conspiracy theory type thinking where you focus on proof in a particular direction without taking into account other conflicting evidence. You can find a descent where a tuck isn't necessary (or even safe) but that doesn't mean that tucks don't happen or that tucks don't increase speed.

    On a narrow winding descent, no, you don't need a tuck, mainly because you can't corner or brake in a tuck. Also there are tactical considerations - if racers may attack one another then it's better to be ready to respond to an attack. When descending "together" then tactics takes a back seat as much as efficiency becomes more important.



    Watch at about 0:42. Also note that this is a fast descent, wide open, and the group is interested not in attacking one another but in simply going fast enough. There's a combination of "compromise" tucks, full tucks, and the non-tuck. There's also cooperative riding, where faster riders "help" the slower riders (I'm guessing the slower guys are either lighter or they've been in the wind).

    Tucks are one of many positions a rider can use on a bike. It's useful to be comfortable being in that position. As a rider it's better to be more complete, so it's better to be more versatile technically than to limit yourself to a subset of what's possible.

  20. #20
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    I forgot one thing. With an aero front wheel I rarely do a full tuck above 50 mph. The front wheel gets too unstable. I'll remain in a compromise tuck over 50.

  21. #21
    Fast for a sloth miwoodar's Avatar
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    So far I have refused to sit on my top tube at speed. I max out around 35 or so (edit to add: due to fear). I've ridden with a handful of guys that do it and seeing them dart/skip all over the road scares the crap out of me. I find that I can keep pace with the position below.

    CDR, I think this is the position you're referring to in B. Yes? (velonews, Zirbel, Gila) This is what I have been practicing lately. I tried going straight to the high speed stuff but backed off and went to practicing at ~25 mph, then 30, then 40, now I can take it to the low 50's before I run out of good road on the local hill. The only moment that scares me is when I need to put myself back into position A.

    ZirbelGila5_411-103-660x990.jpg
    Last edited by miwoodar; 07-28-11 at 09:10 AM.

  22. #22
    fuggitivo solitario
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    Quote Originally Posted by miwoodar View Post
    So far I have refused to sit on my top tube at speed. I max out around 35 or so (edit to add: due to fear). I've ridden with a handful of guys that do it and seeing them dart/skip all over the road scares the crap out of me. I find that I can keep pace with the position below.

    CDR, I think this is the position you're referring to in B. Yes? (velonews, Zirbel, Gila) This is what I have been practicing lately. I tried going straight to the high speed stuff but backed off and went to practicing at ~25 mph, then 30, then 40, now I can take it to the low 50's before I run out of good road on the local hill. The only moment that scares me is when I need to put myself back into position A.

    ZirbelGila5_411-103-660x990.jpg
    that's a very good position.

    and frankly, creating a gap in the downhill is done when negotiating turns, not on straight descents, which usually results in the pack coming back together anyway

  23. #23
    Fast for a sloth miwoodar's Avatar
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    Looking a little closer at TomZ's position. I don't think my bum is quite that high. I also bring my knees, and sometimes elbows, in firmly against the top tube to help settle the bike. I've never experienced speed wobble and I would like to keep it that way.

    I just looked up Sanchez's position expecting it to be pretty similar. Wow, that's aggressive. My chin ends up touching my powertap. I don't think I have enough torso to pull off a SS.

    220x.jpg

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    Zirbel is still on his saddle, hence his butt is high. I forgot about this position - call it a compromise B, i.e. one step from being in a full on tuck.

    Sliding forward on the saddle until you've really weighted the bars and your hips drop down a bit, that's the real tuck, i.e. SS. Your hands should be under your chest, not under your chin or neck.

    To return to the drops I ease back to the Zirbel position and reposition my hands, both at once on straight/smooth roads, one at a time if doing a curve or if there are bumps. I hit every actual turn while in the drops.

    As far as gaps go, it's not just attacking as echappist alludes. As a poor climber I try and make up ground on descents. In the Gimbles ride (when I did it), if I went long, I'd start the 2 or so miles of step climbs at the front. I'd be at or off the back of 70-80 riders by the time we all crested the last step. There's a quick drop to a right hand turn, maybe half a mile? I'd usually be in the first 4-5 riders going through that turn. I'm tweaked when I crest but using a tuck I pick up a lot of ground on riders just coasting on the hoods or drops. There are a few curves but no turns on the descent.

    Also, on that non-tuck descent by Cunego (who is one of the better descenders out there), he's obviously going fast around the turns. I started the Palomar descent with a good friend and former teammate (my leadout man). After about a mile of descending I pulled over as my friend had disappeared. I thought maybe he flatted or something. But a minute later he rolled by. I took it easier and we did the rest of the descent together.

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    True, good point. Where I live the roads are predominantly steep narrow windy and not always the best, so very rarely do we get the chance to tuck. The pics above indicate it as well.

    I've broken 60mph on a descent in the drops. Won't do that on that road again ever.

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