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  1. #1
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    Coasting vs pedaling down hills

    I came across an interesting blog post recommending coasting rather than pedaling down hill when speed exceeds 50 km/hr (~31 MPH). That value is based on data from a typical (70 kg/155 lb) triathlete.

    My Monday morning sun- and beer-assaulted brain is struggling with whether that tipping-point speed would be higher, lower, or the same for a heavier rider.

    Any thoughts or experience?

  2. #2
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    1 - I won't push it on the downhills unless I'm racing.
    2 - I only race SSCX, and I don't think I've ever hit 31+ in a race
    3 - I easily top 31 while coasting on my commute, but it's my *commute*, I'm not hammering the downhills
    "I feel like my world was classier before I found cyclocross."
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    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    I love to coast but sometimes something twiches ni my brain that makes me wild and I have pushed to some dramatic MAX speeds. well, dramatic for me. more times than not though, I have had regrets for going so wild.
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

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    Senior Member Big Pete 1982's Avatar
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    I have a 50/34 crank with 11-28 cog. If I'm going over 30mph, my cadence would have to be over 100 rpm in my biggest gear. That seems pointless to me. I usually just get low and aerodynamic as possible and coast until I slow to about 28 mph then I pedal in my biggest gear and try to maintain my momentum for as long as possible.

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    Senior Member CommuteCommando's Avatar
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    The more mass you are carrying, the faster you are going to coast down hill. I tend to pedal at an "off interval pace", if only to insure that I am in the right gear to start pedaling out at the bottom of the hill, rather than start spinning madly from being in too low a gear. I do sometimes pedal hard going down hill on rollers to have enough inertia to top out of the following small rise with decent speed.
    Last edited by CommuteCommando; 07-16-12 at 12:59 PM.
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    Senior Member Mithrandir's Avatar
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    My max gearing, at 90rpm, gives me 30mph.


    I coast down hills.


    I'm usually too tired to pedal too fast anyhow, since I spent all my energy hauling my fat ass up the hill in the first place!

  7. #7
    Senior Member Mithrandir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Big Pete 1982 View Post
    I have a 50/34 crank with 11-28 cog. If I'm going over 30mph, my cadence would have to be over 100 rpm in my biggest gear. That seems pointless to me. I usually just get low and aerodynamic as possible and coast until I slow to about 28 mph then I pedal in my biggest gear and try to maintain my momentum for as long as possible.
    50/11 @ 100rpm should be around 35-36mph actually.

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    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    It depends on what you are doing and what you want out of your ride. If I'm racing I'm pedaling up to the 45-50mph range but there are diminishing returns the faster you go. If I'm riding with friends and want to put the hurt on them I will pedal on descents. Mainly because they are skinny little climber boys and they don't have the power that I have so it's fun to return the pain they give me on climbs. I would disagree with Mr. Friel a bit. If I'm racing, there is no way I'd be coasting at >50kph, that number would be closer to 64kph. As an example, there is a race I do that has a long (25mile) descent of 1-3% grade that many racers coast on at about 30-35mph, I put my bike in it's 60/11 gear and can easily hold 40-45mph the whole way and I always pass a boatload of racers through that section, some of them like they are standing still. One note, I run big gears, that would not make as much sense if you are running lower gears like a compact crank.
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

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    60T front chainring, awesome.

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    Senior Member WonderMonkey's Avatar
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    If you are trying to set a new PR for the smear of skin, bone and gristle on the road then I suggest peddling as hard as you can.

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    Senior Member tony_merlino's Avatar
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    In the days when I wasn't so chicken, I would pedal as hard as I could in my biggest gear at the beginning of a descent, to help out the acceleration due to gravity. And then, as another poster described, maybe start pumping again as things started to slow down.

    Nowadays, I ride the brakes if I start going much over 30 mph.
    L'asino di Buridano...

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    I use down hill as recovery. Very rarely will I pedal.
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    Senior Member CJ C's Avatar
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    If your not coasting down a hill yelling "Wheeeee wh wh Wheeeeee", then you are not enjoying cycling.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Homeyba View Post
    It depends on what you are doing and what you want out of your ride.
    Not a race situation or a fun blast down a hill, but rather wanting to:

    1. maximize average speed on long solo rides and centuries
    2. save energy and recover from a climb

    The more I think about it, a heavy rider would benefit to begin to coast at a slower speed relative to that of a lighter rider. A heavier rider will coast faster than a light rider. Therefore, the energy used to increase speed is used to overcome wind drag which is greater as speed increases.

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    Senior Member tony_merlino's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CJ C View Post
    If your not coasting down a hill yelling "Wheeeee wh wh Wheeeeee", then you are not enjoying cycling.
    I think this attitude is inversely proportional to the number of accidents you've had. I love riding my bike. But I'm not so crazy about going over 50 mph on it anymore.
    L'asino di Buridano...

  16. #16
    SuperGimp TrojanHorse's Avatar
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    Depends on the circumstance... I don't race so any results I get are purely for my own enjoyment.

    Short ride? Pedal furiously down all hills.

    really long ride? A lot more coasting.

    38 mph is usually my cutoff - I have a 52/11 combo.

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    Most of the time I use downhills to enjoy the ride, and coast. They're also a break from constant pedaling.

    The biggest problem I have around here is staying warm on long descents; the day may not be cold in absolute terms, but I'm hot from the climb and I'm riding down to where the cool air hangs out. Paved hills that allow some speed, I'll pedal to stay warm. Steep dirt hills I'll alternate riding and walking to stay warm. I've tried pedaling against the brakes but it doesn't work very well. Walking is easier on the bike and better for me.

    But there was one day... we had an unusual wind from the north, and I was on a straight and wide road with the wind at my back and about 6% downgrade. I spun the bike out in top gear (probably something like 44/11), hunkered down a little over the handlebars. It felt really fast. The bike was very stable at that speed. I should have yelled "Wheeeeeeeeeee!"

  18. #18
    Senior Member goldfinch's Avatar
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    I can't go down the hills like you guys and am always getting passed by people coasting, as my legs spin wildly trying my best to keep up. I finally gave that up and now do better coasting down the hills. Rest time. Before my resting was on the uphill side.

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    Keep in mind that Joe Friel is definately oriented toward endurance racing. And, in this case, that advice was borrowed from Alan Couzens and is specific to athlete's participating in "Ironman" length triathlons where Friel's theories on athletic "economy" really start to become a concern. For athletes expending the sort of energy it takes to complete an Ironman, "where" and "how" you expend that energy becomes increasing important.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by CJ C View Post
    If your not coasting down a hill yelling "Wheeeee wh wh Wheeeeee", then you are not enjoying cycling.
    Any other truisms we need to know so we can finally enjoy cycling? Sheesh.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tony_merlino View Post
    I think this attitude is inversely proportional to the number of accidents you've had. I love riding my bike. But I'm not so crazy about going over 50 mph on it anymore.
    Oh Tony, you don't have to exceed 50 to go, "Wheeeeeee!". In fact, "Wheeeeeee" Cycling precludes going any speed other than the one you are happy with for any spot on a ride.
    Birth Certificate, Passport, Marriage License Driver's License and Residency Permit all say I'm a Fred. I guess there's no denying it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
    Any other truisms we need to know so we can finally enjoy cycling? Sheesh.
    There are quite a few with regard to when, where and what type of pie to consume:-)
    Birth Certificate, Passport, Marriage License Driver's License and Residency Permit all say I'm a Fred. I guess there's no denying it.

  23. #23
    Climbers Apprentice vesteroid's Avatar
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    I do both. On long constant grade descents, I usually coast and use my brakes to handle the corners. On grades where they lessen up then get steeper, I usually pedal through them. On slight grades, I usually pedal all the way down. I watch my watts and try not to push much more than 175 going down. I get a break and still get a little faster.

    I do not race, and ride for fitness and fun, so take this for what its worth.

  24. #24
    Senior Member CJ C's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
    Any other truisms we need to know so we can finally enjoy cycling? Sheesh.
    If you are reading too much into random postings on the internet and not getting the humor, then your not enjoying cycling. double sheesh

  25. #25
    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bigfred View Post
    Keep in mind that Joe Friel is definately oriented toward endurance racing. And, in this case, that advice was borrowed from Alan Couzens and is specific to athlete's participating in "Ironman" length triathlons where Friel's theories on athletic "economy" really start to become a concern. For athletes expending the sort of energy it takes to complete an Ironman, "where" and "how" you expend that energy becomes increasing important.
    I was thinking about this while out on a ride today and realized that his advice is triathlon specific so it doesn't necessarily translate directly to other forms of racing/riding. Triathlon (road) courses rarely have climbs on any real consequence.
    It's kind of funny that he bills himself as an "endurance" racing coach when in reality he's a triathlon coach. I don't really consider that endurance but I guess it's relative. He does know his stuff though and always has pretty good advice even if it is triathlon specific.
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

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