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Old 07-05-05, 07:25 PM   #1
Bacco
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Lost nerve

I never felt totally confident on fast descents going around blind curves. A few weeks ago, I hit a stone in the road and almost lost it. This was exactly the same place where I had seen two other guys get seriously hurt over the past two years when they wiped out on gravel or broken pavement. Now I am really nervous and braking like crazy on fast downhill curves. Even, blue-haired women are passing me!

I feel like my sense of balance is not all that great. Maybe its aging (I'm almost 60) or maybe it's all just pscyhological. The question is what can I do to improve my sense of balance, cornering, and most of all, my confidence. I undersand and use proper cornering technique - that kept me from wiping out when I hit the stone a few weeks ago and the front wheel popped several inches to the side.

Should I just follow people down the hill and assume if they make it that I will? Are there any exercises I could do to improve my balance and cornering?
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Old 07-05-05, 08:08 PM   #2
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These are great questions and I look forward to the answers as well. I get a bit nervous going downhill and "ride the brakes" perhaps too much. However, I haven't fallen yet and I'd rather be slow than sorry!
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Old 07-05-05, 10:32 PM   #3
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If you feel your balance isn't as good as it used to be and you like down hill speed, you might consider switching to a recumbent trike. That's what I've done.
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Old 07-06-05, 07:50 AM   #4
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Bacco,
If you want to increase your personal balance ability you could always get an
exercise ball or buy one of those devices that looks like 1/2 of a ball that is made
for standing on, whose name escapes me at the moment. They are available at
local exercise shops. Yoga classes are great for helping with balance and a host
of other things.

As for being on a bike; well you are almost 60 so you must have some common
sense so why not let that be your guide? I ride for fun and not to scare myself to
the point that the dampness in my shorts is not sweat. So what if you get passed?
As a former motorcycle rider I was always taught that you must prepare for the
unexpected, and as such should never ride at 10/10'ths. A close friend came around
a curve and saw a fridge in the road in his path but was able to swerve. If he had
been going flat out he might not still be my friend. If you are out there for yourself,
why does it matter if the blue-rinse set passes you? Enjoy the ride...at your pace.

Hope this helped some.

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Old 07-06-05, 08:44 AM   #5
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Gravel is the worst. Your fears are normal. You just need a few successful passes through that area to get your confidence (and speed) back up.
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Old 07-06-05, 08:55 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bacco
Should I just follow people down the hill and assume if they make it that I will?
Ummmm....probably not. I'd advise keeping a good distance between yourself and other riders until you gain more confidence on hills. That'll also improve your ability to see road hazards.
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Old 07-06-05, 09:34 AM   #7
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I crashed severely five months ago in a long descent on a road I'd never ridden before. An invisible ledge in the pavement was my downfall. Now, when I'm on new ground, I take it easy. When I'm on a familiar route, I enjoy the speed.
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Old 07-06-05, 12:07 PM   #8
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I try to ride within my limits. At 56 I know my response time and balance are not what they used to be.
I still ride a lot of mtb, almost always with people younger than myself. If I know that my technical abilities are equal to the riders who make it down a particular downhill I'll go. If not, I'll be cautious about it.

The same goes for the road. I've backed off more than once when I did not feel good about the road surface, speed, whatever. When I do feel good about it though, I'll hit the hammer(or try to).
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Old 07-07-05, 02:00 PM   #9
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I ride off road, and normally come off at least once a year at speed, hence the 3 new helmets in 4 years, but last November I had a heavy fall. Big hole in the knee and a bit of Blood from the calfs. It hurt a bit for a couple of weeks and yet another helmet. I have noticed that since then, I have been a bit wary on the descents. All that changed last week when I once again found myself at the bottom of the hill waiting for the others for what seemed a long time.
I have now analysed what was different on the ride, and I have sussed out that I put a different tyre on for Sunday morning. A puncture and split in the casing meant that the front Tyre I have using since last November could not be used. Looked at the spare tyres and as it was dry, I put on the tyre that I changed after the accident in November. It gave me all the confidence back that has been lacking.
I know that I am going fast downhill when the vision goes blurry. Just a change of tyre and my confidence came back to such an extent, that I am beginning to think about changing my glasses to be able to see the track again.
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Old 07-09-05, 08:58 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bacco
Even, blue-haired women are passing me!....I feel like my sense of balance is not all that great...I undersand and use proper cornering technique - that kept me from wiping out when I hit the stone a few weeks ago and the front wheel popped several inches to the side.
And what is the problem with blue-haired women passing you? At our age, we should have learned it is best to compare our performance with our previous performance. It takes longer to recover from a spill now than it did at age 25. I strip off many mph on downhills so I don't have to worry about spills. And this is just from one blowout on a fast downhill.

Cycling is much different than biking. If you want speed, get a bike and put on the leathers. A little pebble won't phase a harley. Biking means no leathers, only protections are helmet, gloves, and wisdom.

If you ride this route often, you might consider putting on a wider tire to swallow up the stones easier. For training, you might consider using mtb pads for elbows and knees. If I wanted speed on blind curves, I'll use mtb gear. But currently, I'ld rather sacrifice speed on blind curves and not have to deal with the extra gear.

Good luck.
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Old 07-09-05, 09:11 AM   #11
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Thank goodness you recovered from hitting the rock, Bacco. Otherwise the title of this thread would be "Lost Skin" (or worse) instead of "Lost Nerve".

If you had nerve before, you will regain it in time. Watching the line of a rider ahead is a helpful, especially on unfamiliar roads. The only exercise I could suggest would be to practice the same downhill over and over. Confidence will come from familiarity.
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Old 07-10-05, 06:08 PM   #12
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If you don't like going fast, go slow. I had a bad crash five years ago, at age 55, and as far as I know it didn't cause any lasting psychological harm--I looked forward to riding again after five or six weeks, and enjoyed it just as much. But I definitely HAVE slowed down a bit on fast descents, even though I don't feel nervous or afraid on them.
I justify it two ways:
1. I ride mostly for exercise anyway, and I don't get any less of it coasting down a hill at 35 than at 45mph.
2. Everything on the bike was bought off a clearance table and installed and maintained by me.
Plus I'm not racing, so no one but me will ever know if I braked a little early for a curve. I'm long past the point where I have to prove I'm as foolhardy as I was in my 20s
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Old 07-11-05, 12:36 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by globie
I crashed severely five months ago in a long descent on a road I'd never ridden before. An invisible ledge in the pavement was my downfall. Now, when I'm on new ground, I take it easy. When I'm on a familiar route, I enjoy the speed.
Sightline, long view, avoiding target fixation, proper bike prep and analysing road layout and condition are everything.
Even on 'familiar' ground I would never suggest outriding a safe buffer sightline that would allow one to 'avoid' an obstacle that suddenly appears. Face it, we don;t ride in the 'Tour' on closed roads. We need to account for sideroads and driveways that allow vehicle traffic to enter your line. If you ride like you 'own' the road you're asking for serious trouble.
On a road where merging traffic doesn't exist and sightlines allow you to see far enough to identify obstacles and avoid trouble, by all means go for it. Keep your vision far down the road/trail. Don;t target fixate on 'the obstacle' for you'll surely hit it. Analysis the apparent topography cause it will give clues as to what to expect ahead. Ride 'closed' turns more conservatively than open turns that you can see all the way to exit and beyond. Use a receding vanishing point to moderate and reduce speed, use an advancing one to see farther and allow increased speed. Use topography to caution you to road conditions, i.e., a steep cliff along a road should warn you to expect loose sand, gravel, rocks running water on the inside of turns. Small or nonexistant shoulders should also have you expecting sand/gravel/stuff on turn insides carried on to it by motor vehicles.
Predefine ways that you can comfortably handle obstacles, i.e. - holes and lifted pavement, are you capable of 'hopping' these?
Descending is a thinking rider's game. If you have your head in the clouds you'll surely leave your ass on the road.
Make sure your bike is fully operational and in top shape before you tackle that 8 mile descent.
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Old 07-11-05, 05:38 AM   #14
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Probably not a lot to add that others have not already offered but will take a second to provide my insights. I was pretty much in your state of mind about a year ago.

I had recently suffered a very nasty crash from descending too fast on a very curvy, dowhiller. I got into a blind curve (right turn) and was going about twice as fast as I should have been. Consequently my speed had thrown me out into the oncoming lane and I was heading off the road. I had about 1 second of response time to make a decision to either go off the side of the mountain or somehow go down.

I wound up locking up both the front and rear wheels and wound up going over the handlebars. I landed on my head but my helmet saved me from serious head injuries. I wound up with fractured ribs and a separated shoulder and felt extremely fortunate with just those injuries. I remain very thankful that there was not a car coming up the mountain in that curve otherwise it would have been really ugly.

For a good while afterwards, I was overly cautious with any descents on roads I did not know. I still consider myself very much a novice but have found a happy medium between crawling down a descent versus getting down as fast as humanly possible. My goal is to get down the descent as quickly as I SAFELY can.

Fortunately for me most of the nervousness of the crash while descending has done it's time. I'm still a LOT more cautious on descents that I have not ridden before until I know the route. If possible, it's really helpful to ride behind others who know the road and lines to take. Of course, gravel, sand and other debris can be extremely hazardous so I ride a curve much differently if debris is there-always trying to go through as upright (not leaning) as possible.

The best tip I've gotten since my crash is to look where you want the bike to go. A few weeks ago I found myself in a curve and felt I was going too fast for the curve. I looked to where I NEEDED to go and the bike followed nicely-a little quicker turn and more lean than I'm normally comfortable with but it pulled through very nicely.

Descending at a fast but comfortable speed can be a heck of a lot of fun. Again, my tips to enjoying it more are to know the route, watch for debris and look where you want the bike to go.
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Old 07-16-05, 11:58 PM   #15
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Sounds very sane to me. Your head says Yikes, This is scary!! I know the feeling. I often brake and get passed on downhills and then forge on and pass on uphills. Been this way all my life, with XC skiing, running trail hills and now cycling. It's natural to me to be scared especially when you have seen a crash or two and they replay in your mind. Confidence will build again but it might be easier if you gave yourself permission to go down as slowly as you feel confident and don't push or compare with anyone else. Knowing the road and it's idiosyncricies also makes a huge difference. Why do you think Lance dose Recon work before he rides any of the Tour's roads? It's dangerous to fly like a bat out of hell on roads that you haven't a clue what is ahead.

I also do a lot of yoga which has really helped my balance, not to mention flexibility and strength. At first I wobbled all over in balancing postures and now I can stand totally still in concentration. This helps all parts of cycling for me. Good luck. Being alive and whole to ride again tomorrow is far more important than making it a little faster to the bottom of a hill or around a steep curve.
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Old 07-30-05, 04:14 PM   #16
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I've always slowed down on descents - even when I was in my 20s. For me, it's not a balance problem. It's just a question of not wanting to get really messed up.

I'm just cautious. I don't care if people pass me. I also pass a lot of them back going uphill.
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Old 07-30-05, 05:31 PM   #17
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Speed is relative. Our local fearless flyers would pale in comparison to Tour riders. What counts is having the "nerve" to get outa bed early, go back out on the road when you get home beat from work, or otherwise "ride lots". As the years have gone by and I've exchanged my youthful immortality for a very real appreciation of human fragility (especially middle aged fragility), I've gotten more sensible about descending. 35 mph descents are now as thrilling as 40plus a few years ago. In a few years it will be 30mph and so on....and that will be just fine. Rather leave brake pad dust on the road out there then fragments of my skin and body! LOL
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Old 07-30-05, 06:36 PM   #18
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For improving balance, a balance board is a lot cheaper than one of those balls, it's a lot closer to the ground (not as far to fall ), and it's easy to store. I've used one since it was recommended for physical therapy after multiple ankle sprains. It really sharpens the sense of balance and strengthens the muscles needed to stay balanced. In addition to the round balance board, there's a rectangular one that only does side-to-side. I noticed while watching OLN's series on courage, that the young surfer girl who got her arm bit off by a shark was using the side-to-side one as a training aid.

Here is a link to a company that makes one, though you can Google and find other companies, too.

http://www.fitter1.com/balance-boards.html

Good luck,
Dagna
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Old 08-01-05, 06:58 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jaquelinp
Knowing the road and it's idiosyncricies also makes a huge difference. Why do you think Lance dose Recon work before he rides any of the Tour's roads? It's dangerous to fly like a bat out of hell on roads that you haven't a clue what is ahead.
Good point...and keep in mind also that Lance & co. are riding on a cleared race route, so they have no worry about oncoming traffic or slow-moving construction vehicles or the like...also many of them get to follow a pace motorcycle and can gauge upcoming turns from watching it.
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Old 08-01-05, 08:04 AM   #20
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Balance and willingness to blast through blind corners aren't related in any way. The advice here, especially yoga, is excellent for balance (and has other benefits too). As far as blue haired old ladies passing you in the corners, lose your ego.

I'm an ex road racer on motorcyles who rides with other ex racers. We have NEVER thought badly of one who exercises caution on the roads, but none of us will ride with anyone who rides outside himself.

I think you need to work on finding an inner peace and confidence in what you do. Then the corners will take care of themselves. It really doesn't matter in this world how fast you go as long as you are going at YOUR speed.
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Old 10-11-05, 08:08 PM   #21
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I agree with slide. I will add that if I'm going over a hairy pass, I take my mountain bike with nice, fat slicks. The control is out of sight! Mostly do enjoy yourself and the ride.
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