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Old 10-27-11, 06:01 PM   #1
Bradktn
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descending

Hello all. I'm a re-entry cyclist, just bought my first bike in 20 years, and have enjoyed getting the hang of it. I'm in pretty good general shape, I work out, hike, try to eat right, etc., and had worked up to trying my first real climb: The Foothills Parkway near Maryville, TN, which gains about 1500 feet, (I think), in 10 miles. I made it up the hill ok, spinning happily away in the granny gears on my Salsa Casseroll, had lunch at top, took some pictures...and headed back down. And was terrified. I rode the brakes so much my hands cramped, the bike that felt so secure coming up felt twitchy and out of control going down, and generally did not like the experience at all. Hills, big hills, and mountains are a fact of life in East Tennessee, and if I'm going to do this bike thing I need to learn how at least tolerate and feel safe on descents. I'm thinking brake interrupters, changing handlebars, even changing bikes to something with discs. Any and all suggestions appreciated! Thanks, Brad
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Old 10-27-11, 06:22 PM   #2
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Naw, you just need to select a line through the turns. When turning left, I start near the shoulder, move to the middle of the lane at the apex of the turn and drift back to the shoulder at the finish of the turn. I also use a slow entry speed to the turn and faster exit speed. When turning right, I'll start in the middle of the lane, move towards the shoulder at the apex, and back out to the middle of the lane at the exit.

It's fun.
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Old 10-27-11, 06:27 PM   #3
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Hi, and welcome to BF. I live in Boone NC so I understand all too well about mountains, and what goes up must go down. If you are new to riding hills, take your time. You need to gain experience. I don't recognize the brand of bike you were riding, but you may want to be sure its set up properly and is safe to descending at speed. Mostly you need experience and miles under your belt.
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Old 10-27-11, 06:36 PM   #4
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but you may want to be sure its set up properly and is safe to descending at speed. .
+1 Very important that brakes are adjusted to optimal performance, headset is good, wheels true, tires in good condition, etc.
Assume you're not carrying a heavy load on a seatpost rack.
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Old 10-27-11, 06:54 PM   #5
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Descending on a bike is a bit like skiing, skydiving, running rapids, etc.. Some people have more of an affinity for it than others. They thrive on pushing the envelope. If you're not one of them, practice, experience, and moderation may help you tolerate it.

As adrenalin junkies like to say, if you're not living on the edge, you're taking up too much room.
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Old 10-27-11, 07:01 PM   #6
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The average grade on that climb was pretty mild, but you might have been getting over 30mph. It's going to take some time to get comfortable with descending at more than cruising speeds. You can actually make the bike feel twitchier if you're gripping the handlebars too tight, but this is a normal reaction at first.

Don't apply your brakes continuously. Rather, when you start getting uncomfortable at a given speed apply the brakes and slow down several miles/hour. Then release the brakes and let the bike roll. As you approach a curve, particularly a blind one, apply the brakes and slow down to a speed that allows you to deal with the unknown on a blind curve.

You'll get the hang of it.
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Old 10-27-11, 07:10 PM   #7
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Don't overreact and go for the cheater brakes and such. Once you gain more experience and confidence in your bike handling skills, you will learn to love the downhills. The Salsa Casseroll is not a twitchy bike by nature, so what you are experiencing is fear causing you to give the bike the wrong inputs. Fear is the mind killer.

Is your Casseroll the older model with road caliper type brakes (like mine) or the newer model with cantilever brakes? Either will work just as well, they just need to be set up correctly. You may want to practice on some gentle descents to get a better feel for how to control the bike while descending.
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Old 10-27-11, 08:18 PM   #8
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Good advice above... Familiarity with the road, its curvature and surface, is another factor that can help you get more comfortable at speed. Special +1 to learning to use brakes intermittently!
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Old 10-27-11, 08:37 PM   #9
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Don't apply your brakes continuously. Rather, when you start getting uncomfortable at a given speed apply the brakes and slow down several miles/hour. Then release the brakes and let the bike roll.
good advice. this is so you won't cook your brake pads. do the same in your car.

it takes more than just experience, you need knowledge and skill. otherwise you can just solidify bad habits. there are plenty of people out there with years of experience that have no idea what they are doing. it's scary to watch. read this and google up more pages like it. the moto skillset is applicable.

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Old 10-27-11, 09:33 PM   #10
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it takes more than just experience, you need knowledge and skill. otherwise you can just solidify bad habits. there are plenty of people out there with years of experience that have no idea what they are doing. it's scary to watch. read this and google up more pages like it. the moto skillset is applicable.
Better yet, find skilled and experienced riders to ride with and learn from them more than you could ever hope to learn from reading alone. Reading and conversing online is helpful, but an in person mentor can see things you are doing and teach you how to do it better. You can learn much simply by watching someone do it right.
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Old 10-27-11, 09:46 PM   #11
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How do you descend that road in your car?
Are you uptight? Grip the wheel?
Learn to be more relaxed. Do not grip the bars in panic. Descending becomes more natural as you become more experienced on the bike.
Alternate braking between front and rear brake to minimize possible heat buildup.
Have descrended at 53 mph (coasting) on our tandem from 9,200 ft elevation in the White Mountains of Arizona.
Do-able! Relax!
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Old 10-27-11, 09:50 PM   #12
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I'm not 50+ but in tour de france they descend at 100+ km/h. Pretty scary with tires that thin. So I think you'd be fine coming down.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tFpNsZXWgc
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Old 10-27-11, 09:51 PM   #13
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Good advice above... Familiarity with the road, its curvature and surface, is another factor that can help you get more comfortable at speed. Special +1 to learning to use brakes intermittently!
Start with a couple of local hills and ride them often. As you get used to them, you'll be able to go faster. Then you'll have confidence on other long downhills. Like any other skill, it takes practice.

Also, try some hard braking on downhills so you'll know how fast you can stop in an emergency. You need to keep your weight back, and use the front brake. See Sheldon Brown's braking advice page.

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Old 10-27-11, 09:59 PM   #14
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I'm just rephrasing something that was said above. Apply the brakes BEFORE you enter a curve, not during the curve (just like you were taught in drivers' ed., way back when). You will have much more control in the curves if you are not applying the brakes.

I have one other small piece of advice. When you are in a curve and getting nervous, consciously push down on your handlebars. Actively transferring weight into the bars can sometimes help the bike feel more stable.
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Old 10-27-11, 10:08 PM   #15
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BAH, enough talk, let's have some fun here, guys. Do it like this dude...

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Old 10-27-11, 10:25 PM   #16
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...
I have one other small piece of advice. When you are in a curve and getting nervous, consciously push down on your handlebars. ...
Specifically, on the side that's on the inside of the turn. This is called counter-steering and will give you a little more bite on the turn. A basic turn in either direction is always initiated by a turn, no matter how small, in the opposite direction.
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Old 10-28-11, 06:45 AM   #17
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I can relate to fear while descending, I start to get nervous when I start to get much over 25 mph. I have ridden motorcycles for over 45 years so know how to descend and have no fear of going fast on two wheels, but now in my mid 60's the thought of going fast on something as unstable as a bicycle turns my feet to clay. I also live where you can't avoid hills and on one route I do often I have managed to get up to 40 mph before fear makes me get on the brakes, but normally I take it in the low to mid 30's and am not entirely comfortable even then. I must admit that I'm tempted to see just how fast I could go on that decent (and at 25 would never have given in to fear and hit the brakes), but at 64 I think about things like what would happen if a deer or squirrel ran out or there was loose gravel washed onto the road in a curve and get on the brakes. I'm not sure if this is an irrational fear of descending or a rational caution that comes with age and knowing that bones don't heal as well any more.

So to the OP, others have told you how to descend, I'll tell you that no matter how good you get at descending stay within a speed that's comfortable to you, you'll enjoy it more. Keep your brakes in good shape and don't be afraid to use them, pads are cheap.

Jim
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Old 10-28-11, 08:36 AM   #18
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Foothills Parkway is a pretty consistent 6% grade, IIRC, which can get you up to some pretty good speeds. Fortunately it's not so high that it's impossible to slow down or stop. (Have they opened the other side to hikers and bikers yet?)

Don't ride the brakes!

You'll want to pulse the brakes. Let the bike go for a bit; sit up and catch the breeze. When you start to think you're going too fast, brake fairly hard until you're down to 10-15 mph (preferably without a car full of idiot teenagers right behind you). Repeat as you go down. You may find that you're terrorized at 20 mph at first, but after learning that you won't die, you'll be OK up to 35-40 mph at the bottom.

If the bike starts to shimmy, lean a knee against the top tube and use the rear brake to slow down. That's a good time to pull off at one of the overlooks and pull out your camera until your nerves are settled.

We all descend at different speeds. I'll pass a good-sized group on some rides, only to be passed by someone flying much faster than I'd dare. Chill out, that's normal. At least the open part of the Foothills has pretty decent pavement!
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Old 10-28-11, 09:20 AM   #19
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Thanks to all for the suggestions, and the validation! It's funny, but with a couple days of perspective it doesn't seem that bad. I did a lot of what was suggested naturally, and will incorporate more of your advice on my next ride. And bottom line was I made it down in one piece!
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Old 10-28-11, 10:48 AM   #20
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Downhill speed has never bothered me- even offroad- but then we do have a few hills round here. However- one new bike and that bike was worrying. Above 35 mph and it was skittish. This was on a hill where 45+ is possible so for me to back off at 35 was disconcerting. Took a while to suss the bike out and it was wheels. Changed to a known set of wheels I have and iyt is fine.

Also had it a few years ago on my first road bike and once again it was wheels. A hill That I normally did on an MTB- suddenly had a bend in it. Changed wheels again and the bend changed to a curve.

Check for tight headset- The tightness of your wheels and set up. All of which can upset stability at speed.
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Old 10-28-11, 11:15 AM   #21
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If you just got your bike new, I'm sure it's set up fine. Ride/descend as fast as your comfortable, and spend time in the saddle. You'll be fine.
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Old 10-28-11, 11:34 AM   #22
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Wish there were some climbs - and descents - like that around here. Rode most of the BRP 30 years ago fully-loaded and have no idea how fast we were going. (Before Cyclocomputers)
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Old 10-28-11, 01:50 PM   #23
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Practice more. Don't worry about going as fast as your courage allows. Instead, work on your form- braking at the correct time, putting your body in the right position, and taking the correct line around the turn. After you get the form down and you're confident, all you need to do to corner faster is let off the brakes a bit.

Braking: before the turn.
Body position: hands in drops, elbows bent, looking forward up the road. You can stick your inside knee out or not as you please.
Correct line: I do a late apex unless it's an increasing radius turn (gets easier) and I can see far up the road. Late apex means you get more of the turning done early in the corner. It is safer because it leaves you more options on the exit in case there's a car/rock/cyclist/deer in your line. Late apex (yellow line):

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Old 10-28-11, 01:56 PM   #24
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I like To go fast downhill, it's my payback for working my way up. If the bike I'm on does not feel rock stable, it's not for me. Consequently the frames of my bikes tend to be on the long side.

As far as disc brakes go, I have them on my commuter and I love them especially on downhills and in wet weather. My next bike will be a road bike with full time fenders and disc brakes for wet riding and early and late season riding. Fortunately rule changes have allowed them in cycle cross so they are starting to show up on those rigs. There is also a couple of road bikes and a hub maker building 130 mm spaced hubs for discs. It's the dawning of discs on road bikes.
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Old 10-28-11, 02:18 PM   #25
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Late apex means you get more of the turning done early in the corner.
Um... perhaps I am quibbling on language here, but this statement could be very confusing. In a late apex line, you stay out late, turning into an apex that is further through the curve. (The illustration above is correct.)

The second part of the statement is correct; with a late apex line, you have many more options if you encounter a decreasing radius, traffic, deer, etc...

We could get too technical here, but do look at one of the many illustrations of a late apex line. Practice it on your bike. Practice it in your car. Hell, practice it walking down a pathway. What may well seem odd at first becomes second nature, so much so that if you are in a car with an overenthusiastic, but inexperienced driver on a curvy road, his early apexes will make you physically uncomfortable.

The old saw of turn technique that you here at the auto racing track,"slow in, fast out," holds true on a bike too. Enter the turn under control and with the car (bike) settled, then you can pour on the coals on the way out of the turn and be ultimately faster on the next straight away. What little time you give up by entering the turn slow and under control comes back to you in spades on the other side.

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