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Old 01-30-12, 06:03 PM   #1
BikeArkansas
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Descents scare me

2011 was a good riding year for me. I managed to get myself into good enough shape to ride a century and some metric centuries with a 20 MPH average. I can only hope to have another year where I can ride like that. However, with some added speed and a desire to finish strong I started trying to descend faster, which has had a bad effect. Now I am in fear during a descent.

My fear comes from thinking about something going wrong with the bike or my bike handling. How do I make myself think positive about descending?
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Old 01-30-12, 06:20 PM   #2
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Nothing wrong with a little caution while descending, IMO. As fast as you are on the flats, who needs fast descending?

OTOH, if you insist on this mad quest you might try repeating the same downhill a few times or try following someone down who is a pretty good descender. On really long downhills, I found that you kind of slowly get used to the speed and let it go a little more over time, and then maybe more and so on. Familiarity with the pavement ahead and conditions is a good thing too.

One other thing- Whatever you can do to have confidence in your equipment... do it.
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Old 01-30-12, 06:25 PM   #3
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I always have a case of the "what ifs" on descents. What if there is gravel in the turn, what if a dog runs out, what if a car crosses the midline. I'm always the slowest down the hill and sometimes it is frustrating but it is safe. Many if not all the fast descenders around here have wrecked, some with very nasty results, and I just don't see the need to join them. If you can't relax you can't let the bike carve through the turn. For me, I try to remain relaxed but at the same time take into account the what ifs. If that makes me slower than some I guess I'm ok with that. BTW, we have some very technical descents. I'm not talking about wide arcing curves with good line of sight.
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Old 01-30-12, 06:32 PM   #4
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Move to Florida. Worrying about fast descents is a problem I never, ever have.
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Old 01-30-12, 06:38 PM   #5
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If you do something dangerous over and over, you'll get used to it and it won't seem dangerous, but that doesn't mean it really got safer, just that you got used to it.
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Old 01-30-12, 07:08 PM   #6
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When I raced bikes with motors I always felt confident until I hit triple digits. I was fast on a slow track and slow on a fast track. Some of us fear speed more than others and for good reason. There is simply less reaction time for a correction. Without the confidence in ones abilities you already have two strikes against you. I managed to escape without serious injury.
Labor Day weekend I was riding my bike(motor) up a hill to my home, going about 10mph when I hit some gravel and was thrown off. I now am laid up with a recently repaired rotator cuff.
I don't mean to generalize but when you remove two of the four wheels you are taking chances - but everybody needs a hobby.
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Old 01-30-12, 07:26 PM   #7
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This guy http://www.flammerouge.je/content/3_...06/descend.htm has some good advice for descents and cornering. I'm careful with speed on downhills also and one tip from the link I've begun to follow is to frequently check my tires for glass shards or pieces of clam shells of which there are plenty of around here.
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Old 01-30-12, 07:56 PM   #8
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Many people are scared of descents because their technique is really terrible, making them unstable and dangerous at higher speeds. Try descending with some people who know what they are doing. Try doing what they are doing. Ask them to watch you and give you pointers on posture, line, vision, etc.
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Old 01-30-12, 08:32 PM   #9
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As you increase your descending speed, please remember that someday there will be a brick wall just around that blind corner. Always be sure you can stop in time for whatever is just outside your view, just like you do when driving a car (I hope).
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Old 01-30-12, 08:39 PM   #10
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Move to Florida. Worrying about fast descents is a problem I never, ever have.
Yes, but my fear of political ads on TV far out weigh any descent I've ever been on.
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Old 01-30-12, 09:10 PM   #11
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Yes, but my fear of political ads on TV far out weigh any descent I've ever been on.
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Old 01-30-12, 09:18 PM   #12
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Just how fast is a fast descent? I've gotten to the mid-30's (pure coasting) when visiting Georgia but was getting nervous. Sorta funny because I have several hundred thousand miles of road motorcycle experience, a fair amount of it moving smartly.
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Old 01-30-12, 09:31 PM   #13
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Fast is a relative term. On some descents 50mph is just fine while on others 15mph feels sketchy.
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Old 01-30-12, 09:39 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kurt Erlenbach View Post
Move to Florida. Worrying about fast descents is a problem I never, ever have.
You are in for a big surprise on your first tour of Montana, my friend!

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If you do something dangerous over and over, you'll get used to it and it won't seem dangerous, but that doesn't mean it really got safer, just that you got used to it.
Yes and no... skills and comfort level can improve, making you less likely to panic and make a wrong move. Knowing the road and its conditions can make you safer choosing the right line, etc. OTOH yes there are inherent dangers that are always there.
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Old 01-30-12, 09:45 PM   #15
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When it comes to things like endurance, pain tolerance, sustained pedaling speed and cadence, there is a real need to get out of your comfort zone; you'll never improve until you do.

When it comes to things like downhill speed, cornering speed, technical skills handling, extreme terrain...out of your comfort zone becomes a 50/50 chance of disaster. THOSE are the times when you ride TO THE EDGE of your comfort zone.
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Old 01-30-12, 09:49 PM   #16
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Yes, but my fear of political ads on TV far out weigh any descent I've ever been on.
It's Monday night before primary day. You have no idea how terrible it is here.
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Old 01-30-12, 10:11 PM   #17
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Just how fast is a fast descent? I've gotten to the mid-30's.....
I've gotten into the 40's, a little over 43 at times. I'm sure others reading have gone faster. I've done much faster on a motorcycle, but I definitely get a charge out of coasting in a tuck.

I really love it and consider descending to be the reward for climbing.
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Old 01-30-12, 10:47 PM   #18
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On familiar descents like Mt. Gaylor, I'll tuck in, move back in the saddle, put the pedals at 3 and 9 o'clock, put the knees against the top tube, get in the drops and go for it, after I've maxed out pedaling.

Significant cross winds and/or wet roads and/or an unfamiliar descent and it is caution.

Going down a descent on the Big Dam Bridge 100 this year, I wanted to let loose, but this was my first time down this one. A young fellow ahead of me carved his way right through a turn about half way down, no problem (where is the green-with-envy icon?). In a brief conversation with a LEO on toward Little Rock, I found out that someone rode through this turn and off the side of the hill. I'm glad a kept a more sedate pace on this unfamiliar descent.

I'm working on the cornering at speed by moving a little forward in the saddle and pointing my knee into the turn. Seems to help.

Everyone seems to say that to climb better, we need to do more climbs. Same may well be true of descending.
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Old 01-30-12, 10:59 PM   #19
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and pointing my knee into the turn. Seems to help.
Smat thing I do. Goingright, I turn my right knee out (same with left). Read a few years ago it helps the turn. Actually catches the wind like a sail to aid with the turn. If that aint true, maybe it's the pointing that helps but I find it helpful.

IMO, descending well enough/fast enough is good enough. You don't gain enough time on the descents, not worth the risks.

I do have a ride partner that was sketchy on the descents. I'd easily leave him behind coasting. So he started following my lines and technique on the descents. Now I have a hard time dropping him while pedaling.

Learn to countersteer and use the knee.

I was hitting 40 max here. You can see the car gun it (puff of smoke) when I catch up on the descent.

Practice helps but for safety reasons, I rarely push it down hill.

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Old 01-30-12, 11:11 PM   #20
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I totally agree with the OP. Fast descents scare me. There are times when I'm on demanding rides and keep up on the climbs and then get dropped on the descents. I find that a little frustrating, but in the end, I'm OK with that. I'm too old to be fearless. There are moments when a fast descent is thrilling, but there are plenty of others when I'm just terrified and eager for them to end.

Too fast depends a lot on the terrane - the number of curves, the road condition, the visibility, etc. And then there's the unexpected. A few months ago I and some others were doing a fast descent down a long hill (>1000 feet, much above 8%). On a very fast stretch when we were doing about 40 mph, a red-bellied black snake slithered across the road in front of us, covering a large part of the lane. We all managed to get around it, either in front of its head or behind its tail, but several of us, including me, were so so close.

never mind that it's poisonous - it was a big snake and the thought of what it would have done to my wheels as it got cut in half is kind of terrifying.

Oh, and no- I didn't see the red belly - but it was black and others assured me that's what it was.
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Old 01-31-12, 12:05 AM   #21
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Have to be honest in that I'm a wimp these days on descents. In fact, I can go faster on 1-2% downgrades with the wind at my back than I can freewheel down a steep mountain. Wasn't so in my youth. In my teens, on one descent in Whittier, my little mechanical speedometer read 63 mph. Just that once however.

Maybe some of my fear is experiencing the "death wobble" on one descent last year and the frequent thinking about losing a brake pad. It's an irrational fear, of course, because my bikes are in pretty good mechanical shape and I have enough disposable income to make sure they stay tuned properly. Maybe its just a realization at my age of my own mortality, and the desire to not hasten the end. I don't heal so quickly these days like I did in my youth.
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Old 01-31-12, 12:18 AM   #22
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It's gratifying to know there are others who are a bit askeered of descents. I know I yam.
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Old 01-31-12, 12:27 AM   #23
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I go faster downhill on the recumbent. It feels like driving a car, only the road is a lot wider. The lower center of gravity and being able to pedal no matter how far into a corner I am are fun.
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Old 01-31-12, 07:14 AM   #24
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As the OP, I must comment on the discussion of the turns. My technique on the turns is OK. I have worked on that. My fear has more to do with pure speed. A couple years ago I went over the 50 MPH mark a couple times. Now I will barely let the bike go over the low 30s. I have had a "speed wobble" which does not help anything, and I do understand most speed wobbles are caused by the rider.

A local coach I have spoken with tells me I need to relax. How? Especially when I keep thinking of mechanical breakdowns, even though I keep my bikes in good condition. I keep thinking of a dog running out in the road, which happens often in my part of the country. Then there are the pot holes, objects in the road and on and on. RELAX?
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Old 01-31-12, 08:01 AM   #25
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All you can do to relax is to remove as many unknowns from the equation as possible. That means knowing your bike and knowing the road. Repeated descents on the same hill will help with the latter. And the repeated climbs that allow repeated descents will get you in better shape.
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