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Old 02-22-06, 06:59 AM   #1
rugibiker
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Biggest decent you have came down.

Hi all.Last summer i had a day touring Argyll in Scotland(im from glasgow) and had an great time.Not being the fittest cyclist i walked some of the steeper hills i came too and enjoyed freewheeling down the other side on the single track roads.Then i came to a 1 in 6 hill which i walked all the way up enjoying the view as i did.Reaching the top i wondered if i would fancy going back down that single track road as there was the odd car and bus coming up it.Trying to control the bike on a steep road like that must be dangerous surely? Does anyone ever walk down a hill for safety reasons?
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Old 02-22-06, 08:47 AM   #2
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I have walked down a few hills. After crossing a high pass in the Swiss Alps, I descended along a narrow, two-lane cobblestoned road with almost 100 switchback turns and in some areas, no guard rails. My legs were tired after the strenuous climb, and after beginning my descent, the muscles in my hands became exhausted from constantly squeezing the brakes.

I did walk my bike around some of the steeper hairpin curves, like these:
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Old 02-22-06, 09:15 AM   #3
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I walked down a grade from Panamint Springs down to Stovepipe Wells once. It was about midnight, pitch dark, I had no lights on my bike and the rims were overheating from breaking. It was August and still over 100 degrees F.

I hear the longest downhill in the world is on the Friendship HWY from Lhasa to Katmandu. Looking forward to do that one during the day.
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Old 02-22-06, 10:28 AM   #4
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Estes Park to Loveland, Co. 23-mile descent with curves along the Big Thompson River, with occasional sun showers. It took 2 days for my hands to recover from squeezing the brakes so hard. Also cycling down from the main castle in Salzburg Austria. The descent was so steep I thought I was going to go over the bars.

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Old 02-22-06, 11:26 AM   #5
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I walked down a 1 in 4 (25%) in Wales, with my loaded touring bike, and even had trouble with my cleated shoes slipping.

But that's the only one ... I've ridden everything else, although I have had to stop partway down hills to give my hands a rest and let my rims cool.

I also made a discovery descending something pretty steep in Australia ... having the panniers (and the bulk of the weight) on the front of the bicycle during a descent is NOT a comfortable feeling. After that, there were a few descents where I stopped and moved my panniers to the back.
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Old 02-22-06, 11:40 AM   #6
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Would it make sense to place Velcro loops around the brake levers to exert a bit of pressure on the brakes during long descents? That would relieve some hand strain. I have never done it. I guess you would have to stop occasionally to prevent the rims from overheating.
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Old 02-22-06, 12:34 PM   #7
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I walked the 18% part of that slope (going to the ferry to Île-aux-Coudres in Charlevoix, Québec):



It's pretty freaky when the road disappear and all you see is the sea. I walked it because of a sharp turn at the bottom of the 18% part. This strech was modified after a bus crashed, killing 44 people. As I walked down, I saw my fork was covered with a thick layer of rubber, which came from the brake pads from earlier descents.

I climbed that hill the next morning.
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Old 02-22-06, 12:53 PM   #8
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I'm not sure what the longest descent I've had is but probably after Hoosier Pass in CO. The fastest we've gone was in Wyoming...riding down the second or third pass of a series of hills. We clocked in at around 52 mph, fully loaded with Bobs. Yikes. I guess that's what being young and in college is all about though.
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Old 02-22-06, 09:46 PM   #9
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I've come in at close to 50 MPH dropping from Washington Pass on the North Cascades Highway. Maybe 4,200 feet of drop over 10-12 miles, most of it in the first two mile stretch. Road's in great shape, no brakes needed.

I like dirt road descents too, even two thousand feet is a lot of dirt.

I think mountain passes along state highways give you the most bang for the buck. Many of the ones in washington state give you a few thousand feet easy, and nice pavement too. Colorado has some great ones too.

I hear Hurricane Ridge Road in Olympic National Park is pretty good. got to ride that one someday. Too bad its a dead end, so there's no attacking it from the backside.
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Old 02-23-06, 01:32 AM   #10
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Towards the end of the Camino de Santiago, descending into Galicia, is a loooooong downhill, lots of switch backs, took me over an hour of descending. Man, that was fun!!! Gotta love my Magura hydraulic brakes!
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Old 02-23-06, 01:59 AM   #11
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Suprisingly it was on a ride in texas... not too steep but it went on for miles. I was younger and a racer, so me and some friends rode a pace line down it as hard as we could - idiotic because we hit 58mph that day. Scary as I ever imagined it would be, but exhilerating. I'm older and more mature but I swear I'd go that fast again if I had the chance!
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Old 02-23-06, 10:53 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rugibiker
Trying to control the bike on a steep road like that must be dangerous surely? Does anyone ever walk down a hill for safety reasons?
Nope...not if it's paved Living in a mountainous state (the highest state in the US) I have ample opportunity to ride down stuff. I've ridden down both sides of Trail Ridge Road which starts at around 12,000 feet and ends at around 9,000 on either side. But that's pretty easy to ride down since the grade isn't that steep. It's just fast - 40 to 50 mph fast!

If the road is dirt or a single track (I've mountain biked since 1983) and has a lot of baby heads, I might walk it but generally I'll ride just about anything. The steepest loaded descent I've ever done was Hancock Pass around Buena Vista. It's a steep 4-wheel drive road and I was camping on the other side. On the downhill, my trailer kept pushing the rear of my bike up in the air when I braked hard but I just pushed back on the bike a little farther to keep the wheel on the ground.

The worst downhill I ever had, hands down, was on the north side of the Spittal of Glenshee in Scotland. The south side goes to 1 in 6 near the top (if I recall correctly) which was hard enough but on the north side the wind was roaring up the glen so fast that my wife and I had to pedal down the hill in as low a gear as we pedaled up the other side. Worst downhill ever!
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Old 02-23-06, 10:59 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by acantor
Would it make sense to place Velcro loops around the brake levers to exert a bit of pressure on the brakes during long descents? That would relieve some hand strain. I have never done it. I guess you would have to stop occasionally to prevent the rims from overheating.
Dragging the brakes would probably be the worst thing you could do to overheat the rims on a bike! I'm a speed demon, I'll admit, but I have never had a tire and rim even come close to overheating, even on a tandem pulling a trailer down Vail Pass or on steep long off-road descents. It's all in the application of the brakes. You need to pulse them, not drag them. Let the bike pick up some speed, apply the brakes to slow and then release them. This allows the rims to dissipate some heat between application.
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Old 02-23-06, 06:21 PM   #14
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My longest would probably be heading east out of Yellowstone toward Cody, Wyoming. That is one long, beautiful descent. It was 25 years ago, so my memory is probably not super-accurate on the details, but it had to be 20 or 30 miles of non-stop down, ranging from significant to gentle slope, all of it faaaaast. I have no idea what the elevation drop is.

Locally, the biggest descent I do on aything liek a regular basis (and yu have to stretch your definition of "regular" a bit) is Mt. Diablo - 3600 feet, give or take, in 10 miles. Of course, first you have to ride up that same 3600 or so feet in ten miles - and the elevation gain is not evenly distributed (last 200 yards or so is about 17% - ouch).
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Old 02-25-06, 04:20 AM   #15
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My longest descent was in Southern Spain, from the top of Pico Veleta (at 3375 metres) to Granada (at 700 metres) in about 50 kilometres.

I have walked down short hills, but never on a long descent. If I came across a dangerous section I wouldn't mind to walk. I feel much more secure descending in high speeds on a fully loaded bike compared to a non-loaded bike.

Going down the north side of Galibier in the rain and cold was not very nice.. My hands were freezing so much I had trouble braking towards the end, but since it is so long walking was simply not an option.
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Old 02-25-06, 09:14 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by racpat_rtw
I walked down a grade from Panamint Springs down to Stovepipe Wells once. It was about midnight, pitch dark, I had no lights on my bike and the rims were overheating from breaking. It was August and still over 100 degrees F.

I hear the longest downhill in the world is on the Friendship HWY from Lhasa to Katmandu. Looking forward to do that one during the day.

that one's a screamer--that was probably a good move
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Old 02-25-06, 03:34 PM   #17
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Excerpt from our journal after going down (South) Sunwapta Pass on the Icefield Parkway in Alberta.

By looking at the elevation chart, we knew that a long and steep downhill awaited us. We were apprehensive owing to the fact that we had never gone down such a steep downhill on a loaded bike before. We had good equipment but worried about the brakes being applied for long periods and the damage it could cause to the rims. We reached speeds of over 60 km per hour down the hills that followed each other in rapid succession. One hill, in particular, was much scarier than the others as there was a sharp bend at the bottom and all you could see was open space on the other side of a small fence that bordered the road. As we reached the bottom, a strong wind caught us unaware and this made it for a very exciting, if not downright scary, few seconds. We also had to contend with stopped cars and people taking pictures of sheep that were eating grass on the side of the road. At that point, we had no other alternative than to stop and wait for all of the cars to leave the area. After a particular steep downhill, we rounded a curve and saw that we would have to cross a steel bridge. This got our adrenaline flowing as well.

Coming down this hill, I remembered having read a description written by Sir Francis William Butler (1872), of a loaded canoe going down a dangerous rapid. I was inspired by and borrowed from his narrative for the following.

"It is difficult to find in life any event which so effectively condenses intense nervous sensation into the shortest possible space of time it takes to travel down a steep mountain pass at over 60 kph, the road giving the impression of disappearing into an abyss, while battling fierce winds. There is no toil, no heart breaking labor about it, but as much coolness, trust and skill as man or woman can throw into the work of maintaining control while subconsciously listing everything that could cause a mishap of catastrophic proportion."
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Old 02-25-06, 03:45 PM   #18
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I can list many memorable descents, but some folks have already mentioned a few (colorado, wales, north cascaded hi-way, etc.) I think the biggest 'gain in elevation' ascent I had was the climb to Agua Negra between Chile and Argentina; started at sea level and climbed to over 15,000 feet; obviously a nice descent if going the other way. Since the Andes are so close to the coast, i'll bet most pure descents would come from this region.

To me the best mountains to cycle in are the Alps, and I list five great ascent/descents in the alps: Col de Galibier; the Petit and Grande St. Bernard Passes; the Stilfserjoch/Stelvio in northern Italy, and the Grosseglockner in Austria.

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Old 02-25-06, 09:44 PM   #19
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To Roughstuff's collection in the Alps, I'll add the north side of the Timmelsjoch, where the road has a steep straight drop of over a mile, followed by an uphill to cross another ridge. No worry about brakes, there!
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Old 02-25-06, 10:09 PM   #20
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ÉricK_L showed a nice one, but I found the hill in Saint-Irénée (about 15-20 km West of the one he showed) more frightening. It is only a 14% grade, but very twisty and the first time I rode it (1981), I had my old bike with centrepull brakes and a rain storm had left lots of sand on the road. Basically I had to grab my brakes as hard as I could to keep my speed under control... something I do with 1 finger on my curent tourer.

Other good ones :
– In Baie-de Shawinigan (Québec), coming from upper to lower town; 18-20% for almost 1 km, with a T intersection at the bottom. If you miss your stop and aren't killed by the heavy traffic of the cross road, you enter through a window of a paper mill.
- In St. John's and in almost every village of the Avalon peninsula (Newfoundland), houses were built on "The Rock" to be accessible from the sea. Then streets were built around them. Makes for really narrow winding steep streets, sometimes with a 10-15% cross slope too.
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Old 02-25-06, 11:07 PM   #21
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The biggest descent I have biked down was Mt. Evans (14260') to Denver (5400'). There were a couple of small bumps on the route. A pure descent would be Mt Evans to Idaho Springs (~7800'). Nearly 7000 vertical feet in less than 28 miles. I have walked down Fargo Street in LA but that was a 35% grade and the sidewalks had steps.
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Old 02-26-06, 11:35 PM   #22
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I've never walked down a hill on my road bike or touring bike, but I have on my mountain bike. I'm not a very technical rider on my mountain bike and steep switchbacks with cliffs scare me, but on the road, I love to go fast and do quite often. I was on a ride today and hit a nice downhill that got me up to 50mph.

The biggest and longest descent I've done was on a ride from Walden, Colorado to Fort Collins, Colorado. After you go over Cameron Pass at about 10,200 feet in elevation, you descend for about 65 miles and drop about 5,200 feet in elevation. Not that steep, but a beautiful and fun descent through Poudre Canyon.

Those pictures that acantor showed are beautiful and I could see having to walk some of that because the cobblestone road would probably beat the heck out of you.

My touring bike has disc brakes so I don't have to worry about over heating the rims and it takes less pressure on the brake handles so my hands don't get tired. My hands have definitely gotten tired on my road bike going down a steep hill with lots of switchbacks.
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Old 02-27-06, 10:54 AM   #23
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Quote:
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To Roughstuff's collection in the Alps, I'll add the north side of the Timmelsjoch, where the road has a steep straight drop of over a mile, followed by an uphill to cross another ridge. No worry about brakes, there!

Ahh...yes, I do remember the Timmelsjoch. I had already done the Brenner, and decided to return to Austria over this obscure pass! Not only was it lofty, it was lonely, cold and foggy, as a storm was coming in which trapped me for one full day as the roads were covered with snow. When I came out of the tunnel it was so foggy I could barely see a small cafe/auberge on the left, where I got some very needed coffee and warmed up.

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Old 02-27-06, 03:36 PM   #24
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This is almost unbelieveable: Coming down from a 12,000 foot peak near Crested Butte, CO, the path zig-zagged down steeply through giant Skunk Cabbage plants. It was so steep that you couldn't sit in the saddle. So you'd stand up and your head was just above the tops of the plants. You couldn't actually see the trail, only the low spot in the foliage where there weren't any plants growing. This went on for several thousand vertical feet of descent and when the five of us came out of that smelling forest there was a collective sigh of relief.

I've NEVER seen anything like that for the distance we were in it.

I DID find another place almost that steep - theres a horse trail that leads from Lake Tahoe, over the Rubicon and heads down eventually to Auburn. But half way down it goes from BLM land (MTB's allowed, often even pandered to since they're actually using the public lands) to California Department of Forestry (MTB's hated, and completely discourage with the idea that any public use of land is bad).

Anyway, there was a long section of horsetrail very little wider than a horse's walking width and REALLY steep. I don't remember how long it was but I do remember that each turn was almost 170 degrees and so steep that you had to hop the bike around it frightened that the path would flake away when you did that.

Same five guys and same sigh when we hit the "flat".

If we're talking pure road descents, an old girlfriend of mine told me that when she did the bicentenial crossing of the USA, the route they took included a 7 HOUR descent from the Continental divide. She said that they had to stop to REST a couple of times because of the strain of riding the brakes a lot of the time.

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Old 03-01-06, 12:14 AM   #25
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Compaired to what the rest of you have done my biggest wasn't too bad. Mind it was my first trip over 80 miles, starting to get dark, my brakes where starting to go bad, there were small boulders all over the road, and I've had 12 stiches in my right elbow from going too fast on loose gravel and dirt....it was quite a ride for me. Maybe 12% for at least 3 miles. Good times
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