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  1. #1
    the uncarved block openmindedgent's Avatar
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    I feel foolish for asking...

    I notice from pictures of tours I've seen that you guys go down some amazingly long and steep hills when in the mountains and it just seems to me that you either have to fly down the hill or you have to do a lot of braking. I was curious what kind of strain this puts on your brakes. I am sure it is personal preference when going down hills just like how people enjoy jumping out of airplanes and other people think those people are crazy. I guess there are very nice brakes that can withstand the friction but I just feel like you would still need to be replacing your brake pads a lot. I am thinking people brake if they want to be safe and others are just more courageous. I brake when I go down hills feeling that is smart but still feeling bad for my brakes. Just wondering what other opinions there are out there, if there is a thread out there with this same topic I will delete mine.

  2. #2
    Senior Member neilfein's Avatar
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    I tend to brake very lightly, enough that I'm confident I could make a panic stop if I had to. For very steep hills, I sometimes coast, brake, repeat.
    Tour Journals, Blog, ride pix

    I'm in the celtic folk fusion band Baroque and Hungry. "Mended", our new full-length studio album, is now available for download.

  3. #3
    the uncarved block openmindedgent's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by neilfein View Post
    I tend to brake very lightly, enough that I'm confident I could make a panic stop if I had to. For very steep hills, I sometimes coast, brake, repeat.

    Yea see I was thinking about how people must have their own little techniques to the pattern of coasting and braking, it is definitely a personal preference thing then so I suppose people who brake a lot get better pads than people who are risk takers? Or am I beginning to generalize?

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    I figure you spent all that effort going UP the hill that you might as well have fun going DOWN the hill. I don't brake unless I think there might be cross traffic or something.

  5. #5
    the uncarved block openmindedgent's Avatar
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    Right on, I feel the same way. Anybody know the top speed of a fully loaded tour bike down a mountain?

  6. #6
    It's true, man.
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    (Caveat: There are no mountains for hundreds of miles around me, but there are some longish hills) I get torn between (1) the desire to rest a bit and build momentum for the inevitably-coming uphill after the downhill, and (2) the memory of a high-speed front tire blowout that wound up hurting really, really bad.

    Hence, my braking depends on the condition of the area I'm likely to land in - Smooth, grassy bar ditches let me fly more than glass strewn rocky ledges and concrete curbing..

  7. #7
    I'm made of earth! becnal's Avatar
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    Brakes? We don't need no stinking brakes! Withdraw all flaps and drag fins! Open the throttle, and yell YAAAAHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO as you roll down the mountain!!!
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

  8. #8
    Bike touring webrarian
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    My worst on-bike (off-bike?) accident came when I didn't brake enough on a steep downhill and missed a tight turn going about 35. Amazingly, I did more damage to my bike than I did to myself. Lots of road rash and damage to my ego but nothing more than that. Considering how lucky I was that time, I have learned to keep my downhill speed under control and to brake often going down.

    If there is a crosswind, descending can be very tricky and I keep my speed down even further.

    Ray
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  9. #9
    the uncarved block openmindedgent's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by becnal View Post
    Brakes? We don't need no stinking brakes! Withdraw all flaps and drag fins! Open the throttle, and yell YAAAAHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO as you roll down the mountain!!!
    I ****ing like the way you think.

  10. #10
    the uncarved block openmindedgent's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by raybo View Post
    My worst on-bike (off-bike?) accident came when I didn't brake enough on a steep downhill and missed a tight turn going about 35. Amazingly, I did more damage to my bike than I did to myself. Lots of road rash and damage to my ego but nothing more than that. Considering how lucky I was that time, I have learned to keep my downhill speed under control and to brake often going down.

    If there is a crosswind, descending can be very tricky and I keep my speed down even further.

    Ray

    Yea I have a lot of hills along the way, I will be safe and slow about it to make sure I get there in one piece and with all of my skin. Just seems like skin is kind of important, not to mention having bones that aren't cracked is kind of a nice feeling.

  11. #11
    Senior Member robow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by openmindedgent View Post
    Anybody know the top speed of a fully loaded tour bike down a mountain?
    Faster than I'm willing to go. I'm not sure which wins.....added weight vs. additional wind resistance of panniers, but that's why I like Kool Stop brake pads

  12. #12
    the uncarved block openmindedgent's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by robow View Post
    Faster than I'm willing to go. I'm not sure which wins.....added weight vs. additional wind resistance of panniers, but that's why I like Kool Stop brake pads
    Are those the bomb diggity?

  13. #13
    don't try this at home. rm -rf's Avatar
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    One of the local riders crashed when on vacation on a mountain downhill. The brake pads overheated and lost traction. So don't ride the brakes on a long downhill.

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    My top speed going down a hill on my touring bike was 48 mi/h
    That was fun

    I rode through some really hilly areas, so I opted for disc brakes
    You can't go full speed around turns, trust me, I tried and it ended badly
    120 Days, 12000 Kilometers, 2 Wheels - Alaska to Panama for Charity - www.CyclingForACause.com

  15. #15
    Senior Member neilfein's Avatar
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    My MTB gets wobbly around 30mph. I've hit 31 partially-loaded, maybe 28 fully loaded. When I start hauling camping gear as well, we'll see.
    Tour Journals, Blog, ride pix

    I'm in the celtic folk fusion band Baroque and Hungry. "Mended", our new full-length studio album, is now available for download.

  16. #16
    the uncarved block openmindedgent's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rm -rf View Post
    One of the local riders crashed when on vacation on a mountain downhill. The brake pads overheated and lost traction. So don't ride the brakes on a long downhill.
    Good good, this is what I wanted to hear... brakes can overheat and now I know. Thank you.

  17. #17
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    In the Rockies, we went somewhere in the 40's maybe 48 mph or so. The extra weight is offset to some degree by the drag of panniers and stuff.

    Just like in a car on extreme grades, you to need to use the brakes in a way that doesn't overheat them. I typically use one brake fairly hard for a few seconds, coast a bit, use the other, coast a bit, etc. If there aren't intersections or turns I tend to let it roll pretty good. I never just keep the brakes steadily applied. If I am worried about overheating the rims and pads I stop for a bit. The worst was a descent in the Appalachians where the grade was in the mid to upper teens and the curves were tight and constant.

    You can keep speed down some by sitting upright for more wind resistance.

  18. #18
    the uncarved block openmindedgent's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    In the Rockies, we went somewhere in the 40's maybe 48 mph or so. The extra weight is offset to some degree by the drag of panniers and stuff.

    Just like in a car on extreme grades, you to need to use the brakes in a way that doesn't overheat them. I typically use one brake fairly hard for a few seconds, coast a bit, use the other, coast a bit, etc. If there aren't intersections or turns I tend to let it roll pretty good. I never just keep the brakes steadily applied. If I am worried about overheating the rims and pads I stop for a bit. The worst was a descent in the Appalachians where the grade was in the mid to upper teens and the curves were tight and constant.

    You can keep speed down some by sitting upright for more wind resistance.
    Good advice as always.

  19. #19
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    Fast is OK. The main problem is road condition, you can pretty much become detatched from the surface riding the right hand margin if it is crazed. So when possible I move to the smoothest part of the road. If you are then forced over for whatever reason, you can loose control if you end up on the washboard surface again after having gained speed above what you could originally handle there.

    Despite the happy talk, it is possible to end up brakeless using normal good quality brakes, which is why tandems have three brakes, including often a drum brake. Since my personal and gear load is well into what the industry probably considers a tandem load ie one person 155# and one person 95#, we have people here who weight that much, it makes sense to me to back up the bike with some redundant braking. It also makes sense to mix it up with different styles of brake that have relative advantages in mud water, long hot decents etc...

    By the way, while I have seen some of those western roads that seem to have long smooth decents, and are a different world, just in my experience in the east I have never seen a bike doing 50 anywhere. I have been through some of the popular passes in NH, and the Rockies with huge drops, and I sure haven't seen any cyclists doing 50 there. No doubt it happens and maybe particularly if you have smooth mountain decents in areas not prone to freeze thaw road destruction, but people shouldn't get the sense 50 mph is the norm. Though, I read something where Jobst Brandt said that they hit 55 on every trainning ride. They get a lift inland in whatever part of Cali he lives at, and on the way back out they hit the high speeds every time, not loaded of course. He talked up the technique for holding the "bars" at the stem (?, can't remember), or whatever it is one has to do in order to keep the shimmy from building.

    By the by I found this interesting Wiki account of the kinds of speeds Tour rider hit:

    "On July 18 during the fifteenth stage of the 1995 Tour de France, Fabio Casartelli and a few other riders crashed on the descent of the Col de Portet d'Aspet in the Pyrenees. Casartelli sustained heavy facial and head injuries and lost consciousness. While being flown to a local hospital by helicopter, he stopped breathing and after numerous resuscitation attempts was declared dead. Many have claimed if Casartelli had been wearing a modern bicycle helmet his life might have been saved, but the impact was not exclusively to the part of the head protected by a helmet, and an impact at nearly 100kmh (60 mph) has more than twenty times the energy a typical helmet is designed to absorb.[1] Gerard Porte, the Tour's senior doctor, claimed that protection was academic since the fatal blow was to an area of Casartelli's head that would not have been covered by a helmet."

  20. #20
    the uncarved block openmindedgent's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterpan1 View Post
    Fast is OK. The main problem is road condition, you can pretty much become detatched from the surface riding the right hand margin if it is crazed. So when possible I move to the smoothest part of the road. If you are then forced over for whatever reason, you can loose control if you end up on the washboard surface again after having gained speed above what you could originally handle there.

    Despite the happy talk, it is possible to end up brakeless using normal good quality brakes, which is why tandems have three brakes, including often a drum brake. Since my personal and gear load is well into what the industry probably considers a tandem load ie one person 155# and one person 95#, we have people here who weight that much, it makes sense to me to back up the bike with some redundant braking. It also makes sense to mix it up with different styles of brake that have relative advantages in mud water, long hot decents etc...

    By the way, while I have seen some of those western roads that seem to have long smooth decents, and are a different world, just in my experience in the east I have never seen a bike doing 50 anywhere. I have been through some of the popular passes in NH, and the Rockies with huge drops, and I sure haven't seen any cyclists doing 50 there. No doubt it happens and maybe particularly if you have smooth mountain decents in areas not prone to freeze thaw road destruction, but people shouldn't get the sense 50 mph is the norm. Though, I read something where Jobst Brandt said that they hit 55 on every trainning ride. They get a lift inland in whatever part of Cali he lives at, and on the way back out they hit the high speeds every time, not loaded of course. He talked up the technique for holding the "bars" at the stem (?, can't remember), or whatever it is one has to do in order to keep the shimmy from building.

    By the by I found this interesting Wiki account of the kinds of speeds Tour rider hit:

    "On July 18 during the fifteenth stage of the 1995 Tour de France, Fabio Casartelli and a few other riders crashed on the descent of the Col de Portet d'Aspet in the Pyrenees. Casartelli sustained heavy facial and head injuries and lost consciousness. While being flown to a local hospital by helicopter, he stopped breathing and after numerous resuscitation attempts was declared dead. Many have claimed if Casartelli had been wearing a modern bicycle helmet his life might have been saved, but the impact was not exclusively to the part of the head protected by a helmet, and an impact at nearly 100kmh (60 mph) has more than twenty times the energy a typical helmet is designed to absorb.[1] Gerard Porte, the Tour's senior doctor, claimed that protection was academic since the fatal blow was to an area of Casartelli's head that would not have been covered by a helmet."
    Ouch... good info, thank you.

  21. #21
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    My decending speed is inversely proportional to the distance I am from emergency medical services. But I tend to go faster loaded because I am more stable than on a unloaded road bike.

  22. #22
    mev
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    Quote Originally Posted by openmindedgent View Post
    I am sure it is personal preference when going down hills just like how people enjoy jumping out of airplanes and other people think those people are crazy. I guess there are very nice brakes that can withstand the friction but I just feel like you would still need to be replacing your brake pads a lot.
    I am more cautious than most and with a group others might end up waiting for me at the bottoms of the hills. I'll brake and coast. I'm also heavier than average with a fully loaded touring rig. When I get much faster than 35mph, I'll slow down.

    With that said, replacements of brake pads happen less often than you might think. It obviously depends on the terrain, but on a recent 8000 mile ride across Eurasia, I replaced both front and rear brake pads twice.

  23. #23
    Senior Member xilios's Avatar
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    It's nice to go fast once or twice just to see how fast I can safely go (which is just over 50kph), but after spending several hours climbing I don't want risk life and limb racing back down in a few minutes.

  24. #24
    Senior Member DukeArcher's Avatar
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    I hit about 81 km/h (about 58 m/ph) down the Appenines, I didn't see a single car the whole way down, it was probably dangerous but damn it was fun seeing the reaction of (oldie) roadies as I passed them down the mountain

    On that same day I met some Belgians who trounced even that speed coming down the Alps a few weeks earlier and had video proof on their digital cams (riding one-handed!??)

  25. #25
    the uncarved block openmindedgent's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DukeArcher View Post
    I hit about 81 km/h (about 58 m/ph) down the Appenines, I didn't see a single car the whole way down, it was probably dangerous but damn it was fun seeing the reaction of (oldie) roadies as I passed them down the mountain

    On that same day I met some Belgians who trounced even that speed coming down the Alps a few weeks earlier and had video proof on their digital cams (riding one-handed!??)

    Lordy lordy, proof that you can do what the hell you want, depends on how brave you are. Glad to know your ok, I won't be trying that any time soon though. One handed???!!! Madness!

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