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  1. #1
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    Help... need confidence going downhill.

    I was on a ride heading down a long hill and realized I felt very unsteady. I did not even enjoy going down the hill. I really feel unstable riding the drops (I have a trek 520). I have never been a speed demon, but I would like to feel more comfortable. Would a straight handlebar help? Any ideas? Maybe some technique I am missing?

    I ride with some friends and I feel like I really slow them down on the decents.

    rob

  2. #2
    Hooked on Touring
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    Wolf -

    Try to stay as upright as possible while going downhill - that would mean holding onto the straight section of the handlebars - it might feel awkward with your hands so close together. Your upright position will create more wind drag and slow you down.

    Also, use a light dragging brake - not fully compressed but just lightly rubbing.

    I don't know where you are riding, but tell your friends that you'd like to do a less hilly ride nxt time. My guess is that after you do some small hills, you can tackle the bigger descents with more confidence.

    It's your call on the straight bar - it would give you a wider and more stable stance - but would also be a moderate expense.

    Best - J

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    Erh, jamawani, great advice, just beware:
    If you keep your hands as close as possible on the handle bar, you are sacrificing control. If you happen to hit a rock on the road or such, it will throw your tire off and since your hands are gripping in compromising situation, you tend to lose control.

    Also, my advice is we often fear the unknown. Learn more about the downhill ride, and how your bicycle operates at fast speeds. If you are going so fast, the air flow starts to take control of your bicycle, I would recommend slowing down a bit. While I say this, you also have to take in consideration of break ware, and try and break as little as possible while riding downhill, but not so little that you lose control. I don't know how big of hills your taking, but when you grow up to mountains, watch out for hot rims. Mountains have long downhill runs, and your going to have to break during some of it to keep control and make the winding turns. Your rims get hot from the friction, and, if it's a really bad mountain, they can get hot enough to pop your inner tube, which, at 40+ mph, is a really bad thing.

    Otherwise, follow jamawani's advice, and be carefull. Safe flying, my friend.

  4. #4
    Caffeinated. Camel's Avatar
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    Good advice.

    Is it possible that the 520's are a touch less stable when not loaded anyways?

  5. #5
    Senior Member saddlesores's Avatar
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    i always found the bike more stable in the drops on long descents. as mentioned
    previously, hands close to the stem on the flats can be dangerous at speed.

    i'd suggest you check your front end....headset bearings, spoke tension, wheel
    trueness, uneven tire wear, lumpy spots on worn tires....

    try raising your butt, and gripping the top-tube with your knees. gives you a more
    solid connection to the frame.

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    My unloaded Trek 520 feels rock solid and totally under control at 45+ mph down the hill from our local ski area. I ride in the drops, tucked down (I WANT to go fast). I, too, think you have much better control in the drops. When you are going this fast, you DO need to stay focused. Things could go wrong pretty fast is you don't pay attention -- just like driving a car.

    If you are not used to going fast, it may take some time to get used to it. You don't get extra points for pushing beyond your skill/comfort zone.

    Regarding my bike, I KNOW the headset and wheel bearing are in good adjustment. I know my brakes are in good shape should I need them. The Trek 520 has always seemed like it had plenty of braking power if I needed it.
    Mike Sakarias
    Juneau Alaska

  7. #7
    1. e4 Nf6 Alekhine's Avatar
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    I always liked Ken Kifer's advice on this topic. Here is the link: http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/skills/downhill.htm

  8. #8
    "Word Bond" Whoodie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Camel
    Is it possible that the 520's are a touch less stable when not loaded anyways?
    Have you considered your weight and wind direction factors.

    Talking from experience, their is this depression (downhill then climb), I feel so shaky and hang on the brakes from one side, but pedal like mad from the opposite direction.

    Shaky to me implies bike seems not go the path you want and also a feel like one wheel is not firmly on the ground.

    By the way I weigh less than 100lbs.

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    Every bike has different handling characteristics, some are just better at descending than others. This is probably due to the combination of head-tube angle and fork rake to give good tracking. My everday bike used to track really solidly but I had to change the fork and now it is a bit flighty. I borrowed a bike in the Alpes and did some terrifying descents on another skittish machine.
    For technique, learn how to pick the best line, bleed off speed before a turn, lean into turns, avoid the back brake, beware of camber and road debris.
    Try practicing on your own, without the pressure to keep up.

  10. #10
    slower than you Applehead57's Avatar
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    No one said you had to go flying down the hill. Some riders have no fear of "what-if".
    I have a balanced bike, no instability whatsoever, but at the age of 48, I avoid situations where major accidents could happen. I find +30mph ok, but +40 is the razors edge. Travel at whatever speed you feel you need to travel.
    "Lack of opportunity does not constitute virtue". Diana Tickle.

  11. #11
    serenity NOWWW! amahana1's Avatar
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    when i get flying down hills at 40+, the thought enters my mind...."did I clamp those QR skewers on tight enough?"

  12. #12
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamawani
    Wolf -

    Try to stay as upright as possible while going downhill - that would mean holding onto the straight section of the handlebars - it might feel awkward with your hands so close together. Your upright position will create more wind drag and slow you down.

    Also, use a light dragging brake - not fully compressed but just lightly rubbing.

    I don't know where you are riding, but tell your friends that you'd like to do a less hilly ride nxt time. My guess is that after you do some small hills, you can tackle the bigger descents with more confidence.

    It's your call on the straight bar - it would give you a wider and more stable stance - but would also be a moderate expense.

    Best - J
    Staying as upright as possible may be the worst thing you can do. Yes it increases drag but wind drag isn't doesn't create that much resistance. Staying as upright as possible raises the center of gravity of the bike and rider (don't forget you are a "unit") which increases instability. Put yourself down lower, on the drops if you like but also push back on the bike so that you are on the rear of the saddle. Keep your feet parallel to the ground when you are coasting, knees flexed and get up off the saddle a little - not much, just take a little pressure off. Relax your whole body especially your arms. You do not what a death grip on the bars.

    Now start down the hill. Don't drag the brakes constantly. This just overheats the rims and the brakes. As you gain speed, brake to keep the speed under control but let off the brake when you slow to the speed you want. Keep doing this all the way down the hill... on for a bit, off...on again... etc.

    As you come to a curve, place the outside pedal down and push really hard on it. Put pressure on the handlebar on the same side. This actually helps cornering.

    Now the mental part. Where are you looking when you come down a hill? Most people look just a few feet in front of them whether they are driving a car or riding a bike or riding a horse. Look up. Look down the road to the next corner. Try to look around that corner. Keep a mental log of what is on the road or around the road until you reach that corner but keep looking down the road to the next corner. If you are looking down at the ground in front of your wheel, it looks like it's going by really, really fast. Too fast. But if you look further down the road, it doesn't appear to be moving quite as fast.

    Practice is the key. I also find that mountain biking helps develop bike handling skills. If you can ride down a rock strewn trail, smooth asphalt is nothin'! Good luck.

    Stuart Black

  13. #13
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    If you feel unsteady because the bike is unsteady, then get a new bike or make adjustments to your existing bike's wheels, fork, headset, etc. (that is if, like you said, you would like to feel more comfortable and be able to go faster). But remember, like Applehead57 said, you don't have to go flying down the hills. My wife doesn't like to go fast although, after many downhills behind me, she is feeling more confident all the time. I felt very uncomfortable on my old Miyata bike when I got going over 40 mph, but on my LeMond Zurich, it is awesome at high speeds and I love to go fast. It feels very, very stable at high speeds (totally different than my old bike). I live in Colorado and ride a lot of mountain passes and I often go over 50 mph with my all time max being 58 mph. As posted above, bikes really react differently so check yours out or maybe test ride someone elses bike and see how it feels to you.

    If you feel unsteady just because of the speed (and the bike is fine), then slow down. Take it a step at a time and on a straight away get out on the edge of your comfort zone for just a brief moment and then slow it down again. The more you do it, the more you will feel comfortable with it (but always do it at the speed you feel comfortable with, not what others in your group might be doing). On straight aways, I can always go faster than my friends, but on curvy downhills, some of them go faster through the turns because I don't feel as comfortable doing that. Personally, I prefer riding with my hands on the brake hoods. I feel more confident in my braking and controlling the bike when on the brake hoods (especially in the turns). I know this is not conventional wisdom, but I personally just feel more in control that way. When I'm on a straight away and looking for maximum speed, I go down to the drops and tuck for aerodynamics.

    I'm a speed junky, even after having a bad crash in 2001 going around a curve on a high speed descent. It took me awhile after that crash to regain my confidence, but I've got it back (having a nice bike really helps with the confidence). You have to play "what if?" in your mind and weigh the positives and negatives FOR YOU and then ride accordingly. Don't jeopardize yourself just because your friends are doing it, but if you want it too, go for it and learn at your own pace.
    "The wind, it is what it is, you can't curse it and you can't count on it."

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