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I've lost my nerve on descents

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I've lost my nerve on descents

Old 07-08-13, 01:44 PM
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iab
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I've lost my nerve on descents

Just got back for a week of vacation where there are hills. Nothing huge, but certainly more than the flats of Illinois, maybe in 100km there is 3,000-4,000 ft of elevation change.

There are a couple of hills there where I would put it in the 12 cog, go in the drops and just rip. Now, I hit 30+, the bike seems squirrely (it isn't), so I press my thighs together on the top tube and coast. Yeeesshhh!

This started last spring when I dumped by bike. Nothing "bad", I mean, it did hurt. Lots of road rash, thumped my head good (helmet prevented anything serious) and my shoulder was sore for 6 weeks, but no broken bones or near-death-experience or anything. Last August at the Dairyland Dare (a very hilly ride), I did the same thing, thighs tightly pressed to the top tube. I used the excuse of an old bike with wood rims, but I was only kidding myself.

Nope. It's gone. I'm hoping at this year's Dare, following someone will bring back my descending mojo.


I did see a black bear run across the road in front of me on a ride this week. At least that was pretty cool.
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Old 07-08-13, 01:53 PM
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You'll need to edit out that mention of helmet preventing anything

It'll come back. You first 40'r will lead to being comfortable at 50 again. Although I have to admit I'm not nearly as comfortable at 50 as I was when my age was below that #.
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Old 07-08-13, 01:55 PM
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I lost my nerve, entirely, a while back. I had a skewer snap in the middle of a ride. I've gotten new skewers and am ready to go again, but it's still on my mind.

Here's hoping we both recover.
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Old 07-08-13, 02:12 PM
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I have slowed down tremendously, especially on the mtb since I had a class 4 AC separation from a fall on the trail. I was never very fast on the road bike to begin with though. I was a faster descender on my mtb.
At 48 I just don't bounce right anymore
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Old 07-08-13, 02:29 PM
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live vicariously and just watch the guys on the Tour
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Old 07-08-13, 02:33 PM
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I had a friend come visit me in Austin from Houston one time who was so nervous about the hills, he literally started shaking on the ride and we had to go get the car to pick him up... It was the strangest thing I'd ever seen. I think it was a combo of a few things, one namely being that I made him bring his road bike, not his tt bike which he rides exclusively. He just wasn't comfortable on the road bike anymore.
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Old 07-08-13, 02:43 PM
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I never had all that much nerve to begin with, it's not worth the thrill to me. Crashes just hurt too much and are too dangerous. Plus your bike gets clobbered too. 30mph or so is plenty fast so I leave it at that, and I always leave a good margin for error on the curves. I think racers take crazy risks, but to be a racer you have to be an extremist to begin with. On the other hand, when I'm bodyboarding I really go for it and take wipeouts all the time. Most of the time it's actually fun, even on large waves, and I've never been hurt.
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Old 07-08-13, 03:11 PM
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Descending is one of those fears where the irrational state takes over because we think the outcome is more likely than it really is. In my experience, riding next to someone I don't trust is the leading cause of my multiple cases of road rash. If you had a true cycling phobia of course you wouldn't leave the driveway. (Actually you wouldn't leave the house -- a friend of mine broke his collarbone at the end of his driveway.)

Mild fears apparently respond well to exposure therapy (search fear exposure therapy). Repeat the feared state with increasing intensity conditions your brain to feel less anxious. I've noticed the same anxiety on descents, so I include positive affirmations such as
- I don't need to go as fast as possible to enjoy the ride
- I'm getting a nice head start on that next roller
- I sure am glad I check my brakes and cables regularly
- This breeze is nice

And of course I descend by myself by separating from anyone close by. So I would be glad to descend the Dare with you - after I add a few bike lengths before we drop down.
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Old 07-08-13, 03:26 PM
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I've been building my nerve over the years. Until recently, my highest recorded speed was 41 mph. Last month, I visited Bainbridge Island, WA, and they have some long hills there. I hit 50 mph, according to my iphone GPS app (cyclemeter). It takes practice. While descending, I imagine myself tumbling, and I figure which direction I'm most likely to fall in. Basically, I'm planning my fall. I believe this helps me choose an optimal path and speed. In case I sound insane, rest assured that I do hit the brakes sometimes. But currently, I dare to descend faster than any of my riding friends.
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Old 07-08-13, 03:44 PM
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It's not impossible the OP got concussed on the helmet-breaking crash. Certainly, a severe MTBI has really messed with my "go-fast". Things kind of mentally blur out. Hard to describe.

That said....... I did hit 40 mph the other day! :whistle:
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Old 07-08-13, 03:50 PM
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Sounds like I'm not the only one who can't just plunge down any hill without fear. Even as a kid, I tended to be more "careful" about things than the rest, so I never developed the kind of nerve that adult bicyclists can draw on. For those who have ridden TOMRV, there's that one 16-18% downhill after a sag stop on the first day. I was riding the brakes to keep below 20 MPH the whole way down.
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Old 07-08-13, 03:57 PM
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Thanks for the replies. Hopefully the fear will get better and not worse as it has been.



But really. No one replied about the bear? It was a friggin' bear people. Maybe 30 feet in front of me. Does everyone see friggin' bears on their rides?
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Old 07-08-13, 03:58 PM
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A friggin' bear.
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Old 07-08-13, 04:01 PM
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I think that's pretty cool!
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Old 07-08-13, 04:03 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
Sounds like I'm not the only one who can't just plunge down any hill without fear. Even as a kid, I tended to be more "careful" about things than the rest, so I never developed the kind of nerve that adult bicyclists can draw on. For those who have ridden TOMRV, there's that one 16-18% downhill after a sag stop on the first day. I was riding the brakes to keep below 20 MPH the whole way down.
Below 20mph?! I can't imagine why you would do that downhill..was it windy (both wind and curve) or what? I mean over 20mph on flats is pretty common..
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Old 07-08-13, 04:04 PM
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Originally Posted by iab View Post
Thanks for the replies. Hopefully the fear will get better and not worse as it has been.



But really. No one replied about the bear? It was a friggin' bear people. Maybe 30 feet in front of me. Does everyone see friggin' bears on their rides?
I guarantee you wouldn't have any problem descending if you had one of those bearing down on you. Pun intended.
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Old 07-08-13, 04:07 PM
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Originally Posted by shoota View Post
Below 20mph?! I can't imagine why you would do that downhill..was it windy (both wind and curve) or what? I mean over 20mph on flats is pretty common..
Yeah, I have this fear that Bad Things will happen if I allow the speed to get out of hand... rationally, I know that would manifest itself as a skid that would cause me to lose control. I'm trying to work up my nerve!
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Old 07-08-13, 04:12 PM
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I haven't been able to do fast descents since I was 40 or so. Bears or no bears. Crashed once at a fairly good clip coming down a big canyon in the Rockies when I was 33. I never got the nerve completely back.
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Old 07-08-13, 04:23 PM
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A bear?! You saw a friggin' bear 30 feet in front of you?! Yeah, that would make me loose my nerve, or inspire me to go even faster!
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Old 07-08-13, 04:24 PM
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Originally Posted by iab View Post
A friggin' bear.
Ok then, a reply about the bear.

How fast do they move? Pretty easy to circumnavigate? On the topic of wildlife, the other week I had a deer crossing my path at full clip, and these buggers jump in weird random patterns to escape predatory animals, now that's annoying to dodge!
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Old 07-08-13, 04:25 PM
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We see lots of "bears" on rides, but only when we ride in the city.
Deer turkeys and one rattle snake on the mtb though.

Last edited by toytech; 07-08-13 at 04:26 PM. Reason: spelllling
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Old 07-08-13, 04:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Italuminium View Post
Ok then, a reply about the bear.

How fast do they move? Pretty easy to circumnavigate? On the topic of wildlife, the other week I had a deer crossing my path at full clip, and these buggers jump in weird random patterns to escape predatory animals, now that's annoying to dodge!
Darn fast.

I tried to get my phone out to take a picture but he/she disappeared into the woods in a flash. I have no idea why it was running. Maybe a middle-aged dude in spandex is enough reason. Pretty animal. The fur seemed to be very silky. I have seen their sheet in big piles on the roads up there. Mostly berries.

And yes, deer suck. One jumped in front of me on a fast descent. But I had my nerve back then.
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Old 07-08-13, 04:38 PM
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Maybe remove the speedometer. Gets rid of some of the pressure. If you don't know you're going 35, it won't bother you, unless it feels too fast, then it won't bother you that you bailed before you got to 34. Etc.
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Old 07-08-13, 04:45 PM
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I've lost my mojo too. Two things contributed to this; 1) a realization that at 62, my body doesn't heal as quickly as it did in my youth. Having lost both of my parents the past few years, and my two youngest sibling out of six, I'm very aware of my own mortality.

And, 2) early last Spring, a year ago on a descent that was not particularly technical, my new bike exhibited the "death wobble". For those who don't know, the "death wobble" is the name given to violent front wheel side-to-side oscillation when a bike is in a free-wheel, high-speed descent. In my case, it wasn't all that fast, only about 35 mph. I'm pretty sure I hit an expansion crack in the asphalt while going around a curve, which set off the oscillation. I was able to recover...somehow. It was "touch and go". But for awhile there, I was eyeing the embankment of the road cut, thinking I'd do less damage to myself by going into the road cut sideways than sliding along the asphalt at +30 mph. (I've since done my research and discovered the best way to recover from the "death wobble" is to press a knee along the top tube. Still, that bike is pretty squirrely and I only take in on rides where I won't be doing any big descents. It sure is a fast, quick bike, however. It just wants to go!)

- - - - -

No bears, but did see a mountain lion once. I stopped right quick before his pursuit instinct could kick in. Maybe he was just lazy as it was the middle of a hot afternoon and he didn't have much energy. Thing was about 20 feet away from me when I spotted him. Was just watching me. He sure had a huge head!

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Old 07-08-13, 04:48 PM
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Originally Posted by iab View Post
But really. No one replied about the bear? It was a friggin' bear people. Maybe 30 feet in front of me. Does everyone see friggin' bears on their rides?
Occasionally, along with turkey, 'coons, deer, woodchucks, 'possums (if I'm out late), snakes (of several flavors), squirrels, turtles, and rabbits. Tho' I do usually see more bears when I'm out hiking. Helps that I live in semi-rural Southern Appalchia. We have critters galore 'round here.

When I lived in OK, I saw bobcats twice while out riding. That raised the pucker factor somewhat, but was still pretty awesome.

And yeah, seeing a bear is always cool.

As far as downhills, I've never really been a 'go faster' kinda guy. I always slow down. 30ish is plenty fast for me.

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