Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like :The Dirty Kanza". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Gravel descents

Old 06-19-19, 01:04 PM
  #1  
RShantz
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Gravel descents

I'm probably going to get a gravel bike in the somewhat near future. I'll do gravel races which primarily are riding on dirt roads in the mountains. So there's climbing and descending. The roads may or may not have gravel & be washboarded.

Is there anything specific to look for that will be help on the descents? I'd imagine that's where you could loose a lot of time if timid.
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Old 06-19-19, 01:10 PM
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going down this & then the other side of this, I learned about fear & respect

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Old 06-19-19, 02:03 PM
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Skills with Phil will help.



-Tim-
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Old 06-19-19, 02:28 PM
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I rely on good brakes. I'm in awe of folks who can bomb an unfamiliar descent on a rigid gravel bike.
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Old 06-19-19, 03:03 PM
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  • Practice
  • Practice
  • Learn how to lean the bike as well as keep the bike upright while leaning the body to steer when a descent is extremely loose, steering/counter-steering
  • Stimulate your hand/eye coordination prior to the event, being able to process the rapid stream of information that comes during a fast gravel descent is just as important as other technical knowledge
  • Consider a dropper post
  • Use your front brake sparingly unless it's straight ahead and upright
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Old 06-19-19, 03:09 PM
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Race cyclocross. You learn to turn in less than ideal conditions in a lower cosequence setting. Learning to stay loose and relaxed even with a bit of slippage is an acquired skill that most road cyclists dont have much experience with
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Old 06-19-19, 03:13 PM
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Thanks for the responses, but I'm really looking for any insight relating on bike specifics. Anything specific to look for on the new bike that will help descend faster.

I completely understand that my ability is the main factor. However, since I'll be getting a new bike I want to get the bike that would give me the most advantage on descents (while keeping the total weight of the bike down). Even if the advantage is minimal.

A second lost on the downhill is the same as a second lost on the uphill.
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Old 06-19-19, 03:46 PM
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Fatter tires help with stability on gnarly steep descents. And hydraulic disc brakes, which allow you to scrub off lots of speed without putting a death grip on the levers. A flared handlebar helps a bit, too, as the drops provide a wider position for controlling the front end.
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Old 06-19-19, 03:54 PM
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As mentioned in post 5, a dropper post. Due to my leg length and saddle-to-bar drop, double-digit descents were often terrifying. The ability to get my weight lower and farther back made an enormous difference.

A flared bar helps a little, a dropper helps a lot.
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Old 06-19-19, 03:59 PM
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It sounds as if you are expecting to compete at a much higher level than most BFers! I'd be surprised if there is anyone else here chasing seconds. Good for you!
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Old 06-19-19, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by shelbyfv View Post
It sounds as if you are expecting to compete at a much higher level than most BFers! I'd be surprised if there is anyone else here chasing seconds. Good for you!
I guess the chasing seconds depends on the competition!!!

I do imagine I'd be chasing seconds against most of the riders in my area & age group. But there's always faster folks out there as we all know.
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Old 06-19-19, 04:31 PM
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+1 for hydro disc
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Old 06-19-19, 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
Fatter tires help with stability on gnarly steep descents. And hydraulic disc brakes, which allow you to scrub off lots of speed without putting a death grip on the levers. A flared handlebar helps a bit, too, as the drops provide a wider position for controlling the front end.
Thanks. I'll certainly get hydraulic disc & use fatter tires. Hadn't thought of the flared bars but I think I'll go that route. I'm going to rent a titanium bike for a couple days & see how that feels.

I've ridden a small amount of gravel before on my road bike with 25's on it. This was on dirt roads with a small amount of gravel so it really was not anything technical. Where I really had difficulties was on descents if there was washboard. I'm hoping the fatter tires will eliminate those issues. I was dead tired from the jarring on after the descents.
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Old 06-19-19, 04:58 PM
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Better equipment isn't going to help if correct technique is not used.

A wide variety of equipment is used at gravel races and the one thing good descenders have in common is good technique.

Learn to turn. Watch the video in post number 3.


-Tim-
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Old 06-19-19, 06:06 PM
  #15  
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Originally Posted by TimothyH View Post
Better equipment isn't going to help if correct technique is not used.

A wide variety of equipment is used at gravel races and the one thing good descenders have in common is good technique.

Learn to turn. Watch the video in post number 3.


-Tim-
This is such a typical comment on this forum. I said above that I know skill is the most important factor. However, it's not an either/or scenario when talking about skill and equipment. Wouldn't it be good to have both?

I just asked the question to try to make the best possible equipment when I make my purchase. Why wouldn't I want the best possible tool for the job?
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Old 06-19-19, 06:46 PM
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Originally Posted by RShantz View Post
Thanks for the responses, but I'm really looking for any insight relating on bike specifics. Anything specific to look for on the new bike that will help descend faster.

...

More mountain-bikey geometry helps you go descend faster. If the bike allows you to get behind the wheels (shorter reach and a saddle that gets out of the way) you'll be more comfortable and go down hills faster. The geo puts you in a position of better control when the bike is pointed downward.

OTOH the downhill geometry isn't so good for going up hills and is less nimble.

Pick your poison.
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Old 06-19-19, 08:27 PM
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I'll go ahead and assume you are already a great descender. You've given us no reason to believe otherwise.

I do a gnarly descent nearly every ride. It's my location. I have canti brakes. I sometimes wish for the power of hydraulic discs. Tune as I might, cantilever brakes are inferior. The other is suspension. Something like that stem might make a big difference.

Since I mountain bike on mine too, I've come across a need for a dropper several times. On a fast washboard or gravel descent, not so much. I am leaning pretty hard on my decade of road racing though.
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Old 06-19-19, 09:18 PM
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The thing is...poor descenders will descend faster on a more stable bike, but confident descenders make want something more nimble so there isnt a one size fits all answer.
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Old 06-19-19, 09:41 PM
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I'll say it again: the more aft the bike allows you to put your weight going downhill, the more in control you will be going downhill, and the faster you will go.

That's a gross generalization but I'm sticking to it. Just think about your bike/body/center-of-mass as the bike is angled downward.

And downhill geometry has its problems when going up hill.

Skill (practice) is important but basic physics is undeniable.
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Old 06-19-19, 10:19 PM
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Originally Posted by RShantz View Post
This is such a typical comment on this forum. I said above that I know skill is the most important factor. However, it's not an either/or scenario when talking about skill and equipment. Wouldn't it be good to have both?

I just asked the question to try to make the best possible equipment when I make my purchase. Why wouldn't I want the best possible tool for the job?
I never said it was either/or. Those are not my words.

Of course you should get the best tool for the job but the tool is only as good as the operatorís skill.

If if you know the techniques than you can maximize any equipment. If not then even the best equipment isnít going to help.

Watch the Skills with Phil video above then set up a GoPro at the exit of a fast turn with loose surface and film yourself. It will show you what you are doing wrong. You will get better.



-Tim-

Last edited by TimothyH; 06-20-19 at 07:22 AM.
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Old 06-19-19, 10:24 PM
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Equipment choices in order of benefit for me:
  • Wide tires at low pressure (42 mm at 30 psi for my 70 kg)
  • Hydro disc (one finger and total control)
  • Frame and geometry (for me the SuperX with stiff frame, short chainstays, slack head tube, and large rake turns with confidence and feels really fast)
  • Wide flared bars (44 cm Easton EC70AX feel great on sketchy descents)
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Old 06-20-19, 04:12 AM
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Originally Posted by RShantz View Post
This is such a typical comment on this forum. I said above that I know skill is the most important factor. However, it's not an either/or scenario when talking about skill and equipment. Wouldn't it be good to have both?

I just asked the question to try to make the best possible equipment when I make my purchase. Why wouldn't I want the best possible tool for the job?
So what you meant to say is that money is no object and you want the best bike that money can buy assuming it has specific downhill racing features.
Fixed
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Old 06-20-19, 05:39 AM
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I didn't mean placing second, rather cutting seconds off your race time! As I said, you'll probably be the first on BF competitive enough for that to matter. You may have to buy a bike to start, then analyze your results to see where exactly you lost the time that kept you off the podium. You could check the results for races this year and just start with a bike that won. You'll know you're in the ballpark at least.
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Old 06-20-19, 07:09 AM
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+1 for more time on gravel to gain more experience.

I have no problem descending on the road at 45-50mph, love it! Gravel is a very different story, I'm still not confident on fast descents on loose terrain. It will just take some time for me to get used to the bike handling off road, no need to rush it, it will come as I ride more.
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Old 06-20-19, 07:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Rides4Beer View Post
+1 for more time on gravel to gain more experience.

I have no problem descending on the road at 45-50mph, love it! Gravel is a very different story, I'm still not confident on fast descents on loose terrain. It will just take some time for me to get used to the bike handling off road, no need to rush it, it will come as I ride more.
Likely need to wipe out a few times to learn to ride close to the traction limit. I accept that I'm too old to want to learn how to ride gravel or dirt at maximum speed.

As for which bike to get the Open U.P. is very popular on gravel and hard to go wrong with one of those.
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