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 : "Unbound Gravel". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Descending Tips

Old 10-11-21, 12:13 PM
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Descending Tips

Any tips for descending on types of terrain like that pictured below? I'm going to list my current strategies/thought processes now as a relative beginner, and I would appreciate your input. Thanks!

Generally, I try to:

1. See if I can find an unobstructed line through the rocks and ruts
2. If I can't. find the least obstructive line
3. Look at the bottom. Can I see the bottom? Is there a curve/bend? Do I know what's around the curve/bend?
a.) if I can't see the bottom, I tend to brake quite a lot on my way down just in case the bottom or around the bend there's a cliff or dangerous obstruction, or even other people
b.) If I CAN see the bottom, I try to see if there are any large potholes, trenches, etc... If there are, I will generally brake on my way down and also try to avoid them
c.) If there are no large potholes/trenches etc at the bottom, I have a clear line, AND there is enough flat ground or maybe another upward slope after the bottom to "catch" me, I will usually just go down full speed.

I do find that the more I go down a given hill, the better I get, and generally the faster I can go down it safely. Is it pretty common to be riding the brakes the first time you go down these types of hills? I hit some recently that were EXTREMELY steep and frankly I was concerned I wouldnt be able to stop if I just let the bike go at the speed gravity wanted. I think much of this comes from being new to "gravel" biking in general, even though I know I'm sorta underbike mountain biking sometimes. But please understand that these trails are often not marked "MOUNTAIN BIKES ONLY" so what starts at a nice gravel path ends with me on some pretty intense stuff.... But I still have fun.

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Old 10-11-21, 12:27 PM
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Keep weight back as far a possible, be very light on the front brake, do not oversteer, use body more to steer than usual
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Old 10-11-21, 06:07 PM
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That is on the rougher side for a gravel bike but still very doable.
- 650b wheels with 2"+ tires would be great for that.
- Weight low and way back to let front tire float a bit (hang butt behind seat)
- Brake both brakes at same time. Occasionally test surface with brakes to gauge traction level.
- Very loose hands just barely gripping. Bent elbows
- Let front wheel somewhat find it's own path if you can. Avoid sudden steering moves.
- Lower seat if you have a dropper.
- I use a Lauf suspension fork which really helps maintain steering control when descending really fast.
- Look for a "high spot" path all of the way down if there are deep ruts and ravines. Stay out of the bottom of the gullies.
- Sometimes the extreme outside edges (or just beyond the outside the edges) are the best surface.
- Carry a first aid kit.

Last edited by dwmckee; 10-12-21 at 05:23 PM.
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Old 10-11-21, 07:12 PM
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Assuming you have a drop bar bike - use the drops when descending technical terrain. That is what they are for. If you bang the front of the bike into a rut you will not have your hands got lying off the bars when you are in the drops.
And lower pressure with tubeless will make technical terrain far more enjoyable!
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Old 10-11-21, 07:18 PM
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Get out of the saddle, weight aft, minimize steering input, be prepared to a drift little (being out of the saddle makes drifting more controllable), watch for ruts that narrow and can trap your front tire. Try to use the berms to turn.
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Old 10-11-21, 09:56 PM
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Buy a mountain bike with suspension, wider tires, and a dropper post.
Use it.
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Old 10-12-21, 03:01 AM
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Originally Posted by tyrion
Get out of the saddle, weight aft, minimize steering input, be prepared to a drift little (being out of the saddle makes drifting more controllable), watch for ruts that narrow and can trap your front tire. Try to use the berms to turn.
yes, only thing I could add is use your "core" and legs to control the skid/drift. You might want to find a flat smooth gravel path to train; go fast and drop the rear brake to manufacture a skid and learn to control it with your core/legs.
if there are cracks or roots, try to go over them perpendicularly; if you go almost parallel, there is a change that the lack of camber grip will force you in the the crack/along the root and cause a crash... I learnt the hard way on muddy tractor and motocross bike tracks...
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Old 10-12-21, 02:00 PM
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I'd enjoy that more on a mtb.
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Old 10-12-21, 04:04 PM
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  • Don't fight the bike unless you have to; let the front wheel find the line.
  • Use your thighs and knees to "steer" with the saddle.
  • Avoid a death grip on your bars.
  • Use both brakes at the same time -- feather, don't grab.

In short: stay loose, low, and back.
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Old 10-12-21, 06:41 PM
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OP: What you're showing in the pictures is about the limit of what I'll do on the gravel bike, or would want to do on a mountain bike. My set up, designed for a one-handed rider, fires both front and back brakes pretty much evenly off a single lever. Weight to the back and I've never had anything close to an end over.

On that type of terrain, safety rules if you are not racing, and even then should probably rule unless you're getting paid for it. I come in cautious and then pick the spot where I can cut loose and ride out the bumps/corners without braking.
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Old 10-14-21, 02:04 PM
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It looks like a mistake or bad luck would be costly here. There's no need to set records all at once, take time to work your speed up gradually. See the different types of terrain? I would test how hard I could brake on each (keeping in mind conditions will change on the weather and some randomness). Forcing a tail slide sounds like a great idea to learn how to control the bike if it's not damaging the trails too much (off-road trails here are more tightly managed).
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Old 10-18-21, 10:04 AM
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That terrain is much better suited for an MTB. If that's a part of a route where a gravel bike is much better suited, you just have to accept the compromise that is a gravel bike. I have a few rougher patches on my favorite mixed surface routes. I lift slightly off the saddle with flexed knees, letting my legs absorb the shock. Others may pedal through that kind of stuff, but I am just gong to let gravity work its wonders!
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Old 10-18-21, 12:42 PM
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was going to suggest a dropper post, but someone already has. I don't have a "cyclocross" bike. don't know how you guys do this kind of stuff w/ drop bars. kudos to you
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