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Old Guys and Descending

Old 07-07-19, 11:12 AM
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deacon mark
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Old Guys and Descending

So I naturally get more interesting viewing cycling with the TDF going on and leads me to a question. I like most of the group here I believe find those crazy descending speeds they go are unbelievable. So I ask this question to us over 50 are you much more cautious than you were years ago and how much slower would we be taking those long descends. I am not obviously looking at what speed but just generally I think I would be going down hold the brakes or featherings them all the way down. In fact just looking over the edge on some of those roads would have me scared to death. I am just the only one?

I say this as a cyclist in the flatlands of Illinois and when we get to any small downhill I do try and turn up the speed. Around here to get over 38 mph is pretty rare you have to have lots of tailwind. I find that I do get a thrill and as I get more comfortable with a particular downhill it does get less scary. But that said I have hit 43 mph on a ski resort going down the road in the summer and I was ok but getting any faster would take me way beyond comfort level. I guess that is why those guys are pros but I just wonder if they ever really get scared because I sure do.
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Old 07-07-19, 11:23 AM
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66 here. I raced 40 years ago and went the group speed. On some races in northern New England, that was very fast. (No computers in those days.) I still like going fast and have seen close to 50 but I am nowhere near as crazy as I used to be. I know I do not have the reflexes and athletic skill I had then and I break far more bones and heal slower now. Plus accumulated head injuries.

I ride bikes with excellent brakes and grippy tires so I can do a very fast back-down in speed anytime.

Edit: I ride descents in the drops. Set my bikes up with powerful brakes (dual pivot, cantilever and Mafac Racer) and Tektro V-brake levers so I have both great stopping power and real modulation in effort. (The modulation in in lever force, not lever movement, but with a sudden, hard grab, nothing exciting happens; I just slow really quickly.)

Ben

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Old 07-07-19, 11:46 AM
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I tend to back off around 40 mph these days, saving it for the next up slope. A lot of it is just what you're used to - 40 happens to be about as much as I can get coasting down the hills close around here, so I don't really care to be faster than that.
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Old 07-07-19, 11:48 AM
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I crashed on a fast downhill at 47 mph 2 Octobers ago. I was getting carried away on some really fun downhill sweepers. I was lucky that all I did was break some ribs, break my right pinky finger and wind up with bruises and strawberries on my chest and face. Both my wheels were taco'd and blown. My helmet interior cracked down the middle.

Strange thing is, I'm not skittish or traumatized mentally by the experience. I learned my lesson but I still am an aggressive descender. I got my wheels rebuilt. I pay better attention to my brake pads and their adjustment. I do descend on the drops and make sure to keep 2 fingers on each brake lever. I reduce my speed going into hairpin turns but if I can visualize the exit from the turn and plot my line (cutting the apexes) it is often possible to fly through the downhill with minimal braking.
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Old 07-07-19, 11:58 AM
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Descending on open public roads versus those closed to race traffic only is a different proposition.
My favorite decreasing radius blind left hand bend on rough chip seal surfaces at the bottom of a descent could be taken at full chat if an oncoming F150 was not a concern, which it always is.
For me up is "on", down is "off" in terms of effort but maintaining a good momentum is key to getting up and over my local terrain.
Descending at pace is an essential operational skill, pushing one's luck is something most of us outgrow.

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Old 07-07-19, 01:15 PM
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I have gone 53 mph years ago, now I start thinking about it when I get near 45. To me, there is no point in pushing it while descending. My friends will wait if need be.
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Old 07-07-19, 01:27 PM
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Where the danger lies in descents, for me, is not how fast I'm going, but in how well I set up for turns and anticipate the road ahead. Because if you set up for a blind turn poorly and suddenly find yourself committed to a line that's headed straight into an oncoming logging truck, your speed is the least of your worries.

I think you need a certain amount of confidence, and the willingness to take occasional reasonable risks in order to maintain that confidence, survive, and live to ride another day. Otherwise, I think you can become too skittish, and that's every bit as dangerous as overconfidence, IMO. Maybe even more so.
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Old 07-07-19, 02:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Lemond1985 View Post
Where the danger lies in descents, for me, is not how fast I'm going, but in how well I set up for turns and anticipate the road ahead. Because if you set up for a blind turn poorly and suddenly find yourself committed to a line that's headed straight into an oncoming logging truck, your speed is the least of your worries.

I think you need a certain amount of confidence, and the willingness to take occasional reasonable risks in order to maintain that confidence, survive, and live to ride another day. Otherwise, I think you can become too skittish, and that's every bit as dangerous as overconfidence, IMO. Maybe even more so.
Exactly. Confidence, being smooth, and knowing what you're doing is key. I don't find I know less about cycling as I age, so I descend even better than I used to. Plus my fitter just made me buy a lower set of aero bars. I tried them out on the flat about a week ago and noticed that I was more cramped, my thighs thumping my rib cage a little and thought about getting back to him about that. But then I looked down at my Garmin and it said 24. I'm not complaining after all. Anyway, I still hit 50 from time to time. Set a PR on a descent yesterday with those new bars.
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Old 07-07-19, 03:00 PM
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For me it really depends on the road I’m descending. I’m more cautious on the descents in our NC mountains, but I always have been. Most of those descents are fairly steep with tighter turning radiuses. It’s very easy to enter a curve with too much speed. Add to that wet conditions and it can be pretty dicey. I leaned my lesson years ago taking a curve to aggressively.....lucky to not have gone off the road down a ravine but crashly badly with fractured ribs and separated shoulder.

However I’ve found that I can just let it roll on the majority of the descents in Colorado and Wyoming for example. The slopes are typically only 6% and the curves are more generous. I’ve hit speeds of 50-55 mph a number of times out there.

I have recently added a road bike with disc brakes and just love the enhanced braking ability in our mountains on the east coast. Plus I’m not as worried about descending during wet conditions either with the disc brakes. I still descend with caution but it’s definitely more controllable with the disc brakes.

But after crashing on a flat road and breaking my hip I think I’m probably more cautious overall.
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Old 07-07-19, 03:02 PM
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Earlier this week, I posted to this Fifty-Plus thread, “The reward is just ahead !,” about my last mountainous ride, four years ago in Pennsylvania
Originally Posted by Bmach View Post
Nice I like straight downhills.

Rode around and up Mt Greylock [in Massachusetts] Friday got the work but not the reward of the downhill. North side steep areas and some switchbacks, don’t think I got above 38, lots of breaking.

Great ride though.
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
…Compared to the hills of Metro Boston, I consider that I rode over two mountains, shorter perhaps, but with grades as challenging as I had encountered in Colorado (but that was 35 years ago).
There were also some steep backroad hills, and I occasionally got stuck in too high a gear, saying to BD, “I gotta learn to respect these hills.”

The other terrains were pleasant wooded back roads, and a long stretch of unshaded farm lands looking very much like the rolling Midwest, but with mountains far in the distance on either side….

I don’t use GPS, and I’m not familiar with grades, so he would indicate how steep (%) were various grades. This was the first time I had ever looked at an elevation profile of a ride I have done, and since elevations were a key feature of the ride, I could re-visit every segment of the 61 miles...

We held together pretty well nearly the entire length of the Ride. At the top of the first mountain he said "I’ll see you at the bottom." Being heavier, I said, “No, because physics will determine arrival.” Well, actually fear determined arrival, because after about 30 mph, I started riding the brakes as they chattered. 34.5 mph is the highest maximum speed I have recorded.

I drove back to Boston on Sunday, feeling myself a much better rider than when I arrived, for conquering the mountains …
In my earlier days of cycling I was mostly a tourist with my wife, including Rockies, Appalachian, White and Green Mtns, and I would try to keep her in sight since I was always ahead of her. Now mainly a commuter.

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Old 07-07-19, 03:08 PM
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I've seen friends wrecked by dogs, cats, squirrels, chickens and deer. I'm inclined to worry about some dumb animal crossing the road.
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Old 07-07-19, 03:46 PM
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Originally Posted by shelbyfv View Post
I've seen friends wrecked by dogs, cats, squirrels, chickens and deer. I'm inclined to worry about some dumb animal crossing the road.
Or some dumbass pulling out of a driveway.
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Old 07-07-19, 04:17 PM
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I had a near miss with a squirrel the other day, I slowed down in advance, so he made it across the road well before I rode past. So he actually did a u-turn, and ran back in my path, turned around, and started doing some kind of fancy puffy tail display. Captured it on video. Apparently they are trying to protect their turf when they run in the road like that, so knowing that little fact gives me more ability to avoid them.
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Old 07-07-19, 04:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Lemond1985 View Post
I had a near miss with a squirrel the other day, I slowed down in advance, so he made it across the road well before I rode past. So he actually did a u-turn, and ran back in my path, turned around, and started doing some kind of fancy puffy tail display.

Descending today at close to 50, one of the little buggers saw me coming and jumped into the road. I cut to the right to scoot by, it stopped, pivoted cartwheel style and headed back the way it came, and then did it again, just before my front wheel arrived. I chalked it up to some kind of squirrel rite of passage designed to strengthen the squirrel gene pool. That, or a stupid squirrel bet.

Last edited by tigat; 07-07-19 at 05:06 PM. Reason: right, in this case, was not right
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Old 07-07-19, 05:02 PM
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I'm definitely slower on long mountain descents than I used to be. I know I don't bounce as well as I did when I was younger.
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Old 07-07-19, 05:02 PM
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Originally Posted by tigat View Post
Descending today at close to 50, one of the little buggers saw me coming and jumped into the road. I cut to the right to scoot by, it stopped, pivoted cartwheel style and headed back the way it came, and then did it again, just before my front wheel arrived. I chalked it up to some kind of squirrel right of passage designed to strengthen the squirrel gene pool. That, or a stupid squirrel bet.
It's like the "running of the bulls" with them, closest I can figure. Impresses the lady squirrels, perhaps.
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Old 07-07-19, 05:04 PM
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Originally Posted by horatio View Post
Or some dumbass pulling out of a driveway.
Not a lot, or in fact any, "driveways" on my local descents that don't have a gate.
If gates are open keep your head up for emerging vehicles and proceed with remaining in firm relaxed control on the descent just as if the gate was closed, but with an "out" for avoiding anything from a tire smokin' pickup to a combine entering the roadway from either side. It's a "dumbass" on a highly vulnerable vehicle who doesn't constantly scan and plan for "what now" every moment with deer, new potholes, broken down stock trailers and/or a deflating tire while pushing the speed up. Your ride: your responsibility to get home safely.

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Old 07-07-19, 05:15 PM
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Originally Posted by Bandera View Post
It's a "dumbass" on a highly vulnerable vehicle who doesn't constantly scan and plan for "what now" every moment with deer, new potholes, broken down stock trailers and/or a deflating tire while pushing the speed up. Your ride: your responsibility to get home safely.

-Bandera
Point taken. Thanks for the reminder.
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Old 07-07-19, 05:29 PM
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I turn 76 in a few weeks. My hat's off to all who do 40, 50, etc. Not a chance for me. Spent time recovering from a broken femur 3 years ago (not related to cycling). While in the hospital awaiting repair surgery, did some Googling on my injury and probabilities of complete recovery. A real eye opener. I was determined to beat the odds, which I did thankfully. No plans to tempt fate a second time.
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Old 07-07-19, 05:30 PM
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I'm 51, which I really don't classify as old, but those younger than me might beg to differ.

I regularly descend in the 40-50mph range. Once I hit a manhole cover so hard it broke the headlight (it was night time) right off the handlebars. The shell of the light had a flange on the bottom and that snapped right off the shell.

So I guess even though I don't have the physical agility that I did in my teens and 20s, I don't let that stop me from enjoying a spirited descent. Agility isn't really needed for descents unless you're one of these racers who does a pike across the seat to reduce aerodynamic drag.

Anyway, why is it that we, on a forum dedicated to a sport that has the potential to stave off the worst of the effects of aging, insist on grouping 50+ individuals into some "old" category? I was recently on vacation with a cousin who has allowed himself to carry an extra 120 pounds beyond his college days. He is debilitated by the notion that he has become old and fat, at 53. And he's right, because this is the condition he has sunk into. Getting out for a hike or a bike ride is an unpleasant chore for him. And it's really sad because in his college days he was a body builder. But he's been old in this way since his early 40s, unfortunately. Conversely I know people in their 60s and beyond who lead active, healthy lifestyles. Many of them are in this forum. And they can do things at their age that would make people 20 or even 40 years their junior jealous. If we have anyone over 50, 60, 70, or 80 here who can ride a 50 miler, a metric century, or a 100 miler and still mow the lawn the next day, you, my friend, are enjoying the physical life of a 20-30-40 year old.

Eventually the clock will run out on all of us. But I prefer to look at age as proximity to that event rather than as defining how I can live or what I can do prior to the clock giving out. Can we stop with this notion that being old is a lifestyle, and a sentence handed down by nature that prevents us from really living?

It is true that my body at 51 has undergone physiological changes that cannot be undone. Turning back the clock is impossible. But when I set out to do a ride I'm not thinking, "I'll do the best I can do given my advanced age." I'm thinking, "I'm going to go ride as hard as I can." Perhaps that's not as hard as it would have been 20 years ago. But it's a heck of a lot harder than 90% of the 31 year olds out there could accomplish.

So yes, I'm in the 50+ category. But this isn't just being in denial: I'm not old. My age is past the halfway point for most. I probably won't hit 51x2. But old? Sure, call me old but first you have to accompany me on a ride. You may drop me if you've put some time into training, but hopefully you'll agree I've earned the right to not be called old.
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Old 07-07-19, 05:50 PM
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Old is a state of mind, except when it's a state of body.
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Old 07-07-19, 06:13 PM
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Most here are talking about pavement. Gravel is a different beast.

Fast descending on gravel switchbacks means braking late into turns, cornering technique on loose surfaces and being in the right gear to accelerate under power out of the turn.

Tire pressure is key. A few pounds pressure can be the difference between bouncing down the road uncontrollably and an easy to control bike with lots of traction.

Technique and reading the road are important for turning.

Late braking requires guts and technique, but mostly guts. Well bled disk brakes don't hurt either.

Paved or gravel, endurance geometry often doesn't inspire confidence. I sometimes wish my bike had a little snappier handling.


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Old 07-07-19, 06:14 PM
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I think you need to risk your life once in a while, to really appreciate it, a little like those pesky squirrels that run out in the road and play chicken. I know I do.

And when I go fast, it usually is over pretty quickly. I think the more dangerous thing than high speeds, is simple lapses in attention. If something takes you by surprise on a bike, by definition it means you were not paying attention and or didn't react. When I go fast, what's on the road ahead has 100% of my attention, so I think that counts for something, as a positive safety factor.
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Old 07-07-19, 06:51 PM
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I try to look at this way at 70 years old. I will take what I can and give all I have.
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Old 07-07-19, 09:19 PM
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Originally Posted by daoswald View Post
I'm 51, which I really don't classify as old, but those younger than me might beg to differ.....................

When I woke up on my 50th, 19 years ago this Wednesday, I looked in the mirror and said, "you ARE OLD and most likely there is less time left to live than having already lived and you will be told you have cancer before you die." Still alive, surviving with my cancer AND GETTING OLDER every day.

Originally Posted by Lemond1985 View Post
I think you need to risk your life once in a while, to really appreciate it,.....................
I have no need to risk anything for me to appreciate life or anything else.
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