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What do you think about during a fast descent?

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

What do you think about during a fast descent?

Old 08-21-17, 06:25 PM
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wipekitty
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What do you think about during a fast descent?

The title says it all: what is actually going through your mind while bombing a descent? For the sake of discussion, I will define "bombing a descent" as an activity in which the rider is tucked and going 40+ MPH (65+ KM/HR).

Backstory: I've been riding bicycles on the road for about 10 years, but for various reasons I'm fairly new to fast descents. I hit 45 MPH a few times this season, and it was amazing. I watched videos, read about techniques and safety, and was getting much better.

Then, I had a minor oopsie on a not very steep or fast descent. Nothing broken...other than my pride. Now, my mind fills up with bad thoughts when I hit the top of the hill: I imagine my tire flatting, hitting a deer, or my frame asploding. It makes descending far less fun.

So this is a question about mental rather than physical technique: for those of you who enjoy bombing descents, what do you think about while going down? Is it the technical aspects of the descent, or something else entirely, or perhaps nothing at all?
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Old 08-21-17, 06:31 PM
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Brake point, turning point, line through the corner, vanishing point. Reminding myself to look further through the corner.
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Old 08-21-17, 06:31 PM
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The few times I've been 40+mph on my road bike I've found it exciting and a bit sketchy at the same time. I'm not the lightest guy so I always worry about how well my brakes are going to slow me down if something or someone happens to cut out in front of me.
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Old 08-21-17, 06:34 PM
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2 things:
1. Glad I'm not riding carbon... just kidding
2. Relax my arms, don't lock my elbows.. just relax..
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Old 08-21-17, 06:44 PM
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Not really thinking in a conscious sense. Just focused on the road, what's up ahead, and the thrill.
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Old 08-21-17, 06:46 PM
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Old 08-21-17, 06:51 PM
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Originally Posted by UmneyDurak View Post
Brake point, turning point, line through the corner, vanishing point.
Avoiding bulldozers.
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Old 08-21-17, 06:58 PM
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Downhill

Its just like flying four feet off the ground. Sounds like a thousand angry Hornets following me. Schwalbe Marathon Supremes....48 mph on the GPS, Chapman Ave Orange Ca. Today.
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Old 08-21-17, 07:10 PM
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How pissed my wife will be if I fall off.
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Old 08-21-17, 07:21 PM
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I just give thanks that I wore brown shorts.
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Old 08-21-17, 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Wileyrat View Post
How pissed my wife will be if I fall off.
This. I don't think my wife has ever exceeded 35mph on a bicycle. When going downhill, she thinks about crashing-- I generally don't think about anything... other than the occasional, "If I go down, my wife is gonna kill me."

Really, anything up to the mid-40mph area doesn't even feel especially fast anymore. +50mph will get the blood flowing, though.
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Old 08-21-17, 07:40 PM
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Hmmm, the main thing for me is paying attention to what the bike is telling me, watching for cars, reading the road and the wind, and how else can I change my body position to get more aero and more speed.

I did get a terrible case of death wobble last year on my first descent with my 1987 Schwinn Circuit that had just been built up. Was trying to beat my current top end of 55.4 mph and ran up on some traffic entering a turn. Just grabbed rear brake to bleed speed without sacrificing front grip. And all heck broke loose. Worse wooble ever. Was still on top of the traffic so I couldn't release brake and unload the front. Knees against the frame did nothing. Took me about another 1/4 mile to get it stopped and the whole time afraid the bike was going to throw me off. But all that said. I don't dwell on that day and have had many days of high speed descending on that bike with no problems. If you're scared while descending then you really need to hold back and not go fast, stay within your comfort zone. Oh, and never think about that front tire going, LOL!

My "death wobble" generator and now favorite climber:



I will admit that on the day I did 55.4 mph I started thinking about something sort of bad near the top of the descent. I got to thinking that the 1989 Antares still had those same old hard original brake pads on it. Had not planned on climbing that day as that bike only has a 42 tooth small ring. But I did it anyway and once I got up top I was like, "Oops, forgot about these old brakes." Then I put it out of mind and let the speed come to me. Fun times!!

I only climb with this when I want to honor "Il Pirata". Those days I throw on his pink jersey and hit the mountains. And I don't think about needing new brake pads, LOL!

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Old 08-21-17, 07:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Wileyrat View Post
How pissed my wife will be if I fall off.
Wish I had that problem. Wait, no I don't. This was a real conversation:
Me (limping in after a ride): I crashed my bike.
Significant Other: Is the bike okay?
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Old 08-21-17, 08:00 PM
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Originally Posted by wipekitty View Post
Wish I had that problem. Wait, no I don't. This was a real conversation:
Me (limping in after a ride): I crashed my bike.
Significant Other: Is the bike okay?
Dang, I wanna laugh, but should I.....
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Old 08-21-17, 08:14 PM
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Future shock specialized
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Old 08-21-17, 08:29 PM
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I wonder if I've updated my last will & testament lately.
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Old 08-21-17, 08:33 PM
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Originally Posted by UmneyDurak View Post
Brake point, turning point, line through the corner, vanishing point. Reminding myself to look further through the corner.
Simple and correct.

Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
I just give thanks that I wore brown shorts.
Artfully expressed ... what goes on while the above is also happening .....

Originally Posted by wipekitty View Post
Wish I had that problem. Wait, no I don't. This was a real conversation:
Me (limping in after a ride): I crashed my bike.
Significant Other: Is the bike okay?
Luckily your spouse has the right priorities.

One thing have learned from (crashing while) mountain biking is to listen to my fear just a little.

If I am really afraid---even if it is a section I have run before---I will go slowly or go elsewhere. Sometimes the brain just isn’t ready ... and survival might demand 100 percent brain activation, and if you have ten percent fear, you will crash even if it is an easy section.

I expect to have to fight a little nervousness because I am not a brave soul ... so I have learned to balance and modulate my effort to suit my internal situation.

Cliff Notes version: Go a little slowly a few times and get some confidence back.

I generally watch the road surface most of all. I am not worried about bike failure---that is stupid, in real life bikes don’t just asplode---and I don’t fear a blowout—beyond my control, and unlikely to happen at any time anyway. Slow punctures are much more common and can be controlled (hopefully.)

I watch for sand, gravel, brush and leaves and such. If I relax I can roll right over or through anything I don’t have time to get around, but if I get caught off guard I might tense up.

Originally Posted by UmneyDurak View Post
Reminding myself to look further through the corner.
This is the biggest lesson I learned from mountain biking---look Far ahead. It is easy and seems normal to look at what is almost under your wheels, but by the time you see the stuff ten feet away it is too late to react.

I always forget to look Far down the road.

It is like using your mirror s while driving. Of course you don’t stare into your mirror, but you switch from looking around, looking ahead and checking your mirrors.

When cycling I should always be looking long, then scanning the sides, then looking close to fully identify stuff I noticed while looking long .... When descending particularly I tend to look too close in front of me. I need more practice ... but on the other hand, that would mean climbing more hills. Not my forté.
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Old 08-21-17, 09:08 PM
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I can sympathize with the OP a bit. I remember my first mountain bike descent was absolutely fearless and fun. But shortly after a near miss with a tree a few rides later, I've forever been slightly more restrained. It's always in the back of my head whether on a road bike or a mountain bike.


That's not to say that I actively worry about these things while riding, but it's always back there somewhere that you're just a small step away from disaster. I think that is healthy, and keeps you in check. Just don't let it absorb you and have some fun.


What I'm focused on during descents is (as others have said) road surface, obstructions (cars), cornering lines, and braking zones. I ride most of the climbs around here as out-and-back, so I can observe the road surface and layout while I'm on my way up. That helps. Learning proper cornering technique helped me a lot too. When you distribute your weight on the bike the right way, it almost corners itself...


Descending is fun when you loosen up and get comfortable with it.
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Old 08-21-17, 09:17 PM
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I inevitably think "damn, do I trust the guy who built and maintains this bike? Heck No!"

It's me, of course.
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Old 08-21-17, 09:18 PM
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I haven't yet had the pleasure of doing a "bombing descent", but the closest I got to 65+ km/h was during a recent event along a particularly rolling section of the course. According to Strava I maxed out at 63km/h, and my thoughts were:


1) wheeeeeeeeeeeee
2) damn, I sure hope all the other riders in front of me don't do anything stupid, like suddenly swerve...
3) wheeeeeeeeeeeee
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Old 08-21-17, 09:30 PM
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The condition of the ground ahead, what could possibly come at me from the side, the cars, and, the wind. Also check my mirror to see if there is a car behind me. At high speed I can't always hear a car that is behind me.
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Old 08-21-17, 09:36 PM
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I wonder how much I need to brake going into this next turn

Mostly just concentrating and enjoying the thrill. Rarely ever get over 40mph, and the longer descents I've done seem to have to many twists and turns for me to go much fast before I have to brake.
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Old 08-21-17, 09:42 PM
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I admit that I need to improve both my mental and physical skills on fast descents. Most everybody I ride with is able to take them faster - I just don't have the skills or the cajones for fast technical descents.

Last week I hit 71 kph on a long steep roller, but that kind of descent is easy - a straight shot down where I could see all of the road in front of me and I knew most of my momentum would be taken up by the facing climb.

It's the curvy mile-long descents on which I suck. I use the (rear) brake before others would and go slower, and I fall behind. I just don't see how they have either the skills or the confidence to go faster. Of course, usually I'm not racing, so who cares. But sometimes it means losing contact with a group.

Even worse are the curvy mile-long descents on gravel. I've ridden with some guys who just hurtle down those. Don't know how they do it.
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Old 08-21-17, 09:45 PM
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Originally Posted by wipekitty View Post
The title says it all: what is actually going through your mind while bombing a descent? For the sake of discussion, I will define "bombing a descent" as an activity in which the rider is tucked and going 40+ MPH (65+ KM/HR).

...

So this is a question about mental rather than physical technique: for those of you who enjoy bombing descents, what do you think about while going down? Is it the technical aspects of the descent, or something else entirely, or perhaps nothing at all?
Little rocks.


And occasionally ... "lift your inside pedal!"
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Old 08-21-17, 11:31 PM
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Originally Posted by UmneyDurak View Post
Brake point, turning point, line through the corner, vanishing point. Reminding myself to look further through the corner.

^^ This.

Remember to look far ahead. Watch the road surface. Clinch the top tube between my knees if I'm not pedaling. What's the latest point I can brake for this curve and still make it through safely. Best line through this curve ... think like a race car driver. Keep watching that road surface. Can I afford a glance at the Garmin to see my speed? Get my head down ... aero position! Watch that road surface....

Then at the end ... damn, that was a blast! (I've taken it to over 50 a few times, but don't plan to do that too many more times in the future. )

Last edited by DGlenday; 08-21-17 at 11:34 PM.
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