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Why do I coast faster than everyone else?

Road Cycling ďIt 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.Ē -- Ernest Hemingway

Why do I coast faster than everyone else?

Old 03-31-18, 01:57 PM
  #1  
TimothyH
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Why do I coast faster than everyone else?

I coast down hills faster than everyone and can't figure out why.

I'll be in a group and when everyone coasts down a hill I will go faster than everyone else. Sometimes it is just a little and sometimes just a little more. I usually catch up to the person in front of me and have to brake or, if the hill is long enough, I just go by.

It isn't weight. It happened when I was 200 lb but I'm 171 lb now and still coast faster than everyone else. Someone said it today, "You lost 28 lb and you still go to the bottom of the hill faster! Do you have bricks in your pockets?"

The bike isn't aero although I did put an FSA K-Wing bar on it. Still, its just a 2002 Fuji @ about 18 lb and I also coasted faster when I rode a Panasonic 2500 back in the day.

I thought it was because I was behind people catching a draft. That would make someone catch up to the person in front of them, right? So I've tested many times over the years trying to figure out why and even when I'm on point I pull away a little bit.

Do Mavic and Dura Ace wheels have bearings with less drag? That can't be it because it has been happening my whole life. Even as a kid riding three speeds I would get to the bottom of the hill first.

Regular road clothes - Sidi's, bibs, thermal jersey, Giro helmet, etc. Not riding like a triathlete or in some radical Saganesque tuck. Not hitting the top of the hill any harder than anyone else.

I don't mind. It's pretty cool. Just trying to figure out why.


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Old 03-31-18, 02:30 PM
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Maybe you're just really slippery. Do you use lots of tanning oil?
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Old 03-31-18, 03:09 PM
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Tires/tire pressure? What color is your bike?
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Old 03-31-18, 03:22 PM
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How tall are you and more important, how high is your seat? I am your opposite. I was never fast downhill. I've gotten very good at getting aero but I still am not fast. (Racing weight -145 lb, now ~160. Was 6'-1/2", getting shorter. But long legs, high seat. (I ride long cranks so I shade toward high BBs to keep my pedals off the pavement.)

I hated guys who were shorter and heavier than me which was almost everybody.

Ben
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Old 03-31-18, 03:37 PM
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Over the years you have trained gravity to be in your favor. Change is hard, even in physics. Give it time to adjust.
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Old 03-31-18, 03:52 PM
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Bulk air drag is the number 1 factor in aerodynamics, followed by rolling resistance for bikes. So, probably your position or wind profile is better than others, and/or your tires/pressure/etc are better than others.
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Old 03-31-18, 04:02 PM
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Maybe like me, you have great descending muscles.
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Old 03-31-18, 04:08 PM
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Possibly you are just more comfortable at speed than your riding buds. I'm not, and rarely go down any significant hill w/o braking. I just can't get past the thought of a squirrel or deer running out, a pothole appearing after the last rain, etc. I have friends who never brake unless there is tight turn or whatever. Of course my chances of avoiding a deer at 35 mph vs 50 mph probably aren't much different..... Consider yourself lucky that you can let-er-rip
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Old 03-31-18, 04:13 PM
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I've sort of wondered about this for myself. During the summer I'm around 150 lbs. So I'm lighter than most of the people I ride with, yet I seem to coast faster than most.
I do tend to wear tight (race fit) clothing and am conscious about my ride position. I imagine that could have something to do with it.
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Old 03-31-18, 05:06 PM
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Originally Posted by cthenn View Post
Bulk air drag is the number 1 factor in aerodynamics, followed by rolling resistance for bikes. So, probably your position or wind profile is better than others, and/or your tires/pressure/etc are better than others.
+1.

Running slightly larger tires might increase your wheel diameter marginally to account for the marginal increase in your descending speed. Probably a combination of lower drag and better rolling tires.
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Old 03-31-18, 05:31 PM
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?

I think it is the antigravitational theory working in your favor,,combined with the wind at your back laddie. ..
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Old 03-31-18, 05:32 PM
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Same here. I usually coast faster than most people in group rides, and end up going around them.

Best I can figure, it's a combination of optimal body weight (around 160 lbs seems to be the sweet spot) and aerodynamics. I'm 160 lbs, with toothpick legs (no amount of muscle work will develop those legs), thin and longer than usual arms, average torso. Even wearing a casual fit jersey and baggy shorts, even riding my hybrid with flat or riser bars, I tend to coast faster than most folks around me.

On fast rides I can feel the difference in air flow around my lower legs by shifting the angle slightly. Knees tucked in too far feels less aero, about the same as flopping those knees outward like pickup truck mirrors.

The trick of riding the hoods low with forearms parallel to ground level seems more aero too, although it's physically more demanding on my old school road bike with minimal hoods. That technique is better suited to more contemporary bikes. I can feel more drag when I'm in the drops, so I mostly use the drops for a change of position and for climbing or brief sprinting, not for long rides on flats into head winds -- doesn't seem to help there.

During yesterday's group ride I had to sit way up just to stay off the brakes, but it helped only a little -- too much draft from the slower folks ahead of me.

Given similar aero and conditioning factors, heavier folks will coast faster, but slow down on climbs. Over the course of a long roller coaster ride groups tend to stay in ragged groups.

I enjoy blasting downhills at full gallop, while most sensible folks coast or soft pedal. Alas, it doesn't translate to the flip side. I usually get dropped on climbs by other reasonably fit men and women riders in my age group (50+). So all my Strava top tens are are segments with reasonably fast downhill bits, or tailwind assisted over distance. I suck on climbs. Literally, sucking wind like a wheezy congested meatbased humanoid thing. But I've improved from dead last on climb segments, to middle of the pack last year to bottom end of the upper third this year. Only reason I suffer hill climbs is for the flip side, the downhill blasts.
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Old 03-31-18, 05:51 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
Same here. I usually coast faster than most people in group rides, and end up going around them.

Best I can figure, it's a combination of optimal body weight (around 160 lbs seems to be the sweet spot) and aerodynamics. I'm 160 lbs, with toothpick legs (no amount of muscle work will develop those legs), thin and longer than usual arms, average torso. Even wearing a casual fit jersey and baggy shorts, even riding my hybrid with flat or riser bars, I tend to coast faster that most folks around me.

On fast rides I can feel the difference in air flow around my lower legs by shifting the angle slightly. Knees tucked in too far feels less aero, about the same as flopping those knees outward like pickup truck mirrors.

The trick of riding the hoods low with forearms parallel to ground level seems more aero too, although it's physically more demanding on my old school road bike with minimal hoods. That technique is better suited to more contemporary bikes. I can feel more drag when I'm in the drops, so I mostly use the drops for a change of position and for climbing or brief sprinting, not for long rides on flats into head winds -- doesn't seem to help there.

During yesterday's group ride I had to sit way up just to stay off the brakes, but it helped only a little -- too much draft from the slower folks ahead of me.

Given similar aero and conditioning factors, heavier folks will coast faster, but slow down on climbs. Over the course of a long roller coaster ride groups tend to stay in ragged groups.

I enjoy blasting downhills at full gallop, while most sensible folks coast or soft pedal. Alas, it doesn't translate to the flip side. I usually get dropped on climbs by other reasonably fit men and women riders in my age group (50+). So all my Strava top tens are are segments with reasonably fast downhill bits, or tailwind assisted over distance. I suck on climbs. Literally, sucking wind like a wheezy congested meatbased humanoid thing. But I've improved from dead last on climb segments, to middle of the pack last year to bottom end of the upper third this year. Only reason I suffer hill climbs is for the flip side, the downhill blasts.

Yup, there's a trick to bombing descents. There's also technique to rollers too. Most folks don't get that low or aero. Most folks coast the downhill. Many get skittish when the speedo gets above 30MPH, and grab for the brakes.



Even running bigger and meatier "gravel" tires, you can sail by lots of folks on skinny roadie rigs just by riding smarter.
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Old 03-31-18, 06:19 PM
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I'm another one. If I want to, I can always get to the bottom first. I think my short legs help because my saddle is lower and thus my projected area is less. But also just wanting to go. Tricks: hands deep in the drops, forearms horizontal, chin 2" off the headset cap, elbows tucked as far under my stomach as they'll go, knees gripping the top tube, most weight in the horizontal pedals. For rough patches, hold position but rise out of the saddle and lift that chin a little. Yes, it's tiring on many thousand foot descents.

Equipment: I don't think an aero bike makes much difference, but deep rims and tires the width of the rim do. For smooth roads, light tires, latex tubes, and lots of pressure.
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Old 03-31-18, 06:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
Yup, there's a trick to bombing descents. There's also technique to rollers too. Most folks don't get that low or aero. Most folks coast the downhill. Many get skittish when the speedo gets above 30MPH, and grab for the brakes.



Even running bigger and meatier "gravel" tires, you can sail by lots of folks on skinny roadie rigs just by riding smarter.
Yup. Did two rides Friday: 35 miles on the road bike for speed, another 38 on the hybrid with 1-1/2" riser bars and 700x42 gravel-lite/pavement tires (Conti SpeedRides, great all arounders) for a casual group ride.

On the earlier 35 mile ride I caught a fellow on a hill whom I'd seen a few times before on that rural route. Slowed down to say howdy and we ended up riding and chatting for several miles. He was on a steel road bike pretty similar to my '89 Centurion Ironman. He's a little bigger than me. On climbs I'd hang back to stay side by side. On downhills with us both coasting to conserve energy he'd float ahead effortlessly. Just enough heavier without being wider from overweight to enjoy that advantage.

On the 38 mile casual group ride later Friday I took the hybrid, which I prefer for city rides -- easier to sit up and look around for traffic. Several folks on road bikes ahead of me and as far as I could tell they weren't riding the brakes. But I still either sailed ahead of them where there was room to pass safely, or had to ride my brakes to stay in the group.

Just that quirk of being within a range of weight and body size/type.
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Old 03-31-18, 06:35 PM
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Most cyclist stop pedaling and sit up while descending, trying to keep the best possible sight lines.

Other cyclists keep pedaling and drop their nose to the stem hoping to benefit from some extra speed without much extra effort.

I've started avoiding groups that won't ride faster on descents. It's annoying to need to applying the brakes just to stay with timid cyclist.
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Old 03-31-18, 06:35 PM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
How tall are you and more important, how high is your seat? I am your opposite. I was never fast downhill. I've gotten very good at getting aero but I still am not fast. (Racing weight -145 lb, now ~160. Was 6'-1/2", getting shorter. But long legs, high seat. (I ride long cranks so I shade toward high BBs to keep my pedals off the pavement.)

I hated guys who were shorter and heavier than me which was almost everybody.

Ben
I am 5'11 and 160lb. With fairly long legs (785mm saddle height). I tend to coast faster than 95% of people, so not sure if the seat height is really an issue.
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Old 03-31-18, 06:42 PM
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Same for me. Iím not that heavy (135 pounds) but I am heavy for my frame size.

I think Iím just way more aerodynamic than many of my friends who I out-descend, while maintaining just enough heft to get a decent gravity assist and also carrying weight fairly low on my body.
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Old 03-31-18, 07:16 PM
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Me too, just not sure why. I'll say I'm just Lucky I guess.
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Old 03-31-18, 07:38 PM
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Downhill

I just will it.... I think.
Note: I was wrong. I switched bikes with my buddy on a downhill run and he passed me right by. Iím giving special mention to my Schwalbe Marathon + tires. They are great tires and havenít had a flat in over a year.

Last edited by Bendopolo; 04-02-18 at 07:51 PM. Reason: I was wrong
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Old 03-31-18, 08:25 PM
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It's because you're in the northern hemisphere. If you were in Australia you'd only coast faster uphill.

Also, im assuming you don't have valve caps or nuts on your stems.
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Old 03-31-18, 08:33 PM
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Thought it was weight..not sure now.
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Old 03-31-18, 08:34 PM
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I was an eyewitness to this today. I am thinking electric motor in seat tube!
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Old 03-31-18, 09:05 PM
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Gallileo proved pretty conclusively that descending has little to do with weight. Coasting speed downhill is about terminal velocity, which is determined by aerodynamics and rolling resistance. Where weight might come into play is that that among us who are a little...ahem....rounder, are likely to be more aerodynamic than skinnier riders who are all angles.
I'm also a fast coaster, and I usually have to feather the brakes to avoid running into my leader, even if he/she's actively pedaling. I'm 180 lb, on a standard non-aero frame. The only things I have going for me are 25mm tires with latex tubes, and medium section Rolf Vector Pro wheels, which have low spoke count (14F/16R) bladed spokes and phenomenally good bearings - when I spin one of the wheels on a stand, they go for minutes.
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Old 03-31-18, 09:19 PM
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I generally coast so much faster than everyone else that I'm all over the brakes to keep from running those out front right over. Best I can figure, it's a combination of being heavy (175 lbs.), riding a really low position, and wearing tight-fitting clothes. I go uphill slower than everyone else, so at least I have one advantage in my favor, even if less desirable.
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