Go Back  Bike Forums > Bike Forums > Road Cycling
Reload this Page >

Pedal while descending, or just hunker down aero?

Notices
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

Pedal while descending, or just hunker down aero?

Old 10-23-20, 01:17 PM
  #1  
spelger
Senior Member
Thread Starter
 
spelger's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2015
Location: reno, nv
Posts: 760

Bikes: yes, i have one

Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 362 Post(s)
Liked 310 Times in 175 Posts
Pedal while descending, or just hunker down aero?

Recently a post about one's fastest speed came up. it had me wondering about descents. Do you peddle down descents? how else to get those kinds of speeds?

i do peddle down, even in the turns. i don't think i am going so fast that i need to lean too far that my peddle will hit the road. a few times i have just gotten down low with no peddling but have felt some wobble due to wind. i find that if i peddle even lightly i feel more stable.
spelger is offline  
Old 10-23-20, 01:40 PM
  #2  
Riveting
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 884

Bikes: '13 Trek Madone 2.3, '13 Diamondback Hybrid Commuter, '17 Spec Roubaix Di2, '17 Spec Camber 29'er

Mentioned: 4 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 372 Post(s)
Liked 210 Times in 129 Posts
If a descent allows me to see far far ahead, and I know the terrain has no blind side roads with cars pulling out, I'll pedal hard until my cadence tops out, and then I go full aero (but no super-tuck). 52 mph is my fastest top speed ever, but nowadays I start feathering the brakes at 40. Now I save the speed for the uphills.
Riveting is offline  
Likes For Riveting:
Old 10-23-20, 01:46 PM
  #3  
Reflector Guy
Senior Member
 
Reflector Guy's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2020
Location: Chicago
Posts: 704

Bikes: Bianchi Via Nirone

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 323 Post(s)
Liked 547 Times in 268 Posts
I try to go as fast as I can to get away from the peddlers, so yes, I do pedal the bike.
Reflector Guy is offline  
Likes For Reflector Guy:
Old 10-23-20, 01:49 PM
  #4  
WhyFi
Senior Member
 
WhyFi's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: TC, MN
Posts: 34,002

Bikes: R3 Disc, Haanjo

Mentioned: 343 Post(s)
Tagged: 1 Thread(s)
Quoted: 16236 Post(s)
Liked 4,979 Times in 2,607 Posts
What are you sellin'?
WhyFi is online now  
Old 10-23-20, 02:05 PM
  #5  
rubiksoval
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2015
Location: Music City, USA
Posts: 4,399

Bikes: bikes

Mentioned: 52 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2588 Post(s)
Liked 1,384 Times in 690 Posts
Pedal in training, tuck when racing or when speed is of the most concern.
rubiksoval is offline  
Likes For rubiksoval:
Old 10-23-20, 04:07 PM
  #6  
sdmc530
Heft On Wheels
 
sdmc530's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2014
Location: South Dakota
Posts: 2,884

Bikes: Specialized,Cannondale,Argon 18

Mentioned: 12 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 786 Post(s)
Liked 391 Times in 261 Posts
heck no, enjoy the ride! Besides I usually need a breather for the hill I just struggled up in the first place.
sdmc530 is offline  
Likes For sdmc530:
Old 10-23-20, 04:58 PM
  #7  
AlmostTrick
Tortoise Wins by a Hare!
 
AlmostTrick's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Looney Tunes, IL
Posts: 7,274

Bikes: Wabi Special FG, Raleigh Roper, Nashbar AL-1, Miyata One Hundred, '70 Schwinn Lemonator and More!!

Mentioned: 21 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1481 Post(s)
Liked 818 Times in 435 Posts
If you're going really fast down a hill there's no way pedaling will get you more unless you can spin 150+ rpm. Normal gearing won't get it.
AlmostTrick is offline  
Likes For AlmostTrick:
Old 10-23-20, 05:05 PM
  #8  
Iride01
Hits [ENTER] b4 thinking
 
Iride01's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2017
Location: Mississippi
Posts: 6,547

Bikes: '20 Tarmac Disc Comp '91 Schwinn Paramount '78 Raleigh Competition GS

Mentioned: 28 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2534 Post(s)
Liked 1,227 Times in 901 Posts
I'll pedal more often than not. Unless I'm trying to get all tucked in and aero just to see what I can get out of a hill without extra effort.

I've heard or read that it does help get the lactic acid out of your muscles if you just move your legs whether they are actually adding power and speed to your descent or not. Seems to be something to that, but I've never really put much into finding out except just noting how my legs feel when they are called to put power into the equation at the bottom.

Like you, I pedal in turns too. One of the reasons I like short cranks.
Iride01 is offline  
Old 10-23-20, 07:56 PM
  #9  
guachi
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 2019
Posts: 335
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 151 Post(s)
Liked 182 Times in 103 Posts
My limited understanding is that since lactate gets recycled that by pedaling you use the excess lactate but your power output is low enough not to create more excess lactate.
guachi is online now  
Old 10-23-20, 08:15 PM
  #10  
canklecat
Me duelen las nalgas
 
canklecat's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Texas
Posts: 12,399

Bikes: Centurion Ironman, Trek 5900, Univega Via Carisma, Globe Carmel

Mentioned: 188 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 4004 Post(s)
Liked 1,808 Times in 1,156 Posts
I haven't noticed any consistent difference in speed pedaling vs coasting. But I usually at least move my legs to keep them loosened up for the next climb. Doesn't take long for my legs to feel stiff and dead if I'm not pedaling, even without much resistance.

With my old school steel road bike set up for easier rides the 50/38 chainring and 13-28 freewheel means pedaling doesn't do much -- I'm just flailing around at 130 rpm. So I set my feet at 3 and 9 and coast. My other bike has 53/39 and 11-28 cassette so pedaling still *can* generate some power. But I haven't seen any difference in average or peak speed on the usual modest 2%-5% downhills we have here. Coasting is probably more efficient as long as I can maintain a tuck.

I think some methodical tests have been done that show an advantage to an aero tuck and coasting on serious downhills, but I can't hold that kind of tuck for long due to old neck and shoulder injuries. And I ain't sitting on the top tube. There's nothing to be won but a trip to the ER doing that. I've watched other MAMILs trying the supertuck in group rides and they're a damned menace.
canklecat is offline  
Old 10-23-20, 08:21 PM
  #11  
genejockey
Klaatu..Verata..Necktie?
 
genejockey's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: SF Bay Area
Posts: 4,642

Bikes: Canyon Endurace, 105; Battaglin MAX, Chorus; Bianchi 928 Veloce; Ritchey Road Logic, Dura Ace; Cannondale R500 RX100, Schwinn Circuit, Sante

Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2154 Post(s)
Liked 2,136 Times in 1,089 Posts
Depends. Usually, if it's a straight-ish descent that isn't all turns, I'll pedal up to about 25-30, then tuck to see how much faster I can go. But the other day, I spun up to about 40 mph (120 rpms), just to see if I could.
genejockey is offline  
Old 10-23-20, 10:34 PM
  #12  
rsbob 
Sniveling Weasel
 
Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: Seattle-ish
Posts: 924

Bikes: Rodriguez Racing Tandem, Fondriest Steelie, Bianchi Trofeo, Bianchi Infinito, Schwinn Varsity, Trek mtn

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 356 Post(s)
Liked 478 Times in 293 Posts
It depends. Doesnt everything? If its a super long descent I may just tuck it from the top. If my legs have plenty of go I may hammer it until I run out of gears and am spinning with zero resistance and then tuck it. One 8% mile long hill I go down gains speed so fast I dont bother to peddle because when the corner comes, its always scary.
__________________
Rick Seattle-ish, Wa.

He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.- Fredrick Nietzsche



rsbob is offline  
Likes For rsbob:
Old 10-24-20, 12:38 AM
  #13  
Leinster
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Location: location location
Posts: 2,772

Bikes: MBK Super Mirage 1991, CAAD10, Yuba Mundo Lux, and a Cannondale Criterium Single Speed

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 242 Post(s)
Liked 172 Times in 125 Posts
I pedal out of the corners until either a) Im going fast enough to tuck or b) I have to start braking for the next corner.
Leinster is offline  
Old 10-24-20, 02:43 AM
  #14  
Trevtassie
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2015
Location: Down Under
Posts: 1,887

Bikes: A steel framed 26" off road tourer from a manufacturer who thinks they are cool. Giant Anthem. Trek 720 Multiroad pub bike. 10 kids bikes all under 20". Assorted waifs and unfinished projects.

Mentioned: 10 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 737 Post(s)
Liked 603 Times in 323 Posts
Depends, if it's a straight descent after a long climb then I'll try and turn my legs a bit so they don't seize up.
But if you want to go fast, then the more aero you can get the faster you can go. On a descent smaller bikes and wheels actually enable you to go faster, if you can make a smaller frontal area.
The world record for rolling downhill is 141mph. He was aero and didn't pedal.

Last edited by Trevtassie; 10-24-20 at 02:52 AM.
Trevtassie is offline  
Old 10-24-20, 07:03 AM
  #15  
55murray
Senior Member
 
55murray's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2017
Location: Lafayette, Indiana
Posts: 416

Bikes: 1955 20" Murray modified cruiser, 2007 Trek 7.3 FX, 1980 Miyata 610, several other vintage coaster brake machines

Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 186 Post(s)
Liked 68 Times in 35 Posts
I usually go full aero on the decent itself and spin like mad at the bottom to keep the speed up for a bit.
55murray is offline  
Old 10-24-20, 07:25 AM
  #16  
DaveSSS 
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Loveland, CO
Posts: 6,314

Bikes: TWO Cinelli superstar disc with SRAM Force AXS

Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 629 Post(s)
Liked 276 Times in 217 Posts
It depends entirely on the slope and the tightness of the corners. On a steep short descent where I'm likely to hit 50+, I spin it up to 42, then tuck and coast. If there are tight corners close enough on a steep descent, it makes little sense to pedal hard between the corners and then slam on the brakes. I have one 22 mile descent with only a 2.5% average slope and wide sweeping bends that requires pedaling nearly all the way, particularly if there's a head wind.
DaveSSS is offline  
Old 10-24-20, 08:38 AM
  #17  
topflightpro
Senior Member
 
topflightpro's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 7,289
Mentioned: 54 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1737 Post(s)
Liked 493 Times in 317 Posts
If youre leading a paceline, pedal til you are spinning out. If you tuck too soon, the guys behind you will be braking the whole way to avoid crashing into you.
topflightpro is offline  
Old 10-24-20, 08:49 AM
  #18  
billridesbikes
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2019
Posts: 442
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 175 Post(s)
Liked 258 Times in 156 Posts
If there is a headwind or crosswind I like to pedal, it feels more stable to me to have some power going to the rear wheel. At >35mph I sit up a little as my well honed self-preservation instinct kicks in.
billridesbikes is offline  
Old 10-24-20, 11:51 AM
  #19  
Litespud
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2017
Location: Chapel Hill NC
Posts: 1,272

Bikes: 2000 Litespeed Vortex Chorus 10, 1995 DeBernardi Cromor S/S, Nashbar 3sp commuter

Mentioned: 4 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 472 Post(s)
Liked 490 Times in 279 Posts
Originally Posted by spelger View Post
Recently a post about one's fastest speed came up. it had me wondering about descents. Do you peddle down descents? how else to get those kinds of speeds?

i do peddle down, even in the turns. i don't think i am going so fast that i need to lean too far that my peddle will hit the road. a few times i have just gotten down low with no peddling but have felt some wobble due to wind. i find that if i peddle even lightly i feel more stable.
I'm working on reducing unconscious coasting, so I generally keep the pedals turning even if I'm not giving them any real force - I did the work getting up the hill, time to let gravity return the favor. Depending on how fast I ultimately want to go, I'll tuck or sit up to allow grag to modulate my speed
Litespud is online now  
Old 10-24-20, 12:06 PM
  #20  
noodle soup
Senior Member
 
noodle soup's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2015
Posts: 8,862
Mentioned: 20 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 4655 Post(s)
Liked 1,776 Times in 962 Posts
On road I usually stop pedaling at 35-40mph.

On dirt/mountain biking, I’m coasting on DH sections at much slower speeds(depending on trail conditions).
noodle soup is offline  
Old 10-24-20, 08:36 PM
  #21  
cubewheels
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2020
Location: Manila, Philippines
Posts: 1,637

Bikes: A really old BMX bike, Phantom 20 kid's MTB, Jackal Mio Gravel Bike

Mentioned: 2 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 718 Post(s)
Liked 326 Times in 263 Posts
If you have to go very long downhills very often, note that the chain will experience accelerated wear if pedaling at the smallest cogs (chain links bend more at the smaller cogs and with load applied, leads to more friction, wear, and hence, more energy wasted).

Less wear on the drive train to just hunker down in long downhill descents. Unless you need the workout and don't mind the extra wear on the drivetrain.
cubewheels is offline  
Old 10-25-20, 05:46 AM
  #22  
Racing Dan
Senior Member
 
Racing Dan's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Posts: 1,739
Mentioned: 9 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1008 Post(s)
Liked 125 Times in 93 Posts
Whats your objective?

Conserve energy or going as fast as possible? If its steep enough your going 35 mph without pedalling, adding 200Ws of pedalling isnt doing much difference to your speed. Less than 5 mph additional speed. Thats the nature of wind resistance. The power to overcome it increases by the cube(!) of the speed, meaning 2x speed is 8x power.

Imo, do what ever feels natural to you but know its more efficient conserving your energy to the uphill bits.
Racing Dan is offline  
Old 10-25-20, 02:58 PM
  #23  
Random11
Senior Member
 
Join Date: May 2020
Posts: 190
Mentioned: 1 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 82 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 121 Times in 69 Posts
I probably shouldn't admit it to this group, but on my longest descent on my regular ride I quit pedaling and move up to the hoods to a more erect position to let the wind resistance slow me down.
Random11 is online now  
Likes For Random11:
Old 10-25-20, 03:11 PM
  #24  
Bigbus
Very Senior Member
 
Bigbus's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: Always on the Run
Posts: 1,032

Bikes: Giant Quasar & Fuji Roubaix

Mentioned: 4 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 335 Post(s)
Liked 246 Times in 183 Posts
The high gearing on my road bike is currently 52/13. My old legs won't pedal over 32MPH and my daily ride ends with a 7% grade for 1.75 miles and then a coast into home another 1/4 mile. I get aero and might hit 40 MPH but usually average about 38 MPH on the homestretch. I get winded really fast when I try spinning but I can hold a 64 RPM cadence forever. BTW-anything over 64 cadence to me is spinning. And if you're laughing now, let's see how you're doing at age 70 haha.
Bigbus is offline  
Old 10-25-20, 05:32 PM
  #25  
colnago62
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 2,311
Mentioned: 3 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 679 Post(s)
Liked 327 Times in 196 Posts
Originally Posted by Bigbus View Post
The high gearing on my road bike is currently 52/13. My old legs won't pedal over 32MPH and my daily ride ends with a 7% grade for 1.75 miles and then a coast into home another 1/4 mile. I get aero and might hit 40 MPH but usually average about 38 MPH on the homestretch. I get winded really fast when I try spinning but I can hold a 64 RPM cadence forever. BTW-anything over 64 cadence to me is spinning. And if you're laughing now, let's see how you're doing at age 70 haha.
I am not that old, but I do understand. In my 20s I could turn a 90 inch gear at 100rpm without effort. Now, at 58, that same gear, I can just get over 90 plus rpm.
colnago62 is online now  
Likes For colnago62:

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service - Do Not Sell My Personal Information -

Copyright 2021 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.