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Descending with More Confidence - Head Tilt??

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Descending with More Confidence - Head Tilt??

Old 06-02-23, 01:49 PM
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Descending with More Confidence - Head Tilt??

Those who know me are aware I am cautious with twisty descents. I am typically falling behind my friends when it gets fast and technical, especially if it’s a road I have not ridden before.

I am aware of the usual “tips” to improve cornering at speed: look where you want to go, put weight on outside pedal, push hand on inside handlebar, inside knee out and inside shoulder in.

On my recent trip to Mallorca, I seemed to make a minor “breakthrough” and gained a LOT of confidence. I was dropping a couple of my buddies who previously would have dropped me.

One observation: I seem to feel much more stable and confident if I keep my head (and brim of helmet) even with the horizon, I don’t think I did this before or if I did, I was not aware. This head tilt along with other standard tips above seems to have coincided with my improvement (unclear if one caused the other).

Any confident descenders out there have any comments or more suggestions? I still have to work on this skill but pleased with recent improvement.
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Old 06-02-23, 03:05 PM
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I think that would be counter productive for high speed turns.
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Old 06-02-23, 03:13 PM
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One thing I've noticed is that if I don't do gnarly descents regularly, it can sometimes take a while to get back into the swing of things...I seem to forget just how aggressively I can corner on a bike if I haven't done it in a while.

Since the pandemic I've been riding far tamer terrain than in typical previous years, and so lately I've been doing what I think of as "practice runs" ...solo rides ('cuz no need to take out yer buddies if you overcook a turn on a training ride, right?) where I Take A Leap Of Faith and hurl myself into a descent that I know I've been able to torch in the past...and then do it again. And again.

Cyclists talk about doing "hill repeats" all the time, and yet how many folks work on hill repeats downhill? Practice helps.
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Old 06-02-23, 03:38 PM
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The older I get, the more timid I have become. Also being sweaty and cold at the start of most of my descents, it has blunted my need for speed. Somehow most of my rides now starts in the early morning as opposed to midday or afternoon when I was much younger. Something about family time.
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Old 06-02-23, 04:33 PM
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I have been more confident in my tires as of late since I have been running full tubeless on both my regular rotation road bikes. With the slightly lower tire pressure I feel that I have more options for which line I can comfortably pick through the entrances and exits through the downhill transition. Also shifting but back on the saddle or even off the back of the saddle momentarily sometimes plants the bike better as does going wide out by the middle line of the road then chosing to cut across the apex in the safest manner possible depending on the conditions.

If wearing a cap under you helmet that has a bill, you might want to flip it up so you can see better. Also, if you are aware of potholes, gravel, expansion joints, etc.. it may be a good idea to float over these obstacles by keeping your upper body loose (maintain a bend in both elbows, butt shifted back.
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Old 06-02-23, 05:19 PM
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If there was one technique that I felt helped me most with cornering at speed - once all the basics are covered - it is what I call the 'hip pivot', I once found in a book "rotate your crotch on the saddle and point your hips into the turn. This is the best cornering tip you’ll ever get, and one that many riders don’t know or use."

This really opens your body in the direction of your turn, and together with looking towards the exit of the turn, it allows you to flow through like on rails. So more than opening the inside knee, it's an actual bum rotation.
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Old 06-02-23, 08:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Bob Ross
One thing I've noticed is that if I don't do gnarly descents regularly, it can sometimes take a while to get back into the swing of things...I seem to forget just how aggressively I can corner on a bike if I haven't done it in a while.
for me that is every spring. Those first few descents can be a bit scary. Partly due to the excessive wind.
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Old 06-02-23, 08:29 PM
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Forgot to add...I do tilt my head but in the direction of the turn. I used to do it like how you described but I have far more confidence tilting into the turn and I can go faster.
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Old 06-02-23, 08:30 PM
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I feel like fast descents are a young man's game, once you get older or have had a few crashes on descents its not as fun. 27 year old senior citizen over here.
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Old 06-02-23, 09:47 PM
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Originally Posted by LarrySellerz
I feel like fast descents are a young man's game, once you get older or have had a few crashes on descents its not as fun. 27 year old senior citizen over here.
Maybe you're just an old soul? I agree with the caution as we age. I'm 69 and I don't push it on the twistys.
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Old 06-02-23, 10:02 PM
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I take corners like I'm on my street bike, it's more than just "shoulder in." I'm actively leaning my body into the corner in an effort to decrease the lean angle of the bike...less lean angle on the bike equals a safer turn. Before I started riding street/sport bikes, I never thought about lean angle very much...I was a fast descender, but was playing with fire. Eventually it caught up to me and I washed the bike out coming into a turn. Not all sport/street bike riding techniques cross over, as the suspension plays some role in it, but the lean angle concept has really rebuild my confidence in descending.
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Old 06-03-23, 05:01 AM
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Originally Posted by big john
Maybe you're just an old soul? I agree with the caution as we age. I'm 69 and I don't push it on the twistys.
I agree too. I'm 46 and I don't go as fast as when I was younger
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Old 06-03-23, 05:34 AM
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One of the guys I ride with is 78 but still a crazy descender. He frequently bombs past me on downhills, which leaves me shaking my head. At that age, I think it makes sense to be extra cautious.
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Old 06-03-23, 05:43 AM
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I have this, if I have a need for speed

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Old 06-03-23, 06:29 AM
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Originally Posted by yaw
If there was one technique that I felt helped me most with cornering at speed - once all the basics are covered - it is what I call the 'hip pivot', I once found in a book "rotate your crotch on the saddle and point your hips into the turn. This is the best cornering tip you’ll ever get, and one that many riders don’t know or use."

This really opens your body in the direction of your turn, and together with looking towards the exit of the turn, it allows you to flow through like on rails. So more than opening the inside knee, it's an actual bum rotation.
Warning: Highly opinionated comments below. I am not the fastest descender, but per Strava, I rank in the top 5% on technical descents.

Whatever works for you is okay, I guess. But none of these "body english" techniques work to make turns faster.

In fact, wiggling your body parts around may make you slower. The faster you descend, the less body movement you should be doing. Think quiet and secure core, weighted outside pedal, relaxed shoulders, easy and small steering inputs, and looking where you want to go.
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Old 06-03-23, 06:36 AM
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I'll go full speed if:

The roads are in good repair. No potholes, no sunk spots, and no gravel kicked out onto the road. A single large gravel chunk has caused pinch flats on two different occasions, on an otherwise perfectly smooth road. Both times, the road was straight enough that I was able to stop without falling. It's not easy braking with the back wheel only and trying to control the bike direction with a flat front tire.

I have long enough sight lines ahead. I'm slowing for blind corners way more than I used to.

Easing the pace:
I ride with a rider that has to go slower on downhills due to vision limitations. It's actually nice to slow somewhat, get a chance to enjoy the downhill. Instead of having to be "laser focused" on the road surface ahead at high speeds. I'm liking the downhills with some small braking intervals to control my speeds.

Braking distance uses up kinetic energy, which goes up by the square of the velocity.

This is an interesting video: Calculating a Car Crash
One car is moving at 70 mph. As a car going 100 mph passes it, they both see an unexpected barrier across the road, and both brake as hard as possible.
The 70 mph car just barely stops in time.
So, how fast is the 100 mph car going when it crashes? Not 30 mph. It's still going 71 mph! (They do the math to see why.)

The video surprised me. The summary: braking takes away the car or rider's kinetic energy. BUT--kinetic energy goes up by the square of the velocity! It's really unexpected, but now I notice how much longer it takes to brake from 40 vs 30 vs 20 mph.

This also means that a faster crash is going to be way worse for me.

On downhills, I want to be able to stop or be going quite slow within the distance I can see problems ahead. Yeah, "most every time" nothing happens. But.
Examples:
45 mph is 65% longer stopping than 35 mph. Wow. And the first portion of slowing down does way less to the rider's speed reduction than the remainder of the time.
45 mph is 25% longer than 40 mph.
40 mph is 77% longer than 30 mph.

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Old 06-03-23, 06:40 AM
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Do 80% of your braking at the start of the braking zone. Focus on exit speed.
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Old 06-03-23, 07:24 AM
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I suffer from too much "what if" to even approach cornering limits on descents. Locally, folks have been crashed by dogs, cats, squirrels, chickens, turkey and deer. I could probably have therapy to get over it but at my age it's not worth the trouble.
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Old 06-03-23, 07:58 AM
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one of the steepest descents that I frequently ride shows close to 40mph on my Garmin. I don't use any brakes, I just coast and watch the speedometer go up, which is really fun
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Old 06-03-23, 08:37 AM
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Originally Posted by datlas
Those who know me are aware I am cautious with twisty descents. I am typically falling behind my friends when it gets fast and technical, especially if it’s a road I have not ridden before.

I am aware of the usual “tips” to improve cornering at speed: look where you want to go, put weight on outside pedal, push hand on inside handlebar, inside knee out and inside shoulder in.

On my recent trip to Mallorca, I seemed to make a minor “breakthrough” and gained a LOT of confidence. I was dropping a couple of my buddies who previously would have dropped me.

One observation: I seem to feel much more stable and confident if I keep my head (and brim of helmet) even with the horizon, I don’t think I did this before or if I did, I was not aware. This head tilt along with other standard tips above seems to have coincided with my improvement (unclear if one caused the other).

Any confident descenders out there have any comments or more suggestions? I still have to work on this skill but pleased with recent improvement.
I don't think anyone answered your original title question. Yes, head tilt.
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Old 06-03-23, 09:15 AM
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Originally Posted by datlas
Those who know me are aware I am cautious with twisty descents. I am typically falling behind my friends when it gets fast and technical, especially if it’s a road I have not ridden before.

I am aware of the usual “tips” to improve cornering at speed: look where you want to go, put weight on outside pedal, push hand on inside handlebar, inside knee out and inside shoulder in.

On my recent trip to Mallorca, I seemed to make a minor “breakthrough” and gained a LOT of confidence. I was dropping a couple of my buddies who previously would have dropped me.

One observation: I seem to feel much more stable and confident if I keep my head (and brim of helmet) even with the horizon, I don’t think I did this before or if I did, I was not aware. This head tilt along with other standard tips above seems to have coincided with my improvement (unclear if one caused the other).

Any confident descenders out there have any comments or more suggestions? I still have to work on this skill but pleased with recent improvement.
I was taught that when I rode road motorcycles with a bunch of Ducati and BMW riders Back in my Chicago days. It helped me even on my lowly Suzuki 2-stroke 550 triple! Now nearly 50 years later it is still something I do on my road and toury bikes, whenever I corner - not much mountain here in Michigan, though there are rollers and river twisties. Sometimes its habit and sometimes not, but it does help keep your eyes directed on the path you are going to take, not the minutia of the piece of pavement you are on. Your attention needs to be directed ahead. Older now, I have to tilt my head into position more slowly than when in my 20s.

I wouldn't say it makes me corner faster. It enables me corner with more smoothness and fluidity, since I'm more confident I'm on a path where I won't, for example, break a rim.

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Old 06-03-23, 10:13 AM
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Originally Posted by datlas
Those who know me are aware I am cautious with twisty descents. I am typically falling behind my friends when it gets fast and technical, especially if it’s a road I have not ridden before.

I am aware of the usual “tips” to improve cornering at speed: look where you want to go, put weight on outside pedal, push hand on inside handlebar, inside knee out and inside shoulder in.

On my recent trip to Mallorca, I seemed to make a minor “breakthrough” and gained a LOT of confidence. I was dropping a couple of my buddies who previously would have dropped me.

One observation: I seem to feel much more stable and confident if I keep my head (and brim of helmet) even with the horizon, I don’t think I did this before or if I did, I was not aware. This head tilt along with other standard tips above seems to have coincided with my improvement (unclear if one caused the other).

Any confident descenders out there have any comments or more suggestions? I still have to work on this skill but pleased with recent improvement.
It is interesting that you made a breakthrough on what amounted to a new event, with a new route, with a lot of new riders around you. As I recall, you said the first SAG was a cluster F and it put you way behind the clock. Maybe the situation focused your mind on beating the time cutoff and didn't allow the negative thoughts/anything else to enter in. You're about as an experienced cyclist as there is. Think about that. I guess I could give you some kind if corn pone line from a song or movie for inspiration. How about this one?

Oz never did give nothing to the tin man.......that he didn't already have.

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Old 06-03-23, 05:00 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
Warning: Highly opinionated comments below. I am not the fastest descender, but per Strava, I rank in the top 5% on technical descents.

Whatever works for you is okay, I guess. But none of these "body english" techniques work to make turns faster.

In fact, wiggling your body parts around may make you slower. The faster you descend, the less body movement you should be doing. Think quiet and secure core, weighted outside pedal, relaxed shoulders, easy and small steering inputs, and looking where you want to go.
It's subtle, not wiggling. And the extent of movement clearly depends on the corner.

Here is a Pidcock descent:

We can see both relaxed stability (easy corners and pedalled corners) as well as crotch pointing in knee out corners, among general madness.

Road Fan another motorcycling technique with slight applicability is countersteering, that little bit of forward pressure on the inside handlebar seems to work well to measure and hold steering input.

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Old 06-03-23, 05:37 PM
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Originally Posted by yaw
If there was one technique that I felt helped me most with cornering at speed - once all the basics are covered - it is what I call the 'hip pivot', I once found in a book "rotate your crotch on the saddle and point your hips into the turn. This is the best cornering tip you’ll ever get, and one that many riders don’t know or use."

This really opens your body in the direction of your turn, and together with looking towards the exit of the turn, it allows you to flow through like on rails. So more than opening the inside knee, it's an actual bum rotation.
So, if I understand your post correctly, this is 180 degrees opposite of the approach advocated by Davis Phinney. His approach is the knee stays in and the hips counter rotate, which causes the weight to go where you want and the bike to counter steer.


when you point you knee into the turn, and open your hips into it, you’re keeping the bike more up right, and limiting the counter steering. Rotating your hips opposite is encouraging the bike to counter steer,and carve lie a ski into the turn.

But Davis, the Cash Reigister, Phinney won more races than any American in history( with the possible exception of Major Taylor) and won stages of the TDF, so not sure how much he knows.
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Old 06-03-23, 05:38 PM
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Originally Posted by datlas
One of the guys I ride with is 78 but still a crazy descender. He frequently bombs past me on downhills, which leaves me shaking my head. At that age, I think it makes sense to be extra cautious.
I am 67 Y.O. We don't have much to descend here in Fargo, but what little we do or when I am touring, I go down grades fairly fast.

I spent a number of years as a volunteer fire fighter / medic. I work as an engineer. We could probably sit around all day and we could swap horror stories about ruptured spleens from impacts, C3/C4 fractures who would have been paralyzed if we had done anything wrong, people with titanium implants in various places, etc.

At the end of the day, I ride at the speed that I feel confident. I drive my car at a speed that I feel confident. I still climb ladders. I have done all kinds of things that are truly dangerous. I have crawled into a burning building with someone on my heel and a nozzle in my hand, because I felt comfortable with the hundreds of hours of training and experience backing me up. My two worst injuries have been walking down a sidewalk and walking down the stairs in my house. Shlomo was right: Time and chance happen to all.

If you are just not comfortable with the speed, why push it. I run performance tires, I make good and sure that any ladder I am working on is properly braced. I give myself every equipment advantage I can afford. I do not go beyond my confidence level, and I don't feel bad about it.

If I wanted to descend faster I would go somewhere where I could practice descending relatively safely and turn up the intensity gradually. It is mostly about controlled experience. When you ride be aware of where road debris accumulates. Or just be happy with the speed you currently ride.
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