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am i a wuss if i'm afraid of descents?

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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

am i a wuss if i'm afraid of descents?

Old 08-25-05, 05:19 PM
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islenska
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am i a wuss if i'm afraid of descents?

i have been mtb-ing for 18 years and racing both mtb and 'cross for 2 years...and somehow i managed to almost completely avoid the world of road biking. of course i train on the road -- but thats with a cross bike and cross tires and its usually more of a mix of dirt roads, grass, and pavement. but lately i've been riding (on a traditional road bike and road tyres) with a club of roadies, and i immediately noticed some big differences between me and them. although i can keep up without any problems on climbs and flats, i am *really* afraid on the descents. throw in some corners and i'm even more terrified. i admit it, i'm afraid of having a huge crash and having to be picked up off the pavement with a spatula. i used to think motorcycles were crazy, but now i realize that, when going downhill on a road bike, you can go pretty damn fast and i'm certainly not wearing any kevlar or a full-faced helmet. i mean seriously, what happens if you hit the deck going 60+ km/hr? are you dead? broken neck? headed to the ER with a morphine cocktail?

am i just a wuss? does it get easier?

the thing is, i'll bomb a tight, rocky single track on my mtb and not think anything of it. and i'll go fast on the road with my cross bike, but i think maybe my tires and the different riding position make it less scary.

any similar feelings? words of wisdom? should i just forget about being a roadie?
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Old 08-25-05, 05:24 PM
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Don't worry, descending will get easier with time on the road bike. You have to trust your equipment and yourself before going 60mph down the side of a mountain feels comfortable (or at least enough where you don't need new shorts when you reach the bottom). Just do as much as you can to practice, and eventually you'll feel more and more comfortable. Good luck, and enjoy the riding--even if you do have to take descents slower! Stay safe!
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Old 08-25-05, 05:27 PM
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Don't worry about it. You're fine. Some people just have a higher sense of self-preservation than others.
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Old 08-25-05, 05:29 PM
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The older I get, the more afraid I am to fly full speed down descents. Even when I'm racing, I hold back a little. I can't help but think about the consequences of a fall. And for what? Taking a descent at 35mph compared to 50mph isn't going to make me any more fit. And who cares if it helps bump me up a few notches in race placing - I'm not a professional and I don't want to take risks with my body for nothing.

If you really want to get faster though, it will get easier with time and experience. Good experiences build confidence and confidence builds downhill speed. But don't be too hard on yourself for being a little afraid, it's natural.
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Old 08-25-05, 05:56 PM
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after the cycle comp clicks over 39.9 I start to get a little nervous, your not alone(not to say that were both not wusses)
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Old 08-25-05, 06:12 PM
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It should get easier the more you ride. Slowly increase how fast you go... 60km/h is about 38mph, which is pretty fast but a speed that you could easily control... For me anything over 85km/h (53mph) is kind of scary, but I haven't had a chance to go that fast too often... But I enjoy cruising down a long road at 64.3km/h (40mph)....
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Old 08-25-05, 06:22 PM
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You need confidence in your equipment. This will come as you are more comfortable with maintanace and pre-ride checks, it also helps to know the roads you are riding. trying to follow the wheel of a guy just a little faster then you also when you do this take youe Computer off or cover the speed with blacktape as seeing your speed can be more of a freak out then just doing the speed.

Honestly though 60 kilometer/hour (kph) = 37.2822715 mile/hour (mph)
I do this on a daily basis down a short hill during my morning comute.
I have gone as fast as 60 mile/hour (mph) = 96.56064 kilometer/hour (kph).
You MTB and your freaked by road speeds where the surface in more predictable. Yes you are a wusse
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Old 08-25-05, 06:23 PM
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Just remember that crashing your bike at 60 mph would make a really awsome obituary. You might even make the front page. Thats how I get myself to do things I'm afraid of.
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Old 08-25-05, 06:25 PM
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Yeah, you're a wuss. I think your next step is to pick up a comfort beach bomber bike and tool along any multi-use path... the one with mothers running with their babies in the baby carriages.




































































































Seriously though! You're not a wuss. I have the same problems with descents. A friend of mine died a couple of years back. He was an experienced cyclist and he just lost control. He was riding alone, and he fell. Since then, I've just had this block in my head. Still, I find that as long as I keep relaxed and feather my brakes while descending so I have some control, then I am ok. Plus, every week, I do hill repeats every week, and I not only work on hill climbing, but I also work on hill descents. It may take time, but just keep at it, and you'll feel better over time when you're descending.

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Old 08-25-05, 06:28 PM
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today was my first day with my bike and i took it down the big hill in prospect at 40mph. can't wait to find something steeper!

-- side note: went up the up hill at 10/10.5 avg, boooo
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Old 08-25-05, 06:29 PM
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Had me holding my breath and pounding the down arrow there, Koffee.
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Old 08-25-05, 06:36 PM
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Combination of confidence in your ride and confidence in your skills. Both are built over time, by stretching beyond what you're comfortable with in reasonable steps.

Motorcycle riders learning how far they can really lean over in corners is a similar analogy (as is fast descents). A very large proportion of 'bike only' accidents with motos is the rider not knowing he could have laid the bike down farther, and running out of the turn as a result.

Some tips translated from m/c school: Find a downhill on or near your daily ride, and commit to practicing it regularly. Practicing several times a session will also help your climbing. On each descent, try different lines, different body positions, different weighting & leaning schemes, different gearing combinations, all at speeds you know you can brake out of. Steadily increase speed over time. Over time, your confidence will greatly increase on that one descent, and will build skills you have ingrained for other descents.

Good luck, keep the rubber side down.
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Old 08-25-05, 06:44 PM
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I found out earlier that I love to climb. On my first month on the road bike I did this 50 mile climbfest with a bunch of experienced riders and survived. On the flipside what goes up must come down and I swear I was screaming like a little baby on all those descents.

It's been almost a year since that and while I'm still not an aggressive descender, I have seen speeds of 48 mph and gone down hills at a regular 35-40 mph. I'm no racer and always err on the side of what I feel comfortable with rather than bravado when it comes to down hills but things are slowly getting better.

All I can say is do things on your terms and you will get better (while still keeping the joy of riding).
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Old 08-25-05, 06:52 PM
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I dont think your a wuss........not at all. Ride within your limits. Period. I preach this to MC riders that ride with me, and I follow it.

One thing to consider that I dont think have been mentioned is road conditions. With 180lbs (just a guess) on maybe 2sqin of contact patch it dosent take much to bring a bicycle down espically if your at limits of traction. Anti-freeze, oil, a bit of sand or pebbles and youll be asphalt surfing in fine fashion, espically if the front washes. Im sure some of the same rules also apply to bicycles as to MC. Scrubb off your corner entry speed on the straight before the turn, not while in the turn. If ya hit your front brake (while in the turn) you may exceed the traction limit of your tire and have the front wash out, use the back brake if you have to.

Just remember, Asphalt is the equal opportunity meat grinder!
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Old 08-25-05, 06:52 PM
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well thanks for the feedback...i definetly have trust issues with the equipment. the road bike just seems so delicate and the tyres so thin...like the smallest little stone could mean the end.

honestly, i'm really not sure how fast i'm going because i dont have a computer. maybe i'm going faster than 60 km/hr. its very possible because i'm here in iceland where we have *long* mountain roads which mean llllooong steady climbs and then really long descents where it seems like i just keep going faster..and faster...and faster...

everyone else is bombing these hills in the drops and i'm riding my brakes....
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Old 08-25-05, 07:03 PM
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Take it easy and get in lots of practice and you'll be fine. Develop your bike-handling skills so that you have lightning-fast reflexes; you are always in control and your speed, position on the road, trajectory, everything, is being managed intentionally.

To avoid unpleasant surprises, visualize "the line" you're taking on the downhill, whether it's on the flats or in the corners. Draw it out ahead of you with laser-beam eyes, the path is glowing, follow it. You can draw a path around obstacles on the road, like glass, rocks, potholes, fallen bodies & bikes, etc. This is what you should be doing on the flats as well as the downhills. That's why beginning riders have so many flats, their eyes are on the horizon 20-miles down the road and they don't even see stuff they're about to hit.

THen practice on the handling skills. Set up a practice crit in a parking lot somewhere a nd run around with some friends. Play follow-the-leader and have the lead guy try to lose the others through a handling course. Practice overtaking them and shoving them out of the way.

Also practice your braking. Learn to brake harder and harder at the limit. Initially you grab both brakes, then as the braking forces increase, you scoot further and further back on the bike while easing the pressure on the rear brake. I'm actually off the saddle with my stomach about 3-5cm above the saddle and when the rear wheel comes off the ground under braking, my stomach catches it. Practice braking to where you can control the bike with the rear wheel hanging a constant 15-25cm off the ground and the front tyre's sliding.

Once you get all this practice down, you won't have any fear of the downhillls.

Last edited by DannoXYZ; 08-25-05 at 09:40 PM.
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Old 08-25-05, 07:13 PM
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Originally Posted by DannoXYZ
T....Practice braking to where you can control the bike with the rear wheel hanging a contant 15-25cm off the ground and the front tyre's sliding.
really?? like *off the ground*? just sliding on the front tyre?
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Old 08-25-05, 08:25 PM
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I don't know the terrain out there, but ride downhill by yourself, and make sure you ride downhill at your preferred pace rather than at a pace imposed by the group.

With time, you may or may not become faster when you are more intimate with your equipment.

Not everyone feels the same thrill with speed, but more importantly not everyone reacts as quickly to suddently-appearing dangers. Only you know your limits.
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Old 08-25-05, 08:42 PM
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Like everyone else said in here. It gets easier with time. When I first started to ride down hills. I get up to 40 and start hitting the brakes and thinking I am going to die. But after awhile you just change and become more relaxed. I still will touch the brakes if I feel I am going alittle too fast. But I promise it gets easier. And reading on here that someone died yest doesn't make the next days ride easier. But you will be fine. Like the other have said go at a speed you can handle right now. If it's only 30mph then stick with that til you feel comfortable. Then slowly move your speed up. Good luck and safe riding.
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Old 08-25-05, 09:33 PM
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I am scared of descending on an MTB on loose gravel rocks and S*it like that... Gimme a road bike on pavement and I am fine...
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Old 08-25-05, 09:50 PM
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Originally Posted by skinnyone
I am scared of descending on an MTB on loose gravel rocks and S*it like that... Gimme a road bike on pavement and I am fine...
I second that emotion!

Most of the big descents around here are straight, often with a headwind. My fastest sustained speed was about 83 km/h for 3km with two other guys. We were on the shoulder of the road, about 1/2 a wheel apart and catching the slower cars. THAT was a little nutty. It's okay to be scared, you just can't let it control you. I'm way more afraid of fast corners, but they are part of riding, so I just deal with it. It also helps to stay off your front brake... Good luck!
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Old 08-25-05, 09:57 PM
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im a bigger guy 200 area so i love when the decents come cause the power is plenty. but i think since you are used to the dirt going fast 30+mph will seem unsettling to you but you should get used to it.

going down isnt hard its going up that is so if anyone calls you a wuss on a downhill tell em to turn around and kick their ass going up
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Old 08-25-05, 11:48 PM
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I'm a little afraid of descents, but I find that if I get down in the drops and have the brakes within reach, I feel much more in control of the bike. It goes without saying that you shouldn't be looking at your computer while descending, you should be looking at the road. Soon you'll be checking your computer after a descent and see your max speed is faster than you thought.
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Old 08-26-05, 02:36 AM
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thanks everyone. its good to know that i'm not alone. its strange because this is the first time since i can remember that i have been afraid on a bike. even as a messenger (again, on a cross bike) i was cautious of traffic, but never terrified.

hmm, maybe i am getting older...(but i'm only 30!)
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Old 08-26-05, 01:39 PM
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I don't descend faster than the hill allows - I don't pedal downhill..
I just get really aero with my hands on the brakes; just in case.

So far, I've had a blast doing this... but no, no such thing as a wussy -
except the person who quits after falling down.
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