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Keeping up on the downhills

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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

Keeping up on the downhills

Old 09-18-11, 08:38 AM
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fishymamba
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Keeping up on the downhills

Hey guys! Yesterday on my club ride I realized something. I can pretty much keep up with most guys while climbing, but when going downhill I just can't seem to keep up.
I'm not talking about turning or anything, just on a straight descent. The guys in front of my were not pedaling and they were not drafting anyone, and I coulodn't keep up even though I was drafting them and I was pedaling hard.I was also in the drops.

I also find it hard to keep up on flats, but I guess that's because of my weak legs.


What can I change, or do that will get me faster on the downhills? I weight 125lbs and I am about 5'0(kinda over weight).
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Old 09-18-11, 08:45 AM
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not being able to keep up on the flats = lack of fitness

not being able to keep up on descents = lack of going into the descent with enough momentum!?
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Old 09-18-11, 08:56 AM
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Originally Posted by kbro1986 View Post
not being able to keep up on the flats = lack of fitness

not being able to keep up on descents = lack of going into the descent with enough momentum!?
Except that we always stop at the top of the climb and wait for everyone to catch up.


The most I can sustain on a flat is about 22 for about 10 miles. For long distances i can't sustain over 20. But we almost never get fore than 10 miles of flat riding before a hill.
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Old 09-18-11, 08:56 AM
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125 lbs = Bingo.

I weigh in at 235 and routinely drop almost anyone on descents except other clydes. All I have to do is tuck in and roll, or if I want to leave them far behind, tuck and pedal. The opposite happens on uphills, of course.
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Old 09-18-11, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by fishymamba View Post
Hey guys! Yesterday on my club ride I realized something. I can pretty much keep up with most guys while climbing, but when going downhill I just can't seem to keep up.
I'm not talking about turning or anything, just on a straight descent. The guys in front of my were not pedaling and they were not drafting anyone, and I coulodn't keep up even though I was drafting them and I was pedaling hard.I was also in the drops.

I also find it hard to keep up on flats, but I guess that's because of my weak legs.


What can I change, or do that will get me faster on the downhills? I weight 125lbs and I am about 5'0(kinda over weight).
draft the fatties.
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Old 09-18-11, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by fishymamba View Post
The guys in front of my were not pedaling and they were not drafting anyone, and I coulodn't keep up even though I was drafting them and I was pedaling hard.I was also in the drops.
Even at 125lbs you should be able to keep up by drafting so my guess is you need to work on positioning. Try putting your chin just above the stem, squeeze the top tube with your knees and tuck your arms in. Some guys hold onto the tops on either side of the stem. You will need to experiment a little but just riding in the drops isn't the optimal position.
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Old 09-18-11, 09:03 AM
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Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
Even at 125lbs you should be able to keep up by drafting so my guess is you need to work on positioning. Try putting your chin just above the stem, squeeze the top tube with your knees and tuck your arms in. Some guys hold onto the tops on either side of the stem. You will need to experiment a little but just riding in the drops isn't the optimal position.
I tried holding the tops on both sides and leveling my chin with the bars. It helps, but not enough. I don't really like this position because I have no control of the brakes.. I pretty much always get dropped on long descents.
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Old 09-18-11, 09:05 AM
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As a person who watches people like you dance past me up the hill while I am sucking wind, my heart bleeds for you.
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Old 09-18-11, 09:34 AM
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Mass always wins on descents. Follow a tandem down a hill if you doubt it.
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Old 09-18-11, 09:38 AM
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Problem with aero? Try keepting yourself small, elbow inside, knees inside, head forward and down, hand on the bottom handles. That works for me and I'm 135lbs and I'm able to keep with my 185lbs friend. Otherwise what I can see is that you're light, and the more you weight, the more you go down.

Your main advantage looks to be your size, with a good position, you should be able to "disapear" behind you're friend and draft them.

(I'm not a pro though, I may be wrong.)
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Old 09-18-11, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by fishymamba View Post
Except that we always stop at the top of the climb and wait for everyone to catch up.
Stop waiting at the top.
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Old 09-18-11, 10:28 AM
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Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
Stop waiting at the top.
No, please, wait at the top. And let me catch my breath, would you?
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Old 09-18-11, 10:51 AM
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At 6' and 142 lbs I have the same problem. I learned to do whatever it takes to get on the wheel of someone larger before the descent gets going. Draft close and don't lose the draft. Staying in the draft requires that you anticipate what the other rider(s) are doing. The more you practice the better you'll get.
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Old 09-18-11, 10:59 AM
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Get a different wheelset. The better built wheelsets will have better hubs. The aero rims will make a difference too. Even at 125 lbs, you will notice the difference on those long descents. When PSIMET built my wheelset, I asked for White Industries hubs.

If you're light in weight, and the tires are over inflated for your weight, the bike gets jumpy and on a descent, it spells danger. There's that harmonic thing going on and the frame will tend to shimmy and you lose control. I'm not as light as you, but I do watch the tire inflation and also use my knees to create a damping effect so that the frame doesn't get that harmonic thing. This way, I feel comfortable going 30 plus mph on a long descent.

And I can stay up with the bigger riders.
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Old 09-18-11, 11:13 AM
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Originally Posted by z90 View Post
As a person who watches people like you dance past me up the hill while I am sucking wind, my heart bleeds for you.
AMEN

Honestly op, you simply don't weigh enough. I bet you the people that are ahead of you are probably still at least 150+lbs. You'd be amazed at the difference 20 or 30 lbs can make going down hill. my friend is 205, I'm 240 and I blow by him like he's standing still going down hills.
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Old 09-18-11, 12:22 PM
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As said, weight helps a lot for downhills. But so does drafting - you're not drafting enough if they're dumping you on the downhill.

You're light enough that you'll have a big differential between your climbing (will be good) versus power (probably not so good) since bigger guys put out more power at baseline, so you'll notice the difference in climbing vs downhills more readily.

I'm at 150, but not tall, and I find that at that weight, I've got a pretty good balance between climbing well and TTing well on flats. But I have noticed that a few really big guys who would have zero chance keeping up with me on a climb (likely 220-240lbs) were pretty friggin' fast on a flat - I was shocked at first, but them I remembered that a big dude like that probably puts out like 40% more power than I do, and doesn't have a 40% aero penalty on a flat.

Flats and downhills are for the big dudes.
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Old 09-18-11, 12:40 PM
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I shall quote Wikipedia -- "Air resistance per unit mass is also higher for smaller animals". You, my friend, are a smaller animal than most.

BTW, Power/mass has never been a good measurement for cyclists and I don't know why it continues to be used. Power/CdA is much better.
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Old 09-18-11, 01:46 PM
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Thanks for all the tips guys. Most people I ride with are big, like minimum 150-160lbs all the way to over 200lbs.

And yeah the big guys are really fast on the flats. Does this give them an advantage in Crits?

I do try to draft, but they still just pull away.

I am thinking about new wheels, so maybe i'll get some aero ones. Hopefully they will provide a little speed on the flats too.
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Old 09-18-11, 02:04 PM
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How fast do they go down the hills? I'm north of 250 and can only hit a hair above 52mph coming down a 1-mile stretch at 8% or so (coasting only). But I can pedal my 53x11 down a hill around 42mph or more (too much more & I start bouncing). Have you tried pedaling?

(I figure since they don't take it easy on me up the hills, I make them work going down. They can draft all they want, but at some point, they can no longer keep up unless they pedal while I'm freewheelin'. )
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Old 09-18-11, 02:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Runner 1 View Post
I shall quote Wikipedia -- "Air resistance per unit mass is also higher for smaller animals". You, my friend, are a smaller animal than most.

BTW, Power/mass has never been a good measurement for cyclists and I don't know why it continues to be used. Power/CdA is much better.
power/mass is the superior measurement when it comes to climbing. power/cda is better when riding on the flats because gravity plays a smaller role.
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Old 09-18-11, 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by fishymamba View Post
Except that we always stop at the top of the climb and and gloat while we wait for the porkers to catch up.
ftfy
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Old 09-18-11, 02:15 PM
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Originally Posted by gerundium View Post
power/mass is the superior measurement when it comes to climbing. power/cda is better when riding on the flats because gravity plays a smaller role.
True, but what percentage of the ride is climbing vs flats and downhill?
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Old 09-18-11, 02:23 PM
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I have a similar problem...although I weigh 140ish so not as light as you are.

As above, your best bets are a mix/match of (a) get more aero on the bike (b) get more aero wheels (c) Draft one of the bigger guys and/or (d) get a head start down the hill.
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Old 09-18-11, 03:06 PM
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Do your hubs run smooth?
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Old 09-18-11, 03:56 PM
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Speaking as a Self-Appointed Representative of The Porky Cyclists' League (hereafter PCL), you may want to rethink drafting us downhill for the following reasons:

1) You have to be tight on for it to work. You will need every aerodynamic advantage to match my 215 lbs of gristle. I have seen many little guys try to draft and most don't stay close enough.

2) We big folk, all members of the PCL, have no contractual obligations to call out road hazards over 40 mph on descents, as we expect no one to be near us. I promise to hold my line, but I also will avoid reasonable obstacles that you will have no chance to avoid.

3) We, in general, only expect other Members of the PCL to be near us. Fat guys are easy to see, and we waste no energy looking for skinny minny's. We can't see past our fat rolls to see you, so once again, you are on your own.

Your best bet is to suck down 6 or 7 gallons of water at the crest of the hill to get temporary membership in the PCL. This is allowed on a descent by descent basis.
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