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Thread: Downhill fear

  1. #1
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    Nov 2009
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    Downhill fear

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    hello..

    I wanted to see if anyone else is scared like I am and perhaps could share their experience on how they conquered that.

    Mine is a bit unusual. I used to be fine. Then over the years got worse. I got the "speed wobble" a few times, now I descend on the break at 11mph with one foot unclipped. Sometimes I stop. I panic, freeze and freak. I am miserable, love riding but this has definitely made cycling much less enjoyable, forget going on a group ride too.

    any advice is appreciated.

  2. #2
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    Nov 2007
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    What is the width of your tires? Perhaps try slightly wider tires with a slightly rougher profile...which I always have had. I don't have super skinnies nor slicks. I never have and probably never will.

    Presumably you have checked to make sure your wheels are trued. That can cause wobble. I discovered one of my wheels should be trued...soon.

    As for being unclipped with 1 shoe, if you it makes you feel more confident, then do it.

    What are you like when hiking along steep hills/mountainsides or walking across bridges/elevated walkways? Has that become worse? Do you have a fear of heights.

    I'm not as slow as you going down a hill but then I don't have dropped handlebars. I do have a fear of heights where I find it more difficult to walk along narrow trails without any barrier along mountainsides, etc. Going down a spiral staircase inside a lighthouse which has no rail..just the wall to touch..was hard. My leg muscles were so sore by the time I got to the bottom. Probably I was trying to walk and control my fear.

    Cycling is different, because to me, there's greater control with brakes.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Southern Indiana
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    169

    downhill fear

    This anxiety/fear thing when descending sure takes the fun out of riding. I went through this during the summer. Not sure why but I think a couple very windy days contributed. I was almost knocked off the bike by strong gusts and I got scared. This somehow transferred to being afraid I would fall when descending at 30mph or so. I have typically been fearless when going downhill and love the rush and the feeling of total abandon.
    Out of the blue, I found myself dreading downhills and started using the brake every few seconds.
    I checked my position on the bike and realized I was doing some things that made the problem worse. I was grabbing the handlebars so tightly that it caused the front wheel to shake. I was imagining crashing instead of enjoying my ride. My entire body was tense. I was looking down instead of looking ahead.
    I made my arms and hands relax. I reminded myself that I have ridden downhill with confidence in the past. I got my body to move with the bike. I discovered that bouncing gently distracts me from locking up. I raised my head up to get my eyes off the pavement beneath me.
    I still have occasional problems, but I don't beat myself up.
    The moment of fear is so convincingly real that everything seems to close in. But, much of this is the mind's interpretation. Ride down a short hill and practice mastering the skills. Good luck!
    Barb

  4. #4
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    "Bouncing" is a good idea, keeps your body loose but attentive. Ready for anything, like a cat.

    I don't have much fear on a bike, but I recognize the feeling from other sports. Another mind trick to accept and overcome fear is to try to get into the mindset where you *like* speed - tell yourself (even at low speeds) "whee! I love this! I love flying downhill! I'm superwoman! I'm <insert favourite sports hero> " It helps to sense and feel this enjoyment while you're still in full control, to get to that point of wanting to go a bit faster and test yourself just a little bit. You want that positive, daring feeling to counteract whatever old fears are holding you back.
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  5. #5
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    May 2008
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    Little Egypt
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    I had a very similar fear after I crashed doing 40 mph on a mountain descent. I left the road on the 3rd switchback and hit a rock. The bike stopped and I kept going It was a long time before I could do a descent of any kind without my heart racing and my throat tightening. The anxiety was paralyzing.

    I just took it slow. I took deep breaths, made myself relax and kept making myself do downhills until I got my confidence back. I don't descend with the wild abandon I used to and am much more cautious but I've got my downhill legs back.

    Just try to relax and keep practicing doing downhills until you gain some confidence. If you are more comfortable keeping one foot unclipped, then do so but try to work toward staying clipped in. My best advice is to sit back in the saddle, trying to keep more of your weight on the back wheel, break with your back brakes, not your front, stay down in the drops, pinch the top tube with your knees, and just keep practicing. Also make sure your bike fits your correctly. If you are riding a bike that doesn't fit you, you can really feel out of control on a downhill.

    Good luck!
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  6. #6
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    Sep 2007
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    I'm too fearless on descents on the bici , but I can totally relate to your post, because a couple of years ago I completely lost my confidence on low-speed maneuvers on the motorcycle, and as you say, it's really taken all the fun out of riding.

    I'm not sure of the solution, either. I know intellectually what's going on, I'm panicking, freezing up, looking at the ground and tightening up my muscles - when what I need to do is be loose and look up - but it's the panicking part that's hard to conquer. "Practice" isn't necessarily the solution for me either, since it just tends to reinforce frustration and fear.

    I guess the one difference is that in low-speed maneuvering, if you panic, freeze and look at the ground, you WILL fall... whereas descending, you can control your speed with your brakes to a level you're comfortable with. I guess that's what I'd try in your position - work on the self-talk, pick your eyes up, look where you want to go, forearms loose, shoulders loose, weight in your quads rather than hard on the saddle; on the curves, inside foot up, outside foot weighted, still remembering to look where you want to go; and just every time down your nemesis hill, go one mile an hour faster.

    Definitely DON'T unclip... right there you're losing a lot of control over your bike. And remember that you DON'T have to hit 50 mph if you don't want to!


    ETA: I will say that riding a moto is the main reason I'm so comfortable descending on the bici - because it's all about looking where you want to go and being comfortable with the speed. Short version is that I burned out on the bici, rode a moto for 12 years, then came back to bicycling and my very first day back on a road bike I was descending gleefully at speeds that used to terrify me when I was racing. I wonder if you're being sloppy with your eyes when you drive your car? Maybe that would be an exercise you could do without panic... practicing your awareness skills when you drive the car? When you know how to look where you need to look when you're going 70 mph (or faster ), 50 doesn't seem so scary even if you're not wearing leather.
    Last edited by OakLeaf; 12-01-2009 at 05:08 AM.
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  7. #7
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    Mar 2008
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    You may want to try to practice on some smaller descents. Although I have always loved the fast descents, I actually had a class in descending from Carmichael Training that taught me a technique that is safer and repeatable. One thing I learned is that if I have better access and light control of the brakes when I am in the drops. I can lightly feather my brakes while descending so that I don't slow down to a crawl, but also I can have better control of the descent. Sitting back on the seat, relaxing upper body and feet firmly planted (definitely both feet clipped in!).
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by tctrek View Post
    You may want to try to practice on some smaller descents.
    +1. This is how I worked on my fear of descending on the mountain bike. DH and I found a moderately steep hill with long straight run outs in a couple of directions, and I rode that darn thing at least 20 times, working to stay off the brakes and just roll until the ground leveled out. When that felt ok, I started turning at the bottom and trusting the tires as I rolled through the turns. I'm still a little timid on descents, but I'm much better than I was.

    Interestingly enough, wearing contacts has improved my descending as well. My vision isn't awful (I can legally drive without correction), but with correction, I can see clearly further away and I think that makes me more comfortable, especially at speed.

    Good luck!

  9. #9
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    I am your basic timid rider. The key to getting over timidity is repetition.
    so i go down a hill at 15 mph.. next time i let go of the wheels just a second, maybe i'll get up to 16 or 17. i build over time. I NEVER go really really fast, my top speed is in the 30's on my bike.

    On the other hand, you are reacting like you are phobic. It could be much worse than my simple timidity. You might need to talk to a counselor about this.My mother is phobic and is so terrified of some things that it is debilitating.
    Try our suggestions, but you might need professional help.
    and welcome to TE!
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  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
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    6
    [QUOTE=shootingstar;479888]"What is the width of your tires? "

    First of all I want to say thank you for the responses. i didn't expect this, it's great:-)

    I just got a Trek WSD bike, hoping that a women specific bike would really help me. I have never riddden a road bike before, I have always been on a tri bike. I am actually more comfortable riding the tri bike because thats all I know. But I want to give this trek a nice try. I have a zillion bikes, and I don't think the wobble is bike specific, more user specific.

    "What are you like when hiking along steep hills/mountainsides or walking across bridges/elevated walkways? Has that become worse? Do you have a fear of heights."

    You have a good point. I am find climbing but yes, I have fear of heights. Not terrible but definetly there. i also have issues driving so the ones that brought phobia and professionnal help I think there is something there. I am getting help but not sure it's helping.

    The idea of finding a small hill is great. years ago I used to have someone do this and drive me up weekly. That did help. I just can't seem to find anyone that can help, but i need to get back to this, good idea.

  11. #11
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    Nov 2009
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    Quote Originally Posted by bacarver View Post
    I discovered that bouncing gently distracts me from locking up. I raised my head up to get my eyes off the pavement beneath me.
    I
    Barb
    Thanks Barb:-) What do you mean by "bouncing?"

  12. #12
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    Nov 2009
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bike Chick View Post

    Just try to relax and keep practicing doing downhills until you gain some confidence. If you are more comfortable keeping one foot unclipped, then do so but try to work toward staying clipped in. My best advice is to sit back in the saddle, trying to keep more of your weight on the back wheel, break with your back brakes, not your front, stay down in the drops, pinch the top tube with your knees, and just keep practicing. Also make sure your bike fits your correctly. If you are riding a bike that doesn't fit you, you can really feel out of control on a downhill.

    Good luck!
    I tend to have one hand in the hoods and one hand in the drops. Do you feel more "secure" in the drops?

  13. #13
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    Nov 2009
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    Quote Originally Posted by tctrek View Post
    I actually had a class in descending from Carmichael Training that taught me a technique that is safer and repeatable. .
    Do they still offer classes on descending? that sounds great!

  14. #14
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    Nov 2009
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    Quote Originally Posted by Biciclista View Post
    Try our suggestions, but you might need professional help.
    and welcome to TE!
    Thanks! I find this site already very firendly and welcoming:-)

  15. #15
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