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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Posts
    1

    Fear of going fast downhill

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    Hi,

    I am preparing for a 200+ K ride to take place in June 2014.
    I used to ride years ago in my youth and never had any fear of riding like he wind. Now that I am much older, had been away from cycling for around 20 years, I really have a fear and start braking like mad.

    I will appreciate any techniques that may help remedy this fear.

    Julia

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Montreal, QC
    Posts
    773
    I have the same fear. I can't wait to read the help to get past this.

    I see a hill (down) and one going right back up and I loose all my momentum because I brake way too much instead of using that energy to get up that coming hill.

    Mentally, it is hard to not think a "what if I lose control going too fast". I never was like this in my younger days.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Location
    Pac. NW
    Posts
    353
    That fear it what keeps us alive Of course, it is helpful to not slow down too much, so let the advice begin.
    2011 Specialized Ruby Comp
    2015 Giant Liv Tempt 3

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Rowland Hts, CA
    Posts
    473
    I believe in riding as fast as you feel safe. After all, no one knows when a tube will pop on the way down. Live to ride another day is very important.

    At the same time, my max downhill road speed used to be 25mph. Now it's 40mph (assuming wide smooth roads and no curves in the road).
    2014 Liv Lust
    2013 Specialized Fate Expert with carbon wheelset (sold)
    2012 Specialized Amira Elite
    2010 Santa Cruz Juliana with R kit and Crampon pedals (sold)

    2011 Specialized Ariel Sport,suspension post,Serfas Rx Women's Microfiber saddle (sold)

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Indianapolis, Indiana
    Posts
    10,952
    I suspect it is only a temporary fear since you've been away from cycling for so long, and, of course, as adults we KNOW what can happen. That puts things in a different perspective.

    Ride as fast as you feel safe and things will improve as you gain more confidence on the bike. Fear isn't a bad thing and as SmittyKitty pointed out does serve a purpose. I've only been riding a couple of years (just turned 54) and going downhill was terrifying to me when I started. It still does if the pavement isn't in decent shape OR if it is a very steep downhill. Focus on relaxing, keep your shoulders out of your ears (if you do that), and keep looking down the road and what comes next so you can anticipate shifting. This will, hopefully, prevent you from focusing too much on your speed. Don't use your speed to guide your braking but the terrain, conditions, and of course, your gut.

    This helped me, others will be able to add to it.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Houston
    Posts
    1,352
    I think Catrin hit the nail on the head. Recently I participated in the Texas Time Trials and there's a boatload of hills in that one. Well, hills as far as we flatlanders are concerned. Anyway, I noticed I was riding the brakes a lot downhill and it was causing me a lot of problems making it up the next hill. Anyway, to make a long story short it was because the chipseal was shaking my bike so bad I was having a hard time seeing. When I got to smooth downhills I was perfectly fine with not braking. Having said that the fastest I've gone is 35.

    Totally anecdotal, but there was a lady in our club that broke her collarbone not even going 10 mph, so you can get just as injured going fast or slow.
    2012 Jamis Quest Brooks B17 Blue
    2012 Jamis Dakar XC Comp SI Ldy Gel
    2013 Electra Verse

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Uncanny Valley
    Posts
    14,645
    Look where you want to go, not where you don't. If the road turns, look through the curve. Glance at the road surface several seconds ahead so you know if there's anything you need to avoid, then PICK YOUR EYES UP. Generally, lift your gaze 10 degrees higher than you're used to. Keep a soft focus, so you're aware of both threats and escape routes in 100% of your visual fields, but don't lock your gaze on anything for more than a fraction of a second, and keep your focus centered a few feet above the ground at the point you want to wind up when you're through the turn.

    That's most of it. Then shift your weight back and low. Cover your brakes, feather them if you need to scrub speed, but don't ride them continuously. Practice braking on flat ground so you learn how to synchronize and modulate your brakes, understanding that most of your braking power comes from the front, but so does most of your steering control, so how much of each brake you use will depend on traction, lean angle, speed, etc. Upshift when you crest the hill and pedal occasionally during coasting to make sure you're in a gear that will let you control your bike when you start pedaling again.

    I was away from cycling for more than a decade too, and returned much MORE confident on descents than I'd ever been before, because in the interim I'd learned how to properly pilot a motor vehicle, at speeds higher than I'll ever see on a bici. It's all about the gaze.
    Last edited by OakLeaf; 10-30-2013 at 05:08 AM.
    Speed comes from what you put behind you. - Judi Ketteler

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    Oregon
    Posts
    467
    And let me add... Do not grip too tight when going downhill. I came back from Cycle Oregon with tennis elbow from holding on too tight on the 20 mile downhills that were broken up with cattle guards. I didn't want a chance of getting stuck in them so I had a death grip on the bars. Try to keep relaxed. Obviously it's much easier on good pavement without obstacles.
    2013 Specialized Myka FSR Comp
    2013 Specialized Ruby Sport (carbon)
    2014 Salsa Vaya 3 (steel)
    2014 Felt Z75

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Washington, DC
    Posts
    1,686
    Oakleaf and TrekDianna offer good advice:
    1. Always look where you want to go (not were you don't want to end up) -- this is true at any speed!
    2. Relax your arms and shoulders -- no "grip of death" anywhere, but make sure you have fingers wrapped around the handlebar!
    3. Feather your brakes and lower your speed *before* curves, never during the curve.
    4. Experiment in different descents with how you distribute your weight. I generally like lifting my butt off the saddle, and moving it a little back, putting some pressure on the sides of the saddle with my thighs. Pedals horizontal at 3PM and 9PM. Shift up so you can pedal, as pedaling can give you more stability. As I have become more confident, I started lowering my chest and head towards the handlebar, tuck in my knees towards the top tube, elbows tucked in, too. These days I am putting a little more weight on the front wheel, which results in additional speed. Let me tell you it is insanely fun when you dash past people who are pedaling like mad and you are just tucked in. In a curvy descent, you want your hands on the drops for more braking power. My top speed thus far has been just over 45mph, but I live in a relatively flat part of the world...the 45mph was during a race, on a long descent in a highway, pedaling hard most of the time.
    5. If you have a friend that is a good descender, follow his/her line.

    GCN has a very nice series of "How-to" videos. See this one on descending switchbacks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EohtLFZcvg4

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    Montreal, QC
    Posts
    773
    Wow! As usual, excellent tips. I will try to remember this on my next ride, probably next end of spring as our ride bikes are mostly done for the year. Too cold and snow has started in some areas.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    northern Virginia
    Posts
    5,827
    I will add: don't forget to breathe.

    And do what you feel comfortable with. Don't worry about what other people around you are doing.

    - Gray Trek Madone 4.7 road bike, mystery crack in top tube repaired by Calfee, Bontrager Affinity RXL saddle
    - Red Trek 6000 mountain bike, Bontrager Evoke WSD saddle

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    - Silver Trek 2000 road bike
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  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Washington, DC
    Posts
    1,686
    Experiment, experiment, experiment. There are descents and then there are descents, so you can try different things on the shorter or less steep ones. For example, you'll feel that if your are tucked in, you can slow down simply by sitting up (yep, aerodynamics work). Relax your arms, always have a bend in your elbows as your arms are like a shock absorbers.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Troutdale, OR
    Posts
    2,604
    going fast doesn't earn you brownie points. Go at speed you are comfortable. As for using the speed to carry you over the next hill, it is only good for hills that we used to call "ooped-ee-doo" (however its spelled) generally hills of 100 feet in height or less. anything more and the speed you carry on downhill gets lost beyond the first 100 vertical feet. (just a rule of thumb).

    If you are worried about downhill speed, and want to increase it, read oakleaf's explanation carefully. At times, I was looking 2/10 of mile ahead of me (12seconds), scanning little to the left little to the right at 2/10 mile ahead to see what the danger might be (even though 2/10 mile was no where near what I needed to come to a complete stop). Scrub/bleed off/slow down before you enter a turn. Learn to make a turn properly. Technique can make a difference at speed through a turn. Ride within your ability. And gradually learn to expand your ability. There is nothing to be ashamed at slowly coming down a hill.

    I prefer to ride with women just for this reason. We are more prudent and careful.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    4,713
    BF keeps telling me just how much FUN! it is to break the 40mph speed limit on a hill near his home. No, that really doesn't seem like fun. 35 (with the brakes) is more than enough. It's not a race. Oakleaf has good advice, as always. Ride however fast you feel comfortable. I'm a lot better about it than when I first started, but things like curves and bad pavement still throw me.

    Shifting up helps, even if I don't pedal. Scooting back and a little aero tuck helps, but I stay on the hoods so that I can easily reach the brakes (I can break from the drops, but it's a stretch-I have short fingers!)
    At least I don't leave slime trails.
    http://wholecog.wordpress.com/

    2009 Giant Avail 3 |Specialized Jett 143

    2013 Charge Filter Apex| Specialized Jett 143
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  15. #15
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Oslo, Norway
    Posts
    4,083
    If I feel myself becoming more nervous than I should be, usually skiing, not cycling, I imagine I'm someone else. I'm not kidding :-) But thinking of how someone who is competent and brave would do something, whether a well-known athlete or just a skilled friend, helps me be more competent and brave. I don't mean death-defying or reckless, just encouraging myself to push the limits a little.
    Winter riding is much less about badassery and much more about bundle-uppery. - malkin

    1995 Kona Cinder Cone commuterFrankenbike/Selle Italia SLR Lady Gel Flow
    2008 white Nakamura Summit Custom mtb/Terry Falcon X
    2000 Schwinn Fastback Comp road bike/Specialized Jett

 

 

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