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How to descend like a boss

30 November 2015

While watching the Tour de France this season, I noticed the pro cyclists have lots of different descend styles. Especially remarkable are those riders completely tucked in with their scrotum resting on the frame (ouch?), elbows right down towards the waist and their chest resting against the handlebars. Pretty risky business for any cyclist. But if you’re trying to win a stage, and every second counts, safety issues are not your first concern.
For the recreational cyclist safety is far more important. Whether you use downhill segments to catch your breath, or to get yourself a QOM, there are a few techniques that will make your descends safer, smoother and faster.
Here are the best tips from around the web.

Find you most stable and aerodynamic position

In your descends you want to be super aerodynamic. So you stay low, with your hands on the drops of the handlebar. This also lowers your point of gravity thus increasing your stability. Step 2 is keeping your elbows bent and tucked in, and, if you aren’t pedaling; pedals level, knees slightly bent and close to your frame, and butt slightly out of the saddle for balance and mobility.
Experiment with this position until your bike feels completely stable and your body is tucked in but comfortable.

Relax

Help your bike do its work by remaining stress-free throughout the descend. Keep your shoulders relaxed and have a secure grip on the handlebar without squeezing it tight. Move with your bike’s flow not against it. Don’t brake and don’t panic.

Look ahead

The key to a safe but swift descend is to anticipate. All you need to do is keep looking at the road in front of you. You want to brake as little as possible, if not at all. Therefor, make sure your know what’s coming well ahead. This will give you enough time to pick the best line while maintaining your speed.

Braking

If you do brake, use both front and rear and squeeze gently. Move your body backwards by hovering above and behind your saddle. Have your arms straight and keep looking ahead.

Turning in a descend

Position

When entering a corner at high speed you will need to change your position. Coming from the ideal descend pose describe above, you now change your pedal situation from level to vertical, with the outside pedal pointing straight down. Push your weight onto this pedal while steering your bike into the curve’s axis. You can regulate your balance by point your inside knee in or further out. And remember: the hips, not the hands, do the steering.

Carve those turns

Don’t pedal in a corner and do your braking before heading into the turn. If traffic allows it, the perfect turn is a smooth arc starting near the centre line of the road and exiting as far to the curb as possible without falling off the tarmac. When cornering, keep looking in the direction you wish to go to keep a smooth line.

Watch this short video on what happens when you pedal in a corner. Pinot made this mistake in the 17th stage of the 2015 Tour. He was distracted for a second and looked sideways, which could have led to his mistake. Luckily, he was unharmed and went on to win stage 20 a few days later.

To conclude, here are the top 10 descending tips in a 5-minute video from the guys at GCN.

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