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Cycling and mathematics share many qualities. One, they both require skill to execute properly. And two, you get out what you put in, just like a physics problem. Nowhere is this more evident than climbing and descending. If you’re a cyclist who loves speeding down the side of mountains then good for you, but there’s a catch to experiencing that magic: you have to climb to the top first. Adversely, if you’re someone who lives for the climb, slowly cranking away on your favorite gear, you probably dread coming back down at breakneck speeds.

Assuming your one of the latter, there’s no need to fear navigating technical descents as long as you practice guidelines for a fast, safe downhill ride. Before you even head out on the road it’s paramount that you make sure everything on your bike is secure. Check that the stem bolt is tight and the brake pads don’t have significant wear. Also inspect your tires for any embedded debris or cuts. Replace tires with little tread and never use patched tubes for long descents. Additionally, you should check your cleats for wear. Worn-out cleats can cause unintentional release, something you don’t want when screaming down a winding road at 50 mph.

Now let’s fast-forward to the crest of the hill or mountain you just summited. For some, staring down the descent invokes the same feelings as looking over the edge of the Empire State Building. Here it’s important that you keep your body relaxed allowing you to absorb the road’s punishment. Make sure your shoulders are down with your elbows bent inwards and your butt far back on the saddle. Check that your cranks are parallel to the road, creating an add layer of absorbency. These adjustments lower your center of gravity, opposing the force of gravity pulling you forward.

After implementing these techniques you’re ready for the most difficult part of descending: cornering. When approaching a corner at high speed enter from the outside at a wide angle, cutting into the apex of the turn, and exiting again on the outside. Always try to turn as smoothly as possible. Shaky movements increase your chances of crashing and mean you should slow down.

In the event that you need to apply the brakes, never do so through a corner. Not only will braking during a turn affect your balance but it also poses the risk of blowing out your tires. The extreme temperatures while decelerating can also affect tubeless tires, melting the glue around the rims leading the tires to wobble off at high speeds. Try to gauge your speed on the approach. If road conditions are good you should only need to apply the front brake, while utilizing the rear brake is best with wet, loose surfaces. When dealing with longer descents it also may be appropriate to lower your tire pressure to lessen the risk of blowout.

Granted that you’re biking as part of a group or are on a popular training route, you may come upon the need to pass slower cyclist(s). This is extremely dangerous and you would are better off either hanging behind riders ahead of you or starting your descent after slower riders have begun. However, if you still wish to pass someone, always alert the cyclist(s) in front of you of your presence and intentions before giving them a wide berth as you overtake them.

Following these tips will not only keep you safer on the descents, but make them more enjoyable. Trust me when I say that going down pristine mountainsides, witnessing the most beautiful scenery known to man, takes away a lot of the fear.

Where is your favorite descent and at what time of day/year? Leave a response below.

Kyle Beck
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passionispain.com
 

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Thanks for the post & tips.

As for my favorite descent, I only had one, and it was back in '93 or '94, at the Whitetail Mtn ski resort in Greencastle, PA, during the spring/summer.

We took the chairlift up to the top and zigzagged downhill, what an awesome experience. Unfortunately it was our first kind of ride, and we learned the hard way about braking maneuvers. Our rims got so hot that our brakes were useless. Cables stretched to what felt like inches. Our bones were rattled to dust since front shocks were not yet widely available. We came home all bruised, scraped, bloodied, pulverized, and almost comatose, but we all had a huge grin on our faces.

The grins still beam whenever we look back and reminisce.
 
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