Paved descents: Why do you roll the way you do?

Discussion in 'Road Bikes' started by newleaf150, Dec 17, 2017.

  1. newleaf150

    newleaf150 Deranged Touring Cyclist Tavern Member

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    This one's a two-part question.

    I've noticed several distinct styles of riding those paved descents where speed limits and other safety considerations allow for high speeds. Some of them make perfect sense, while others...don't.

    Some cyclists coast the descent using the same general posture they do on the flats.

    Others, usually but not always roadies, also coast but while clearly trying for one of a couple of 'aero' postures: arms either out in front on aero bars or down in the drops, elbows tucked close to the body, back perfectly flat and parallel with the road, knees tucked close to the frame, etc. It varies from cyclist to cyclist, but with obvious similarities.

    Some cyclists seem to spin through the descent, but without putting much if any power into doing so. I do that a lot in places where speed limits, visibility, or other concerns prohibit higher speed.

    A few cyclists really attack the descent, seeking the highest speed possible within safety constraints. Sometimes, their posture mimics the 'aero coasters', only they spin for all they're worth. Other times, their posture is similar to how they'd look on the flats. A few scary ones get too deeply into the descent and forget that it's critical to hold a stable, predictable line at all times when you're bicycling on public roads with automobiles.

    How do you roll descents? Why?

    I totally get that not everyone feels the need or has the comfort level to really attack a descent. No judgment, no problem. Everyone rides differently, and with different perceptions of what is and is not safe for them. Normal posture coasting or low/no-powered spinning makes perfect sense here.

    Similarly, I get the desire to attack the descent for all you're worth. Where it's safe to do so, that can be a heck of a lot of fun. Perhaps going aero while attacking makes for higher speeds. It at least stands to reason.

    That brings us at last to the 'aero coasters', who I simply don't understand. They appear to be striving for the best possible speed in terms of aerodynamics, but without pedaling, they top out far below what's possible with even moderate effort and a normal posture. That's not a judgment or condemnation, simply an expression of observed reality. Powering through a descent will get you down much faster than will coasting it, regardless of posture.

    I understand not seeking the highest possible safe speed, but confusion sets in when I see people in a posture which screams 'fast' but isn't unless one is also spinning. Makes me wonder what I may be missing. I can think of some pejoratively dismissive answers, but if I presume reasonable people doing reasonable things, I tend to come up empty on this one. Any ideas?
     
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  2. shhQuiet

    shhQuiet Mr. Know-it-all

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    I will refer those interested to Rule 23:
    http://www.velominati.com/the-rules/#23

    Personally it is a dilemma. Arguably, the payoff for your journeyman effort getting to the top of that hill is the speed and recovery that comes along with the down.

    That said, I generally grab the big ring and at least spin up to a respectable cog before going for the elbows-in-hug-the-toptube tuck. I can still recover some but also get the rush of speed.
     

  3. kneedrachen

    kneedrachen Moderator Mod Team Tavern Member

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  4. rola643

    rola643 Two skinny Js Staff Member Admin Staff Mod Team Tavern Member

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    Flatlander, no help here.
     
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  5. Dos_Ruedas

    Dos_Ruedas Well-Known Member

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    (Questions before my answers below)


    * Some cyclists coast the descent using the same general posture they do on the flats.

    I do this when I'm just spinning around or taking a break on a long ride. Sometimes it's with one hand, sitting straight up as I'm taking in the current scenery.




    * Others, usually but not always roadies, also coast but while clearly trying for one of a couple of 'aero' postures:

    So I suspect some of you may laugh at this, because I've done this on bicycles AND motorcycles.
    My brother and I would have coasting races. Starting speed varies, depending on our mood, but generally the starting speed is just fast enough to roll without falling over. Aerodynamics, bicycle quality and guts (i.e. no brakes) all play a part in these races.
    Big fun.





    *'Some cyclists seem to spin through the descent, but without putting much if any power into doing so.

    This is me on roads with tight corners which I've never ridden. I defiantly play those with caution.





    * A few cyclists really attack the descent, seeking the highest speed possible within safety constraints.

    This is generally me......hammering out the top end. Making legs burn descending as well.

    If it's a nearly straight descent, I'm full tucked.

    If it's a curvy descent.....especially a tight, fast, curvy descent I flash back to my days road racing motorcycles and my riding style is very similar (sans dragging a knee), it's either brakes or hammering. Bum just skimming the seat and is a freaking blast!!!
    =
     
  6. John_V

    John_V Moderator Staff Member Mod Team Tavern Member

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    Here in Central Florida, coasting is what we do when: a) slowing down to stop or b) waiting for someone to catch up.
     
  7. i12ride

    i12ride Spin Spin Spin Tavern Member

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    I stand on pedals and clinch the seat with my thighs standing there like Leonardo on the bow of the Titanic.......and sometimes dance a little when no one is watching....which is often.
     
  8. rushlake

    rushlake Member

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  9. MilesR

    MilesR Mom's Taxi Tavern Member

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  10. cwtch

    cwtch Well-Known Member

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    Personally, I spin up to speed until spinning out and at that point get in the drops and tuck as aero as possible. Attack is the simple of it. Try to use the brakes as little as possible.
     
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  11. i12ride

    i12ride Spin Spin Spin Tavern Member

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    I have ridden 50+ downhill on pavement on fat tires but not thinking I've been much past 35 or 40 on skinny tires...........Haven't been anywhere with drop bar bike where speeds beyond that were had. I think I'm much more comfortable doing that on fat tires than 25s. The 37s on the gravel bike might be better. Also thinking I'd rather have disc brakes for those speeds vs rim brakes. Nothing more than exposure to the circumstances and unless having opportunities for it, it becomes apprehensive thinking about it. Only thing to move beyond it is to just do it.............
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2017
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  12. longjohn

    longjohn tall old member

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    Newleaf150, I think you are overestimating the top peed pedaling on most bikes. I’m spun out at 40 mph, no point in pedaling after that because the pedals can’t catch up to the wheels. Tuck in and enjoy the ride. Be careful of those skinny girls who passed you on the climb. They will be riding their brakes on the decent and you will have to go around them.
     
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  13. kneedrachen

    kneedrachen Moderator Mod Team Tavern Member

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    Coasting is my reward for climbing
     
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  14. shhQuiet

    shhQuiet Mr. Know-it-all

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    Except... going over some of those bridges down there can be a challenge! Not very long, but a decent grade.
     
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  15. kd5nrh

    kd5nrh Active Member

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    Depends; I'm set up for loaded touring and utility, so I top out at 48:11, and don't care to spin past ~110rpm at all if I can help it, so I'm usually just out on the fronts of the trekking bars and enjoying the break after the climb.
    If it's hot, I might be sitting up to intentionally catch some extra breeze and cool off from the climb.
     
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  16. maelochs

    maelochs Old, fat, and slow

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    How fast for position "sprawled on pavement trying to control bike at high speed while in contorted posture"?
     
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  17. i12ride

    i12ride Spin Spin Spin Tavern Member

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    Looks like 17% faster will involve wearing a cup. :eek:
     
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  18. Tallboy1959

    Tallboy1959 Member

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    In my thirties. I used to hit mid 50's on the fast descents. Now in my late fifties, high forties is as fast as I dare.
     
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  19. cybersnow

    cybersnow Mountain Tourer Tavern Member

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    While the lower I get, the faster I seem to go and less control that I have. On the long straight descents, I tend to “let her rip” but most of the time I ride 5% or more descents with lots of curves so I tend to ride in a position where I can control the bike better. Plus at about 45 I start feeling uncomfortable and start thinking about how much a fall will hurt at 71.
     
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