How To Build Confidence When Descending On A Road Bike

How To Build Confidence When Descending On A Road Bike


– Descending is a joy. After all the hard work
of pedalling up a climb, this is the reward. The thrill of speed, gloriously effortless, exciting and fun. – Well, for some of us, maybe not. This video is for those of you who don’t find much joy in descending. Those of you who are nervous
or maybe even dread it. I know what it feels like
because I’ve been there. Maybe you’ve had a crash, and it’s made you lose your confidence. – Or perhaps it’s just been that you’ve always been unsure on descents. Or even, you live in a flat area and you’ve had no experience of riding too much downhill either. – But the good news is that descending is just a technique, and it can be learnt. – Some top descenders
are naturals, in that they have never had to
specifically train at it. But many of those riders have been cycling since they were very young. And they picked up a technique that works for them early on. And let’s face it, we’re all
a bit brash when we were kids. It’s one of those things that’s actually harder to
learn when you’re older. Especially if you’ve lost your confidence. So, where do we start? – It’s really daunting when you’re scared. And there are many
components to descending. But it’s really hard
to remember everything when you’re paralyzed by fear. So let’s break it down into
the separate components. First it’s important to remember that there’s a huge mental
component to descending. This is kind of obvious to
anyone who’s getting nervous. But what’s less obvious is how to fix it. The bad news is, there is no magic bullet
to kill your fear. Confidence will take a
long time to build back up. So, be patient and try not to get frustrated with your progress. And definitely don’t be
frustrated with yourself. It is upsetting to get
dropped on descents. But that negative emotion won’t help. So, try to accept the
challenge and work on descending slowly, but
with the right technique. So you feel safe, before you
gradually build up the speed. At the end of the day,
staying safe and enjoying your cycling is far more
important than speed. So when practicing descending technique, to rebuild your confidence,
just be patient. One crucial thing to make sure you’re getting right is turning
the bike by leaning. Now this might sound silly. But a lot of cyclists when they’re nervous will try to turn by
turning the handlebars. So, to start with, practice by leaning on the flat and in a safe environment. And at moderate speed, but not too slowly. Lean is controlled by weight distribution. Your weight should be going through your inside hand on the drops
and your outside foot. So keep the outside pedal down. Keeping pressure through your outside foot also keeps the inside pedal up, which avoids the danger of hitting the ground with this pedal. – How much you lean the bike, and thus how sharply you turn, depends on how much weight
you leave on the saddle. Cornering like this feels strange and possibly scary if you’re nervous. So practice on the flat to
start with where you feel safe. – Riding with your hands
on the drops is safer because it allows you to
have a more secure grip on the bars and you’re less likely to be dislodged by bumps in the road. It also keeps your
center of balance lower, which is better for cornering. And for when you want to go faster, it’s a little bit more aerodynamic. – You also want to make sure
that your bike is set up so your hands can reach
the brakes far easier. The last thing you want
to do when descending is to be constantly
changing your hand position. So make sure it’s set up right. – If you need to take off speed, try to get your braking
down before each corner. When you brake, you can expect to feel like you’re being thrown forward. Because your body will conserve momentum, even though your bike is slowing down. – Combat this by pushing backwards on the pedals and the bars, to keep your weight well back on the bike. The more gently you brake,
the less startling it feels. So when rebuilding your confidence, try to start braking early and gently. It’s faster to wait until the last minute and brake more sharply,
but this throws your weight forwards more suddenly. – And it is okay to brake in the corner if you need to. For example, if the corner is steeply downhill, or if you’re scared. But avoid grabbing the
brakes in the corner. Just keep feathering them very gently, and release when you feel
happy to regain speed. – Taking the right line is absolutely key. And not just so you can
smooth out the corners. If you drift wide into a corner, it’ll give you a better view of the exit. And any traffic coming the other way. – Stay as wide as you can on the road safely available to you. By which I mean, don’t cross to the wrong side of the road until you can see there’s no traffic coming. Look ahead of you and not down. Although you should of course
observe the road surface, try to look towards
where you want to ride. Because everyone automatically steers towards where they’re looking. So if you stare at the trees or pothole, you do increase your risk of hitting them. Once you can see the exit
line from the corner, it’s safe to cut in from your wide path to shorten the corner. Another reason to look
ahead and out of the corner is that focusing on close up objects makes you feel like you’re moving faster than if you focus on
the road further away. And if you’re nervous,
feeling like you’re moving faster than you actually
are definitely won’t help. Ride to the conditions. If the road is wet, or it’s super windy, so you’re getting blown around. Or if there’s gravel on the corner, or if there are potholes, do go slower. But don’t let it freak you out. It’s still the same
technique for cornering. But you just need to moderate your speed for the reduced grip. And take off a bit more speed, before you go into the corner. – Is your bike safe? Now nothing will play on your mind like doubts about the safety of your bike. So your brakes, your wheels,
your tires, your stand. That weird juttery feeling
you get in your headset. So if you’re in doubt, make sure you do a full check before
you leave the house. – Or you can take your bike
for a professional check-up. Because peace of mind and
trust in your equipment is absolutely key for descending. And while you’re at it, you can also check that your hoods
are set up on the bar. So that you can easily reach the brake levers from the drops. Descending super fast like the very best in the world requires
you to push the limits of what’s safe in terms of tire traction. But simply descending swiftly and safely doesn’t mean you have to
take any risks at all. And in fact, you get the best results if you can just relax and enjoy it. – Yeah, tension and fear are the enemy of relaxation and good technique. Because they make your
body really tense up. Now, it’s easier said than done. But try and enjoy your descent. It’ll really help. – We hope you find this video helpful. And for more on getting it right downhill, try this video, Descending Made Easy. – Can we have another go at that descent? Just one more go? – Yeah, go on then. While there’s some light left. – Great. Love descending.