Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 41 seconds
With the sad loss of a rider at the Giro this year (RIP Wouter Weylandt), and with many TDF Tips readers heading overseas soon to ride in the mountains, I thought I’d write a post about how to descend properly because I want everyone to come home safely.
This will be especially important for those of your tackling the big climbs, especially at a fast pace on Etape Alpes. Etape Alpes has a very long, very fast descent from the top of the Galibier down to the base of Bourg D’Oisans, and you will need to be careful here, given the number of riders on the road.
Descending properly is part technique, part skill (that is, getting good at the technique) and part confidence.
Personally, I barrel down big descents with not much consideration for life and limb, and can descend pretty well. This took a lot of practise and still takes a lot of confidence.
My key tips, keeping in mind I am NOT a cycling coach, are:
- Keep a low centre of gravity.
- Be able to quickly brake, always.
- On corners and bends, assume a position with your inner foot at 12 on the pedals and outer foot at 6, and plant weight on your outer foot. This will allow you to really lean into the corner and stick to the road.
- If you’re REALLY going fast, use your legs as suspension and don’t plant your bum on your seat as you normally would.
- Keep both hands on the handlebars, always. You’re (most likely) not a pro, so don’t act like one.
- If in doubt, SLOW DOWN.
- Like in mountain biking, lean the bike, not your body.
- Keep your eyes up on your line down the road. Unless you’re epically skilled and have straight road, keep your eyes front, only ever glance back momentarily.
- Like in a race car, come into a corner wide, come through the apex and out wide.
- If you have heaps of riders around you (Etape) and are going slow, keep right (if in Europe) and keep out of the way. Make it obvious what you’re doing, this isn’t a ski run and the Alpine Responsibility Code does not apply. Don’t move off your line suddenly.
- Brake early, and use both brakes if needed.
It’s also ULTRA important to have your bike checked to make sure the brakes are functional, tyres and wheels are ok, and all the bolts and nuts are done up. This is a basic safety check I undertake before all races and big descents. Commonsense is needed here.
For more reading, from someone who knows a lot more about this than I do, check out these tips from Aussie Rob Crowe, at Cycling Tips.
Speed wobbles are a horrifying experience. I’ve only had them a few times, once at 95km/h, and it is not a pleasant experience.
Speed wobbles can happen for a variety of reasons. Wade at Cycling Tips has a great post about what causes speed wobbles, and how to correct them here.
The key tips to correct them, if you get them, are:
- Keep your weight forward
- Keep your bum off the seat
- Don’t straighten your arms
- Soft hands on the handlebars
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