Why ride up the hill, when you can’t enjoy the ride down? Thousands of people worldwide suffer from a fear of descending, but there is a cure! There’s a better way to learn than to just remove your brake pads, so grab your bike and find a hill – it’s time to head down!
Try get down low on your bike, and if you’re not comfortable with this then practice it elsewhere until you are. Lowering your body height will also lower your centre of gravity, making you more stable when riding at speed.
“Lean the bike to corner, don’t try to turn the handlebars. You should lean the bike by putting your weight distribution onto your inside hand and outside foot, and keep your body upright. The bike turns on it’s own like that!”, says pro cyclist Emma Pooley.
Descending the same hill over and over will do wonders for your confidence as it will give you the chance to practice your skills on familiar territory. Each time you can lay off your brakes and lean your bike over a little more.
Riders lose most momentum and time through the corners through lack of rigidity, like when flexing in a bike-frame washes off your precious power as you push it through the frame to the wheels. By keeping the outside leg straight and with most of the body-weight concentrated downwards through the outside pedal, not only do you get more rigidity during the cornering moment, but you can cut tighter lines & keep the bike on the shortest course through the corners more easily.
Choosing your riding line is pretty important if you want to descend smoothly. You can ride any line down a hillside, but choosing the smoothest line is definitely faster, and even makes it easier for you to get down the hill. Aim for a wide entry into the corner, cutting the apex as you make your way through the bend, and finally exiting wide as you head for the next bend. Cornering in this fashion allows you to carry your speed, and to maximize your traction by cornering smoothly and not ‘cutting in’ too hard on the corner.
Do not be tempted to look at the ground beneath you as your descend. Instead keep your head up so you can anticipate what is coming next. When cornering focus your attention on the end of the corner, this will automatically shift your body enabling you to take the corner a lot smoother.
When it comes to controlling your speed, it all depends on your brakes and when you choose to use them. Next time you hit a downhill, try braking before you reach the corner. Once you enter the corner, you should be at a speed where you can completely release the brakes through the corner. This increases your traction, as a rotating wheel has more grip than a slowing wheel.
Tensing up on the bike will achieve nothing. In fact it will be detrimental to your progress. Have confidence in your tyres and brakes and let go of the what ifs. The more relaxed you are the more you’ll enjoy your ride, and remember that’s what it is all about!