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I've been riding seriously for two years now. By serious I mean 4
times a week and I go out on my club's bun run at the weekend.
I love riding but I am really struggling to improve my descending.
Finding it frustrating as I'm quite a strong rider but I always end up on the back
of the group on descents.

- I've never been a dare devil descender it's fair to say but I'm happy to let it fly on a straight.
- That said it's something I practice quite often as I do hill repeats.
- In a straight line I'm regularly hit 45mph quite happily so it's not like I'm crawling down squeezing the brakes.

My problem comes when I start to get into cornering.
I find that I really don't have confidence in the front end of the bike. Even on the straight once I get over 40 it feels light and a bit squirelley. I recently had a speed wobble too when going over some rough ground on a descent - saved it by clamping my legs to the top tube.

- I've read almost every forum post, read every article on the subject and experimented with my position on the bike but still don't seem to be connecting the dots and hooking it up.

I'm starting to wonder if I should be looking at my bike set-up / getting a proper fit done.

As anyone had a similar experience???

Might just need a good strong cup of harden the f up  3

25 comments

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Gkam84 [9086 posts] 2 years ago
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You can improve, but if you don't have the confidence, that's harder to solve.

Look at some of the pro's. Can go up hill like there is no climb, but come down hill like they are scared of every movement.

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pinecooler [11 posts] 2 years ago
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MattT53 [146 posts] 2 years ago
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Can you borrow someone else's bike or wheels and see if that helps? If your getting speed wobbles etc it could be bike related. Possible it's too long/big or something too, maybe a shorter stem?

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sm [376 posts] 2 years ago
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Lower the tire pressure on the front?
Best tip I heard recently was "lean the bike not the body". Seems to be helping me after a recent spill.

Have you actually fallen off yet? This could actually be your saving grace! Takes time to get confidence back but you lose that 'fear'.

My favourite line is something along the lines of: "The only way to know how low you can go into a a corner is to go lower and lower until you eventually fall off. And then just take it back a notch!"

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sea_biscuit [29 posts] 2 years ago
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just read daniel friebes biography of merckx. You're in good company, he also had same problem early in career! im no expert but have hit ~80kph down Galibier, and also had scary wheel wobble. tips: relax (will come with confidence). lean bike not body, keeping centre of balance over centre of BB then body will follow bike naturally. get hands on drops. only feather the brakes. are wheels trued OK? spoke tension good?

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Cycle_Jim [264 posts] 2 years ago
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I felt pretty confident myself till a recent fall, now I really am slow on the descents. Went out with someone this weekend and every descent I got dropped, picked him up on every ascent.

Just don't have the confidence/feel for it at the min. Hopefully will improve.

Been out with some real dare devils before and it shits me up

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FMOAB [261 posts] 2 years ago
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Put on a few stone in weight, works for me.

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Mr Jono [102 posts] 2 years ago
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It might sound unrelated, but a nice soft muddy field and a MTB could be a good place to gain cornering confidence. Find a tight bend somewhere and keep taking it at higher and higher speeds and embrace falling off. You'll learn to recognise the point at which the bike starts to go, and probably be surprised at how fast you can get round.

Transferring those skills to the road might not be particularly easy but it'll give you confidence which is half the battle.

And the guys saying lean the bike not the body are spot on. Your body will take on some of the lean of the bike which is good for traction but by keeping your head upright you'll maintain your centre of gravity above the BB and also, crucially, feel like you're not leaning too much which will keep your mind on where you're going.

Take a look at this image:

http://www.roadcycling.com/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/field...

All of the riders' bikes are leaned right over, their bodies less so and their heads are almost all upright (or thereabouts).

Good luck!

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SlowSPDRider [29 posts] 2 years ago
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Great thread.

I also have this issue though been riding a lot less time.

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cidermart [488 posts] 2 years ago
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Mr Jono (edit sorry I forgot the Mr  40 ) is right in saying to try it off road first as you will get used to transferring your weight around on the bike in relative safety.

Look at where you want to go not ten feet in front of your wheel.

Push down on the outside pedal of the bend rather than moving your body over the top and you will corner sharper, this also keeps the weight lower down over the BB so you are not top heavy.

Most importantly RELAX!! if you are tense you stand a far greater chance of crashing you will also tire out a lot quicker and possibly even get arm pump on a long descent and nobody wants arm pump.

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spiltmilk [3 posts] 2 years ago
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Wow. Thanks for the tips.

I went out tonight and really focused on leaning the bike more and it felt much better.

Also took my tyre pressures down to 90/100.

Still need to practice but think I might be able connect the dots.

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egb [43 posts] 2 years ago
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Look where you're going. It may sound simple/stating the obvious but it's by far the most important thing. If your head and eyes are pointing in the right direction then your body and bike will follow.

Also, the fit of the bike and the front end stiffness makes a huge difference. It's hugely noticeable between my two bikes (Trek 1.9 and Giant TCR Advanced). The TCR corners like it's on rails because the front end doesn't flex at all. I've topped 80kmph without even noticing or feeling any wobble.

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farrell [1950 posts] 2 years ago
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egb wrote:

Look where you're going. It may sound simple/stating the obvious but it's by far the most important thing. If your head and eyes are pointing in the right direction then your body and bike will follow.

Or to make it clearer, if you start looking at that hedge at the side of the road and start thinking "Am I going to hit that"? chances are, you are going to hit that.

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Bedfordshire Clanger [344 posts] 2 years ago
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Have a look at this, there's good advice here and on the rest of the site too: http://www.flammerouge.je/factsheets/descend.htm

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Crispycross [4 posts] 2 years ago
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Your bike is designed to go round corners. All you have to do is put yourself in a position to let it do the work itself. I think it's all about getting the weight distribution right and for different people, that means finding the 'thing' to concentrate on that gives you that sweet balance. Here are some things to think about:
1) 'Lean the body not the bike' (lots of that said already)
2) 'Steer with your hips/arse'(bit obscure but might help)
3) 'Weight the inside handlebar, feel as if you could take the other hand right off the bars round the corner' (this one really works for me)
4) 'Weight the outside leg' (if you do this together with the previous handlebar trick, you'll be leaning the bike over while you remain more upright, see point 1!)
That flammerouge page is great too. Get out there and have some fun!

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SideBurn [890 posts] 2 years ago
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Do you know what the 'limit point' is? Google -limit point driving- it is not easy to explain but basically you look into the bend... not at your front wheel. If you 'get it' you will realise you are still braking when you should be accelerating. I am thinking that the speed wobble is to do with nerves; surely it is better to be a live coward? Build up your confidence slowly. That said I have some great scars!
Most important when descending do not lean into oncoming traffic! Remember if your wheel is on the central white and you are leaning, your body is over the line! Many a motorcyclist has found this out seconds before they died! Sorry to be a killjoy but good cornering/descending is an art to be learnt

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daddyELVIS [655 posts] 2 years ago
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Keep eyes fixed on the exit, hands on drops, outside foot down and press weight through your outside pedal, relax and enjoy  4

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Bedfordshire Clanger [344 posts] 2 years ago
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Have you had your bike checked over at a good workshop recently? A loose or worn headset makes steering imprecise. Is there any play if you stand off the bike, apply the front brake and rock the bike forward over the front wheel? It should rock over straightaway, if it doesn't, take it to a shop you trust and have the mechanic check it over.

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Old Cranky [257 posts] 2 years ago
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Ride the descent on the drops - it lowers your centre of gravity and pushes your weight a bit further forward.

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hampstead_bandit [614 posts] 2 years ago
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@spiltmilk

my own experience with racing BMX, then riding mountain bikes starting in 1986 (including a good number of years racing DH, and later as a sponsored professional "Freerider")

http://ep1.pinkbike.org/p4pb5383931/p4pb5383931.jpg

and then only getting into road bikes last year; is that road bikes have a very surprising amount of grip when running good quality tires and using proper technique even in rougher, wetter corners

Its all about confidence, which is something many mountain bikers had to learn the hard way.

Something I could recommend is either getting a mountain bike and pushing the limits on different terrain conditions to learn cornering techniques

or taking your road bike, finding a quiet corner and pushing it faster and faster on repeated runs to find the limits of your tire grip

many riders do not load the front wheel with enough weight to balance the bike and allow the tire to do its job properly, and therefore suffer from over steer, with the bike trying to cut across the corner than through the corner

look at aspects like loading your outside pedal with your body weight, leaning into the corner and paying attention to the apex of the corner (similar to motor racing drivers)

I would more concerned about going fast around a tarmac corner on a mountain bike than a road bike...

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Al'76 [110 posts] 2 years ago
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I'm not the best at this myself, so understand the frustration....you work like a bast*%d on the climbs and then get dropped on the descents  20
Still, few things that I found have helped:
Look as far ahead as possible.
Relax.
By the time you're into the bend, you should be looking "through" the corner at the next stretch of road.
Outside leg down and hands in the drops; this will get your weight in the right place.
Relax.
If you have a Garmin (other GPS units are available  4 ) set the display to the route page so you know what's coming next.
Relax.
Follow a mate that descends well and watch his lines.
Enjoy...you worked your balls off getting to the top of the climb...the descent is the free bit  36
Once you get into it, you'll be amazed how far you can lean in and what a decent set of tyres will do on a dry, clean road.

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DrJDog [327 posts] 2 years ago
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That flammerouge page has some real nonsense on it, but the practical advice it gives sounds perfectly reasonable.

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crazy-legs [733 posts] 2 years ago
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About the best way to improve is to go abroad - somewhere like Majorca, Sardinia, Spain, The Alps etc.

Descents over here are either on terrifyingly busy roads or tiny narrow back roads, surfaces are crap, you can't see far enough in front so it's rare that you can really let it go. There are exceptions obviously but the ideal place to learn is somewhere with decent road surfaces and long descents where you can really get into a flow. Over here, no sooner have you started descending than you're at the bottom!

I learnt more in one week in Spain than in 6 months over here (and I live in the Peak District - no shortage of hills round here!).

Get yourself to the Alps (other venues are available) where you can easily have a 20+ minute descent and work on what you've learned from the training manuals etc.

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spiltmilk [3 posts] 2 years ago
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I was pretty bowled over by all the great tips that came back from this thread and have incorporated all into my riding.

Two tips that have particularly helped me:

- lowering my type pressures to 90/100 from 110/120. I feel more grip now and consequently more confident.
- focusing on leaning the bike. even when I'm cornering on the flat I'm concentrating on this. Feel lighter and more agile on the bike all round.

I've already felt an improvement and am now going faster on some of my regular descents. There's practice to be done but this thread has definitely helped. Just wish the evenings were getting longer not shorter in the UK  3

Thanks all!

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didds [42 posts] 2 years ago
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wrt to the lean the bike not the body, outside foot and inside hand, head vertical etc...

would I be right then in saying its like riding the end banking in a velodrome?

didds