Going fast is rather good fun, but there are some easy tricks that will help you take things to the next level. Here is how to safely get extra speedy on those descents.
Firstly, we need to get down a descent in one piece. That's always going to be faster than crashing into a hedge so make sure that you build up the speed in stages and pick your moments to really go for it.
If you can't see perfectly up the road, or the surface is questionable, then it isn't the time to go full bore into a corner.
When descending, the best thing that you can do is to relax. Taking the tension out of your shoulders and arms translates directly into how the bike handles. A relaxed upper body will allow your bike to move as it needs to under you and as you practise this, the feeling will become natural.
The high speeds of descents might be scary at first, but as you become accustomed to the wind noise and sensation of higher speeds, it will be easier to loosen your grip on the handlebar and relax those shoulders.
Looking further ahead than usual will really help here. It will give to the time needed to spot corners coming up and react to them, helping to make the speed more manageable. If in doubt, scrub off a bit of speed with some gentle braking to reset yourself and then you can build the speed back up. The idea is to stay in control and build confidence gradually.
Your body position on the bike is also very important when heading downhill. The most common advice is to settle into the drops as this will give your hands easy access to the brake levers and also give you the most powerful braking.
But getting your body low on the bike will also drop your centre of gravity, making you more stable. Tucking your head down is the easiest way to get aero and add speed. Holding this position can be tricky at first but a bit of practice goes a long way and you’ll soon have it nailed.
As you approach a corner, it’s time to get setup. bringing your head and torso up out of the aero tuck helps with braking as you effectively become an air brake. In this position, you can get on the brakes and scrub off some speed before you get into the corner. You outside foot should be down and it’s best to put your weight through this foot while simultaneously putting pressure on the inside handlebar drop. Once you’ve done your braking, start to lean into the corner and glide through going from a wide entry to the apex and back to a wide exit.
Start with this technique and build the speed in. That way, you shouldn’t get caught out.
A bicycle will generally go in the direction that you’re looking, so make sure that you look at the exit point of a corner, rather than at the big scary tree that you don’t want to crash in to.
It is one of the most basic points and one of the easiest to practise. Once you are able to comfortably look through a corner, the speed should build easily.
On straight sections, looking up the road will help you to scan for potholes, gravel and other such stuff that you don’t want to be hitting at speed. This ties in with our advice on being relaxed that we mentioned earlier. It all ties together.
We find that pushing a descent is a great way to have a problem. Sure, you can stamp on the pedals out of every corner, but once you start trying to force the pace into corners, errors tend to follow close behind.
To go faster, we’d advise aiming to nail your braking before the corner, then focus on letting the bike flow through the turn. Once you get into a rhythm, the speed will come by itself.
It’s a tip that we recommend all the time for riding in wet conditions, but lowering your tyre pressure a little is also a great tip for descending. Do this and you’ll have a larger contact patch on the tarmac, giving you more grip and making the bike less jittery over broken surfaces.
There’s nothing like riding off-road to make you realise just how much grip there is on tarmac. When grip is at a premium, you also learn to pick your lines much more effectively which translates really nicely onto road rides where the surface isn’t perfectly smooth.
Cyclocross and mountain biking are both great disciplines for practising your skids.
If you’re looking to push the pace once you’re comfortable on the descents then hitting the brakes late and hard is a great trick to get faster. You’ll need to be super quick with changing your body position before a corner and stick to the correct technique, but once you get this nailed, you’ll also have the skills to carve corners that come with very little space in between.
Now, off you go to your local descent to practise. Please do so carefully as we don’t want to hear about anyone stopping using their skin. If you’ve got a top tip for faster descending or any questions, remember to leave them in the comments below. If you like this video, give it a like and subscribe to see more videos like this.
Son of a Marathon runner, Nephew of a National 24hr Champion, the racing genetics have completely passed him by. After joining the road.cc staff in 2016 as a reviewer, Liam quickly started writing feature articles and news pieces. After a little time living in Canada, where he spent most of his time eating poutine, Liam returned with the launch of DealClincher, taking over the Editor role at the start of 2018. At the weekend, Liam can be found racing on the road both in the UK and abroad, though he prefers the muddy fields of cyclocross. To date, his biggest race win is to the front of the cafe queue.