Overcoming the Fear of Descending

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Zippy7
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Re: Overcoming the Fear of Descending

Postby Zippy7 » Mon Feb 27, 2017 7:56 am

Thanks for posting.
Never been that comfortable/happy on the descending (most riding buddies will pass me). I was having a conversation about a particular descent (Bobbo west) and they mentioned they only touch the brakes twice.
Now I've tried limiting braking to those speed advisory corners below 30kmh, but since the road surface is bumpy, I really hate the feeling when I get roll over these bumps (mentally worrying that I'd get thrown off balance) - I do feel like I'm riding a bucking bronco at times. That had me thinking I was on a bike that wasn't quite right for me (geometry/whatever).
After reading your post, I think I'll just persevere and see how I go.
I reckon money is better spent on brake pads than bandages :)
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RonK
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Re: Overcoming the Fear of Descending

Postby RonK » Mon Feb 27, 2017 9:23 am

Zippy7 wrote:I really hate the feeling when I get roll over these bumps (mentally worrying that I'd get thrown off balance) - I do feel like I'm riding a bucking bronco at times.

Sounds like the grip of death. Relax your hands and arms. Let the bike move when it has to.
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silentC
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Re: Overcoming the Fear of Descending

Postby silentC » Mon Feb 27, 2017 10:20 am

Yes I have found on those sort of surfaces that if I lift my bum off the saddle a bit, and keep the elbows and knees bent and shoulders relaxed, letting the bike move under you, it goes a lot better. If your bum is on the seat, you will get bounced around all over the place.

And again this is something that I used to be able to do just fine, at 60 or 70 kph. I'm having to retrain my brain to do it.

I went and did some hill repeats on Saturday on a moderately steep track with a right hand bend about halfway down. Terminal velocity is about 55 or 60kph without braking. It has been a bit of an issue for me the last few months. I'm not quite getting down it without brakes, because there is a turnoff to the left just before the right-hander and you can't see it until you are almost there, but I am much more comfortable than I have been.
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Re: Overcoming the Fear of Descending

Postby singlespeedscott » Mon Feb 27, 2017 6:25 pm

I always descend out of the saddle. It is the only way to have complete control of your bike.

On a road bike you have no suspension so your legs and arms need to do the job.

Another no no is descending on the hoods. I see it a lot. Get in the drops. This which moves your weight lower and more forward, making your bike more stable.

I have to say I got a head shake a couple of weeks ago descending Campbells Pocket Rd. Its a climb I do every week and I know the descent very well. There are a couple of blind corners on it. I came in pretty hot into one of these blind corners and a car come round sitting in the middle of the road, There are no lane markers and the road is not overly wide. I panicked a bit and grabbed to much front brake, this stiffens your arms, and combined with my weight being in the wrong place I had the bike doing a shimmy. Lucky I realized what was happening and relaxed. The shimmy went away and I went around the corner safely.
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CKinnard
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Re: Overcoming the Fear of Descending

Postby CKinnard » Mon Feb 27, 2017 8:27 pm

Another consideration on thinking higher descending speed is some Holy Grail!

Naturally the faster you are going the less options you have when confronted with the unexpected.
Let me tell you about a few of my patients who have come unstuck descending too quickly for the 'circumstances'.

- a route an adept cyclist was reasonably familiar with had a visit from hoons in cars who had been doing donuts or otherwise hooning on some of the corners, thus throwing gravel all over the bitumen. Soon after, the cyclist came around a hairpin at speed and hit the marbles, front wheel slid then caught and he went over the bars and landed on both hands breaking both wrists, which were put in plaster for several months. Imagine if you will what an inconvenience that might be.

- another rider came around a corner and hit leaf litter mixed with early morning dew, and he was quickly lying on a smashed hip joint.

- a third rider came around a corner at speed to confront a motorcyclist coming uphill and leaning into his lane. the cyclist cut a sharper line, front tire washed out, and the cyclist was catapulted into the guardrail. several broken ribs, pneumothorax, severely traumatized shoulder, multiple deep abrasions. Seven years later, and several surgeries, the shoulder is still heavily compromised.

Higher testosterone and speed? Ask yourself what for?..... so you can comfort yourself when the s hits the fan and you've got the rest of your life with compromised health to reflect! I have coffee most mornings with an ex pro. He hasn't been on a bike for 3 years, cos that was his last multi-fracture ride. A couple of mornings every week, he's got >7/10 low back pain from fractured vertebrae, and he loads up on anti-inflamms.

Contemplate the benefits of riding in a manner that more likely ensures you will still be riding in 20 years, let alone walking.

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of Descending

Postby Zippy7 » Mon Feb 27, 2017 9:03 pm

singlespeedscott wrote:I always descend out of the saddle. It is the only way to have complete control of your bike.

On a road bike you have no suspension so your legs and arms need to do the job.

Another no no is descending on the hoods. I see it a lot. Get in the drops. This which moves your weight lower and more forward, making your bike more stable.

I have to say I got a head shake a couple of weeks ago descending Campbells Pocket Rd. Its a climb I do every week and I know the descent very well. There are a couple of blind corners on it. I came in pretty hot into one of these blind corners and a car come round sitting in the middle of the road, There are no lane markers and the road is not overly wide. I panicked a bit and grabbed to much front brake, this stiffens your arms, and combined with my weight being in the wrong place I had the bike doing a shimmy. Lucky I realized what was happening and relaxed. The shimmy went away and I went around the corner safely.


Yeah, well you probably look at me and pass me every time you descend :)

Bucking bronco style means I sit on the saddle and grab the hoods. I've learned to relax the grip a bit, but obviously not nearly enough.
I'll give the out of saddle and drops a go, but I don't use the drops much (just not used to them). I'm used to riding flatbars, not drops.

I think it will be a slow learning experience.
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Zippy7
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Re: Overcoming the Fear of Descending

Postby Zippy7 » Mon Feb 27, 2017 9:06 pm

CKinnard wrote: Contemplate the benefits of riding in a manner that more likely ensures you will still be riding in 20 years, let alone walking.


Thanks for adding the perspective :)
I don't feel so bad being slow...
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Re: Overcoming the Fear of Descending

Postby eeksll » Mon Feb 27, 2017 10:20 pm

Thoglette wrote:Then there's plain old memory issues. Who was it who said: "the older I get, the faster I was"?


I know its not that, strava is quite comprehensive with history :)

singlespeedscott wrote:Another no no is descending on the hoods. I see it a lot. Get in the drops. This which moves your weight lower and more forward, making your bike more stable.


I feel much more comportable descending on the hoods now, purely due to braking ability. Having said that I was faster going down on the hoods back those years. I really only started riding on the drops these last few years after taking advice about descending due to my nervousness.

It took me a long time to ride there comfortably, I could ride there straight away, but didn't feel natural like it does now.

CKinnard: I hear what your saying, although I am not looking to better my previous speeds, just like to feel that freedom of descending ie not thinking "Is this too much brake? Am I going to overheat by dragging so much?"

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of Descending

Postby g-boaf » Tue Feb 28, 2017 8:50 am

eeksll wrote:I feel much more comportable descending on the hoods now, purely due to braking ability. Having said that I was faster going down on the hoods back those years. I really only started riding on the drops these last few years after taking advice about descending due to my nervousness.


Never descend on the hoods, it is a bad idea when you are going at very high speeds. You'll get far better braking ability from the drops than the hoods and a lot more control as well.

The best thing you can do is to start riding more and more using the drops, especially for cornering (even sharp 90 degree corners) and you'll get a lot more confident with them.

madmacca
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Re: Overcoming the Fear of Descending

Postby madmacca » Tue Feb 28, 2017 11:01 am

Zippy7 wrote:
singlespeedscott wrote:I always descend out of the saddle. It is the only way to have complete control of your bike.

On a road bike you have no suspension so your legs and arms need to do the job.

Another no no is descending on the hoods. I see it a lot. Get in the drops. This which moves your weight lower and more forward, making your bike more stable.

I have to say I got a head shake a couple of weeks ago descending Campbells Pocket Rd. Its a climb I do every week and I know the descent very well. There are a couple of blind corners on it. I came in pretty hot into one of these blind corners and a car come round sitting in the middle of the road, There are no lane markers and the road is not overly wide. I panicked a bit and grabbed to much front brake, this stiffens your arms, and combined with my weight being in the wrong place I had the bike doing a shimmy. Lucky I realized what was happening and relaxed. The shimmy went away and I went around the corner safely.


Yeah, well you probably look at me and pass me every time you descend :)

Bucking bronco style means I sit on the saddle and grab the hoods. I've learned to relax the grip a bit, but obviously not nearly enough.
I'll give the out of saddle and drops a go, but I don't use the drops much (just not used to them). I'm used to riding flatbars, not drops.

I think it will be a slow learning experience.


The best place to start with getting used to being in the drops is into a headwind - you can get used to the different weight distribution at a low speed.

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of Descending

Postby looseleftie » Tue Feb 28, 2017 12:16 pm

I am quite a conservative descending cyclist.. I ride very early morning on roads, with some decent hill descents around.. I can't justify the risk of injury, when u take into account my rides are very early morning, with sleepy drivers just heading off to work pulling out of their street or driveway, often wet/dewy roads, poor visibility at speed with the chance of missing roads side pothole or other anomaly's, and also the natural wildlife occasionally popping out to meet or pass across my way..

I couldn't really care whether I'm not in top 10% or whatever on Strava descents, It's the flat and uphills that matter more to me :)

Cycling can be dangerous enough on our roads, without increasing the risk of personal injury due to crazy a$$ speed..

From memory, a cyclist died from a descent on Two Bays Rd Mt Eliza Victoria some years ago.. The road isn't the best, and came across the wrong side of road due to speed.. Bang!
Be safe out there...

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of Descending

Postby g-boaf » Tue Feb 28, 2017 12:42 pm

madmacca wrote:The best place to start with getting used to being in the drops is into a headwind - you can get used to the different weight distribution at a low speed.


Good suggestion. If you have a local crit track that is available to you and closed off from the traffic, then that's a good choice too as you can just cruise along at an easy speed until you get more confident. As you are cornering in the drops, you want to be looking through the corner to where you are going.

The other way to get used to them is start doing track riding.

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of Descending

Postby eeksll » Wed Mar 08, 2017 10:44 am

looseleftie wrote:I am quite a conservative descending cyclist.. I ride very early morning on roads, with some decent hill descents around.. I can't justify the risk of injury, when u take into account my rides are very early morning, with sleepy drivers just heading off to work pulling out of their street or driveway, often wet/dewy roads, poor visibility at speed with the chance of missing roads side pothole or other anomaly's, and also the natural wildlife occasionally popping out to meet or pass across my way..

I couldn't really care whether I'm not in top 10% or whatever on Strava descents, It's the flat and uphills that matter more to me :)

Cycling can be dangerous enough on our roads, without increasing the risk of personal injury due to crazy a$$ speed..

From memory, a cyclist died from a descent on Two Bays Rd Mt Eliza Victoria some years ago.. The road isn't the best, and came across the wrong side of road due to speed.. Bang!
Be safe out there...


Just pointing out that this thread isn't so much about wanting to go fast, its about overcoming that fear of going down that hill. You can go slow cause your being careful, others like me are grabbing the brakes because a sudden nervousness overcomes me.

And its not an "intelligent" nervousness like what if a car comes out it is more like a phobia.

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silentC
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Re: Overcoming the Fear of Descending

Postby silentC » Wed Mar 08, 2017 12:21 pm

Yes exactly. This is why I was a bit reluctant to post. As I mentioned in the first post, people assume the issue is that you want to go faster, and so it turns into a discussion about how to do that (or why you shouldn't). This is more about getting over a phobia. It isn't a problem you can reason your way out of. It's like telling someone who is afraid of spiders that the spider will not hurt them. It doesn't really help.

I'm not trying to break any speed records, I just want to be able to roll down a hill without riding the brakes. It's nearly a year later and I am almost there. I had another good ride this morning, and I kept up with the bunch on Sunday.

The drops are out for me at the moment. But I am trying to bring them back in on familiar hills, and getting used to the feel again. Again this is hard to explain, because the drops should be the most natural position to ride and a year ago I would be in the drops on every descent. But it just doesn't feel stable to me now and so I have to reteach my brain that too.

The biggest problem for me is that all this detracts from my enjoyment a bit and so it makes me less keen to go and ride, especially longer rides. That compounds the problem because I am not spending enough time on the bike. I'm convinced that a lot more riding would solve the problem, but motivation is hard to find. I used to ride 4 or 5 times a week, but I have slackened off to the point where it's only 2 or 3 short rides. I can't contemplate doing one of the longer rides because I am now too fat to get up the hills and not confident enough yet about going down them.

It is a vicious cycle...
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Re: Overcoming the Fear of Descending

Postby g-boaf » Thu Mar 09, 2017 10:45 pm

silentC wrote:Yes exactly. This is why I was a bit reluctant to post. As I mentioned in the first post, people assume the issue is that you want to go faster, and so it turns into a discussion about how to do that (or why you shouldn't). This is more about getting over a phobia. It isn't a problem you can reason your way out of. It's like telling someone who is afraid of spiders that the spider will not hurt them. It doesn't really help.

I'm not trying to break any speed records, I just want to be able to roll down a hill without riding the brakes. It's nearly a year later and I am almost there. I had another good ride this morning, and I kept up with the bunch on Sunday.

The drops are out for me at the moment. But I am trying to bring them back in on familiar hills, and getting used to the feel again. Again this is hard to explain, because the drops should be the most natural position to ride and a year ago I would be in the drops on every descent. But it just doesn't feel stable to me now and so I have to reteach my brain that too.

The biggest problem for me is that all this detracts from my enjoyment a bit and so it makes me less keen to go and ride, especially longer rides. That compounds the problem because I am not spending enough time on the bike. I'm convinced that a lot more riding would solve the problem, but motivation is hard to find. I used to ride 4 or 5 times a week, but I have slackened off to the point where it's only 2 or 3 short rides. I can't contemplate doing one of the longer rides because I am now too fat to get up the hills and not confident enough yet about going down them.

It is a vicious cycle...


Try using the drops when riding on flat sections and through gentle corners to start with. You'll get there. Hang in there!

The mind can play nasty tricks on you.

I think I'm probably a bit too far away up in Sydney or I'd join you and see if I can help you get through that.

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of Descending

Postby CKinnard » Fri Mar 10, 2017 1:34 am

My view about drops is:
- most recreational cyclists are stiff through the spine and carrying excess abdominal fat. they can also have less than ideal hip joint structure. these mean they cannot hope to set their bars as low as pro and elite cyclists.
- note that most pros use a frame one size smaller than recommended specifically so they can get their stem lower. they usually have the flexibility to do so, and they work to maintain it.
- the reason many don't use their drops is because the bars are too low considering the above physical features and their lack of confident steering and braking in the drops.
- many riders don't like to raise their bars to accommodate their body's limitations because it upsets the aesthetic of the bike.
- a guide I have adopted from British Cycling and Team Sky is the bars should be set so that your body feels comfortable in the drops for at least 15 minutes without a break. you should also be able to steer and brake competently. For longer recreational rides (4hours+), you should be comfortable in the drops for 20-30 minutes. The same would apply to commuters, as a safety consideration. (you want your head up higher for better visibility and head rotation in heavier traffic).
- over time you should be able to drop your bars sequentially 5-10mm as your body adapts, but eventually you'll hit a concrete threshold beyond which you just cannot adapt.
- it should be remembered that when you lower the bars, you may need to shorten the stem.
- if your hips are not comfortable lowering (+/- shortening) the stem further, you can try a longer stem to get a lower aero profile and bring your center of gravity forwards.
- using drops on descents helps keep the center of gravity lower and improves aero profile. both these theoretically make lateral center of gravity shifts quicker and more controlled, which facilitates quicker descents involving multiple corners.

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Re: Overcoming the Fear of Descending

Postby singlespeedscott » Fri Mar 10, 2017 5:58 pm

I have to say my suggestion about descending in the drops is not about going faster, although it's an added bonus, it's about making your bike stable and controllable going down hill. Therefore allowing you to descend safely.

Sitting with your weight on the saddle and your arms stretched out on the hoods also makes your bike harder to manoeuvre mid corner and reduces your stability under hard braking.
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Re: Overcoming the Fear of Descending

Postby silentC » Tue Mar 14, 2017 5:20 pm

Yeah going back a year ago I was very comfortable in the drops. I would spend half of my time in that position. Since the attack of the wobbles, it just doesn't feel secure any more and that's what I have to re-teach my brain to deal with. I can handle it in a smooth descent, but as soon as there are any corrugations on the road or anything like that, or a bit of cross wind, I'm straight back on the hoods.

My descending position on the hoods is I slide my bum back a bit and lift it off the saddle slightly, taking the weight through my legs, with feet at 3 & 9 o'clock on rough tracks, or otherwise 12 & 6, alternating through the corners with the outside foot down. I get my back as horizontal as I can and I lay my wrists and forearms horizontally across the top of the bars. I guess I am as low as you can get in that position. It feels OK but obviously isn't optimal for braking or for handling.

g-boaf, thank you for the thoughts. We're only 480km down the coast, and we have some excellent riding, so you're welcome any time!
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Re: Overcoming the Fear of Descending

Postby cyclotaur » Tue Mar 14, 2017 9:18 pm

You guys are freakin' me out here.... :shock: :lol:

But seriously.... my experience is sort of the inverse of many. Never a physical risk taker as a youth, with anything. Maybe even a little 'chicken', you could say. I've always been one to assess risk first and act in response, rather than just 'give it a go'.

OTOH I never copped any serious injury from sport or recreation, didn't smoke, or drink beer, drove a car that 'wouldn't pull the skin of a rice pudding'. I rode bikes a lot but not competitively, only for transport. You get the picture.

At 55yo took up riding a road bike (carefully) and slowly but surely, assessing risky scenarios etc etc, am now quite a good descender for my age group according to Strava data. Fortunately I've never had serious wheel wobble, though I have gone in a bit deep on some rough roads and twisty turns and had to ride it out for several hundred metres (eg. first 5-600m off Cement Ck (Donna Buang descent), but nothing serious.

I would make the following observations:
1. One thing I have found recently (having acquired a carbon road bike) is that it smooths out so much of the general road buzz and minor corrugations that I descend at close to PR speed/time more often with very little drama compared to riding the bucking bronco (in comparison) that is my old Alu framed CX bike.
2. Having learnt (i.e. carefully and progressively acquired...) the basic skills of good descending on the bucking alu frame I find I'm now very comfortable descending in general.
3. The only thing I'm not comfy with is descending and turning in the drops. I can do it when curves are sweeping and sight-lines are good but when they are not I tend to wash off speed anyway and crouch low on the hoods where my small/medium hands can be sure to reach the levers effectively.
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Zippy7
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Re: Overcoming the Fear of Descending

Postby Zippy7 » Fri Apr 21, 2017 7:34 pm

Well, I've tried descending in drops and out of the saddle.
For now, I am okay out of saddle with weight back on hoods, but still uneasy in drops.
Getting used to using the legs as part of the suspension, but still got unnerved after too many unanticipated mid-corner bumps.
Thanks for the tips, I just want to feel more comfortable descending.
I don't want to race or go faster, but just not feel scared after a mid-corner bump that I didn't anticipate. I want to feel confident in the bike and not getting bumped off.
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Re: Overcoming the Fear of Descending

Postby singlespeedscott » Fri Apr 21, 2017 8:23 pm

It's easy to say but you really need to relax. When out of the saddle keep your knees bent and loose. The same for your elbows. Riding this way means you remain stable when you do hit an unexpected bump
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