Are you afraid to descend? Don’t be. Here’s how to nail your downhill skills and stop dreading descents and corners
Few triathletes look forward to a brutal climb, but everyone relishes the descent that comes once you crest that peak. Catch your breath, relax your body, gather your wits, and make that downhill count. The first thing to do is look ahead so you know where the road is heading.
If you’ve done a course recon, make mental notes about how steep the road will be, what direction it turns, and if a tight bend requires you to slow down. If you are riding the roads for the first time, don’t fixate on what is directly in front of your wheel so you have time to react to what is ahead. When you are flying downhill, things can sometimes arrive much quicker than you expect.
Most people sit up and rest their shoulders or arms after a grueling climb but teach yourself to relax those muscles by using your core instead of your arms to hold you up. Hit the gym so you can get comfortable in a tuck because the biggest parachute you can present to the wind is your body–and the bigger the parachute, the slower you go.
If the road allows it, get even more aerodynamic by staying low and getting on the aerobars. Gravity is giving you free speed, so just like you would on flats or against the wind, grab your aerobars and become a missile tracing its way to its target at the next corner.
Move rearward when braking
When you approach that corner, brake with conviction and get all your braking done before you reach it. Don’t overcook it rushing into a corner too fast or you’ll run out of road quickly and have little room to change course or come to a stop to stay upright.
If the descent is steep, teach yourself to move your center of gravity (CG) rearward to keep from going over the bars or losing traction in the rear. Keeping the rear wheel planted by balancing your CG means more contact between the rubber of your tires and the tarmac, and that will slow you down more effectively than if the rear wheel was skipping over the ground.
Drop your knee
When you’ve braked properly and moved your CG to compensate for the road’s steepness, relax your grip on the handlebars and control your turn with your body instead of your arms. Use your hips to pivot the bike, lean gently into the turn, and drop your knee–with the inside pedal at the 12-o’clock position—to use your momentum like what you see on Moto GP.
Practice that sequence as often as you can so it comes naturally each time you encounter a sweeping turn. Before you know it, you’ll look forward to the fast curves instead of dreading the next turn.
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