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Tips For Biking Downhill

Dealing With the Descent: Tips For Riding Downhill

While many people love the thrill of biking fast downhill, I am not one of them. I love biking uphill. Call me crazy, but I crave the burn in my lungs and legs. But once you've climbed a hill — and in my neck of the woods, hills can be miles long — you have to get yourself down the other side. Aside from just getting out there and riding, having a few tricks up your sleeve can help. Here are three tips on downhill cycling former pro cyclist Alison Dunlap shared at the Luna Chix summit, a female-focused weekend of training workshops and clinics put on by Luna Bar.

Move to your drops: It might seem counterintuitive, but you have more control over your bike with your hands placed on the drops (the curved, lower part of the traditional road bike handlebar). "Using the drops means you're lower, giving you a lower center of gravity, making you more stable," explains Alison. "Stability is important not only when moving fast, but when taking the twists and turns of a hilly descent." Before riding downhill, practice moving your hands from the top of your handle bars to the drops to build confidence. Also, make sure you can comfortably reach the brakes while in your drops.

Feather your brakes: You never want to hit your brakes hard or abruptly, especially when rolling down a big hill. Use the feathering technique instead: applying the brakes gently and slowly increasing the pressure, then releasing the pressure a bit, and repeating until you have slowed to a speed you feel comfortable with. It's important to apply both brakes simultaneously so you don't fishtail or flip over the handlebars.


Be your own shock absorber: It's natural to tense up when you're nervous, but stiff arms will amplify all the bumps in the road, making you feel even more unstable. Alison recommends "keeping your elbows bent, shoulders soft, and arms generally relaxed as you go down a hill." If you hit a large bump, your upper body will absorb some of the shock, making your descent less jarring.

What do you prefer? Biking uphill or down?

Image Source: Getty
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BuzWeston BuzWeston 3 years
Countersteering: Anyone doing high speed decents must understand and learn countersteering. Few bicyclists seem to know about this. I once crashed in a fast downhill turn because I did not know about countersteering. This is completely counterintuitive, so let me explain. Look at the photo in this article. Clearly the bike is turning to the right. Look closely and you'll notice that the front wheel is turned slightly to the LEFT! Single track vehicles like bicycles and motorcycles turn by leaning. To initiate a lean, one must steer OPPOSITE the desired direction. So, if one wants to turn right, they must steer left to initiate the turn. Here's the rule: Turn left, press right. Turn right, press left. Everyone who rides a bike over about 12 m.p.h. does this without realizing it. But if one does it intentionally, turns will be much smoother and better controlled. The faster one goes, the more essential it is to be deliberate about it. The next time you're going fast down a hill, conciously a press the hadlebars a little (not hard) the opposite direction that you want to go. You will be amazed how nicely it sets up your turn.
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