As much fun as we're having watching the climbs in the Tour de France, the DESCENDING has been phenomenal!
Road bikes are really amazing machines. They're lightweight, aerodynamic, stiff, yet comfortable, and they're suspending hundreds of pounds between two wheels, put together with carbon fibre and steel or aluminum spokes. Descending on a bicycle should be done with safety in mind first, and confidence in your own abilities, as well as the bicycle's braking system.
To begin, think about the word "modulation". Modulating your brakes means that you can squeeze them more gently, and apply braking power on a steady basis, instead of just squeezing for an "all or nothing" approach. Brakes work best when you start early. Then, as your speed declines, you can increase or decrease the pressure, which will decrease or increase your speed as you descend.
Davis Phinney taught me, back in 2005, to always descend in the drops, and not on the hoods. This does two things: It lowers your center of gravity, but it also allows you to 'Stretch' the bike, and apply force to both the saddle, pushing backwards, and the bars, pushing forwards. When you do this, you can control the bike better, and descend with more confidence.
Even though you may be descending and your body may be in an unusual position, ALWAYS keep your chin up, and your eyes forward, so you can see the road. There may be debris or potholes to avoid, there may be something requiring more braking, slower traffic, etc. Likewise, whether you're passing someone, or they're passing you, even in the wind, COMMUNICATE VERBALLY. ALWAYS announce yourself when passing!!!
Descending requires knowledge of your balance. When making a turn, brake early, and pedal backwards until the OUTSIDE FOOT is at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Then, when you start the turn, you can lean in to it a little better, and use your inner thigh on the straight leg to help with steering.
There is VERY little steering in descending, but a LOT of leaning.
Descending requires some core body work and balancing skills to improve, so don't hesitate to contact a coach or trainer at CCD or OBC who can help.
Whether your descents are just a few seconds, or as long as half an hour, there are ways to improve your cycling abilities through bike fit, fitness, skills clinics, and resistance/balance training. Contact Coach Tracy Christenson for a quick chat, and set up an appointment today!