Learn to descend hills efficiently07 September, 2013 0 comments
Learn to descend hills efficiently
If you want to improve your cycling speed, you’ll want to make sure you ride as efficiently as possible at every step. Hills? You’re bound to ride down some of those while you ride, and it makes perfect sense to use the speed you gather there to the maximum. If you’re a beginner, however, riding down hills at full speed may sound scary.
So, what can you do to save energy and retain as much speed as possible during downhill riding AND feel comfortable while you do so? Here are some things to keep in mind if you want to improve your descending efficiency.
- Observe the road
To be prepared for the road ahead – both mentally and physically – you should do a quick observation before you start descending. What’s the surface like? How sharp are the turns? Are there any obstacles or loose gravel? Having an overview of the road will make you more confident and ready for the ride.
- Relax your body
By being relaxed you will make it easier to manoeuvre, and to absorb any shocks caused by the road surface. Thus, you should release any tensions you have in your body – don’t grip the bar too tightly (you should be able to drum your fingers on it), drop your shoulders, uncurl your toes, relax your leg muscles, breathe smoothly.
- Look ahead
Always keep an overview of the road 5 metres in front of you. If you’re on a road bike, you should keep your eyes open for any loose gravel, sand or other debris. On a mountain bike, look ahead for rocks, wet roots, logs. By knowing what’s in front of you, you’ll have enough time to manoeuvre smoothly.
- Pick your path
If you want to make sure you ride smoothly, look ahead for the path that you want to take and then do as planned. This is a better strategy than just scanning for dangerous parts and trying to ride around them.
- Stay low
For better stability, higher speed and easier manoeuvring, it is important to lower your centre of gravity. Therefore you should adopt a lower position during downhill rides. Try holding your body as close to the bicycle as possible and keep your hands in the drops during the ride.
- Move your weight back
As the hill gets steeper, you will need to move your weight back on the saddle. At the same time you need to make sure that you still have good control of the bike – this may be difficult for beginner cyclists. Move your backside as far back on the saddle as you can while maintaining control.
- Careful when you brake
When you’re going at a high speed, and you break suddenly, you may lose the ability to manoeuvre the bike. What is more, using the front brakes may cause your back wheel to rise in the air, making you more prone to falling and loss of control. Therefore you should make sure to brake more slowly and evenly. Instead of sudden breaking, try pressing the brakes gently for a few seconds at a time, then releasing them between the pulses. Additionally, make sure you apply equal pressure to both front and back brakes.
- Keep your feet in platform position
When you’re descending on a straight road, you should keep your feet in platform position – at 3 and 9 o’clock respectively. This will provide you with stability, and also make you more prepared for anything that may happen. Whatever move you need to make, you will be able to react quickly and move accordingly.
- Get good at cornering
Efficient cornering will win you valuable time during downhill cycling. Make sure you get your speed down before you get to the middle of the turn to make your corners smoother – lower your speed before you enter the turn instead. Once you get to the corner, push the outside pedal down and lean your bike into the turn. For example, if you’re turning left, you should push down your right foot and lean your bike left. How much you need to lean your bike will depend on your speed and the angle of the corner – sharper and faster turns require you to lean the bicycle more. Once out of the corner, straighten your bike.
- Choose optimum speed
Faster doesn’t always equal better. Instead of going as fast as possible, try going as efficiently as possible. If you always choose a speed that helps you maintain great control of your bike, you can actually increase your overall cycling speed through the process, because you’re making the best use of your bike, abilities, and the terrain at every step.
So, dear readers – did you learn anything new about descending hills? Do you have any other tips? Share them in the comments!