Author Topic: Getting better at descents  (Read 11023 times)

ravenbait

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Getting better at descents
« on: 11 July, 2022, 04:57:10 pm »
When I was very much younger, I was vaguely into skateboarding. Took a few tumbles, very painful, mostly got over it.

Later, I became a competitive ski-ier and was fearless, until I had a very bad accident in France that gave me the Fear. Never got over it, haven't put a pair of skis on since.

On the Tranent triathlon, the first time I raced it, I got speed wobble on a descent. It was bloody scary. I was doing about 50mph wearing nothing but a skimpy bit of lycra and a plastic hat. My brain took all my skateboarding falls, and my ski accident, glommed them together into an unholy mess, and now I'm petrified of descents. Mostly I don't do big hills, and it doesn't matter if I can't go down them very quickly, but I want to get better at big hills and that means being able to go down them.

It's not helped by the fact I have zero 3D vision and struggle judging distances to unexpected items in the riding area, so to speak. I am deathly terrified of hitting a pothole at speed because I didn't know how big it was.

Any tips for getting better at going downhill? Up hill is just a question of getting fitter, but down takes skills I'm not sure I have.

(Note that I will happily travel at speeds on the flat that would scare the shit out of me at an angle.)

Sam
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LittleWheelsandBig

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Re: Getting better at descents
« Reply #1 on: 11 July, 2022, 05:13:45 pm »
Follow somebody down hill that you unquestioningly trust, matching their line and braking. Do the same hill multiple times and for several rides. Gradually increase the pace, decided by you at the top before you start. Let your guide go quicker as you trust yourself more to not panic. Add multiple descents on more hills as you get comfortable at speed and try new hills and descending in front of your guide as you trust your own judgement.

It is much easier to go round corners properly if you trust that person in front is only going a bit quicker than last time and that they expect to get round.

Basically make yourself bored with going slow round corners, like in a video game. Panic is your problem, so desensitisation is probably the right approach.
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ravenbait

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Re: Getting better at descents
« Reply #2 on: 11 July, 2022, 05:23:39 pm »
Panic is definitely an issue. As is the fact there isn't anyone I trust round here to ride with. I ride solo, these days.

It would help if potholes stopped spontaneously appearing round here. Currently nursing a ruptured ankle ligament and suspected fractured in my foot after a 3D fail while running earlier in the year. I don't trust the road ahead to be safe, or the bike to slow/stop in time.

Sam
https://ravenbait.com
"Created something? Hah! But that would be irresponsible! And unethical! I would never, ever make... more than one."

LittleWheelsandBig

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Re: Getting better at descents
« Reply #3 on: 11 July, 2022, 05:46:44 pm »
Find the right person to follow/ trust and the rest is easy.
Wheel meet again, don't know where, don't know when...

ravenbait

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Re: Getting better at descents
« Reply #4 on: 11 July, 2022, 06:00:37 pm »
I know what to wish for if I ever find a magic lamp.

Sam
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Pingu

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Re: Getting better at descents
« Reply #5 on: 11 July, 2022, 06:05:01 pm »
There's a hill on the other side of the dual cabbageway from you that might be a good place to start practicing. You could maybe go a short way up it then come down again at a comfortable speed then repeat increasing speed and distance as you gain confidence?

ravenbait

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Re: Getting better at descents
« Reply #6 on: 11 July, 2022, 06:20:49 pm »
The one up past Waterlair?

Aye, I've come down it a couple of times, clinging like grim death to the brakes! It's quite gravelly in places, especially where the layby is by the woods, and the top is somewhat agricultural. But it's as good a place as any, I suppose.

Sam
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LittleWheelsandBig

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Re: Getting better at descents
« Reply #7 on: 11 July, 2022, 06:32:20 pm »
You will want to descend it often enough that you could do it blindfolded, knowing every millimetre of the surface. Once you know where the surface is a bit dodgy and where it is clean, you can descend it again a couple of km/h faster, then again. Get bored with descending it at the current speed, go a bit faster to get that frisson again, get bored again, get faster.
Wheel meet again, don't know where, don't know when...

Re: Getting better at descents
« Reply #8 on: 11 July, 2022, 06:47:42 pm »
The above suggestions sound very good but I wonder if you can add anything.  I would suggest talking to a counsellor and dealing with the source which is the previous trauma.  EMDR I suspect would be the treatment of choice but I am not a professional counsellor.

To get over the lack of 3D vision I wondered about coloured glasses and lights to give you points to look at.  A small LED pointer set to be a known distance in front of you might help with 3D perception

ravenbait

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Re: Getting better at descents
« Reply #9 on: 11 July, 2022, 07:44:38 pm »
You will want to descend it often enough that you could do it blindfolded, knowing every millimetre of the surface. Once you know where the surface is a bit dodgy and where it is clean, you can descend it again a couple of km/h faster, then again. Get bored with descending it at the current speed, go a bit faster to get that frisson again, get bored again, get faster.

This is a super way to learn how to descend one specific bit of road quickly, I guess, which is a great idea for convincing myself I'm not completely incapable, and I will give it a go and hope the potholes stop breeding. If I want to go do very long rides in strange places, however, which I do, I need to learn how to go down strange bits of road. Scotland is quite lumpy in places, and I can't learn every mm of every descent. I'm not sure how to get past the 3D problem, and I doubt the laser pointer, while creative, would do the trick. I only have one eye, and it has enough to do as it is.

Sam
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"Created something? Hah! But that would be irresponsible! And unethical! I would never, ever make... more than one."

Re: Getting better at descents
« Reply #10 on: 11 July, 2022, 08:15:48 pm »
Can you describe how you descend at the moment?

Re: Getting better at descents
« Reply #11 on: 11 July, 2022, 08:27:27 pm »
I'm not sure how to get past the 3D problem, and I doubt the laser pointer, while creative, would do the trick. I only have one eye, and it has enough to do as it is.

Sam
Most people with monastic vision have very good stereopsis.  I do not think it is fully understood but depth cues certainly are important.  I suggested the light as a way of giving you a single known fixed distance reference point on which to build your stereopsis.  I presume you do not drive at all.  you may find asking for a referral to your local orthoptist unit will provide some help with such problems.  I would still suggest counselling.

LittleWheelsandBig

  • Whimsy Rider
Re: Getting better at descents
« Reply #12 on: 11 July, 2022, 08:51:35 pm »
My idea is to get you past the panic from descending quickly. Once you have got comfortable with descending fast, it is very easy to transfer that skill to other descents, including brand-new (to you) descents. You compensate for the unexpected by descending them at 80-90% of your reference hill intensity.

Currently you freak out at any downhill, even going slower than you do on the flat. You need to change that learned response to descending.
Wheel meet again, don't know where, don't know when...

Re: Getting better at descents
« Reply #13 on: 11 July, 2022, 09:00:47 pm »

Find the right person to follow/ trust and the rest is easy.
Not if the person is either Ian H or the late and sadly missed Rocco

LittleWheelsandBig

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Re: Getting better at descents
« Reply #14 on: 11 July, 2022, 09:05:33 pm »
‘the right person’ is an important part of that sentence.
Wheel meet again, don't know where, don't know when...

Kim

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Re: Getting better at descents
« Reply #15 on: 11 July, 2022, 09:26:58 pm »
IME:

Knowing the road - every pothole, rut, patch of gravel, runoff, chutney, hidden entrance, etc. so you know what line you want to take and only need to see the stuff that changes.

A bike that can descend over crap surfaces with impunity.  Wide tyres, suspension, decent brakes, that sort of thing.  Predictable handling at speed is a bonus.  I find descending less inherently scary on a recumbent, because it doesn't feel like you're going to land on your face if things go wrong, but that probably only applies to people who spend a decent amount of time riding both types of bike.

I've been much more cautious about going at speed on the road since I had the front tyre on the Red Baron blow out at about 40mph on Gay Hill, which was Type 3 Fun even if the outcome was mostly expense and road rash.  BHPC events have helped me overcome the subsequent fear of corners; basically what LittleWheelsandBig suggests about following someone you trust - I reckoned that on a closed track with a clean surface the worst thing that was likely to happen was more road rash (rather than the possibility of ending up in the path of a solid object or motor vehicle), and that if I was sucking the wheel of someone competent on a cycle with less cornering stability than my own, there was little chance of wiping out.

I suppose you could wear full downhill MTB protective gear in the interests of risk compensation.  Actually, mountain biking might help generally, as you get a scarier descent at lower kinetic energy.  More visual processing, thobut.

ravenbait

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Re: Getting better at descents
« Reply #16 on: 12 July, 2022, 11:06:18 am »
Most people with monastic vision have very good stereopsis.  I do not think it is fully understood but depth cues certainly are important.  I suggested the light as a way of giving you a single known fixed distance reference point on which to build your stereopsis.  I presume you do not drive at all.  you may find asking for a referral to your local orthoptist unit will provide some help with such problems.  I would still suggest counselling.
I do drive. I've even had advanced training and assessment. Things on the road are generally predictable sizes, although when I was learning I had to memorise the distance between the tail lights of every model of car on the road.

If I hit a pothole in a car, the worst that will happen is blown suspension, not me faceplanting onto tarmac.

Do you know anyone with one eye who has used a laser pointer to train themselves to judge potholes? Do you have experience of this yourself?

Sam
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"Created something? Hah! But that would be irresponsible! And unethical! I would never, ever make... more than one."

ravenbait

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Re: Getting better at descents
« Reply #17 on: 12 July, 2022, 11:20:07 am »
Can you describe how you descend at the moment?

With hyper-vigilance, I guess?

If I can see that there's a point at which I will stop accelerating, and it's clear (so, for instance, a road that descends steeply but also climbs steeply within view), then I'm fine. I know when it's going to stop. I have issues where I don't know when I'm going to stop accelerating, and if there's going to be something in the road just out of sight, or I will end up with a speed wobble, or the brakes won't slow me down or stop me, or I hit something I didn't know was in the road.

I also feel very unstable on a bike at a steep angle, like I'm going to fall off over the handlebars, or the back end is going to come over my head (I am aware this is largely irrational). Mostly it's just the not feeling able to control my ability to stop just beyond the distance I can see to be clear.

I consciously relax my grip, but I tend to feather the brakes frequently when I start getting that out of control feeling. That's fine on short descents, but on long ones it could cause problems with the brakes overheating, maybe? And if I brake less often, they have more to do?

On the flat, if I stop pedalling, I slow down. I am in control of that speed, and it's more stable when you're pedalling anyway. On a descent, the only thing I've got is the brakes (or diving into a hedge, which is not recommended as a braking strategy).

Following someone I trust would be great, but I can't magic someone up. I gave up on cycling clubs when I was refused entry to two of them because of having only one eye. I don't ride solo all the time by choice.

Sam
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"Created something? Hah! But that would be irresponsible! And unethical! I would never, ever make... more than one."

Re: Getting better at descents
« Reply #18 on: 13 July, 2022, 07:58:00 am »
An old club mate of mine, who was a good first category and international cyclist, had one eye. He was a brilliant bike handler and could sit on a wheel with the best.
Getting your weight back over the saddle helps. Positions and bikes designed for time trials or triathlon, tend to be unstable because the weight is typically on the front of the bike.

FifeingEejit

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Re: Getting better at descents
« Reply #19 on: 13 July, 2022, 09:57:08 am »
IIRC one of the legends of Scottish MTB route guide books has monocular vision.
Not that, that helps you much.

Quote
I also feel very unstable on a bike at a steep angle, like I'm going to fall off over the handlebars, or the back end is going to come over my head (I am aware this is largely irrational)

This however may be helped by mountain biking or at least MTB techniques,
Drop the saddle a bit (it'll cost on the climbs), and get your weight to the back of it, not off the back and braking the rear tyre with your arse though.

Re: Getting better at descents
« Reply #20 on: 13 July, 2022, 10:47:51 am »

ravenbait, do you know the mtb technique of dropping your heels on the pedals?

(If your body were to then move forward as the bike suddenly decelerates, your weight pushes into the bike rather than continues to arc over the bike.)

I've never ridden clipped in or in cycling specific shoes - not sure how this translates to more roadie styles of riding. If it works for your set-up though it might be a nice thing to know you're doing and bolster confidence?

ravenbait

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Re: Getting better at descents
« Reply #21 on: 13 July, 2022, 12:03:15 pm »
IIRC one of the legends of Scottish MTB route guide books has monocular vision.
Not that, that helps you much.

Quote
I also feel very unstable on a bike at a steep angle, like I'm going to fall off over the handlebars, or the back end is going to come over my head (I am aware this is largely irrational)

This however may be helped by mountain biking or at least MTB techniques,
Drop the saddle a bit (it'll cost on the climbs), and get your weight to the back of it, not off the back and braking the rear tyre with your arse though.

I have tried mountain biking lots, and fallen off lots.  FWIW, I lost my eye when I was a baby, and I'm short-sighted and have a bunch of other sensory processing quirks. I stick to fire trails these days. Maybe if I had better skills on a mountain bike I'd be less likely to fall when hitting tree roots I'd misjudged.

Nikki, I did not know the technique of dropping your heels, thank you!

I think I need to practise and get over myself, really. I'm not going to magically conjure a bunch of people who can nurse me down hills at speed.

Sam
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"Created something? Hah! But that would be irresponsible! And unethical! I would never, ever make... more than one."

Kim

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Re: Getting better at descents
« Reply #22 on: 13 July, 2022, 12:38:39 pm »
I also feel very unstable on a bike at a steep angle, like I'm going to fall off over the handlebars, or the back end is going to come over my head (I am aware this is largely irrational).

I'd say this was perfectly rational.  The high centre of mass *is* a fundamental flaw of the safety bicycle, and while it's a reasonable trade-off for being able to shift the weight distribution around when dealing with technical surfaces, in normal road riding it just limits your braking ability.  Just because having to learn to modulate the front brake to maximise deceleration without tipping over is normal and ordinary doesn't mean it's good.

Re: Getting better at descents
« Reply #23 on: 13 July, 2022, 01:40:09 pm »
Perhaps a dropper post could help? Maybe they will get more popular on road bikes.

Re: Getting better at descents
« Reply #24 on: 13 July, 2022, 03:26:17 pm »
I'm really good at descending. I do it slowly and carefully, like the OP, and I don't care if anyone laughs or calls me a scaredy cat or a wuss. The way I look at it, the speed thrill/risk just doesn't work for me. Hit a patch of diesel and however skilled you are, it will hurt. Enjoy the ride, however you feel most comfortable. I've definitely become more cautious as I've got older, both cycling and skiing and unless I decide I want to get into racing (which is as likely as me winning a TdF stage) I'm comfortable with my approach and wouldn't want to change.