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How to Descend on a Road Bike

Road Bikes provide some incredibly exciting riding - and it’s important to remember that what goes up, must come down. So if you enjoy the ups and downs (literally) of riding around the UK, it’s important to think about how you can safely and quickly ride down long descents - which is by far, one of the most exciting and thrilling ways you can ride your road bike, gaining maximum speed whilst also giving your legs a well earned rest. The good news is, learning to ride downhill in the proper way, is not too difficult - but there are certainly things to look out for and bear in mind.

At Westbrook Cycles, we have plenty of road cyclists within our ranks - and we have used their opinions and experience to bring together hints and tips about riding a road bike downhill, safely and effectively.

Body Position

Much in the same way that you ride a mountain bike, your body position needs to be relaxed and neutral. Keep looking ahead at all times, with your hands on the bikes grips and at least a couple of fingers on the brakes. 

Keep the Grip Light

Don’t hold onto the bikes grips for dear life - no matter what your speed. Gripping the bars too tightly can leave your hands fatigued and tired, leaving you out of control. Ensure there’s some flex in your arms, with a slight bend in your elbow - allowing your arms to soak up any bumps and uneven surfaces on your descent. 

Keep Pedals Horizontal

The correct body position will see your pedals and cranks parallel to the road in both the three and nine o'clock positions. Again, looking forward ahead at the road and potential hazards is important. 

Use Brakes only when Needed

Although it can be very tempting to stay ‘riding’ the brakes on the way down a descent, keep off them. Although using disc brakes negates some of this risk, brakes can fade with overuse, and can run out of braking power when required on an descent. 

Use your Body as an Air Brake

Just as making an aerodynamic shape can increase speed on a descent, you can effectively use your body as an air brake, lowering your speed as you descend without riding the brakes. 

Road Bike High Speed Dangers

Descending at higher speeds, can throw up new and existing dangers which can be worsened because of the high speeds of a descent. Knowing what to look for, and spotting any potential dangers early, can help you both avoid and deal with any situations that arise. 

As well as looking ahead for oncoming traffic and obstacles, also look out for white lines on the road, which can become slippery in wet weather - alongside wet drain covers, speed bumps and traffic control measures, as well as rough road surfaces including gravel and fallen leaves. 

When riding with other riders, also keep plenty of room between yourselves - ensuring that if the rider in front was to take evasive action, you have time to react and avoid a pile up.