5 Tips on How to Master the Descents

Are you doing La Marmotte or another race in the mountains and haven’t quite got a handle on those descents?

Sometimes you just need to hit a rhythm and be confident, but there are a few keys to unlocking your descending skill set.

I’m not the shark from Messina or Il Falco myself, but I know some of the basics on how to descend. So, here are 5 tips, that I learned during my career, that I passes on to Mads Maibom from the EnRouteLaMarmotte-group, before heading for La Marmotte.

By Stefan Djurhuus

EnRouteLaMarmotte

A cycling community supported by Sunweb, Argon 18 and United Cycling. Cycling with a common goal: La Marmotte; 174 km in the French Alps with four of the most legendary Tour de France mountains. July 2019.

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#1 - Descend in the Drops

When descending you should mostly be down in the drops and keep your torso down – this will lower your center of gravity and will help you to dive into the corners with better handling and control. 

Also it will allow you to brake harder and handle sharper turns without slipping.

#2 - Use Both Brakes

Using both brakes at the same time will even out the pressure you put on the brakes and more importantly the tires. 

Also it will prevent you from locking the wheels. It makes too much sense, but many riders only use one brake at a time. It’s like a four by four car, which applies same torque on all wheels. Think about that. It’s all about not slipping and maintaining the grip. 

You will also be able to shorten the braking distance, and avoid hanging in the brakes all the time, which could overheat them.

#3 - Brake in a Straight Line

When you go into a corner, brake in a straight line until you hit the right speed for the corner. When you start turning, it is massively important that you stop braking. You need to be at the right speed going into the corner.

Too many cyclists brakes throug the corner, which is wrong and will mess up your ability to hit the right line. Of course sometimes you’ll need to adjust in the corner, but that also indicates that you kind of fucked up the corner.

For an ideal corner, you brake, hit the right speed, release the brakes, start turning.

DescendingWithDjurhuus14

#4 - Hit the Apex Late

Everybody knows that when you go into a right corner, your line starts at the far left of the road, and you start your turn from there.

You want to hit the apex of the corner a little late – which means that you should not dive into the corner too soon.

It’s not about going in fast. It’s about hitting the right speed and coming out of the corner fast.

To do that, it is better to hit the apex at the middle or preferably a little late. It will also allow you to start pedalling at the right time.

If you hit the apex too early, you won’t be able to start pedalling before you’re out of the corner.

Here is a little drawing to illuminate that thought:

#5 - Right Pedal Positioning

When you go into a corner, push down on the outside pedal to distribute your weight more even. 

This means that when you turn right, you apply a little pressure on the left pedal (which stays down, while the right pedal is up). 

This could prevent you from getting some road rash in a steep and sharp corner.

Stefan Djurhuus

  • Age: 29
  • Latest Team: Riwal CeramicSpeed Cycling Team (2018)
  • Career Highlights: A-level rider for 7 years, 3 victories, 2x PostNord Danmark Rundt starts.
  • European level: Continental rider

Photos:  Peter Ebro / United Cycling 
Text: Stefan Djurhuus