Going Down: The Art Of Bike Descending

  • By Jene Shaw
  • Published February 16, 2016
Photograph by Challenge Wanaka/ Getty Images

Own Gue, a former professional cyclist and current owner of training vacation destination The Cycling House (, helps triathletes improve their riding skills at his week-long camps around the world. He offers advice on how to thrive on the downhills.

Tip #1: Relax
It’s obviously counter-productive to get stressed before descending, so relax your upper body and keep a firm grasp (read: not death grip) on the bars. On a road bike, Gue suggests descending in the drops for more brake control and to avoid descending in the aerobars on a tri bike unless on a safe, familiar road.

Tip #2: Look where you want to go…
…not where you don’t want to go. “It seems simple, but if you don’t practice this a lot, the second you get into a bad situation, you’ll look at a guardrail,” Gue warns. Stay focused and look farther up the road than you think you should.

Tip #3: Brake before the corner
Slow yourself down before the turn and accelerate through. Typically you can use 50 front / 50 back brake force ratio, but if it’s a really sharp corner, use more front for maximum braking power. “Shift backward and get as much weight over the rear wheel as possible to stabilise the back end,” Gue suggests. If you need to stay on your brakes through a corner, get off your front brake in case there’s anything slick on the road.

Tip #4: Weight the outside pedal and inside handlebar
Your knee closest to the inside corner should be up, with your opposite leg forcefully extended against the outside pedal for balance. Lightly weighting the inside handlebar is also effective. “If you get into a habit of doing this into every corner, you’ll realise you aren’t even turning the handlebars, the weight is turning you,” Gue says. This counter-steering helps hold your front tyre to the road and keeps you balanced.

Tip #5: Follow a leader
“Descend behind people who are better than you,” Gue suggests. “It allows you to see where they’re going with their lines and see what they’re doing with their bodies around every turn.”

Tip #6: Hit the apex
Approach tight corners from the side of the lane farthest from the bend. As you swing through the turn, aim for the peak of the corner known as the apex. In one smooth, steady arch, sweep outward after passing the apex and complete the turn on the far side of the road.

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