Descending

Decending Fast

Look ahead, think ahead, plan ahead! Sounds obvious, when you’re travelling faster you cover more ground every second. So you need to look and plan further ahead.

Watch out for 'unexpected' hazards. Loose gravel or mud, especially on corners.

Dominate your space. Don’t invite other road users to take dicey overtakes on you that leave you in danger. Sure, keep to the left when you’re doing 10mph and traffic around you is doing 30mph, but when you’re going downhill you could be doing 40mph and it would be unsafe for cars to overtake - so don’t be afraid to take a central position in your lane - its safer for you without inconveniencing anyone else. (watch out for an upcoming episode on commuting where we'll have a bit more about general road positioning.)

Read the road. Which way does the road go, how tight are the upcoming corners? are there any roadside features that can help you, like street lights, telegraph poles or hedgerows - they often follow the road and indicate the severity of bends ahead. Be aware they are not always true and should be used as a guide. 

There's a technique called chasing the vanishing point and it goes like this: as you approach a corner there’s a point in the distance where the left side of the road meets the right, a point where the road vanishes from view - the vanishing point. As you go round the corner, the vanishing point also moves on. If the vanishing point appears to get closer to you then the corner is tightening, visa-versa moving away indicates the corner is opening. So you can decide whether you need to slow down or not before you get to the tight part of the corner.

Use more of the road. Position yourself to see round corners. Approaching a left hand bend you can see further round the corner from the right hand side of the road than the left hand side of the road. The more you can see, the better informed you are, the better your decisions will be and the safer you'll be. So as you approach a corner, position yourself to be able to see round it.

Sacrifice road position in favour of safety. Perfect lines count for nothing if there's something in the way. Always safety first.

Open the corners, making the turns less tight. Back to using the full width of the road or lane, moving from outside edge to apex (inside 'mid' point) to outside edge as you go round a corner makes the 'turn' less tight. Easy to imagine on a hairpin, applies equally on all corners. 'Straightening out corners' = less lean required = safer.

Concentrate

Bleedin' obvious really. Fast down hill is not the time for fiddling with your bike computer or for wolf-whistling at pretty girls, save that for the flat, or at least slow down a bit first.

Extra Points

Extra style points for use of the bunny hop. A sharp tug upwards on the bars and a simultaneous 'jump' with your clipped-in feet should see you momentarily airborne. It’s a good way to clear unforseen obstacles such as pot-holes or raised man-hole covers that might otherwise cause a puncture, buckled wheel or worse. Try it out on a quiet flat bit of road first – it’s easier when you’re going faster, but get yourself comfortable with the concept first. N.B. Only for use when travelling in a straight line!

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