I am not known as a swift descender, and yet I continually encounter and pass cyclists and even randonneurs on descents. If you have found yourself passed or dropped by me on a hill, read the missive below, or take the next handling skills course that SFR offers. Doing both would be best.

Use pavement markings (in their absence, the edge of the road) to indicate how much braking is needed to slow down, if any, to negotiate a turn. On a bicycle this is only useful during a descent, but this same skill can be used while riding a motorcycle or driving a car or truck on a flat and curving road.

When approaching a turn, if the pavement markings turn to the left or right tightly enough it will appear as if the pavement markings are stationary. At the apex (midpoint) of a turn, the pavement markings will appear to straighten and disappear into the horizon or into the next turn.

What you should do is simply this; when entering a turn that has pavement markings stationary, slow down. When the pavement marking appears to move away and straighten through the turn and head for the horizon or next curve, release the brakes and/or start pedaling and chase the pavement marking down the road.

In short, slow to greet a turn that has stationary pavement markings and as soon as the pavement marking runs away, chase it. I understand that perhaps this seems a bit overly simplistic, but once the principles are employed consciously I am certain that smoother technique in turns will be the result.

Reading the pavement markings as a cue for when to release the brakes will allow you to release the brakes earlier and safely carry more speed down the road.  Smoother technique means that greater control of the vehicle is enjoyed which translates to greater safety.

Practice these techniques while driving a car or riding a motorcycle as well with the same effect – swifter and smoother passage with a minimum of attenuation of vehicular speed.  Your passengers will appreciate smooth throttle control and smooth turning.

Develop your skills enough so that they enter the periphery of your consciousness and vision, this allows you to read other cues, hazards and beauties of the road and surroundings and will ultimately result in more fun.

Other cornering techniques that can aid in control are as follows.

Do not start turning until you are in the turn. Turning too early will require corrections to your line and will send you either into oncoming traffic (a left turn) or to the edge of the pavement (a right turn). In inclement weather the edges of the lane and the pavement markings are best avoided as the pavement markings can be slicker than the surrounding pavement.  Conversely, the center of the lane can collect oil dripping from combustion vehicles and can be slippery – be vigilant. This works for cars and motorcycles too.

Relax. A rigid body (a panicked body) will fight the turn and fight bumps in the road, increasing the chances for going straight instead of turning and bouncing and losing traction.

Weight the inside handlebar and steer with your hips. Weighting the inside handlebar will initiate countersteering, and steering with your hips will shift your weight to the inside of the turn. Google countersteering if you are unfamiliar with the term.

Ride in the drops. Your center of gravity is lower, your weight distribution is more even. You have greater control of your bicycle.

Only raise your butt slightly. Raising your keester from the saddle will allow your bike to move and stay in contact with the pavement in the event of hitting an unseen bump. Standing on the pedals raises your center of gravity significantly and reduces your control of the bicycle.

Make target fixation (google this one too) work for you. Look where you want to go. If the pavement is really rough and there is only a smidgen of smooth stuff, look at the smidgen of smooth pavement and you will likely ride over that. Conversely, if there is a pothole or a beer can or bott’s dot, don’t look at it (look where you want to go) and you will likely not hit it.

Brake before the turn, not in it. A leaning and turning bike cannot slow as quickly as an upright bicycle moving straight.

Consider these techniques the next time you negotiate a twisting road (it is fun!) and I am confident that greater control, safety and (safe) speed will be the result.

Advertisements