Coasting downhill is fun and allows your muscles to recover from the previous climb. As with climbing, it’s important to stay relaxed on your bike and trust in your equipment. Confident descending is a skill that has to be practiced. Start practicing these skills on moderate grades and increase the challenge as you become more comfortable.
Stay Relaxed: Tensing up will make your bike handling less efficient. Remember to take full deep breaths, drop your shoulders away from your ears, bend your elbows and keep a relaxed and gentle grip on the bars.
Get low: Lower your center of gravity on the bike to increase stability. Shift your weight toward the back of the saddle – the steeper the grade, the farther back you will move. This weight shift will help keep traction on both wheels. Put some weight on your feet and lift slightly out of the saddle. This position will allow your legs to act as suspension, helping you to respond to bumps and changes in the road without bouncing around.
Adjust your grip: When the hill is moderate, you can keep your hands in neutral position (hands on top of the bars near brake hoods). When the grade gets steep, move your hands to the forward part of the drops so you can easily reach the brakes. This will help you shift your weight down and back.
Level your pedals: Keep your feet level and put some weight on them. Taking a bit of weight off the saddle can allow the bike to move more smoothly. This is especially important when you are moving at higher speed because it will allow you to react more quickly to obstacles.
Corners require special attention: You should change your pedal position when cornering in a descent. Move the foot closest to the outside of the road down to the bottom of the pedal stroke and put some weight on that foot. Slightly lifting your weight off the saddle will allow the bike to lean while you keep your body upright increasing traction and stability. Use your brakes to adjust your speed before you get into the corner. Corners will give you extra speed so you’ll exit at the same or higher speed than you entered it.
Look ahead: Added speed means that things come up a lot quicker when descending, so stay alert. Keep your head and eyes up – scanning for obstacles and planning ahead. When you come to a corner, look through the turn to the exit of the curve.
Feather the brakes: Use your brakes to slow before you start feeling uncomfortable. If you are feeling intimidated by a certain descent, you’re more likely to tense up and brake too hard locking the wheels into a skid. Stay relaxed.