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hot and slippery


Speeding Up
May 29, 2008
the drizzle just seems to being going on forever this year and though I don't mind getting rained on on rides so much, I do mind the slick roads when descending.

Also, since I had a blowout on Wada a few months ago (after fishtailing on a slick steep corner), I'm suddenly now aware how hot my rims get when braking going down hills. Compared to my old steel bike, I pick up speed much faster but also have trouble breaking as fast and my current brakes seem to wear a lot faster, especially if there is any rain.

I used to feel invincible going down hills and like there was no speed that wasn't too fast and now I'm paranoid that I'm going to melt my brakes, blow out my tires and generally be unable to stop when some granny steps out in front of me:eek: (thank you accident in March). :eek:uch:
(I have since found bike insurance, T-spot or T-mark or something like that)

Do I just need to suck it up and stop being a pussy?

Have any of you ever melted your brakes?

How do you think about something like going down the east side of Wada (with debris and water on the road, 10%+ grade, tight curves)?

Where did my invincibility go?
You won't melt your breaks as they are a compound that is heat resistant.

You may find that your breaking technique needs changing in these conditions, also many riders i've noticed are rear wheel heavy when it comes to breaking, this is fine for MTB's but for road bikes rear wheel skids are not good ( looks cool for fixies and kids but the last thing you wanna do is start fish tailing your 300,000 road bike).

You should be using your front break about 65-75% of the time and flutter the breaks between front and back, a hard squeeze on the front to slow you right down followed by rear wheel breaking to maintain the drag then back on the front.

Wada is not a hill I will let all the stops out on due to the narrow and slippery road surface, Yabitsu down to Route 246 I will happilly tuck up and hit about 75-80km/h
Descending bike handling is really an important skill. Being able to manage a turn quickly and accurately will oftentimes reduce the stress on braking - especially if you approach it altogether. Here's my simlpe advice - and I'm sure alot of people will chime in ...

1) Keep your weight on the 'outside peg'. This means when you enter a turn and follow through, most of your standing weight should be on the pedal (peg) opposite the direction your are turning. This gives you the best CG control and balance.

2) Never 'early apex'. Go a little deeper into the corner than you may feel comfortable and then turn in soundly and aggressively. Typically cyclists will start their turn too early, then end up having to compensate - which as the turn progresses, mean you may lose your line (and subsequently require more panic braking).

3) Brake before turn. Use both brakes firmly and consistently to slow your bike while its in a straight line to the velocity you intend to negotiate the turn. Then ease up as you make the turn. The bike will naturally accelerate through the turn and you'll have alot more control as your wont be 'locked down' on the brakes preventing either postential skidding or chatter due to your arms stiffed.

4) If you are riding with lots of descents and worry about pad / rim overheating, then make sure you have good pads - especially like the ZIPP, SWISSTOP or similar which have high heat xfer and stable performance over a wide variety of conditions. I wouldn't worry too much about over heating.

5) Pads that tend to work good in wet / rain, tend to a little less effective in the dry and also heat up more. And vice versa - great dry weather pads may not feel as responsive or positive in the wet conditions. If you ride in rain, then just make sure to pre-test or apply light braking well before your intended slow down point to clear the rim of moisture and build a little pad heat to improve the stopping.

6) Don't 'ride' your brakes. Just like in a car or motorcycle - if you are always on the brakes - you will heat them up. Bike brakes and rims (especially carbon) don't have alot of surface area to throw off the heat quickly. Nor are they thermodynamically optimum for this - so - just use your brakes when you need to control your speed. If you need to apply brake over a long period - like really long downhill descent, then make sure to use both brakes and try to give them some 'breathing' time - don't let your velocity go too high -but just apply in a more periodic manner and keep your speeds moderate.

7) I think the real danger zone happens when you have heavy (80+kg) riders on super fast and technical descents, riding carbon rims with clinchers. You could build up enough heat to cause delamination of the rim or material degredation which may lead to a structual failure. Add in clinchers which tend to be a less capable on the corners - and add in the heat - and POW! Though the 'open type' clinchers seem to work very well - almost as good as tubular.

Anyway - my my point is just improve bike handling skills so that you have more operational envelope to play with. Then, even if your brakes become compromised, you will still have your invincibility! Doesn't hurt to have a few contingency plans available either.

Like -

1) 'The wedge' - jamming your shoe between frame or fork and the wheel and use that as alternative braking medium.

2) 'The stick' - emergency Wada descent device. Otherwise known as the stick brakey.

3) 'The skid' - toss your bike hard sideways (again - weight on the outside) and let it slide out - this is the safest way to bail if you need to. Bailing on the highside almost always results in broken collarbone, head injuries, and all sorts of nastiness. Believe me I know - thats how I buggered my knee - highsiding a Mike Hailwood replica and having my knee 'cushion' the fall of the beast. Needless to say - leather, flesh and bone are more fragile than a couple humdred pounds of steel...

4) 'The pre-flight' - ALWAYS check your bike BEFORE you ride! And give your brakes a hard tug to make sure the cables / binding / etc are able to withstand a seriously major squeeze. Stuff does loosen up when you ride and needs to be maintained.
Have to say, assuming you have the basic road bike skills, I honestly think 80% of descending is mentality (to pull a random # out of the air).

Everything changes when you lose that sense of fearlessness and start thinking "what if?" What if there's a car/cyclist/dog right in my line round the next corner? What if my front brake cable snaps? What if my tire blows? What if there's a patch of thick, slick moss around the next bend? Soon as you start thinking like that, there's no way you can descend as fast as you used to.

I used to be pretty quick down hills, the twistier the better, but a series of not-quite-near-misses (and one solid hit :)) has made me more aware of (a) bike brakes don't stop you very fast at all when you're going 60km+ and (b) the consequences of not being able to stop can hurt...

During my fearless stage I always figured the road would be clear, that I could swerve around anything in the way, that there'd be time to brake, etc. Some people of course can keep thinking this way, and ignore or overcome their fears. I believe mentality is what separates the good descenders and the poor descenders in the pro peloton...

Anyway, the point of all this is to say that it sounds like your issue is one of mentality, not equipment or technique. You had a blowout on a descent, later you crashed into someone, and now you're thinking more of what could go wrong. Human nature I think, and not something that will be fixed necessarily with equipment changes.

This is quite an interesting thread. I would have to agree with Phil that descending is basically a mental game. Immediately after a crash you lose your nerve for at least a short while, no matter who you are.

Can't remember what pro coach it was who said it, but it was basically "if you aren't crashing at all on the descents, you're not trying hard enough!" It's a luxury few of us non-professionals can afford in terms of injuries, hospital bills, etc...

But the fact remains, nothing beats a hair-raising descent, especially after a brutal climb!!:bike:

To GS: does that "wedge" actually work?? I'll stick to my golf wedge...
GS, some good advice until you started on the 'wedge' and the 'stick' advice mate? Koribeyer is having confidence problems and you come out with this:confused:

Koribeyer, there's some good advice above. As long as you're not riding carbon wheels down Mt. Fuji and forced by the organisers to constantly brake, as I was and ruined my wheel, you should be fine. Oh and if you're wheel needs rim tape, be sure to have the right size. My 22mm velox tape finally arrived today:D

Just brake hard before the corner and release, rather than dragging the brakes and you'll be fine. Goodluck, enjoy you're descending and the confidence will return.

p.s. Yeah, Wada is a nightmare to descend and I don't like both sides.
I rode with Koribeyer opn Sunday and from my view point she has no worries for her downhill technique or confidence.
Do you really need to be so confident, especially if you're not planning to race? Over-confidence is as dangerous. It's not like asphalt cracks, gravel, slippery gates, old ladies and parked cars will disappear because of your confidence - they really ARE there.
which is why no matter how confident I am on, say, Odarumi (Takao), or Kazahari, I would never try to keep the same speed on unfamiliar roads.

For racing, you certainly need to polish your technique, learn to take risks and be efficient, but otherwise (at least for me) it's just balancing 2 things until I feel comfortable - need-for-speed and safety. So take it easy :)

everything is an IMHO of course, I am not a good descener at all (at least after my crash 2 years ago) to give any practical advice.
Thanks for all the input. This weekend was really good and generally felt more confident and enjoyed the going down as much as the going up :p

I guess part of it is that I know I won't be able to keep up going up but I should be able to going down, right?

Part of it is just continuing to get used to my bike. My old bike was 56cm and though the 52cm is actually a much better fit, my weight is farther forward and I have to really grip the handle bars not to send me over.

Also, my old bike was heavy and I was fitter so the center of gravity was lower. Now the new bike is super light and awesome but I'm not as fit (4.5 kilos down, 5 to go until I'm sub 70 again... I'll be back in shape in another month or two) so that changes a lot. (I know, I'm the only girl ever who admits her weight.:angel:)

The advice about braking before the curve rather than during was really helpful and I felt much more in control of the turns. I think when I started to get a little scared, I braked too often and that just made the handling worse. I already subconsciously put most of my weight on the outside peg, but being aware of that was helpful too.

Also not to worry too much about melting my brake pads was good to know. I never ride the brakes anyway but if you're going down 10% that has a high likelihood of stuff getting in your way, or like the decent on Rt 35 to Rt 20 near Torizawa when you know you really *have* to be able to stop at the end, picking up too much speed just doesn't seem like a good idea.

But in general it was a great weekend for confidence, both in terms of being able to do 1500m of climbing one day be be tired but ok to do more the next and in terms of descending and getting mid 60km/hr top speeds that felt good.

mid-sixties are, indeed, probably just fine if I'm not racing. Well, at least until these roads become more familiar.

Nikko next weekend and the weather looks good!:bike:

Thanks for the help!
may have been said already and others here are much better descenders, but suggestions:

- Look thru the corner and where you want to go. DO NOT focus on what you want to avoid. Somehow, the bike goes where you ARE looking
- Know that centrifugal force will work against you if you brake mid corner and throw you and the bike offline to the outside. As Far East says, brake before the corner (~75% front brake) and roll thru. I try not to hit the front brakes mid corner apart from light fluttersl.
- Don't have the guts to pull off GS AUTO's suggestions, but I use rear brake skid mid corner in panic situations when I need to correct line
- Stay loose. For me the red rumble strips (anti drifting stripes) forces me to get a bit "tight" descending - especially when tired and body is cold. Descents in Japan can be LONG (i.e, Yanagisawa). I go into "loose arms, loose arms" mantra/chant and stay relaxed
- Not sure about others and its probably wrong, but countersteering works for me in the rain also.. Feel a bit more confident somehow and that seems to help.
Of course I was joking about the wedge and stick - though, honestly, having some internal contingency reel running in your brain is very important. These are all good points - and in my experience (on road and off road) the most important is to just be aware, stay loose, and especially as Trad says - look THROUGH the corner, NOT AT IT. Once you look down , you lose depth of field quickly and your body cannot respond accurately to the micrometer adjustments required. Today's equipment is awesome. We were doing 60+kph descents back in the 70's with gear that would make you cringe -- and mainly everyone survived just fine.
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