Q: “As I ride more and more… the thing that I still avoid and fear
are steep downhills with relatively sharp turns.
In my current area, I know where these are and I can avoid them for
now but eventually, probably sooner rather than later, I’ll have to
learn how to do them confidently.
Any good techniques for getting through these the first few times safely?
Obviously, slowing down and going into a higher gear before the turn
What about trail breaking? Is it too early to start learning this? I
ask because it sounds like it would be good know in case you find
yourself in a turn with too much speed.”
A: Travelling downhill is like rolling on the throttle because it drives you forward faster. Like any corner you have to select the correct speed and line of travel. If you’re going too fast entering corners bad things are likely to happen so you need to figure out how to get slow enough for (but not slower than) what is necessary for a comfortable corner.
Your job is to constantly be scanning ahead of your position so that you can start making good calculations about what lies ahead as early as possible. Travelling too fast leads to late decision making which leads to guess work which leads to anxious riding and ultimately lowered safety. If you are anxious about cornering, especially on downhills, you most certainly need to slow down earlier on corner entry so that your eye speed can overtake your movement speed. Once that happens you’ll choose a more functional velocity, a better line and a more optimal gear. Repetition will make your corners better and better but you’ve got to err on going too slow rather than too fast to give yourself the necessary time to sort out the mechanics until you’ve achieved muscle memory.
Up-shifting would be the wrong choice assuming you were in the correct gear for the roadway before the hill. Down-shifting will provide engine resistance so that instead of pulling in the clutch and braking around downhill corners you can allow the transmission to do that work for you and you’ll be able to stay on the gas, driving through corners.
I absolutely would not practice trail braking around corners on live roadways until you’ve tried simply dragging the brake/s in a slow straight-away (ahem, parking lot) and then several small circles and fig. 8’s lightly dragging the brake/s to get the ratio of brake to drive correct. When you do try trail braking I suggest the front brake for corners but ONLY AFTER thoroughly understanding the concept in an extremely low risk situation (parking lot).
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