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Posted by on Feb 20, 2013 in Blog | 1 comment


Since I started riding my bike in Chicago, the land of flat and straight, my descending skills when I first moved to California were absolutely terrible. I was scared and slow. The road right out of my house goes down for three miles and I used to get super nervous before I went to ride. All the hills to ride in Napa allow me to work on my descending each and every ride. I would not say I am an expert by any means but I have certainly improved from terrible.
Howell Mountain. Steep and technical. The ascent is quite difficult but is only two miles.

Here are some tips that have helped me improve (warning: this list is not all inclusive, I am sure I have more to learn):

1. Look where you WANT to go and NOT where you don’t want to go. Last year in Costa Rica we had to do several U-turns on small (ish) country roads with ditches on either side. All I could think was “don’t go in the ditch, don’t go in the ditch” and I starred at it while turning. Guess where I started to go? That’s right, into the ditch! I had to unclip and restart—not pro! I find I can make much tighter turns if I look where I want to go.  I practice in my driveway.
2. Put weight on the inside hand and outside foot
3. Brake before a turn.  This tip helped me immensely.  When you brake going through a turn it automatically makes the bike want to sit up straight vs. leaning over through the turn.
4. Be confident but not stupid. My friend Aaron, an expert descender, once told me the bike does not like to crash so it will stay upright if you ride it correctly.
5. And, lastly, an Alcatraz specific pointer: It might be crowded on some of the descents so just chill. Don’t be THAT person who goes outside the cones to get around people (very scary). It is an out and back course and others will be climbing up while you are descending. You can pass on the uphills or in Golden Gate Park.

Lastly, fast can be fun if you do it safely. Don’t take unnecessary risks just to be a badass, it is not worth it!

1 Comment

  1. Great, post! This is a very challenging and intimidating skill to develop, and it seems to get an underwhelming amount of attention in the triathlon community. However, it’s probably one of the easiest place to make up time if you can handle the “speed shimmy” on a TT bike! Check out this post for more good tips:
    AND, have a great season! The Flames miss you:)