Author Topic: Long, steep descents -- questions about safety  (Read 2784 times)

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Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Long, steep descents -- questions about safety
« Reply #15 on: July 05, 2022, 08:58:44 am »
A few more thoughts.

First, the points about pannier drag and wind are spot on.  My unladen terminal velocity on a 6% downhill is probably over 50 mph, but I hit the brakes when traffic or crosswind buffeting has me wondering if I can control the bike at that speed.  (So my lifetime max is only 49.4 mph.  Sniff.  It was glorious!)

I've rarely exceeded 40 mph with panniers.  Maybe I need an 8-10% grade where I know there's a nice runoff at the bottom?

Second, practice letting the bike run on your training rides.  I remember one bicyclist who was almost petrified going down an 8% grade, and riding her brakes to keep her speed down to 10-12 mph, wobbling back and forth across the lane as she did so.  The 3/4 mile of traffic backed up behind her was not impressed.  You don't want to be her.  So work your way up to a comfortable 30-40 mph or so in good conditions.

Also remember, if you start getting speed wobbles, (1) relax, (2) don't hit the front brake, (3) if you can, put one or both knees against your top tube.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Long, steep descents -- questions about safety
« Reply #16 on: July 06, 2022, 01:55:43 pm »
Just keep breaking the speed by squeezing both brake levers. Just slow down the speed and then let go. Do it again and let go. Just keep doing that. You will get the feel of it when you are on the road doing it.

Offline New Jawn

Re: Long, steep descents -- questions about safety
« Reply #17 on: July 11, 2022, 08:50:41 am »
Did some traveling and camping last week and did this loop.  It had several big climbs and two really big descents.  The road had no shoulders, often crumbling near edges, every curve was blind, and a good bit of rocks, walnuts, and debris in the road.  Had to go through a long one-lane tunnel with no lights, so I waited until a car was going my direction and asked if I could follow in behind.

Had no packs other than Ortlieb handlebar pack and carried nothing with me but spare tube and tire levers, multi tool, 1/2 liter of tea, snacks, and two cans of Halt II and 6" lock blade knife. 

Top speed on a descent was 27, and that was more than fast enough for me.  I noticed that I have a tendency to ride the brakes, so I guess that I have to learn and practice new ways to slow down.  I do not feel comfortable at all going fast.  I also don't have a good plan for what to do when being passed by car and pushed near crumbly road edge.

I did the ride in both directions, clockwise in morning, counter in afternoon.  The heads-up cautions in the notes were helpful.

 https://ridewithgps.com/ambassador_routes/976-red-river-gorge-classic?lang=en

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Long, steep descents -- questions about safety
« Reply #18 on: July 11, 2022, 05:53:02 pm »
You need to ride at your comfort level. Each one of my bikes handles a bit differently and loaded bikes pick up speed faster and may shimmy a bit a certain speeds depending on how you have it loaded. As I have gotten older I tend to sit more upright, which actually helps keep my downhill speed in check by using my body as a braking foil.

As for cars, depending on the posted speed limit, I tend to take the lane on a fast downhill. If I am pushing 30+ most cars will willing follow at a safe distance until it is clear to pass. I find it is better to be in the lane and force them to deal with you than to get forced onto a crappy shoulder - but you have to feel comfortable doing it.

Disc brakes tend not to over heat like rim brakes. I did a high Alpes tour some years back (steep descents and lots of hair-pin corners) and I was usually the last one down the mountain. I managed to burn through my rim brake pads pretty well, but I did not have over heating problems since I did not "ride" the brakes but used them sparingly to keep my speed under 40 mph which helped me slow for the tight turns. It was during the TDF so cars and bikes were mixed tightly sometimes, but drivers were bike aware.
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Long, steep descents -- questions about safety
« Reply #19 on: July 12, 2022, 04:06:05 am »
Another point. Not all brake pads are created equal. I did a Crossing on the Southern Tier of states from Southeast Coastal Florida to San Diego California. I use caliper brakes with brake pads that rubbed on the rims. These were the cheap brake pads from Walmart, about $7.50 for a set of four. I wore down completely one set of four, and through about halfway another set of four. Taken together that would be like completely wearing down to the metal five brake pads or 6. I did another Crossing on the same route from Southeast Coastal Florida to San Diego. That time I used more expensive brake pads. I used only two brake pads and only on the front wheel. The back wheel had no breaks at all. Those brake pads held up all the way across the continent with plenty of braking power to spare by the time I got to San Diego. You get what you pay for.

Offline mattdwyerva

Re: Long, steep descents -- questions about safety
« Reply #20 on: July 30, 2022, 06:25:56 am »
Lots of advice here already, but my two cents:

0) practice on big hills without any panniers first

1) the death wobble that some bikes develop at high speed is terrifying, so if a new bike, be cautious on first few descents carrying a load, and use one or both knees to clamp top tube if it happens, as others have said

2) if braking too hard, your tires may skid and that is hard to control.  If that happens stop braking and steer.

3) if gravel road, be careful while braking as easy to skid in gravel, and skidding might be the start of crashing.  Brake before the turn, then turn with minimal braking.

4) Icefields Parkway scared me 40 years ago as road surface was corrugated suddenly coming around a curve at high speed.   Became hard to steer and hard to brake safely.  Caution is  better but I miss my youth :)