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Nervous Going Down Hills

Discussion in 'New Riders and Riding Tips' started by Saspotato, Oct 31, 2012.

  1. Hello

    Does anyone have some advice for going down very steep hills? I am new to riding (one week since Ls, done about ten hours riding I guess) and I get really nervous going down hills as I feel like I am not in very much control, especially with corners. I went down Mt Macedon recently (in hindsight it was a bit beyond my skill level plus I'd already been riding for a lot of the day and was tired but I only realised this once I got to the top...) and had to go at a snails pace the whole way down which I don't mind because I am learning (most corners I go slow on, and if they are sharp I am at the recommended speed limit according to the signs or a bit below) but I was very nervous. One time I accidentally put the brakes on hard too and nearly skidded but was able to adjust in time. I put the bike down a gear which helped but any other tips would be helpful. Thanks :)
    • Keep your head and vision up, not down. Gaze at the end of the road/horizon, not the tarmac rushing toward your front wheel.
    • Gentle application of the back brake [when riding slow] will impart a sense of stability and safety. With experience, this won't be needed.
    • Continue to re-visit this steep hill when there's no to little traffic, in order to gain more experience. With proper practice comes confidence.
  2. Right gear ratio is better than relying heavily on braking. Also I try not to brake during a sharp downhill corner, but use the brakes more so before the corner itself,seems to work better, but I am no expert by any means.
  3. My advice would be to try and be in the right gear. If you're in too high a gear then the bike will feel like it's running away from you which in turn forces you to constantly be riding the brakes.
  4. Hi thanks for the tips! I did change to a low gear rather than be braking all the time but revs were quite high (I don't have a tacho to know what they were though) so I was wondering if this was bad for the bike but it was easier :) I can't ride for a couple of weeks as going overseas so I might do a few rides on flatter grounds and then try Mt Macedon again. My boyfriend was saying it is really good practice for me (there is not much traffic either) but I'd rather be a bit less nervous before trying it again. I don't think it helped that I hit a giant pothole just as I started heading down either...

    Alex I was told mostly to use front brake for breaking (combined with rear) unless doing very slow speeds where it is ok to just use rear brake. Is this correct? I was doing between 30-60kph.
  5. You might be finding that going downhill feels like the bike is harder to steer - this is usually because you are putting more pressure on the bars, to support your body weight, as your body is usually further forward than when on a flat.

    Try to lighten the pressure, on the bars, by supporting your weight with your legs/ core (grip tank with thighs or put more pressure on footpegs) you should feel your steering lighten up some. This should make the corners seem a little less daunting.

    As others have said - lower gear is always recommended going downhill. Don't worry about higher revs, bike engines are designed to cope with higher revs than cars.
  6. +1 to this. Sit a bit forward on the tank (not touching) and grip the tank with your legs and try to put most weight on the peg. Don't lock up your arms (straight), keep a slight bend on the elbow and chicken flap the arms so that you are relaxed on the bar. If you stiffen and straighten the arms upon approach, your arms are acting like a steering lock reducing counter steering ability which in turn makes it harder to tip into a corner.

    So always be relaxed on the handle bars.
  7. The rule of thumb used to be to descend hills in the same gear that you would use to climb them. In these days of brakes that don't overheat and disappear within seconds it's less critical and often forgotten but it might not be a bad idea to follow it until you gain more confidence. It won't do the bike any harm.
  8. Ok, that is very helpful re where to rest my weight, I definitely have a death grip on my handles that I am trying to relax about (it's fine when on flat, straight roads now but not so much when I have to turn a corner as I forget to relax), my thumbs and wrists are always really sore by the end plus I got blisters on the palm of my throttle hand the first time I went for a longer ride!

    Will stop worrying about the high revs too :)
  9. In normal riding, the front brake does most of the work. Always apply it in two stages: set up [take up the slack so that the brake pads just make contact with the rotor(s); then progressively squeeze from soft to hard. Do not be abrupt as it may upset the suspension and even throw you over the handlebars. Also keep your vision up and be mentally prepared for the front to dive.

    The rear brake plays a lesser role, and is most useful at both the start of braking, and when coming to a stop. Your goal is to avoid locking up the rear wheel, lest it may lose grip and slide out underneath you.

    When going downhill and at a slow speed, gently applying only the rear brake will help you feel that you're in greater control of the bike. Try it and see.
  10. I'm unable to edit my above message, but I should emphasise that the primary method of controlling speed downhill is to use a lower gear. Others have stated it, as have you in the first post.
  11. Great information/advice guys. I need that too. I haven't been to a lot of uphill/downhill yet. I need to get out of suburbia, and ride in the country more.
  12. This will be the root of the problem ie tense grip and leaning on the bars. Uphill, downhill or on the flat there should be no pressure on your hands other than steering inputs. Concentrate on correct posture >>> elbows bent, arms relaxed, loose hands, head and eyes up and looking where you want to go. If you are having troubles on the flat eg getting blisters(!) or sore wrists etc, I would recommend getting these aspects right prior to worrying about hitting the twisties.
  13. You want to be forward without weighting the bars with your arms. Yup knees and pegs and lots and lots of belly muscles to hold you up.
    Cover all your brakes and have it in a gear that wont bog down if you slow down to far or scream it's titts off if you release both brakes.
    This way if you lock a rear or need to drop the front brake you have two other things working on your speed control...so no need to panic.
    Now go find lots of hills and ride them till they aren't a problem...tis the only way
  14. Oh my arms are relaxed now normally just not going downhill so I will work on that. Am not sure what a twistie is also but I presume windy bits on roads? When I get back from overseas I will just practice on this mountain for a while I think until it is easy as it is just up the road.

    BOB88R I am lucky in that there are lots of nice rides with hills and corners close to my house however it was a bit nerve wracking to start with as they are usually 90-100kph speed limit. Would not have minded starting in suburbia I think. :)
  15. Basic rule is to drive the bike down the hill in the right gear, if it is running away on the revs you are to fast, you should be able to decend without relying on the brakes the same as driving a truck. If you rely on the brakes you are also relying on the tyre grip and the grip of the road surface thats why driving down gives you a greater safety margin. Been riding for over 41 years and 1.25 million ks all over the world which includes the european alps. Hope this helps and practice makes perfect.
  16. Treat down hill turns like off camber turns, be gentle, smooth and shift your weight.
    Great advice about same gear as going up.
  17. Not sure if anyone has mentioned, grip the tank with your knees, it will ease the stress on your arms allowing you to relax more getting that weight off the front of the bike.
    • Like Like x 1
  18. Ummm, big advocate of engine braking though I am, I'm pretty certain that it also relies on tyre grip.
  19. I was wondering about that myself. Surely whether you're using brakes or the gears to slow the rear wheel, you're ultimately still relying on the tyre to grip the road. Or have I missed something?