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How to descend hills on a roadbike

By Adam Marsal

It can be the most exciting part of road biking and a great pay off after a painful uphill struggle. For someone it’s just a pure fun, while others are scared to death when the speed goes beyond 60 kph. On the Sellaronda Bike Day we had a talk with the former professional cyclist Michael Mourecek about regular mistakes that cost you not only precious seconds, but sometimes also result into serious injuries.

To begin with, watch the pros descending the Alpine section of the Tour de France:

One of the first advices is to examine the surface of the road when you go up the hill. It’s more than probable that the surface will be the same when the things are going down. The smooth tarmac is rather comfortable but can be dangerously slippery when the rain comes. The rough ground is characterized by better traction but if there are some sharp stones or another objects, your tires may not be happy with it. Also, look out for holes and cracks.

Radius of the turns is another important factor that counts – do they follow a continuous arc, or do they become sharper during the middle of the turn? Loose gravel on the side of the road can be very dangerous too. When you turn, you can’t see what’s behind the corner so it’s better to keep off the edges.

Descending is similar to all human activities. As you ride more and more, you’ll learn how to read the road and the turns with the plain eye even in the high speed.

There are some basic rules for safe descending written by our mate Michael Mourecek, former professional cycling racer and product manager in the bicycle company Festka.

Check you bike

Demands on the bike are much more considerable in the high speed. All the parts are under higher pressure. Always check braking pads. You should have mounted the ones recommend by the producer of the rims.

Scan the terrain

Always look ahead. In turns, keep your eyes on the exit. Anticipate what may come next. There can always be a big truck behind the corner. Be careful what’s on the ground – sometimes you slip on objects, which can be easily avoided.

Brake smartly

Don’t brake too violently. For controlled slowing, gently squeeze both levers equally in short pulses. Don’t brake in the turn. You have to slow down to appropriate speed before you enter it. Braking in the turn would lead to an uncontrollable skid.


Think about your legs. When you turn to the right, your right shoe should go up while you keep the pressure on your left. You will lean to the sides like bikers in the MotoGP races in the corners while you will change the weight on your feet, which would remind you of the time you skied downhill.

Hold the drops

With your hands on the lower part of the drop-handlebars, your center of gravity is closer to the ground which means better stability. It’s same as with the racing cars. You also gain a better traction, because your weight is more evenly distributed between the front and rear wheel.

Stay relaxed

Your body should be calmed but prepared. If you’re in a tension, you’ll not be able to react properly to the things that will come. Don’t get scared off. You should always stay as calm as the captain of the plane.

Do you have any beginner tips for safe descent on a road bike? Share them in the comments below!