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Tips for Overcoming the Fear of Descending

By Christopher Ashley

You’ve strapped your bike to the top of your car, and driven to the top of an awesomely steep mountain Bob from the cycle club was telling you about. You get on your bike and realise just how steep the hill is – a sense of doubt creeps over you. How do you overcome the fear of the unknown?

Park at the bottom of the mountain

As rule #55 states, you have to earn your turns. Riding up a mountain first has a couple of benefits, but the main one is it forces you to ride the route slowly, and allows you to plan for any obstructions and dangers. Note the road condition as you slowly make your way to the top.

Gaspi just found out he’s got to climb the hill.

The other benefit of starting at the bottom is the effort to get to the top will take the edge off that adrenaline rush. Cycling up a mountain is hardcore – cycling down it is the reward. Having earned your turns.


Descending means going fast and, more often than not, cornering at speed. This means you’ll be employing your brakes a considerable amount. Check your brake pads for wear – especially if you’re using a bike for the first time in a while. Make any adjustments to cabling before you start.

Also, have a long hard think about whether you really need carbon wheels – especially if you’re on the open road with motor vehicles. Carbon braking technology, although much improved, still loses performance when heating up. If you’re descending on “asphalt spaghetti” you’ll feel safer using aluminium rims.

Tyre pressure

Realistically, if you’re getting a thrill out of a descent, it’s because you want to go fast, so the temptation is to pump your tyres up to maximum pressure. But, as soon as you hit that first tight turn, you’ll risk the stiff tyre sidewall coming off the rim of your wheel with all the pressure exerted on it.

By all means, get your tyres up to maximum pressure going up the hill – you’ll get better efficiency and lower rolling resistance. But when it’s time to come down, you may wish to drop a bit of pressure. Why not read our tyre pressure guide to learn more?

Enjoy the view

Just because you’re going down a hill doesn’t mean you have to go fast. Why not try going slowly? You’ll get a chance to take in the breath-taking views and still have enough time to keep your eyes on the road ahead.

Sunny Mallorca

Sure, it’s a privilege to be a part of a pro cycling race team – but speak to any of these athletes, and without doubt they’ll tell you that the training rides and warm-ups are far more enjoyable than the race itself. Remember – going fast is for competitions. Given the choice, the pros go slow.