Bicycle Network: Skill Up
Getting back down can be just as tricky, so here are a few quick tips that will make going down hills the breeze it's supposed to be.
Depending on the grade of the hill, get farther and farther back behind your seat. Don't be afraid to have the seat in your gut and your behind right above the rear tire.
As you descend, your centre of mass shifts forward causing the back wheel to become unweighted. When you brake, your effective centre of mass moves even further forward and the stopping process wants to rotate you and your bike over the front wheel. Clearly this is not a good scene. Compensate by keeping your body low and easing your bum off the back of the seat.
Keep a relaxed but firm grip on the handlebars. Keep a comfortable grip that tightens when you approach anything bumpy, rocky or technical.
During easy to moderate descents use only your index finger for braking. Switch to index and middle when you need more braking power.
Adjust your brakes so you can completely lock out without pulling them to the grips, yet keeping them close enough for you to grab comfortably.
Keep your eyes quickly scanning way in front for new obstacles and technical sections. Tighten your grip, but let the bike go where it wants to go while still maintaining balance.
It's most likely you'll weigh considerably more than your bike does. A typical rider to bike weight ratio is around 6:1. The obvious implication is that the position of your body on the bike has a major effect on how the whole arrangement performs. Weight transfer is the secret to controlled descent and stopping.
The secret to stopping in a hurry is to focus on your front wheel. On the flat, it accounts for about 70% of your stopping power - even more when you're on the slope! When you hit the brakes, your effective centre of mass moves forward - the back wheel lifts and the front digs in. So there's more traction up front and more effective stopping using the front brake.
It's a good plan to shift your weight back at the same time to avoid pitching over the handlebars.
Ensure the bike is upright and pointing straight ahead while braking heavily; i.e. not cornering. Remember to squeeze the brakes progressively rather than 'slamming them on'.
You achieve maximum braking just before your wheels lock up (same principle as ABS on cars). Skidding is not an effective way to stop.