How to descend on a road bike

A road cyclist requires many skills to win a race or indeed to just improve their overall ability. Descending is just one of those skills, get it right and you can whip down a mountain smoothly and in good time.

However get it wrong and you could be in all sorts of trouble, the main one being a horrible crash!

Know your limits

Hill-climbing-bike-blog---001The first thing to remember is know your limits.

Don’t just get to the top of a great climb and then smash it down the other side with no plan of action.

Build up the speed safely and over time, if you’ve just started out on a bike then 40 or more miles per hour will be frightening the first time you try.

Take it easy, freewheel down if you like and remember you’re only on a ride out it’s not the Tour De France.

Once you gain more experience you will gain more confidence and more confidence will mean more speed. It’s worth noting too that speed is not unsafe but over confidence is.

Feather the brakes

Learn to feather the brakes and don’t anchor on, this will only lead to lock-ups or worse. Ideally you don’t want to brake at all unless you have to but you can only build up to this. If you’re riding a straight road most riders tend to favour the back brake slightly more than the front.

When facing a corner brake before entering the corner not when you’re in it.  Ultimately you want to learn to approach corners at the right speed so you don’t need to use the brakes.

Bar position

There are two main positions on a road bike that you can use, hands on the hoods or hands on the drops. The hoods are best suited to climbing and on the flat.

Going downhill you really should be on the drops especially with a nasty descent that way you get better grip and therefore better control and of course you can brake easier.


Tuck in

There is the infamous third option used by the pros and that is the tuck position. We’d advise building to this once again but when you’re ready put your weight over the back wheel and get tucked in. Remember to keep your weight over the back wheel when you brake or you could be over the handlebars.

Look ahead

When approaching a corner, look past it and don’t go over the white line. This will help to maintain balance and focus and help you also to not get hit. It’s important to see where the corner exits, you should always be looking ahead. Don’t look down.

Take hairpin bends wide if you can and keep your outside leg at the 6 o clock position and push the weight through this pedal as it will give you more grip. If you feel yourself going off balance counteract this with your inside knee, directing it away from the bike towards the ground.


Most of all be relaxed, look ahead and let the bike do all the work and make sure you keep an eye out for other riders.


  • Christian Moss

    Christian is the Social Media manager at Merlin Cycles. Christian brings an air of levity to the blog, coupled with a generous splash of irreverence. As part of his responsibilities, Christian manages the Facebook and Twitter accounts. Christian is also the resident photographer here at Merlin.

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