Preparing to Improve Your Descending on the Bicycle
This is a pretty straightforward exercise that can be done in front of your computer, laptop, or smaller device. It’s most effective if you can pay uninterrupted attention to the screen and sounds, so if possible find a place where you won’t be disturbed.
Via the list of links below, you’ll find videos of riders and racers descending, at various levels of speed and technical challenge.
All you have to do is watch and listen closely, whilst keeping yourself calm and relaxed. Sounds easy, eh?
Enter a Calm State First
Before clicking on a video, spend a few moments bringing yourself into a mellow state of composure. Relax your muscles. Focus on your breathing for a few moments. Take some deep breaths, and let any tension ebb away, wherever you may find it…shoulders, jaw, brow, and so on.
Once you’ve harnessed a calm state, aim to maintain that whilst viewing the footage. Note that you’ll be paying close attention to both aspects: the rider(s) on the screen, and your muscles and breathing as you watch.
Looking at cyclists going downhill can be engaging, exciting, and even nerve-racking! It’s not unusual for viewers to imagine themselves on the bike, carving out lines, hunting for grip, endeavoring to maintain a smooth, relaxed pace. This exercise can be done by itself or as part of the preparation for actual descending, as a relaxed rider will be smoother and faster. Tension never helps!
There is good scientific evidence that a seemingly simple exercise like this helps desensitize the central nervous system to particular stressors. It’s okay to experience a pounding heart, or sweaty palms – whatever state you’re in is your starting point, and this activity is about managing that so that you feel in control when you actually descend.
Tips for Making This Exercise Even More Successful
So, that’s all you have to do. If you like, you can observe the riders’ posture, technique, and choice of lines; I’ve selected videos showcasing aplomb in these respects (center-line rules may apply).
If you search out your own videos, be aware that when you watch a video with musical accompaniment, the music itself becomes a factor in your responses. If the music in your chosen video is not conducive to calm composure, turn the sound off, or supply your own choice. Mellow flavors work best to encourage calmness and focus. Some studies have shown that classical music promotes brain-waves indicating relaxed concentration. Giro winner and world champion Gianni Bugno famously used slow, melodic music to help him relax and build confidence on the bike.
Ambient sound (wind, other riders, braking, and so on) that can certainly be included in the exercise, as noises as much as visuals contribute to apprehension when riding.
This whole activity can be carried out while riding a stationary bike, adding to the realism. If possible, set up your viewing device so that you can adopt relaxed posture while pedaling.
Finally, if you want to, you can give yourself a score (such as ‘marks out of 10’) for “How relaxed was I whilst watching the video?” That can be a fun way to track your mellowness as you view repeated examples.
This process may take time, before you start to feel at ease. You can consider it work-in-progress. Just follow the steps (calm beforehand, focus on breath and muscles during, self-review afterwards), and the benefits will arrive.
Head Coach Paul Page Hanson works with dirt and road riders of all levels on their training, technical and mental skill games. See more about Paul’s mental skills training services here>>>
See Paul Page Hanson’s article and video about finding composure for cycling.
See Paul’s book:You – Racing! An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Cycle Sport