Descending- How To

By Swiss Miss, TrainingPeaks Certified, and ALP Coach Patricia Schwager

 There is no better feeling than flying down a descent on your bike. At least for me- I just love going fast and the feeling of (high) speed on my bike. Good descending skills are an advantage; races can be lost or won on descents. I think I’m allowed to say that I’m good at descending fast, but that wasn’t always the case. Of course, many years of racing experience play a big role. But, I also had to put in some work in my descending skills; my skills weren’t just there from one day to the next.

Here are some tips on how to descend better and faster.

Like any skill, the best way to become better at something is to really work on it. Ask someone that is good at descending to ride with you- follow that wheel while descending. You can learn a lot of things that way: how to choose a good line, when to brake and how to move your body on the bike.


It’s mid August and that means CX season is right around the corner. ALP Coach Alison Powers has created an 8-week training plan that will get you in the best shape of your life to start the CX season strong and prepared- and it’s only $100.


-Trust yourself and your bike. Start small and at low speed- go to an empty parking lot, set up some cones or water-bottles and train the basics. Get your cornering dialed in before you ride long, fast and tricky descents. 

-Hold your handlebars correctly. Have your fingers at brake levers but don’t cramp- relax. Place your hands in the drops, elbows bent and tucked in, if you aren’t pedaling keep pedals level, knees slightly bent and tucked in too.

-It is very important that you stay relaxed. If your body is tense it will transfer to your bike and makes it much more difficult to control and steer.

-Don’t try any crazy aero tuck positions. It looks cool and is very fast but it isn’t safe, and doesn’t allow for much recovery.

-Steep descents: sight slightly back in the saddle to move the weight more back.

-Pedal as long as you can- if you are running out of gears then you can coast. This is also better for your muscles- it helps to keep them warm.

 -Look/ think ahead and that means far ahead. Looking just in front of your wheel is a bad choice when descending fast. Because of the speed, you need a lot more time to react. Look through a corner- put your focus on the exit of the corner. Your bike will go where you focus your view!

-Brake late but brake before the corner- and use both brakes.

-Lean your bike not your body. Lean your bike in the direction the road bends and you will go through turns nice and smoothly. No need to turn the handlebars or lean your body more than your bike.

corneringline-Choose a good line, outside- inside- outside. Approach a corner from the outside. Going to the outside of the road helps you to have better visibility as you process where the apex of the corner is and start looking for the exit.

Then hit the apex (center of the turn) on the inside. This allows you to take the straightest line and maintain the highest speed through a corner. Take your line to the outside again at the exit of the corner.

-Cornering: brake before the corner→ pedal position: inside pedal is up/ outside pedal is down (very important is to put pressure on the outside leg/pedal!)→ going into turn- push inside hand →keep head and shoulders over outside foot!

We are happy to help! ALP Cycles Coaching offers skills clinics (1-on-1, group, team, club). We can teach you proper descending skills on the bike and at speed.


ALP Cycles Coaching is located in the mountains of Colorado, and is a cycling coaching company with over 25 years of professional sports experience. ALP Cycles Coaching is unique in that it has 3 female coaches, Alison Powers, Jennifer Sharp, and Patricia Schwager. Each brings her own coaching strengths and personal experiences. We work together to create a training plan that works for each and every person.

As an athlete of ALP Cycles Coaching, you will receive monthly training plans, phone calls, e-mail updates, and “hands on coaching” with athlete training rides and/or workout sessions. You also receive discounts toward ALP Cycles training camps, skills clinics, clothing, and race/team tactics lessons.


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