Are you going round the bend?
Coming back to the mountains after a long lay-off, my descending was much less fluid and less assured than it had been. Especially, I found myself braking in the corners far too often. I knew perfectly well this was a bad practice. It not only reduces speed unnecessarily, it is also unsafe, affecting the balance and adherence of the bike.
I had to do something about it. But what? What was going wrong?
- Was I failing to brake enough in advance, and thus entering the corners with too much speed? Check: No, if anything I seemed to be braking more than I remembered.
- Was I taking the wrong line? Check: enter wide, cut the apex, exit wide: OK.
- Was my body position wrong? Check: hands in the drops, arms bent, upper body relaxed, weight back, outside leg extended: OK.
Finally it came to me. The most basic error of all.
I wasn’t looking far enough ahead.
Instead of turning my head to look right around the corner, I was looking at the road surface a few metres in front of my wheel.
When you look at the road surface just in front of your wheel, several things go wrong.
- Your impression of speed is enhanced, making you apprehensive and want to slow down.
- Your ability to anticipate is much reduced since you are not looking far enough ahead.
- Your bike will naturally go where you are looking, i.e. just in front.
Looking right around the corner on the other hand forces you to turn your head and neck, creating a tension in your upper body that naturally directs the bike in the direction you want to go. It is almost telepathic: look where you want to go and your bike will naturally take you there! QED.