this may seem a bit patronising to many but judging by how many riders i see wobbling through corners, braking on the apex, changing their lines on the way in and not pedaling when at the front with others behind when on the straights thus forcing others to brake unnecessarily, it might be worth going on a little about this crucial aspect of riding a bike.
why is it crucial? simple: going downhill at speed is where you are most likely, if you do crash, to be seriously injured or even killed.
if you do find yourself at the front with riders behind you on a descent, always pedal on the straighter sections, unless you are in a tucked position and going so fast that pedaling is redundant. there is a case to be made even here though that you should still be pedaling even if you’re not actually putting any force into the pedals, as it lets others behind know that you are not braking unnecessarily.
if you find yourself at the front and the road is too narrow for others to pass but you feel unsafe at going at that speed, pull to one side, then brake to slow, and let others pass you safely.
brake on the way into the corner, before you reach it, then release the brake and coast through the apex, pedaling once the road allows. braking on the apex is sometimes necessary but only if you have misjudged the approach to the corner. how to stop doing that? practise, practise, and then practise some more. or get to the back.
this will also stop you wobbling and changing line on the corner itself.
finally – and this is one of the best bits of advice i was ever given by that salty old bike dog Roger, who took me under his slightly stinky wing when i was 15 – put your weight on the outside pedal with a straight leg, and do the same with the hand on the inside drop, keeping the upper body straight as you can. this means that with the hand you can make micro adjustments and have greater control, as it is the bike that changes angle to the road and not the rider’s upper body – where most of your weight is.
if you need to practise this, i recommend over-exaggerating the movement til you gain confidence.
where to see a brilliant example of this?
whenever Spartacus goes downhill, as here in his TT bike, you’ll see just that. see how he shifts his weight and the angle of the bike with his outer leg and inner hand, only puts his weight into the corner once the apex has passed and he knows he won’t come off, and chooses a line and commits to it.
then go watch Wiggins, the Schlecks or Pinot to see how not to go downhill.
here’s a decent ‘how to’ on descending.