How To: Descend Switchbacks Like A Pro

How To Video

Unless you do all your pedaling on the flatlands of Kansas, at some point in time you’re going to have to go down hill on your road bike. And often those downhills involve switchbacks. At first the notion of zipping through tight turns may be a little scary and invoke massive amounts of brake grabbing. But with a little practice and skill development, you’ll soon be embracing one of the great joys of cycling, comfortably slicing in and out of turns.

Here are some basic tips (plus a video tutorial) to help you reach this enlightened turning point.

  • Do the majority of your braking before you enter the turn. Braking while turning can reduce tire grip. Entering slowly also allows you to accelerate out faster, taking advantage of the slingshot effect. Plus, if you take too much speed into a corner you’ll have to run wide and slow way down — and you may end up somewhere you don’t want to be.
  • Enter the turn wide and aim for the apex of the corner, pointing toward the outside of the road as you exit the turn. This makes the corner as wide – and conversely fast – as possible. Just remember that unless you are riding in a closed road situation, there may be a car around the corner so always stay in your lane.
  • Try riding in the drops of your handlebars and make sure to bend your elbows. This helps keep your upper body low, which lowers your center of gravity and increases overall stability
  • When turning, drop your outside foot to the 6 o’clock position and push weight through that pedal. Do the opposite with your hands, placing weight on your inside hand. So with a left hand turn your weight should be on right leg and left hand. You can also try slightly pointing your inside knee in the direction of the turn, which helps create a more stable platform.
  • Don’t stand, but don’t sit. Instead hover over your saddle for better balance and control.
  • When exiting the corner give a few hard pedal strokes. This will help you slingshot out of the turn and get back up to speed.
  • Look where you want to go. The body has a uncanny ability to follow the eyes, so don’t stare at the pothole you’re trying to avoid. Instead focus on the clear path around it.
  • Head to a parking lot and practice. Set a water bottle on the ground in the middle of the lot, and then ride around it utilizing the skills above. Look ahead in the direction of the turn, stick out your knee, drop your outside foot, weight your inside hand, and lean in. As you become more comfortable, increase the speed at which you enter the turn. Soon you’ll be zipping in and out of turns like a pro.

YouTube Preview Image Video Courtesy Global Cycling Network

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures in British Columbia, Belgium, Brazil, Costa Rica, France, and Peru among many others. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in January, 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and edited a book on cycling tips. When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying the great outdoors with his wife Lisa.


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