Handling Long Descents On Your Mountain Bike

by | Mar 23, 2022 | Bike, Skills, Skills & Setup

We’re taking a look at some important skills, preparations and bike setup tips that you should be thinking of in preparation for the KAP sani2c Adventure and Race coming up on the 11th to 14th of May.

In this video and article we are talking about helpful techniques for handling long descents such as the renowned Umko Drop on day 2 of the KAP sani2c! Long descents can be quite taxing on the body and bike but there are a few things you can focus on that will make them a little easier.

Preparing For sani2c: Handling Long Descents

One of the first things you can do to save your bike and body is to adopt a good braking technique. We spoke in our last video and article about “on / off” braking vs dragging your brakes, be sure to check that out if you haven’t seen it yet!

A significant energy expenditure that occurs when you are descending is in pedalling out of corners to get back up to speed. Braking well before the corner so that you can let go through the apex and out the exit means you need to do less accelerating with your legs and can save that energy for the climbs.

Handling Long Descents On Your Mountain Bike
Get your braking done right and you will be carrying comfortable speed though the corners and technical trail segments!

Lastly on the topic of brakes, it is worth noting that the more powerful your brakes are the less energy you need to slow down and this can save your arms big time on a long descent! Some people like to have their brake levers positioned quite downward facing, this can pull your weight forward and tires your arms out on a descent. Tilting your brake levers up can help to relax your hands and arms on the descents.

Elevating your handlebars (either by installing a bar with more rise or using the stem spacers to jack it up a bit) can also take the weight off your hands on the descents. Small adjustments here can make a big difference and it is worth experimenting a bit to see what suites you.

Handling Long Descents On Your Mountain Bike
Adding spacers underneath the stem lifts the front end of your bike, taking weight off of your arms.

Last year we talked about dropper posts and their value at a races such as the sani2c, and the same rules still apply. Being able to lower your seat can help you ride corners and technical terrain more confidently, therefore less braking and less work accelerating back up to speed. This is part of the reason why pedalling less on a descent can often be faster. If gradient is steep enough, energy can be better expended on good riding technique than trying to pedal when you get a chance. Avoiding pedalling, unless it is crucial to hold your speed, can save you some matches that will come in handy later. We hope you’ve been training for the Unitrans Iconic climb!

Finally, and this should be an obvious one, is choosing the path of least resistance. All the little bumps and manoeuvres throughout the day add up. That is why I’m usually so finished at the end of a stage race because I can’t help but play around and ride the creative lines. But if you can stick to the smoothest lines that require the least bike input to ride, that will all add up over the course of a few hours to save you some real energy. Having your suspension and tires supple enough to absorb those bumps can go a long way as well.

Keep an eye out for some setup tips coming in the next few weeks.Once again, if any of the setup advice seems too complicated, get a bike savvy friend to help you out or speak to your local bike shop! Keep these things in mind as you go about your sani2c training rides and don’t be afraid to experiment with the bike setup. Don’t miss out on following the racing from sani2c on their Instagram Stories come 12 May!

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