Managing Declines: 7/9/00

By Mike King

Declines are generally easier than inclines but they usually provide way more blood, scraps and bruises than inclines just because when you fall, you fall a lot farther! I don't think there is as much technique to riding downhill as there is to uphill because the balance requirements are less demanding. However, you still need lots of grip, strength in the legs, torque and you need to keep your speed very slow. I think the slower you go the easier. Once you get rolling too fast, it is usually impossible to slow down with out a butt slide down the hill.

1. Same equipment applies for downhill as does riding inclines. If you have a brake on your MUni, then I envy you and none of the following applies. You can just apply the brake and leisurely ride down the slope.

2. You must hold the seat! The biggest problem with downhill is to slow down theMUni and you can't do that with the legs alone unless your cranks extend beyond the edges of your wheel and that won't work too well. Pull up on the seat enough so that you can apply more and more backward pedal pressure to keep your speed down. You can also bend your knees inward so that you can squeeze your legs together and push down off the seat with your thighs. (Ay come on, you already have calluses there anyway, right?) This will let you push even harder backwards. Again, a big heel on your footwear will let you slow the pedal down before it rotates under the vertical position. A big help in keeping a smooth slow speed.

3. Hopefully, you can apply backward pressure hard enough to skid on REAL steep slopes but you'll soon learn that it is so tiring you might as well rip your own legs off! Here is an alternative that doesn't require amputation but it does require good bunny hopping skills and TONS of balance!

4. Obviously, if you can approach a downhill on an angle, and you have the balance to ride along the hill sideways, by all means, make it easier on yourself by riding sideways down the slope. But what if the slope is so steep you hit your up hill pedal or you need to ride down a narrow path. No Problem. Ever watched mogul downhill skiing in the winter. That's right, time to bunny hop/slalom down the slope. You need to turn 120-180 degrees on the slope just as the inward facing pedal is coming over the top of its vertical position. So if you're on the slope and the hill is on the right, just as the right pedal is vertical you need to quickly turn 120-180 degrees to the left so that you are then facing the opposite direction with the left pedal coming up to its vertical position on the hill side. So now, every half rotation you swing 120-180 degrees turning continuously and eventually making your way down the hill.

5. When the hill is very steep, even when you turn 120-180 degrees on the slope, you will pick up too much speed to recover so you need to learn to turn during a bunny hop. You don't need to get airborne when you turn and hop, but you need to take the weight off the wheel to counteract gravity accelerating you downward. On very rough slopes or loose dirt slopes, you'll want to be airborne from the bunny hop about half of your turning time in each direction. This technique looks very sweet in somewhat soft black dirt so that your tire sinks in about an inch and lets you really kick up the dirt on every turn!

Enjoy the slopes people, I hope it give some you some help. If you have your own technique for slopes that works well for you, let me know, I'd love to try it.