tips for going downhill


Senior Member
I probably shouldn't admit this, but, I'm nervy of going downhill. Steep downhills. On the London to Brighton bikeride on sunday I overheard cyclists claim that they reached 45mph going down one hill just after Ditchling Beacon. I was cycling with my brakes on for almost the entire way! This wasn't even that steep.

I've always been afraid of heights, and have a deep fear of falling. I'm ok if I know the road, know where the potholes are, and speed bumps, but unknown territory I'm applying brakes the entire way.

I know most cyclists go downhill brakeless, but how do they know that there won't be cars pulling out in front of them, or potholes/speedbumps... surely a sudden brake will have them flying over their handlebars? Am I missing something (courage maybe!)

Are there any techniques for descents that I should know?


Fuelled with Jelly Babies
South Wales
I am glad you posted this as i am also nervous going downhill fast. I allways imagine a dog running out or someother disaster then apply the brakes as other riders fly past me.


Chandler's Ford
Not sure if this will help reassure you.... but don't use your brakes continuously. On a long descent the friction of the pads on the rims can create enough heat to burst your inner tubes.
Brake intermittently, let go each time when you can see clear stretch.
You'll get used to the increased speed gradually.


Lunatic Asylum Escapee
If you're not sure then you did the right thing in using your brakes to slow your decent, it's pretty much down to experience and knowing your limitations of yourself and the equipment you use.

Try dabbing the brakes rather than have them on all the time you can control your decent better that way.

I use my cycle computer to gauge my downhill speed I.E between 30 / 35 MPH as my bike is not designed for great speed, I know above that set top speed, then I’m entering the wobbling zone (bike begins to wobble and control is easy lost) so I dab my brakes from time to time to keep myself within that set limit zone.

Downhill I tend to stand on the pedals and have my body weight set back on the bike I.E lean off the back of the saddle so my weight is on the back wheel and at the same time, have two fingers on each of the brake leavers, that way any emergency stop I have to make, I can put more pressure on the rear brake and light on the front brake and not be thrown over the handlebars.

The more experience you gain the more you’ll understand your limits

Have fun and enjoy


Well-Known Member
Close your eyes :smile:

Nah i'd agree completely with NormanD, especially the technique....

It really is just about riding in a manner that you feel comfortable, and so does the bike.


New Member
If its a public road, like commuting and Audaxes, descend hills as cautiously as you like.

When you come to the top of a steep hill, slow down THEN. You will be able to hold the bike back continuously if you start at a low speed.

Letting the bike freewheel and then trying to slow it requires more energy into the brake friction.

Remember Force = mass x acceleration.

The acceleration in this instance is gravity PLUS the REDUCTION in velocity per time; so if you start at a low velocity, you don't have to reduce it much as you slowly descend the hill.

I have slowly descended steep hills ( Winnats pass ) many times with the brakes ON for the duration. pedestrians have a knack of stepping into the road backward without looking.
I slow down to 6 mph before I hit the descent and hold the bike back on both brakes. Remarkably, at this speed, the back brake does the job OK, leaving the right hand free to push pedestrians back onto the grass verge. :smile:


Somerset UK
Nothing wrong with keeping your speed inside your comfort range.

With experience you'll probably choose to go a bit faster, but there's no need to go fast if you dont want to. I don't usually like going much over 25 mph so I don't.

When I was a typical teenage male with too many hormones I used to go as fast as I could, no speedometers then so goodness knows how fast. An incident in Bristol reformed me though.

Good advice above not to keep the brakes engaged for too long, there's a lot of heat involved. If you don't burst a tyre you may melt the blocks. if you do they go hard afterwards and dont work any more. When I did it I couldn't clean the rim either. Expensive.

Another good way to limit downhill speed is to sit bolt upright and maximise your exposure to the air - make yourself into a human parachute. It works for fast jet aircraft and also for cyclists!

Dan B

Disengaged member
Unless it's an extraordinarily steep hill you are unlikely to go over the bars from braking if you keep your weight back and brace your arms while applying brakes

Sudden bends, gravel, diesel, cows in the middle of the road etc are all good reasons to keep your speed down anyway, but head-over-heels shouldn't be an issue


Somerset UK
jimboalee said:
"In an emergency, pull cord. Penalty for misuse - Pisstake on CycleChat"

Note the name of the article author....... No me.

:thumbsup: and it's made by Nike.

Could have used one of those when I once rode down Countisbury Hill.


New Member
in devon
your not alone, ive become scared of down hills ever since i ended up in a hedge lol thanks for posting this and thanks for the advice. think it will get easier in time i hope

on the road

Über Member
joanna said:
IAm I missing something (courage maybe!)
Yes, not courage but the fact the you don't know the road. Those who say they got up to 45mph have probably been down that road many times before so they've got to know it. One particular hill I go down I've managed to get up to 48mph, but I know the road and know where all the bends are because I've been down that hill many times before. So it's just a case of going down that hill more often and then you'll get to know it and will be able to get down without braking.


New Member
Fife borders
You will find lots of experienced cyclists who don't like descending and some that do (the only time I pass HLaB is on a descent otherwise he disappears into the distance very quickly).

It is all a matter of what you prefer, nothing to be worried about
I think we are all built differently and have different approaches to risk. Generally I'm not a risk taker, however, I have been known to throw myself out of the odd plane, and I absolutely love descending. People have commented in the past, on events, that I descend very quickly and take corners faster than they would, and yet, for me, I am within my comfort zone.

That is the key. We all have our own thresholds for comfort. Keep within yours and never let anyone else bully you beyond it, and most importantly, enjoy! :thumbsup:
on the road said:
Yes, not courage but the fact the you don't know the road. Those who say they got up to 45mph have probably been down that road many times before so they've got to know it.

The fastest I have been on the bike was on a road I had never been on before (Tak Ma Doon at 48mph). I nearly did pay the price though, as I didn't know about the ford at the bottom and somehow I managed to stay upright as I flew (literally) over it at about 40mph! :thumbsup::blush::biggrin:
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