The Thrill of the Descent

You have been pedaling uphill for what seems like forever. Your legs are burning, and you are using every trick you know to distract yourself. Then you feel the pedaling get easier, and when you look up, you can see the crest of the hill and know what lies beyond it.

Descents are one of the big “paybacks” for cycling. This is what you live for, racing down the backside, feeling the wind in your face, and rush of Adrenalin knowing it is critical you be alert to the road conditions.

Add in that you might be in the middle of a pack and making descents which include hairpin turns, you know your heart will be beating only this time from excitement rather than exertion.

For Elite riders, these descents can reach mind-numbing speeds. Tour Riders have been clocked making descents at upwards of 65 mph or 110 kph.  It also makes clear that Elite riders must possess their own unique brand of courage.

Important Aspects of Descents

In this section, we will discuss several important aspects related to descents.

  1. The forces in play during descents including aerodynamic drag which unlike ascents is a significant factor.
  2. The role of potential energy created by the cyclist and which gets translated on the descent into kinetic energy.
  3. How aerodynamic drag creates a Terminal Velocity that impacts how fast a cyclist makes a descent.

Next Topic:    Descent Dynamics


Cycling as seen through the eyes of elite cyclists.