Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Knowing Our Limits



It was about a month ago that it first happened, this role reversal of sorts. It was a beautiful autumn day and I was cycling with my husband down a winding descent. Not too steep, not too tight, the kind  - I thought - where I can pick up speed with a calm confidence, especially if I know the road. It was a crisp sunny morning, with golden foliage scattered over the road and glistening after the rain.

I was riding slightly ahead. And on approaching a bend, bordered by a stone wall, I could suddenly hear behind me: "Slooow!"

Snapping out of my half-daydream, I scanned for whatever obstacle he must have noticed, but saw none. So I proceeded around the bend. A few seconds later he caught up with me. "Oh my god. Are you okay? Did you not hear me shouting?"

"Yes, sorry. What was that all about?"

"What was that all about! Are you joking? You can't corner on a wet road at that speed."

"What do you mean I can't? I just did."

"Yes, I know you did! Did you not feel your traction going? I nearly lost my front wheel there."

"Traction going? Nope. How would that even feel?"

"...!!"

At this stage I can practically see his mental struggle to take a deep breath and keep calm, and suddenly it dawns on me: He is actually worried about me; he thinks I did something dangerous on the bike! In all our time cycling together, this has never, ever happened before, and the novelty of the situation prevents me from taking it seriously.

I laugh. I tell him that if there is one thing I do know about bike handling, it's how to ride on wet roads, snowy roads, slippery roads. How else would I have survived winters in New England?

"Yes. But you never used to descend this quickly even in the driest weather. I spent all summer encouraging you, so now I feel responsible."

Later we have a talk about cornering and road conditions and I promise to be more careful.

Then two weeks later it happens again.

It is clear now there is a discrepancy. He thinks I am being reckless, or - worse -  am unable to tell safe road conditions from dangerous ones. Whereas I think I am being careful, that I judge the road conditions to be safe for the speed I am doing (and doesn't the fact that I do make it around the bend, prove my judgment to be sound?).

Of course when a loved one is genuinely worried about us, it's not about debating a point. It is not up for debate.

But the situation did get me thinking. How do we determine what is safe for us?...

I can think of several ways.

The most obvious one is fear. We talk about being fearless, as if that's a desirable characteristic to aim for. But fear has an evolutionary purpose. It serves a protective function, our body's way of alerting us to an activity it deems dangerous. The overly-cautious among us perhaps give into it more than necessary. The reckless ones ignore it entirely. The lucky ones develop an instinct for when to listen and when to ignore.

There is also the trial and error method. We can start by pushing the boundaries a little. And if that proves okay, we can push them some more. Then some more. Ideally, we would do this until we have a close call (and  hopefully not an actual crash or injury), which is how we come to know exactly where the danger zone lies.

An alternative method - useful for those whose fear gauge is broken, or who are not the experimenting type  - would be to follow the logic-based route: to rely on laws of physics, and on the rules taught to us by more experienced riders. When our instincts are lacking, or letting us down, it's a good method. But to use it in leu of what our own intuition is telling us can be a struggle.

The cold season is upon us, providing plenty of opportunities for caution.

How do you know your limits on the bike? And has this changed as you gain in experience?



41 comments:

  1. Known knowns, known unknowns, unknown unknowns... none of them matter. I'm not afraid of what "might happen", only of what has already happened, happening again.

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  2. I think I know my limits because I have come very close to passing them a few times. Twice, descending steep, twisty gravel roads on D2R2, I came close to crashing as I cornered too quickly. Ironically, the first time was because I had taken a hand off the bars to wave to the EMTs who had been stationed there, since it was a hill where crashes had occurred before and it was out of cell phone range. There have been a couple other descents on pavement where I've been concerned about losing my brakes, and have had to stop to let my rims cool, especially on my Bike Friday.

    I have become a far more confident cyclist over the last decade or so. Or at least I feel that way. I hope it's really confidence and not foolhardiness!

    My spouse is more cautious than me, but I don't think she believes that I'm being reckless. She's not sure she wants to ride downhill on a tandem with me, though.

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  3. Imagination works for me. I imagine how much skin I could scrape off on the pavement at 30 mph and that pretty quickly becomes as fast as I want to go on a steep hill. Or I might imagine how badly broken I would be if I were to drop off the pavement and go into the trees. On the tandem I imagine how I would feel if my stoker got hurt because I lost focus or failed to think ahead. To answer the question, I don't know my true limits and don't want to find out the hard way.

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  4. Great point: been thinking of this the last couple of days here in Toronto. We've had very fair weather up 'till now. Yesterday morning was a little dicey in terms of ice on the road. Really curios how others will add some insight from their experiences. It's been several years since I've done any winter riding at all and was being likely overly cautious both mornings. Thanks for all of your lovely posts!

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  5. I've solved the gut clenching, white knuckled, teeth grimacing fear of going too fast in sharp downhill corners by riding fixed gears almost exclusively on the road, with the result that my already hesitant downhill and cornering skills have further atrophied. But I don't mind, since, really, I find climbing more fun than descending. When I ride with my brother, I can match or beat him on the inclines, but downhill, especially on sketchy surfaces, notably dirt, we are from different worlds. I do enjoy (from a vantage point well to the rear) watching his rear wheel skip and slide as he skillfully negotiates fast downhill corners on dirt, and see him expertly catch himself when faced with an unexpected obstacle mid-trail. (Not too long ago, riding unsuspended, early NORBA-type mountain bikes on fire roads in the LA area, he was just slightly slower than the fastest rider 25 years his junior on the latest in full suspension. He beat all of them on the uphills. (He's mid 50s -- my baby brother! I'm almost 6 years older -- riding with a crowd that includes 20-somethings.)

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  6. Interesting. I've known many good riders who just can't get themselves to corner quickly-wet or dry. I've also known others to complain of speed wobbles. I've even been next to one of those, at only about 20 MPH.

    I suspect you were fine. Bike tires take a lot to cut loose on wet pavement.

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  7. As with many things in life weather in sports or anything else we take baby steps as we learn but many of us regularly put ourselves outside our comfort zone to test the boundaries. That is how evolution has programed us. This is how we learn and progress. Thus you suddenly realize that six months or a year ago what challenged you now feels comfortable...and you continue if you want to advance, Starats

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  8. I wonder if tire width is not an unmentioned factor here, with yours being probably more generous than your husband's? But to your question, in matters involving skill it is not obvious where the boundary between safe and unsafe lies. Natural ability and frequent practice can render safe for you what seems risky to me.
    We do risky things all the time and mostly get away with it until a close call or an accident checks our boldness. This is not necessarily a bad thing and I defend that in cycling most falls are salutary rather than truly dangerous. It is a more serious matter for activities where mistakes can easily kill, such as driving. Society reacted to the letality of driving by imposing conventional limits that do not take into account individual levels of skill. This is necessary and justified but still a poor solution, as the daily news reminds us.
    Professions and sports that are inherently dangerous demonstrate a better approach which I find very interesting. They develop a culture where the emphasis is less on hard limits than on education, training and frequent testing of proficiency. Essentially, the process of trial and error takes place collectively rather than being repeated by each individual, with mechanisms to to avoid complacency and for passing forward the lessons learned.
    It is interesting to see that new sports need a few years to develop such a culture. Hang gliding for example was born in the sixties but only became safety conscious in the eighties. Paragliding went through the same learning curve a few years later. Both repeated the process that aviation underwent almost a century ago.
    As for us, let's keep it simple. Let's ride, have the occasional spill, join a club to absorb some lore, and have fun.

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    1. Good points about driving and sport.

      25mm tyres both. But I think having learned to ride a road bike on 42mm tyres to begin with has influenced my general perception of what constitutes "safe" road conditions, in a way I can't get my brain to undo even when I ride narrow tyres.

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  9. Wet roads are not like dry roads, and it's easy to get surprised. (I'm sure I've said this to my teenage daughter more times that she appreciates.) But since you have a wealth of experience in the wet, my theory is that what's changed for you now is due partly to coaching, and partly due to the fact that your bike is much better behaved than your husband's. Dare I assume you were riding your custom-made Seven? I have nearly the same model, and these things descend like they're on rails. There's no comparison to the stock-sized chromoly steel steeds I used to ride. On those, I was comfortable decending a canyon at perhaps 32 mph, but on my perfectly designed and fitted Elium I can now hit 52 mph, which seems to be the limit imposed by my height-to-weight ratio. Judging from the pictures you've posted, your husband's bike is a lovingly rebuilt classic, but it probably doesn't fit or track like yours does. On the other hand, maybe you were riding one of your utility bikes. If so, it's probably very stable by design, and has three times as much rubber on the tarmac as your husband's bike does. One other thing: as a compactly-built female, your center of gravity is much lower than that of your male riding partner.

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  10. Harry says:- Knowledge dispels fear ! Or something like that. I think it is the surprise of these 'moments' that is the most disconcerting. Having a wheel slip sideways on a road bike on a road bike ride can be quite unsettling, whereas on a muddy rainy ride on an MTB this is fun and is to be encouraged. I ride all year round and am fortunate to have the choice of several bicycles. One of my favourite routes (I'm in France) is 50% road and 50% disused railway track, in winter the track is great fun, covered in fallen leaves, fine gravel in parts and two inches of icy mud in others. Having ridden this loop for several years now I am quite relaxed about having the road wheels slip and slide, added to that the heavy coating of mud that results burnishes my hardman image. Getting out and riding in 'weather' is the way forward.

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  11. Sometimes it is not about your own limits, or skill level, it is surely about environmental limits, or the limits of the bike you are riding, e.g if the bike is being ridden in a setting or manner it is not designed to be ridden in ..... and then there are accidents which happen for no immediately obvious reason. Recently I had a hard fall while riding trails, I am an experienced trail rider, I have been riding for many years, I did not consider that what I was doing, at the time of the accident was testing my limits. Fortunately nothing was broken (neither on my person nor on my bike), but I was very bruised for some time. I examined the area where I fell in order to discover what had happened, without going into great detail, I had been riding a trail which had been under flood waters and then had been driven over by some vehicle while still quite muddy. This created deep ruts along the section of track which I was headed towards at a rather fast pace, too fast to pull up so I just powered through as I have done in many such situatons. Looking at
    the track I could see that at some point my front wheel has touched a ridge which has then crumbled and my bike has lost traction momentarily. This was sufficient to cause my bike to go down and me with it; I can still remember the thud of my helmet on the hard track and I gave thanks for laws here which require cylists to wear helmets. I was riding my bike in the terrain for which it was intended, there was nothing obviously risky about that secton of track and I am an experienced rider. In the situation you describe, a wet road and a descent at speed would, I believe, flag a danger sign. Road bikes are perfect bikes, designed to be ridden optimally on perfect roads, in perfect conditions, anything less than this immediately increases the risk of an accident. Please listen to those who have more experience than yourself and those such as your husband who has a vested interest in your safety and well being.

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    1. https://buenavibracycling.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/40fd1ad170ea1fee51bee3ddc32e2d88o-scaled1000.jpg

      That is the great Cochise Rodriguez on a mountain descent with less than perfect roads. If you call that a road. If the road is still there beneath the flood waters. Road bikes do quite well in less than optimal conditions. This would be a good place to throw in a photo of Andy Hampsten descending the Gavia in a blizzard but I don't think there are any. The photos from the ascent are all from before it got really bad. Once it got bad no car or motorcycle could continue. But the road bikes kept going. Road bikes are capable bikes.

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  12. "... and doesn't the fact that I do make it around the bend, prove my judgment to be sound..."

    No, not at all. I will assume that in this particular case your judgment was informed by a great deal of information not specified in the post and that you were not foolhardy. But the proposition as stated is completely fallacious. It is also the way most people behave.

    "I got away with it, I have been getting away with it" proves nothing. A completely parallel case would be Russian roulette. The gun has been held to temple five times, the trigger pulled five times, nothing bad has happened. See, it is perfectly safe. It's fun! If manoevre X on the bike has a 1% chance of catastrophic failure you don't want to do it habitually. But if the failure rate is only 1% you might practice X for quite a long time assuming that all is fine. Either with the revolver or with the bike additional information is required.

    If your husband slipped and you didn't there are multiple possible inferences. I won't firmly support any of them but will present them. Possibly he hit a slick spot that you missed. If the descent has slick spots you were going too fast, just counting on luck to miss them. Or possibly you are a better descender than your husband. Or possibly your inflation pressure was better suited to the occasion than was his. The possibility provided by a commenter above, that your bike is better than his, strikes me as extremely remote but it just could be the case. There are a lot of things we don't know and may never know. Still, the fallacious and the non-factual should be excluded from our information base.

    I am not afraid on the bike. At all, ever. The bike is so inherently stable and has saved me from my own stupidity so many times that the bike is trusted completely. There are a lot of things beyond my skill level that other people do I have no interest in trying. There are things I used to do when younger that just don't interest me anymore. On descents getting into an aero tuck and working the corner for ultimate speed is no longer interesting. So 50mph instead of 55mph. But not because of fear. Fear and cycling don't mix.

    Even in the instant before a crash ( hasn't happened for 17 years) instead of yielding to fear I am riding the bike, working to minimize consequences. No fear.

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    1. Oh I know, I know. I was only illustrating the intuitive thought process.

      My husband maintains there was no difference in our bicycles' setups, including tyre pressure, and I agree. His take is that I've gotten lucky so far, but the luck will run out if I keep doing this.

      My take is, that I am probably better than he gives me credit for at "picking out a line," even at speed, along dry patches of road. It is possible that I do this without realising or even noticing, conditioned by several years of regular cycling in sloppy winter road conditions the likes of which are uncommon in Ireland but very common in New England. I mean, I did rides like this one on 23mm tyres. It was bound to rub off on me in a skillbuilding fashion.

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    2. "My husband maintains there was no difference in our bicycles' setups, including tyre pressure, and I agree."

      Presumably you are both the same weight? Otherwise you would need different pressures to have the same tyre drop.

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    3. equivalent tyre pressure, in proportion to weight

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    4. If you were able to hear your husband behind you at all you were not descending screaming fast. If you were indulging in picking a line you were not going fast. Which seems appropriate to me on a wet descent with leaves.

      On a slightly different point from the post - have you really never felt traction going? If the answer is never ever, it just doesn't happen, then you are riding very moderately indeed. Which is fine. But there are other ways to ride which are also safe.

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  13. Good article and an interesting question. You can only find the absolute limits by exceeding them. Which isn't good. So most of us edge ever closer to a limit that we find acceptable.

    I am in the middle of this process as I learn to ride a recumbent. Things I would happily speed down on a "normal" bike, and even faster on a tandem, I seem to inch down on the lying down machine. Yet, I know that it should be possible to go down faster; it probably will be at some point if I keep at it.

    Regardless of how we find our limits, and whether they are mental limits or physical ones, I hope everyone does it safely and without dire injury.

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  14. Steve from WestchesterNovember 23, 2016 at 12:45 PM

    It always amazes me to watch a Moto-GT biker laying it down on the footpegs in the wet. How do they obtain such traction??? I've personally dumped a Kawasaki 750 in the wet going no more than 5mph. It's all about two things; tire traction and road surface. On a racetrack, generally the surface is predictable; on a mountain road not so much. A racing motorcycle has massive wet grip due to ultra soft tires. You have neither of these things on a bicycle going down a mountain road. Certainly some tires have more grip than others. Bike racers use lower pressures in the rain. But there's no accounting for road surface. Differences in pavement type can that all have good grip in the dry can be vastly different in the wet. Surface oils can be an issue, especially when it first starts raining, and also down the center of where the cars run. But cars also drop more oil when they are braking, so watch out in the breaking zones. Painted lines on the road can be particularly treacherous.

    This is just not an exact science; too many unpredictable factors. It's why you see pro racers crashing on a regular basis when it rains. But they are being paid to win; you are not being paid to descend as fast as possible in the wet. So since you're not being paid, why risk a crash? In all likelihood, you're not wearing leathers and a real crash helmet...you could easily get seriously injured. I've fallen in the wet even while trying to stay well within my limits; it's always something I didn't anticipate, like hitting a single leaf.

    Just take your time in the wet and stay safe.

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    1. Ah yes. Paint and rain. Descending a well known road with the slightest dampness. Drifted (safely mind you) into the inside oncoming lane, then back out to exit. Crossed the painted centerline. The bike _instantly_ stepped the three-inch width of the line as I crossed. Decades later still amazed I didn't go down. Woke me up though!
      Cheers!

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  15. Steve nails it. It's all about the road surface. The best rider in the world won't stay upright if he hits a diesel spill on a wet road while cornering. Not that diesel is likely on a mountain road but a patch of gravel or leaves might be enough.

    I'm happy hitting high speeds downhill in perfect conditions, I've done over 50mph on a tandem on a dry straight traffic free stretch. On wet roads I don't like leaning the bike. I may be over cautious but I don't want to find the limit of grip while cornering at speed. I've done it once on a motorbike in the dry. I was lucky and wasn't injured. I don't want to push my luck.

    It isn't the speed though it's the lean angle. If you are leaning far over cornering fast the chance of recovery if you hit a surface hazard is minimal. If you are closer to vertical you have more options. You can tighten or loosen the line round the corner to avoid a pothole or gravel patch. If you are already cornering as fast as you can then the choices are fewer.

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  16. My greatest fear is not speed or cornering, but riding on loose dirt or gravel. I've fallen several times on shifting dirt roads - it literally feels like the ground just slides out from under me, and at this point I'm just terrified anytime there's loose dirt or gravel even on an otherwise paved trail. CatMan's response to this has been "OK... let's take up mountain biking!" Great... so now it's not just dirt, but giant rocks and logs in the trail! He thinks I just need more practice, but I'm not entirely sure it's helping my fear. Any advice for riding on loose dirt?

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    1. Practice helps assuming that our attempts become progressively more successful, our experiences more positive. Otherwise it can actually make the fear more deep-rooted.

      Everyone is different and I don't assume you are anything like I was when I first started trying to ride on unpaved terrain. But it won't hurt to ask: Are you by chance braking and slowing dramatically just as you enter the loose dirt? My own breakthrough came when I realised that doing this makes things worse, not better. Once I "learned to relax" (I know, it's like trying not to think of an elephant) and not do anything dramatic-panicky, that I began to understand how to keep my balance even on tricky-slidey stuff like huge loose gravel and sand.

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    2. Dirt is far more predictable than pavement. Dirt is far more forgiving than pavement.

      If your bike is not perfectly stable on dirt it is not stable on pavement either. You just don't pay attention to that instability because the pavement seems more familiar. Don't take chances, don't push yourself. Make your bike stable. Your bike is inherently and massively stable. If it doesn't feel that way to you the problem is not the bike but the way you are riding the bike. Put the saddle down. Way down. Lower center of gravity is always more stable. Forget power and think stability. Put the saddle all the way back. Wider tires. Lower pressure.

      If doing any of the above sounds like anathema, like something you wouldn't do to a nice road bike, get a different bike. Get something simple and easy like a Chicago-built Schwinn Hollywood. There are many fewer choices in how you set up a bike like that and it would be hard to get it wrong. Get comfortable on dirt with a very simple bike. When you go back to the faster bike don't settle for one bit less comfort than you had on the coaster brake cruiser.

      When I was growing up country roads went from pavement to gravel to dirt and no one thought a thing of it. If you wanted to take a nice long ride in the country you were going to spend some miles on dirt roads. It never even occurred to us that pavement and dirt were not ordinary environments for riding bike.

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    3. Belated thanks for the replies. I do think that I tend to panic when I see dirt coming, and I'm sure that's part of the problem. At this point I'm getting better when I'm on the mountain bike, but on the road bike I still have to remind myself (sometimes out loud) not to turn, or brake or do ANYTHING when I'm on the dirt... which works as long as you're on a small patch of it on an otherwise paved surface. But when there's a long detour over a dirt path, for instance - and said detour curves... what's a girl to do? I'm OK as long as the surface is relatively hard, but when there's more than an inch or two of soft stuff, I just can't quite figure out how to navigate it. For the moment my tactic is to unclip my pedals as soon as I see anything potentially treacherous coming so at least if I start to go down I can more easily put a foot down. And I wouldn't mind falling in soft dirt if it weren't for the large rocks scattered about - last time I fell I hit my hip on a boulder and it was... unpleasant! I guess I'll just have to keep repeating "don't panic, don't panic, don't panic" and maybe some day I'll convince myself not to! :-)

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  17. Rule 64. Cornering confidence increases with time and experience.

    This pattern continues until it falls sharply and suddenly.

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  18. It seems the main issue is being missed here. I am an experienced cyclist, but I went down in a heap last year with no warning because of wet leaves on the road. I was just going round a cul-de-sac in my neighborhood that I have negotiated hundreds of times before when my bike suddenly slid out from under me with no warning. When I related the incident to my LBS manager, who is a very experienced mountain bike racer, he said that wet fallen leaves are referred to in mountain biking circles as "brown ice." Beware the brown ice!

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    1. Overconfident on the way to work the day after my first and only cyclocross race. Took the bike I had raced. Jumped a curb and crossed grass toward the sidewalk. Leaned a bit to get aligned with the pavement. Under the leaves, dog poo. Slid and put the front tire sideways against the pavement edge, fell on the poo, broke a brake lever on the sidewalk, tore my jacket. Not even descending. Brown ice!

      A farcical story, but it taught me for the third or fourth time that you have to be more cautious than the visible circumstances and your skills would seem to warrant.

      Walter

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  19. Descending ability impaired by age and too much knowledge. In the younger carefree days racing down the bishops roads both sides at 50mph+ didn't take a fizz. Sometimes exceeding the limits bouncing off the 5 bar gate half way down or writing off a frame near downhill just didn't register. Now I see all the farm vehicles, traffic and farm animals. The narrow road and inability to pull up quickly leave me much more cautious these days. You can still make yourself do it but you have to push through the fear. Fear that just wasn't there many years ago.

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  20. Could weight be a factor? It seems possible that a lighter rider might have an easier time redirecting their momentum. -Matt

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  21. Personal capabilities also change with the capabilities of the equipment. Those who remember cycling before the mid-70's will again cringe at the brake pad technologies of the time.

    The twisty portion of Gist Road, above Los Gatos in the San Francisco Bay Area, drops about 410 feet in about 0.7 mile, an 11% grade, passing through eight hairpins. This was a road I knew well from driving. On my first bicycle descent, in the mid-70's, I was riding with the classic Weinmann centerpulls with the original brake pads. Nearly running off the road into the first hairpin due to extreme brake fade, I needed to WALK down the road.

    This caused me to install the then new Scott Mathauser brake holders and pads. In addition to the cool "cooling fins", they used a new pad compound that has evolved into the current "salmon" type pads. During my re-descent, not only did I no longer need to walk the bike, but could pedal aggressively between the hairpins.

    During a later group ride, I charged into a sharp curve near the top of Page Mill Road, easily making the turn. Those following, however, experienced significant brake fade, some nearly crashing, and wondering how I had managed. It certainly wasn't superior skills, but a newfound technology resulting in newfound confidence.

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    1. Original equipment Weinmann pads were as bad as you say. There were pads in the old days much better than that. I am using a set of no-name pads from the late 1950s. With 1950s Weinmann brakes. Koolstop salmon pads were tried on the same bike and were no better than the as found pads. Old Mafac pads from the 50s and 60s were uniformly pretty good but those dry out in time. In the old days riders who had somehow managed to get hold of the good stuff had an enormous advantage. Letting everyone have access to the good stuff is a much better situation.

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  22. I wonder if you two just have different cornering styles. If you're more relaxed and keep a bit more of your weight off the bars while cornering and so keep your center of gravity nearer the middle of the bike than you could simply be loading the front wheel less and not feeling the same nibbly nervousness of a bike fixin to slide that your Husband might be experiencing on his bike in the same situation.(Hey, dig that last sentence, like 70 words and NO punctuation till the period at the end. Sign of a Pro I think.) If He tenses a wee bit and moves forward on the bike as he leans into a fast corner like a lot of people do(and aren't aware that they do)then he will definitely feel the front tire loading up and wanting to follow every squiggle and bump more than you. Maybe...

    I fall down more than ANYONE on this blog and it's typically not because of doing dumb s#!t so much as doing dumb s#!t while about half terrified. When I stay relaxed and let my old friend the Iron Donkey take care of me I don't fall near so much, but let me go trying to "drive" the bike and I start getting all clenchy and worrying too much and, well, then I fall down.

    Of course it might be something entirely different but it makes me feel smart and cool to have an opportunity to use words like "center of gravity", "nibbly", and "dumb s#!t" so this post met my needs really well...

    Thanks!

    Spindizzy

    P.S. I hope you never fall down.

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    1. Hi Spin

      Center of gravity, yes. I was just talking to an old retired pro about some of this. He told me about some antique closed to motor vehicles road in the Bavarian Alps that went up at 24%. He was there a week or so and did repeats on the monster. He never made it down faster than a crawl. Most days he was passed downhill by a local, a ten year old girl on a prehistoric omafiets with plunger front brake. She had center of gravity working for her. He could descend with his shorts rubbing on the back tire and still could not match the CG of that omafiets.

      We all get dumb on the bike. Surviving dumb is the trick. You seem to have it.

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  23. Spindizzy might have a point here when he talks about weight distribution. If you keep your weight mostly off the bars, with your lower center of gravity the bike will sure be more stable through the turns.

    I am wondering if G's pilot training is making him the more cautious one here. Aircrew are constantly watching for "normalization of deviance" to keep from ingraining sloppy habits, leading to catastrophe at some later point.

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    1. Oh, dear, my writing...

      I meant "Aircrew are constantly watching for "normalization of deviance" to keep from ingraining sloppy habits which could lead to catastrophe at some later point."

      And yes, I also hope you do not fall.

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  24. I find anyone descending slower than me is insecure, timid and possibly lacking skill. Anyone faster than me is reckless and foolish ;-)

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  25. As a 47 year old (and growing) commuter, I must say that it's indeed 'know your limits', as earlier posters mention. Unfortunately, it also helps to know the rate of change/decline of your limits and perhaps to do some calculus on where you're at on that curve. I bought studded tires a few years ago, as I decided 'waiting for the first fall-off in late fall' was no longer working for me. As a husband myself, I hope the slightly patriachal tone of husbands/men advising wives/women on stuff because we care about them can be excused because mean well. XOXO to all.

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  26. Karl nailed it for me! The fact is, some riders just have a better feel for bike handling than others. Sure, tires make a difference, as does road surface, quality of brakes, et al. But in the end, it's the rider's feel for how it's all working together around a fast mountain curve. One thing I learned from some former Cat 1 guys, keep CoG low by loading up the pedals with your weight when you go into a curve, less weight on the saddle. Your body english should do most of the turning, your head pointing the way, weight on the pedals.

    I'm pretty much a middle of the pack rider, until we get to downhills. I just love the thrill of bombing it - conditions allowing. I have a good feel for the bike and the tires on the road. But it is condition driven. The mountains, especially in cooler months, are notorious for damp spots in the shade and in winter that damp spot may be black ice. Cool the jets. Live until another dry, warm day and then let it all hang out. One caveat, the one that caught the women's Olympic road race leader - one tire on wet, one tire on dry in a curve will flip you like a pancake. Go fast, have fun, be safe!

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