Center of Mass
Want to do yourself a favor? Ignore most of the so-called expert ‘tips for descending’ from ANY publication/website. The narrative of ‘hands must be in the drops’ is relatively false. A riders hands can be in the hoods as well, it all depends on comfort and preference. The narrative that being in the drops lowers a riders CoM is also false…
A humans CoM is located at or near the waist/hip area. NOT at the head or hands. CoM can never be moved. Contrast that to what can be manipulated, which is the Center of Pressure (CoP) in relation to the CoG/CoM. A road rider is relatively ‘static’ on a road bike saddle, so the CoM doesn’t shift much at all. The ONLY way to lower the CoM is to sit on the top tube or utilize a dropper post. Period.
Knee out or not?
To stick a ‘knee’ out or not… you’ve seen the videos, or have watched a mate going through the corners… emulating (or trying to- lol) an SBK or MotoGP rider. Sure it looks cool and it may even be an effective psychological ‘tool’ but the it begs the question… is it really effective? Well no, not really. The idea behind getting a knee out and down on moto is to gauge lean angle and to lower the riders CoM by directing it towards the inside of the curve.
So, as nearly identical as a ‘push’ bike and a motorbike are (with regard to being inline, single-track, two-wheeled vehicles) this is one of three main aspects that are different. (first being weight, second, having a motor and third…the position and distance of the saddle/seat in relation to the ground and handlebars)
A moto bikes CoM is significantly lower than a bicycles CoM. This and the fact that the bicycles BB is too close to the ground, which prevents a rider from dragging a knee on any traditional geometry type bicycle. So, putting a knee out on a bicycle doesn’t necessarily lower the riders CoM, though it does shift the center of pressure. But does it bring the CoP/CoM a bit closer to the inside of the turn? Perhaps, it may be so slight and would depend on other ancillary factors. But if sticking the ‘ol knee out gives you a confidence boost, or provides a more secure feeling, then by all means, have at it!
When Eddie Speaks…you should listen
Some great advice from Four-time World Grand Prix Champion Eddie Lawson-
“Just focus on your riding, what you are doing on the bike. The competition will take care of itself.” Attempt to be less ’emotional’ and more ‘technical’ in your riding approach. Think about how your fingers squeeze the brake, focus on ‘feel’ and front tire grip going into the corner and as you and your bike exit the corner…”
It all begins with Vision…
If I have seen it once, I have seen it hundreds of times… What is it you say…?
A bike rider with his or her head down. Eyes and head looking DOWN. Thee number one Cardinal Sin of bicycling, period. Forget the mundane and silly ‘rules’ which at best, are a sophomoric attempt at elitism and exclusivity. I’m talking about the number one true rule of riding or driving ANYTHING. A bicycle, motorcycle, or automobile.
When you drop your eyes, you have forsaken your forward vision, or as I like to refer to it- (VisionForward©). Your Field of Vision, or FoV© is the most critical aspect of moving. Vision is everything when riding and is not to be lapsed even for a moment. Remember, Speed-is-a-by-product-of-efficiency© Or, Efficiency-Begets-Speed©
Think about how quickly you are covering ground when riding and obviously the faster you ride, the more distance you cover. At any given moment something may impede your path. Something may appear in front of you and you will have maybe a second or two, if you’re lucky to react. In reality, you may only have fractions of a second. Drop your head and vision and now you are basically doomed. Your fate will be sealed. if something were to enter your path, you will, in all likelihood crash or impact whatever is in your path.
Vision, Visual Perception and Situational Awareness are key components of bike handling skills. Unfortunately, bike handling skills are usually an afterthought to most riders. While it is covered briefly or often glossed over here and there, there is virtually little emphasis on improving ones bike handling skills on a regular basis. Just as you might train for hill climbing or TT’s or sprinting, you should be working and/or training on your handling skills nearly every time you venture out on a ride.
Eyes and head down are a riders worst adversary, bar none. When a rider drops his or her head and eyes, they have gone from basically a sight field of 160° to 170° to about half that. The rider is now looking into a shallow box, the Box of Death© is what I like to call it. The most common causes of crashes or spills is slow-er reaction time, due to lack of attention/vision and/or visual perception and also target fixation (which is another sub-topic of visual perception)
Dropping the head and eyes is simply a product of laziness, lack of understanding visual perception skills and overall poor awareness skills. So the take-away here is, whatever you do, do not reduce your sight from the horizon while you are moving. Always, always keep your field of vision up and stay alert. These tasks, put in to practice will increase ones chances of possibly avoiding a crash or potentially minimizing an impact and make for a better and safer rider.