We'd like to talk a bit about downhill. Downhill is the most exciting part of the snow cycling. You can use many techniques you would never use in cycling on asphalt like power oversteer. And the downhill is the part where the gap increases at most. Even among us, it's not rare that the gap increases to 20 minutes on an only 10km-descent. Because among the members, there are who descend at 60km/h and who descend at 20km/h. The speed of downhill really differs among riders. But usually, average riders ride faster than average cars in the downhill.
Unfortunately, among the current members, there's no-one who is specialist of downhill. Among us, Mr.Takahashi and Tesseract are the best at downhill. But both of them are powerless against the descent of national level. So we can't show you proper downhill technique. However, we are going to give you some advice about downhill on snow from our experience that we can provide.
How to descend on snow?
In comparison with the downhill on asphalt, the friction against the road is very big because of studded tires. So the adhesion plays more important role than the air resistance. Therefore, the aerodynamic form like these photos are less effective than on asphalt.
You have to keep pedaling like this to speed and also you should keep pedaling to stay warm.
Moreover, you should use your entire body to balance on snow of which the state changes constantly. Your body has to be flexible to displace the centre of gravity. Movement like a displacement of shoulders will help you balance. And your weight should be supported by the pedals, not by the saddle.
Cornering is very different from that of summer. These photos show the standard cornering style on snow. Studded tires are less effective when they aren't vertical. So you incline only the body in order to keep the tires as vertical as possible.
You may have seen many scenes in which riders grasp the brake handles in the Training reports. It might seem to be strange they grasp them in the downhill if you are used to seeing downhill on asphalt. The centre of gravity of road racing bikes for snow is slightly forward in comparison with normal MTBs. So rear wheels skid easily. Therefore, to compensate it, you grip the brake handles. In addition, it's easier to manoeuvre the bike safely gripping them.
Of course, you can grasp the lower part of the handlebar in corners.
Drifting is a technique you would never use on asphalt. After skidding on snow, it's easy to regain the traction with studded tires. But it's still a dangerous technique. So we don't recommend to use this technique unless you are sure of your skill. Among the members, Tesseract is the only one who perform this technique. However, even his technique, it's not so excellent, therefore, we can't show you images of skilled drifting.
There are several types of drifting. This photo shows a natural drifting in which you enter a corner at a velocity higher than that you can hold the traction. On this photo, it seems the rear wheel skids. But actually its front wheel began to skid and then the rear followed.
Maybe the most known drifting technique is that you perform it locking the rear wheel. But this technique slows down bikes. Tesseract uses this technique only when he entres corners too fast to slow down and turn the bike's direction to the exit of corners.
The most effective and easiest drifting technique is power oversteer (powered drift or power slide). You just pedal hard in corners. When you pedal hard, the rear wheel loses the traction and begins to skid. When the rear wheel skids, the bike turns a bit to the direction of exit of corners and the front wheel stabilises itself. And when you pedal, you better input the power into the exterior pedal stronger so that the wheel doesn't skid too much.
Braking is not so different from that of on asphalt provided you use a pair of good studded tires. However, it's not completely the same. As the centre of gravity of road racing bikes for snow is slightly forward in comparison with normal MTBs, the rear wheel loses the traction more easily. Therefore, Tesseract's power input distribution ratio to the brake levers is usually about 4:1 (front : rear). He uses the rear brake just in order to stabilise the bike. But when he needs hard braking at a high speed, he displaces the centre of gravity backwards standing on the bike and brakes with a distribution ratio of about 3:2 (front : rear) regulating the centre of gravity according to the traction balance between the front tire and the rear tire because the traction balance changes constantly on snow. If you are not sure of your technique, don't imitate Tesseract's power input distribution ratio to the brake levers like 4:1 (front : rear). Using the front brake much harder than the rear brake requires certain skills.
You sometimes need to wear windbreakers to resist the cold of downhill. However, wearing windbreaker is not as easy as that of summer. As winter gloves are too big to pass the sleeves, you often should take off the gloves to wear or take off windbreakers. In this case, the mouth is useful to hold the gloves and sleeves. We've already explained how to wear a windbreaker in the Asari Pass 3. Please refer to this to know more about this. In winter, with heavy studded tires, it's very difficult doing this. Even professional cyclists sometimes crash wearing or taking off windbreakers. So if you are not sure of your technique, you shouldn't do this riding bikes.
We remind you that the downhill is the most exciting part of snow cycling but at the same time, the most dangerous part of snow cycling. You must be prudent enough in speeding and performing difficult techniques.
And the advice above is that for downhill on compacted snow-clad roads. So you can't apply it for icy roads.