Help a Lightweight Rider Descend (Fast!)

I’m sure all the relevant hints and tips are out there (somewhere), so please humour me :smile:

Finally recovered from the ignominy of being dropped by my own team during last night’s WTRL TTT (descent of the NYC Knickerbocker Rev). Was leading the team over the top and actually rode ahead to try and get a few seconds lead on the descent (big mistake methinks).

Anyway, about half-way down, the team came thundering past and despite valiant attempts ( :grin:) I was never close to getting back on. I was on the Tron and weigh 57 kg.

So, what is the best approach to take during a race for such descents (quite steep, reasonably long). Try to stick with a group and draft all the way. What happens if you’re isolated/solo; supertuck or keep the power on all the way?


I’m almost positive you would have been better off staying with the group.

Let’s assume you have the few seconds lead on the group and you’re doing the same or even slightly higher power than needed had you stayed w/the group. Even on the flat, when the group comes and you want to jump on, you will need to jump in order to get on. Now add the following:

  • You’re racing a TTT which means the speed/power are already close to your limit.
  • The draft/speed effect of the group in Zwift.
  • The downhill speed.
  • You’re 57kg on a downhill solo.

The rest of team at full gas rolling downhill in a group is a tall order for you to jump on unless you jump early and hard to get back on. Long story short, rotate to the back and stay w/the group :man_shrugging:


Ride the most aero frame and wheels you can afford for the TTTs, Venge S-Works and DT Swiss Disc if possible, while your team mates ride something not quite so slippy.

Unfortunately, our roster changes quite a bit from week-to-week and we don’t really put much planning into the race :grin:

Have only recently reached level 35, so I have tended to stick with the Tron in the absence of a disc wheelset. So far, it’s served me well. I think last night’s problems stemmed from a major tactical error on my part (should have waited at the top and sucked wheel all the way down).

Thanks for your response. TBH, I think you’re dead right and that was a major tactical error.

What about a points race? If you’re through the KOM ahead of other riders, would you back-off and join them for the descent or push-on and descend solo. I guess it depends what kind of time gap you have at the top…

My experience is that you need to descend with a group as if they come from behind they are simply travelling too fast to catch on unless you’ve got a good sprint. If you’ve got a group coming from behind the aim should be to try and arrange the catch at a point where they’ve had some speed scrubbed off and to sprint before they catch so you are somewhat up to speed. Easier said than done though.

The secondary problem is that super tuck isn’t enough to stay with the group so you do need to either pedal or burst and tuck as needed. I don’t have any recommendations which is best as I still do get dropped with either.

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Thanks a lot Mike. Sounds like we have a lot in common.

It’s a real pain when all the suffering and (potential) gain going uphill can amount to (less than) nought after the descent :rofl:

yeah. be at the back and put in about 8wkg for a couple seconds right before the gradient goes negative and you should be OK to supertuck. though i personally like to just descend at 3.5

Thanks. I think I’ll try the ~3.5 W/kg descent option next time :+1:

I avoid the supertuck having been dropped too many times messing about w/it. YMMV :man_shrugging:

Depends on the gap and the length of descent, but generally speaking I’d probably soft pedal while recovering and switch to rear view to know when to jump/sprint in order to get back in the group when they approach.

Try setting trainer “difficulty” down as it allows you to keep pedaling on descents. Also try to know the danger areas, for example I watch for the ski lift pylons on the Epic descent as they appear just before the steepish uphill in the middle of the descent where its easy to lose wheels to heavier riders carrying more momentum into the climb,

Thanks for your comments and advise Donald, much appreciated.

Drop all the heavy weights on the climb and let them catch you at the very bottom of the downhill. :joy::man_shrugging:

Been there, tried to do that :laughing:

Almost got away with it on the NYC KOM. Hammered down as hard as I could go, and thought I’d managed to stay away. About 3/4 of the way down, 3 riders came thundering past at warp speed.They ultimately made up the top 3 in the race and were all 90+ kg :roll_eyes:

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Another descending debacle during last night’s TFC race (NY KOM).

Was at my limits on the ascent (desperately trying to keep up with the heavyweights in front), so much so that I wasn’t in a fit state to hammer the descent :rofl: and all the gains were thrown away.

Am I imaging it, or was there some mention in another thread about Zwift possibly introducing some new dynamics into descending (simulating steering & braking for bends etc)??

Seems totally unrealistic having limitless speeds on descents (a scenario which obviously favours heavier riders). But, it’s only a game, not real life :rofl: :roll_eyes:

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I believe the downhill physics have changed somehow. I remember making up 30 seconds on a descent in my less-fit past life. This was on that big hill in London.
I was also often able to catch back up to a peloton after getting dropped; the hills were my “chance” if I was a few seconds down.
I currently have my weight set to 80kg. When I first started swift if was set to 75kg (which was an estimate at the time). I think I’m lighter but I’ve also been gaining weight back most likely. I have no idea what my weight is but it’s likely around 75kg. The residual effects of the pandemic are the reasoning being me not weighting myself for so long. So I decided to go with a weight that I know, 100%, that I don’t weight under. So in other words I have an extra 5kg yet am slower on hills. I suspect that the draft, not weight, is a leading factor here. When I weight myself and hopefully confirm those kilos are in fact gone, I will drop the weight and share my results :wink: . But no, I will not cheat, not even for the sake of science.

Someone in the previous post that I started mentioned that the draft is quite strong when riders are going downhill.

I do know that if you can tuck, tuck. Pedal hard enough to get even a few seconds of tucking (it’s hard to quantify just how hard to push, I’m still learning, but if it’s just a few kph extra needed…). The “Sticky Watts” phenomenon might also come into play here and may be a partial factor in why the tuck is as effective as it is. A few hard efforts might create more forward momentum than the equivalent flat effort.

But ya… for me something definitely feels different.

William at 59kg I have no issues with descending, only bits of advice I can give is never lead before the descent and make sure you push for the first few seconds of the descent. After that once the pace hits 35mph and you are in the bunch just go into the Aero tuck and trust the process.

I did have a strange moment in my 3R race yesterday, the guy in front of me was using a Sterzo and weighed in at 80kg. We were doing 4 laps of the Two Bridges Loop and on the final descent he simply moved wide and Zwift just left me in the centre on the road, at one point I was doing 7.0 wpk to try and hang on but the guy was undraftable for me and he went away for the win

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Sounds like sage advice :+1:

Thanks guys!