My trouble isn’t with being a good descender; it is with cornering and stopping – and sometimes both. Or, as G’rilla puts it, “Descending is like sex; how good I am at it has nothing to do with how much I enjoy it.”
Descending is demanding and requires great skill. It is not a time for resting or taking it easy; getting down the mountain should be every bit as hard as getting up it. Merckx was himself a good climber, but his bikes were all designed to be stable and fast on the descents so he would be able to get off the mountain faster than the mountain goats he was chasing.
On the way down, we are compelled to smoothly spin the pedals at 120 or more rpms in pursuit of maximum speed. Once escape velocity is reached, we contort our bodies into the most aero tuck possible, causing our muscles to scream out in agony from the unnatural position. Cornering, we push on the pedals and bars in an effort to maximize friction between tire and pavement as an alternative to finding too much friction in the ditches at the roadside. The mind is consumed in the total concentration of keeping the rickshaw in one piece.
Descents are meant to be as hard and demanding as – and much more dangerous than – the climbs. Climb hard, descend to close a gap or open one. Descents should hurt, not be a time for recovery. Recovery is designated only for the pub and for shit-talking.