Descending Like Sagan

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I did a post a while a go about “the new” way Sagan was descending.  And it might not have been so new, but for sure, Peter Sagan made it possible for this style to become way more common.   Funny how that works.

Descending on your top tube isn’t for the faint of heart.  It really isn’t that stable of a position on a bicycle when you are going 90 kph +.  The reason is that you’ve taken all you shock absorbing abilities out of the mix.  By that I meant that when you are sitting on your top tube, your knees and elbows are available to be used for bumps.

I thought of this while watching the finish of the Ruta del Sol yesterday.  Valverde had dropped Contador on the final climb and they were both descending pretty aero.  Then Contador starts to pedal while tucked, like Sagan started, then Froome did to win a stage at the Tour last year.

I don’t get the pedaling while tucked.  For one, I can’t really do it.  It is hard enough getting in the position.  I think I read Sagan say he could produce something over 200 watts for doing it.  I guess that is enough to add speed, but to me, it seems a little over the top.

Contador is so small, he looks silly pedalling.  The video of the finish is below.  Go to around 1:40 into it and you’ll see him start pedalling tucked.

Then there is a shot of Valverde and he is way over his front end while in the top tube, tucked position.  Talk about being unstable.  The road is pretty good, but this seemed ridiculous, since it really all got back together again anyway.

I tuck like this, at last practice tucking like this now.  I can’t see doing it in a race unless I was off the front trying to win descending, or off the back, trying to catch back on.  It seems valueless if you do this in a field.  You might as well be just in a normal tuck, and drafting.

Anyway, look at the photos and video.  If you decide it is for you, make sure you watch out from your front tire.  Seems like nearly everyone I know had an issue with burning the inside of their knees with their front tire initially.  These guys are so far forward, that they could burn their upper thighs.  Like I said above, seems like it wouldn’t be that stable, but it seems to have worked for him.

Contador catching Valverde.

Valverde scoots up on his top tube and get more forward.

Then there is Froome position, which is even more forward.


40 thoughts on “Descending Like Sagan

  1. Jim

    You and I disagree on a lot of things but on this one we are in 100% agreement.
    It is so stupid looking and I can’t imagine that it really adds much speed.
    Like you pointed out, that race came back together anyway.
    I never want to be near anyone using this “technique”.

  2. Brad

    If you are a cat 1-5 racer this is dangerous and stupid. If you are a top level world tour rider, it’s still dangerous and stupid, but at least they have something to gain from it. I’m sure those 1/8″ thick carbon steerers will hold up when you hit a pavement irregularity at 70mph with the 80-20 weight distribution. There are lots of things to learn from pros, this isn’t one of them.

  3. Bob

    It actually makes a huge difference. Look on YouTube Specialized put a video out about it in the wind tunnel “The Perfect Tuck”. Sitting on the top tube was 7kph (4.35mph) faster. I’ve done it at training camps in the mountains and it is noticeably faster. I only do it around riders I know and trust and on descents I have already ridden before.

  4. Larry T

    They don’t bother enforcing the rule that prevents riding along with just your forearms laying across the bars (like you had a set of aero extensions) despite the dangers, so I can’t see them bothering with this silliness unless(until) somebody wipes out at high speed and there’s video evidence. Makes you wonder why they got so worked up and banned the old “Spinaci” things? These guys remind me of Graham Obree and his whacky position before (or after?) the “superman” silliness.
    How long before the bike makers offer specially-shaped top tubes to make sitting on ’em less painful?

  5. joriverdog

    We were descending like that in 1983….but going around tight corners at 55+mph is a bit hairy…never tried that…always got up

  6. conrad

    I disagree. I am not a pro but the Aero tuck works. At high speeds, aerodynamics is everything. If a rider is pedaling hard in the drops while descending, you can drop into an Aero tuck and catch that rider without expending any energy. It’s not for riding in a group of course; it would be dangerous and pointless because other riders are already blocking the wind. And I’m not sure I would do it on a carbon fork, but I feel okay about it on a steel fork.

  7. Wrecko Suave

    You know how there’s no Tour de France winner for 7 years ?

    Any chance they can do that with the Trump presidency ?

    Just leave a blank spot between Obama and President Franken.

  8. Blazing Saddles

    This is all fascinating but not as interesting as when my girlfriend and I were watching the Tour de France and they called Denis Menchov the ‘Silent Assassin”

    My girlfriend asked if it was typical that they named cyclists after farts.

  9. Goner

    Unfortunately, he doesn’t really look any more aero in his super-tuck. To me, it’d be more effective if he got his shoulders down to the bars.

  10. Ben Draftin

    Indeed… it’s very common. When you spend hours tucked just inches behind your riding partner’s barking starfish you get to know them like an old friend.

    Alberto “Brown Haze” Contrador
    Chris “Air Biscuit” Froome
    Lance “Butt Dumpling” Armstrong
    Graeme “O-ring Oboe” Obree
    and of course Steve “Turtle Burp” Tilford

  11. Bob Bleck

    Steering comes from the hips. Dropping to the top tube greatly decreases control. The only thing contributing to control is the flywheel action of the wheels which is considerable in a straight line. Disconnecting from the saddle eliminates the ability to make quick corrections.

  12. Bob Zefal

    Most riders can go down a hill as fast as their fat asses will take them. They don’t need better aerodynamics but to lose 40lbs. Then they can worry about milking those last ounces of drag.

  13. PC

    The best side effect of every junior seeing Sagan do that, is now watching cat 4s try it at the local crit on the 1% downhill grade,

  14. Mark

    I have a e-bike and the position is fairly upright. THe bike as a whole is not aero at all, really big profile. It kind of has a top speed. Anything above 25 MPH and its so much drag. So if I get to about 25 going downhill I’ll drop into a Sagan tuck. With 2 inch wide tires on a 50 pound bike it’s pretty stable. Pretty sketchy on a road bike for sure though.

  15. Mike crum

    Dumb comment, but all of the car 1 cyclists were a cat 5-4 at one time . And why not try to copy this on a 1% then a 2% then a. 3%. Etc. I notice on this blog lots of people make fun of the cat 5-4 racers… Why? Eddy Merckx was a cat5-4-3-2-1 at one time..

  16. Jim

    You know, many times I agree with you or at least get a chuckle out of what you say.
    This time you must be trolling because no one can be this stupid.

  17. Bob Zefal

    Eddy went from Cat 5 to pro on the same day. He won each race he entered and they kept promoting him up through the day.

    Happens in Kansas a lot too.

  18. conrad

    You have it backwards. Heavier riders descend faster, all other things being equal. It’s going uphill that the heavy riders are screwed.

  19. Rope a Dope

    It dont werk fer me I got Big Cahones! I believe good Old One Nut must a developed this position during his illustrious career?! Blow that front tyre n your eatin it big time. These guys r Great bike handlers how bout Pantani’s old descending position with his belly on the seat……RIP

  20. escargot

    Agreed. The top-tube tuck is huuugely fast. I feel like I have a pararchute on the traditional way. The thing I dislike the most is it’s less stable because so much weight is on the front wheel… but the speed is tremendous.

  21. KrakatoaEastofJava

    I used this technique in the eighties after seeing Steve Bauer do it. I could put a LOT of distance between myself and others by using it. They’d be furiously pedaling, and I could coast and still leave them way behind. Enough distance that people came up to me later asking how the hell I did it. I was stunned that they couldn’t figure it out just by watching.

    However, it’s not a pack-friendly technique. The whole idea is to accelerate and get AWAY from them.

  22. Aki

    When I started racing I saw a picture of Leonard Nitz descending in a “normal” tuck. Except I couldn’t tell how he was holding the bars so I thought he was holding them like he was doing a curl. So I used to descend like that.

    One day I was descending fast enough for me (under 50 mph but probably over 45) when I went over some harmonic wave pavement. My chest started thumping my bars and I slammed my chin into my front tire. Burn mark under my chin. Luckily I didn’t have my tongue sticking out else I’d have bitten it off.

    Later I learned that you put knuckles up, not down. I still have to watch out for the tire though, especially now with the compact-bar compatible stem which puts the tops of the bars 3 cm lower.

  23. Chris

    Sagan too?

    Better to lose than to win utilizing that stupidity, and he doesn’t realize it’s not the difference anyway?

    He’s just like the rest of these clowns.

    I’d rather be Floyd, with all his baggage, selling weed than any one of these absurdities.


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