So Kim suggested that I post some cycling tips. This is definitely coming from a novice (I actually didn’t finally master bicycling until I was 22!), but I thought I’d share what I’ve been working on as I prepare for my triathlons (oh yeah – this is in conjuction with actual workouts!).
I’ve known for a long time that I’m a reader & a learner. I like to “know” before I “do.” So I’ve done a good bit of research on bike handling, although I’m still developing my actual physical skills. Good resources that I’ve found have been triathlon websites like beginnertriathlete.com, competitor.com, and also Healthy Tipping Point, one of the first blogs I began reading that mentioned triathlon. I’ve also found YouTube and random Google searches helpful too.
The below list is my interpretation of what skills I have been working on related to cycling. I’ve also found another list that’s pretty similar, of skills needed to handle your bike with confidence.
Cycling Skills Checklist:
- Basic Cycling (straight)
- Turning a Corner (90 degrees & 180)
- Shifting gears
- Taking your hand off the bike (for hydration, nutrition, adjusting sunglasses)
- What to do if you get a flat
- Clipping in & out of bike shoes
- Cycling Power/ Fitness (how to get stronger & faster)
1. Basic Cycling:
I must have had really bad balance as a kid, as I never really got comfortable riding a bike a child. My family & I tried, but it didn’t really stick and I didn’t feel badly enough about it to work on getting better. Once grown up, I met a guy, and he did encourage me to try again! I got a bike, and we did basically the same thing: practicing in empty roads & parking lots, getting the basics down. It’s really getting a sense of the balance and moving your feet at the same time.
I’ve definitely gotten better as I practice more and more. I’m fortunate to live in an urban area where there are a lot of cyclists, and to be able to make riding to work something that’s possible for me. It was scary the first few times though! But regular practice does really help.
Turning a Corner
For commuting/tooling around town, I don’t really have to think too hard about this, but I’ve found it a lot more challenging to turn tightly on my road bike. Whether it’s in traffic, or just in preparation for a race, there’s a bit more skill involved.
Understanding the basics of gear shifting is also important. For me, it’s hardest to remember when it’s best to shift to a harder gear versus easier gear. And that “smaller” equals easier. And that you have gears in front and back.
I originally was told that I should always use the rear brake for stopping on the bike, however recently began doing research along the lines of “well, why do I have a front brake then?” I’ve learned that it’s actually OK to use your front brake and that you should actually use both brakes. I’m still working on this for my road bike skills, but have gotten pretty comfortable on my hybrid/commuting bike with using both front & rear brakes to stop in traffic.
Taking Your Hand off the Bike
This is one of the hardest things for me to accomplish, but it’s important in endurance events so that you can take a drink or snack while not stopping! And here’s something I found pretty amazing on a commercial this week:
The main tip I’ve found has been to move the hand that will stay on the handlebars closer to the center/stem of the bike. Apart from that, I haven’t found too much on how to work on this, but I have been taking the “baby steps” approach – a few seconds with one hand hovering above the handlebar, then a bit further away, then fully grabbing for the bottle. It’s important to keep your eyes on where you’re going – and not look down as you reach down. I’ve successfully accomplished this a few times, but need to practice regularly to keep my skill up.
For part 2, we’ll talk about the rest of the tips! To be continued!