Learn to Ride Faster and Safer With Bike Handling Drills

By: Matt Russ

In my experience most cyclists take handling skills and their bicycles’ in general for granted. Most mechanical break downs can be prevented by properly adjusting, maintaining, and inspecting your bicycle. And a lot of crashes can be avoided by being aware of your surroundings and having the skills necessary to react instinctively to emergency situations.

By practicing these skills in a controlled environment you will become a faster and safer cyclist. The first thing you need to do is find an open area where there is no traffic such as a parking lot. You will need some orange cones (water bottles can be substituted), and a partner.

•Braking: Begin circling your course. Have your partner randomly call out “stop." You should immediately bring you bike to a quick, safe controlled stop. Have your partner stop quickly as well and look at the distance between your bicycles. If you have good reflexes and reaction time the distance between your bicycles will be close. Practice braking in a variety of situations such as cornering and braking with your partner in front of you (be careful).

If you are a beginner cyclist apply both brakes with even pressure. As you get more experienced apply slightly more pressure to your front brake.
•Cornering: Choose your line through each corner. If you corner correctly you should clip the apex of the turn. Make sure your inside crank arm is in the vertical position so that your pedal does not touch the ground. Practice cornering inside and outside in both directions and try to pick up your speed each time. Start to sprint out of corners. Set up a slalom course and also practice 180 degree turns.
•Looking: When on the road a key element of safety is being able to see what is going on around you and behind you. Beginners have a tough time looking over their shoulder while keeping their bike strait. Have your partner ride several bike lengths behind you. At regular intervals look over your shoulder and call out how many fingers they are holding up. Have your partner give you feedback on if your bike veered or stayed strait.
•Bumping: This needs to be performed on a grassy field using a mountain bike. Have your partner “bump" you slightly and touch shoulders simulating situations that occur in pack racing. You should get used to contact with other riders and not panicking in these situations.
•Riding Position: Practice transitioning smoothly from various riding positions such as sprinting, climbing in and out of the saddle, and descending.
•Drafting: Have your partner vary their speed over the course and try to maintain a constant distance from their rear wheel.

Performing these drills a few times per season will not help you much. You must take what you learn and apply it constantly while you are on the road. Good habits must be practiced thousands of times before they become good form.

Awareness is your greatest asset when riding in traffic situations. Try to anticipate what drivers are going to do. Eye contact is very importantFree Web Content, as is visibility. Constantly check what is going on around you and stay focused on what you are doing.

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