If you are new to cycling, there are probably a few situations that you find yourself in that make you feel quite nervous. But we think there are five skills. If you master them, and because they are quite straightforward, you will be able to ride with much, much more confidence. So, here they are.
1. Emergency stop
First up, it is the emergency stop. This can strike fear into the hearts of many, as childhood memories of flying over the handlebars come flooding back. But if needed, here is how to stop quickly. Your front brake is your friend. It’s the most effective one you have that’s showing you down. What we’ve got to do to counter the feeling of going over the handlebars is to move your weight backwards. And the harder you brake, the further back your weight needs to be. This is something that is really worth practicing, because it should very quickly become instinctive. Just repeat it over and over again, from your normal riding speed, gradually increasing how quickly you come to a stop. And what you should notice is that if you get your weight far enough back, it is virtually impossible to go over the bars.
2. Riding one handed
I mean, taking one hand off the bars is essential for a number of cycling skills. Firstly, and most importantly, for indicating to other traffic when you are about to make a turn, also for communicating with other cyclists if you are on a group ride, but thirdly, also, for simple things like taking a drink or even some food out of your back pocket on a long ride. Yeah, and again, all you got to do to get the ease with this is just to practice it. But at least, unlike with emergency stops, takes much less effort to do so. What you have got to do is riding around, taking one hand off the bars, and you will quickly realize that your bike isn’t something to be scared of. It doesn’t need manhandling around, it needs gentle, caressing touches.
3. Riding out of the saddle
Riding out of the saddle is a really important skill. Firstly, it will allow you transfer more power through the pedal for those short, steep climbs. Secondly, it would take the weight off your backside and relieve tired muscles, and thirdly, it will give you the most control over your bike when you are descending down technical or bumpy terrain. Yeah, if you want to get out of saddle when you are not pedaling, then you will need to have your pedals level with pretty much all your body weight through your legs. You then need to have your arms and your legs slightly bent, ready to absorb any shocks coming up from the road and through the bike. However, if you are pedaling out the saddle, you will firstly need to learn to lean forward slightly so that you don’t catch yourself on the saddle. In terms of positioning your hands, the easiest place is on the brake hood, if you’re on road bikes like we are. Yeah, you will also find that gently swaying the bike from side to side will really help make the most out of your body weight and put power through the pedals. You’ll also probably find that you want to be in one gear harder than you would do if you’re sat on the saddle. It’ll make it seem much, much easier.
4. Riding up curbs
Technically, riding up onto a curb will probably mean that you will end up committing some kind of traffic offense, because you’re going to end up on the pavement or sidewalk. However, it’s something that we’re all going to do at some point, so it’s worth learning how to do it properly so you don’t damage your bike or yourself. There are two important things to consider. Firstly, that you’re trying to hit the curb square-on. Coming at it from an angle will make it likely that you’ll crash. If you do come at it head-on, even if you just ride at it, it is quite likely that you’ll still get over it. Although you shouldn’t do that, because you will still risk damaging your bike. So instead, as you approach the curb, try to pull up on the front handlebars, and simultaneously push your weight to the back of the bike. What that should do is raising your front wheel, which is a cool trick in itself, and it should therefore easily roll over the obstacle in front of you. And your back wheel should follow suit, although bear in mind, that this will put quite a lot of pressure on your tires, so just your speed accordingly so that you don’t puncture.
5. Tight, slow speed corners
The last skill that we think you should master is riding very slowly around corners, because it’s when you’re going slowly that you’re at your least stable, and so it really taxes your balance. Yeah, and if you are using clipless pedals, and you are worried about being able to get your foot out in time, what you can do is simply unclip, and that way you’ll know that whilst you’re riding around, if something goes wrong you can put your foot down very quickly, at any time. Now I find it really helps my balance if I’m sat in the saddle when riding at slow speed, because now I’m able to make adjustments to the handlebars very easily. And you should be prepared to make some pretty major adjustments in order to keep your balance. Now, riding well at slow speeds will really help you when it comes to riding well at much faster speeds. It will do wonders for your bike-handling skills and crucially, also, for your confidence, so it’s really something worth practicing from time to time.
Five skills, then that should really help your cycling. The ability to ride up curbs, riding out of the saddle, emergency stops, riding with one hand and being able to ride around very tight corners. Master all of those, and you should find there is very little that can impact your cycling.