Humans have ridden bicycles since the early 1800’s. Nevertheless, the control strategies humans employ to balance a bicycle while riding are not well understood. The ability to balance a bicycle is necessary to successfully complete any riding task, yet the balance isn’t really something that many of us look to work on, not since we start to learn how to ride our bikes. But, practicing your balance can really pay dividends with your confidence, like riding in traffic or around other people. So, here are a few hints and tips to practice.
Look down the road. Your first point is to tear your eyes away from your front wheel, and it’s actually a lot harder to do than you might think. But there are many many different reasons why you need to try, one of them, of course, is the balance. I think it has something to do with concentration. So let’s face it, if you’re concentrating on keeping your balance, you’re probably already on the back foot. So keep your gaze up ahead on a fixed yet moving point to help orientate yourself.
Practice looking back. Now a seemingly simple task which is remarkably different to do is to ride in a straight line whilst at the same time looking behind you. Now, even the most experienced riders can often get this wrong: veer offline and get a bit of a wobble. But unfortunately, it is vitally important that you learn to do this. Yeah, particularly for when riding in close proximity to other bike riders, or indeed just other traffic. Now the secret is to actually just not turn all that far. So it might not give you a complete picture of what’s going on behind you, but it does allow you to keep your torso pointing straight forward, and keep your steering straight as well. If you do need to see further around, then you need to take one hand off the bars, making sure there’s enough space in front of you to do it, and that’s gonna allow you to open up your body and turn whilst still going in the right direction.
Ride really slowly. This one will really help to improve your balance on the bike. It’s a little bit like the cycling equivalent of walking a tightrope. Because riding really slowly means that when you do need to turn the handlebars in order to keep your balance, the correction that you make has much less of an effect, which leads to those really exaggerated movements and that characteristic wobble. Practicing riding slowly will get your body used to balancing without resorting too much to steering. At first, you may find it pretty hard, as it is a bit difficult, but if you’ve got a few spare minutes, it’s really worth the investment to practice.
Check your position. As well as practicing on the bike, a simple way of improving your balance could be to actually look at the way your bike is set up, and in particular, your position on it. Because you’ll find that if you have to stretch too far to the controls, so the brakes and the gears, then actually you may well find that those fine movements needed for control are actually much harder to carry out. In fact, if you try and do anything at arms reach it become an awful lot harder to do so, and the same is definitely true of riding a bike. So a shorter, more upright position will definitely help if you’re looking to improve your balance, even if there may be trade-offs in other areas. It’s a miracle you stay upright on that thing.
Core exercises. Away from the bike entirely, there are actually a number of skills that you can practice that will help you improve your balance, generally, that would then pay dividends on the bike as well. Because it might be that you actually need to improve your core strength, in which case doing some light gym work or a regular Pilates class would do the job. Or, you could just stand on one leg in the comfort of your own home, and even try it with your eyes shut. As I said at the start, the balance might not be something that you’ve actually ever given all that much thought to, but it is definitely worth practicing some of these skills, because you will feel the benefit.
The better you can balance, the less time you will need to spend increase your strength. Balance conditioning is a way to train the body to make better use of the strength you already have. Good balance reduces the need for additional effort. Balance is both a movement skill that enhances technique, and a conditioning element that can be improved. So does the balance in cycling. Start to practice your balance ability right now!