Road Cycling is often thought of as a measure of fitness. However, bike handling ability is super important when it comes to riding your road bike safely and confidently. Mountain bikers, BMXers, and Cyclocross riders often put a great emphasis on bike handling and skills practice as part of their training. So why don't 'roadies' do the same?
Confident Bike Handlers
You probably know one of those daredevils who revel in riding down hills faster than the rest, while throwing their bike into corners. Are they just fearless? Do they not care about getting hurt? What is their secret?
The truth is that you can't bluff confidence. If you try to, you'll often learn your lesson the hard way. The secret to being a confident bike handler is to always be in control. Control breeds confidence.
The reason the daredevil appears so carefree while taking risks is that they are not taking risks at all. They ride with accuracy and understand how to stay on the safe side of the limit.
So how can you do this?
Learn The Basics, And Do Them Well
There are a handful of simple things you can do to lead you to becoming a more confident bike handler. We're going to run through four of our favourites.
Relax And Stay Calm: When you are riding it is important that you consciously try to relax. You can do this by being mindful of your breathing, relaxing your arms and hands slightly and by keeping your chin up, looking as far ahead as possible.
Looking ahead helps in two ways. It slows down your perception of how fast you are moving, to help you feel safer and more relaxed. It also gives you the time to make smart, well-informed decisions. For example, if the road gets rough, you can slow down on the smooth, grippy, safe surface before you hit the nasty stuff.
Trust The Process: There's a process to riding a bike well, and there's also a chance that you've heard many of these points before. However, do you trust these points and apply them when you're riding? For example, are you conscious of taking the time to slow down and set up your line choice for a corner?
If you don't know any key points for riding a bike safely, then you have some work to do. You can do some research online, or if you ride as part of a club then you can ask an experienced rider or coach for advice.
Purposeful Practice: This point is vital! Purposeful practice is the action of working on a technique or skill over a prolonged period of time so that it becomes second nature. If you want to become a more confident bike handler then you have to work on it. There is no short cut.
When you are riding it is good practice to have a particular technique or skill you are being mindful of. For example, you may be conscious of how you distribute your weight to maximise grip when cornering. If you do this on every corner over a number of weeks you'll begin to build confidence in how to manage, and even create, grip in corners.
Slow Is Fast: If you are looking to develop confidence so that you can ride faster (I'm thinking about the racers out there) then the trap you may fall in to is simply trying to go faster. If you try to go faster without a strategy, by pushing limits, through taking chances and riding aggressively, then you're more likely to waste energy, make mistakes, risk accidents and still go slower.
The way that I encourage people to think about speed is that it comes as a result of doing everything right. It's a byproduct. Going over the limit when braking, cornering or descending will make you slower, much in the same way that going over the limit in a long race, time trial or on a climb will.
So there you have it, four points to being a more confident bike handler. If you want to improve your confidence while riding your road bike then reflect on the four points and be honest about what you could improve.
If you have any other ideas on how to become a more confident bike handler then we would love to hear them in the comments too!
Stay safe and happy riding!