8 Essential Bike Handling Skills to Master
Bike handling skills are learned by spending time on the road. They must be reinforced and practiced each week to make them become a habit. For you athletes that love to ride indoors on the trainer, handling skills are one tactic you will definitely need to practice outside on the road, and I highly recommend you do your long ride outside each week whenever possible for this very reason. Don’t get me wrong, I love the trainer or Spinner bike for shorter efforts and mid-week rides for building speed and endurance, but you must become adept at handling your road bike or tri bike on the actual type of surface you will be riding on for the race-the road!
Below I am going to list for you 8 bike handling skills you don’t want to skip practicing before your next iron distance event. These are crucial to having a safe and smart bike leg with no unexpected mishaps or delays.
1.Practice mounting and dismounting your bike. For most of you this will mean practicing unclipping from your pedals with your cycling shoes on, slowing down, and dismounting your bike. Think of Dorothy on the Wizard of Oz as she clicked her heels together- the outward motion of her heels is how you want to unclip from the pedals. Make sure there is no mud or dirt stuck in your shoes or in the grooves of your pedals prior to leaving your bike in transition. I recommend carrying a small hard brush in your bag to clean out any leftover mud or dirt on your shoes.
If you are an advanced athlete and have many races under your belt, you may want to do flying mount or dismount depending on how comfortable you feel with that skill. One thing you can do to practice is to set up a mock transition in a parking lot and practice mounting/dismounting your bike at a line drawn with chalk. Many athletes prefer to leave their shoes in the pedals and run barefoot to their T2 set up. Whatever you prefer, practice regularly until you feel confident.
2. Practice the different hand positions you will be in on your bike – for example on the bull horns, tops, drops, hoods (brakes) or on aerobars. If you are new to the aerobars, make sure you get several long rides in using your aerobars before race day.
3. Practice riding in a straight line. Looking forward and backward is a learned skill and so is signaling, avoiding obstacles, and avoiding cars and blind spots.
4. Practice handling your bike:
*Cornering-drop the outside pedal and keep the inside pedal up as the corner is made.
*Passing-stay out of the draft zone while holding HR and Power steady when passing.
*Turning around-this involves slowing down in an upright controlled position on the bars.
*Braking-sliding back on your seat just a little bit, apply 2/3 pressure to the front brake and 1/3 pressure to the back brake.
5. Practice hill climbing-you’ll need to engage your core, sit low, and shift gears while going uphill in most cases.
6. Practice descending hills-it’s important to keep the center of gravity as low as possible.
7. Practice cycling in windy conditions-remaining in the aero position can certainly help you through tough headwinds.
8. Practice group ride etiquette-for your safety and other riders’ safety, if on the aerobars, do not draft off of anyone and stay at least 5 bike lengths aways from other cyclists while keeping your hands near the brakes. It’s ok to ride in pace line if not on aerobars while paying close attention to the situation around you. The more predictable your movements the better.
These are the important bike handling skills you will want to practice throughout your training program. Getting good at these will happen over time and keep you safer on the roads and in group ride settings. (Source: Ironman University)
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