Knowing how to ride a bike is one thing, but having the ability to comfortably and safely share the road with other cyclists requires another level of skill. These basic handling techniques will help you enjoy the transition from bike rider to full-blown cyclist, and, as an added bonus, can help save a little time on race day.
Whether riding on an open road or in a race, always look over your shoulder before swinging from one side of the road to the other. Before carving through a corner, always check your blind spot, especially in a race since the noise created by fellow cyclists isn’t always enough to alert you of their presence.
Despite the chorus of concerned mothers teaching their children not to use the front brake, lest they flip over their handlebars, relying primarily on the front brake is the best way to slow your bike. It’s substantially more powerful than the rear. Don’t be afraid to squeeze the front brake with some gusto but, like moms say, don’t go crazy. Scoot back on the saddle when braking particularly hard so your weight rocks forward into the bike rather than forward and past the bike.
As racecar video games have taught a generation of kids, tires have a limited amount of traction that can be used to corner, brake or accelerate. So, if you brake while turning, less traction is left over to stick you to the road. Slowing your bike before entering a corner then releasing the brakes when entering the turn will allow you to corner faster, safer and with more confidence.
Body position and weight balance on the bike greatly impact balance, stability and traction when cornering. To create a solid foundation, turn the outside pedal to the lowest position and press hard through it with your foot. Use your inside hand to lean the bike toward the corner by pressing down on the bar. Rather than watching your front wheel, look 5-10 meters around the corner. The bike will follow your line of sight. If you ride a road bike, lean over into the drops for extra leverage on the brake levers and improved balance between the two wheels.
When riding with other people outside of a race, either line yourself up side-by-side or completely in front of or behind your partners. Don’t allow your front wheel to partially overlap another rider’s rear (an unsafe position known as half-wheeling). The rider in front probably doesn’t know you’re there and can take you down with even a soft bump against your front wheel.
Downshift to an easier gear before slowing or stopping—whether for a red light or an aid station—so the bike is in the right gear when you start reaccelerating.
Learn how to reach your water bottles without taking your eyes off the road. Even a quick break in concentration can cause your bike to swerve erratically, so practice pulling a bottle without looking down.