So you’ve just bought your first bike? That’s awesome, but there’s a few essential bike skills that you may not know or even be aware of. But that’s okay because everything takes practice right? We’re going to take you through what we think are the top 5 essential skills to definitely master on your bicycle.
Something you can never quite master is balance. There’s always more to learn with balance. Yes, most of us have already developed enough balance to ride a bike safely. But riding on the road for exercise requires you to develop this skill a little more as your speed increases. You’ll also need better balance when riding in tight spaces, such as riding in traffic or on group rides with friends.
As you pick up speed balancing gets easier. Cycling in traffic can be quite the test of balance – especially in Indian traffic conditions. These conditions can help you develop your ability to track stand.
Track standing is basically being able to balance yourself mounted on the bike, while the bike is stationary. It’s a great skill to learn for cyclists of all disciplines, helping roadies stay poised and get the jump on traffic at stoplights, and enabling mountain bikers to pause without stepping down – to take a sneak peek before heading over a drop.
Working on your balancing skills is especially important if you ride clipless. Coming to a stop and not being able to balance can lead to an embarrassing topple.
Balance is not only important on your bike at slow speeds but even at much higher speeds. While riding around corners at higher than normal speeds. It is easier to put your hands down on the handlebar drops to lower your center of gravity and maintain better stability.
Before getting caught up with speed it’s important to know how to reduce speed effectively and safely. It’s not as simple as just grabbing both your brake levers.
NOTE – The front brake is on the left side of the handlebars while the rear brake is on the right on most bikes these days.
The front brake alone is more powerful than the rear. The front brake alone is dangerous to use. In the hands of an untrained rider it can cause an over-the-bars accident. Even the rear brake alone is not a good idea – it can cause you to fishtail or skid off the road.
For this reason alone we recommend using both the front and rear brakes simultaneously. Remember to be gentle with your brakes. No sudden movements are ever good. In traffic, keep your hands on the hoods for the quickest and best braking.
In an emergency you can shift your weight off and behind the saddle while braking to prevent a loss of traction at the back.
Shifting is something not many people are good at. It’s not only beginners who get this wrong. As a measure of self-assessment, ensure your shifts are so smooth that you don’t feel them or can barely hear them.
Not knowing when or how to shift gears can cause you to lose momentum and possibly have to get off your bike on a climb.
For big shifts, you’ll need to switch between the front chainrings. You can switch between the big and small front chainrings by tapping the left shift mechanism on the handlebar on a modern bike. Shifting to the smaller chainring will make pedaling easier while moving up to the big chainring will make pedaling significantly harder.
For smaller shifts, use the shift mechanism on the right side of your handlebars. This moves the chain up or down the rear cassette, which is located on the right side of the back wheel. Moving the chain up the rear cassette makes pedaling easier while moving the chain down the rear cassette makes pedaling harder.
While shifting remember to ease off the pedal a bit. This will allow easier as well as smoother shifts between cogs.
TOP TIP – Shift well in advance so that you don’t crunch your gears and can maintain optimal cadence.
4. RIDING ONE-HANDED
This is a skill that some of the pros struggle with too. But you must be thinking, why ride single handily?
Riding with one hand is essential when you want to eat or drink on the bike without stopping, but it’s also really useful for being able to signal to other road users. Of all the essential skills this is probably the easiest to learn.
Practice on an empty and flat stretch of road. As you get more and more comfortable, practice drinking from your bottle, taking a bar out from your back pocket.
Keep in mind that signaling to other motorists with one hand will also improve your visibility and make it safer for you to ride. Riding one handed in traffic requires some experience so don’t be disheartened if you don’t nail it the first time.
5. OUT OF THE SADDLE RIDING
This is an essential skill, especially for roadies. Not only does it give you respite from those long rides in the saddle, but it also helps you generate maximum power. Whether you’re sprinting, climbing or attacking, by getting out of the saddle you’re able to use your body weight to drive down power through the pedals.
The first thing you want to think about is hand position. The most comfortable place to put your hands is on the hoods – if you’re on a road bike. Try this with other hand positions. The most efficient position is to leave your hands on the drops and follow the same steps. And the more and more comfortable you get with getting out the saddle, the more pressure you can put on the pedals
Try practicing some of these skills whenever you’re out on your next ride. Keep practicing and get better at these skills. There’s always room for improvement. Let us know what you thought about these tips. If you think we forgot to mention something do let us know.
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WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CYCLING
I’m an avid mountain biker and I like riding fast and flowy singletrack. As I keep riding, I continuously work on honing my riding skills. I like to ride whenever possible, especially with friends. I also like to influence folk into getting to ride more often.
Working on bicycles has also been a keen interest of mine for quite some time.
DISCIPLINE: Mountain biking and Road biking
CURRENT BIKE: RockRider 5.3 & Specialized Allez Elite DSW
DREAM BIKE: Santa Cruz 5010