Balancing on two wheels – while important – is not the only skill cyclists must have to be responsible and safe riders.
Riding on dangerous roads with traffic and unexpected obstacles means that you have to constantly be ready to move out of the way to avoid getting into an accident.
Here is a list of 5 essential riding skills for new cyclists to keep ya’ll safe on the road.
Braking is the most important skill a rider should learn how to execute properly. Good and bad braking could determine the difference between a safe stop and crashing into someone, or having someone crash into you.
When you are riding in traffic, as much as possible, try to come to a gradual stop, as it allows the vehicles behind you to anticipate and a slowdown in time. Stopping abruptly at the last minute can result in you getting rear-ended, which is never fun and sometimes deadly.
While riding it is always good practice to apply equal pressure to both the front and back wheels, as this serves multiple purposes.
First, is that this will bring the entire bike to a gradual stop and will prevent one wheel from stopping abruptly in relation to another, which result in skidding and loss of control. If you were to apply a lot of stopping power to the front brake which travelling at speed, you run the risk of falling forward due to the momentum and injuring yourself.
Second is that it provides equal wear to both brake pads and keeps both brakes in the same condition. They can also be replaced later at the same time. Having brakes which differ in stopping power can be confusing and unreliable.
Pro tip – always ensure your palms are on the handle bar and you have a couple of fingers on the brake lever. This ensures you’re always ready to apply your brakes in the case of an emergency.
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 besides not being efficient on your bike.
For this reason, it’s important to understand how to make your gears easier or harder and to shift to the right gear before you actually need it.
If you plan on making Big Shifts, you’ll need to switch between the front chainrings, which are located near the right pedal. You can switch between the big and small front chainrings by tapping the left shift mechanism on the handlebar on a modern road bike. Shifting to the smaller chainring will make pedalling easier while moving up to the big chainring will make pedalling significantly harder, but useful at faster speeds
For more incremental 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. In other words, the lower the gear number, the easier it is to pedal.
When approaching a hill or other change in terrain, make sure you give yourself time to get in the right gear before you reach it. Once you’re on the climb, it’ll be harder to switch to the right gear — especially if you’re in a big gear that makes it too hard to pedal. This is due to the fact that you need to be pedalling chain to make a full revolution so it can siwtch to the new gear. For this reason, make sure you switch to your small chainring before you begin a climb.
3. CONTROLLING YOUR BIKE WITH ONE HAND
While riding you might need to take a hand off the handlebar to adjust a piece of gear or to take a quick sip of water. Therefore retaining control with one hand is a skill which is very useful.
It is relatively straightforward, but there are things to keep in mind before you start cycling anywher and everywhere with just one or no hands.
Riding with one hand is really only safe to do when you are riding in a straight line and on flat and even terrain. The last thing you want to do is to go over a bump while riding with one hand, which causes you to lose control momentarily and you end up slamming the brake. And since the front brake has more stopping power, this might send you over the front end.
This knee jerk reaction will more often than not result in a small accident. That is why always check to make sure the stretch of road ahead of you in smooth and pothole-free before taking your hands off the handlebars.
4. SIGNALING TO TRAFFIC/RIDERS BEHIND YOU
Indicating your intentions on the road is common courtesy but will also keep you safe as it allows other vehicles to anticipate your move give you space.
Simply extending your arm in the direction in which you are turning is the simplest and most effective way to signal your intent to other drivers. If your right hand is the dominant hand and you do not want to take it off the handlebars, you can signal with your left hand in a window wiper type movement as displayed below
If you want to signal to the vehicles behind you to stop, hold your hand upright with your palm flat.
5. STAYING FUELED AND HYDRATED ON RIDES
The way you feel while riding depends a lot on how well you’ve eaten, and how hydrated you are.
It is important to keep yourself fed in preparation for a ride because you will burn a significant amount of calories while you ride. In situations where the body does not get adequate energy, a rider can experience what cyclists call ‘Bonking’, which essentially means that your body has run out of expendable fuel and you simply have no energy to continue.
A lack of hydration can also trigger painful cramps which can temporarily bring your ride to a halt, and in some cases can result in more serious muscle damage.
Check Out Our Article on TOP 5 NUTRITION AND HYDRATION TIPS FOR BEGINNER CYCLISTS
That is why it is important to consume healthy foods rich in carbohydrates and to avoid fatty and heavy foods which will make you feel horrible and sluggish. Carrying snacks with you on your rides such as granola bars and energy gels can provide you with bursts of energy when you find yourself tiring out.
Carry at least a litre of water or a drink rich in electrolytes, keeping your muscles hydrated and functioning at their best. Utilising a bottle cage or hydration pack are convenient ways of carrying fluids while on your ride.
There you go – our top 5 critical skills that every cyclist should know. Knowing how to brake, signal and shift ensure you are safe on the road and are riding effortlessly. Knowing how to navigate your bike with one hand ensures you can easily signal to traffic behind you and also grab a quick sip of water while your riding. Last but not least, learning how to fuel is critical to ensure you enjoy your ride.
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WHAT I LOVE ABOUT CYCLING:
I love the freedom which comes with riding a bike. On my Hardtail MTB , nothing is an obstacle, I seamlessly flow down trails and through traffic like water in a river. And that flow gives me immense satisfaction and the continued drive to get back on my bike the next day.
DISCIPLINE: Mountain Biking & Commuting
CURRENT BIKE: Marin Bolinas Ridge Disc
DREAM BIKE: Cannondale TOPSTONE Carbon Lefty 3