Good bike skills won’t just keep you safe, they’ll save you time in every race, and the off-season provides the perfect opportunity to work on them.
If possible, ride regularly with people who have plenty of cycling experience and you’ll pick up skills naturally. Seeing someone going into a corner fast and coming out the other side without any issues, for example, shows you it’s possible.
Notice when they stop pedalling how they’re looking at the exit of the corner rather than down at the front wheel. See how they lean the bike and how they have the inner pedal high when coasting, and so on. Do this over several months and your bike skills will grow massively.
You can also develop your cornering skills by picking a bend and riding it several times – maybe when you’re coming back downhill during hill repeats, for instance. Push just beyond your comfort zone each time, gradually getting quicker as you learn what’s possible without taking risks.
Another area to work on is descending. Find yourself a straight, traffic-free descent – one that’ll take you up to 20mph without much effort. Give yourself a marker, such as a tree. Descend from the top and then, as soon as you’re level with the tree, brake to a halt. The next time, try to stop a little sooner.
Don’t allow your weight to shift forward or you risk the rear wheel losing traction. Feel how much you need to use each of your brakes to stay stable. You’ll be surprised at just how short your stopping distance is.
If you skid, you’ve gone too far. Once you’ve worked out exactly what your brakes can (and can’t) do, you’ll find yourself tackling fast descents with much more confidence.
Practise riding one-handed while holding your line too. You’re going to need to do this to drink on the bike, so the more comfortable you are with it the better.
(Images: Jonny Gawler)
What bike skills are you working on this winter? Let us know in the comments below!