Improved bike handling skills will make you feel more comfortable on the bike, particularly when riding in a group, and will help you stay safe out on the road.
The term ‘bike handling’ itself is a little vague – certainly, it can cover all manner of things from riding with one or no hands and carrying out tasks like drinking from a water bottle or taking off an item of clothing, to reacting to obstacles in a timely, efficient and considerate way.
Some experts define it as “dealing with the unexpected” while out on the bike. Whether this be on an unfamiliar road, riding with a group or in adverse conditions, every ride is permeated with the unexpected.
Practice makes perfect
Needless to say, one of the best ways to improve bike handling is to actually get out and ride your bike – the more often you do, the more natural it will become. However, if bike handling is a particular issue for you then having a quiet space to practice troublesome skills on your own is a great way to do improve your skill on the bike.
The key to being able to react to obstacles and hazards in good time is to think – and look – ahead. It’s so easy to ‘chew your stem’ when working hard at the front of a group or grinding up a climb and miss important and potentially dangerous hazards.
They say one of the best ways to learn is by watching others. Not just anyone, however – you need to watch those who are well-versed in good technique so that you can see how it’s really done.
Try other disciplines
Riding a bike isn’t just about being on the road – having a go at other disciplines can really have a positive impact on your bike handling skills.
Just look at the likes of Peter Sagan and Cadel Evans – different kinds of road riders but both notable for their all-terrain prowess, having started out riding mountain bikes.
Experiment with rollers
If you’ve ever been to a crit, chances are in the car park you’ve spotted some racers riding their bikes on stationary rollers. It looks precarious, and that’s because to the uninitiated, it is.
However, they’re relied upon by racers because not only do they help warm up the legs, but also the core muscles and mental awareness to stay balanced and nimble on the bike. Ultimately, learning to use rollers will help you stay smooth on the bike.