5 essential skills every beginner cyclist should master
Knowing how to ride a bicycle is far from the same thing as being confident on a bicycle. Think of it this way: knowing how to make instant noodles doesn’t make you an ok cook. The good news for all of us is that with any skill, practice makes perfect! If you’re on your bicycle everyday, you’re already heading in the right direction.
Despite the fact that cycling more would most probably make you a better cyclist, here are 5 specific skills that every cyclist should master to help make cycling more enjoyable for the individual cyclist and safer for all road and pavement users.
Let’s pedal into it!
Bicycle Skill No.1: Learning to look behind you
This is one of the most important skills a person riding a bicycle should have. It’s essential for making sure that there is nothing in the way before making a turn, or even for making sure that you aren’t leaving your friends too far behind. The problem here is that many of us tend to veer too far to the left or the right once we try to look behind. The fix is simple though!
Try keeping your core tight and your shoulders squared while in a stationary position on your bicycle. Once you are able to isolate your neck to look behind, try doing this again at a comfortable speed while moving on your bicycle.
As usual - do practice this in a safe and controlled environment such as an empty car park or in a public park. Don’t worry about looking bad! Nobody is judging you as we have all been there! There’s nothing shameful about wanting to gain new skills and become a better cyclist.
Bicycle Skill No.2: Learning how to cycle with one hand
Cycling with one hand is great! This is a skill that every cyclist should have. It’s essential when you want to eat or drink on the bike without stopping, it’s also important for signalling to other road users. Bonus points: you can wave to your friends too.
To practice this skill, start building up speed to a pace that you’re comfortable at. Start by taking off one hand from the handlebars for a second, and gradually build up the time you take one hand off and the distance from which you take your hand off from the handlebars. Before you know it, you’ll be drinking water on your bicycle and making all sorts of hand gestures in no time.
Bicycle Skill No.3: Braking
It’s super important to learn how to brake so that you don’t get banged down in traffic, bang into something else on the pavement or to make sure that you don’t fly over your handlebars. So here are some easy to learn tips to ensure that your breaking is effective, controlled and also safe.
The first thing to remember when braking is that your front wheel is more effective than your rear. So you want to be focusing on braking using your front brake while feathering your rear. However, make sure you don't squeeze so hard that your back wheel locks up or starts to lift off the ground. It’s your body positioning that is really key when it comes to this. If you have your butt always towards the rear of the bike, we guarantee you won’t ever flip over your handlebars.
The more pressure you apply on the front brake the more you’ll have to shift your weight towards the rear of the bicycle. Also, the more you put your weight behind and low on your bicycle, the lower the chance you will have of flipping over the handlebars.
Bicycle Skill No.4: Riding out of the saddle
This is a skill that you would want to become really accustomed to. This gives your legs a good rest by switching up positions and engaging different muscles. It also allows you to generate lots of power. Whether you are sprinting, climbing or descending, you’ll be able to use your body weight to drive down on the pedals.
Another thing that you would want to pay attention to are your gears. If you’re going to get out of the saddle, you might want to drop one or two gears so that you don’t spin like a hamster once you stand up on your pedals.
The optimum position to get out of the saddle is at the top of the pedal stroke. Try also experimenting with different hand positions, for example the drops and the hoods and observe how each hand position feels.
Bicycle Skill No.5: Cornering
It’s a super simple skill to learn but it’s easy to get wrong. The key thing to focus on is looking way ahead, because where you look is where your body and bike will go. You’ll also be able to scan the road ahead for rough potholes and surfaces, keeping you safe.
Make sure to take note of your pedal position. If you’re going for a left hand turn, you want to make sure that your right hand crank is at the very bottom of the pedal stroke and vice versa if you’re going round an opposite corner. The first reason for this is that it will prevent your pedal from striking the ground which may result in an unpleasant crash. The second reason is that by putting weight on that opposite side, it’s going to help you create traction on the ground.
Before you know it’ you’ll be zooming down those corners on your bicycle like a pro.