Last week we looked at how you position yourself on the bike, so to keep the cycling theme going today we are exploring bike handling. It is interesting when I talk to people about their bike handling. Some will say I haven’t had a crash so it must be okay, others will say yeah I am pretty good around corners, while others will say they are petrified and really struggle when descending. While all of their abilities will vary I would say all of these responses suggest they have room to improve.
We need good skills to ride in a bunch, to balance with one hand while we drink (Brenton) and signal. As the A grade crew found out on Saturday if your descending skills are not up to speed when the front of the bunch gets going at the bottom of a descent and you are a bit off the back you just won’t get back on again. In races cornering is vital. A course like the 6km West lakes loop has 5 corners in it. Over 3 laps (if we do 20km) this equates to 15 corners. If your skills are not up to scratch you could easily lose 1-2seconds per corner it adds up to quite a bit of time lost or you have to bust your boiler trying to make up for lost ground out of the corner to get back on which will burn a lot of matches.
So it is one thing to stay up right, it is another to actually have the skills, ability and confidence to ride at pace around corners or descend a hill. As I keep saying it is far better and safer to take a corner with good speed than at slower speed with poor skills.
Recently I have worked with a few people on their cornering and the one thing that they all try to do is hit the corner at the front apex. They have seen the tour de France riders all cut through the apex as it is the shortest route so we think this is the way for us. The problem is on our routes we have cars coming the other way so we simply don’t have as much room to cut through the corners. Hence we need to consider other options.
So instead of coming out wide and slicing through the apex, try to come in slightly narrower, following the natural arc of the corner, turn later aiming for a late apex, using a counter steer just before you turn to set the bike up to follow the curve. While some pick it up quickly others, most likely gripped with fear from past incidents, take a little longer, but the key is practice (perfect practice). If you don’t practice your skills on every ride you do you simply won’t get better.
The other areas to work on that I often see in people are:
- As mentioned last week practice cornering on the drops (provided you can reach the brakes), it is easier to feather the brakes and the lower centre of mass makes it far easier to manoeuvre the bike
- Keep the outer leg straight, pressing down on the pedal with some real force, as soon as you try it you can feel the benefit of how stable it makes the bike feel
- Look through the corner to where you want to exit not the curb you want to avoid. Turn the head and the body will follow
- Minimise braking in the corner
In the end it comes down to practice, and more practice. Most of us will probably only lean our bikes over 20 degrees at the most when we corner. When you consider the Tour riders might lean 30-45 degrees we have plenty of room to move. They may have a little more down force with the speed they are travelling at but unless the roads are wet we have plenty of scope to lean the bike. Just be careful pedalling when in the corner (James) as it is quite easy to hit the foot on the ground if you a are leaning over quite a bit.
And finally don’t take up BMX unless you want your collar bone broken – get well soon Gogs!!