Everyone learns to ride a bike and ride it well, but how do you improve your ride? Tips as simple learning to relax your fingers and toes can make you a better cyclist, who would’ve thought?
Alison Tetrick rides for Women’s World Tour team, Cylance Pro Cycling. Her favourite advice for beginners is something her grandfather taught her when she first learned to ride a bike: “wiggle your toes and play the piano.” Her grandfather’s mantra was a cue to relax, as Tetrick explains.
#1 Wiggle your fingers and toes
“By wiggling your toes you can ensure you aren’t clenching your feet in your shoes, and this allows for a more fluid pedal stroke.”
The same principle applies to being able to ‘play the piano’ on the handlebars rather than white-knuckling them.
“If your toes and fingers are loose,you are able to use your elbows and body to respond to the road, and make the energy go where you need it to propel the bike forward,” continued Tetrick.
#2 Look where you want to go
Tetrick’s other simple piece of advice is to always look where you want to go, especially when negotiating corners: “if you focus on the obstacle you’re trying to avoid—a pothole, a tree, or a squirrel—you will ride straight into it. Instead, look where you want to go and the physics of your bike will take care of the rest.”
#3 Practice your weaknesses
“Practice makes perfect” is Jess Cerra’s favorite piece of advice. As a professional cyclist with Team Twenty16, she recommends that newbie cyclists spend time practicing skills like descending and cornering.
She recognizes that it can be frustrating to spend time working on weaknesses, but, she comments: “trust me, champions spend time on this as it’s not all about fitness.”
Cerra suggests that you take a skills clinic or ask a friend with exceptional cycling skills to help you initially and then practice to develop your confidence.
#4 Learn about gearing
There’s a good return on time investment in learning about gearing, stresses Cerra.
“Newbies should understand the different options for chain rings and cassettes so you can make the most out of your training and racing it can make a big difference if you are doing a block of training with climbing, or a race with a lot of climbing,” says Cerra.
#5 Learn Peloton Riding
Former men’s ProTour rider, Ted King, raced for ten years in the world’s biggest cycling races, and has played domestique in support of ProTour riders such as Thor Hushovd, Ivan Basso, and Peter Sagan.
He learned the hard way that cycling is about conserving energy and he encourages amateur cyclists to get comfortable riding in groups.
In his experience, “riding in the second row or so of a group is generally a good place to be as you’re protected from the wind but not so far back that you get the ‘elastic effect’ around every corner and up each hill.”
#6 Eat and Drink
King’s second piece of advice is something that is echoed repeatedly in the pro peloton by team managers and fellow cyclists: “eat and drink,” three simple but important words.
“There’s no coming back once you’re in the ‘red’ if you don’t stay on top of your hydration and hunger,” King adds.
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