If you’re new to triathlon and haven’t ridden a bike regularly then you might not feel confident outside on your bike. It’s also common to be so focussed on your fitness that you never pay any attention to your actual cycling and bike handling skills.
Apart from the fact that if your skills are improved, you’ll feel more confident it can also help you to ride faster! Being able to corner or descent faster is free speed compared to the amount of actual hideous training I have to put in to go faster.
Start including some skills practice every time you ride your bike. It doesn’t need to be anything complicated just start thinking about it and putting a few minutes of practice into each ride.
Here are some simple things you can practice.
- Can you look behind you over your right shoulder without wobbling? Essential to get eye contact with drivers but also to see where your riding buddies are. Practice every time you go out on a quiet section of road. Practice fast and slow.
- Can you take one hand off the handlebar confidently to reach a drink or signal to another road user where you’re going. Can you do it equally with both hands? Practice 10 times on each arm on a straight, flat quiet piece of road.
- Can you ride in the drop handle bars? When did you last practice? Have a go for 1 minute at a time. If you’re super uncomfortable it could be that your bike isn’t set up correctly or you haven’t yet developed strength in your legs in particular places to help you with this.
- Do you use all your gears? Front and back cassettes? Do you know how to use them? Do they even work? When was the last time you tried?
- Are you comfortable descending down a hill with your hands on the drop handlebars? This becomes a more useful skill when gradients are very long and very steep. This is because you get more leverage on the brakes in the drop handlebars so it’s easier to control your speed without your hands getting tired.
- Descending down a hill out the saddle with pedals horizontal and weight back over the saddle. This is the most aero position. In addition, having your weight back and out the saddle makes it a lot easier to control your bike.
- How are your corners? Remember to have your Inside pedal up, apply some counter steering to your inside handlebar (e.g. a little weight on your inside handlebar) and look ahead.
- How are your pedalling skills? Can you spin efficiently at 100rpm and grind at 45rpm? Use them all. Even if you prefer one style or feel more efficient at one end of the spectrum it’s still useful to practice it all. You might race at 80rpm but practising 100rpm will help fast twitch fibres and pedalling smoothness while 45rpm will help you develop torque and strength.
- How are you at clipping in and out of your pedals? Can you do it the same on each foot?
- Can you starting pedalling with both legs or do you always start with the same leg? While this isn’t an essential skill it will challenge your co-ordination, movement literacy and give you more options and therefore confidence on the bike.
- Getting on and off the bike from both sides. This is another non-essential skill but just improving your body awareness, movement and co-ordination will help your confidence. Also, the repeated and habitual movements we do without even realising it are often what leads to imbalances between our legs which can lead to injury.
- Riding no hands. This is a skill that helps your co-ordination and balance on the bike and when I re-discovered how to do this as an adult it boosted my comfort and confidence no end.
- Riding in a group close to another rider will help to sharpen up your skills because you have to do everything faster and have your wits about you. It can also highlight what you’re good at or not so good at e.g. if you always lose time on the group going round corners.
- Can you change a tube/deal with a puncture at the side of the road? As soon as I was totally confident, I could do this on my own I felt much happier going for a bike ride.
- How do you feel about riding in the rain? It might well rain on race day – so if you’ve rarely trained in the rain, you might not know what it feels like and how it affects your bike handling.
There’s a few of the skills I’ve worked on myself in my own training but also skills that crop up regularly with clients that I coach. Do let me know if there’s something you’ve been practising that’s made a difference or a skill you’re struggling to learn.
Since 2012 I’ve helped hundreds of people reach their goals from complete beginners through to ultra long distance triathletes. Book a FREE 15min call here to find out how coaching with me could help you.