A number of our members are complete beginners to triathlon and cycling. So we got Rich Brady to pen together some of his knowledge around cycling and triathlon. Today, he talks us through 3 ways we can all improve our bike handling skills.
Back in the deepest, darkest depths of the winter I wrote about how you can make the most of your winter training. I briefly touched on the importance of technique, more specifically, swimming technique. However, another area that requires just as much attention is bike handling skills. Unfortunately the word “Triathlete” is synonymous with “bad bike handling skills” in the world of cycling. A phrase I often hear when mixing amongst pure cyclists is “riding like a triathlete”. If your bike handling skills are not up to scratch, then I’m afraid you’re losing time and wasting effort. You can spend hours and hours each week training on the bike to be faster, however, if in a race you come screeching to a halt to take a corner or descend down a hill then your efforts are wasted. As courses become more technical, the importance of bike handling skills increases massively. When racing, your aim should be to keep as much “free speed” as possible. This means descending, cornering and taking dead turns as fast as safely possible. The more “free speed” you maintain, the less fatigued and faster you’ll go.
Bike handling skills keep you safe
Knowing how to handle your bike will not only make you faster, but it’ll keep you safe. Do you wobble/swerve when you take your hands off the handle bars? If you do, you are putting yourself at risk when you signal or take a drink from your bottle. The highway code says that cyclists are perfectly legal to ride two abreast, however, we should always be mindful of other road users. Being able to drive a tank between the gap between you and the person next to you is not considerate to others. This can frustrate drivers, leading to some too close for comfort overtakes. When you are out riding in a group, you should be comfortable riding with as small a gap as possible to the person next to you, this means you’re sharing the road and not taking up unnecessary space.
Enough of the boring stuff – here are three ways I believe we can all improve our bike handling skills whilst having fun in the process.
Riding with a group
If you want to get better at swimming, you go swimming more often. So if you want to get better at riding in a group, you guessed it, you need to be riding in a group more often! Luckily for you, Caerphilly Tri-ers offer group rides that are designed to nurture beginners. Get in touch to find out when the next group ride takes places, there’s a beginners and “more advanced” group – so all are catered for. Group riding allows you to develop handling skills that will keep you safe as well as make you faster. You’ll gain skills and confidence in no time, especially with a friendly bunch like Caerphilly Tri-ers.
For those of you who want to sneak in some extra secret training, here’s a few drills you can try with your buddies. Find a quiet road or empty car park – riding side by side, one of you should take one arm off the handle bars and place it on the other’s shoulder. Try this a few times, swapping arms as you go along.
When you can do that comfortably, ride on the drops and both of you stick your elbows out. The aim here is to knock each other with your elbows.
Train on rollers
During the winter months many of us dive indoors and jump on turbo trainers (I don’t blame you, winter in South Wales is miserable at times). However, sitting on a turbo doesn’t encourage you to maintain or develop your bike handling skills. I suggest you give riding on a pair of rollers a try this winter. Riding on rollers is as close to riding out doors as you can get (unless you actually venture outdoors). Rollers force you balance properly and ride in a straight line. So not only will you train your heart and lungs, you’ll be keeping up skills needed on the road. Feeling brave? Take a pair of rollers along to one of Marc’s turbo sessions (just make sure you practice before hand…you don’t want the embarrassment of falling off – and Marc doesn’t want the paper work!).
Pro cyclist Rochelle Gilmore – rollers level – EXPERT! (Show off..)
Grab the bottle
Grab the bottle – no I don’t mean head straight for the pub! Similar to the elbows out and hands on shoulders drill, find a quiet side street or car park and place a water bottle on the ground standing upright. Once the bottle is upright, ride towards it passing it on your left hand side. As you ride past the bottle, lean over and pick it up off the ground.
After pedalling for a few meters, place it back on the ground with the same arm (make sure it stays upright!). Once you’ve done this, turn around and repeat what you’ve just done with the other arm.
Bonus Tip – Don’t Panic!
Starting out in triathlon can be a daunting experience, be it needn’t be. Everyone was a beginner at one point, so if you are in doubt, don’t panic – ask!
As you’ll see from some of my other rambling’s, we’re all on a continuous learning curve, so ask questions, don’t be afraid to try new things and most importantly – HAVE FUN!
Rich Brady is Level 3 BTF qualified triathlon coach. Rich has coached athletes from novice through to elite, he is currently the head coach of Tri-Monkey Triathlon Coaching. Through Tri-Monkey, Rich coaches athletes and provides coached sessions across South Wales.