Getting a Handle on My Bike Skills

bike handling drills

I rarely say no to joining a bike ride because I’m scared of the distance, and, assuming the person or group is somewhere near my speed, I’m not afraid to try to push the pace and hang on for dear life with riders who are faster than I am.

But even after spending hours on the bike, covering hundreds of miles of roads all over Florida (not to mention 60+ in Arizona), I still struggle a bit when it comes to bike handling. Is it embarrassing? Hell yes. I hate that I get shaky if I find myself in a situation where I need to exchange a bottle on my left instead of my right, and I can’t tell you how envious I am of fearless riders who have no qualms about riding near a ledge.

So when my friend Nicole set up a Bike Skills and Drills clinic, I may or may not have been the first one to sign up. I found the clinic incredibly helpful, and even better, many of the cycling drills were simple things that any of us could practice on our own with just a few cones, so I thought I’d share a few.

cyclists
Believe it or not, I think this was the “after” picture. I might’ve been nervous, but I enjoyed learning new skills!

Ride on the grass. Sounds really simple, but I know for a fact that I’m not the only one who felt a bit freaked out about taking my roadie off-road. In fact, we did our whole clinic on grass — that way, if anyone fell, it was a softer landing.

Ride in circles. Nicole set up cones in a large oval and had us all ride around, staying as close to the cones as possible. We did several trips around one way, then switched direction. Again, sounds incredibly simple, but have you ever actually turned the same way over and over and over? It really helps to increase confidence.

Ride in circles … one-handed. Here’s where things got tough for me, but having the opportunity to ride with one hand in a location where swerving wouldn’t put me in immediate danger was a humongous help. You can practice getting your water bottle out and putting it back (without looking) as you get steadier and steadier.

Weave. They say that, when riding a bike, you should always look at where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go, and this is an excellent (but safe) way to practice it. You can put your obstacles all in a line if you want, or keep them in a circle — just make sure that you go both ways around if you stick to a circle. And, once you’ve gotten comfortable doing it with two hands, try it one-handed!

Start — and stop — with opposite feet. I basically never start off with my left foot because my left knee is the one that gives me trouble, so making a point to start off pushing with my left foot was surprisingly challenging. And clipping out with my left foot? Even worse. I looked like I was fighting off a swarm of bees. But I did it, and each time it got a bit easier.

Scoop up a cone. I won’t lie to you — I have not mastered this one yet, but most of the other people doing the clinic were able to nail it by the end. If you don’t have a cone, just find something about the same height and lightweight, then practice leaning away from it and reaching down with one hand to snatch it off the ground.

Have you ever specifically worked on your bike handling skills? I find it so hard! I have no trouble setting aside an hour to do a trainer ride, but making a point to focus on bike handling? Super challenging! Kristen

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