I often forget how riding a road bike can both be simple and complicated. The mechanics of riding a bike are pretty instinctual, once you learn. However, entering the world of road riding can be quite complicated. You are out in an uncontrolled environment that leaves little margin for error. You are exposed to the elements. You are on a variety of surfaces. You are communicating with drivers, other riders and pedestrians. You are entering the secret world and language of the “roadie”. Your are expected to somehow be comfortable riding inches from riders on all sides in a group going 30 miles an hour. You must stay upright on that mountain descent at 40 miles per hour in a crosswind and sweeping curve. The risks are high and the rewards addicting.
There area variety of skills necessary to effectively and safely enter this domain. And it is very difficult to learn them without a mentor. How do you ever learn that a palm facing backward and downward is the signal for slowing? How do you figure out that a flick of the elbow is a subtle, yet effective, way to signal a rotation? Which way do you rotate in a crosswind?
I was lucky to be adopted by some highly successful racers and to learn so much from them about training, riding and etiquette. I was also young enough to jump into this world without much fear. and quite fortunate to have a strong cycling culture in Dallas to build upon.
For those who don’t have the personality to jump right in or the opportunity due to location, it is much more difficult. I have worked with a variety of folks on coaching skills, usually as part of a larger coaching format that included fitness. Interestingly, I am currently working with someone exclusively on skills and bike knowledge. I am having fun and being reminded that even “How much chain lube do I use?” and “Which brake should the most I use when stopping?” can be important to a rider. looking to improve their bike knowledge.
Categories and items to address if you are learning to ride include:
- Basic Road Skills
- Body position and fit
- Riding in a straight line while grabbing a bottle or looking over your shoulder
- Track stands
- Slow riding
- Bumping into another rider and not over reacting.
- Forward/back balance and how it changes for different terrain, slope and turns
- Avoiding obstacles
- Bunny Hop
- Quick reactions
- Group Riding
- What to point out and NOT point out in the road
- Moving through the group
- Bike position (wheel overlap, etc.)
- Rules of a paceline, double paceline
- Riding in the wind and echelons
- Base mechanical knowledge
- Replacing chain/brake pads and other regular maintenance parts
- Tire changes
- Tire preferences
- General lubing/washing/weekly maintenance
This list could go on for a while and demonstrates how difficult it is to enter the “roadie” world. I hope this list is helpful for folks looking into road riding. A quick google on most of these topics should give you some support and don’t be afraid to just ask your closest experienced rider. Or send me an email and we can discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the varies ways to signal you are turning right.