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How to Get Faster and Safer While Cycling

If you think you really know how to ride because of knowing how to stay upright on a bike. That’s totally wrong. In fact, many beginner cyclists overlook the basics.

Here are five essential cycling skills help you get faster and be safer while cycling:

 

1. BRAKING

Before you get caught up in getting faster, you’ll need to learn how to stop safely — and it’s more complicated than just grabbing one of your brake levers.

Usually the front brake is on the left side of the handlebars while the rear brake is on the right (unless you’re in the UK or a place where they drive on the opposite side of the road). The front brake has more stopping power than the rear, but using it by itself — especially during an emergency stop — can send you over the bars. If you opt to rely solely on the rear brake, you can cause the rear wheel to fishtail and lose control over your bike.

So it’s good practice to always use both brakes evenly when coming to a stop. When you’re riding in heavy traffic or in close proximity to others, make sure you keep both hands either on the brake hoods or in the drops so that you can easily grab both brake levers when you need to stop.  

2. SHIFTING

Not knowing when or how to shift gears can cause you to lose momentum and possibly have to get off your bike on a climb. For this reason, it’s important to understand how to make your gears easier or harder and to shift to the right gear before you actually need it.

For big shifts you’ll need to switch between the front chainrings, which are located near the right pedal. You can switch between the big and small front chainrings by tapping the left shift mechanism on the handlebar on a modern road bike. Shifting to the smaller chainring will make pedaling easier, while moving up to the big chainring will make pedaling significantly harder.

For smaller shifts, use the shift mechanism on the right side of your handlebars. This moves the chain up or down the rear cassette, which is located on the right side of the back wheel. Moving the chain up the rear cassette makes pedaling easier, while moving the chain down the rear cassette makes pedaling harder.

When approaching a hill or other change in terrain, make sure you give yourself time to get in the right gear before you reach it. Once you’re on the climb, it’ll be harder to switch to the right gear — especially if you’re in a big gear that makes it too hard to pedal. For this reason, make sure you switch to your small chainring before you begin a climb.

3. BALANCE

Yes, most of us have already developed enough balance to ride a bike safely. But riding on the road for exercise requires you to develop this skill a little more as your speed increases. You’ll also need better balance when riding in tight spaces, such as riding in traffic or on group rides.

Look up the road to where you’re headed instead of down at the ground or at the obstacles you’re attempting to avoid. This will help your steering and keep you from wobbling.

When riding on a road bike, you’ll have to ride around corners at a higher speed than normal. To make it easier, put your hands in the handlebar drops to lower your center of gravity. This will make balancing a bit easier and allow you to steer by leaning your bike into the turn rather than turning with the handlebars.

4. PEDALING

Pedaling a road bike with clipless pedals isn’t the same as pedaling the bike you learned to ride as a kid. While flat pedals only allow you to push down, to ride efficiently over long distances you’ll need to practice pedaling in smooth circles.

By learning to push down and pull up on clipless pedals simultaneously, you’ll use the hamstrings, glutes and calves instead of just relying on the quadriceps muscles. This improves your power, reduces fatigue and makes you a more efficient cyclist.

5. DESCENDING

Gaining comfort going downhill at high speeds can be not easy for new cyclists. Bike handling, balance and braking technique are all needed, but before you go downhill all out, safety should be the most important.

To control your bike safely, keep your weight over your saddle to maintain traction of the rear wheel and use the drops to lower your center of gravity and make balancing easier. Always keep your hands near both brake levers to control your speed. Look further up the road for obstacles than you would normally, which is needed for your faster speed. Remember to try and steer with your hips by leaning the bike rather than turning the handlebars. Relax your grip as much as possible to avoid your hands and shoulders fatiguing and over-steering when approaching an obstacle.


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  • Yansen Sugiarto on

    These are great pieces of advice! Thanks for sharing this to everyone. Going to try a few tours of the local hills and country side. Need some good tips here on food and positioning.


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