Basic Biking Skills: What Every Rider Needs to Know
Basic Biking Skills: What Every Rider Needs to Know
The phrase “as easy as riding a bike” is misguided. Cycling can be an enjoyable activity, but ask any beginner and they’ll have something pleasant to say about the chafing and tumbling they have to go through in order to master basic biking skills.
Even so, cyclists have a lot to learn before they can permanently get off the training wheels and experience real-world cycling. Here are ten riding tips that absolutely must be learned before hitting the bike trail or even the highway.
As in any vehicle, the gears on your bike allow you to transition from a high-speed “sprint” to a comfortable “climb” speed, and knowing when and how to make those shifts can make your ride smoother. Of course, everyone has their own sweet spot for pedaling, so it’s entirely up to you to decide which gear is most comfortable for riding on flat terrain.
Keep in mind that if you are climbing a hill with still shallow gradients, it will be much easier to downshift into an easier gear, as this puts a lot less stress on the chain. Also consider downshifting when approaching a junction; this makes it easier to pick up the pace again after a turn.
2. Make a big shift
It’s possible to jump up or down multiple gears in a shift, which can be a handy riding trick when you’re quickly approaching hills or intersections. With access to the slopes, you can jump from the largest ring to the smallest in just one shift.
However, it is not recommended to move the chain on both the front and rear cassettes at the same time, as this will cause the chain to completely dislodge from all sprockets. Also, making a big shift when the chain is not on the middle sprocket of the front cassette can lead to the same result. Remember, a clean and well-lubricated drivetrain will significantly improve the speed and fluidity of shifting.
3. Maintain energy and hydration levels
If you think that learning how to stay hydrated and active while riding a bike is not a skill you need to master, you are wrong. You are the engine of your bike, and like any source of power, you need fuel to keep going. Any cyclist will tell you that this happens when you deplete your energy reserves while cycling, and it’s not an experience you’ll enjoy.
Staying active on your bike requires you to eat carbohydrate-rich foods at least 3 hours before your ride, drink plenty of water before and throughout your ride, and eat a protein-rich meal after your ride to speed up Muscle recovery.
Turning is a skill that requires practice and dedication. That’s because when you’re driving around a corner, any sudden change in direction or speed can throw you off balance to the point that you’ll open up the tarmac all over the place. When practicing turns, you should choose a winding route and cycle over it as many times as you want.
Check your speed before entering a corner, and once the road starts to curve, drive along the wide corner first, then lean fully into the corner when you reach the apex. Don’t worry about going straight after the fact; the bike usually does it naturally when you exit a turn. Watch out for potholes, rocks, and other obstacles that may cause you to hesitate or worse, cause you to fall.
5. Climb steep slopes
Love it or hate it, riding a bike uphill is something you have to do at some point. The appropriate technique to use when approaching a slope depends on the length and duration of the slope. Shorter climbs can be addressed by using a high gear and your body weight standing on the pedals while riding.
However, combining short and long ascents requires a different approach. For these, you’ll want to start with the gear you’re comfortable with and gradually lower it as the climb gets steeper. While you can use both seated and standing pedaling techniques, seated rotation is better for this because it uses less energy at the expense of speed.
6. Downhill riding
That’s why many of us ride our bikes: because the thrill of a steep descent is only felt by the sound of tires rubbing on the tarmac. Downhill can be very exhilarating, and some cyclists even go over 80 mph downhill. For cyclists, it’s very fast and risky, as one wrong move could land you in the emergency room.
The key to a safe descent is being within the comfort of the brake lever. Some people choose hydraulic disc brakes over lever brakes because they require only a small amount of pressure to work and give you more control over the speed of the descent. Keep your body low and relaxed, with about two fingers on each brake lever.
7. Use a Heart Rate Monitor (HRM)
A heart rate monitor is the bike’s speedometer. You can use it to track your fitness level as well as keep an eye on calorie expenditure (fuel reserves) and of course your heart rate. Getting the most out of your HRM revolves around the latter function.
By determining your resting heart rate and maximum heart rate, you can easily figure out how to pace yourself for maximum endurance. Learning how to use HRM can also teach you when your body needs fuel and allow you to increase your lung capacity and even burn some fat (if you need it).
8. Group rides
Riding in groups takes something, and you shouldn’t expect to be able to imitate Tour de France runners after a day on the bike. For the sake of safety, group riding requires mastering some basic riding skills and improving the smooth movement of cyclists within the group.
When riding in a team, communication is very important, as is consistency. Do not swerve or brake suddenly without warning others. There are videos that teach you the various formations of riders when riding in groups. It’s best to practice group riding with a friend first.
9. Proper braking
You’ll know you’ve mastered the brakes when it becomes instinctive. As easy as it looks, braking is actually one of the hardest riding skills to master. Learning how to brake doesn’t mean just knowing when to stop, but how to stop.
While the bike’s stopping power comes primarily from the front brake, the rear brake should be engaged most of the time when a smooth stop is required. If you’ve ridden a bike before, you probably understand the consequences of suddenly slamming on the front brakes, which is why you should never use them when you’re panicking.
10. Check the rear
Bikes don’t have mirrors, and not all bikes have mirrors. That’s why it’s so important to look front and rear before changing lanes or moving away from a group of riders. Although this is a common etiquette for all road users, as a cyclist it is doubly important as moving recklessly from one position to another can have very dangerous results.
11. Relax yourself
Relaxing might sound silly when you’re running wild at a bike park like Blue Derby or Ourimbah, etc. Relaxing might sound silly when you’re running wild at a bike park. But relaxation is the key to success.
Do you think professionals get nervous? Hmm…I doubt it! When you push the limits of your comfort zone, becoming as stiff as a plank is a just and natural response. This is an extremely difficult trait to overcome. But ironically, it was this so-called “survival instinct” that led to most of the chips.
You need to train your mind and body to relax. Cycling is all about mobility. Your ability to ride smoothly is everything. Heck, it even extends the life of the bike! Staying relaxed is the key to making this happen. Calm down and stay relaxed will remove any jerky nature that disrupts flow, multiplying control and grip.
So grab a sedative on your next bike outing and enjoy! If you find yourself unable to do it, try to slow down, complete the sections at a comfortable pace and manage your mental stress.
Summary of how to improve your mountain biking skills
I guess you noticed the general theme of this post? Everything is connected. It’s great to perform just one of these tricks perfectly, but unless you can interweave all of these mountain biking skills and make it a daily activity on your bike, you’ll never be able to reach your full potential.
As with all things, consistency is the key to success, and nothing is more important than having the support to help you grow. I’m currently building a community aimed at exponentially improving mountain biking skills and experience. Anyone and anyone is welcome to join, there are no prerequisites. My goal is to provide individual and group training (currently online) to get you to the level of mountain biking you want. If this sounds like a group to you, all you have to do is subscribe below and our tour of mountain bike paradise will begin!
All good drivers start somewhere. If you’re an absolute beginner, this is a great time to learn and eventually master these riding tips to improve not only your riding ability but also your safety when sharing trails with other road users. Remember that many of these skills can only be mastered through repeated practice, so be prepared to invest the necessary time to become familiar with them. After all, the only thing that separates a great cyclist from the rest is experience, so practice those skills as much as you can.
If you are looking for a new way of commuting or want a healthier lifestyle, we are here to help you. Visit our website to learn more about electric bikes and electric scooter or please leave information to us.