Time to Play

I recently left my full-time job to go part-time, meaning I have more days free to do the things I enjoy. I’ve been taking advantage of this, and riding my bike for fun a lot more often.

I came to a realisation that I not only want to ride faster and further, I want to ride better. What I mean by this, is that I want to ride with more confidence, balance, and skill. You may remember from my 10 Confessions of a Clumsy Cyclist, that I’m not the most nimble person and I’ve got a lot to learn still.

I didn’t really ride much as a child, so I missed that stage where you play: learning tricks, mucking about in the woods, and generally taking risks that build your confidence. So with my newfound leisure time, I’m setting myself a series of challenges, or goals. I’ve listed the skills and techniques that I want to learn, practise and perfect, in order to make myself a better cyclist.

Riding slowly, in a straight line

robbholman . com
Photo: robbholman.com

When I haven’t got to be anywhere quickly, I’m taking opportunities to shift into a low gear and slow right down. This is to help improve my balance and stability, which will be useful for commuting in traffic. On top of this, I’m aiming to be able to ride slowly in a straight line. This means tracing painted lines on quiet roads as slowly as possible, without jerking left and right too much. I’ve got a long way to go here, but my confidence is building.

Track standing

bikesafeboston . com
Photo: bikesafeboston.com

Building from here, I want to be able to come to a complete stop and hold my position for as long as possible. Again, it’s all about improving my balance and stability, but it would also be nice to avoid having to unclip and re-clip as often as I do right now.

Riding one-handed

wikihow . com
Photo: wikihow.com

Technically I can already do this, but I’m much less confident taking my left hand off the bars than I am with my right. I don’t know why, but I struggle with it. So, every chance I get, I’m forcing myself to take my left hand fully away from the bars, placing it on my hip. I’m then riding like this for as long as possible, to show myself that I can very quickly re-gain my stability. This is going really well.

Riding no-handed

IMG_0326
Photo: bikelah.com

I’ve always wanted to be able to do this. It would be really useful to be able to sit up and remove a layer without having to stop, or unwrap a snack bar while riding. As my one-handed riding has already improved drastically, I’m making good progress with this too. I’m making a point of straightening up and just gently resting my finger tips on the top of the bars, until I gain a good amount of balance. I then lift my hands an inch or so. Gradually I’m able to do this for longer, and even had a recent breakthrough where I held it for so long that I confidently put both hands in my lap! I’m not there yet though, and still need a lot of practice.

Climbing out of the saddle

cyclingweekly . com
Photo: cyclingweekly.com

I’ve been getting much better at this and feel like my legs are so much stronger now. I’ve been experimenting with where to put my hands, and swinging the bike from side to side. The latter felt very strange the first time, but I’m improving slowly. I want to do this more because I find shifting into the granny gear and spinning up a hill isn’t very efficient when I’m trying to keep up with other riders who are on much lighter bikes than me. I want to be able to get up a hill quickly.

Scooting and mounting

bikeforest . com
Photo: bikeforest.com

I want to be able to mount efficiently. I see so many people placing their left foot on the pedal, kicking off into a scoot and swinging their right foot over the frame, planting themselves on the saddle and pedalling off. I’m nowhere near achieving this yet, but I’ve been working on simply scooting to find my balance. For some reason I naturally veer to the left, and I’m struggling to overcome this. No matter how much I concentrate, the moment my right foot leaves the ground, my hands pull the handlebars towards me.

Update: Since originally penning this post, I’ve now picked this up! Woohoo!

 

 

 

Dismounting

downtownexpress . com
Photo: downtownexpress.com

The same thing as before, but reverse. I’ve now mastered this one, but I still need a bit of practice. I’m able to slow, swing my right leg back and plant it on the ground, but I want to have such good balance that I can swing it into a scoot, and stay on the bike still. When Adam demonstrated these skills to me, he was slowly scooting along, swinging the right leg over, then back, then over, and then back again. I want to be able to do that.

 

 

 

 

 

Bunny hops

mbr . co . uk
Photo: mbr.co.uk

I want to be able to hop a curb. I frequently come up against this when riding home from the Bike Project, and I hate having to stop and lift my bike up onto the curb before getting going again. I also realise it’s a good skill to have for avoiding unexpected hazards in the road, like potholes. I’ve started off by practising lifting the front wheel only. I push all my weight down onto the bars, and then use the upward momentum to pull them up as I return to position. It’s really tiring, but I’ve been seeing progress and I just need to build my strength so I can get a bit more height. I’m not quite able to make the curb just yet.

That’s all of them! I’ll keep you updated on my progress. It’s nice to have some things to aim for, and work at. It’s not always just about how far I can go on the bike, after all.

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “Time to Play

  1. Good luck with all those goals 🙂

    They are fun ones to aim at. You may have missed your time as a child to experiment but it’s definitely not too late to muck about to learn new skills. Plus you have the added benefit to be able to analyse and understand better how something works. That’s way less time to spend on guessing what you’re supposed to do 🙂

    It was quite funny while reading this post, I could picture me as a child trying all of those (apart from mounting and dismounting), especially the riding with no hands. We had a competition going between friends to see who would be able to do it first. It must have been quite a picture to see half a dozen kids riding frantically up and down a street, all trying to lift both hands off the handlebars and wobbling about. That was fun 🙂 I hope you’re having fun too practicing this skill.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. None-handers: they become easier the faster you go because the rotational forces in the wheels (gyroscopic etc.) act to stabilise the bike. You’ll have noticed this already under normal riding. If your bike has benign steering geometry (head angle etc.) then it’s even easier.

    Hills: the best way to improve there is to do hill reps because it’s all about power and strength training, and although sitting in the saddle is the most efficient way to do it, sometimes it just feels better to get out of the saddle and power up them. Feel the lactic acid burn. Learn to love the lactic acid burn.

    Riding slow: look up the road at where you want to go rather than where you are/where you’re going and this will suddenly become easier. Also relax and don’t think about it too much and it becomes easier. If you can track-stand then you don’t have to unclip at traffic lights etc. so this is a good skill to learn.

    IMPORTANT: don’t get hung up on any of the above to the point that it interferes with your basic enjoyment.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s