One of the most basic cycling skills is the ability to ride in a straight line or steer the bike where we want it to go. Sounds easy? Most of the time it is. Sometimes, though, you can face challenges. The key to steering your bike exactly where you want to is as simple (and as hard) as being relaxed.
You’re pedalling along and suddenly there’s a pothole, a branch or a broken bottle on the road. You see it but for some reason you ride right over it. That’s because you generally steer where you’re looking.
If you look directly at the obstacle and tense up, that’s exactly where you’ll go. The trick is to relax and look around it. Your hands will follow your eyes and you’ll safely miss the obstacle.
Most cyclists spend a fair bit of time riding on the road with traffic. Being able to confidently steer where you want to go makes you a more predictable – and a safer – cyclist. Being able to respond well to unexpected things is another good skill.
If you’re gripping the handlebars hard with your elbows locked straight, hitting an unexpected bump can send you veering off course. In traffic that can give you and the motorist behind or beside you a fright, at best.
Relax. Just rest your hands lightly on the handlebars with your elbows slightly bent. Then bumps like this are easily absorbed by your built-in shock absorbers – elbows and knees. You’ll certainly feel it, but you’ll stay on course.
Some people get nervous going fast, especially going down a hill. They tense and grip the handlebars hard. Hands, arms and shoulders are rigid. Go over any bump, no matter how small and there’s no “give” to absorb it. Next thing the front wheel starts wobbling alarmingly. Just occasionally a loose components is causing the speed wobbles. More often, you just need to relax.
Steering a straight course while you’re looking forward is one thing. What happens when you need to look behind you? Once again, the tendency is to veer where you’re looking.
If you have both hands on the handlebars and you look over your left shoulder, you’ll probably veer to the left. The trick is to take your left hand off. Some people rest it on their left leg. Some people suggest pointing the arm behind you.
See what works best for you, but do practise, practise. And relax!
See you on the road soon, God willing.