Getting back to basics can be a lot of fun

Kids racing BMX bikesWhile the professionals were showing their colours in the criterium before the Tour this year, a group of kids were showing their stuff on BMX bikes in Mitchell Street. Their bike handling skills are superb. No matter what that bike is doing, the rider is always in control.

Anyone who gets on a bike quickly discovers there’s a lot more to it than just turning the pedals. The Bendigo and District Cycling Club runs a program for kids to prepare them for track racing. But many adults would benefit from the exercises that focus on basic bike handling skills.

Can you ride a straight line? Try following a road marking to test yourself. An important skill in racing, it’s just as important in riding safely in traffic. In both cases it makes you predictable, which makes you safer.

Once they get the hang of riding in a straight line, the kids learn to ride a slalem course around a line of cones. This teaches them how to take their bike exactly where they want it to go.

Some of this is easier with speed, so there’s a fair bit of emphasis on slow speed handling. They do slow “races” – the last person over the line wins. Good for straight line slow handling. They pick up an object as they ride around a witch’s hat and put it down on the next one some 10 m away. Great for slow speed cornering practice.

Out on the road, turning corners requires you to take one hand off the handlebars to indicate your intention. If you need to look behind you, it’s good practice to take your hand off the side you’re looking to so you don’t inadvertently veer off in that direction. That can be a challenge even for some people who’ve been riding a long time.

The kids practise riding one-handed until they find that easy. Then they learn to take both off. Sounds like encouraging dangerous behaviour? Well, the reason is to get the feel for steering the bike with their legs and body. It may sound odd, but a very light touch on the handlebars when riding over rough ground like a railway crossing gives you greater control than holding on tight.

Mountain bike, BMX, triathlon and cycling clubs, and the BUGs all offer support and advice to help develop cycling skills. Everyone learns a lot and, most important, has a good time as well.

See you on the road soon, God willing.

Photo source www.pedbikeimages.org Photographer Dan Burden

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