Basic riding techniques (part 1)

Whether you are racing in competitions or just riding around with friends, this can be an extremely fulfilling hobby which is easy to get started in. Cycling offers entertainment, exercise, and an excellent way to just get around town.

Perfect Your Pedaling

It’s normal to hop on a bike and push down on the pedals. But, if that’s all you do, you’ll never develop a smooth, efficient pedal stroke. Practice this instead: When the pedals reach 3 o’clock on the pedal stroke, pull back with a swiping motion as if you are wiping mud off the bottom of your shoes. You’ll notice an immediate boost in power, especially on hills. And, if you focus on this technique for only a few rides, your pedal stroke will smooth out and become far more efficient. In time, you’ll do it automatically.

Palm Protection

Two nerves run through your palms and they can become painfully numb from cycling. In fact, my high-school chum Bruce Holden once lost the feeling in both hands for six weeks after a ride we took into the White Mountain of New Hampshire. What’d he do wrong? He made three serious mistakes: 1 He rode without gloves (always ride with comfortable, nicely padded cycling gloves because they save your hands and also provide palm protection if you crash); 2 He gripped the bars too tightly (relax your grip); and 3 He didn’t move his hands around to different parts of the handlebars (every 10 minutes move your hands and grip in a different place). Avoid these mistakes and you should avoid palm problems.

Relax!

One of the most common mistakes is riding while you’re too tight in the upper body. If you see someone riding and you see locked shoulders and straight, stiff arms, you’re looking at someone who’s probably going to have a sore neck and arms at the end of the ride and someone who’s tiring out muscles for no good reason. Relax when you’re riding. Keep nice, loose, bent arms. Drop your shoulders and get comfortable. Train yourself to relax by, every 15 minutes or so, shrugging your shoulders to get them to drop and relax. Bring your elbows down and closer together and shake your arms to relax them. Bend your elbows. Exhale. Think about letting all that tension leave your neck, shoulders and arms. You’ll feel a whole lot better and have a lot more control of your bike if you can learn to ride comfortably like this.

Hook Your Thumbs

An important safety measure is always keeping at least one of your thumbs beneath the handlebars. If you can do this, you’ll avoid crashing due to your hands slipping off the bars. This can happen if you hold onto the tops with all your fingers over the handlebars. In this position, if you hit a bump and aren’t prepared, your hands can slip off causing a crash. This common accident can be prevented by simply keeping your thumbs in the right place.

Push-up Power!

If you suffer from a sore neck on rides and you’re satisfied with the fit of your bike, you should try adding sets of push-ups to your workout routine. Even if you only do them a few days a week, I think you’ll find that they make your neck pain go away. This happens because the push-ups strengthen the muscles that support the neck, which means they won’t tire on rides and get sore.

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