5 drills to improve your bike handling
Conor Dunne's favourite exercises for sharpening your skills
The GCN team
Whether you enjoy racing, club riding or just cruising with your friends, better bike handling skills will make riding a bike safer and more enjoyable. To help you improve your bike handling skills, Conor Dunne has put together some drills that will bring you up to the next level.
- Read more: Advanced skills every cyclist should learn
The track stand is when you come to a stop, turn your wheel to the side slightly, and balance the bike by rocking back and forth. It’s called a track stand because we often see sprinters using it in track cycling, during the tense moments of cat and mouse at the start of sprint races. On the road, it’s really handy for traffic lights and junctions, as it means you can wait for the light to change without unclipping your feet from the pedals.
To track stand, come to a stop with your bike facing diagonally up a gentle slope, with your pedals horizontal to the ground. Turn the front wheel to the side, directly up the slope of the road, and rest your weight on your front foot to stop yourself from rolling backwards. Balance your weight by rocking the bike forwards and backwards, while keeping your bars in the same position.
Watch: How to track stand
Car park slalom
Lay out some items about a metre and a half next to each other, in somewhere quiet like a car park. Ride between the obstacles, making sure both wheels are clear of each one. To make it harder, increase your speed or decrease the space between the obstacles.
Try to move your pedals as you go so that with each turn, the inside leg is raised and the outside leg is down. That's going to really help your handling out on the roads.
Pick up items on the move
The goal here is simple: reach down to the ground and pick something up as you're riding. This will help you develop the ability to move around on the bike and adjust your steering to changes in your weight distribution.
Before you actually try and pick something up off the ground, practice the movement you'll be using, by getting your body low over the top tube and swooping an arm down towards the ground as you ride.
Once you're comfortable with that, put something on the ground and try to pick it up. Start slowly, then try it a little faster, if you want a bit more of a challenge.
Riding on grass and rough surfaces
Road bikes are designed for riding on the road, but riding your road bike off-road, either on grass or gravel, will be really beneficial for your bike handling skills. Try and mix in some different surfaces on your next ride, and get familiar with how the bike handles on different surfaces. It'll make you a better bike rider back on the tarmac.
- Read more: How to ride a road bike on gravel
Juggling a bottle
Ever dropped a bottle or bar on a ride? It's a pain, isn't it, and it means an immediate U-turn to go and collect it. As anyone who's raced knows, being able to catch a bottle is essential for getting enough hydration to last a long day of racing. But being able to catch a bottle or anything else while riding is a great skill for anyone to learn. Here's how to do it.
Make sure no one's behind you, then pull out your bottle and try juggling it. Throw it from hand to hand, try spinning it and catching it again. Always keep your eyes on the road, and keep your focus on riding.
Learning this skill in a controlled environment might help you to recover your bottle the next time you fumble it out on a ride.