8 Essential Road Cycling Techniques

Cycling proficiency is crucial for speed, safety, and enjoyment. Whether you're cycling alone, joining friends for a local group ride, or participating in events and races, it's vital to practice and enhance your cycling abilities continuously.

This guide offers insights into cycling techniques and advice to refine your skills and enhance your riding experience. It serves as an excellent resource for both novice cyclists and those with years of riding experience.

Key Road Cycling Techniques

Here are the key cycling techniques you should focus on mastering:

1. Cornering

Maintaining momentum through corners is essential to avoid expending excess energy and getting left behind. Poor cornering is a common reason why riders lose contact with a group. To improve your cornering skills, consider the following tips:

Look ahead through the corner towards your desired path. Your bike follows your gaze, so avoid fixating on the wheel in front or obstacles on the road. Distribute your weight and pressure on your outside foot (pointed downward) and inside arm. The outside foot provides traction, while the inside arm directs the bike's trajectory. To tighten your turn radius, apply more pressure on the inside arm to lean the bike inward.

In a group setting, it's preferable to allow a small gap to form as you enter a corner rather than losing ground on the exit. By carrying more momentum into the turn, you can close the distance without needing a high-power acceleration.

On wet, gravelly, or unstable surfaces, keep the bike more upright. Leaning too much shifts your center of gravity away from the tire contact patches, reducing traction. Maintaining a more upright position helps keep your center of gravity closer to the bike's midline, enhancing stability on low-traction surfaces.

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2. Descending on a bicycle

Downhill sections offer riders the opportunity to gain speed without exerting effort. While cyclists spend most of their time pedaling to move forward, descents provide a chance to save time and enjoy the ride. Professional cyclists often employ advanced descending techniques that surpass the abilities of most amateur riders.

Here are some skills to observe and practice during your next downhill ride:

1) Anticipate and Plan Ahead. When descending at speeds of up to 62mph, cyclists cover the length of a football field (approximately 300 feet) every 3.3 seconds. With corners, obstacles like rocks and potholes approaching rapidly, it's crucial to choose your lines early. Ideally, aim to take a wide entry into a corner, cut through the apex, and exit wide. Selecting the correct line on entry is essential for safely navigating the turn and staying on course.

2) Brake Strategically. Before the Corners: Significant changes in speed should occur on the straight sections leading up to corners, utilizing both brakes to maintain control. While some braking may continue into the turn, it's essential to reduce speed to a safe level before entering the corner. For instance, if you were traveling at 40mph on the straight, aim to slow down to 25-30mph before approaching the turn.

3) Attempting to decelerate and change direction simultaneously can lead to locking up the wheels, sliding, or overshooting the corner. Advanced riders often employ the technique of braking later, holding speed until closer to the corner, and then applying greater braking force to slow down rapidly. This approach has become more prevalent with the use of disc brakes, which offer increased stopping power. However, mistiming braking can result in overshooting the corner.

Maintain Focus and Look Through the Corner: Direct your gaze towards the exit of the corner, as your bike follows the direction of your eyes. Avoid fixating on obstacles like potholes or guardrails unless you intend to steer towards them. Maintaining visual focus on the desired path helps improve cornering technique and overall control.

4) Begin wide, finish wide. As you approach a downhill curve, position yourself towards the outer edge. This is especially crucial for sharp turns like switchbacks, but it applies to most curves except for the gentlest ones. While you aim to pass through the midpoint of the curve, your approach angle will vary depending on the curve's curvature.

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3. Advancing within a Group

Advancing within a group can be challenging when riders are closely positioned side by side. Similarly, moving to the outside of the group and accelerating against the wind requires significant energy.

The most efficient method for progressing within the pack is to move diagonally. To do so, you need to position your handlebars in front of the adjacent rider's handlebars, allowing you to guide both yourself and the rider into the available space.

In tight spaces, safeguard your handlebars by slightly extending your elbow or creating a small gap with your shoulder. It's essential to clarify that this is not equivalent to forcefully elbowing or pushing the adjacent rider. Avoid such actions. Likewise, you should never remove your hands from the handlebars to navigate through the peloton.

Using your hands to maneuver others is hazardous and indicates inadequacies in your group riding skills. The only circumstance where it's acceptable to touch another rider's shoulder or hip is to prevent a collision.

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4. Cycling in a Paceline

A well-executed paceline underscores the importance of teamwork and the collective strength of a group. Here are key considerations:

1) When it's your turn to lead, maintain the group's speed. Any surges or slowdowns you introduce amplify as they ripple through the group.

2) You're not obligated to match the duration of the preceding rider's pull. It's preferable to take a shorter stint at the group's pace than to slow down for a longer turn. Conversely, if you're feeling strong, opt for a longer pull, not a faster one.

3) Transition out of the wind when pulling. If the wind is blowing from the left, the paceline rotates in a counterclockwise direction. Similarly, if the wind is from the right, veer off to the right. In a double paceline (2×2), each rider exits to their respective side, allowing the group to pass between them.

4) Keep reserves for rejoining. You'll need to accelerate to move from the recovery position back to the pulling position, so avoid exhausting yourself during your pull.

5. Cycling in an Echelon

An echelon is a formation utilized in crosswinds, where cyclists align diagonally across the road rather than directly behind each other. The lead cyclist positions themselves on the side facing the wind. Only a limited number of riders can fit in this diagonal line, determined by the width of the road.

Riders behind contend for a non-existent draft on the roadside or the centerline. A better approach is to establish a secondary echelon behind the first. When taking a pull in a crosswind, shift out of the wind and promptly drop back behind the group. Avoid lingering in the exposed wind.

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6. Climbing out of the saddle while Standing

When ascending hills, cyclists often alternate between pedaling in the saddle and standing on the pedals. In a group ride scenario, it's crucial to avoid throwing your bike backward as you rise from the saddle.

Doing so increases the risk of colliding wheels with the rider behind you, potentially resulting in a crash. To prevent this, shift up one or two gears (into a harder gear) as you stand up, ensuring that your initial pedal stroke is forceful enough to sustain your momentum. Remember to shift back into an easier gear upon sitting back down.

7. Navigating Bumping

In professional cycling races on narrow roads, riders frequently experience shoulder and elbow contact as they vie for position, especially in tight sections. Even if you're not competing, being comfortable with incidental contact is essential when riding in a group. Here are some pointers:

1) Stay relaxed! Keep your elbows and shoulders flexible. Maintain a firm grip on the handlebars without tensing up excessively. By remaining loose in your upper body, you can absorb bumps from neighboring riders while maintaining a straight trajectory. Tension, on the other hand, makes it easier to deviate from your line upon impact.

2) To safeguard your space and handlebars, consider adjusting your upper body slightly toward the rider making contact, without necessarily leaning on them. If their weight leans into you, you'll need to lean back to maintain equilibrium for both riders. However, if it's just a bump, aim to stay balanced on your bike and use your body to maintain personal space.

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8. Checking Behind You 

Often, riders inadvertently veer in the direction they turn their head when attempting to glance over their shoulder. For instance, when you pivot to look over your left shoulder, you tend to drift leftward. As you rotate your torso and shoulders to check behind, you unintentionally apply pressure to the handlebars, causing your bike to swerve.

To counteract this tendency, concentrate on maintaining forward pressure on the bars or gently nudging them to the right. It's helpful to practice this maneuver in a traffic-free environment, such as a parking lot.

Another safety measure when scanning behind in a group or pace line is to place your left hand on the shoulder of the rider to your left as you turn to look over your left shoulder (or your right hand on the rider to your right to look over your right shoulder).

Best road Cycling Tips

Here are the best cycling tips for you.

1. Embrace Speed

Modern bikes are engineered to be highly responsive and excel at high speeds, especially downhill, maintaining a straight trajectory. Many people fear experiencing bike wobbles, but with a good-quality, top-end road bike, this is unlikely to occur. If you remain composed and relaxed, you can allow the bike to navigate effortlessly, making it much smoother for you.

Additionally, it's essential to ride based on feel rather than constantly checking your Garmin for speed readings. Avoid fixating on your velocity and instead maintain a pace that feels comfortable and controlled for you.

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2. Build Confidence

If you're hesitant about descending, the initial focus should be on building confidence on the bike. Many cyclists opt to ride on the hoods as it feels comfortable, but transitioning to the drops enhances speed and control.

Riding in the drops not only improves braking control but also lowers your center of gravity, providing better overall bike control. Before delving into cornering techniques, prioritize mastering riding in the drops. Once you've honed this skill, everything else falls into place.

3. Stay Relaxed for Comfort

A common issue inexperienced riders face on lengthy descents is discomfort or pain, often felt between the shoulder blades, in the hands, or arms. Much of this discomfort stems from tensing up during the descent. While you may maintain the same position for an extended period, it's crucial to remain as relaxed as possible on the bike.

Most descents include flat sections or areas where the gradient lessens. Take advantage of these moments to make slight adjustments – even briefly shifting to the hoods for a break. These subtle movements can significantly alleviate aches and pains by the time you reach the bottom.

4. Decide Whether To Pedal or Not

Pedaling whenever possible on descents is advisable, especially if you anticipate another climb ahead. Remaining stationary for an extended period can result in stiff, cold legs, particularly problematic when faced with subsequent ascents.

If feasible, pedal intermittently during the descent, even if with minimal force. This helps keep your legs warm and agile, beneficial for tackling the next climb.

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5. Bolt Check

Ensuring your bike is properly secured is paramount for an enjoyable gravel biking experience, particularly for beginners. Prioritize safety by inspecting and tightening the bolts for components like your water bottle cage, handlebars, stem, seatpost, and pedals before hitting the trails.

Loose bolts not only cause discomfort but also pose safety risks, especially on challenging terrain where vibrations can gradually loosen components. Take a few moments to tighten any loose bolts, ensuring a secure ride and allowing you to focus on the adventure ahead.

6. Terrain Exploration

Preparing for an unforgettable gravel biking journey involves thorough terrain research. Despite the limited natural landscapes in our city-state, there are numerous thrilling off-road trails awaiting exploration. It's crucial to conduct comprehensive research and acquaint yourself with the terrain before embarking on your gravel biking adventure. This entails assessing trail difficulty, identifying potential hazards, and staying updated on prevailing weather conditions.

By taking these measures, you'll be mentally and physically prepared for the challenges ahead. Additionally, proper preparation ensures you have the necessary gear and equipment, laying the groundwork for a successful and enjoyable ride. Seize the opportunity to strategically plan your route, enhancing your gravel biking experience and embracing the adventure that lies ahead.

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Biking offers an exhilarating escape from the city, allowing you to tackle rough terrain and thrilling trails that demand your full attention.

To optimize this experience, ensure your bike is in good condition, familiarize yourself with the terrain, master safe cornering techniques, maintain optimal tire pressure, wear appropriate footwear, reconsider carrying bags, engage with the community, and ride at a comfortable pace. By adhering to these guidelines, you'll delight in conquering obstacles and exploring the beauty of nature. 

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