One simple step to improve your bike handling ability.
So, you want to improve you bike handling ability do you? Well, I can tell you one simple way to do it. This doesn’t require hours in the gym, or long boring rides. In fact it’s just the opposite. Yes, it might leave you as sore as a gym workout, and it may be a long ride, but, it should be anything but boring.
I see the same scenario these days over and over, with person after person. Someone buys a bike and they ride it as if their goal is to get the ride over with as quickly as possible. We are all crunched for time and try to squeeze a million things into one day. Ride after ride people are stuck at the same skill level, their fitness may improve but their trail riding ability doesn’t.
I feel very lucky in that I’ve been practicing this one simple step ever since I started riding. It’s guided me and helped me get as far in racing and riding as I have. Unfortunately, many people get into cycling later in life and don’t realize this simple step exists. Eventually they end up riding with others who have been practicing this step and they want to be able to ride like that. We’ll its as easy as one simple step and here it is.
Go play on your bike.
Yep, that’s all you have to do. This means not worrying about time, speed, cadence, heart rate or anything else. The goal is to have fun and to play on rocks, logs, steps, rollers, jumps, curbs, anything you can find to put in your way and get on, go over, or ride down.
This is what we do when we’re kids, we play. Typically those of us that have never left cycling since we were young have continued to grow this skillset year after year. Those who come back to cycling later in life need to remember what it’s like to play on their bike. This is the best way to improve your handling, bike balance, and overall riding ability. A few side benefits might be learning how to crash or dismount in a scary situation, and yes, there is a proper way to crash.
Growing up I rode a lot of BMX and when I got into mountain biking a lot of the things I had learned transitioned from one bike to the next. I rode my MTB just like a BMX bike and played on picnic tables and anything else I could find. I went through a lot of chain rings, but it was well worth it.
Here are some ways to have a better play experience. First off get some shin/knee guards. You’re going to fall, we all do, it’s basically a rite of passage. Next, drop your seat post a few inches. This allows your body to move around freely. Switch out your clip in pedals for some platform pedals. You don’t have to always do this, but every once in a while put a set on. It will teach you how to move the bike with body weight instead of by lifting your feet. The best thing you can do is find like-minded people who want to go play as well. Most of us are inclined to try more and push ourselves if someone else is around. You can pick each other up if you fall, laugh at your mistakes and best of all share achievements together. Every ride is a chance to get better, the more you play the more you learn.