February 12th, 2010
12:04 PM ET
By Laura Cozik
Last week you learned about some of the basics - beginner skills for your road bike. Today we progress to advanced beginner skills.
Once you’ve figured out how to stop falling (I told you that would happen!), here are the advanced beginner skills you should start to master. Most have to do with bike handling, but focusing on technique should start to play a major role in your workouts.
Hill climbing: Easy gear, spin your legs comfortably at a high cadence. Learn how to get to the top of a hill without being completely exhausted.
Hill descending: Learn to love the free speed! In a hard gear, try to pedal your legs the entire way down, feathering your brakes (lightly squeezing them) to control your speed when necessary. No coasting.
Turns and cornering: Always look into a turn. Your body will follow where your eyes lead. If you are making a left turn, bring your left knee to the top of the pedal stroke while the right one remains at the bottom (and vice versa).
Riding in your ‘drops’: This is the most aerodynamic position you can achieve on a road bike. Hands come down to the lowest point on your handlebars, called ‘the drops’. Practice shifting gears and squeezing your brakes from this hand position.
Standing: Try this on an easy hill climb. Shift to a harder gear, stand up, and continue pedaling. At first you may only achieve 2-4 pedal strokes before needing to sit, but practice and you will improve.
Single-leg pedaling: This helps you to improve your pedal efficiency. While riding on a nice, easy flat, click one foot out of the pedal and extend it behind you. The other foot pedals solo. Try to eliminate any “dead spots” (most people experience these at the top of the pedal stroke). Your goal is smooth, even circles. Do both legs for 1 minute each, about 5 sets total.
Pace lines: This is for group riding only, when training with a team or with friends. While at first a bit scary, you’ll learn to love it. Try riding in single file, as close to the tire in front of you as possible. Eventually you should be able to maintain a maximum of 12 inches from tire to tire. There is a draft benefit here, so you can scale back on your effort. That is, until you are up front leading the group! Pedal continuously, don’t squeeze your brakes suddenly, don’t change the speed when you take over the lead. This takes a LOT of concentration. Google it for more info.
Practice, and let me know if you have any questions. Next week we discuss training zones.
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