How to improve bike handling skills

This past Sunday was another edition of the Paris-Roubaix. Johan Van Summeren won the 2011 edition in a long solo effort for the finish line. And it is reported that he rode his bike on a flat rear tire (tubular) for about the last 5Km.

After finishing and being interviewed he was asked how he was able to ride on the flat with out crashing. He basically stated that he often goes out training without a spare tire & has learned how to ride a flat in order to get back home.

But how can this thinking benefit you and your skills as a bike handler? Practice!

In honor of Paris-Roubaix I did a on/off road bike ride that involves dirt and paved roads. This is an excellent way of practicing your bike handling skills. Cycling off-road will help with many other road conditions and surprises that you may run into…. after all, you think Johan Van Summeren ever thought he would Win Paris-Roubaix on a flat rear tire?!

Just some of the skills that cycling off-road will enhance:

1) How to steer with your body and not just your handle-bars.
When riding slick surfaces you need to use less input via the handlebars and more by slight shifts in body-weight

2) How to handle rear wheel slipping while standing
To keep your rear wheel from slipping while applying the power on a slick surface you must adjust where your bodyweight is located. Too far forward and you spin the rear wheel, to far back and you can possibly do a wheelie and/or flip over backwards.

3) What to do when your tires slip
Chances are you are going to either hit a soft patch of road, and the bike will shift it’s line in a different direction. The best thing to do is not freak out. Relax, go with the bike, and then slowly adjust your line back to the direction you want to go – this is best done with you body and not the handlebars.

4) How to ride off-road
I will tend to not sit as heavy in the saddle, shift to a larger gear and pedal a slower cadence. This puts more pressure on the legs, but it also takes away some of the harshness of the gravel road. Also, a slower cadence & larger gear allow for less chance of spinning the rear tire.

5) How to change a flat tire…
You should know how to do this already, but if not your local bike shop can show you how to do it – and you NEED to know! It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it is important to know how to change a tube/tire and get back rolling again.

Take it easy and don’t make drastic changes in direction, everything is slightly more muted.

BUT please be careful – as someone that has gotten stitches due to excessive speed on gravel roads, let me tell you: Crashing Sucks!

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