Improving bike-handling skills

by jb_   July 16, 2013  

I tried some Crit racing over at Hog Hill earlier this year with mixed results.

I did a Cat 4 race where I was fine (finished in the group), but then I came off the track on a corner during my next 3/4 and smashed myself up a bit (not into anyone else). The one after that, my confidence was shot, and I basically just struggled along at the back.

My fitness is good enough I think, the problem lies with the confidence of cornering at speed (I've gone back and ridden the track on my own a few times) - and just not being able to stay calm in a group.

I'm already starting to think about how I can tackle winter training / next season to get myself over this. I've tried a club, but they didn't really ride together (and what is it about all the 8am Sunday starts?!)

I also wondered about specialist coaching. Maybe even a bit of mountain biking. Anything to get me used to moving the bike around.

Obviously, I could just HTFU. But, I feel kind of responsible when in the group that if my handling skills aren't up to it, then it may not just be me that gets effected.

Anyone got any useful tips?

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Mtbing is good for bike handling and good fun too.

I don't have a 'cross bike but they seem good as well.

Plus its a perfect excuse for a new bike!

posted by Super Domestique [1671 posts]
16th July 2013 - 19:56

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I agree with Mr/Mrs/Miss Domestique. I ride a MTB as my commuter and love chucking it along some (admittedly not particularly daunting) trails. It helps my fitness - particularly core - and helps my bike handling. You can fall off, as well - it hurts (slightly) less, as it's at slower speed and on softer ground (OK, hedges and undergrowth!).

The one thing you do need to accept is that when your road bike lets go, it will do so quicker and at higher speed.

Oh, and my MTB is completely old school (somewhat like me), with no suspension and dodgy V-brakes. It's also a singlespeed - but that just helps on the fitness front. Plus, at £40, it's not like I'm worried about damaging the bike!

Not tried a crosser. But, I suspect that that might be even better in terms of transferable skills.

Good luck

PS I also found that accidentally completely overdoing a corner or two on my road bike helped immensely - you then just know that, while you might worry about the bike not hacking it, it will!

Oh, and relax!

posted by Jimbonic [129 posts]
16th July 2013 - 22:15

1 Like

Sounds like a bit of MTBing is a good idea. Thanks!

I did wonder about Cyclocross too. I'm sure the thought of buying another bike will go down wonderfully at home!

posted by jb_ [7 posts]
17th July 2013 - 9:45


I reckon keep racing, you need to improve your confidence at race pace on a road bike surrounded by other riders.

posted by SammyG [295 posts]
17th July 2013 - 9:53


That's definitely the plan!

I think I need to find a club that also does some racing. Maybe having some teammates might help.

posted by jb_ [7 posts]
17th July 2013 - 10:10


MTBing is great for bike handling skills but, having made the leap from mountain biking to road riding, it doesn't help for group riding as you'll generally want to be riding with space in front of you when off-road as you need to see the trail.

It will definitely help you out when cornering and committing to lines. You'll start to get a very good understanding of how the bike will react in certain conditions e.g. when the tyres will break-loose or grip, you have to react quicker to changes and obstacles and you'll learn how to brake better, which is a huge advantage.

posted by egb [43 posts]
17th July 2013 - 10:43


Ride some rollers for balance, you need it more than you realise. MTB learning the throwing it about, push down on the outside foot to turn tighter just trust me on that. The most important thing is to relax as being anxious means you are stiff and being stiff means you crash if your bike twitches. Good luck.

cidermart's picture

posted by cidermart [486 posts]
17th July 2013 - 11:43

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Yeah, I can feel myself tensing up.

Maybe some yoga to chill me out then!

posted by jb_ [7 posts]
17th July 2013 - 17:02

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I'd echo the mtn bike comments - I was guilty of the hazard fixation thing, but there are so many hazards off-road that moutain biking cured me.

Also, how do you feel about riding no-handed? I couldn't do it until I learnt to relax, then bingo, skills took a nice little jump in the right direction.

Club rides and a chain gang are also essential. Perhaps find a different club.

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3651 posts]
18th July 2013 - 22:30


Nice one. Thanks

Looks like a MTB course is a sensible choice (and it'll be fun if nothing else!)

Then, I need to find a club in Central/East London who race, but don't insist on 8am starts on a Sunday...

posted by jb_ [7 posts]
22nd July 2013 - 21:42

1 Like