Let's Get Technical: Shake Up Those Rides To Improve Handling Skills
Updated: Feb 13, 2020
It happens in every race I have ever participated in. The corner taken too fast and incorrectly and a wipe out for the rider ensues. These accidents are bad enough when they happen to the person who crashes, but they are even more devastating when they take out another athlete. In most cases these crashes are the result of an athlete who has simply failed to acquire the proper handling skills.
Long course triathletes often train alone and tend to ride on long out-and-back type rides. They are usually somewhat competent at right-hand turns but throw in a U-turn or left-hand turn, and suddenly disaster seems to loom literally at every turn.
This is easy to remedy and the good news is that the remedy is also fun and often convenient. It lies in your neighborhood. A pleasant repeatable loop in your neighborhood can be your “technical” course. It should include some decent straightaways but also a good number of left- and right-hand turns, with at least one U-turn in the mix.
The value of incorporating such a training route into your bike training schedule has several training benefits. First, on that seriously rain threatening day, it can keep you close to home in case a thunderstorm pops up. Second, it allows you to practice staying in aero while negotiating relatively easy turns for those times in races where that might come in handy. Third, it forces you to get better at returning to steady state velocity after a forced slow down, requiring you to tap into more than one energy system. Fourth, it allows you to ride outside (which many of us love and prefer) while also transforming the time into a workout similar to a trainer ride. Finally, it will also reveal those areas of bike handling where you need work.
(image from: https://www.bicycling.com/training/skills/how-bunny-hop-boss)
Is there a big pothole on that route? Learn to bunny hop it first from the bull horns and eventually from aero. Is there a long straightaway that is often into the wind? Practice returning to velocity while going into the wind when starting from a near stop. Use stop signs as practice for getting better at using the front brake in the proper manner. Be inventive! Think up games to pass the time as you practice more technical cornering, accelerating, braking, and obstacle avoiding bike skills. Do pickups from mailbox to mailbox or driveway to driveway. In fact, although you should use this technique with caution, I once found a route with a doberman who liked to lurk next to his mailbox in wait for me. Talk about speed work!
So get out there and get technical. Find a challenging, repeatable loop near you. Get intentional about getting better at handling your bike and see the difference in your next race.