Here is a list of essential riding skills for cyclists. These are meant to go beyond the basics like how to mount a bike, etc., but instead cover a few maneuvers that will help you avoid accidents.
This may seem basic, but there are many riders who have trouble maintaining a straight line while looking over their shoulder, given that the body naturally turns in the direction of the head, taking the handlebars with it. Even if you use a rear-view mirror, you should always look over your shoulder before moving in any direction. Not only does this give you a better view of surrounding traffic, it can also signal to other drivers that you intend to turn or move. If you have trouble keeping straight, you can practice in an empty parking lot. Ride next to a paint stripe, and ride along while looking back, trying to spot specific objects behind you. Keep a light hold on the handlebars, and if you still have trouble, you can try pushing forward with the arm that corresponds to the direction you are looking. You can also try dropping your hand to your thigh, away from the bars, so you don’t pull on the bars as you turn.
A great way to get thrown from a bike is to slam on the brakes, which many riders have learned the hard way. You can learn how to stop quickly without getting thrown with just a little practice. The idea of the short stop is to change how weight is normally distributed when you brake. When you brake hard, your body’s weight moves from the rear to the front wheel, leaving the rear end lighter and lighter until the back tire starts to skid and lift. To do the short stop, you should rise off the seat of the bike and move your whole body back to keep more weight on the rear wheel. In this position, you can squeeze the front brake harder than the rear brake without going over, which allows you to stop more quickly because your front brake has more stopping power. If you feel the rear wheel start to skid, just let up on the front brake. This is counter-intuitive for many beginners, as the tendency in an emergency is to hit the front brake as hard as possible. However, skillful cyclists can learn to ease up as soon as they feel the rear tire start to skid.
Learning to quickly steer around obstructions in the road, like rocks, without moving too far in either direction is vital. You can practice this by using something soft as your “rock,” like a wet sponge. Ride towards the “rock” slowly. At the last minute, turn your handlebars sharply to avoid it with your front wheel. Once your wheel is past the object, turn your handlebars the other way and straighten out. With a little practice, you can learn to avoid objects in your path with little more than a twitch of the front wheel.
Hopefully, by riding defensively, you can avoid situations where you would need to use the quick turn to avoid an oncoming car. That said, sometimes you may find yourself in the path of a car turning right, and need to get away fast. Normally, when a bike turns, it turns because you lean into the direction you want to go, and you gradually fall into the direction of the turn. With the quick turn, the trick is to turn towards the car (i.e., the wrong way) very briefly first. Once you have turned briefly away from the direction you want to go, you have set up the lean in the right direction. Then, turn hard in the direction you want to go. You’ll find that with a little practice you can learn to turn sharply with little notice.
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