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A few riding tips

The following riding and training tips will help you to become a better rider and make cycling even more enjoyable!

How to corner your bicycle

Practice the correct cornering technique and you could knock off precious minutes from your ride time. Corner incorrectly and you will loose time and possibly your balance and/or a little skin from your elbows and hips!

The golden rules are:
* Gently feather the brakes before the corner and not during the corner
* Pick your line and look at where you want to go and not at the kerb
* Slowly drop into the corner with the brakes off
* Keep your inside leg up
* Put your weight on your outside leg
* Push your pelvis back on the saddle and flatten the upper body
* Keep your upper body relaxed with your hands deep in the drops of the handlebars
* Accelerate out of the corner

Riding position while cornering
To corner correctly, it is essential that your riding position is correct and that your bike is in good condition.

The tyres must not have bulges or bare patches where the tread is worn. They must be correctly inflated to maximum pressure for smooth good dry roads, and inflated to the minimum pressure when conditions are wet. The recommended minimum and maximum pressure for a particular model of tyre are printed on the sidewalls. The rear tyre should have between 5 to 10 psi or half a bar more pressure than the front one to give a good balance as you naturally put more weight on the back wheel than the front.

On the whole, high quality tyres will give much better cornering performance than cheap budget ones.

The brakes must be correctly adjusted so that the brake lever should move about 10 mm before the brake blocks meet the rim. When the brakes are applied, both brake blocks must touch the rim at the same time. The brake cables should be in good condition and should not “snatch” when the brakes are applied.

Brake gently BEFORE the corner
When approaching a corner, gently feather the brakes and reach the corner at optimum speed. The tighter the corner, the slower you will need to go.

Pick your line and don’t look down
Once you have picked your line into the corner, look at where you want to go and not at the kerb otherwise you will find youself drifting off your line and may have to over correct with disastrous consequences.

Inside leg up
It is essential when going around the corner that you raise your inside leg. Pedaling through a corner at speed is not recommended for novices and should only be done, even by elite riders, when there is absolutely no risk of clipping your inside pedal on the road.

The faster you go through a corner, the more you have to lean the bike over and the greater the risk of clipping your inside pedal. If you just scrape the pedal on the road surface, most times it just gives you a scare. Scraping the pedal harshly will, however, cause your rear wheel to bounce sideways and could cause you to fall.

Weight on the outside leg
As you corner, place your weight slightly on your outside leg for greater stability. You should be able to feel the pressure on the outside pedal

Upper body
When cornering, don’t tense up but push your pelvis back in the saddle which will put more weight over the rear wheel giving you more traction. Flatten your upper body which will help in giving you a lower centre of gravity which is essential for good cornering.

Once you can corner confidently, try counter-steering. As you go into the corner, straighten your inside arm and push your arm into the handlebars. This will turn your wheel away from the corner but lets your bike lean into the corner. This maneuver only applies for fast cornering, the faster you go the harder you push into the handlebars and tighter and faster you corner. When practicing this technique, your upper body will naturally flatten and your pelvis will push back into the saddle. Counter-steering takes practice and a great deal of concentration. Only try it when you have gained confidence at cornering!

Practice makes perfect
Practice cornering in training and, when racing, try to follow an experienced rider into the corner and follow his or her line.

To summarise: Remember to brake gradually and slow down before the corner, pick your line, go into the corner at the optimum speed, do not brake while you;re in the corner, accelerate gently out of the corner and – voila!


How to ride in an echelon

One of the most important skills a cyclist can learn is paceline technique – get it wrong and you will be most unpopular cyclist in your group and the butt end of some very nasty comments. Get it right and you will save your self precious energy for later on in the race.

A pace line is a group of riders each taking a turn at pacing or riding in front.In this way the general speed of the group can remain high, while each rider gets a turn to “pull” in front and then rest while the other riders in the paceline get their chance to do some work.  By staying in other riders’ slipstreams you can actually save up to 30% of effort but if you are in a motivated group of riders and you refuse to do your share of pacing, you will become unpopular very quickly.

There are two main ways to form a pace line and each one has some unwritten rules and etiquette which should be observed.

Single line pace line
A pace line usually forms when the pace starts picking up. The single line pace line is the most popular (but not the most effective) and works like this: The rider at the front leads for anything from 30 seconds to one minute – a short, hard effort.

He then flicks his elbow to indicate to the rider behind him that he is moving off the front and that the next rider must come to the front. If the front rider flicks his left elbow, he is indicating he is moving to the left while if he flicks his right elbow, he is moving to the right. If he is an experienced rider he will move over into the wind as he will be sheltering the rider coming through to the front while he is easing off the pace.

Having moved over, he simply eases back a bit on the intensity of pedalling, allowing the rider on his wheel to take over the pace. The rider who is moving off the front then slowly drifts to the back of the group, but not too slowly as he will have to sprint to get onto the back of the pace line. NOTE: The idea is not for the rider coming through to ‘kick’ to come to the front – that will mean everyone behind has to jump as well and will soon make you unpopular. Simply keep riding at the same pace – the rider easing off the front should simultaneously ease off.

For added drafting benefit, an experienced rider will drift back as close as possible to the riders in the pace line. As said earlier, the rider who is taking over the pace must maintain the same speed as when he was in the pace line.

The temptation to speed as he moves to the front must be avoided. Nothing more destroys a pace line than a person “jumping” through. If he is feeling strong he has two options (1) to pace a little bit longer or (2) to gradually build the pace up before swinging off.

The danger of increasing the pace is that weaker riders in the pace line will have to make such an effort that when their turn comes they will not be able pace and the pace line will be destroyed.

One obligation of the riders in a pace line is to prevent gaps from opening between the riders in front of them. If a rider cannot sustain the pace and is continually leaving gaps he should stay at the back of the pace line until he is rested enough join in the pace sharing again.

Another obligation is warn riders behind of any road hazard by calling or pointing to the hazard. Avoid sudden movements like swerving to avoid a grid. Try not to over react, use the brakes sparingly.

Be aware of other riders on your wheel, don’t make unnecessary sudden movements and try and hold your line. If you focus on a few riders just ahead of you and not just the rear wheel in front of you, you will learn to anticipate other riders’ actions.

If you want to get out of the saddle to start stretching do so at the back of the pace line. If you are taking a drink the riders behind you can see you taking your bottle out of its cage so it is unnecessary to stick your arm out like you are making a hand signal. Try to wait until you are at the back of the pace line before taking a drink.

Double pace line or Echelon

Some people call it thru and off, others say form a chain, others call it an echelon. With each rider taking a very short pull at the front it will seem like a constant smooth flow of two lines of riders – one going forward the other going backwards.

Short pulls at the front are not as tiring as long pulls thus resulting in a higher overall pace.

This is how it works: if the wind is from the right the lead rider is positioned towards the right hand side of the road and moves ever so slightly to the right, while the next rider overtakes him on his left keeping an even pace.

Once he hits the front he eases off ever so slightly and allows the rider on his wheel to overtake, resulting in one line on the left continually moving forwards and overtaking the right hand line of the chain of riders who are gradually drifting to the back all on each other’s wheel.

Once a rider is at the back of the chain he moves over to the left to join the riders moving forward. Usually the man on the back shouts “last man” so the rider coming down chain knows it is time to move over.

The result is the only time you are not sheltering from the wind is the moment you hit the front and start moving over.

If the wind is from the left then the chain works the other way round with the lead rider pulling off towards the left and the left chain going backwards and the right chain going forwards.

The more the wind is from the side, the more staggered the echelon, if it is a direct head wind then each rider will be directly behind the wheel of the rider in front.

When hitting the front do not accelerate through as you will cause the rider behind you to “loose your wheel” which will destroy the pace line. If you are in second position in the forward moving chain and don’t go through it will cause the echelon to stop functioning.

In side winds it is sometimes a tactic of pro riders not to make the echelon wide enough thus causing a trail of weaker riders behind not to get shelter and be “blown off the back”.

This calls for quick thinking from the weaker riders to form a second echelon. If the side winds are strong and the number of riders is too large for the road space this will also cause a trail of riders in the wake of the fast moving echelon.

If you find yourself in this position and have the strength try and force yourself into the working echelon. If you can’t then try and encourage the riders not in the echelon to form another echelon behind the first one, this will have the added advantage of being protected from the wind by the first echelon.

Being in the wake of the echelon in a side wind is the worst possible position you can find yourself and you will soon lose contact with the echelon.