Spring is here! Brush up on these 6 essential roadie skills

There's more to road riding than just fitness

With the riding season fast approaching for us lucky northern hemisphere residents, now is the time to brush up on some basic, but oh so important, road riding skills.

The following list includes six essential skills every roadie should be comfortable with, they'll not only make your riding safer, but also more fun and even faster.

1. Emergency stop

You'll never know when you'll need it, but it's a vital skill when you do.

Full power stops require a bit of technique. The biggest trick is to get your weight back and low. This means sliding off the back of the saddle and lowering your butt towards the rear tire. Since your bike's front brake has the bulk of the stopping power, this position prevents the dreaded over-the-bar possibility. 

First things first, make sure your bike's brakes are in correct working condition. Then find a safe spot where you can get up to speed and practice squeezing the brake levers hard. You might surprise yourself just how powerful your brakes are.

2. Riding one-handed and no-handed

Riding with one or both hands off the bar allows for a greater increase in practicality. Small things like signaling for traffic or calling out potholes keep you and other riders safe and in the know, and being able to grab a bottle and drink without wobbling is necessary for group rides.

Once accustomed to riding sans hands on the bar, you'll find eating food or even putting on or peeling off a jacket is feasible. 

Learn how to ride no-handed in 5 steps

Like most things, it's highly advisable to start slowly with one hand off the bar, then both for a few seconds until you gain the balance and confidence.

3. Getting out of the saddle

Standing up occasionally reaps many benefits including: speed, stretching and giving your rear end a break
Standing up occasionally reaps many benefits including: speed, stretching and giving your rear end a break

How does being more powerful and getting a bit of a stretch while on the bike sound? Sounds great doesn't it?

Well, it's easy to get both by just standing up and getting out of the saddle.

In addition to providing a boost of power and speed, it gives your butt, back and thighs a much needed position shift, and lofting above the seat can ease bumpy sections and add control in dicey situations. 

For extra power don’t forget to rock the bike and also shift to a harder gear so you have more weight and power over the pedals

4. Hop a curb

In a similar vein to the emergency stop, sometimes jumping off the road is the only option. While it's ideal to come at the curb perpendicular (straight on), real world scenarios likely involve parallel or angled approaches. 

Straight on or at an angle, either way the technique is similar.

As the curb comes near, yank up on the bars and rock your weight back on the bike, as soon as your front wheel is above the curb, throw your weight forward to unweight or pop up the rear wheel. Pulling up on the pedals will also unweight the rear wheel. 

You can get a feel for it by riding and popping the front wheel up over and over. Once that feels pretty good, practice lifting the back wheel up by shifting your weight forward and pulling up on the pedals.

Mastering this skill definitely takes a bit of practice, but luckily it can be done in nearly any parking lot. If worse comes to worse, getting the front wheel up and over the curb is the most important part to prevent going over the bars.

5. Slow-speed handling

Numerous seasoned cyclists will admit that some of their worst crashes have been in a parking lot or while riding slowly. Slow riding is the least stable, especially on a edgy, nervous road bike. Crashing in front of a group of people or before the ride starts is also one of the biggest ego deflators. 

Slow-speed riding simply takes practice and getting used to the feeling of tipping over, then righting yourself (which technically is all riding a bike really is, micro adjustments to prevent falling) can really help with your bike handling skills.

Remember a light touch on the bars goes a long way.

6. Riding in a group

Group riding is a great way to increase speed, meet new people and discover new routes
Group riding is a great way to increase speed, meet new people and discover new routes

Road riding in a group has a multitude of benefits: increased speeds, drafting and making new friends. Riding in close proximity to other riders does rely on a bit of understanding however.

Keeping your speed and movements smooth and predictable are the main ingredients. Not overlapping wheels is also an important part of group riding.

For additional safety, it's advisable to allow a bit more space to the rider in front of you when going downhill.

Pointing out road hazards and debris for those behind you is also expected.

Russell Eich

Tech Writer, US
Russell fell head over heels in love with bikes in the '90s, and has been involved in the bike industry ever since. Between wrenching in bike shops, guiding professionally, and writing about bikes, Russell has honed an appreciation for what works, gained knowledge of what doesn't, and can barely contain his enthusiasm for what comes next. His two-wheeled passion continues in the Rocky Mountains high above Boulder, Colorado.
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: High altitudes, forgotten singletracks, bike parks, roads without cars
  • Current Bikes: Custom Meriwether steel hardtail, Specialized S-Works Enduro 29, Kona Jake the Snake, Trek 69er, and a bunch more
  • Dream Bike: Yeti SB5c, Intense Tracer 275C, Black Cat custom road
  • Beer of Choice: Gin + Tonic
  • Location: Rollinsville, CO, USA

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