Ride Faster, Better, Safer: How To Improve Your Cycling Skills

“The skills can be at different levels: beginner, intermediate and advanced. It’s important to learn each skill level in the correct order, instead of trying to speed up skill acquisition. You can’t take a technical course or tackle an advanced skills course, when you haven’t understood the basics, ”says former pro Erica Green. She represented South Africa at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics in road racing and mountain biking events, and is a UCI certified level 2 coach. “Even the ability to bend over to get your water bottle is a huge problem for a lot of riders.”

Through his experience as a coach, Green has realized that many basic skills are overlooked. Mastering the techniques of cycling means having full control of your pedal stroke, waxing every corner, and feeling confident every time you put your leg over the tube. Below she explains how you can start and progress correctly in your cycling skills training. (For more tips and tricks to improve your practice game, check out our Training ledger!)

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Do it if …
… you are not on a strider bike. According to Green, all riders should learn beginner skills and then more event specific skills. Skill training will not only make you faster, but also make you a more confident pilot.

All you need is …
… your bike and the environment in which you enjoy riding the most.

Engage yourself to…
… “five to six professional training sessions to start,” says Green. “It will be enough time to consolidate some skills.” It is important to practice your skills after an actual lesson. Therefore, committing to six sessions means committing to additional rides afterward to make sure you practice.

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Spend…
… two to three hour sessions per week on skills if you are a beginner, until you feel comfortable with the basics like turning, braking and descending.

In a session …
… work on the following points:

Mountain biking: Pedal kick (which will result in better efficiency, better climb, less fatigue and less injury), super-fast turns, disassembly and reassembly, braking, body positioning on the bike and stimulation.

Road: learn group handling skills, balance, braking, pace, turns and group etiquette.

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Progress by …
… making sure you have the basics before you move on. Skills such as mounting, braking, turning, descending, and pedaling go a long way in mastering more advanced skills. Riding in a group or having someone film you over a particularly difficult obstacle can help you learn more effectively.

You are overtraining if ..
… you’re not having fun. Remember that it takes time to master skills: the more you ride your bike, the better you will become.

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Maintain your skills in …
… practice as much as possible and incorporate specific exercises as you get closer to an event.

This article originally appeared in the February 2015 issues of Cycling in South Africa.

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