Tag Archives: cycling

Rolling to Better Bike Handling Skills

Although many cyclists and triathletes train through the winter months using trainers, there is nothing like a set of rollers to develop bike handling skills, cadence, and top end speed.

By using trainers, cyclists can get away with horrific technique.  Not with rollers.  On rollers you need to have a smooth symmetrical pedal stroke, the ability to shift your weight only slightly to make minor adjustments to keep the bike on the rollers, as steering is not an option.  On rollers you cannot get away with anything.  Training on rollers – in time – develops a relaxed grip, loose arms, technique which has power generation beginning at the core, plus symmetry in body position. To take bike handling skills to a new level – by eliminating bad habits such as steering to correct a line, riding with a white knuckle death grip, powering only from the hips and only on the down stroke, as so on – rollers are the investment to make to becoming better.

Just watch the form of these riders as they take their cadence up to the low 200s…

Track riders train and compete on bikes which have only one gear – one chainring in the front, and a single gear on the back hub – hence the term ‘fixie‘.  The only way to accelerate, decelerate, and for that matter to come to a stop is by the rider changing the speeds at which they pedal (i.e. turnover or cadence). Instead of the bike having gears, it is the rider who must have ‘gears’ by having the ability to pedal at different speeds.

You can train on rollers with a fixe, but it isn’t mandatory.  You can train just as easily on rollers with a regular road bike, but instead of changing gears on the bike, train your own ability to change gears (i.e. pedaling cadence) to go faster and slower.

Why train turnover?  Because you simply cannot achieve your potential as a cyclist being able to ride only one cadence.  The ability to drop the hammer, attack, drop the peloton or another rider efficiently with the ability to recover while holding a new pace comes from the ability to maneuver throughout a wide rpm band, not by pounding bigger gears.  This is no different in swimming and running.  Olympic level swimmers have not only different gears, they have entirely different strokes depending on whether they are racing short course yards or long course meters; this is no different than crit cycling requiring a different setup and technique then tour riding or a TT competition.

Note how smooth the rider is in the video and how the bike remains still despite the fact that he brings his cadence up to into the low to mid 200s, and then back down.  This ability requires a tremendous amount of flexibility and a relaxed effort so that the rider can turnover at an incredible rate without vibrating right off the rollers.  Novice riders bike at low metronomic rates in the 60s or 70s. Experienced riders can manage a cadence in the 80s or maybe even the 90s. Pro riders can easily run up and down a massive range, can hold a cadence in the low 100s for a Time Trial (e.g. Bradley Wiggins during the World Hour Record), and can hold on a track a turnover of 200+ in the final lap of a race at a velodrome (watch the video in post titled “Bike Handling Skills“).

Novice riders lack the fluidity and the ability to ride relaxed.  Their rigidity is revealed in the pattern of stabilizing with their upper body while their lower body painfully grinds out each and every stroke believing that muscling the downstroke is the goal.  It feels hard to ride this way, and it is: it is an inefficient, unproductive, exhausting, and an unpleasant way to ride.

Top cyclists rotate smoothly through the length of their spine and into their lumbar-pelvic universal joint, allowing them to use every joint and muscle from their wrists to their ankles to generate power and to provide dynamic stability.  Top riders don’t grind away as they cannot afford to ride inefficiently.  Top riders need to be able to scale long gradients aerobically during mountain stages and simultaneously have the slack in their system to be able to attack not once but numerous times.  Top riders need to be able to hold high turnover rates for prolonged periods when they break away in the final kilometers of a key stage in a tour to outpace the peloton.

Same applies to triathletes as being loose and relaxed off the bike is key to being able to run efficiently and effortlessly to the final finish line of the event.  If you want to run a cadence in the 90s then wouldn’t it make sense to be able to bike at such a cadence comfortably?  If you come off the bike and have difficulty changing gears into running mode, you may want to review your cadence profile from your last triathlon… it may provide interesting insight into your ability (or inability for that matter) to run in competition.

Francois Pervis

French track cyclists Francois Pervis.  In the video in the post titled “Bike Handling Skills“, Francois is the rider who wins the sprint event against German Stefan Botticher.


Interested in becoming a better rider:

  • A set of rollers will put you on the road with skills that will allow you to weave around road furniture, hold a line, manage rolling hills with ease, the congestion around T1 and T2, and do so with less effort, with confidence, and an edge over your competitors.
  • A mountain bike and some off-road training is another option for road cyclists interested in developing agility, balance, and coordination plus higher turnover.  Climbing steep inclines, traversing exposed rock, man made obstacles, crossing fallen trees, and balancing lengthwise down a log do not forgive riders with poor skill, form, or technique.  Plus, loose, wet, and rounded surfaces do not accept gear grinding, riders need to identify the appropriate spin of their tires to maximize grip thus power transfer.
  • Sometimes the way to faster riding is not on the bike but in dryland training.  Developing flexibility, balance, and reaction speed of the bike can translate into better skills and greater efficiency in power transfer when on the bike.  Investing time with a coach who can evaluate and retrain your flexibility, balance, reaction time, and technique can provide an equally valuable payoff not only in faster splits, but by riding becoming much more relaxed and enjoyable.

Interesting side notes:

  • 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and winner of over 40 Tour de France and Giro d’Italia stages, sprinter Mark Cavendish both started out as track cyclists.
  • 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans and 2015 Tour de California winner Peter Sagan are both former mountain bike racers who switched to road racing.

How about no hands & one leg riding on rollers…

Bike Handling Skills

Timid in cornering, not confident while biking?

26 May 2015
By: Carolyn Murray
Published at triathlonmagazine.ca

“Improving your confidence starts with improving your skills.  There are several ways to work on improving cycling skill level, I would suggest approaching it in a progression of five stages.”

“Learn a skill under low pressure: this means you are either by yourself or in a clinic with your peers and the skills are practiced at low to moderate speeds.”

Read the full story here.


Phenomenal bike handling skills in action during the 2014 UCI Track World Championships:

Check out time periods of: 1:10-1:45, and from 2:10 onwards when the sprinting in the first race begins. Remember that in track cycling the bikes have one fixed gear, all adjustments to speed including braking occurs through the pedals as the rider cannot stop pedaling at any point (there is no freewheeling).

Notice how straight is the line both sprinters hold while at top speed, even in the corners. While cycling at 70+ km/h , riding shoulder to shoulder, at their absolute limit, both hold a straight line to cover the least amount of distance allowing them to hold top speed.  When peak performance comes down to thousandths of a second the importance of technique, skill, and form is clearly visible.

Nothing changes when speeds are slower and distances longer…

Cyclists and triathletes seeking improvements in race results typically train exclusively focused on riding faster, pushing more power, yet many lack the basic skill of being able to ride a straight line.  In watching televised triathlons, it appears many pros lack this basic skill as well.

The shortest – thus fastest – distance between two points is: a straight line.

What is the point of training higher and higher top end speeds, when technique falls apart leaving the rider meandering down the road covering as much distance left and right as they do forwards?  No difference in swimming: when swimmers who lack the technique to sustain body position train hard to swim faster, they end up fishtailing through the water.  Swimming harder doesn’t lead to faster swimming when you lack form, it results in wandering across the lane, covering more distance than necessary, expending more energy than necessary, ending up fatigued and without meaningful improvement.

Training technique, skill, and form may not seem like “training” to many athletes as the effort of this type of training doesn’t match that of competition… but that’s the difference between hard and smart training.  Hard training is like banging your head against the wall hoping that if you only bang hard and long enough eventually you will break through.  Smart training evaluates the wall, assesses its structure, its strong points and weak points, and then focuses in on that singular area which requires only one hit for the entire wall to come down.

All athletes have the exact same 24 hrs…it’s not what you do that matters, it’s how you do it.

Train smart: be focused, efficient, and effective in all efforts.


Another lesson from the video…

The sportsmanlike conduct demonstrated by both athletes at the conclusion of the final sprint reveals a level of character often unseen in sport (at least publicly)… humility in victory and respect for one’s opponent in victory and in defeat.  It is this conduct which should be synonymous across all sports and mirrored in life outside of sport.  Unfortunately, today’s ‘in your face’ competitive environment lacks the chivalry which these two competitors have in spades and which makes watching their duel only that more captivating.

Importance of Cycling Drills

When we are confident, experienced, and have repeatedly problem solved in real-time, then when it comes to competition we can focus on competing, not on executing simple skills. Beyond the fact that learning skills during competition is near impossible, it is distracting and diverts the energy required to deliver a peak performance.

In both triathlons and cycling competitions the list of bike handling skills is long, yet athletes and coaches often focus on deriving gains and improvement only by training harder instead of smarter.  Why?  Huge gains, sometimes even strategic gains which lead to personal bests in time, position, or both can be made simply by gaining a wider array of skills, and by mastering those skills.  No, you won’t leave the velodrome or a parking lot filled with pylons soaked in adrenalin or endorphins, but you will leave with the ability to hold speed through corners, corner within a pack of riders, perhaps even learning how to use a turnaround, an ascent or a descent to an advantage that forces your competitors to expend vast amounts of energy to either keep up or catch up.

With draft legal triathlon competitions becoming increasingly common, the need to acquire and develop cycling skills should be a top priority for both new and experienced athletes.  Perhaps your skills are good, but if you end up in a pack of riders who have poor skills, whether you end up in a crash or not will likely depend on your abilities, not anyone else’s.

One of the best places to learn cycling skills – for both youth and adults – is the National Cycling Centre Velodrome in Milton. Gaining the A & B Certifications required to ride open track sessions is an ideal way for cyclists and triathletes to develop track and road skills, especially since it can be done within a hi-performance training facility.  Some of the skills taught in certification which apply directly to road racing and triathlons are:

(a) Track starts teach slow speed riding, acceleration from a standing position, balance, coordination, sprinting posture and technique, and weight shifting:

(b) Pace line riding teaches reading traffic, speed adjustment, shoulder checking for safe lane changes, being able to ride a straight line, hold a line through a corner, pacing, using cadence to finely adjust speed, holding an aero position on the drops, as well as cycling etiquette (skills required for pack riding and drafting):

(c) Drills such as picking up and replacing cones require the skills of one handed steering, balance, flexibility, coordination, agility, spatial awareness, weight shifting, planning and speed management:

DSC01444 2

The Velodrome is currently closed for the Pan Am and Para Pan Am Games; however, once reopened cyclists and triathletes looking to improve their skills should consider the Certification Program.  In the meantime, below are links to articles with other drills that will take bike handling skills to a new level…


13 March 2015
By: Luis Varga
Published at lavamagazine.com

Four Drills to Improve Your Cycling

  1. One legged cycling
  2. Top and bottom drill
  3. High spinning
  4. Learning to use the gluteus


15 June 2015
By: Mark Sortino
Published at triathlon.competitor.com

3 Ways To Practice Bike-Handling Skills

  1. Straight line riding drills
  2. Standing and accelerating drills
  3. High speed turning drills

Cycling Consistent Pace Times [1]

To conclude a month of posts [1, 2, 3, 4] which focused on running consistent pace times, here is one last one on the role pacing plays in cycling…

3 June 2015
By: Gregor Brown
Published at velonews.competitor.com

Wiggins aims high: 55.250km in an hour


Bradley Wiggins aims to put the hour record high and out of reach on the shelf this Sunday in London. He not only wants to break Alex Dowsett’s 52.937-kilometer record, but go 55.250km and perhaps even reach 56.375km.

After quitting top-level road racing with Sky after Paris-Roubaix, Wiggins turned his attention to the UCI hour record and the 2016 Olympics. As he has done with every achievement in his career — a Tour de France win, a time trial world championship, and four Olympic gold medals — he calculated every step to the precise movement.Bradley_Wiggins_Hour_Record

Pace judgement is everything in the hour record,” Wiggins told Sky Sports News.

Read the full story here.

On Sunday June 7th, 2015 Wiggins rode 54.526 km setting a new World Hour Record at the Lee Valley Velodrome.


Equipment specs Wiggins used:  58 tooth chainring x 18 tooth cog, held a cadence of 100.

Velodrome air temperature was 27oC (80.6oF), humidity not known.