Thinking of Joining USA Triathlon?

Be a part of our 550,000 member community of multisport athletes. Membership benefits include a subscription to the quarterly USA Triathlon magazine, discounts from USA Triathlon partners, inclusion in the national rankings, excess accident insurance at events, and savings at races. To see why you should join or renew today, visit the membership benefits page. Already a member? Login below.

Forgot Your Password? | Login Help

Finding Your Balance on the Bike

By Morgan Johnson

mzAge group triathletes like nothing more than a long bike ride with friends, but as a coach, I’ve always found it interesting that they tend to struggle more with bike handling skills than the rest of the cycling demographics. Many struggle to grab a water bottle while riding, or to start without a prolonged wobble in the intersection, and don’t even mention the possibility of someone else touching them when they are on the bike. As a group, we seem to have taken the age group “no drafting” rule to mean we don’t need good bike handling skills — and this couldn’t be further from the truth!

Putting aside the fact that improved balance and comfort on the bike inevitably makes for better performance regardless of drafting, it is a potential safety issue for yourself and the other cyclists you ride with, and let’s face it, a ride is just more fun when you aren’t worrying about how you’re going to dig the chews out of your bento box. So grab a road bike and a friend, and try these simple drills. I guarantee you’ll be amazed at how quickly your balance and comfort level on the bike improves… and you’ll have some great new tricks to show your buds at the next group ride!

Always remember, just like in any training session, safety comes first. If you feel a fall coming on, pull back and then try again – and save the 22 mph speeds for after you’ve mastered the concepts.

The Bar Dance
Ride at a moderate cadence on a flat, low traffic road (empty parking lots are excellent for many of these drills), with hands starting up on the brake hoods. After four pedal strokes, move down into the drops (the curved portion of a road bike bar) one hand at a time. After another four strokes, move back to the hoods. Take another four strokes and move your hands to the straight portion of the bar, then move back to the hoods after another four strokes. Continue to rotate positions until it becomes comfortable. You can also practice this with aerobars on a TT bike!

The Winding Snake
Set up 8-12 cones in a zig-zag pattern about 15-25 feet apart on a flat, low traffic surface (street lamps in an empty parking lot can make a great substitute). Start at the first cone with your hands up on the hoods, and alternate right and left turns until you’ve made it through all of the cones. Focus on pedaling up to the cone, then bringing the knee closest to the cone up during the turn, keeping the outer leg straight to maintain your balance. Try to maintain a light grip on the handlebars. As you get more comfortable, move the cones closer together for increased challenge.

Repeat this drill with the hands on the drops (the curved portion of the road handlebar) or aerobars (on TT bikes).

Can’t Touch This
Ride single file at a moderate cadence on a flat, low traffic road, with hands up on the brake hoods. The cyclist in the back yells instructions such as “touch your helmet with your right hand,” or “touch your water bottle with your left hand.” The front cyclist (or cyclists) has to comply by following the instruction and immediately bringing the hands back to the brake hoods. Rotate every 2-4 minutes until everyone has had a chance to call the instructions.

Repeat this drill with the hands on the drops (the curved portion of the road handlebar) or aerobars (on TT bikes).

Can’t Touch This… for Long!
Ride single file at a moderate cadence on a flat, low traffic road, with hands up on the brake hoods. The cyclist in the back yells instructions such as “touch your helmet with your right hand,” or “touch your water bottle with your left hand.” The front cyclist (or cyclists) has to comply by following the instruction and staying in the position until the cyclist in the back yells “let go!” Rotate every 2-4 minutes until everyone has had a chance to call the instructions.

Repeat this drill with the hands on the drops (the curved portion of the road handlebar) or aerobars (on TT bikes).

Do these four drills often to keep your skills fresh, and your comfort level will continue to increase. Best of luck and happy riding!

Morgan Johnson is a USA Triathlon certified coach and the Lead Developmental and Youth Programs Coach at the Playtri Performance Center in Dallas, Texas. She is also a member of the USA Triathlon South Midwest Regional Council, and a former member of Team USA. You can reach her with questions or comments at morgan@playtri.com.

Active.com