Originally Posted by Racer Ex
No offense, but that's exactly what we're talking about. You assume you can handle your bike well.
Being able to ride a bike and being able to handle your bike well are two very different things. FWIW I don't know anyone who thinks they aren't good bike handlers. And I'm sure some of the experienced guys will have a good chuckle over that.
At basic I want to see someone who is smooth, who looks uptrack and NOT AT THE WHEEL IN FRONT OF THEM. That's the first thing to correct. But right now you're one of the many guys who will crash into the pile of people who crashed into the pile of people who were staring at the wheel in front of them when the guy who was a really horrible bike handler locked up the rear brake in a panic and started that chain reaction.
There's a myriad of things (some of which have been mentioned) that greatly improve your skill set. How's your bunny hopping? Can you rub your front tire on someone's rear wheel for fun? Wheelie? Nose Wheelie? Slide the rear wheel? Brake through an apex?
Those are on the bike skills. How about a written test?
Describe an early, conventional, and late apex and diagram them. What's the maximum front/rear brake bias. What's trail braking? Countersteering? Target fixation? How do you improve a tire's contact patch in a corner? Where should your weight bias be during various maneuvers?
That's a small list of racing 101. 102 we start talking about drafting and group dynamics. 200 is individual tactics. 300 and we start talking about team tactics.
Anyone who takes any time to read this post closely and has some ability at self-reflection will hopefully begin to see the counterexamples to so many pieces of misinformation that have become "conventional wisdom" thanks to endless repetition. Like braking through an apex - how many times have I seen or heard riders being instructed, on the Internet or in real life "you are either braking or turning, not both." Maybe that's okay if you're just riding. Follow that advice and you can probably go from point A to point B on a public road without getting yourself killed. But we're racing bikes, and it's a different game with different circumstances. So, as has already been perfectly expressed, we get people coming in who can do a 100 mile ride without killing themselves on a corner, so they think they know what they're doing. But if you think you should never have any braking applied during a corner ever ever, if you're the guy who is yelling "no brakes!" from the back of the peloton, or if you're at least thinking it, then no, you don't know what you're doing. And who wants the ego check of not knowing what they're doing? I don't. But of course it's true. I know a handful of things, but I would be doing better in races if I were as smart as I think I am.
So it's not like this doesn't include me, for all that I know what "apex" and "countersteering" mean. Yeah, I do think of myself as a good bike handler (compared to most roadies, not so much in general - which should tell you something about the sorry state of typical handling skills among road racers), but something has been weird with my head this year, because I crashed a hell of a lot of times. Yeah, I suppose I could say that most of those were beyond my control, and I suppose it's true, but what's different this year than before? Did I get worse at riding a bike? Did I lose focus? Was I just lucky before? Well, whatever, my point is that you don't just hit a point where you know everything and don't need to think about it anymore. Not keeping my head up is probably the worst crime I commit when I start getting scared or just plain lose my focus. I start seeing the wheel in front of me, and then I'm not committed and gaps are opening up and I'm not anticipating what's coming up. Racing a bike isn't automatic for most of us, it requires to commitment to keeping your head in the game, and not only paying attention to the race but what you're doing in the race.
Anyway. To bring it back around, I think that questions like "do I need to be in the drops right now?" should, if you've paid any attention to what riding your bike actually feels
like, have an answer that is immediately obvious to you. I have a very clear sense at all times of how balanced, stable and secure I am on the machine. Being in the drops is a more stable position for navigating high-speed corners because it's just obviously the case. Sometimes I wonder if I'm taking crazy pills, because I don't think I have some preternatural sense of balance. On my own two feet, I'm awkward and clumsy. Yet I see lots of riders who don't seem to be listening to what their body is telling them. No doubt we all have different degrees of natural ability to interpret our kinesthetic senses and inner ear, but I think some part of successful instruction in riding a bike must be, deliberately or not, getting the rider to just pay attention to what it feels like to do something the right way.
I think this was a terribly incoherent post, but what the hell. Good luck with it.