best thread in a while
best thread in a while
Now that I think about it, there is former masters world champion who races a lot around here. He is known for his frequent brake checking and other dubious tactics.
The rest of that stuff is good bike handling drills, but the issues seem to be that the minute the race gets stressful people lose their ability to think and just overreact. I think everyone learns via experience how to better stay calm and disconnect physical stress from the mental.
I am not a strong tactical rider at all, that is what I mean when I say that if I can move around and do this stuff and people aren't seemingly willing to take the contact to stop it, ain't nobody passing that "test" before their first c5 race.
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.
A long time ago I realized that I wouldn't ever be pushing and shoving to get position. It's just not something I'd do. I realized this when my (first ever regular) leadout guy did just that to get to the front, then did some pretty dubious moves once I jumped. I actually sat up (it was a prime, not the finish) because the guys behind were all yelling at my teammate. It might be partially because of that prime that I didn't do a great sprint in the finale.
On the other hand a rider has to be able to deal with contact. In that same race above with a lap to go there was a lot of movement in the group. It was curb to curb on a non-corner type course (Montague MA) and no one could go fast enough to string things out. At some point people ended up squeezing together and I was in the middle of it. I had people leaning on my from both sides. Someone hit my front wheel so hard it pulled a J-hook spoke out of my Campy Record (aka cold forged aluminum) hub. The spoke hole was tented. A spoke nipple also pulled out, breaking the rim. Not only did I not hit the deck but I had enough of my wits about me that I could still follow moves and such. I think I got 3rd or 5th or something like that, on a 27 spoke 280g Campy Record Crono front wheel.
After that (it was 1989 I think) I never made intentional active contact. The one time I made accidental contact (I flew up the inside and underestimated my overtaking speed, ended up bumping into a bunch of pro-1s including Adam Myerson) I raised my hand and moved back to where I started. Myerson won that race.
It doesn't mean that I won't fight for position in an important-to-me race, it just means that I rely on tactics and using the other rider's weaknesses against themselves. I've shrugged off very forceful, few second long pushes - the last time was really in 2006 where it was intentional, and the main reason I didn't back off is that I had no room - I simply couldn't back off.
At the end of the day we're all doing this for fun. No one really knows or cares how I did in a race. It's not worth it.
That's not really true. I pretty much suck at bike handling and I know it. I don't freak out or panic when bumped or in traffic. I don't overreact to brakes or surges and that stuff. But have me ride over 1/4 inch of sand or a wet corner and my brain shuts it down, I get tense, fearful, overreactionary, etc... Same on dirt or grass or any surface I can imagine the wheels going out sideways.
Somedays I descend well, other days I descend like a novice. Generally once I start braking on a descent (behind a car or something), I'm triggered into this mode where I have to go slow. Race situations help my descending, for some reason. But on training days I vary wildly in what's "comfortable" for speed.
A friend of mine is a pro mtb guy and cat 3 road racer. When riding together he often comes by an hits/pulls my elbow so it collapses, he thinks it is hystercial...
There is a reason I got almost 7000 miles on a set of brake pads and have about 8000 miles on a set of cleats:
1. I don't use much brake
2. I rarely, if ever unclip once I get going (except for water stops or to take a leak)
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.
Did you type that with one hand?