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  1. #1
    Newbie SharpHeel's Avatar
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    I suck at handling my bike... how to improve?

    Hi,

    I did very little cycling as a kid and now took it seriously at 27.
    By "seriously", I mean I commute (~20km) to work every day on a touring bike, train in a club on a race road bike, and tour (~2-3 days, 60-140km per day) on a touring bike (the one I commute on).

    I love it, every bit of it!

    There's just one thing: I suck at handling my bike, I mean by that the little things:
    • Starting with the left foot on the pedal (I always start with the right one... starting with the left migh get useful when I can step on a sidewalk to avoid getting out of the saddle at redlight)
    • Look behind me: I can look behind my shoulder to check the lane, but completely behind me, to find out if the others are following feels extremely weird...
    • Ride one-handed: I can release the right hand, leaving my left one on the bars (I suppose I feel better this side as I am left-handed)... so I can indicate when turning right, which is the least useful unless I move to UK... Also taking my bottle to drink feels unsafe... The other day I was joining my clubmates and met some of them on the way. It happened to be on a cobblestoned street and the guy stretched out his hand for a handshake and I just managed to fist-bump him and it already felt wildly unsafe
    • Ride no-handed
    • Trackstand
    • Start in a steep slope (either my gear is too tough and I feel I won't get enough speed to put the other foot on pedal a step on it or I feel the gear is too easy and I feel my starting foot will be down already before I picked up enough speed to get the other one on).
    • Release one-hand to look better behind


    I know some of these are not useful and even dangerous, but being able to perform them means having better control of one's bike and that is both useful and very safe...

    I don't really know how to practice and what to do,... but being creeped out by things like that for a guy who rides over 1000km a month a kind of ridiculous...

    Thank you all...

  2. #2
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Go to an empty parking lot ... perhaps a shopping centre parking lot after hours, and practice riding in different ways. You'll be out of the way of traffic so you can pedal along and then sit up and have a look behind you, trying hard to ride in a straight line while you do. You can ride one handed and figure out where you need to hold the handlebars in order to hold the bicycle steady.

    Go with a friend and practice handing each other bottles and things.

  3. #3
    Senior Member elcruxio's Avatar
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    Technical mountain bike climbing and descending. If you don't learn fast you'll hurt yourself. Nothing is a better teacher than pain.

    Well ok there are other ways as well but MTB is just so... Manly

    "Starting with the left foot on the pedal"
    - Well, start doing it. Consciously Start with your left foot rather than your right foot. You can't learn without repetition.

    "Look behind me"
    - press your thigh(s) against the top tube with the pedals level. That will give you a surprising amount of stability and you can do pretty much whatever you want on the bike after that. Also works if you feel scared on fast descents.

    "Ride one-handed/Ride no-handed"
    - I prefer not to do these since even though I can do both it feels uncomfortable. Sometimes I have to measure my blood sugar on the go so I have to do helluva lot more than just ride one handed or no handed but its never fun. But repetition. Start doing those things for short stretches at a time with a lot of repetition and it'll come to you.

    "Trackstand"
    - Why do you feel you need this skill? I don't. I have never felt I need to know how to trackstand. I see no use for it.

    "Start in a steep slope"
    - Obviously a smaller gear but with the upper pedal in the 11 o'clock position with your upper body bent really low down towards the handlebars torque yourself to movement and don't worry about clipping in before you have momentum. You have to bend forward more when it's steeper. The bending might lose you power but it keeps you from doing a wheelie too easily.

    "Release one-hand to look better behind"
    - again thighs against the top tube for stability and just do it. Concentrate on riding straight while doing this. But again, why is this a skill worth learnig? You have a turning head dont you?

  4. #4
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    I agree with Machka - head to a large parking lot on a Sunday morning when it will be empty. Ride figure 8s and then ride figure 8s one handed. I have found that holding the bars somewhat loosely seems to smooth out the track. Riding one handed is helpful in signaling turns so it is useful to practice. Same with reaching and replacing water bottles. As for looking behind, so what's wrong with a mirror? Whatever you are uncomfortable doing, practice that at a time and place where there is no pressure.

  5. #5
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    Steep uphill-
    sometimes it makes more sense to start downhill-and U-turn(not always possible)
    In any case- uphill-put it in a LOW Gear before getting on -just shift twisting the pedals with your hand-lift back wheel etc

    No one feels comfortable twisting 180 degrees-except perhaps very young flexible people(women seem better at that)
    some folks bend down and look UNDER their arm to look backwards-older folks bad necks etc.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Cyclosaurus's Avatar
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    Trackstanding seems more of a "trick" move than something you actually need to use in lieu of just stepping off and putting a foot down. Riding no-handed can be useful but ask yourself how many times are you in a situation where you really need both hands to do something and stopping for a moment would be a hassle? Everyone's experience is different, but in my case I rarely need to do it. The other things you mention seem more practical than these two and my advice would be to spend your time working on those and leave trackstanding and no-handed riding for a later time.

  7. #7
    pro in someone's theory prooftheory's Avatar
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    You can't really track stand unless you are on a fixed-gear bike. Are you?

  8. #8
    Newbie SharpHeel's Avatar
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    Thank for all the answers already

    Quote Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
    Technical mountain bike climbing and descending. If you don't learn fast you'll hurt yourself. Nothing is a better teacher than pain.

    Well ok there are other ways as well but MTB is just so... Manly

    "Starting with the left foot on the pedal"
    - Well, start doing it. Consciously Start with your left foot rather than your right foot. You can't learn without repetition.
    Yep, will do... That's how I learnt starting from the other one on the first place (yes there used to be a time I cold not start out of the saddle....).
    This was more to show how much I sucked

    Quote Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
    "Look behind me"
    - press your thigh(s) against the top tube with the pedals level. That will give you a surprising amount of stability and you can do pretty much whatever you want on the bike after that. Also works if you feel scared on fast descents.
    Very interesting tip! Thanks

    Quote Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
    "Ride one-handed/Ride no-handed"
    - I prefer not to do these since even though I can do both it feels uncomfortable. Sometimes I have to measure my blood sugar on the go so I have to do helluva lot more than just ride one handed or no handed but its never fun. But repetition. Start doing those things for short stretches at a time with a lot of repetition and it'll come to you.
    How does the previous tip work with this one? I read somewhere that one should spread knees as much as possible when riding no handed to almost "steer with the knees"..
    Once again, I don't mean to be an acrobatic hero,... but as shown in my example, when a fellow cyclist stretches out his hand for a handshake, I don't mean to be impolite...

    Quote Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
    "Trackstand"
    - Why do you feel you need this skill? I don't. I have never felt I need to know how to trackstand. I see no use for it.
    I don't either,... I was just reaching the end of my list... I have no real intention of learning it... Although it is cool to see the other guys trackstand at traffic lights while I'm here, clipping out, and then back in again... but I agree with you...

    Quote Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
    "Start in a steep slope"
    - Obviously a smaller gear but with the upper pedal in the 11 o'clock position with your upper body bent really low down towards the handlebars torque yourself to movement and don't worry about clipping in before you have momentum. You have to bend forward more when it's steeper. The bending might lose you power but it keeps you from doing a wheelie too easily.
    Yep, problem is that stepping unclipped on a pedal might be quite dangerous as one can completely slip out of the pedal especially when stepping with the cleat (as opposed to pushing with the middle of the foot, behind the cleat).

    Quote Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
    "Release one-hand to look better behind"
    - again thighs against the top tube for stability and just do it. Concentrate on riding straight while doing this. But again, why is this a skill worth learnig? You have a turning head dont you?
    True, but I am no owl and releasing one hand allows the upper-body to turn and look really behind.

    Quote Originally Posted by berner View Post
    I agree with Machka - head to a large parking lot on a Sunday morning when it will be empty. Ride figure 8s and then ride figure 8s one handed. I have found that holding the bars somewhat loosely seems to smooth out the track. Riding one handed is helpful in signaling turns so it is useful to practice. Same with reaching and replacing water bottles. As for looking behind, so what's wrong with a mirror? Whatever you are uncomfortable doing, practice that at a time and place where there is no pressure.
    Nothing wrong with a mirror on the touring bike, but I hardly need more than just check the lane on this one. No way I'm putting a mirror on my racing bike and when club riding in a group and checking if the ohers are following, I miss not being comfortable with this skill...

    Quote Originally Posted by phoebeisis View Post
    Steep uphill-
    sometimes it makes more sense to start downhill-and U-turn(not always possible)
    In any case- uphill-put it in a LOW Gear before getting on -just shift twisting the pedals with your hand-lift back wheel etc

    No one feels comfortable twisting 180 degrees-except perhaps very young flexible people(women seem better at that)
    some folks bend down and look UNDER their arm to look backwards-older folks bad necks etc.
    Interesting thought!

    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclosaurus View Post
    Trackstanding seems more of a "trick" move than something you actually need to use in lieu of just stepping off and putting a foot down. Riding no-handed can be useful but ask yourself how many times are you in a situation where you really need both hands to do something and stopping for a moment would be a hassle? Everyone's experience is different, but in my case I rarely need to do it. The other things you mention seem more practical than these two and my advice would be to spend your time working on those and leave trackstanding and no-handed riding for a later time.
    Agreed for the trackstanding. The no-handed-ness is a little less of a fun trick. If I want to do it, it is not that much for the practical side of it but more because I feel silly not being able something that looks so easy and somehow I feel some lack of confidence overall as a cyclist if I don't know this...

    Quote Originally Posted by prooftheory View Post
    You can't really track stand unless you are on a fixed-gear bike. Are you?
    I am not on a fixed gear bike but trackstanding on a regular bike is possible, I see guys do it every week, although it is harder as you must use the terrain to your advantage.
    I really have no intention of going for that one... but c'mon, it's cool

  9. #9
    Humvee of bikes =Worksman Nightshade's Avatar
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    To the OP......First relax and let your brain's natural ability to learn how to ride with something between your legs. Mankind has ridden horses since forever and that information is in our brain to transfer to your bicycles. Believe it or not. Let the bike become an extension of you and your wishes......naturally.

    As an example......Everytime I over think what I'm doing on my bike I crash. When I pay attention to my surroundings the bike just does the right things that keep me safe.
    My preferred bicycle brand is.......WORKSMAN CYCLES
    I dislike clipless pedals on any city bike since I feel they are unsafe.

    Originally Posted by krazygluon
    Steel: nearly a thousand years of metallurgical development
    Aluminum: barely a hundred, which one would you rather have under your butt at 30mph?

  10. #10
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    The 'need' for Spud clipless pedals may be a bit premature ,

    if the basics of starting off securely are less practiced..

    I'm on the other end, been there done that , went back to platform pedals
    and regular shoes , shelving the Spud shoes and Pedals..

    get some Grippy wide platform pedals .. double sided.


    Learning to one hand steer with your left hand free,
    gives you the ability to use a standard hand signal to indicate your intention to turn .

  11. #11
    pro in someone's theory prooftheory's Avatar
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    I think "Spud shoes" may be the best autocorrect I have ever read.

  12. #12
    Senior Member FatBottomedGirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nightshade View Post
    To the OP......First relax and let your brain's natural ability to learn how to ride with something between your legs.
    You should ask your girlfriend about this!
    Are you gonna take me home tonight
    Ah, down beside that red firelight
    Are you gonna let it all hang out
    Fat bottomed girls, you make the rockin' world go round

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  13. #13
    You gonna eat that? Doohickie's Avatar
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    Time in the saddle will result in improvements all around.

    For myself, I ride with a rearview mirror on my helmet. It is one of the most essential pieces of safety gear I have.
    I stop for people / whose right of way I honor / but not for no one.



    Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

  14. #14
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    Practice.

    Trackstanding is more of a cool skill to have. Bunny hops are actually useful at times.

  15. #15
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Riding no-hands is just a matter of practice, get up a decent speed, scoot back on the saddle sit straight up and steer with your hips. Relax a little so you don't over-steer - if you do start over-steering then grab the bars again. Some of the hip movement is counter-steering so don't overthink it, just practice and do what works.

    Some bikes are more difficult than others due to the headset, cables, trail etc but mostly not. Start with just a few seconds and build up from there.

  16. #16
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    Ride your mt bike. Great crossover skills. Get a mirror. Practice.

  17. #17
    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    I would add bunnyhopping to your list.
    Cyclists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lube but your chains!

  18. #18
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
    Technical mountain bike climbing and descending. If you don't learn fast you'll hurt yourself. Nothing is a better teacher than pain.
    I agree, although it's better to learn without hurting yourself too badly.

    Quote Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
    "Starting with the left foot on the pedal"
    - Well, start doing it. Consciously Start with your left foot rather than your right foot. You can't learn without repetition.
    About right. Although the idea of using your right foot to hold you up on a curb is a poor practice. At an intersection, you shouldn't be anywhere near a curb. Stop with your foot down in the middle of the intersection and go when the light changes. Moving all the way over to put your foot on the curb puts you out of the traffic flow but, more importantly, puts you in a poor position which the motorist will take advantage of.

    Quote Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
    "Ride one-handed/Ride no-handed"
    - I prefer not to do these since even though I can do both it feels uncomfortable. Sometimes I have to measure my blood sugar on the go so I have to do helluva lot more than just ride one handed or no handed but its never fun. But repetition. Start doing those things for short stretches at a time with a lot of repetition and it'll come to you.
    While riding no-handed isn't necessarily a useful skill, riding one-handed is. There are lots of situations where using one hand on the bars is almost a requirement...signaling a turn, getting a bottle out of a cage, etc. Start, Sharpheel, by riding around in a controlled situation like Machka suggests and taking your hand off the bars. If you steer towards the hand that is still on the bar, lighten your pressure on that hand. Try to find a balance point.

    Quote Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
    "Trackstand"
    - Why do you feel you need this skill? I don't. I have never felt I need to know how to trackstand. I see no use for it.
    Trackstands are useful for those times when you just need to stop but don't need to put down a foot. I use them all the time for stopsigns and stale stoplights. It comes in useful for very slow speed riding. But it's an advanced skill that should be left for when you've mastered the more fundamental skills, Sharpheel.

    Quote Originally Posted by elcruxio View Post
    "Start in a steep slope"
    - Obviously a smaller gear but with the upper pedal in the 11 o'clock position with your upper body bent really low down towards the handlebars torque yourself to movement and don't worry about clipping in before you have momentum. You have to bend forward more when it's steeper. The bending might lose you power but it keeps you from doing a wheelie too easily.
    Mostly right but I'll add one little mountain bike trick. Apply the brakes. Push down on the pedals and release the brakes at the same time as you start to move the bike forward and you backwards onto the saddle. If you are using clip less, clip into the upper pedal first. Don't worry about the unclipped foot, it will find its way into the clip eventually.
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  19. #19
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prooftheory View Post
    You can't really track stand unless you are on a fixed-gear bike. Are you?
    Wrong.
    Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything unseemly.

  20. #20
    Dirty Schwinn-Lover deeth82's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nightshade View Post
    To the OP......First relax and let your brain's natural ability to learn how to ride with something between your legs. Mankind has ridden horses since forever and that information is in our brain to transfer to your bicycles. Believe it or not. Let the bike become an extension of you and your wishes......naturally.

    As an example......Everytime I over think what I'm doing on my bike I crash. When I pay attention to my surroundings the bike just does the right things that keep me safe.
    It's interesting you've put it this way, but that is actually the best way I've seen it worded. When you overthink, your instincts can often become overridden, allowing more probability for accidents/collisions.

    The first time I rode on ThickSlick tires, I could feel their shifty movement over the road's surface (i.e., they felt like they were beginning to slide out from under me). I knew that reacting too early to that small "floating" feeling could potentially make it worse, so I just kept riding vigilantly checking the way ahead on the ride home, and lo and behold, over various sketchy surfaces, I was able to ride home with no scrapes/bruises/wounded pride from laying my bike down.

    The same applies with motorcycles...sometimes you just have to "let go"--in the sense of keeping your reactionary feelings to a minimum--until they're absolutely needed. With experience, you gain the wisdom to know the difference between a slight drift of the tires due to uneven surface contact, and a full-on loss of traction.

    Keep on riding, @SharpHeel. Don't sweat the little details, and don't bother comparing yourself to other riders, unless your primary goal is to race. Learn not only how to do the maneuvers you described in the OP, but whether or not they really apply to you, or are just superfluous. The best piece of advice I can give you is not to glue your eyes to anything besides the road ahead for more than a second; two seconds at maximum. Race car drivers, scientific studies, and lots of experienced bike riders will tell you that [eventually] your vehicle goes where your eyes go.
    Ride what you like, how you like.

  21. #21
    pro in someone's theory prooftheory's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Keith99 View Post
    Wrong.
    Maybe you have a different definition of track standing than I. For me, if you can't do it going down hill, without touching the brakes, it ain't track standing.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    One thing I see many riders do that I think is a mistake is when starting thinking they have to clip in right away. The result is 1/2 a turn of the pedals and then nothing more to keep the speed up. That often has a rider wobbling all over the place.

    If instead one soft pedals to keep a little speed it is easy to clip in.

    That is a huge help starting on the weak foot and also for starting on a hill.
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  23. #23
    Dirty Schwinn-Lover deeth82's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    I'll add one little mountain bike trick. Apply the brakes. Push down on the pedals and release the brakes at the same time as you start to move the bike forward and you backwards onto the saddle.
    This is also a trick-of-the-trade for motorcyclists*...good one!


    *Minus the pedals, of course. It has to do with preventing a backwards rolling motion for easier starting momentum...Cycco, you know what I mean.
    Last edited by deeth82; 11-25-13 at 01:55 PM. Reason: Clarification - Sounds silly
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  24. #24
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prooftheory View Post
    Maybe you have a different definition of track standing than I. For me, if you can't do it going down hill, without touching the brakes, it ain't track standing.
    You have a very narrow definition of a trackstand. It's not even a definition that would fit where "trackstand" is actually used, i.e. a track. You can trackstand to start a track race (not downhill) or you can trackstand as part of a sprint as a tactic to force your opponent to take the lead. While there is usually no "track" in using a trackstand on the road, it's still the same idea of balancing the bike on the wheels with zero (or near zero) speed. You can't rock a freewheel bike back and forth like you can a fixed gear bike but you can still make it stand on its wheels.
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  25. #25
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deeth82 View Post
    This is also a trick-of-the-trade for motorcyclists*...good one!


    *Minus the pedals, of course. It has to do with preventing a backwards rolling motion for easier starting momentum...Cycco, you know what I mean.
    Yup. And if the hill is particularly steep, holding the front brake is better than holding the rear one. The bike doesn't wheelie as easily.
    Stuart Black
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    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
    Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
    An Good Ol' Fashion Appalachian Butt Whoopin'.

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