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Skills vs. Tools

Old 11-14-15, 04:00 PM
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FlatFender
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Skills vs. Tools

Hey folks,

I run a blog centered around competitive handgun shooting, and I'm getting back into cycling after about a 7 year hiatus. Our mantra has become "Skills > Tools". I'm noticing that there are a lot of parallels between the two hobbies, one of them being that a lot of folks tend to rush to climb the gear ladder without working on learning new skills to use the gear to it's full potential. In competitive shooting there are a lot of guys who don't practice, but show up on match day with a $2000 race gun, but don't have the skills to use it to it's potential. They then get disappointed and fall out of the sport because their new race gun didn't magically make them a Grand Master.

I think there are a lot of folks in the cycling world that fall into this same trap. I'm curious to consult the hive-mind here on what skills someone who wants to be a good cyclist should learn.

I've been riding for a very long time and have a lot of miles under my belt, but I don't think I've learned a lot of skills to really be a competent cyclist. If I want to be well rounded, what sort of things should I learn?

Here's something that's top of mind:

Are there strategies to shifting gears well when climbing, or do you keep going until you start to run out of steam, and then down shift?
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Old 11-14-15, 04:07 PM
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Another analogy: Musical instruments.

A band that I'm in had a back-to-back performance with another band. The guy in that band had an instrument that would be regarded as a "student model," whereas I have an instrument that a professional would be happy to own.

Yet in terms of playing ability and creativity, he blew me away. And I could even spend years trying to HTFU, yet won't surpass him, without the education that he has under his belt.

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Old 11-14-15, 04:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Gresp15C View Post
Another analogy: Musical instruments.
^Boy this is SO true.
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Old 11-14-15, 04:19 PM
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Originally Posted by FlatFender View Post
Here's something that's top of mind:

Are there strategies to shifting gears well when climbing, or do you keep going until you start to run out of steam, and then down shift?
Running out of steam is to be avoided.

I shift 1 or 2 gears at a time as needed while climbing so I am always in the "right" gear, or as close as possible.
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Old 11-14-15, 04:26 PM
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To the OP, on the specific example, always look ahead to the hill you are climbing or about to climb. Shift down a little earlier than at the point where you are running out of steam. Some of this has to do with the cadence you are comfortable with. Obviously, you also need the gearing to accommodate that cadence; once you get to your lowest gear, the only thing left to do is to reduce your cadence as you slow or the hill steepens.

Cultivating the ability to stand and pedal and to sustain that is handy, too. I usually shift two or three gears higher just before I stand to suit my cadence. I don't know what the dynamics are, but if I try to stand in the same gear as when I am sitting, my cadence is way too high to keep it up for more than 10 pedalstrokes. Remember, however, to shift back those two or three lower gears when you sit again.
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Old 11-14-15, 04:56 PM
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The only way to become a skilled cyclist is to get on your bike and start riding a lot. The more you ride the more you will learn. Bike handling skills are developed through spending a lot of time in the saddle.
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Old 11-14-15, 05:19 PM
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I agree that there is a strong tendancy to try and buy speed and skill in cycling. It certainly happens where the newbe shows up for a group ride expecting to blow away everyone on lesser machines, and promptly gets dropped. Or expects that expensive bike to operate to perfection from the showroom floor forever, and goes into denial when the shifting skips or headset rattles.

And many become disillusioned and quit rather than work hard to get stronger, or learn to fix things. But cycling is fundamentally different in that it is simply a fun and healthy thing to do, and few special skills are required. With guns you have skill, or thrill of the power of destruction, but no other reason to do it.

I ride nice bikes because I can afford to, but my riding skills have rusted over pretty thoroughly since I was a kid on a BMX 35 years ago. I don't think anyone would say they are wasted on me. Give me repair skills, some fitness, some fair nutrition, and I am good to go.
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Old 11-14-15, 05:22 PM
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Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
The only way to become a skilled cyclist is to get on your bike and start riding a lot. The more you ride the more you will learn. Bike handling skills are developed through spending a lot of time in the saddle.
Much like weapons training. Read all you want about your particular weapon of choice, but until you run MATCH GRADE rounds through the chamber, you ain't doing nothing but disturbing the birds!

Take the bike out in the real world. You'll learn a lot.
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Old 11-14-15, 06:38 PM
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Someone who Likes shooting, and goes to the range just to see how wel s/he can do today, will eventually get better as a shooter, regardlless of what firearm they use.

Someone who enjoys riding a bike will go out and ride, just to be on the bike.

In both cases, the person will improve more quickly if s/he uses a serious training regimen, but it all starts with and comes back to putting rounds downrange or miles on the tires
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Old 11-14-15, 08:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Dilbert2015 View Post
Much like weapons training. Read all you want about your particular weapon of choice, but until you run MATCH GRADE rounds through the chamber, you ain't doing nothing but disturbing the birds!

Take the bike out in the real world. You'll learn a lot.
Depends on the type of shooting. For super long range type stuff, you're absolutely correct, but when I load ammo for practical shooting matches, I use the cheapest ammo components I can find.
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Old 11-14-15, 08:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Maelochs View Post
Someone who Likes shooting, and goes to the range just to see how wel s/he can do today, will eventually get better as a shooter, regardlless of what firearm they use.

Someone who enjoys riding a bike will go out and ride, just to be on the bike.

In both cases, the person will improve more quickly if s/he uses a serious training regimen, but it all starts with and comes back to putting rounds downrange or miles on the tires
I'm not sure I agree with your first statement. I see a lot of folks that are C-class competitors who compete a couple times a month that never get any better because they don't practice. They don't practice, because they aren't sure what to practice.

I feel that way with my cycling right now. Other than getting in better shape to ride faster/longer, I'm not sure what skills I should be working on to be a better cyclist overall.
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Old 11-14-15, 08:45 PM
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Handling, cornering, bunny hopping potholes, riding no hands, looking back without swerving...
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Old 11-14-15, 09:01 PM
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Track standing is a very useful skill.

Last edited by wolfchild; 11-14-15 at 09:07 PM.
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Old 11-14-15, 09:04 PM
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Originally Posted by FlatFender View Post
I feel that way with my cycling right now. Other than getting in better shape to ride faster/longer, I'm not sure what skills I should be working on to be a better cyclist overall.
As I said at the end, "In both cases, the person will improve more quickly if s/he uses a serious training regimen, but it all starts with and comes back to putting rounds downrange or miles on the tires."

I could be wrong, but I believe most people don't have the discipline to do something they hate if there is not incentive. For folks who Enjoy doing a thing, that's the incentive. People who want to buy success don't generally want to do the practice because it seems like work. People who enjoy the activity can keep it up because they like doing it.

In the case of just riding more or just shooting more not bringing the level of improvement one seeks ... Google that thing.

But really, for cycling, riding more is the best way to develop---Depending On Your Goals. Do you want to ride trials? Tricks? Offroad? Serious competition? For each specialty you will need to learn training and riding techniques, so I cannot give you meaningful general tips. That's where Google can help.

For me, being a better cyclist involves mostly strength and endurance. I have already mastered basic survival skills such as working with automobile traffic. I need to improve my balance and bike handling, but mostly that can be achieved through more riding---when I feel completely at home on the bike again, I can work on hopping obstacles and such.

Mostly I need more miles and more effort. I'd say, figure out what you want or need and folks here who are much smarter and more experienced than I can help you ... or Google it.
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Old 11-14-15, 09:16 PM
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Originally Posted by FlatFender View Post
... a lot of folks tend to rush to climb the gear ladder without working on learning new skills to use the gear to it's full potential. ...
It's the same with all hobbies/sports/activities/ and lifestyles. Some people take short cuts or just want to show-off. But shopping can have a rewarding feeling for most people. If you're buying great equipment it can feel like you're making progress.

Originally Posted by Homebrew01 View Post
Running out of steam is to be avoided.
+1 Practice and experience will allow you to anticipate the most efficient gearing combo. Learning to be efficient and fast is important.

But with most sports being fit and well trained is ultimate in importance.
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Old 11-14-15, 09:33 PM
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Originally Posted by FlatFender View Post
Are there strategies to shifting gears well when climbing, or do you keep going until you start to run out of steam, and then down shift?
I'll shift a little early in order not to run out of steam.

Until about about two months ago, I rode a lot in northwest Arkansas, lots of hills. I got to be a better climber by riding lots of hills and trying to keep my cadence up.

1911 guy here.
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Old 11-14-15, 11:52 PM
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Originally Posted by catgita View Post
I agree that there is a strong tendancy to try and buy speed and skill in cycling. It certainly happens where the newbe shows up for a group ride expecting to blow away everyone on lesser machines, and promptly gets dropped. Or expects that expensive bike to operate to perfection from the showroom floor forever, and goes into denial when the shifting skips or headset rattles.
This makes me shake my head more than anything else. Some guy who's got a serious sack of potatoes in the gut buys some carbon bike thinking "I can bike x distance in y time" instead of doing the more worthwhile action of an 80$ walmart special and working that thing till it falls apart.

If you buy a light bike you'll go fast, but it might not be attacking the source of the problem.

Originally Posted by Dilbert2015 View Post
Much like weapons training. Read all you want about your particular weapon of choice, but until you run MATCH GRADE rounds through the chamber, you ain't doing nothing but disturbing the birds!

Take the bike out in the real world. You'll learn a lot.
So true. Ride where you plan to ride if you want to be good at it. You ride a trail all the time you won't be good at city streets.

Originally Posted by Homebrew01 View Post
Handling, cornering, bunny hopping potholes, riding no hands, looking back without swerving...
I absolutely need to get better at bunny hopping. I've been practicing riding no hands recently on my way to the gym. Every day it gets better

Originally Posted by Dave Cutter View Post
It's the same with all hobbies/sports/activities/ and lifestyles. Some people take short cuts or just want to show-off. But shopping can have a rewarding feeling for most people. If you're buying great equipment it can feel like you're making progress.

But with most sports being fit and well trained is ultimate in importance.
Know what you want to do and do what you want to do.
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Old 11-15-15, 09:12 AM
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As to riding skills reading the terrain & anticipating the gear ratio you need, before you need it , is not a product you can buy.





Cyclocross racing is a completely different skill set than looking hip in town track standing on tour fixie.
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Old 11-15-15, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by BikingZombie View Post
...If you buy a light bike you'll go fast,...
Yea, right.
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Old 11-15-15, 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Gresp15C View Post
Another analogy: Musical instruments.
Here's a great example of that: A very skilled pro drummer named Benny Greb playing a Sponge Bob drum kit and sounding great.

I think there are some similarities with bikes. One thing that bothers me is the notion of the bike helmet as the end-all, be-all of bike safety with no mention of learning good riding skills and practicing them. How many cyclists have actually practiced a panic-stop?

Last edited by Brennan; 11-15-15 at 10:01 AM.
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Old 11-15-15, 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Maelochs View Post
I need to improve my balance and bike handling, but mostly that can be achieved through more riding---
Actually, no - or at least, only up to a point. There are plenty of people who ride lots and are very strong, but can't really handle a bike. Basically they just point it and pedal. Many triathletes come into this category, and so do a surprising number of experienced roadies. If you want to acquire skills you have to work on them specifically, they won't arrive through osmosis. It is well worth doing specific drills once a week or so, your progresswill be far faster.
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Old 11-15-15, 11:09 AM
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OP, we have something in common besides bikes. I am an avid shooter, handloader and love to accurize my rifles. I find an innacurate gun uninteresting like I find heavy bikes uninteresting to ride.

It surely is human nature to want the best gear/equip to enter an activity. If you look crappy and noobian, at least they find you classy for your choice of equip.

As a 40something pastor in a new congregation, I brought a Savage .270win to a good ole church boys shootoff on a private 200yd range. Everybody had expensive and gorgeous rifles. Me? My black plastic stocked Savage was very well tuned. They started out on the 100yd range and I said that was too boring for me. I shot a 1" group at 200yds. They decided to stay at 100yd targets. That day I became legendary among the good ole boys as "the shooting preacher". The Savage at the time was a new Kmart rifle and my only deer rifle. There is the old saying, beware the man with one rifle".
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Old 11-15-15, 11:12 AM
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Riding more will help, then I'd join a group and learn pack riding...after awhile, you'll learn who the better riders are, then study their techniques. Also, common sense goes a long way.
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Old 11-15-15, 12:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Brennan View Post
Here's a great example of that: A very skilled pro drummer named Benny Greb playing a Sponge Bob drum kit and sounding great.
I once saw a percussionist with nothing more than a tambourine and a microphone play it so it sounded like a full-on drum kit.
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Old 11-15-15, 12:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Brennan View Post
Here's a great example of that: A very skilled pro drummer named Benny Greb playing a Sponge Bob drum kit and sounding great.

I think there are some similarities with bikes. One thing that bothers me is the notion of the bike helmet as the end-all, be-all of bike safety with no mention of learning good riding skills and practicing them. How many cyclists have actually practiced a panic-stop?
I showed up a music jam years ago with a sub $300 solid state Peavy guitar amp. (I play harp.) Mark Dufresne asked if he could play through it. Using my mic and doing nothing to a single control, he made that setup sound incredible! Pretty humbling.

Ben
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