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What does it mean to be a good 'Bike Handler'

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What does it mean to be a good 'Bike Handler'

Old 12-04-20, 09:49 AM
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drewguy
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What does it mean to be a good 'Bike Handler'

I see this term a fair amount, but not sure what it means. Obviously staying upright is an important component of cycling, but it goes beyond that. I'm curious (genuinely) by what makes someone a good bike handler (and what makes a person get better at it - it's not like just putting in the miles).
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Old 12-04-20, 10:28 AM
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Comfortable riding in different positions--drops, hoods, standing, sprinting off saddle, sprint in hoods, descending, riding with one hand no hands, road awareness...just a few that come to mind.

More advanced skills--bunny hopping, sliding/drifting on gravel, recovering from wheel contact, taking good lines. MTB skills a bit different animal. I have pretty good road handling skills, but get me on a single track and I realize just how much I don't know how to do, or don't have the confidence/guts to do it.

Edit: I would also add riding in close quarters in a group, holding your line, riding on wet roads, on snow

Last edited by mcours2006; 12-04-20 at 10:44 AM.
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Old 12-04-20, 10:52 AM
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I think it might be as simple as you mentioned, being able to stay upright under various conditions. I have noticed that guys who truly have this ability are able to do it whether riding road, track or dirt. There is a rider in the Seattle area who was extremely talented on the road. First time I saw him on the track, I could tell he was going to be very competitive. Years later now, he has several Rainbow Jerseys from some of the velodrome mass start events. Truly gifted riders, you can just tell.
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Old 12-04-20, 11:26 AM
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Regardless of your handling skills, the most important thing is to ride within your abilities.
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Old 12-04-20, 11:32 AM
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mcours2006 nailed it. For a standout example, watch a few YouTubes of Sagan.

The guys with the mtn bike background do seem to start ahead of the curve. But we need to be trained by roadies - to hold a line, ride smoothy, not bunnyhop stuff but call it out...

A couple years ago on big (60+) fast group ride, the rider in front of me braked quickly. I darted right... to avoid the collision - off the shoulder, through the drainage ditch (luckily not a hard V), across a front yard, across a gravel driveway, across part of the next yard... back onto the road. Three guys (pros) hanging around off the back, laughed their assess off and pulled me back to the pack. One the guys commented "Mountain biker, huh?"
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Old 12-04-20, 11:50 AM
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Like a lot of terms, it depends on the context the person using it is speaking of.

Let's not pigeon hole this term to something that has us looking it up on our cell phones and boasting our greatness when we point out to another that they used it incorrectly.
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Old 12-04-20, 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by colnago62 View Post
I think it might be as simple as you mentioned, being able to stay upright under various conditions.
I noticed that I tend to pass people on twisty descents on pavement. I think I'm middle of the pack for bike handling skills, maybe a little naive about trusting myself and my gear too much. But I think handling means more than just not crashing, it means being able to make the bike do what you want.
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Old 12-04-20, 03:25 PM
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Being able to hold a steady line while drafting/reaching for a water bottle/jamming out of the saddle/checking behind/etc.
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Old 12-04-20, 03:32 PM
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To me it's knowing what you need/want to do with your bike and being able to do it.
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Old 12-04-20, 04:25 PM
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Originally Posted by crowbike View Post
Regardless of your handling skills, the most important thing is to ride within your abilities.
I disagree. If this were the case, then you'd never get any better than the day you first rode a bike at 4 mph. Riding "slightly" above your abilities, or your comfort zone, is how you grow and get better. Even if you have to fall, crash, bonk, or get dropped. You learn more from your mistakes, than from your successes.
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Old 12-04-20, 04:29 PM
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Originally Posted by mcours2006 View Post
Comfortable riding in different positions--drops, hoods, standing, sprinting off saddle, sprint in hoods, descending, riding with one hand no hands, road awareness...just a few that come to mind.

More advanced skills--bunny hopping, sliding/drifting on gravel, recovering from wheel contact, taking good lines. MTB skills a bit different animal. I have pretty good road handling skills, but get me on a single track and I realize just how much I don't know how to do, or don't have the confidence/guts to do it.

Edit: I would also add riding in close quarters in a group, holding your line, riding on wet roads, on snow
Knowing how to fall/bail is also a skill worth noting.
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Old 12-04-20, 05:52 PM
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Originally Posted by ryan_rides View Post
Knowing how to fall/bail is also a skill worth noting.
Sure, but it's not a skill that one practices on a regular basis.

Having fallen a few times myself while riding on snow and ice, I've learned that when it does happens, and it happens pretty quickly, I just hang on to my handlebar and keep clipped in. Seems to work better than flailing arms and legs in an attempt to brace the impact.
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Old 12-04-20, 06:49 PM
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roth rothar
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This guy seems to know a thing or two:
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Old 12-04-20, 06:55 PM
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Originally Posted by ryan_rides View Post
Knowing how to fall/bail is also a skill worth noting.
Originally Posted by mcours2006 View Post
Sure, but it's not a skill that one practices on a regular basis. Having fallen a few times myself while riding on snow and ice, I've learned that when it does happens, and it happens pretty quickly, I just hang on to my handlebar and keep clipped in. Seems to work better than flailing arms and legs in an attempt to brace the impact.
​​​​​​​I get ready for cross country ski season by lining the floor with pillows, falling awkwardly, then trying to get up by doing a pushup with my legs twisted into a pretzel. What I've learned from practicing is that pride is overrated.
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Old 12-04-20, 07:16 PM
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Originally Posted by ryan_rides View Post
Knowing how to fall/bail is also a skill worth noting.
Yeah but who wants to practice that?
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Old 12-05-20, 12:23 AM
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Always thought good handling was being able to head check or do the farmer blow and not swerve.

Actually it’s being able to move and respond fluidly when riding with a group when pace lining or doing echelon or riding in a bunch. Not to mention avoiding road hazards at the last second with a quick maneuver.
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Old 12-05-20, 07:35 AM
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Sometimes things happen so fast it seems like a fluke and not skill. Case in point last week I was descending a mountain road at 30 mph and did not see a rock in the shadows and clipped it with my rear 25mm touring tire. My back end kicked out a several inches to my left and my rear tire lost road contact for a brief second but I regained my balance. It was not skill but gravity and inertia that kept me from going down. Bigger rock and I am likely going down hard. Can't say I am a skilled cyclist but I have had similar instances over the years where I stayed upright when I could have easily had a serious crash.
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Old 12-05-20, 10:07 AM
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Originally Posted by rsbob View Post
Not to mention avoiding road hazards at the last second with a quick maneuver.
Even better is to learn to ride with your vision on the horizon and use your peripheral vision for close items. Too many riders stare at the wheel in front of them or the road 6 ft ahead. Good vision eliminates or at least reduces the need for sudden maneuvers.
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Old 12-05-20, 10:23 AM
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Originally Posted by drewguy View Post
I see this term a fair amount, but not sure what it means. Obviously staying upright is an important component of cycling, but it goes beyond that. I'm curious (genuinely) by what makes someone a good bike handler (and what makes a person get better at it - it's not like just putting in the miles).
If you seriously want to know what it means you should find a pro rider and ask him/her as only they would really know.
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Old 12-05-20, 10:40 AM
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Resiliance
Nimbleness
Control
Adaptability

Consider someone who can clear an obstacle course, although slowly, clumsily, in the way and impeding others - versus someone who can clear the same course flowing smoothly, quickly, powerfully, ala parkour.

Now imagine the bicycle versions of those same two scenarios.

The ability to react and respond to unpredictable events and surprises with composure and finesse.

Some people when they need something have to stop, get off the bike, get half undressed, fumble around, get back on the bike.

Other people take off their jacket, roll it, pocket it, pulling out the clif bar and eating it, all without missing a pedal stroke or wobbling in the least, elbow to elbow with their mates, maybe even reacting to a hole and hopping the bike over it one handed and surprised.

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Old 12-05-20, 11:10 AM
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Old 12-05-20, 11:34 AM
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I agree with most already mentioned here. I'm always riding in traffic and sometimes it can be hectic in very heavy traffic without a shoulder/bike lane. I do consider myself a very good bike handler after >30-years of riding. One of the most important things one must do to become a good bike handler is to always be looking out for and anticipating the unforeseen, i.e. be a Defensive Rider.


When I'm riding, my eyes are all over the place, including in my mirror. I can spot a potential Right Hook, when someone is coming up from behind me and planning to make a right turn in front of me without a turn signal; it doesn't happen often, but often enough where I'm pretty good at spotting those drivers.


Another important thing to becoming a good bike handler is to always critique your close calls and/or things you've done that were stupid. You must be brutally honest with yourself and be willing to admit when something you've done was a mistake, regardless if it's a minor mistake or a huge boneheaded mistake. Pilots are always critiquing their actions, we cyclists should adopt that same mindset, after all, we do have the most to lose.


It's funny how Man's law is usually in direct contradiction to Nature's law. That's one of my weaknesses. I've been hit by cars four times. In a couple of them, as I reflect back, I think I could have totally avoided those collisions, but since I was in the Right WRT Man's law, I was kind of boneheaded and took evasive action a little too late, which was helpful in preventing a very bad thing, but there was still a collision. Hopefully next time I won't be so hardheaded and try and assert my legal right of way, because Nature's law says get out of the way. In our paradigm, Might doesn't make Right -- but it does in Nature's paradigm
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Old 12-05-20, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by spelger View Post
Yeah but who wants to practice that?
I believe we can program ourselves to take appropriate action, like holding onto the bars and staying clipped, as mcours2006 mentioned above. The first time I went down on the road, I did just as he did, because I'd learned that's what you do. Pressing my helmet into the road surface was a reaction to road rash prevention, probably not a pre-learned behavior.
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Old 12-05-20, 02:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
I get ready for cross country ski season by lining the floor with pillows, falling awkwardly, then trying to get up by doing a pushup with my legs twisted into a pretzel. What I've learned from practicing is that pride is overrated.
Interesting. For DH off-season I used a slide board. I believe the one I have is 8' or 10', though the stops are adjustable; for DH GS training you definitely want plenty of 'hold time' and a hard push. I no longer race DH GS though, face planting a salted, rock hard trenched-up course hurts too much, and all it takes is for a ski tip to be off by 1/2" on the wrong side of a gate. I just do the dollar runs at ski areas for fun, they're not steep enough and the gates are too close and courses too short and technical to pick up any real speed. Still use the slide board on occasion, it's kinda relaxing actually. Easy to roll up and put away over winter. Used one for 30 years ever since I was a teenager and played ice hockey. (I preferred DH skiing, but didn't live anywhere near a mountain.)
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Old 12-05-20, 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by CAT7RDR View Post
Sometimes things happen so fast it seems like a fluke and not skill. Case in point last week I was descending a mountain road at 30 mph and did not see a rock in the shadows and clipped it with my rear 25mm touring tire. My back end kicked out a several inches to my left and my rear tire lost road contact for a brief second but I regained my balance. It was not skill but gravity and inertia that kept me from going down. Bigger rock and I am likely going down hard. Can't say I am a skilled cyclist but I have had similar instances over the years where I stayed upright when I could have easily had a serious crash.
You didn't realize it, but you flicked your front wheel in the direction of the skid, just like you'd do in a car. The first time I had a serious fishtail with our tandem on a slick road, I recovered after maybe 3 excursions, even though I'd never done that before. Driving and motorcycling near the limits of adhesion are good practice. I think those skills translate. I've had other similar rock and flat tire incidents, all recovered.

The time I dropped it, I was doing a fast descent on the shoulder when I saw a ped all dressed in black ahead me, maybe 100 yds. There was a 2" lip between the shoulder and the road. My bunny hop wasn't timed right and I think my rear wheel caught the lip. Not Sagan..

Speaking of bunny hopping and bike handling. Years ago I was doing the Mt. Baker road climb. The Forest Service was installing culverts under the road, maybe 20 or so, with several hundred yards between them. They'd taken out maybe 15' of pavement and left deep loose gravel at each one, to be repaved later. I was descending and slowing way down for each gravel section, when I was passed by some young racer boys who were bunny hopping the gravel at speed. So I started doing the same thing, chasing them. It was fun.
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