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

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

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

Old 12-05-20, 04:24 PM
  #26  
Reflector Guy
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Originally Posted by gregf83 View Post
Too many riders stare at the wheel in front of them or the road 6 ft ahead.
The automotive version of that is the drivers who keep their car headed straight down the road by aligning the hood ornament with some point on the curb. Back in H.S. in Driver's Ed, they kept warning us not to do that.... I thought maybe it was just something they'd made up but years later I remember hearing my grandma complain her new car didn't have a hood ornament so she was having a terrible time keeping it straight!
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Old 12-05-20, 07:15 PM
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Originally Posted by nycphotography View Post
Some people when they need something have to stop, get off the bike, get half undressed, fumble around, get back on the bike.
Are we talking about nature breaks?
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Old 12-05-20, 07:30 PM
  #28  
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I have driven several of my cars on tracks and the strategy between cycling at speed and hauling a car around the track are totally linked; physics is physics. I use the same strategies while cornering (late apexing), following a line, looking ahead and not where you don’t want to go, as well as obeying the limits of adhesion and keeping your COG low. Can’t say I am great at either, but I’ve never gone off... well maybe a couple of times.
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Old 12-05-20, 11:39 PM
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Originally Posted by sfrider View Post
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.)
I feel like a good turn on skis takes a lot more balance and skill than anything I ever do on a road bike, probably easier to do something wrong and biff. Occasionally I get to go away and rent a MTB, that's a different game.

I got to do about 3k of vert over 5.5 miles today, but I had to ski up first. Earn your turns! Buddy got a picture of the fun today. There's a giant snow penis creeping around in the trees like a perv.

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Old 12-07-20, 08:14 AM
  #30  
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Originally Posted by JohnDThompson View Post
Being able to hold a steady line while drafting/reaching for a water bottle/jamming out of the saddle/checking behind/etc.
This seems like the bare minimum.

Sadly, I am still an F in all of these categories.
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Old 12-07-20, 08:15 AM
  #31  
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
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.
its easy to say that but at some point it may be tested. in my last crash back in September i was fishtailing toward a split rail fence with lots of sign posts. i instinctively reached out to try to catch one of the posts to "break my fall.". but i did consciously pull back because i knew that would probably spell some sort of disaster. i had time to think though. i suspect that for most crash it happens way to fast to do a lot of thinking.
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Old 12-07-20, 08:27 AM
  #32  
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I think of bike handling in two categories. Basic good bike handling is being able to hold a line in a group, drink/eat while riding, avoid basic obstacles, etc. Advanced bike handling would be being able to recover from loss of traction, bunny hopping, being able to go offroad if necessary (as someone else mentioned having to go over a ditch and through a yard, something a lot of roadies wouldn't be able to do or even attempt).

I totally agree with a MTB background helping in the advanced skills section, those people are used to how the bike feels when it gets loose and know how to handle it. Gravel riding has def helped me in that aspect, you encounter a lot of situations that you don't usually see on the road, and it has made me more confident/comfortable on the road.
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Old 12-07-20, 08:43 AM
  #33  
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What about getting the bike off/on the rack without scratching up the bike/roof/hurting yourself. Not to mention carrying it through hallways and around corners without dinging something. With the cost of bikes/components these days, that's a good skill to have.

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Old 12-07-20, 09:17 AM
  #34  
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Originally Posted by spelger View Post
its easy to say that but at some point it may be tested. in my last crash back in September i was fishtailing toward a split rail fence with lots of sign posts. i instinctively reached out to try to catch one of the posts to "break my fall.". but i did consciously pull back because i knew that would probably spell some sort of disaster. i had time to think though. i suspect that for most crash it happens way to fast to do a lot of thinking.
Yes, you're right, there are those crashes that happen so fast you have absolutely no time to think; I had one when I first got into cycling and it's still burned into my brain to this day.

I was riding to work on a relatively narrow and busy highway with no shoulder (bike lanes were not even a thing back then) and I inadvertently drifted off the road and immediately swerved to the left to get back on the road (big mistake). The road had a small drop-off, only about 3" high, but as we all know, if you hit a raised section with your front tire as you're riding along at a good pace, the effect is similar to squeezing the front brakes at speed.

I went flying into the middle of the highway with cars coming from both directions. It happened so damn fast, I don't even remember being afraid or saying something in my head, like, "Oh sh*t". There was nothing except, one moment I was trying to get back on the road, the next moment I was in the middle of the road.

This is where instincts just happened. I instinctively jumped up, again no thoughts in my mind, I grabbed my bike and ran out of the road as cars came by. It was one of those moments in life where you ask yourself, "How did I do that?".

I have no idea how I was able to just pick myself and my bike up and get out of there so fast with out a single thought, until I was safely on the side of the road. Nowadays, I'm pretty good at maintaining a straight line, but on those rare instances where I find myself drifting off line, I immediately think back to that day in the late '80's.


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Old 12-07-20, 10:41 AM
  #35  
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I hooked bars with another rider at about 25 mph in a long sweeping corner in the middle of a cat 4/5 pack in a crit. I was able to save the bike when he pulled away and my bike swerved, lean into him, unhook the bars, and continue. He didn't freak, leaned into me and when it was over said, "Nice save man."

That's an example.

In general ride with others that know what they're doing and they'll tell you if you're a good bike handler. Go ride off road doing cross, gravel or even mtb and you'll find out quick if you have any bike handling skills.

Skills are split into two main areas - actual technical riding ability and "ride with others" ability and predictability. Technical ability is like the ability to do bunny hops, jump steps, corner in a changing radius off camber turn, or do a manual. "ride with others" ability and predictability is more along the lines of going into a corner in the middle of a pack of 80 riders and not being the one guy who thinks he is supposed to cut to the apex and back out...knocking down the rest of the field. Other parts include being able to pull something out of your back pocket without crashing, being able to look behind you without swerving slightly to the left or right, and not freaking out if you happen to make contact with another rider or bike....the freak out is what causes wrecks and injuries.
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Old 12-07-20, 11:31 AM
  #36  
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Originally Posted by Rides4Beer View Post
I think of bike handling in two categories. Basic good bike handling is being able to hold a line in a group, drink/eat while riding, avoid basic obstacles, etc. Advanced bike handling would be being able to recover from loss of traction, bunny hopping, being able to go offroad if necessary (as someone else mentioned having to go over a ditch and through a yard, something a lot of roadies wouldn't be able to do or even attempt).

I totally agree with a MTB background helping in the advanced skills section, those people are used to how the bike feels when it gets loose and know how to handle it. Gravel riding has def helped me in that aspect, you encounter a lot of situations that you don't usually see on the road, and it has made me more confident/comfortable on the road.
Group riding skills and basic handling skills are different things though. There are a lot of people who only ride solo, and have good control over their bike, but might be a disaster in a paceline. Probably a lot of people who can ride in a group but not able to go off road or recover from a loss of traction because the C group never takes risks.
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Old 12-08-20, 01:44 PM
  #37  
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
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.
Seems to me that, whatever it is, "good bike handling" skills are in steep decline, just going by the number of posts regarding basic skills (riding out of the saddle, descending, even stuff like fixing flats and changing gears). Not meaning to channel my inner curmudgeon, but I don't think kids live on their bikes the way we did when I was young (4 - 13 or so). When I was a kid, bikes were toys, transportation, sporting equipment, vehicles for exploration, weapons (on occasion), etc. Nothing teaches "handling" like chasing your brothers and friends all over town on a bike, trying to conduct running snowball fights on your bike, riding down anything short of vertical, trying to ram your brother's bike with yours (while not damaging anyone/any bike), etc.

I think it's a lot harder as an adult to develop the skills we acquired organically as kids by just acting like the idiots we were.
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Old 12-08-20, 01:55 PM
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Originally Posted by noimagination View Post
Seems to me that, whatever it is, "good bike handling" skills are in steep decline, just going by the number of posts regarding basic skills (riding out of the saddle, descending, even stuff like fixing flats and changing gears). Not meaning to channel my inner curmudgeon, but I don't think kids live on their bikes the way we did when I was young (4 - 13 or so). When I was a kid, bikes were toys, transportation, sporting equipment, vehicles for exploration, weapons (on occasion), etc. Nothing teaches "handling" like chasing your brothers and friends all over town on a bike, trying to conduct running snowball fights on your bike, riding down anything short of vertical, trying to ram your brother's bike with yours (while not damaging anyone/any bike), etc.

I think it's a lot harder as an adult to develop the skills we acquired organically as kids by just acting like the idiots we were.
You can call it a kid issue if you want but the fact is that more people are riding indoors. Every spring around here for decades we would always laugh during the first few outside rides: "Looks like Dave has his trainer handling skills going". Now with Zwift and so many people riding indoors because of the pandemic it will be a mass epidemic of poorly handling bikes when we finally get back outside.

Going back as far as I remember there's always been someone saying, "oh that's because we don't do ____ anymore. Back in my day people did that and they could handle their bikes." In reality there have always been people that can't handle their bikes. No matter what they do or how much training they get.

I remember in 1988 learning the term "Squirrel" from the VHS tape the 7-Eleven team put out called "Cycling for Success"....."squirrels" are nothing new and they will never go away.
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Old 12-09-20, 02:13 PM
  #39  
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The indoor training really is the newest instance of the "rookie on a superbike" phenomenon.

IE, they've developed a big engine (or bought a superbike or supercar) but haven't yet learned how to handle it.
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Old 12-10-20, 08:33 AM
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There are some drills you can do with friends to make you a better bike handler. Best done in a grass field. 1) Purposefully overlap wheels at a slow speed, like 5mph, and practice recovering from that. 2) slow race: mark off 100 feet, last person to cross the line without a foot down wins. 3) demolition derby: mark off a small field, you can't go faster than 5mph, you cant go out of bounds, you cant take a hand off the bars, you can use your head elbows or any other means to interfere with the other riders, last person to put a foot down wins. 4) ride close together and purposefully bump each other. 5) mark off a very tight slalom course with cones, 6) race across the field with having to pick up red solo cups from the ground across the course, without dismounting.

You can have fun with these and you will be a better bike handler for having done them.
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Old 12-10-20, 01:00 PM
  #41  
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Originally Posted by noimagination View Post
Nothing teaches "handling" like chasing your brothers and friends all over town on a bike, trying to conduct running snowball fights on your bike, riding down anything short of vertical, trying to ram your brother's bike with yours (while not damaging anyone/any bike), etc.
.
Hahaha. We had (slightly inebriated) bike jousting in college...fun times.
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Old 12-10-20, 01:14 PM
  #42  
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Originally Posted by Psimet2001 View Post
In reality there have always been people that can't handle their bikes. No matter what they do or how much training they get.
Very true. Even PRT crits have some people who look like they're taking a corner for the first time ever. And when it's wet?! Yikes.
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Old 12-10-20, 02:58 PM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
Purposefully overlap wheels at a slow speed, like 5mph, and practice recovering from that.
Recovering from the dreaded wheel overlap is counterintuitive. The short answer is: Steer INTO that rear tire. No... really. Our brain screams "TURN AWAY" but that shifts our weight over our front tire and the other guy's rear tire. That's why we go down... quickly. But, if you turn into the tire, two things happen: 1. Your weight moves away - in the right direction and 2. You will slow down and come off the tire - ideally still upright.

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Old 12-10-20, 03:01 PM
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Originally Posted by rubiksoval View Post
Very true. Even PRT crits have some people who look like they're taking a corner for the first time ever. And when it's wet?! Yikes.
rubiksoval was it you who pointed out the Battlecry of the Cat-5: "INSIDE!!! INSIDE!!!" So damn funny.
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Old 12-10-20, 04:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Zaskar View Post
rubiksoval was it you who pointed out the Battlecry of the Cat-5: "INSIDE!!! INSIDE!!!" So damn funny.
- Soooooo true.

A teammate of mine would shut the door on them and yell "Nope"
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Old 12-10-20, 05:30 PM
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Old 12-10-20, 07:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Zaskar View Post
Recovering from the dreaded wheel overlap is counterintuitive. The short answer is: Steer INTO that rear tire. No... really. Our brain screams "TURN AWAY" but that shifts our weight over our front tire and the other guy's rear tire. That's why we go down... quickly. But, if you turn into the tire, two things happen: 1. Your weight moves away - in the right direction and 2. You will slow down and come off the tire - ideally still upright.
Definitely true, and practicing that in a low risk setting, gives you a decent chance to execute it when it matters.
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Old 12-12-20, 01:57 PM
  #48  
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Originally Posted by downhillmaster View Post
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.
Why would only a pro know?? I've ridden with several ex-pro's in the Bay Area and while they are very, very strong they are poor bike handlers compared to some never-Pro's I ride with. Just as recently as yesterday (Friday). The best bike handlers I've seen are also Cyclocross racers.

Originally Posted by Psimet2001 View Post
In reality there have always been people that can't handle their bikes. No matter what they do or how much training they get.
I remember in 1988 learning the term "Squirrel" from the VHS tape the 7-Eleven team put out called "Cycling for Success"....."squirrels" are nothing new and they will never go away.
Exactly! And this applies to Pro's as well.

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Old 12-12-20, 02:22 PM
  #49  
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Originally Posted by Psimet2001 View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zaskar View Post
rubiksoval was it you who pointed out the Battlecry of the Cat-5: "INSIDE!!! INSIDE!!!" So damn funny.
- Soooooo true.
A teammate of mine would shut the door on them and yell "Nope"
""INSIDE!!! INSIDE!!!" -- that can also mean "Don't try that crap of diving for the apex from the middle of the 2,3,X-abrest pack as there are riders to your inside side!"
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Old 12-12-20, 02:49 PM
  #50  
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There are already lots of good examples on this thread, from people with far better knowledge and skills (skillz) than me. But some of being a good bike handler just comes from being really aware and experienced in the saddle, and isn't something you can specify or practice.

One example, which I think I posted about before. On a group ride going pretty fast (22-24 mph) around some swooping turns on a neighborhood street, a new guy touched wheels and went down, bringing a few others with him. I was several bikes behind this. All of a sudden, there's a guy on his back,,perpendicular to our direction of forward motion, and his head is on the ground two wheel lengths in front of me. I'm about to ride over it.

The next thing I know, I'm standing directly over him, just to his left, and my bike is on the ground off to the right. I never touched him.

I have no idea what I actually did. All I know is I got off the bike, landed on my feet, and got rid of the bike somehow.

Peter Sagan could have bunny hopped over him, but I couldn't have.
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