Cycle Training for the Experienced?

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  • Are there any tips or wisdom that can offered to an intermediate cyclist who is looking to improve cycling skill as a bid to reduce risk?

    For example, driving a car or a motorbike both offer advanced course as options. I have struggled to find anything similar for cycling. I have spoken with a few cyclists who race at competitive level but they all learnt everything the know through experience doing the task. While I agree, the best way to train for something is for the training to be as specific as possible, it would be nice to get words of wisdom passed down from cycling mentor.

    In terms of my skill level, I can drive a car and a motorbike and have 20 years experience on London roads. I have also driven HGVs on private roads. I think my road craft, hazard awareness etc is good and although always open to improvement, I am not specifically seeking that here.

    I would like to know if there are any nuggets of advice or practice that can be done to make me a better rider?

    For example, I can see the benefit of practicing slow speed control drills like slalom, figure of 8 for filtering through traffic. Do the experienced think that is also beneficial for high speed? If not, are there drills that might be useful for high speed without needing to try something for the first time at 25mph?

    On the motorbike test, one task was an emergency stop. Beyond that was hazard avoidance combined with an emergency stop. This was harder because you would swerve the bike first and need to straighten up before braking on the front wheel or else you risk dropping.

    I have been riding fixed for the last 12 years on and off and intend to get a geared road bike. The fixed limited me to a max speed of about 28mph. With gears I will be able to go faster and would like to skill up to reduce risk (even if risk is small).

    I intend to emulate the motor bike test objectives regarding bike control on grass when i buy the geared bike but welcome for other suggestions - thanks

  • Just book yourself a cycle training session. I have yet to meet someone who did not learn some useful things, wether a novice or experienced cyclist.

  • Just book a cycle training session. It's free. I have yet to meet someone who didn't learn something in a session.

  • You don't say whether you have done 'cycle training' (that is, 'Bikeability')--you seem to imply that after doing this you'd like to do an advanced course of it, but it's not explicit and it would be good if you could clarify. I obviously assume that you're well aware of it, and that it's very different from what most people would normally think was meant by the term 'cycle training' (an oft-noted problem). In the following, I'll use the term in the meaning it has as 'Bikeability', 'Cycle Savvy', or whatever other brand of this type of cycle training is out there.

    You seem to be asking about skills for riding as part of traffic but your examples are of control skills. Cycle training obviously includes these, up to a certain point. While important, they are not the best representation of advancement in cycle training. Much more important skills are things like understanding traffic management or certain aspects of street design. If you have to exercise advanced control skills to avoid a hazard, you've probably also already failed to anticipate it, and it is much the inferior method to try to correct a problem by last-moment avoidance. Perhaps it is because you ride too fast in urban traffic--28mph certainly is too fast for most situations in London, in which case the main advanced advice would be to slow down.

    Also, good cycling as part of traffic relies very much on being boring and predictable, where again there is little room for exercising advanced control skills. As the people you've already talked to said, if you want better bike-handling skills, the best way is to practice those, ideally under supervision by a club, where you'll find good coaches. There are, of course, also non-club coaches you can pay.

    Needless to say, good bike-handling is very useful in bike races, whether on- or off-road.

    Not sure if this is helpful, and I may well have misunderstood you, in which case apologies, but the above is what I guessed at.

    All that said, I would find it very interesting if there was a 'Level 4' to Bikeability etc. I suspect it would be a more theoretical course than levels 1-3, but that could be useful, too. Levels 1-3 are very good, of course.

  • I should have clarified - I haven't done 'Bikeability'. From what I can see of the syllabus, it is geared towards riding in traffic. I feel I have enough roadcraft experience and motor bike CBT and full licence training in London gave me another perspective with good coaching on filtering and how to be safe as a more vulnerable road user.

    28mph is my max realistically. Average speed you still might class as too fast but then tends to be about 19-22mph. For my commute I tend to stay with the flow of traffic more often than not which I find more comfortable than being at a pace where I am passed frequently. I try to be predictable and visible.

    I meant to imply that I am not asking about skills riding with traffic. I don't intend to sound boastful but I think my skills are good on riding and being in traffic based on experience on London roads but also driving in countries where standards are more challenging. I took motorbike instruction in 2008 which was a valuable addition despite having a decade of car driving. I am not claiming there is no room for improvement but I would class reading the road, working in traffic and anticipating problems as a strength and not something I need to focus on right now.

    It is the skills part that I feel I need to develop. I know for sure my slow speed control is not as good as it was 10 years ago because I don't practice it but that is something I can address on soft ground.

    In terms of other skills, I am not exactly sure what problem I am trying to solve. I was kind of hoping people would throw ideas at me and some might stick

    So for example the following have happened to me:

    1. Front wheel skid on roundabout exit.
      It was dark, road was wet, front wheel hit something slippery (diesel?)
      Being fixed gear, momentum was still going through the back wheel and the front lifted, threw the bike off balance slightly and I was able to recover and ride on. It was more luck than skill that kept me upright.

    I think that with a freewheel (next bike purchase) there is more potential to lose the back wheel also in a slippery encounter. Hopefully never but if people have some wisdom on what to do, it's welcome.

    If things can't be avoided, maybe even practical advice on how to fall (assume you can't avoid the fall but can decide on some way to influence it).

    1. hazard avoidance at speed. A bit like mod1 of the bike test. This is probably something I can practice on grass building gradually.

    Skills recommendations so far from other sources have been:

    • mountain biking (I would need to hire a bike)
    • grasstrack / cyclocross (I would also need to hire a bike)
    • club introductory session, to learn group riding and other related skills

  • Hi Diable - yes, RosPA is the type of thing I was thinking of. When I was on the motorbike my neighbour was doing her RoSPA which gave really useful information. I just find it strange that there is nothing similar in the bike world. I suppose cycling is lower risk and cyclists have traded on experience and luck.

    I suppose the things I am most worried about are wiping out as safely as possible. I think in that regard mountain biking does have decent instruction drills and relatively safe practice mechanisms.

  • There is a syllabus instructors use as a framework to base your training around(much as learning most things). If you have an experience of training as part of a group the instructors are less likely to fine tune the experience you have around your own skills and weaknesses as they additionally need to teach the entire group so your experience might feel a bit less indepth in places. A large part of what people see as "bikeability" would be these group sessions with lots being done at schools and various other places taking the same format(tried and tested to get good results with groups).

    If you have a session alone with an instructor then some instructors are better at reading what trainees need than others, I like to think I get it right when teaching. Try and give as much info as you can to the instructor who will have you during the booking process.

    You do get some differences with cycling vs motorcycling, in a handful of places motorcycling advice will put you into a tricky spot with the assumption you can just accelerate away while cycling you don't have that power and so don't ever want to be in that spot. Motorcyclists also with everything geared towards being on the right stuff like interacting with buses would maybe have gaps as it's just not an issue for motorcyclists. Looking back rather than mirrors and the huge wealth of cycling knowledge that creates around eye contact and how riders/drivers interact is another one. It's not to say you would be a bad rider for using what you have learned but the 2 types of training aren't as directly interchangeable as some might think and the risks highlighted more/less change.

    If you need help booking let me know.

  • Thanks clockwise. Those are good points. The new bike will soon be with me. I think I need to bring more to the table with the specific areas I think I need to focus on so I can get the most out if it.

  • Just go into it open minded, if you go in having already decided what you will/won't learn it just turns into you working against the instructor and maybe even having an unpleasant experience. If you have the time most if not all councils offer 2x 2hrs or more for those who "live, work or study" in the borough, if you have links to a few areas you can easy take 10hrs+ of training and on top of that group rides and training sessions. I wouldn't worry about "bringing more" if the first lesson is just you finding your feet then so be it, no instructor will mind that at all.

  • Had a virtual cycle training session at West drinks last night with experienced riders @mespilus and @sifta using beer glasses, Salt sifters and a burger.

    Be interested to note the degree training of this nature works ;)

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Cycle Training for the Experienced?

Posted by Avatar for Kiern @Kiern

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