Make the most of your commute and use it as a time to boost your skills and fitness.
Whatever you ride, with or without a basket on the front or suspension at the back, if you train your balance and ability to manoeuvre with confidence and style you’ll be a better, safer cyclist.
Here are 6 cycling areas you can work on during your commute:
1. The Trackstand
Bring your bike to a complete stop and stay balanced, standing up on the pedals, ready to sprint away.
The improved balance and bike control will help every mountain biker, road biker or BMX racer.
The key is to stand up early, cranks level, and extend both arms and legs until they are straight, or nearly. Use the brakes gently as you come to a stop, to avoid throwing yourself off balance. Now make sure you are well forward, shoulders over the bars, so you can push down through straight arms to correct any wobbles in the bike. Do not swing the bars from side to side – just turn a little to one side then stay balanced by putting pressure down through the bars instead.
2. The Manual
This is the art of lightly and smoothly popping the front wheel over an obstacle while you are rolling along, without pedalling.
It’s a great technique for cruising over speed bumps, clearing curbs or tuning up your moves ready for the rocks and roots of a mountain bike ride. You can do it on any bike, using pretty much the same technique.
First, even though you want to lift the front wheel, take all thoughts of tugging upwards on the bars OUT of your head. Now replace them with a pushing action – imagine throwing a bouncy ball across the room to a friend, by bouncing it off the floor about 3 metres in front of you. That’s the angle you push at – forwards and down on the bars in a firm, snappy action.
Make sure you’re standing up, pedals level with arms and legs flexed when you do it. If you want to pop it higher, follow through with a push from the feet too.
3. Smooth spinning
Try riding some sections of your commute with just one foot clipped in and the other hanging beside you. Engage an easy gear, relax and feel your foot push forwards, down, dropping the heel as you go, then scoop back and up. Make it smooth then swap feet and repeat. Now try and maintain that smooth spinning action through the whole ride making every journey that bit more efficient than the last.
4. Hill climbs
You may have a nice cruise of a route to work, but check around you and see if there are any hills nearby. If you need to extend your ride a little to work out properly it might be worth the diversion to ride up them – a couple of daily climbs can have a huge impact on your fitness.
Try tackling the climb differently every day, to add interest. Sit and spin smoothly one day, sprint from a standing start the next, pump up in the biggest gear you can manage the next. Variety will keep you interested, and each approach works your system in different ways. You could even try it one legged if your technique is up to it.
5. Sprint starts
If you have to contend with traffic lights turn them into start gates and the road into your personal BMX race track. Select the right gear, trackstand, head facing forwards but eyes on the lights....then explode out of the imaginary start gate with all the force you can summon.
If you only have a short commute this is an ideal way to cram real training into it – repeated 20-30 second sprints, with a couple of minutes recovery in between. Obviously you don’t need the lights, and be sure to select an area where no-one is going to step out from a parked car or suddenly stop in front of you.
6. Timed sections
Timing a section of your ride is a great way to stay interested through a less exciting part of the journey and increase your speed on the bike. Once a week (and no more) check your time over a certain leg – perhaps it’s a taxing climb or long drag that normally gets you down. Seeing yourself knock seconds off your time, week after week, is personal motivation like nothing else.
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