Road Cycling Skills

How to: The ultimate exercise to improve handling and group riding skills

Learn to lean on a friend to work on your cornering and stability as well as group confidence

Looking to improve your bike handling and confidence in a group? We recently spent a morning with the coaches at Revolution Cycling Coaching at their women’s race training day – and they had us using our peers in a fun and challenging exercise that’s great for riders of all levels.

The task is simple – stack up next to each other with your wheels in line, and ride with one hand on the bars, and another on the shoulder or lower back of your next door neighbour. You should agree which hand will be on the handlebars, and then swap after a few minutes (you’ll find it easier with your stronger hand on the bars). The inside rider can have one hand off the bars and outstretched so they’re not ‘missing out’.

Head coach Kerry Bircher explains: “This gets you comfortable riding right next to another person. Not only that, but it also teaches you how to control your bike. Bike control shouldn’t be just about ‘steering’ with your handlebars, actually very little of the movement should be coming from your bars – this exercise teaches you to use your body weight as you corner.”

The one is only really designed for close circuits – but there a lot of them around – outside London alone there’s Hog Hill (where we were), Hillingdon, Cyclopark and Lee Valley – all of which can be used by the public during set hours. If you’re not near a circuit, you could practice in a housing estate or empty car park, but make sure there are few cars around and plenty of corners to make you work hard.

You’ll also need to work together to control your speed – as the outside rider will be travelling further than the inside rider – and of course, communication is key!

Start out slowly, and then as you grow in confidence you can gradually speed it up. Though it can be tempting to stick to the hoods, you might actually find the hand on the bars is more effective place on the top of the handlebar, closer to the step. You may find that you feel your core muscles working quite strongly – you need to use them to avoid placing your weight on your bezzie mate’s shoulder/back – bear this in mind and only ride in this position as long as you’re comfortable.

We completed the exercise in groups of four and five – and the more riders in a row the more difficult it will be, but if you’re limited in space and willing buddies even working with one other cyclist would be beneficial.

To recap:

  • Great for getting comfortable riding in a group and for improving bike handling
  • Stick to closed circuits, or pairs of you must be on the road – use quiet roads or carparks only
  • Make sure you’re all using the same hand – and swap half way through to practice both sides
  • Use your core strength, don’t place your weight onto your fellow rider’s back. If you can’t hold it too long, be honest, and take a break
  • Communicate and control your speed – the outside rider is going further than the inside rider

Enjoy! We’ll be bringing you more skills coaching from this event and more in the future – but in the mean time check out: 

How to corner at speed

10 Tips for those wanting to race this year

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