Developing Riding Awareness: Level 1 May 30, 2019 13:34 Updated Not a Member yet? $25/month Get Purple Patch Education Membership, A complete performance education program for coaches and athletes. SUBSCRIBE You need to sign in to view this page. Level 1: Counter Steering, Pedaling, Standing, & Braking If you stand and watch any triathlon, my bet is that the riding you see will not resemble much of the grace and poetry of professional bike riding. Instead, there will be a distinct lack of flow, rhythm, and even straight-line riding. Watch any great rider in action, and it seems like 'man and machine' are one unit of perfect harmony. Rarely do we see such grace and control in the amateur triathlon ranks. One of the reasons for this is that triathletes spend most or all of their time on time trial (TT) bikes, which are less intuitive to control and maneuver. Beyond that, there is also a distinct lack of coach or athlete focus on becoming, quite simply, a better rider. So much emphasis is placed on output, with little thought put into control or the poetry of great skills. There is so much I could review and dissect, but below is a simple checklist and reminder of the various elements of propulsion and control. As you read each, step back and think about your own riding: Do you execute on these elements? Are you in control? Can you improve? These are skills that can become habits. Make them habits and you will be a better rider. This will maximize the return on the effort or output you create. If you fail to consider or work on it, you will always be limited. Lesson #1: Counter Steering Interestingly, you will be unable to stand effectively, corner, descend, ride in the wind or climb if you have poor posture on the bike and if you are unable to counter-steer. By this, I mean subtly applying a pressure on the bar to either initiate a turn, maintain a straight line, or maintain a turning radius. It is an important skill. Many riders use this skill without even realizing, but you can ensure it is natural, as well as a tool to be utilized, with a little practice. Find a flat section of road that is quiet and safe, and ride with your fingertips resting on the handlebars (the top tube or elbow pads) Gently push forward with the ride side of the handlebar You will notice the wheel turns slightly to the left, but the bike leans to the right and magically turns right THIS is countersteering Lesson #2: Pedaling It sounds simplistic, but this is an area that requires serious focus. Most people are aware of the pedal stroke resembling a clock face, with 12 o'clock being at the top, 6 o'clock at the bottom, then 3 o'clock being middle front, 9 o' clock being middle back. Most of your power will come from about 1 pm to 5 pm on the clock face. This will never change, as this arrives because it is the most biomechanically advantageous place. The key question should be where your focus needs to be. Bearing in mind that your feet will always (we hope) be opposite each other, your emotional focus should not always be on simply pushing down through that magic 1 pm to 5 pm. This is especially true as this push will occur naturally. Our goal is the maximize your power, but also your economy, to optimize overall locomotion. In general, this means: Think of the pedal stroke as an elliptical pedal stroke, mimicking the shape your chain makes on your bike: You pick up tension at 6pm or 7 pm, and deliver the foot over the top to about 3 pm to 4 pm, and which point you turn attention to the opposite foot. Focus on the retreating leg: The retreating leg is the one that is 'behind you'. Adding a subtle lift, or engagement between 7 pm and 1 pm is not to gain massive power, but rather to unweight that leg, preventing it from being a counterweight against the power producing opposite leg. This is even more important when you are standing on a steep grade of a course. Be aware of the power coming from the glute and hips, with the key lever being your femur (upper leg): Avoid over focus or manipulation on anything below the knee (foot, calf, ankle). The foot and ankle should be supple and 'the end of the whip'. Allow the ankle and foot to flow from the end of the whip. Lesson #3: Standing While most triathlon courses are not technical, and I would expect you to spend less than 10% of the race time out of time trial position or standing, it is a critical aspect and skill. In fact, it is likely the component that can yield the greatest incremental gains, if you know how to stand and when to stand. Here how: Keep your body still over the contact point of the tire Lean the bike toward the leg that is engaged in the downstroke (pressing down) As the leg presses down, you will counter steer to maintain a straight line Tips for standing: Look ahead where you want to go Select a gear that provides resistance (typically 2-3 more than when you were seated) Rise up and forward, bent at the waist Draw the bike forward as you rise, with an active PULL on the retreating leg (bottom of pedal stroke, over the top) Lean the bike to help get the leg and hip over, but maintain body as still and supple Keep your hands supple, and elbows soft Allow the bike to return to vertical without force Only stand 6 to 10 pedal strokes before returning to seated Make it one gear lighter as you sit back down Return to nice rhythmic seated climbing Note: You cannot practice this effectively on a trainer. Lesson #4: Braking I hope you never need to brake while racing, but cannot imagine a race where that is a reality. The key is to maintain control, and limit speed loss, as we can waste lots of energy reaccelerating in training and racing. The closer we get to flow, the better it is. The key points here are: Use both brakes (50-50 braking) Apply braking in an even and progressive manner Brake before you enter the turns or hazards, so that you are not braking while in a turn Avoid sustained braking on a descent, which can heat the tires and cause exploding tires, especially on carbon rims I hope this causes some reflection and thought. Obviously, the optimal, scenario on the bike is coaching and personal advice. To read Developing Riding Awareness: Part 2 - click here Related articles Developing Riding Awareness: Level 2 QOTW: To Supplement or Not?