by Scott Martin
Yesterday I was so busy scraping my shoes, playing the piano and putting my head in a box that I rode into a ditch.
Perhaps I should explain.
Pedaling looks like an easy skill to master. You push on the pedals and the bike goes. It’s not like hitting a curveball, heading a goal or walking down a fairway in a lime-green argyle sweater.
Yet the more you ride, the more you realize that cycling isn’t just stomping on the pedals. There’s a host of subtle body movements you can recruit to go faster with less effort.
But these adjustments are hard to explain. You’ll ride stronger if you pull back and up after your pedal passes through the downstroke, but that’s a tough concept to retain when your quads are about to burst like a flattened banana.
Instead, we resort to images: “scrape mud off the bottom of your shoe” or “push your knee toward the handlebar.”
There’s more. If your torso rocks like a bobblehead doll, experts recommend picturing your head confined in an imaginary box, which will minimize energy-sapping movement.
Meantime, all this visualization is making you tired, which causes you to grip the handlebar too tightly. Solution: Relax your fingers by pretending you’re playing the piano.
Now it’s time to get out of the saddle. Oh, no — you’re hunching over the front wheel when you should be letting your legs fall on each downstroke, as if weighted.
Don’t forget to rock your bike, but gently like a metronome, not wildly like Homer Simpson strangling Bart. Is your back curved like Quasimodo’s or nice and flat like a table? And for cryin’ out loud, why is there still mud on your shoes?
I told you to watch out for that ditch.
Scott Martin has been writing about cycling for more than 15 years. He worked as an editor for Bicycling magazine for 10 of them and wrote the “Scott’s Spin” column for RBR from which this is republished. He has also covered cycling for several national magazines.