Female riding time trial bike on a forest road

The Top 12 Cycling Skills Every Rider Needs to Know

If you're new to cycling, it might feel like there is a lot to learn. I mean, most people know how to ride a bike, but which cycling skills are the most important?

What's going to make sure that when you hit the road, you're going to get the most out of your ride? That you have an enjoyable, safe ride while also making some improvements along the way?

In this article, I'll be covering the cycling skills that are the most important for every rider to learn.

How to Start Cycling

Before you can dive into the tips on this list, it's important to learn the basic skills of cycling. This includes things like starting and stopping, signaling, and basic road safety.

Once you feel confident with these basic skills, you'll be able to start going on longer rides and working on things like efficiency and performance.

You'll also want to be sure you choose the right bike. There are many different types of bikes available, so it's important to pick one that's suitable for the type of cycling you want to do.

For example, if you're planning on doing mostly road cycling, then you'll need a road bike. If you're interested in mountain biking, then you'll need a mountain bike. And if you're just looking for a leisurely ride around the neighborhood, then a cruiser bike might be the best option.

Finally, once you have your bike and you know how to ride it, it's time to hit the road! Start by finding some safe routes to cycle on, such as off-road trails or cycling lanes on quiet streets.

Then you can start working on the cycling skills in this article.

12 Cycling Skills Every Rider Needs to Know

Braking properly

The first cycling skill every rider needs to know is how to brake properly. Braking properly can not only help you avoid accidents and injuries, but also improve your efficiency and speed on the bike.

There are two main types of brakes used on bicycles, rim brakes and disc brakes. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages, but both can be effective if used correctly.

Rim brakes are the most common type of brake used on road bikes. They work by friction between the brake pads and the wheel rims.

Disc brakes are increasingly popular on mountain bikes and some road bikes. They work by friction between a rotor mounted on the wheel hub and the brake pads.

Both rim and disc brakes can provide good stopping power, but they require different techniques to be used effectively.

When using rim brakes, it is important to apply even pressure to both brake levers. This will help to prevent the wheel from skidding or locking up.

Body position while braking is also important. Be sure to shift back toward the rear of your saddle when you brake to help make sure you don't go flying over the handlebars.

With a little practice, you can master both types of brakes and be able to stop quickly and safely no matter what type of bike you're riding.

Observing the road ahead

Another really important skill cyclists need to learn is how to observe the road ahead. This means looking for potential hazards such as potholes, debris, or parked cars.

It also means being aware of the traffic around you and what other cyclists or vehicles are doing. By observing the road ahead, you can be better prepared for what's coming and avoid dangerous situations.

One way to help improve your observation skills is to practice cycling with your head up. This means looking ahead at where you're going, rather than down at the ground in front of you.

It takes a bit of practice to get used to cycling with your head up, but it's worth it. By keeping your head up, you'll be able to see potential hazards sooner and have more time to react.

Changing gears

Another important cycling skill to master is shifting gears. Riding in the wrong gear or shifting at the wrong time can make cycling more difficult than it needs to be.

It can also cause damage to your bike, so it's important to learn how to do it correctly.

Make sure that when you go to shift you keep pedaling and don't shift under tension. Anticipate what gear you'll need to shift to before you tackle a hill and adjust accordingly.

Also, try to be sure that you only shift a few gears at a time. Shifting too many gears at once can cause damage to your chain and gears.

How to ride in a group

The next skill that's important for cyclists is learning how to ride in a group. When cycling in a group, the number 1 rule is no sudden changes in motion.

This includes things like sudden braking, acceleration, or movements from left to right. Unless, of course, you’re trying to avoid something that would cause an accident.

Also, make sure you don’t overlap your wheels with other riders. If the person in front of you does have to swerve suddenly to avoid something, you want to make sure their tire won’t collide with yours.

Another good tip is to be aware of the other cyclists around you and pay attention to the skill level of the other riders. If you are cycling with someone who is less experienced, it is important to be patient and give them plenty of room to maneuver.

Likewise, if you are cycling with someone who is more experienced, you should be prepared to keep up with their pace.

It also helps to communicate with the other members of your group. When making turns or stopping, always let the others know what you are doing so that they can adjust their own cycling accordingly.

Riding with others can be a great way to improve your cycling skills and enjoy the sport even more.

How to eat and drink while cycling

Cycling is an endurance sport that can sometimes take hours at a time. So it's important to know how to eat and drink while cycling.

During long rides, you'll need to stay hydrated and keep your energy up. This means learning how to cycle one-handed and reach around for your snacks or water bottle without losing balance or slowing down.

Work on staying steady, keeping your eyes on the road, and riding with your hand off the handlebars. Choose quiet pieces of road to practice on until you get the hang of it.

Riding out of the saddle

Another useful skill for cyclists to have is riding out of the saddle. It's not as efficient as cycling while seated, but it allows you to get that extra push when climbing or sprinting.

Being able to make use of your body weight to help drive the pedals adds that extra bit of power for those moments you need to push.

When riding out of the saddle, be sure to pick a gear that will give you enough resistance while pedaling and gently rock the bike side to side. You should be able to stay in control and not feel like you're about to fall over.

With a little practice, riding out of the saddle will become second nature and you'll be able to use it when cycling up hills or during races.

Cornering

The next skill that cyclists need to learn is cornering. Cornering is not as simple as turning the handlebars.

There are a few things to keep in mind, such as body position and bike lean, that will help you master this cycling skill.

When taking a corner, the first thing to focus on is looking through the corner. Where you look is typically where your bike is going to go.

Next, be sure to move your weight to the outside pedal. This will help keep your bike stable and give you more control.

When doing this, make sure that the outside pedal is in the down position and the inside pedal is in the up position. This helps to make sure your inside pedal won’t scrape the ground and potentially cause a wreck.

Finally, lean your bike into the turn. The amount that you need to lean will depend on the speed you're going and the radius of the turn.

It’s also important to note that when riding through corners in a group, you want to hold your line through the corner. If you cut across the apex as you would normally do by yourself, you risk getting too close to other riders and causing a crash.

Pedaling technique

Something else that all riders need to know how to do well is pedaling. Your pedaling technique can have a big impact on your cycling performance.

Having a smooth and efficient pedaling technique helps you pedal faster with less effort. This increases your speed on the bike and helps you ride longer distances.

There are a few things to keep in mind when working on your pedaling technique. First, be sure to keep your pedals parallel to the ground. This will help you get the most power out of each pedal stroke.

Next, try to maintain a consistent cadence, or pedaling speed. A good range to aim for is between 85 to 90 revolutions per minute.

Finally, keep your pedaling smooth and avoid jerky motions. This will help you maintain your momentum and pedal more efficiently.

Dealing with traffic

Another important cycling skill to learn is how to deal with traffic. As a cyclist, you'll be sharing the road with cars, trucks, and buses.

So it's important to know how to stay safe while cycling on the road. The most important thing to do is ride as though none of the cars can see you.

Making assumptions about other vehicles on the road can lead to serious accidents.

It’s also important to always ride in the direction of traffic. This way you can see what's coming and drivers can see you.

Next, avoid riding too close to parked cars. Doors can suddenly open and cause you to crash.

Also, be sure to signal your turns and stop at all red lights and stop signs. Obey all the rules of the road just like any other vehicle.

As you get more experienced riding on the road, you'll get better at dealing with traffic. But always remember to ride defensively and be aware of your surroundings.

Descending

Next on our list of the top cycling skills you need to know is how to descend. Descending is when you're riding downhill.

It might seem like it would be easy, but if you don't know how to do it properly, it can be dangerous.

It's important to make sure you look ahead rather than right in front of you so you can anticipate any obstacles or turns in the road.

Keep your weight over the saddle or toward the back of the bike. This will help keep your bike stable and prevent you from going over the handlebars.

And be sure to use your brakes judiciously. You don't want to brake too hard and cause yourself to skid or lose control of your bike.

Also, focus on keeping a loose grip on the handlebars. If you tense up while descending, the bike can go into an uncontrollable wobble at high speeds which can result in a massive wreck.

Another trick to help avoid wobbling is to squeeze the seat or top bar with the insides of your legs. This helps to keep the bike more stable as you descend.

With a little practice, descending will become second nature and you'll be able to do it safely and confidently.

How to change a flat tire

The last cycling skill that riders need to know is how to change a flat tire. With hours upon hours put in on the bike, it makes sense that flat tires are going to come up periodically.

And the last thing you want is to be stranded somewhere far from home with a puncture in your tire.

Fortunately, changing a flat tire is not difficult. All you need is a few tools and a little bit of know-how.

Before heading out for a ride, I recommend you take with you a small kit including a multitool, pump, and a couple of spare inner tubes and tire levers. These are handy for changing your tire or taking care of a slow leak while out for a ride.

The first thing to do is remove the wheel from the bike. This is usually done by loosening the quick-release lever or unscrewing the axle nuts.

With the wheel off, use your tire levers to pry off the old tire. Next, lift up the tire and remove the inner tube.

Before replacing the inner tube, be sure to check and see what punctured the tire in the first place. Be sure to remove it so it doesn't puncture the new tube.

To replace the tube, simply put a bit of air in it and insert it into the tire. Make sure the valve is pointing in the right direction so you can easily inflate the tire later on.

With the tube in place, work your way around the tire, pushing it back into place. Once the tire is in place, use your pump to inflate the tire to the proper pressure.

Lastly, you'll need to replace the tire back on the bike and then you're good to go. With a little practice, you'll be able to do it quickly and easily.

Conclusion to 12 Cycling Skills Every Rider Needs to Know

Now that you know the most important cycling skills, you're ready to hit the road. Some of these skills might take practice now, but as you get more experience they'll start to feel like second nature.

And as you master them, you'll not only become a more confident rider but a faster and stronger one as well. So get out there and start cycling!

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