Yesterday I had my last free Life Cycle lesson, with Veronica. Two years ago, when I was first considering taking up urban cycling, I had one with Polly and learned the basics, such as good road positioning (don’t think you have to hug the pavement – be assertive and be visible). Last year, after I’d been cycling for a while, I had another, with Alasdair, and got lots of good advice on various niggles, from keeping rain off my specs with a baseball cap to avoiding knee and back problems by getting off the bike and standing in front of the saddle when waiting at a traffic light (it really doesn’t take long to do a standing start when the light changes).
This time, the agenda was learning to A. pedal standing up and B. take downhill tight corners without dismounting (another Nemesis of mine: the ramps on the bridge over the M32 to St Werburgh).
Turned out I could already do A., though I wasn’t convinced when Veronica first told me “it’s the same thing“: I just had not given it a proper try since I’d been doing the standing starts, and they had magicked away the wobbliness. Good because it left more time for B., which needed a lot more work.
I did manage those ramps in the end, just about, after some practice on Champion Square first . It felt great, even though I didn’t exactly do it with panache. The whole exercise involved lots of brow-furrowing concentration, more sweat than going up Woodlands Road, and there may have been the odd yelp here and there as I tilted too far for comfort.
What I must practise/remember:
- Make sure I’m in low gear as this helps with balance when going slow.
- (optional) Stand up on my pedals as I approach the tight turn as it’s easier to put my foot down on the ground from that position (I have my saddle high for knee-sparing reasons). One pedal down (the one I always start pedalling with), one up (the side I naturally put my foot on the ground first).
- Use all the space available to make the turn as wide as possible.
- Look where I’m turning. Your body, and by extension your bike, tend to go where you look. Look ahead (rather than fixate on the ground in case of hazardous bumps or tyre-piercy things – try to alternate).
- Resume pedalling in the last bit of the turn, otherwise the loss of velocity on the flat bit of the ramp’s hairpin bend means steps 1.to 4. have been wasted!
I also learned that everyone apparently has a favourite turning side (I’m still not sure I do, but I’ll try to monitor my levels of joy vs stress turning in different directions) as well as a favourite landing foot. I also got other bits and bobs of advice (solicited or from this very experienced cyclist just looking at my bike/me).
I would recommend this to anyone cycling in the city – I imagine even those expert enough to be instructors swap tips, and it’s free!