Monthly Archives: October 2014

Dealing with obstacles on the road

The Breakaway

While Australian roads don’t resemble the cobbles of the European lowlands, there is no shortage of cracks, road side debris, pot holes, grates and worst of all slippery tram lines, to navigate.  Fortunately you can learn a few skills to deal with them.

The Leadout

I was watching a time-shifted copy of the 2014 Paris to Roubaix and kept hearing, care of Phil Ligget, what great bike handling skills Peter Sagan has. No doubt on the cobbles in French roads, you need them to stay out of trouble and in the race. That triggering me to think what bike handling skills should the average commuter or amateur have to deal with the hazards of the road.

The Peloton

Skill What to do
Pay Attention The best obstacle on the road is the one you see and avoid. Steer smoothly, check behind you and indicate which direction you are moving.  Its good etiquette to point out the obstacle you have seen to other behind you.
Float on Just like the lyrics of the Modest Mouse song ‘Float on’, once you’ve identified an obstacle try to hover on your saddle, keeping the pedals level and your body weight towards the rear. You are then in good shape to negotiate what’s coming up ahead of you.e.
Go faster and apply power This is exactly what the pros do on the cobbles, lower your gear, reduce your revs and apply power. This should enable you to ride over cracks and disintegrating road surface.
Be a shock absorber ‘Float on’ the bike but let you knees and elbows bend with the impacts.  This will hopefully stop pinch flats and buckled rims..
Pull a small ‘wheelie’ Just like the lyrics of the Modest Mouse song ‘Float on’, once you’ve identified an obstacle try to hover on your saddle, keeping the pedals level and your body weight towards the rear. You are then in good shape to negotiate what’s coming up ahead of you.e.
Jump, Jump, Jump Respect to one hit wonders Kris-Kross. I have to admit I’ve never tried this, but I’ve seen the pros do it, particularly over branches and street furniture.  The theory goes, bend down at the knees to compress your calves and thigh muscles. Do the ‘small wheelie’ but a fraction of second later uncurl your legs, causing you weigh to move upwards.  This should lift the rear wheel off the ground and over the obstacle.  Sounds hard and probably is.

Braking into corners…not entering or crashing

Technique is the key to fast and safe cornering

The Breakaway

Ignoring the sheer stupidity of riding a bike eg a trendy, beard friendly fixie, without brakes, mastering the skill of braking into corners is an essential cycling road skill. You only have to watch the pros come unstuck on tight fast corners to understand how important this skills is.

The Leadout

The key riding corners well lies in three simple points, B-L-L:
Brake – Brake early
Look – look where you want to go,
Lean – lean in

Here’s detail

The Peloton

Skill What to do
Brake Alway, always, always brake before entering a corner, not whilst you are going round it. In races or your daily commute through traffic intersections its tempting to hit the gas and go round fast.
Look Sounds so obvious, but its axiomatic.  Look where you want the bike to go, not where you are and certainly not down at the road.  Looking down may result in you panicking and slamming the brakes, mid-maneuver.  This is guaranteed way to loose skin, break bones and scratch up your bike.
Lean Body position in the corner is critical. A s you enter the corner raise your peal closest to the corner so that you knee is at a 90 degree angle.  Place the weight of your upper body on same side. This counterbalancing helps with traction.

Choosing Pedals

The Breakaway

Try riding a bike without pedals 🙂 Its pretty useless and begins to look a lot like riding the original 1817 bike the “Draisine”. Pedals are an essential part of your bike riding experience so you should know something about them.

The Leadout

There are 2 main types, Flats and Clipless:


Most history books credit the invention of pedals, mounted on opposing cranks to the Parisian Pierre Michaux in 1863. He attached cranks to the front wheel pedals on a draisienne. This invention was known as a velocipede.


The clipless pedal was invented by Charles Hanson in 1895. Not much happened with it until 1971 when Cino Cinelli developed the M71, in 1971. Referred to as “death cleats”, this pedal was designed mainly for track racing as cyclist had to reach down to them to unclip them.

Clipless refers to the toe clip (cage) having been replaced by a locking mechanism. “Clipping in” changes the way a cyclist is able to pedal, with push down and pull up, being available to transfer power into the bike’s gearing and rear wheel.

The Peloton

Even with these two basic types there are plenty of options.

Flats Without toe clips Wellgo Flat These are the most basic option. Flat pedals provide a platform for a cyclist’s leg and foot to push down on. They can be used with most kinds of footwear (Although I can honestly say, that I’ve never tried them with high heels :-). These are recommended, if you need to hop on and off trains, walk or ride in work clothes. Generally, they are the cheapest option.
With toe clipsQuill Flat French cyclist Eugène Christophe is viewed as the inventor of the toe-clip. In 1925, he sold his invention to Poutrait-Morin (known now as Zéfal). The next step from flats are toe clips. These consist of flat pedals with a basket-and-strap “cage” attached to which hold the foot in place.
Road Look and Look-a-likes Look Keo The first modern clipless pedal was designed by the French company Look. Look applied downhill snow skiing binding or cleat technology to pedals. Bernard Hinault’s victory in Tour de France in 1985 then helped secure the acceptance of quick-release clipless pedal systems by cyclists. Look cleats and their many Look-alikes (tee hee…couldn’t resist) are large and protrude from the sole of the shoe, unlike SPD. This provides a larger platform for transferring power through to the pedals. The protruding cleat makes these shoes impractical for walking, as doing so can damage the cleat. These are recommended for competitive road cyclists looking to improve their performance.
SPD Shimano SPD SPD stands for Shimano Pedaling Dynamics pedal system. Released in 1990, these clipless pedals are arguably the most versatile and best suited to urban commuting or mountain biking. SPD cleats are small and could be fitted in a recess in the sole, making it possible to walk reasonably comfortably. SPD Pedals are the next step up for the average cyclists. They can be single or double sided. This enables a cyclist to clip in with cleats or use the flat side with normal shoes. They allow for a large range of adjustment to make ‘clipping in and out’ much easier. SPDs are recommended for cyclists ‘clipping in’ for the first time, commuters and mountain bikers. Cyclo-cross rider tend to prefer them as well.