Once you have a bicycle you love and you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to become an expert. A huge part of that process involves getting to know your bike. You’ll want to be able to maintain it, troubleshoot problems that arise, and know exactly what it can do in every situation. It’s time to get to know your bike better than you know yourself.
Most bike shops offer classes on taking care of your bike. They will teach you general maintenance techniques, as well as work with you to help you understand the specifics of your own bike.
Many shops also offer emergency bike courses. If you’re out on the trail and you need to change a tire, patch a tire, fix your chain, or more, you’ll want to be sure you know what you’re doing. These classes give you a chance to practice on your own bike so you’ll be more than just familiar with it when something happens out there.
Some shops also offer riding technique courses. If you’ve gotten the basics down but you want to know how to do more technical skills, how to ride in winter, or more, these classes will show you the ropes under the eye of a trained professional who can help you master the techniques faster than you would on your own.
Observe Your Bike Pro at Work
If you’re taking your bike in for work, ask if you can watch while the pros work on it. Different pros and different shops have different policies on this, but it can be educational to see how a professional works on your bike. You may learn tips or techniques that you haven’t seen before.
Make sure that you continue to patronize any shop or pro who lets you watch. After all, you aren’t trying to put them out of a job! Letting them know that you just want to get to know your bike better can go far, and so can bringing them a cup of their favorite coffee.
Practice the Basics
Before you can do the hard stuff, you need to be able to do the easy stuff well. Practice using both sets of brakes and get good at going up and down hills on all sorts of different trails. Have a friend watch your posture. They can tell you if you are leaning too far back or forward and whether you look relaxed or tense on your bike.
Practice controlling your bike, too. You don’t want to oversteer but you also don’t want to careen down hills like a berserker. Learn what your bike needs and when by riding the same hills over and over and trying different things.
Ride a Lot of Different Terrain
When you’ve got the basics down, do your best to ride all sorts of terrain. From long, flowy downhills to technical trails, it will all make you a better rider. Pretty soon, you’ll know how to get a little more speed out of your bike, how to handle it on slickrock, what the best gear for you is when going up steep hills, and more.
It’s easy to get into the habit of riding the same trails and/or type of terrain over and over again. Instead, push yourself to try something new at least every two to three rides. This keeps your mind engaged and it gives you a chance to know your bike in all sorts of different circumstances.
Ride With People Who are Better Than You
You don’t want to rain on their parade but you do want to learn what they know and get their tips and trick for how you can handle your bike even better. Join a group that welcomes riders of all levels, or get to know some good riders and ask for their feedback. Most people are happy to help you out, as long as you don’t slow them down or ask to tag along on every ride.
Sure, they look cool, but learning how to do wheelies and nose wheelies (bringing the back wheel off the ground) gives you a good chance to gain even more control over your bike. Once you master these, there are other skills you can learn, too. However, these can both be useful on the trail in particular situations.
Learning to keep one wheel off the ground gives you a chance to learn more about how your bike balances (both front-to-back and side-to-side), how to use your brakes, and how to shift your weight so it’s easier for your bike to make it over the terrain.
Over time, you and your bike will learn to work together like a well-oiled machine. Getting there takes practice, but most of the practice is disguised as having a great time. It will be worth the effort when riding and caring for your bike feels like an extension of yourself.
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