You may be wondering why advice on riding in a straight line needs to be included on a cycling site. What can be more well, straight forward, may be the reaction of some. Just hop into the saddle, start pedalling and keep those arms steady and the front wheel will do the rest.
Unfortunately this is not the experience of some pedestrians who have had to resort to drastic evasive action when they have found themselves staring down the handlebars of an unsteady cyclist, wobbling their way down the pavement or pathway of a local park.
You’ve got to get back on
Newbie cyclists need to gain two elements very quickly: their balance and their confidence. And if the latter begins to suffer, it can have a profound effect on the former.
Take, for example, the aforementioned approach of the pedestrian. Either through feeling self-conscious or the dawning reality that they have to pilot their new machine in close proximity to other people, panic can all too easily rise, producing the worrying display described above. It may even result in a spill.
But as the old saying goes, you’ve just got to get back on your bike as quickly as possible in order to limit further damage to confidence.
Balance comes from the shoulders and arms, supported by a smooth pedalling action from the hips. So, again, tension is the enemy here. Make sure you address the handlebars in a firm but relaxed manner.
Squeezing too tightly will mean tension begins to rise up the forearms, where presumably it will meet stress travelling the other way because of a taut jaw exacerbated by tight neck and shoulder muscles.
Once all these muscles are rock hard, then even a relatively minor turn of the handlebars will have an exaggerated effect on the balance – and that’s when the panicky attempts at correction usually lead to jerky turns of the wheel in both directions and the possibility of riding for a fall.
If a new rider is nervous or self-conscious, the easiest solution for banishing the wobbles is to choose a time and place where pedestrian traffic is at a minimum and the location provides long, smooth, straight runs that will allow confidence to be built in relative privacy.
And take as long as you need to build that confidence because once gained, it will have a major impact on developing your skills.
Riders without access to quiet areas, or who need an extra layer of safety blanket once they start cycling past pedestrians, should invest in a pair of adult stabilisers that fit to the rear wheel.
This is a solution that some will dismiss out of hand straight away, fearing the derision that it may bring down on their heads. But before declaring that you wouldn’t be seen dead sporting a pair of stabilisers on your bike, think of the alternative. The safety of yourself and people around you is paramount when riding a bike.
And if you have to sacrifice a little dignity in the process, then so be it. It’s a small price for safety, but one well worth paying.