A matter of balance...

swampyseifer

Well-Known Member
Yo all...been a while since I've done a thread like this!

So, this time its balance and going in a straight line (or reasonably straight)

Ok so as some of you will know, I'm a late learner of cycling and have been riding on and off for coming up to a year actually (jesus, where did that time go!)....mostly off than on though.......

One thing I just cant seem to get the hang of is balance. My friends all tell me I need to relax, not hold my shoulders tight, look where you're going and not at the front wheel and to not grip the handlebars till my knuckles turn white and for the most I dont anymore. but I still go all over the place!

I am certainly better than I was but I still dont think I would be safe enough on *any* road simply because I know that I couldnt consistently cycle a foot or so away from the kerb like cyclists do. I know I'm guilty, like many of us probably are, of passing the odd bike closer than I should and I dont think that the average road driver would consider that fact before zooming past me and there's always going to be a chance it could be just as I loose balance and wobble out in front of them! Also I darenot cycle inbetween or near objects as several times I have just been unable to go where I want and have ridden into trees and kerbs!

Its a big issue for me as I dont see how I'm supposed to get much practise in when I cant trust myself on roads (even quite estates in case a car comes) or parks where there are dogs, people jogging/walking, lots of trees etc

I mean I must have clocked up nearly 10 hours on a bike now and most online guides to adults learning to ride say you should be riding with a matter or 2 or 3.

People keep saying it'll just come but seriously...is that really true? Would it help if I just maybe went somewhere with no traffic at all and maybe laid out a straight line and just tried riding up and down it over and over?

One thing I do wonder is I'm not that good at jogging in a straight line on the running machine in the gym...could it be related?

Maybe I'm just not a quick learner...it did take me 3 years of lessons and two tests to get my driving license!
 
Practice is the only thing that will help - if I were you I'd forget about practising straight lines too, try and find somewhere with a variation - straight lines, gentle curves, 90 degree turns. That's much more realistic to riding on the road and is the practice you need. Perhaps a local park at extreme hours? Get up at 5am, it's getting light and I bet you won't find many people around!

Another thing you might want to consider is you bike fit. Go into your local bike shop, explain your issues and ask them to set up the bike properly for you - it may help!
 

PpPete

Guru
Location
Chandler's Ford
Easier to ride in a straight line if you are going fast(ish) on a road bike.
Your avatar suggests you ride an MTB. I can't keep my son's MTB in a straight line either.

Also practice riding through the woods on the MTB, you might hit a few trees - but they don't complain. After a few bumps your body will adapt!
I'm sort of half joking with this one... those of us who learned as kids often spent a lot of time mucking about in the trees - even before MTBs were invented.
 

Andy_R

Hard of hearing..I said Herd of Herring..oh FFS..
Location
County Durham
It sounds a bit like part of you is scared to ride on the road becasue you wobble, and you wobble because you're scared. Catch 22 situation. Could you get a more experienced rider to chaperone you on the roads on a regular basis to boost your confidence?
 
OP
swampyseifer

swampyseifer

Well-Known Member
Practice is the only thing that will help - if I were you I'd forget about practising straight lines too, try and find somewhere with a variation - straight lines, gentle curves, 90 degree turns. That's much more realistic to riding on the road and is the practice you need. Perhaps a local park at extreme hours? Get up at 5am, it's getting light and I bet you won't find many people around!

Another thing you might want to consider is you bike fit. Go into your local bike shop, explain your issues and ask them to set up the bike properly for you - it may help!
Thanks for the advice as always Mr Copper!

Easier to ride in a straight line if you are going fast(ish) on a road bike.
Your avatar suggests you ride an MTB. I can't keep my son's MTB in a straight line either.

Also practice riding through the woods on the MTB, you might hit a few trees - but they don't complain. After a few bumps your body will adapt!
I'm sort of half joking with this one... those of us who learned as kids often spent a lot of time mucking about in the trees - even before MTBs were invented.
I havent actually updated my avatar, that was first bike (indeed an MTB) that was stolen, I'm riding a hybrid these days...sounds like a kill or cure suggestion tho :cry:

It sounds a bit like part of you is scared to ride on the road becasue you wobble, and you wobble because you're scared. Catch 22 situation. Could you get a more experienced rider to chaperone you on the roads on a regular basis to boost your confidence?
I see what you're saying...it does all come down to confidence and being comfortably in control of the bike and I imagine all those things come from the 3 P's? Sadly I only know 1 guy with a bike, he's the one I've been out with a few times...its great because his job is a bikability instructor...unfortuately he's not always available.
 

fimm

Veteran
Location
Edinburgh
I feel it is easier to balance when you are going faster; which you may feel sounds counter-intuitive. I think there's some fancy physics explanation for this, too.
Can you find something like a deserted car park, maybe on an industrial estate, to play on?
 
OP
swampyseifer

swampyseifer

Well-Known Member
I feel it is easier to balance when you are going faster; which you may feel sounds counter-intuitive. I think there's some fancy physics explanation for this, too.
Can you find something like a deserted car park, maybe on an industrial estate, to play on?
I do normally go for my practice runs on an industrial estate near me on suday afternoons...

Its not so much that I cant go straight-ish ever, nor do I ride slow...from what I can tell when I'm riding straight I do go around 10mph...its more that for some reason now and then I kind of have a "moment" where all ability leaves me and I will wobble about and skew off at an angle for a second or so till I can catch it and bring it under control.

The other thing is when I'm aiming to cut it relatively fine past an object (when I say fine I mean several feet away), sometimes it feels like the bike just refuses to respond and no matter how much I feel I'm leaning, it goes the wrong way. I would imagine thats more like a moment of being flustered though and although I think I'm leaning really far left to turn to the left...I'm not!
 

jjc89

Senior Member
You just need to go out there and do it, eventually it will just "click" and you'll be cycling on the road with ease. Also don't overthink it, just do it.
 

Sandra6

Veteran
Location
Cumbria
I can't walk in a straight line, let alone cycle. I've stopped trying and I wobble less.
I find if you try to follow a strict straight path you'll be all over the place, but if you aim to go reasonably straight in a forward direction, you'll be more balanced than you expect.
I still have the odd wobble - I almost rode straight into a kerb the other week- but I don't feel unsafe out on the bike anymore.
 

sidevalve

Über Member
The prob with "cutting it fine" is the "rabbit in the headlights" , ie you can see what you want to avoid but it's like a magnet, your arms lock up and you head straight for it. Try focusing on something a couple of feet to the side and let yourself head for that. The idea of riding a few off road paths is a good one too as I think one of the problems is that you feel you are losing control somehow and "can't stop - wont stop" panic starts to creep in [wether you recognise it or not]. On a bridleway you can hit the brakes and stop, take a deep breath and have another go, no harm done. Once you've sussed dodging rocks and gravel on a 3ft wide path you'll soon find you can steer to within 2ins either way. It really wont take long.
 

rollinstok

Well-Known Member
Location
morecambe
I am a fairly recent born again cyclist. In my first few years of "serious" cycling, I covered a fair amount of ground with bi-weekly rides and regular tours.
This time I have got back up to 50+ mile rides and am starting to feel adequate again. With the awful weather this year I bought a set of rollers.... these amplify any unnecessary movement on the bike. After all those years and miles I suddenly realised that I was a long way from being an efficient cyclist. The rollers have improved my riding style dramatically. I am nowhere near rock hopping standard but riding in an almost perfect straight line is now 2nd nature and my upper body control has improved no end. To iron out any flaws in riding style I can wholly recommend a set of rollers.
 

summerdays

Cycling in the sun
Location
Bristol
The relax and enjoy it advice is good. When you get tense and grip the handlebars then you tend to make exaggerated movement and then corrections, so swing from side to side. And keep practising, you may find that each time you get on the bike it takes a little while to loosen up.
 

buddha

Veteran
Running in a straight line on a gym treadmill is impossible. Even my cat can't do it - and she has impeccable balance.
And I wouldn't consider having "clocked-up more than 10 hours on a bike" to be very much experience at all.

Like the OP I started cycling late in life. I only started at 35! And had issues with balance and riding on the road - especially in traffic. I still won't filter like some on here do.

I think I "got my balance" by riding off-road a lot at first, and only using quiet roads very early in the morning. I'd practice being able to look over my shoulder, and signal, on bridleways and cyclepaths. Must have looked a right idiot. It took me almost a year until I was confident to ride in to central London on my own!

I later discovered my local council do (sometimes free) cycle training for adults, as well as children. I wish I'd have known this at the time.
 

lulubel

Über Member
Location
Malaga, Spain
I think finding somewhere off-road to ride is good advice. You don't have to worry about traffic then and, if you pick your times or places carefully, you can go when there aren't likely to be many other people about either.

The worst thing that can really happen is that you'll fall off, and you're not going to do yourself much harm falling at slow speeds. Spend as much time as you can on the bike, and don't worry about it if you end up riding over or into things you're trying to avoid. It WILL get easier with practice.

As has already been said, 10 hours isn't very long at all, especially not spread over a whole year. Spend that amount of time on your bike over a couple of weeks, and you'll start to see some real improvement and gains in confidence.
 
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