Team in Training North Bay Cycle Team     Home  |  Information  |  Susan's Journey

  Climbing and Descending The Essential Cyclist, Arnie Baker, M.D., The Lyons Press 1998
Training for Cycling, Davis Phinney & Connie Carpenter, The Berkeley Publishing Group 1992


Aerodynamic resistance is much less of a concern because speeds are lower. You get the most power sitting up as high as you can. Place your hands on the tops of the handlebars. Most riders do better by pushing back on the saddle and pushing forward with the legs, rather than down. Most of us do better sitting on long climbs, but everyone needs a change in position from time to time and standing helps work different muscle groups and gives a partial rest to some leg and back muscles. A minority of riders, especially light riders, climb better standing.

  • Get a rhythm.
  • Concentrate on each stroke.
  • Coordinate your breathing with your legs. Perhaps take a breath every one and a half revolutions of your legs.
  • Don't get tied up in knots on the climb. Relax your arms, relax your shoulders. Relax your back. Use you legs.
Standing basics
Riding out of the saddle enables you to do two things: you involve new muscles which are more rested than the ones you have been using; and you generate more power in a bigger gear. Standing is less efficient than sitting because it requires more energy to do the work, but standing can be very powerful for short-term effort and acceleration of speed.
  • Before you stand up, put your hands on the tops of the brake hoods.
  • Keep your shoulders and head fairly upright; drooping will compromise your breathing.
  • Pull your weight slightly up and over, and from side to side so that you get your weight on the pedals.
  • Keep your bike motion to a minimum.
Cadence, or pedal revolutions per minute (RPMs) is a controversial topic. Some scientists claim that riding at a cadence around 60-70 RPMs is most efficient. This may be true for the novice cyclist, but experience has shown that a cadence of at least 90 RPMs works best. A higher cadence enables you to recruit your long-lasting slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are designed for hours of use. This cadence also helps you build suppleness, which is a trained-muscle characteristic that enables a cyclist to accommodate speed changes. The average optimal cadence seems to be the in the low 90s, but find out what works for you.


  • Always practice proper techniques and feel in control.
  • Don't scare yourself. Some people think you have to "get your feet wet" by going down big hills. Not at all! Practice on gentle descents and gentle corners first. Concentrate on where you are going. Look around the corner to where you will be. A common error is looking down at the road just in front of you. Don't look at the corner just ahead or at the road beneath you. If you look farther down the road, your body and bike will follow your mind, and you'll ride faster, more safely, and more comfortably down the hill.
  • Brake before you reach the corners, not while in the corners.
  • If you brake while in the corner, you will have less control of the bicycle and be losing momentum as you exit the corner. If you brake before the corner, you'll have much greater control while cornering and be able to accelerate as you leave the corner. This will result in overall faster speed.
  • Put your outside leg down.
  • Straighten out your outside leg. Put weight on your outside leg. This technique increases your stability while cornering and lifts your inside foot away from the ground when you lean.
  • Put weight on your inside hand.
  • This is an important advanced technique for cornering. As the bike balances between your outside leg and inside hand, lean the bike more than your body. You'll be better able to control the bicycle and respond to changes in the radius of the turn.
Position in the saddle
The drops: The drops give you a power position over the tops (which are also acceptable.) Put your hands deep into the drops, keeping within fingertip reach of the brakes. Keep your wrists in alignment with the horizontal part of the bar or just to the outside at a slight angle-don't lock them or cock them to the inside of the drops, which is uncomfortable and breaks the connection between your arms and hands. A common mistake is to ride with the hands on the far back flat part of the handlebar drops, which puts your hands too far from the brakes and is not as efficient as in the hook of the drops. This position also effectively shortens your reach, which will constrict your torso and restrict your breathing. Never sacrifice safety for aerodynamics. Find a tuck position that works for you, but don't find such a radical position that you lack access to your brakes.

Cornering carving a turn

  • Inside leg. When you approach a turn, it is essential that our inside leg be up. Let your inside knee point naturally in the direction of the turn.
  • Outside leg. Think about your outside leg as you go through a turn. Your outside leg will give you great stability if you concentrate on weighting it, by pushing your leg through the pedal, so that you actually feel the pressure on the outside pedal.
  • Body position. Push your pelvis back on the saddle, which weights the rear of the bike and gives me better control. Keep contact with the saddle, and use your body to add steering power. Pressure the saddle with the inside of your thigh toward the direction that the bike is leaning. Let your upper body flatten out across the top tube. This exerts weight on the front of the bike, which will help you maintain a low center of gravity for added stability and balance. Your hands should be deep in the drops, giving you good access to the brakes and ensuring maximum control.
  • Countersteering. The essence of countersteering is inclining the bike relatively more than the body. It allows the most steering control. As you go around the turn, straighten your inside arm and actually push your arm into the bar. Pushing more with your inside hand will allow you to turn more into the corner. Mildly unweighting your inside hand will allow you to turn out of the corner. The push is down-to increase the lean of the bicycle, not forward to turn the wheel. This effectively turns your wheel away from the turn but lets your bike fall or bank into the turn, enabling you to go around it. At slow speeds, this technique does not apply, but the faster you go and the stronger you push against the wheel, the tighter the turning capability at speed.
Descending technique for corners.
  • Keep your hands in the drops, using a relaxed grip.
  • Look beyond the turn.
  • Dropping your torso lowers your center of gravity and speeds your descent. Raising your chest opens you to the wind and can be used as a mild windbreak before the corner.
  • Anticipate the speed of the corner and slow down before the corner if necessary.
  • Move your weight slightly back on the saddle.
  • Straighten your outside leg and push down, putting weight on the outside pedal.
  • Ride outside-inside-outside: approach the corner starting wide, cut to the apex, and finish wide. Cutting too early is a common mistake.
  • Lean your bike more than your body by extending your inside arm, pressing on your inside hand, straightening your body, and leaning the bike.

Angulation. Angle or lean your bike through the turn while keeping your body mass more centered over the bottom bracket. This allows you to be better balanced and maintain greater stability.

Braking. Braking affects the handling of the bike through the turn because it straightens the bike. The more you brake, the more upright the bike will be. The best way to brake for a turn is to brake prior to the turn. Brake fast and hard just before entering the turn. Feather the brakes to control your speed once you are in the turn. Good use of your brakes will save you time and energy. Use fingertip control of your brakes. You want to feather the brakes, not grab them and lock them up.

Correct line. Choosing the correct line to take through the turn is essential for good cornering. In a sharp left-hand turn, you want to approach the turn from the far right side of the road. Anticipate the turn to have most of the turn accomplished before you pass the apex.

The Essential Cyclist, Arnie Baker, M.D., The Lyons Press 1998
Training for Cycling, Davis Phinney & Connie Carpenter, The Berkeley Publishing Group 1992

Web site hosting donated by BigBiz Internet Services
Site Info  |  Original Site Development: Pixel Process