So I’ve spent a lot of time building my ‘Engine’ so I’m competitive in my category for Racing Crits (B Grade Australian). But, I am let down by my rubbish bike handling, I would say I lose 10 seconds or so per race due to poor line selection or riding my brakes into corners.
Any tips for how to improve or resources?
I think a lot of it is Psychological and I need to avoid the hesitation to hammer it.
Biggest thing is looking through the turns and not watching the wheel in front of you.
Looking through the turn ensures you see where you want to go….you need to look past the apex and see the exit. This will set you up entering the turn.
The further back you are, the harder it is to take the correct line. As each successive rider approaches / enters the turn, they are following the wheel in front, which effectively moves the apex closer to the entrance of the turn, which is not the ideal line and leads to riding your brakes in the turn.
Next time a a race, watch how far out the first riders go before starting their turn, then note how it moves increasingly inwards for the following riders. They are following where the riders are, not where they were setting up the turn.
Once you learn to look through the turn, it will set up better lines….but more importantly, it gives you comfidence. Next time you think you are in a sketchy turn, force yourself to look up and ahead to where you want to go……it will instantly become easier.
You go where you are looking……so look to the exit of the turn.
Go into a race with tired legs and feel like you need to do as little actual work as possible just to hang on. You’ll instinctively start to maximise the drafting and maximise the speed you carry through corners as you’ll need to be as efficient (lazy) as possible.
You can easily find that your NP for an hour is 20W less than previously simply by not slowing and accelerating on every corner.
Ideally find a local group ride/club with racers and good training rides that will help skills. Riding with and observing good riders on faster training rides will help you improve your lines and build confidence. And if it’s the right group they’ll give you constructive feedback on what you need to improve (vs just shouting at the new guy who’s messing up the line!).
Much easier to work on handling when riding with people you trust and who (hopefully) are riding safely and not cutting each other up. If you can’t nail good lines solo and in groups that you trust, you certainly won’t be able to do it in a race situation when your adrenaline is pumping and you’ve got riders you don’t know all around you and likely looking to capitalise on any hesitation by cutting in front of you. And a definite risk of over compensating if you try to just “hammer it”, could easily go from one extreme to the other and overcook a corner and take yourself (and others) out.
Confidence is a big point that’s been raised here too. Often times, the best crit riders aren’t really better at bike handling, it’s that they assertively take the lines they want, and stay near the front.
That moment of hesitation someone mentioned is a big deal. There’s often a bit of open space that no one has ‘the right’ to, and the better riders take it.
I don’t race crits, but do race cars and get accused of descending like a lunatic on technical descents despite being relatively green in road riding. I am faster in the corners than everyone I ride with and while I’m accused of having big balls, I don’t - they’re tiny and I’m not brave at all I think it’s all down to having these two main aspects to being fast in the corners, nailed;
Technical understanding - line choice, grip circle etc. (ie. braking takes away grip you could be using for cornering and vice versa). This gives you the predictability you need to maximise the grip available to you in a corner.
This will come with experience for the most part, but watching the lines of others will help. There’s loads of literature on the subject for car racing, I learnt a lot from books like Ross Bentley’s Speed Secrets and I reckon racing sims could teach you a lot about line choice as well, in the absence of any bike racing simulators
Bike handling - being comfortable that you can catch and correct a mistake when you overcook it a little bit is absolutely paramount to being comfortable at the limit.
I’m sure this is what Mountain Biking in winter was invented for. Get out in the mud, down hill at speed and you’ll soon get comfortable with your bike moving underneath you, sliding and catching your bike.
All in all, I think bike handling is an under-rated and under-developed skill in road riding/racing.
On top of that, I recommend go checking out some of Alec Briggs’ videos - he goes into a lot of detail how he saves a lot of energy in crits with excellent bike handling skills.
I never raced a crit technical enough to require advanced “bike handling” skills.
Crits are more about pack positioning strategy. Crits became easy after I mastered effortlessly surfing the top 15 of the group. It’s not even something you could write down on paper for a new rider.
Once you get in tune with the ebb and flow of a large group, you keep putting yourself in the right part of the flow and then you are always in a position to go with an attack or have a shot at the sprint in the end. And in general, you just save a lot of energy over yo-yoing off the back and having to sprint out of every corner.
It took me 5 years to figure it out and I had team mates that never figured it out. They were perpetually mid-packers and could never claw their way to the front if the group was large.
Admittedly, I never raced cat 1/2/pro where everybody mostly has it figured out. That must be a whole lot harder.
Yeah I think this really is the key to Cat 2/3/4 racing. It might feel like you’re expending more energy (and you might actually be for like the first 1/3 of the race) but eventually all the braking and sprinting into and out of corners adds up and being at the back can be really hard.
I think in the P/1/2 fields is where bike handling even on mostly non technical courses becomes super important. You’re going a bit faster and everyone is so much closer together. Watching the pros take inside lines that you saw but decided it was too tight is pretty amazing. It’s not that you couldn’t do it but your confidence just doesn’t allow you to take the chance.
It’s not that they’re doing anything you can’t. They’re not riding the course like it’s a MotoGP bike, leaned over and backing the rear into corners or anything. They just do it so smoothly, effortlessly, and at the right time.
In a large pack, e.g. 40-80 riders, there is no line selection unless you’re at the front. Your line is preselected for you by the people ahead of you, either because you’re boxed in or because your only choice to stay in the draft is to follow the one or two guys directly in front. Braking is also involuntary in a lot of cases if the people in front of you brake.
So if you want to even think about line selection, you need to be at the front, and that requires high fitness and/or a very aero position.
Not really…there are still options available to you, but admittedly not as many as being at the front. Are you positioning yourself inside or outside on the turn (advantages and disadvantages to both), you can also allow gaps to open in front of you to avoid excessive braking (I.e. tailgunning), etc.
There are always options available….you just have to know how to recognize and utilize them.
Take a certain line in the wrong circumstances and you get pinched (inside or outside) and/or accused of dive bombing. Take the exact same line in the right circumstances and you safely move up 10 places.
Definitely takes a different type of skill than raw bike handling ability.
Ehh I don’t listen to this too much. 75% of the time, this is because you just did something that exceeded the other person’s personal comfort level, not that you actually did anything wrong. These accusations have all but gone away now that I’m racing in higher categories. And it’s not because people are doing anything different (if anything they’re “dive bombing” more often) but it’s because everyone else is more comfortable with the chaos.