Ask the Coach: 3 Short Answers to Your Burning Bike Questions

Sometimes the short answer, is the best answer. The bike coach Rick Schultz answers three common questions, including how to look over your shoulder without varying the line.

Sometimes the short answer, is the best answer. The bike coach Rick Schultz answers three common questions.

1. How do you look over your shoulder without varying the line?

Track cyclists know a thing or two about holding the line while looking over their shoulder. LA Velodrome 2016

I see this frequently, a cyclist looks over their left shoulder and their bicycle swerves to the left. It creates a dangerous situation for them with all the trucks and cars on the roads, and it’s dangerous to any fellow cyclists around them as well. So, what’s going on? Why does a bicycle swerve to the left when you look over your left shoulder and swerve to the right when you look over your right shoulder?

It’s All About COG – Center Of Gravity
Next time you are out on your bicycle, try this simple test. Pick a road that’s straight, making sure there is no traffic on the road. As you ride, try keeping your bike in a straight line. Now, lean your upper body to the left.

What just happened?
The bicycle started going to the left because you just changed the center of gravity from the middle of the bicycle to the left of the bicycle. Since you are balancing on 2 wheels, the bicycle will want to “fall” in that direction.

Try This Trick to Hold Your Line While Looking Back
Again, keeping the bicycle in a straight line, lean your upper body to the left – but this time, push the bars to the right. Don’t turn the bars, just use the bars to push/lean your entire bicycle to the right. Why are you still going straight down the road instead of swerving to the left? Because you are keeping the center of gravity centered between you and the bicycle. And that’s the trick. When you look over your left shoulder, push/lean the bicycle slightly to the right. Using this trick, you will continue to travel in a straight line.

Various crank arms. Pioneer Power Meter Kit – Expanded Cranks

Not only are our bodies different from the left side to the right side, but these differences can be even greater when comparing individuals. Your friend had very long legs and a very short torso. I would suspect you have the opposite. With his ‘stock’ 172.5mm cranks, at TDC (Top Dead Center) his knees were almost hitting his chest. In this extreme position he was also hyper-flexing or over-flexing his knees.

After using the 165mm cranks, the final outcome was that he had (a) the perfect saddle height as measured from lateral malleolus (ankle bone), head of fibula (center of outside of knee), and greater thochanter angle (head of femur), and (b) he was no longer over-flexing his knees. After the bike fit and the 165mm cranks, he was in a much more powerful position showing an increase of 30 watts on the CompuTrainer.

3. I’m going on vacation soon, renting a bike when I get there. Any tips?

Renting a bike in another country may be intimidating enough to prevent you from incorporating cycling on your vacation. Rest easy with these tips on how to be a winner when renting a bike in a place that’s unfamiliar.

First Things First:

When renting a bike via bike shop or tour group, give it a quick “once-over”. If you have had a recent bike fit, make sure the fitter writes down the measurements of your bike, including some critical numbers such as;

  • size of frame
  • crank arm length
  • stem length
  • stack and reach to the handlebars as well as to the saddle, or;
    • distance in cm from the center of the handlebars to the tip of the saddle
    • distance in cm from the center of bottom bracket to top of saddle (measure in line with the seat tube as a reference)

And, it’s okay to bring specific items with you such as your own saddle, GoPro and mounts.

Give the mechanic your bike measurements either before you arrive or when you arrive. This will help them find the correct-sized frame as well as adjust it to your size before you arrive.

Dialing in your Rental Bike:

1)        Place the bike on the ground (most mechanics will adjust everything on a work/repair stand) and open/close each skewer. This will not only center the wheels in their dropouts but also allow you to verify/adjust the skewers to a correct amount of pressure.
2)        Squeeze and release brake levers. Check to see that brake shoes are not touching the rims when they shouldn’t be.
3)        Make sure that the brake calipers are centered so that when you squeeze the levers, the shoes touch the rims at the same time.
4)        Check the condition of all cables. For safety, double check the brake cable/caliper attachment bolts.
5)        Take a quick spin around the parking lot checking sizing, shifting, and braking. Make any last-minute adjustments now.

Make sure you have a toolkit, fill up your water bottles and go explore!

Have any burning questions you want answered? Send Rick your questions HERE

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