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Improving Balance for Cycling

Balancing on a bicycle is something that most riders do without much conscious thought. Ever since you mastered riding without training wheels as a kid, the concept of balancing on the two wheeled vehicle seemed like second nature. However now that many of our members are riding longer distances, over more varied terrains, and in closer proximity to other riders it may be a good idea to look at some ways we can improve our overall balance.

Let's start by watching two videos from our friends at GCN. This first video gives some good tips of things you can do while riding your bike that will help improve overall balance. The video also suggests some things the rider can do off of the bike, and some adjustments that can be made to the bike to improve balance. Exercises off of the bike and adjustments to the bike will be discussed in more detail further down on this page. 

Learning to do a track stand is another good exercise for balance, and may also be beneficial when riding in traffic.  If you plan to practice this exercise and usually clip into your pedals -  try it without clipping into your pedal so you can get your foot down to the ground quickly. 

Our friends at GCN briefly mentioned some exercises that can be done off of the bike to increase better body balance. We are going to provide more information on how a cyclist can improve individual body balance.

In June we posted a three part article on Conditioning for Cyclists. In part two of this three part article, Joe Tabala detailed some exercises especially good for core strength which is essential for good balance. Check out the link below.

Conditioning for Cyclist Part 2.

We also reached out to club member, Christi Bamasek, for some suggestions on how the cyclist can use specific exercises to improve overall balance for good health and good cycling.

The Cyclist

Christi Bamasek, is a physical therapist who presented at one of our club meetings last year. When asked by our committee to contribute to our posting on the topic of balance, she very graciously submitted the following information:

When initially asked to assist with a brief article about balance for cyclists I was not sure what approach to take. There is the balance aspect of being able to stand and remain upright and steady. On the other hand there is the aspect of balance of being equal or in the correct proportions. Meaning that right side is equal to left or anterior muscles balance with posterior muscles etc. Strength and flexibility are in proportion.

I think both aspects of balance are critical to consider for a cyclist. It is important to make sure that we balance strength with flexibility, that the right and the left sides of our bodies are working equally, our flexors and extensors work in harmony and that we have sufficient standing balance to mount the bike and remain steady when we have to stop.

The following site has some good exercises to consider for maintaining the balance of right and left, and overall good balance of upper body, lower body and core strength. I particularly like the single limb squat. Excellent way to assess right versus left limb strength and strengthen accordingly. The plank with opposite reach is a rather challenging and can be modified by performing in a quadruped position (hands and knees).

Six Balancing Exercises to Make You a Better Cyclists

For standing balance exercises there is nothing fancy you need to do, just practice standing in positions that are a challenge to balance in for 10 seconds but not so challenging that you fall down. There are plenty of resources available on the internet with varying levels of challenging exercises for balance. General progression of standing balance challenges are to begin with standing with your feet right next to each other, progress to a semi tandem position with one foot slightly in front of the other with the toes of the back foot in line with the instep on the front foot. Next progression would be one foot directly in front of the other and finally standing on one foot. Walking heel to toe forward and backward is another great way to challenge balance. You can make all of these exercises even more challenging by closing your eyes. Make sure you are steady with eyes open before attempting with eyes closed. 

Standing Balance Exercises

The Cycle

Most well built bikes are engineered to provide a balanced ride. However as with all machines, maintenance is essential to keeping the machine operating in harmony with its basic design. Earlier in this season we posted an article on bike tune up. This may be a good time to reread this article to make sure the mechanics of your bike are such that they provide you with the best support for achieving good balance.

Another aspect of achieving good balance while cycling is having the bike fit designed specifically for the rider. We have posted an article on Bike Fit, and most bike shops will do a bike fit for their customers, however a more detailed and intensive fit may be suitable for riders looking for better balance, more comfort, and increased efficiency. The variables involved (different body types as well as various types of bikes) are so numerous and detailed that simply addressing these topics in one article is not feasible. There are some experts in the bike-fit field that are available for those interested. Tom Wiseman's website will introduce you to his qualifications and his services in bike fitting. He may be talking to us at a club meeting in the future. Meanwhile you can check out Cycling Solutions. 

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