Crashing, Part 3: Core Fitness & Handling Skills

Putting in the physical work that makes you strong goes a long way to avoiding crashes and enabling you to better bounce back after a tumble.

Previously, we discussed understanding the inherent risks of different types of road races:

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  • Develop Mindful Excitement
  • know the course
  • understand the event
  • develop core fitness
  • acquire handling skills
  • have a post-fall protocol

Now let’s turn our attention to Core Fitness

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Hit the gym.

[/dropcap] Like many specifics to bike racing, you’ll find the topic of strength building to be highly divisive among established racers.

Many cyclists and even cycling coaches completely shun or even disparage weight training for cyclists.

While weights will not necessarily make you a faster rider, they will improve your overall fitness, and your ability to leverage strength on the bike. This is especially important if you’re over 40 (like me) or a woman. 

For example, sometimes you’ll need to power your way around an obstacle, and by that I mean not just with your legs. Upper body and core strength is critical when making quick, last moment avoidance moves. In other words, one of the ways to improve your bike handling is to work on building strength. 

Additionally, when you do go down, a fit body is going to bounce back and recover faster than one with a poor core. In future posts, we’ll cover a range of suggested gym workouts that build core without building bulk. For the purposes of this post, however, know that you want to work on cycling-specific muscle groups. Exercises such as leg presses, seated and standing rows, incline situps, lunges, and lat pulldowns are excellent for mimicking cycling-specific strength needs.

  • Tempo and endurance rides — Assuming you have a power meter and understand where your training zones are, make sure you build in at least one multi-hour endurance pace ride per week with appropriate time spent at tempo pace. (That’s a pace above your recovery ride pace, but not as hard as your time trial or “breakaway” pace.) Building sustained endurance is the partner to the strength work you’re doing in the gym. This is essential to building the kind of fitness and road smarts you need to avoid and recover from spills.
  • Fast group rides — Riding fast with partners you trust is the surest way to build confidence. As you work on looking past the shoulder of the rider ahead of you, learning to tuck in close enough to get the benefits of the draft, and cornering in close proximity, you’ll learn the subtle skills of pack riding. Developing a “sixth sense” in terms of peloton shifts is gold for crash avoidance. 
  • Cornering practice — As with most forms of really beneficial training, going out focused and alone is the gold standard. Find a big, empty parking lot. A church or school may be perfect. Look for one with curbs inside the lot to act as markers for turns. Practice tight and sweeping turns at speed until you can “look through the turn” with success. Practice body positioning on the bike as you do: pedal up on the inside of the turn, weight evenly distributed between the wheels. Find the position that enables you to be the most planted. 


Don’t let the fear of crashing prevent you from experiencing the exhilaration and developmental activity of racing. Instead, let the respect for the challenges of the sport drive you to practice, train, and observe what you do on the bike with a fresh lens. 

[icon_box icon=”hb-moon-bike” icon_position=”left” align=”left”] Question: What methods have you — or those you respect — employed to become more fit on the bike, other than just “riding lots?”
Sam Lowe

I've been a road cyclist with a penchant for speed ever since my first-ever paycheck holiday. I blew the whole wad on a turquoise Schwinn Tempo with then-new Shimano 105 indexed shifting way back in 1985. I've been a voracious consumer of racing-oriented information ever since. Training, nutrition, bike fit, racing techniques, and all manner of "kit." Between nearly 30 years of riding, racing, and reading about racing, I'm ready to help you get ready to race.

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