Being able to relax on a set of tires 23 millimeters wide while reaching speeds nearing those of a car is a trait that may be easier for some than others. Regardless of which side of the coin you fall on, being relaxed on the bike is a critical element in getting faster, becoming more comfortable and being safe on the bike.
Here are four ways how learning to relax on the bike will help you become a better cyclist.
You'll Burn Less Energy
When you're racing or out on a long ride, you want to conserve as much energy as possible for the times when you'll need it most. Believe it or not, most cyclists spend a significant amount of their energy stores by tensing the upper body, even though it is the lower half doing most of the work.
Descending, climbing or other hard efforts are common times when cyclists are likely to tense up and waste energy.
Tip: Work on your breathing to relax. Be mindful of the times when you notice your shoulders tense and your hands squeeze the handlebars. Taking several deep breaths (concentrating on relaxing the upper half of your body on the exhale) will help to relax the body and focus the majority of your energy on pushing the pedals.
A tense cyclist is a cyclist that is more likely to crash. At no time is this more important than when going downhill, when one mistake can mean the difference between sliding on the asphalt or not.
A common mistake that occurs when you're tense is over-steering (or overreacting) to an obstacle. Any bump or pothole that comes your way will transmit your tense energy to the bike, making it more difficult to steer and more likely to result in accident. And if you crash, a relaxed body will likely end up with fewer injuries than a tense one.
Tip: When on long descents, relax your lower lip. You'll be surprised how the rest of the body will follow.