When you come across a physically well-balanced cyclist, don’t assume it is because she bikes. It is more likely because she has learned to consciously use her bicycle to improve her balance. While it takes basic equilibrium to pedal on two wheels, it takes mindful drills on the bike for you to zip down the path comfortably, efficiently and gracefully. And that sense of balance rubs off on everything you do.
Choose a safe area free of cars or fast-moving cyclists, where you can safely practice different drills multiple times. Writing on improving balance for “Bicycling Magazine,” Brian Fiske recommends flat pedals for the practice sessions.
Shift your weight while pedaling slowly on your bike. Raise your buttocks off the seat and take your body back as far as it reaches. Then, alternate moving it to either side. Transfer your weight to the front. Get as low on your bike as you can. Your goal is to keep yourself from falling off as you shift your weight from one point to another. Continue to improve your balance by slowly riding parallel to a curb or another straight boundary.
Standing still -- well, almost -- can be your ultimate balancing triumph. When you feel confident your balance is better, be on your bike without pedaling, feet off the ground. You may move your front wheel sideways to keep your balance, but don’t push the pedal forward. As you practice this move, known as track stand, be mindful of your posture. Keep a light grip on the handlebar to prevent upper-body tension, suggests Lee McCormack in “Bicycling Magazine.” At the same time, look ahead, not down, and center your weight above the bike’s bottom bracket.
Benefit for Non-cyclists
Besides improving your balance on the bike, researchers have found that cycling drills might help stroke patients regain physical stability. In a study at Tel-Aviv University, of 24 stroke patients, 10 received three weeks of daily cycling training in addition to standard rehabilitation. The study, reported in the May 2006 issue of the “Clinical Rehabilitation” journal, concluded that cycling improved the patients' balance as well as motor ability.
Emma Watkins writes on finance, fitness and gardening. Her articles and essays have appeared in "Writer's Digest," "The Writer," "From House to Home," "Big Apple Parent" and other online and print venues. Watkins holds a Master of Arts in psychology.