Riding Tips, Part III — Where Are You Looking?

Don’t look at the wheel in front of you – EVER!

You don’t need to. As you look ahead, down the road, you will see the rider and wheel in front of you perfectly well without looking right at them. There are two advantages to this peripheral vision technique. First, you will actually see where you are going. Second, you won’t have a tendency to over react to small changes in the momentum of the riders in font of you.

It will make you squirrelly. As you stare at that wheel right there in front of you, you simply can’t keep the same gap between your front wheel and their rear wheel. It takes such a tiny change in pedal pressure by either him or you to change the gap that it can’t be done outside of track racing. If instead, you look up at least three or four wheels up the line, your pace will be much more even as you flow, not with reactions to the guy right in front of you, but with the pace line as a whole.

You will have more difficulty holding the wheel. When the speed ramps up and your legs start to load up, the last thing you want to do is stare at that wheel which seems to be getting harder and harder to hold. Again, if you look up the road, holding the wheel gets easier. Your pace will even out somewhat (see next paragraph) and yes, this one is a psychological trick as well, but it works.

You will automatically counteract the accordion effect. As those around you stare at the wheels in front of them, the accordion effect will begin to set in. As the front rider slows slightly, there is a delayed reaction by each rider in the line which, because no one is looking up, grows with each rider back. By the time that slight slowing reaches the fifth rider, folks are using brakes and touching wheels. Not good. If you are the only one looking up, you will be the one who anticipates the surges and slowing and you will be able to save a lot of energy by not having to use your brakes. You will also receive the silent blessings from those behind you who will have an easier time of it. Experienced riders will absorb the accordion, coasting before the guy in front of him slows down and accelerating only as quickly as they need to to steadily close a gap.

Reprinted by permission of Spectrum Cycles

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