Part 2- Life’s a Keirin
Following on from last week, I hope everyone has acquired a commuting fixie, and started practicing your track stands. You don’t need the fixie 100% but a solid track stand on the road is a must. It’ll help with most track skills, and make you 102% more bad ass.
Going with my inspirational quotes. Carl once told me ‘life is like a keirin, always looking for the gap to win’ or something along those lines. Applying this theory to life means I always have my racing brain on.
Reading traffic- Cars, bikes, pedestrians, track racers they are all controlled by the same thing. The human brain. Although the motor might be different, the same thought processes are there and everyone wants to get to the red light faster than everyone else. If you have traffic lights, intersections, crossings, or roundabouts on your commute, you now have mini race simulations. I’m not saying race these, I’m saying be smart about it. The whole point of the commute is to have an active recovery session where you use your brain, and the least amount of energy.
Think back to when you were a new racer, or to when new guys or girls turn up to the track. The scariest ones tend to be the ‘fixie’ riders. They have all the speed, an ability to be in all the right places, but zero knowledge of track rules. They will happily ride shoulder to shoulder (humans are nicer than busses) but will also hook you faster than you can spot a pot hole. I used to be one of those riders. I figure if you can teach a fixie rider to ride track, you can teach a track rider to ride street.
Read the traffic. Indicator or not every vehicle or human will give out subtle hints about what they want to do. For cars, they might drift within the lane. The speed might change, or it might just be a sudden hook. All these things are dependent on the conditions in front of them. When riding on the road try watching the car in front of you, then the car in front of that, then look up the street to the next block, and even the block in front of that. are there road works? is there a car parking? pedestrian crossing, pedestrians looking like they may cross without a crossing. wildlife? The earlier you can identify the potential to change your line the less you will have to brake. If you think a car will pull out lay off and watch what happens. At first you’ll be alarmist and lay off too much, but once you get the hang of it, not only will you be safer, but your ride will be smoother. lets put this into a keirin. You need to know what’s happening around you. Having the awareness of what’s going on several bikes ahead. You don’t want to be right on the wheel in front of you. You want to have the option to move. If you have to put the brakes on, on the road it’s ok. in a keirin, it’s almost certainly game over.
Run at the wheel- One of my favorite roundabout/intersection games! You need a roundabout/intersection and cars. *note* be careful. smashing intersections at speed always has the potential of a car running the red or not giving way. always check side streets and be ready to brake/bail on the effort. Once you’ve done a few commutes and started to learn to read traffic, also make note of light sequences. Cars suck at two things, going through roundabouts and accelerating off traffic lights. With this knowledge you can start to think of it in race terms. The point of this drill is to lay off the back of the car just enough so you can accelerate at it and pop out the other side of the intersection with free speed. You don’t actually want to use your brakes. Just soft pedal and allow a gap to form (if approaching a roundabout) or soft pedal, and hope the light for the other direction turns red (then it’s 3, 2, 1 green light go!) Just like on the track. it’s easier to gain speed/pass when you have a run at the wheel in front of you.
Seated acceleration- just like running at the wheel, but with no cars around you. For roundabouts soft pedal on the way in and on the exit do 5-10 hard pedal strokes to get the weeeeee factor and accelerate out. For the traffic lights, you gotta think more. If the light is red, soft pedal and wait for the perpendicular light to turn red. then you have 3,2,1, go. Accelerate to the other side of the intersection, then carry on for the rest of the commute. If the light is green, look up the road and pick a point of no return (about 30m out from the intersection) The point of no return is where if the light turns yellow you have to go through. I only do seated accelerations at traffic lights if I need to. if I did it at every light it would be way too much effort on a commute. (if you aren’t at the point on no return and it turns yellow, sucked it. you gottta stop) once you hit about 30m out, start the acceleration. keep it seated, accelerate for the 30m, then hold speed to the other side of the intersection (using the lines as a finish line) and then continue on your commute.
So start looking at your commute like it’s a keirin. look for holes, and run at wheels.
Keep practicing your trackstands!