Let’s clear the air of one thing: unless you’re a Lottery winner, a trust fund baby, or your last name is Rockefeller, work is a fact of life. However, whether you love or hate your job, most people would rather be riding their bike than working. For those lucky enough to commute to work by bike, there are some fantastically simple ways to make your commute both a fun AND constructive way to start your day.
1. Track stands
This is the reason why it’s called a “track stand” and what it was originally intended for:
Being proficient at track stands is an absolute must, especially if you’re a roadie. The next time that you stop at a light, capitalize on the downtime rather than checking your phone for messages that aren’t there; try a track stand! Nearly an infinite variety of track stands exist, so you’ll be hard pressed to be bored at a stop light from here on out. Unless you’re riding a fixed gear, doing a track stand on your road bike will require you to use your brakes, roll up against a curb, roll your front wheel against an incline, or place a foot on your front wheel to maintain balance. No matter which method you choose to utilize, doing a track stand will show you the places and ways that your bike flexes under stress. Should you choose to do a track stand using your brakes (this is the most common method of doing one on a non-fixed gear bike), you will also gain a better understanding of your brakes’ bite points, strength, and will also help you to better control and modulate your levers.
Pretty soon, you’ll be like Kevin Bacon in “Quicksilver”…
2. Traffic light sprints
Whether you’re commuting 2 miles or 22 miles to work, you’re sure to hit plenty of stop signs and traffic lights along the way. Depending on the distances between lights and the locale you’re riding in, you should be able to find quite a few spots along the way that serve as perfect markers for the starts and ends of sprints. Traffic light sprints are exceptionally good should you actually get stopped at one for a couple of reasons: 1) a RED light, previously a negative piece of your day, just became a positive and 2) when the light turns GREEN (after you’ve been doing a track stand for the entire red light, of course), it’s off to the races. Jam on the gas and achieve max speed before hitting the next light, which leads me to my next tip…
3. Rapid braking
Rapid braking. Stopping quickly. Late braking. Stopping short (Seinfeld reference, anybody?). Whatever you want to call it, it mostly just means trying to stop as quickly as possible in the shortest distance. Why would anybody ever want to do this? First and foremost, braking late will help you understand your brakes. You’ll begin to understand just how powerful your brakes are and how hard you can push them. Doing this will also give you better modulation, control, and lever feel for when you actually need to brake hard (say, for a deer, a car that’s cut you off, or pushing late into a corner to get the inside line on your competitor). Secondly, rapid braking also helps you to learn the limits of your tires and how long you can depend on your tires to grip before they break traction (read “skid”). Learning how much traction your tires offer will be worth its weight in gold because good cornering can easily and quickly make up for lost time.
4. Fast cornering
Peter Sagan, putting on a “How To Descend” clinic. He puts some serious time into his opponents here in TdF 2015.
Whether you’re turning out of your driveway onto the main street or gliding through the final bend to get to work, corner hard. Trying to keep speed up through the corners helps you understand the best and most effective body language to properly carry speed and as always, practice makes perfect. If you’ve cornered fast 300 times as opposed to having cornered slow 30 times, you’re obviously much better off doing it faster and actually making an effort to DO IT.
Take this all with a large grain of salt. Not everything is a KOM and not every second of a commute is “race pace.” Not only is that dangerous, but it’ll suck the fun out of it pretty quickly when every corner has to mean something and every stop light is now a metric for your success. These “things” are supposed to be fun and effective ways to help you get better on your bike. Either way, you’re already winning because you’re spending more time on your bike than your ride partner who’s sitting angrily at a red light in their car. When you pull up next to him at the stop light, start your track stand, and just look over with a smile.