The Best Thing You Can Do to Improve Your Balance on the Bike
It probably goes without saying that the ability to maintain balance is a critical skill for any cyclist. Whether you’re speeding along the road or maneuvering through a difficult mountain pass, you’ve got to stay upright on only two wheels.
And yet, balance is something we tend to lose as we age. The longer you’re alive — and riding — the more likely you are to have issues with it. And if you lose your balance, your cycling days are numbered.
The gravity of the situation is much bigger than just being able to ride well over time. Balancing is a skill that could affect your overall quality of life. That’s why Coach Darryl MacKenzie is convinced his simple tip for maintaining and even improving your balance as you age is the most important piece of advice he can offer.
How Losing Your Balance Affects Your Life
Curious? We’re going to hold you in suspense just a little longer. Before you have the key on how to improve your balance on a bike — and in every area of your life — you have to grasp just how important this is.
Simply put, your ability to maintain balance has a dramatic impact on your life as you age. It’s the difference between being able to get up, down and around freely vs. having to use a walker. Lack of balance frequently leads to falls and critical injuries among older adults. Studies have even shown a correlation between length of life and your ability to sit on the ground and stand back up with only your feet.
On the bike, the difference could be as stark as life or death.
“The cyclist never knows when an improved balance is going to help them avoid a dangerous or catastrophic situation,” Coach Darryl says.
He experienced this firsthand after working on his balance for years, when he was riding a century with two other cyclists. About 75 miles into the ride, a shadow obscured their view of a football-sized hump in the pavement. All three hit the bump going downhill at 35 miles an hour, launching them into the air. Darryl managed to land and stay upright. The other two cyclists landed in an ambulance.
Darryl can’t say for sure, but he’s fairly confident he can point to one main reason he fared better in that situation: balance. So, how did he do it?
One Simple Way to Improve Your Balance
If you do a simple Google search for how to improve your balance on a bike, you’ll find countless tips. But many of them require consistent, incremental exercises. The beauty of Darryl’s tip is its simplicity.
Ready? Here it is:
“Whenever you are sitting into or getting out of a chair, never have your hands involved,” he says. “Always — 100% of the time — do it with only two points of contact, your feet, keeping your balance.”
It doesn’t get much simpler, does it? This is something you can do wherever you are, every day. Whether you’re sitting down for dinner, getting off the couch, or getting into the car, you can practice this skill. Use only your feet and legs (and your core strength) to move up and down.
When Darryl started this nearly 10 years ago, he wasn’t seeing much of a drop-off in his balance. But he eventually began to notice huge improvements that he didn’t expect.
“Now, at 69, my balance is better than it was in my 20s or 30s or any time I can remember,” he says.
This change didn’t happen overnight, though. It took Coach Darryl about nine months of regular practice before he began noticing significant changes in his sense of balance, not only on the bike, but in doing simple tasks around the house.
Practicing this skill on softer surfaces or ones that are lower to the ground will be harder at first. You’ll have to work out just how to position your feet and build core strength — and you may need to have your hands ready in case you stumble — but if you stick to it, Darryl is confident you’ll prevail.
Hold steady out there, and let us know how this goes after you’ve tried it for a while. Leave an update in the comments below.
Look for more insights from Coach Darryl over at his website.