Teaching Bicycle Balance Drills- Guarantee a Fall-Proof Bicycle Lesson
Safe Biking Lessons
Stand on the right pedal with a slight knee bend. The student is out of the saddle for this drill.
Hold the handlebars steady and cover the brakes, maintaining a standing upright posture. Lift the LEFT knee forward and tap the heel to the pedal before stepping down. Repeat the heel taps for accuracy in foot placement on the pedal. The heel tap is quick while the bicycle remains in a static position.
Proprioception is complete when the student learns where to place the foot without looking or faltering.
NOTE: For best results, set up a safe biking lesson in a controlled area without distractions. Use protective padding on the adjacent wall and the student’s elbows. Start with a few elbow touches to the wall to learn spatial awareness. This allows the student to find their balance point.
Once the student is confident in maintaining balance standing on the right leg in the low pedal position, the bicycle instructor demonstrates short pushes with the left foot. Instruct a controlled stop using hand brakes after a short distance.
Try alternating the scootering drill with heel taps. After each set of heel taps, the student practices rolling forward into scootering.
Return the bicycle to the start each time and allow the student to reflect on how it went.
When the student succeeds with controlled scootering, encourage the single-leg glide. While standing on the right pedal, push off the ground with the left foot. Then extend the left leg out to the side without touching down. Finish with a controlled stop.
Why should we teach biking with the right leg for the low pedal position in this drill?
The goal is to train the LEFT leg for the power pedal position. Stepping down with the right foot when stopping reduces the risk of losing balance and falling into traffic that is on the left.
Objections: Students sometimes prefer one leg over the other for the power pedal position. Ask them if they told the DMV that they prefer to use the left leg for the accelerator pedal and the right for the brake!
Abiding by federal law, the slowest traffic remains in the rightmost portion of the roadway that aligns with our intended direction of travel. Reduce the risk of falling into traffic by learning the power pedal position on the left.
Debra Stefan, 2020 Educator of the Year for the League of American Bicyclists
Debra Stefan Fitness and Bike Camps
Safe Biking Lessons
Message From: Karl Rudnick, League Cycling Instructor, Solana Beach CA
Hi Debra – Good stuff. Thanks in particular for your comments on which leg is the power leg. So much so that I just sent the following note to 8 of our core LCIs who teach Smart Cycling in San Diego County:
… I thought that Debra’s idea on the power position was worth thinking about when we teach this. Habitually, I always say either leg can be used. Interestingly, I have 65+ years of using my right leg as the power leg (my frequency of left cleat wearing out much faster than the right as proof :-).
But think about having your left leg up in the power position, your right leg on the ground, handlebars turned slightly to the left. If you lose your balance, you fall to the right, out of traffic. In fact, in a recent road session, we had a student put their left leg on the ground at one of the first local street stops, they lost their balance, fell to the left into me and I went down domino fashion.
We all had a bit of a laugh and a moment to emphasize how important stopping and starting skills are. But I do think Debra’s advice is warranted and something I would be happy to pass on. As she said, we all learn to brake with our left foot and press the accelerator with our right foot when driving despite any left/right preferences.
Soon, I’m gonna start wearing out my right cleat faster! (my chiropractor/cyclist friend, btw, prefers me to alternate power legs between stops with the yoga idea to become more symmetric right and left – I may tell him this advice of Debra’s).
Your advice is universally appropriate, beyond the balance for seniors context.
Thanks – Karl
League Cycling Instructor
Solana Beach CA