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6 Essential Cycling Skills to Master

To become a good cyclist it is important to learn the essential skills. They will not only help you ride better but more safely too, and most importantly when you ride sportives and other challenges you will achieve better times and better distances.

With this in mind, let’s explore the essential skills every cyclist needs to know.

SportActive riders cycling from Geneva to Nice - SportActive Cycling Holidays & Training CampsBy mastering certain cycling skills you can take on greater challenges.  Day 6 of a Geneva to Nice cycling holiday; two team members fighting for the last summit: Col de Castillon

Out of the Saddle

The advantages of riding out of the saddle in certain situations cannot be overstated. It can help you climb, sprint, provide respite, and can be used for core strength training.
The easiest way to learn a good technique to stand while riding is to watch our cycling core strength video. Learn this skill and ride a better race.

Riding One Handed

As much as possible you should keep both hands on the handlebars. It is safer and you have far more control over the bike. That said, there will be times when you need to ride one handed, such as:

  • Signalling – When riding on open roads you have to signal to other traffic what you intend to do such as cornering and overtaking.
  • Eating/Drinking – Eating and drinking while riding is not an essential skill as you can always park, eat, and drink, and get back on the saddle once more.
    However, if you want to achieve better personal bests or even ride like a pro, mastering one handed riding will allow you to eat and drink while cycling.
  • Group Riding – Cycling in group rides often requires hand signals to tell other riders what you intend to do and warn of hazards.
    Mastering one handed riding increases your confidence and your riding abilities.


Braking is an art in cycling. If you can master it, you will ride far more efficiently than if you instinctively slow to a low speed. The trick is to slow to the speed you need to be at and no lower. Mastering braking will optimise your energy levels as you won’t have to put in the extra effort to get back up to speed.


Mastering gears is like mastering brakes, an essential skill. Like braking, finding the optimal gear for the terrain optimises energy, giving you a better ride, and in competitions a better time. You can take a look at our gear use article to get an idea of how to use them effectively.


Effective cornering is very satisfying to get right. What you’re looking for is a smooth cornering process.

Ideally, when you corner you want your opposite pedal position to be at 6 o’clock. So, when you make right turn on a decent your left leg is fully extended. If you have the right leg extended your weight transfer is wrong and there is a danger that the pedal can clip the road and cause you to come off.

In terms of speed, you want to get in the right gear and undertake the necessary braking before you reach the bend or corner. This technique allows you to accelerate out of the bend and get back up to speed.

Lastly, look ahead as this will help you be more aware of obstacles and you’ll have the time to prepare properly for cornering and be able to avoid hazards.


Improving observational skills is essential especially if you’re riding through traffic. It isn’t just other road users you need to watch out for, as potholes, your peloton, and pedestrians can cause accidents too.

Try and take in your surroundings for a safer and smoother ride.

Mastering these skills will make your cycling more fun, rewarding, and your achievements greater.

SportActive - Faster, Fitter, Stronger

Submitted: 10/9/21

Categories Cycling Blog Tags Training Tips

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