Friday, April 27, 2012

Cycling at high speeds


A few weeks back, a group of us went cycling on a 50 km route at Madhapur. On the road beside HiTech city, the downhill helped me achieve a top speed of 56.5 km/hr. The experience of moving so fast through the air with nothing in front was least to say exhilarating. It was a long time since I felt such an adrenaline rush. There were many other bikers faster than me achieving speeds in excess of 60 km/hr. But coming close to such speeds in a state of complete alertness made me see why so many bikers cycle so fast. It is addictive.

A reminder here is that precautions are to be taken when cycling fast as the dynamics change. Every parameter needs to be respected and adhered to. When attempting high speeds, a few points to note are:

Tyre pressure: Higher the tyre pressure, lower the friction as the contact area between the rubber and the road and reduced. Rolling friction reduces and the wheels spin quicker. Keep higher pressures for speed and lower pressures for grip.

Brakes: At the end of the road when the speed has to be reduced, only the brakes can save your life. Make sure they are in top condition. Braking to slow down has to be done with first the rear brakes and then the front brakes. Using the front brakes first might cause the wheel to lock and then throw you over the handlebars at the same high speed. No guesses for what may happen when head meets road, even with a helmet.

Balance: The cycle will love to obey gravity and keep going faster. Trust your gut and keep your body posed low but still offering gentle resistance so that you are pushed back by the wind gently. This is to prevent your centre of gravity from shifting to the front that causes you to go faster than the cycle and get flung over the bars

Stay Low: Adopt a crouching position and get down low to prevent your body from being the barrier to the wind. Move your arms and legs inwards so that they don’t flail about. A key thing to remember here is to keep the limbs relaxed. Let the wind move around your limbs but keep them in place. Do not hold too tightly though you may do it out of anxiety.

Maintain a platform: The legs should be in the 9 and 3 o clock position. This keeps your body centred and helps you shift your weight to the front, back or sides with ease.

Scan a line: High speeds give you little time to react at the last moment. Make sure you can scan ahead and mentally map the line you plan to stay on. Watch for lanes from where anyone or anything can appear suddenly and be prepared.

A good hint – To keep the mind active, scan ahead about 20 meters and look at your front wheel. Again scan ahead and move your eyes to the front tire. Doing this up and down action keeps your alert for newer obstacles.

Exercise speed control: This is very very important. Just hitting the downhill not knowing how to control the speed or brake later can be dangerous. I’m not saying ride slowly. But know that when you ride fast, you have less than a second for the situation to change. Understand that, keep your cool and enjoy the breeze.

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