The art of riding in a straight line
Coach Tom Meloy provides a few key pointers on how to ride in a straight line.
When you ride solo, wavering puts you at risk in traffic. With a companion, you can't ride side-by-side if you aren't steady and comfortable. And the fastest way to draw unwanted attention from experienced roadies is to wobble in the middle of a group.
You can quickly improve your ability to ride a steady line. These tips will put you on the straight and narrow. Relax. You need a loose, supple upper body. Be aware of tension in your neck, jaw and shoulders. If you're rigid, the bike will move in jerks and twitches.
Flex your elbows. By keeping your elbows slightly bent and loose, upper-body movements won't automatically be transferred to the handlebar. The road's bumps and jolts will be absorbed, helping the bike float over irregularities rather than flinch and dart.
Of course, staying relaxed is easy to say and hard to do -- like when you're riding between traffic and a ragged road edge. Concentrate on steady breathing to reduce the upper-body tension that pins your shoulders to your ears. By staying aware, you can make relaxation a habit.
Look up the road. Staring at the pavement ahead of your front wheel guarantees you'll ride like a kid on his first solo voyage. The farther up the road you look, the steadier your bike will be.
You'll soon learn the technique of "split vision." This allows your lower peripheral vision to monitor things like potholes and cracks as you pass them, while you focus on a swath 30 to 100 feet ahead.
Watch the line you want your bike to take and your wheels will go there almost magically. Look directly at bad things and you're likely to hit them.
Practice. Try these techniques by riding along the white line that separates the traffic lane from the shoulder. Relax, keep your eyes up, and see how long you can stay on that thin stripe. It'll feel smooth under your tires to let you know how you're doing.
To prove a point, also try to ride the line while looking down in front of your wheel. Wobble city!