How to boost your balance on the bike
Good balance is a vital but neglected road cycling skill that will turbo-charge your confidence, control and speed on the road
In the multi-discipline world of cycling, balance is a quality which is most often associated with downhill mountain-bikers or cyclo-cross specialists who need to stabilise their position on the bike while riding over uneven terrain. But balance is a crucial but neglected skill for road cyclists too.
With good stability and control, you will be able to maintain a more consistent and powerful riding position, improve your aerodynamic silhouette, avoid potholes and debris on the road, manoeuvre more efficiently when riding in a peloton, eat and drink mid-ride more easily, and even corner and climb at greater speeds. Good balance will also slash your risk of muscular injuries and road accidents, and make any diversions into the ever-popular world of gravel cycling much more enjoyable.
“As road cyclists, we strive for optimal performance and efficiency on the bike, and while focusing on strength, endurance and technique is vital, neglecting balance can hinder your progress,” explains Yoni Fingleson from respected London-based physio experts Six Physio (sixphysio.com).
Fingleson says there are some simple things you can do to enhance your balance, such as cross-training with another sport, or adding one session of yoga or Pilates into your weekly training plan. But it’s worth performing some dedicated balance drills too. “Incorporating balance-focused core work, whether in a gym or at home, will help you to develop the balance, stability and control necessary to excel on the bike.”
Here he reveals five strategic exercises for road cyclists which will help to improve your balance, control and stability on the bike. “These exercises can be performed in a gym or at home with minimal equipment,” explains Fingleson. “And they will allow you to fine-tune your stability and control for a smoother, injury-free and more efficient ride.”
Bosu Ball Squats
“Bosu ball squats are excellent – can I say ‘wheelie good?!’ – for developing core stability, leg strength and balance, which are essential for maintaining control during demanding rides or on uneven terrain,” explains Fingleson.
- Place a Bosu ball on the floor with the flat side up.
- Stand on the Bosu ball, ensuring your feet are hip-width apart.
- Engage your core and slowly lower yourself into a squatting position, keeping your knees aligned with your toes.
- Rise back up to the starting position and repeat for 10-12 reps.
- As you progress, try performing the squats on one leg to further challenge your balance.
Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts
“Single-leg Romanian deadlifts help improve balance, hip stability and hamstring strength, leading to a more efficient pedal stroke and reduced risk of injury,” explains Fingleson. “These can be performed with or without a weight, medicine ball or kettlebell.”
- Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and a slight bend in your knees.
- Shift your weight onto one leg and slightly lift the other leg behind you.
- Keeping your back straight, hinge forward at the hips while lowering your torso and extending your raised leg backward.
- Lower the lifted leg and return to the starting position.
- Perform 8-10 reps on each leg, focusing on maintaining stability and control throughout.
Stability Ball Planks
“Stability ball planks engage your core, shoulders and stabilising muscles, enhancing your overall balance and body control on the bike,” says Fingleson.
- Place your forearms on a stability ball and extend your legs behind you, resting on your toes.
- Align your body into a straight line from head to toe, engaging your core muscles.
- Hold this position for 30 secs to 1 min, maintaining a stable and balanced posture.
- To increase the challenge, try lifting one leg or one arm while holding the plank position.
Step-Ups With Dumbbells
“Step-ups with dumbbells target your lower-body muscles, improving leg strength and stability, which are crucial for climbing and maintaining balance during intense rides,” says Fingleson.
- Stand facing a sturdy bench or step with a dumbbell in each hand.
- Step onto the bench with one foot, ensuring your whole foot is in contact with the surface.
- Push through the heel of the leading foot and raise your body onto the bench, straightening your leg.
- Step down with the trailing foot and repeat the movement with the opposite leg.
- Perform 10-12 step-ups on each leg, focusing on maintaining a controlled and balanced motion throughout.
Yoga Tree Pose
“The yoga ‘Tree’ pose is not just all about the Zen – it can improve your proprioception, concentration and body awareness, which should enhance your control and balance on the bike,” explains Fingleson.
- Stand tall with your feet together and your arms by your sides.
- Shift your weight onto one foot and slowly lift the other foot, placing it against the inner thigh or calf of the standing leg.
- Find your balance and bring your hands together at your chest in a prayer position.
- Hold the pose for 30 secs.
Images: Stefan Rachow, Team Alpecin-Deceuninck, Eddie Smith
Text: Mark Bailey