Ride With Pride: Road Bike Skills: Take It From Mr. Persistence

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, March 1995

Ride With Pride: Road Bike Skills: Take It From Mr. Persistence

Steve Bauer's tips from a lifetime on the road
By Scott Sutherland

In a tip of the helmet to cycling Darwinism, Motorola Cycling Team's Steve Bauer, 35, is one of the fittest riders on the circuit. "Stamina is my strength," says the soft-spoken Canadian racer, who turned pro after winning a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics. "A lot of my success comes from persistence." But mere stick-to-itiveness won't see you through more than a decade of skinny-tire successes -- including top-ten finishes in stages of the 1993 tours of France, Italy, and Holland and the Tour DuPont, and winning last year's Norwest Cup in Minneapolis. You need technique. "At this point," says Bauer, "I feel comfortable in any situation." Here's his highly evolved tutorial to increase your own comfort level.

"You may want to stand at first to rest the muscles you were using on the flat," says Bauer. "The last thing you want to do is get into trouble early on a long climb." Most of your work, however, should be done in the saddle with your weight back, which makes it easier to apply power throughout the pedal stroke. "At the bottom of the stroke, pull back with your hamstrings," he explains. "Then use your hip flexors to lift up through the top of the stroke." Alternating between sitting and standing is effective, says Bauer, but only if your out-of-the-saddle technique is sound. "I keep my head and chest up, my shoulders square, and my back straight. Then I can maintain good breathing rhythm and use my upper body to put as much power as possible on the pedals. You can't do that if you're all hunched over." Bauer likes to rock his bike for rhythm, making sure that his wheels track straight. But, he stresses, that's up to you: "How much you rock is a very personal thing."

Getting Aero
Being ready for anything means being balanced on the bike, says Bauer: "You don't want to get too radical, but you want to get tight -- chest down, knees and elbows in, hands on the drops, head up only enough to see the road." This may not be the most aerodynamic position, Bauer concedes, but it's the best vantage point from which to anticipate and avoid scary situations. "If you're in a bunch of riders and one of them does something unexpected," he explains, "you don't want to be caught with your nose hanging too far over the handlebars."

"Fast turns are all in the setup," says Bauer. "if that's not right, you'll have trouble all the way through." Before you enter a turn, he advises, do three things: brake so that you can carry a comfortable rate of speed into and through the corner, shift so that you're in the gear you'd like to be in when you come out of the turn, and start wide -- but not too wide -- so that when you get to the apex, you'll be halfway through your turn.

As you approach, point your inside knee directly at the apex. If it's a right-hand turn, you'll be loading your left pedal with as much of your weight as possible while leaning -- not steering -- to the right. "Leaning consistently through the turn maintains your balance," says Bauer. "Mess with the centrifugal force that's carrying you through, and you're going down."

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