Bike skills Cornering Descending Hill climbing Women cycling

My top five road bikes skills you need to master

Women riding bikes at a skills session.
LACC Women’s skills coaching session – a great way to learn

When I started road cycling 15 years ago, I thought I knew it all. After all, I knew I could ride a bike – how hard could it be? Some months after I took up the addictive pastime of road cycling, I realised I had much to learn. So, I thought it might be useful to share my list of top five bike skills you need to master if you want to be a proficient roadie.

On my list in no particular order are cornering, braking, ascending/climbing, descending, and using the gears. There are many other things that you also need to learn like bunch riding skills, bike maintenance, what to wear, and much more.

In my summary below I’ve included the most important thing I’ve learnt about each skill and included links to previous posts with more information.


Cornering is one of those fundamental skills you need to perfect if you’re going to be a good bike rider. The most important thing I learnt about cornering is that you ‘go where you look’. That means if you look to your right or left, you’ll head that way, so in cornering you need to look towards the spot where you will exit the corner.

Read here to learn more road bike cornering tips.


When I first started riding, I had no idea that there was actually a technique involved in braking. If I wanted to slow down I just grabbed either or both of the brake levers and it seemed to work. The most valuable technique I learnt early on is brake feathering. That means you use both brakes lightly, rather than heavy on one or the other. The front and rear brakes have different roles in slowing you down or stopping. Learn more here in my previous blog post about the correct road bike braking technique.


When I started riding a road bike, I had no idea there was a right way and a wrong way of climbing hills. I just rode up them and put up with the pain in my legs and lungs. In some cases, I even avoided the steeper ones by riding a different route. By far the most important lesson I’ve learnt about climbing is that your mind plays a huge role in whether you can make it up a challenging hill. It’s often my negative thoughts that are the main thing holding me back! Learn more about climbing here.


In theory, descending should be easy. You’ve got gravity to help you but like other skills, there’s so much more to it than first meets the eye. As a risk-averse human, riding down hills has been even harder to master than climbing. My number one lesson here is the trust your equipment. If you’ve got a quality, well-maintained road bike under you, then trust it to do its job. It is way more capable of safely conveying you down a hillside than you realise. For more tips read my previous post on descending on a road bike.

Using your gears correctly

Learning to use your gears correctly is a fundamental part of riding a road bike, and it takes ages to get used to them. I recall an older guy from my cycling club telling me that he thought it takes at least three years to feel comfortable and competent on a road bike, and when I reached that magical three-year mark, I agreed.

Like so many other new riders used to ride in a ‘big’ gear when I first started riding a road bike. It seems that when we start out, we expect it to be hard to turn over the pedals, so we tend to use a gear that challenges our legs. What you do is fatigue your legs and make it harder to ride long distances. So, my number one tip about gears is to learn to ‘spin’ your legs more and increase your cadence (pedal revolutions per minute) saving energy while keeping up with the pack. Learn more here.

What are the most important bike skills you learnt when you first started riding? Share your thoughts via comments or the Women Who Cycle Facebook page or Community Group.