By Brad Quartuccio
At first thought it may seem counterintuitive, but when the going gets rough it is important to stay loose. Especially for people who have found their love of riding through miles on the pavement, the natural reaction to going over rough or loose terrain is many times to tighten up—exactly the opposite of what will keep your bike heading in the direction you’d like.
By design bicycles are more or less self-righting, and want to keep rolling in whatever direction they’re already pointed. Besides actively steering off-course, the quickest way to find yourself in the brush on a rough section of trail is by trying to micromanage the bumps with tense shoulders and a death grip on the bars.
Early in my bicycling experience I was given some sage advice on the subject, a way to visualize the goal of maintaining a light touch and allowing the machine to do the hard work. Imagine eggs between your hands and the bar, with the goal of not cracking them with your grip. As the surface becomes rugged it’s all about massaging the bicycle to where you’d like it to go, not forcing the issue which will at best lead to early fatigue, and at worst heading completely off course. A light touch lets the bicycle self steer up, over and around the irregularities in its path without feeding each and every pebble back into your arms and shoulders.
To this day I still use this visualization technique to stave off fatigue and tackle rough sections of my ride. Even on smooth roads I will sometimes catch myself tensing my upper body, especially during hard efforts. Mentally placing eggs in my palms helps me to be a