If you have been reading my blog for a while (or longer than a few months) you know that biking is not my strong suit. Back in May, I struggled to clip out before coming to a stop. I was concerned about how I would take in water during my 70.3 race. In my mind, I would roll into T2 fully dehydrated and a death grip on my handlebars. So what changed?
I started riding more. While I wouldn't consider myself an expert rider by any means, continuing to pile on the miles definitely made things easier. My number one tip for getting comfortable on the bike? You gotta put in some miles. Yeah, it might be scary but it gets easier. Trust me. I learned to ride as a kid but I wasn't one of those "ride my bike all over town kids". In fact, I don't remember riding all that much which is probably why it seemed so hard to take it up again as an adult.
Once you start putting in miles, your death grip on the bars begins to release. This is great because now you can drink and eat on the bike. I invested in a little $5 bento box to attach to my handlebars. It holds enough fig newtons for a ride and is easy access for a map as well.
Speaking of maps, how in the world do you go on long rides with many turns if you are unable to read a map while riding? Well, you follow someone who knows where they are going... Seriously though, in the beginning when I was in the death grip phase I wrote directions on the inside of my arm with a sharpie. If the ride was super long, sometimes the directions continued onto my legs. My riding partner used to laugh at me but we never got lost. ...and it should be noted, she always followed me because I knew where we were going. :) Some people clip or tape cue sheets to their handlebars. Once your death grip relaxes, you can store the cue sheets/map in your bento or in your jersey pocket and pull them out to see the next turn.
If you are new to biking, I know it seems like it might never become easier but it truly does. The more you ride, the easier it gets. There really is no magic formula. As for getting faster, well... I am still trying to figure that one out. Let me know if you have the magic trick for that one!