US Patent Exploding Cyclist said:
Hey everyone. I'm new to cycling, and am very eager to improve.
I've been working on my pedaling technique every ride and I can already see improvement. I was wondering if there were any useful drills/ or technique tips that I could practice on my own to help improve other skills such as climbing, cornering, pace line riding etc.
Or should I just ride hard and ride often?
Welcome to the mad, weird world that is cycling. Be warned ... it's like the Hotel California - once you're in, you'll never leave ...
As for your question - you've almost identified the best drill in the question you ask at the end of your email.
Just get out and ride - either on your own or with groups. The only bit that you got wrong is the "ride hard" bit. If you're new to cycling and are wanting to learn skills, then the best thing for you is a lot of long, easy rides - the sort of thing that you'll use in the future to build and maintain your endurance.
Reason I say to take it easy is that if you try to ride hard you're going to find that you spend energy and "brain power" that should be going to learning the skills you want to learn into riding hard. It's the same logic behind why pro athletes in any code do their skill sessions at very low intensity.
Other than that, your best thing to do is to ride on as wide a variety of terrain as you can. That'll help you to develop the skills that you are wanting to learn. Also, at this stage, your body will still be adjusting to cycling, so the areas that you may need to work on now may not actually be your "weaknesses". Better to let it adapt and then see what really needs your attention.
One comment about climbing - you'll find people that tell you that you "have to" climb seated, or "have to" climb standing, or "have to" spin at X revs. That's all crap. Climbing is probably the most personal part of cycling - and one of the hardest parts to really master (ie., to get really fast at). Experiment with what works for you. Try seated. Try standing. Try pushing a slightly bigger gear (not too big - that's definitely too slow and bad for your knees). Try spinning more. Work out for yourself what gets you up the hill fastest, easiest and with the most energy to spare.
Also, when it comes to bunch riding/pacelines, make sure you don't end up riding with a fast bunch straight off. You'll be a danger to yourself and the others in the group - and will make yourself pretty unpopular as a result. Better to start with the "slow group" - better chance to learn how to ride close, bang elbows and bars, watch the road and the riders around you without getting too far out of your depth. Also, the slow group is liable to have a couple of older riders who were the top in your area in their day. They're great people to learn off.
But yeah, as I say the only secret is to ride and ride and ride. Once you've got a good base under you and are comfortable riding in any conditions, on any surface then look to putting in specific drills and practices to help bring your riding on.
In the meantime happy riding!