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The Bike Handling Thread

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Which (pick 3) factors are most important in determining who's a good bike handler?

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I have ridden shorter pavé sections in my home country (Denmark), the few available, this incl. a recreational race containing a single pavé section in combo with subsequent hilly climb - and a highlight of the race, where you enter the section slightly rising but at speed.
It was always a section I looked forward to with joy, as I could just use my 'moshing technique' in heavy gear exchange on my way across the cobblestones and, hence, get rid of the "wallpaper paste"/freebies in my group.

The first time I rode real cobblestone sections was in relation to a week's stay near Oudenaarde. The very first section I faced (after a beautiful 20 flat bike path kilometers along the Schelde) was Oude Kwaremont. Climb-wise, it was at most on-par with my nearest local hills, but the cobblestones at Kwaremont were a completely different caliber, heavier and more cruel.

In general, it's easier to ride fast through the cobblestones, unless they really are like they were dropped from a helicopter.

After passing Oude Kwaremont first time, I couldn't resist to immediately go down the main road (just like the pro field in RvV) and take it at a slightly higher pace this time, semi-attack mode.
But THIS was where the troubles really got brewing for me! My rhythm was constantly broken and I had to constantly to re-initiate. Like no flow/inertia at all.

Just until Roger de Vlaeminck and his mythical photo-free visionary look for the cobblestones came to my mind. When I started to "X-ray" the very irregular passages and constantly correct my path, I was able to keep up the speed. However, I will say that Pogi's last climb of this climb last year seemed like he had a cushion of air under his wheels, and out of this world when I compared to the same passage where I really struggled to avoid breaking the rhythm and speed.

Quite different a little later on my Paterberg climb, here the cobblestones were much friendlier to me and the faster I climbed the easier it became.

And then Koppenberg. Now I've been there twice, I don't consider myself anything special, besides I'm a little dissapointed that both times I've been in dry, sunny weather, which helps a lot on how to get up.
The second time years later, I even had the audacity to film my ascent with one hand in the meantime - with the expectation that I would crash it probably just made me even sharper - I got all the way up without severe difficulty (you cannot say Koppenberg isn't tough of which is the starting point) - with last Sunday's nature here, I think it would'nt have been enough for me with two hands on the handlebars and a balanced sitting position. That of last sunday looked to the extreme side.

With my Oude Kwaremont experience I have always had the deepest respect for riders who pass the most difficult cobblestone sections in P-R at high speed.

This is where a Roger de Vlaeminck 'X-ray vision' skill will undoubtedly come in handy.
Even more so in wet, muddy conditions.

So my conclusion regarding speeds at cobblestone sections:
For easy-to-medium: Speed is only an advantage.
For the difficult, irregular: With speed it becomes REAL hairy - technique and vision are crucial essentials.

Edit: ofc coudn't resist other cobble sections in this core region of Flemish cobble climbs, this inclusive the plenty flat cobble sections. Haaghoek is a killer at speed itself going from north-west to entry to Leberg. Leberg being piece-of-cake if you survive Haaghoek going attack mode here (RvV riders taking that route on several occasions past decade).
Have you also ridden any of the P-R pave’ sectors? Interested to hear how different the square, sharp-edged pave’ (with gaps between stones) compares to a rough section of rounded cobblestones?
Have you also ridden any of the P-R pave’ sectors? Interested to hear how different the square, sharp-edged pave’ (with gaps between stones) compares to a rough section of rounded cobblestones?
No, unfortunately not.
If I have to rewind my memory, the location I have taken a bike to the most seasoned cobbled stretches is the Hellingen proper. Plenty variety of cobbles, although not the completely rough sections with large distances between the cobblestones. Although I remember my first year on Molenberg down in the forest with light morning rain, distance between the cobblestones - but it is a 14% climb, so not exactly high speed techniques.

The reason I mentioned Haaghoek 2.5k flat(ter) challenge is the more square and irregular "jumps" and small slides up and down, where you can get stuck going down if you don't find your X-ray eyes, your path and round wire pedalling.
Really a section to practice cobbles technique, hence I was a bit dissapointed that this year's RvV cheated the viewers for this piece.

Regarding OP question, it also depends on rider type and season goals.
Boonen did not need to adjust his climbing technique on the Télégraphe-Galibier, just as Domenico Pozzovivo did not need to train hundreds of kilometers of cobbles to succeed in his career.
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One of the main factors must surely be confidence. Confidence is what lets someone ride with their backbone. If you get scared and starting thinking too much about what you need to do every action becomes just a little bit slower and you lose control. And of course confidence comes with practice so if you have not spent a lot of time in precarious situations then your confidence will be lower. Experience is what gives you confidence.
So was Indurain a good bike handler? I don't remember the topic ever coming up in the limited commentary I was able to get from Phil & Paul highlight shows. But somehow he avoided serious crashes in 8 straight GTs, which seems unthinkable now.
You don't avoid any real crashes for that long by not being a good bike handler. Being a good bike handler doesn't have to mean you do things that are spectacular
Experience must be a major factor. During the LBL broadcast here in Australia Simon Gerrans made the point that young Australians going to Europe just don't have the necessary experience of large peletons and narrow roads. His suggested solution was for them to go to Belgium and do as much kermesse as possible.