racing cyclist looking back over shoulder

Looking back is important when riding in traffic to check on cars. When riding in a paceline, looking back is important to see that you are not dropping other riders. When racing, looking back allows you to check on the position of other racers.

Beginning riders may have difficulty riding in a straight line, maintaining pace, and looking back at the same time. If you are having trouble, these tips are for you!

First, let’s analyze the problem. When you turn your head to look behind you, you are probably then steering your bicycle in that direction. So if you turn to your left and look behind you, you might veer the bike left into the oncoming traffic lane.

So what you’re going to learn to do is look back without also steering the bicycle. The main goal is to pivot your head and shoulders but keep the bike going straight ahead.


Here are the steps to properly looking back over your left shoulder:

1. Make sure the road ahead is clear and that you are not headed into any pot holes.

2. Relax your right arm. Your shoulder should drop a little, your elbow should bend, and your right hand should be relaxed (a loose grip on the handlebar.)

3. Turn your head to the left and glance over your shoulder.

Those three steps are the basics. Start by practicing that technique. It should allow you to look behind you while also letting the bicycle stay in a straight line.


To further improve your skills, you can try these tips:

Take your left hand entirely off the bar. By taking your left hand entirely off the bar, you make it easier to twist your body around.

Just take your left hand off the bar and place it on your left hip while you turn around.

Move your right hand to the center of the bar. To make it even less likely that you will steer the bike, you can move your right hand inward on the bar, close to the stem.

This way, any movement will produce much less steering input.

Slide your butt to the right. As you turn left, slightly slide your butt to the right of the saddle. This will help keep your weight centered since your upper body will be leaning to the left, upsetting your balance.

Practice. You can practice this technique by going riding with a friend on a back road or even an empty parking lot.

Ride in a sort of pace line, but leave a bike length or two between you.

The front rider will practice looking back over both shoulders. Pretend the rider behind you is a competitor and you are keeping an eye on them. (This is better practice than staring behind you into space.)

The back rider will be able to watch the front rider and let them know if they are staying in a straight line when they are turned around.

Photo Credit: WickedVT

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  1. thanks for the action steps! i will practice this in the parking garage down the street, weather permitting.

  2. @Joe

    Good luck! And watch out for cars, the drivers probably won’t be expecting you in there!

  3. Thank you very much for this info. Realy apprediate the simple explaintation especially forbeginners.


  4. @Deb

    You are welcome, glad you liked it! Have fun out there!

  5. After seeing Mara Abbot in Rio I was told that in the last stretch in the race the worst thing you can do is look back. I noticed in those late seconds she did that and you saw her drop the very next second. Your opinion?

    • @Walter

      Great observation!

      When you’re making your final sprint, your eyes should be focused on one thing – the finish line!

      In this case, though, I don’t think it was an issue. She was getting tired and the chase group had relatively fresh legs, so I’d bet they were going to make that move regardless.

  6. Great step by steps. I found that it is best to develop a constant habit of always making an occasional head turn to look behind. I did mine to sync with my (slow)cadence about 80/min, so it was sort of automatic. I look back every 20, not that I think about it at all, just a natural rhythm for me. The advantage is that you get super used to the twisting and back. When you need an extra look, your body has all the motor memory, and it comes smooth as silk.

    Let me know if I can have a one time permission to use your photo on my Linked-In post, as I think it will help some of my followers. I’ll be glad to give you credit in the post with thanks for the use. If not, I understand.

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