I think one thing that is often overlooked in cycling is where you are looking when you ride.
It sounds obvious at first, but when you pay attention to what you’re focused on during a ride, you’ll see a difference in how you react.
If your eyes tend to look down at the road, just a few metres in front of you, you’ll be very reactionary when obstacles ‘suddenly’ appear. You have much less time to react, and your reactions will be over exaggerated, sometimes hard to recover from.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you’re out on the road and a small patch of gavel is coming up. If you’re looking downwards, you might not notice a bit of gravel until the last second. You react with a hard sudden turn on your handle bars to avoid one or two big rocks. You throw off your balance. If there’s even more big rocks to avoid you’re really in for it as you now need to crank the steering back and forth to avoid the rest of the hazards. One missed off balance manoeuvre and out goes your front wheel. (I had this happen my first time on a fancy road bike)
Same situation, but now looking up and ahead. You can see the bits of gravel coming up. You have time to pick out the best line through the patch before you reach it. You have time to slow down, to maybe shoulder check behind you for cars and find a path around the whole problem. Point is, you have time to read the situation, decide your course of action, and react with plenty of margin for error.
If you get into any kind of paceline/peloton, looking ahead is essential. You’re not looking at the wheel/derailleur in front of you, rather at the person two or three riders up. When they change pace, or move left/right, you can anticipate the group’s movement and ride smoothly, rather than reacting only when the rider directly in front of you suddenly moves over to avoid a pot hole, leaving you with half a second to decide how not to bash your rim, nor your fellow riders beside you. Riders who can follow the wheel in front to within an inch or two are really good at looking past that rider and focusing on what’s coming up ahead.
You’ll also be able to corner much smoother at speed when you’re looking ‘through’ the corner as well. I find actually turning my head helps reinforce this, especially on MTB trails.
Something to think about on your next ride. Start out by being intentional and aware about where you look, it will eventually become second nature.