7 Simple Steps to Becoming a Better Cyclist
7 Ways to get faster
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Contrary to popular opinions, riding at your best doesn’t necessarily mean pushing yourself to ridiculous limits in attempt to achieve monumental fitness goals.
Not only are these non-realistic, but cycling is also about much more than a measurement of your capabilities in terms of stamina or duration.
Let’s look at our seven simple steps to improving the cyclist in you, and how to build a better relationship between yourself and your bicycle.
1. Increase your average speed, slightly.
Without requiring any sort of increase in fitness levels, you can start by practising to ride at an average speed just a couple of kilometres per hour more than you’re used to.
This allows your body to gradually adjust to the strenuosity of enhanced riding without resorting to over-exerting yourself straight off the bat.
Practise this new-found speed while entering corners and learn to adapt to a more efficient way of riding. By increasing your speed only fractionally, you’ll soon realise the importance of transitioning through a corner comfortably rather than overshooting it and having to slam on the brakes losing all that power.
Remember technique works hand-in-hand with speed, so be proactive with your judgement when it comes to steep inclines followed by long descents, as well as positioning and braking processes.
2. Get comfortable!
Most riders just accept that cycling comes with an expected level of discomfort. The attire, your body’s riding position and not to mention the tiny nuances associated with being a little out of shape.
However, it doesn’t have to be like this! There are ways to reduce those post-ride pains and prepare you for the next venture. The best place to start is with a professional bike fit.
To be as comfortable as possible out on the pavement, you and your bicycle must ride as one. A bike fit can ensure all the bike’s components are adjusted correctly to suit your body.
Stability training by strengthening your core is also a method of achieving optimal cycling performance. Get into the gym a couple of days a week and do some core work!
Pre-ride stretching is also important and can be done in just a few minutes. Combine all of these exercises and get your body road-ready.
3. Schedule an extra session or two.
It’s common for cyclists to draw the misconception of ‘Maybe I’m riding too much?’, thinking it’s wise if they give it a break for a while. However, this is quite the opposite of the recommended mentality as squeezing in a little more riding into your week might just be what the body needs.
When has extra exercise ever hurt anyone? Why not take advantage of your daily commute or even a grocery run and utilise every opportunity to get on the bike?
It’s not only improving your fitness but also good practise for all the other techniques to be mastered.
4. Meal and nutrition prepping.
Riding on an empty stomach or failing to estimate how well you’ll need to be nourished is one of the worst ways to begin a big journey. Ensure you’re energised and have filled up the tank with proper nutrition to last the duration of the ride, plus a little extra.
Carbohydrates, both from food and drink are the best way of staying hydrated, energetic and focused on the road ahead without worrying whether you’re going to fall short of the mark.
Pack a few snacks like bananas or other fruit for a quick bite around 30 mins into your ride. You’ll need about 60g of carbs per hour that you’re cycling so remember to take plenty of the good stuff!
5. Try a 100-mile ride.
While initially seeming like the opposite of fun, cycling 100 miles or taking on a ‘century ride’, can be the ultimate confidence builder for future runs. Your chances of finishing one of these will primarily depend on one thing – planning.
Map out the route and customise it to ensure any hills are at the beginning and downhill runs are towards the finish line. This way you’ll demolish the hard yards while you’re at your peak energy levels. Also plan for stops and stretching activities.
A century ride is great to practise a diverse range of riding techniques whilst experiencing something unlike you ever have before.
6. Make hills your friends.
Ah, the dreaded hills. A cyclist’s worst enemy. But are they really?
As treacherous as they look and as exhausted as they make you feel, they’re actually the best part of the route for your fitness levels.
Just like challenging yourself in the gym adding a few extra plates to the barbell, you should be throwing in an extra incline instead of finding the ‘easier’ way around.
Hills do cyclists a world of good by building upon your leg strength and cardio-related capabilities. It’s also good to cycle the same hills over and over, timing yourself each ride and attempting to break previous records.
Compare your times throughout the months and you’ll be sure to start to notice dramatic improvements.
7. Get your buddies together!
Although riding alone can be relaxing and invigorating to a degree, nothing beats hitting the highway for a few hours with your mates who share the same passion.
Get out on the open road and have a chat mid-ride and make things a little more interesting. It’s also a great motivator for those wanting to keep up with their friends who may ride at a more advanced level, encouraging them to shed a few kilos or enhance their fitness.
Don’t be the guy who everyone’s waiting on, watching you panting like a maniac from the top of every slope. Grab your friends and introduce a bit of healthy competition to your cycling game!
By now you should have a nice little mental list for improvement for the next time you head out on two wheels. Remember that just like anything, practise makes perfect, and try to think of these tips and techniques as baby steps towards a more significant goal – becoming the best cyclist you can be!