If watching the Tour de France has whet your riding appetite, you’re in the best position to get started, with spring rolling around and a summer of Australian cycling ahead. You can usually find some great sales at bike stores this time of year as well before the new seasons stock comes in.
In our last article we set you up with SMART goals. Smart goals are goals that have a very specific outcome, so you know what you are aiming for. They also have measurable results, both now and in the future, are structured around a time frame and give you something to get excited about.
Now we go one further and show you how to get those goals working with ready to go riding enhancement techniques that will have you seeing improvements to your performance in time for summer.
Work these fun, fitness and technical riding tips into your cycling goal plan.
1. Find a little more speed
Efficient riding means finding ways to shave off milliseconds. When you add up all those moments you end up being faster overall. Usually a professional cyclist will specialise in a particular area of time efficiency where they will close a gap and increase (their competitive edge)
Places you can find speed:
Perfect aerodynamics doesn’t make up a huge difference in time for the average rider, when you are at the pro-cycling level every second you can gain though counts, especially over a long distance so it’s worth ducking into a wind tunnel to style) will significantly decrease your wind drag and improve speed, especially if you are confronted with a headwind. What matters more on your ride is efficiency. Are you getting the best power from your legs? The wrong position can not only mean wasted energy but also increased risk of injury. When you have your bike set up right you can get more power out with less energy (output).
More accurately this one comes down to correct braking techniques. Braking through a corner is what causes you to lose time. Coming into a corner without as much power enables you to stay off the brakes (or apply less pressure) and push hard from the apex to gain speed coming out.
Not every rider is a super fast descender, there is a lot more to it than just gravity. You might find that you prefer to gain time through power climbing rather than rocketing back down. However, there are certain times when a well executed descent makes for massive gains, in particular when you have a series of rises. Coming down one rise with speed and not breaking before the next climb will significantly assist you in getting over that next climb as the (torque power) of the descent will carry you up. For this to be most effective, pedal into the descent, hold the speed coming off the descent and up the next climb. Please be safe and only practice this when you have clear vision of the road ahead and it is a safe road to gain speed on.
Aim to go 1-1.5 kilometres an hour faster on your next ride. You’ll need a decent timing device or bike computer to clock your time.
So if you normally complete a 60-kilometre ride in 2 hours the next time you ride this route (under similar weather conditions) you will be aiming to complete the ride in 1hour 57-58 minutes. It seems simple enough but over time your small shortcuts and increased efficiency will significantly improve not only your overall ride time but also skill and confidence.
Being faster also conserves your energy as you allow your bike to carry more momentum.
2. Be comfortable
Nothing will slow you down or impact your performance faster than a niggling pain or uncomfortable ride.
Small hurts like blisters, chafing or numb fingers to bigger issue like knee, shoulder or back pain can cause distractions, have you stopping more frequently or decrease your motivation to ride.
Make sure your bike is set up correctly, wear clothes that are cycling specific and fit you perfectly. Have the extras you need on hand (jacket, arm warmers and gloves) in case the weather turns sour.
Do warm up exercises before your ride to ensure your muscles are warm and relaxed and also do core work to keep the muscles around your spine strong. If you don’t already exercise think about taking up gentle muscle toning classes in Pilates or yoga.
3. Eat well
Fuel up before a big ride and have snacks available (like a banana in your back pocket) to keep you going for the ride distance. Take more food than you think you’ll need just to be safe. On a full day ride have your first snack about 30 minutes in and then have something small every hour or so.
Off the bike eat plenty of colourful natural foods that will boost your antioxidants, improve circulation and help you recover when you get off the bike.
4. Cycle more
Find ways to get more time on the bike. Ride to work (or train part way and cycle the rest), ride to the shops or make your weekend outing a ride to somewhere new. The more you cycle the better you will get and the more confidence you will have with your bike handling skills.
Be creative with your routes so you are stimulated and rewarded by your rides, get together with other cyclists to make it a social occasion and plan your week so you can find time to ride.
Climbing hills is a great way to increase your fitness as it requires a lot of energy and power. Look for safe sections of road with small climbs to get you started and practice through the burn. This is the perfect way to improve your cardiovascular fitness and power on the bike. It also gives you more practice on descents as well.
6. Increase distance
Community rides are great incentives to go for big distances. They also encourage riding as fun with plenty of breaks and ride support along the way.
Take your time and enjoy the scenery, meet new people and get used to the feeling of some serious kilometres under your belt. Pace yourself and stick with riders that you feel are moving at your speed. If you are short of breath or can’t manage a conversation through panting you are pushing too hard. Slow down and take it easy.
Want to get going on a long distance ride without the crowds? Make a weekend of it and plan an overnight stay in a nice hotel or B ‘n’ B. This one is only about distance so don’t worry about speed or frequent stops. Meet a friend or family member at your stop point so you don’t have to carry any bags.
Every bit of work you do will allow you to increase performance on the bike, even the smallest bit counts over time so stick with your goals, mix up the action and love riding.
Enjoying long summer days with more time out on the bike? That’s freedom!