The best way to get better at cycling is to ride more and train better. But there are other ways that each ride can be improved, and it's not just about getting faster.
You may not have the time to train like a pro, but that doesn’t mean you can’t reap the benefits of a little pro-level training. Try these tricks from pro trainers’ and race better than ever, no matter your riding style or goals.
Let’s ride on!
1. The empty(ish) stomach makes a better sleep
‘Denied fuel for five hours, your body will start burning its own fat,’ says fitness expert and author Bob Harper. That means if your dinner was at 8pm, you’ll be burning fat by 1 am.
The best pros go to bed just a little bit hungry,” says also Allen Lim, PhD, who has worked as a sports scientist for pro Tour teams and now runs Skratch Labs in Boulder, Colorado.
The lack of carbs in your bloodstream will also let your body produce the hormones it needs for better sleep.
'When you go to bed moderately hungry, you lose about a pound a week.
2. Save your energy
“It’s easy to ride well when you’re fresh, but race-winning moves are often needed exactly when you least want them to occur.
Being able to settle in and do work when all the alarm bells are going off in your body is worthwhile,” says Rob Pickels, team manager of BCS Elite Devo at Boulder Junior Cycling and lead exercise physiologist at CU Sports Medicine and Performance Center. “Doing higher-intensity efforts in a glycogen-depleted state, like the end of a ride, may help build your mitochondria. So your fast-twitch fibers that you use during higher power-output efforts become more oxidative—they burn more fat and less glycogen.
Being a better fat burner at higher intensities is a definite performance booster in endurance sports like cycling”, he says.
As sports psychologist and author of The Only Way To Win, Dr Jim Loehr puts it, ‘Toughness is the ability to consistently perform towards the upper range of your skill regardless of the circumstances.’
3. Freeze a bottle before a hot ride
Next time you go out for a long, hot ride, pre-freeze the liquid in one of your bidons. Leave it for the last part of the ride, by which time it’ll have melted, and you’ll have a long, cool, refreshing drink to see you into the home straight.
4.Squeeze fresh lime juice into your water bottles
Limes are amazing. As the flavonoids in lime juice has a proven track record as a powerful anti-bacterial agent it’ll help keep the inside of your bidons clean.
It’ll also add a zesty tang to metallic-tasting tap water, while providing your immune system with a dash of vitamin C.
5. Learn to ride steady
Pros spend a lot of time riding at a steady pace to build and maintain a strong foundation of endurance fitness, where you have optimum fat-burning and capillary development, says longtime pro trainer Iñigo San Millán, PhD, director of the Exercise Physiology and Human Performance Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado. “The bulk of your riding should be in ‘Zone 2,’ or at an intensity where you can have a conversation—about a 5 to 6 on a 1 to 10 scale,” he says. This intensity isn’t slow or easy; rather, it’s a steady, moderate pace from start to finish. So while it feels almost too easy when you first roll out, by the time you finish you should feel as though you’ve done some work.
6. Always have some duct tape with you
Duct tape is a great thing to have with you. Simply wrap a piece around your seat post or your on-board pump and forget about it until the day you need it.
It can be used to remedy any number of sticky in-the-saddle situations from patching up torn waterproofs or busted mudguards to providing an emergency fix for a slashed tire.
7. Save that valve cap
When changing a tire, many people get rid of the plastic valve cap that comes on the fresh inner tube, but you should absolutely hang onto it because it might save you in a tight spot. If you cut the top off, the cap can be used as a makeshift Presta to Schrader valve converter.
It’s not perfect, but in a pinch, you can use this little hack to use the air compressor at your local gas station if you get a flat out on the road and can’t quite get your tires topped off with your mini pump or CO2 canisters. It's also a hell of a lot cheaper than a proper Presta to Schrader converter.
8. Furniture polish for your frame
Not only will furniture polish give your bike a bit of sparkle, but it will limit the amount of dirt that will stick to your frame on your next ride. It's a cheaper alternative to the bike specific products too!
- The rear tire wears much faster than the front. When replacing a rear tire, swap the front to the back, and put the new one on the front.
- When road biking, use rimless sunglasses without ventilation holes. You need to keep your eyes from drying out, and you don't want to be looking at the top rims when you are leaning forward.
- Thin bandannas under your helmet do an amazing job at keeping sweat out of your eyes.
- Always carry a plastic bag for your cell phone, in case it starts to rain.
- If road biking, wear real cycling clothes, not cotton T-shirts that get soaked, or impervious wind jackets that balloon up.