If you’re new to cycling, you’ll know the learning curve can be steep. Whether you’re looking to get faster, lose weight or get more comfortable on the bike, these 10 cycling tips are the best we’ve ever heard:
When you get into cycling, there can be a lot of gear to buy. But while you might be able to get away with a cheaper jersey, helmet or shoes, a good pair of bibshorts can make a world of difference in your overall comfort. The Lycra compresses your muscles better, the straps won’t bunch up and will keep your shorts in the right place and a high-end chamois pad will cushion your sore spots much more over long distances. A quality pair of bibshorts is also usually well made and constructed with quality fabrics that last many more cycles through the wash than a cheap pair, making the extra cost negligible over time.
While you might not know how to tune a derailleur or true a wheel, most major bike maintenance can be avoided simply by keeping your drivetrain sparkling clean. Cleaning your bike also doesn’t take much time, is pretty easy and can make your parts last longer and perform better. When you have time, give your frame and wheels a quick wipe down, too.
A bike that doesn’t fit right can cause true misery. Knee pain, an achy low back, numbness in the hands and feet, neck pain and numbness near your privates can all result from things like incorrect saddle height or a handlebar reach that’s a little too far. Instead of trying to make major adjustments on a bike you bought off Craigslist, it’s a better idea to get a good bike fit from a professional at your local bike shop before you decide on a purchase. In the end, it’ll save you money from having to purchase more than one bike — and you’ll take fewer trips to a physical therapist for all your aches and pains.
There’s a lot of conflicting advice as to what the optimal cadence is. Some schools of thought say 90 revolutions per minute is best. Others say riding more than 100 rpms saves your muscles from fatiguing. But the best advice we’ve heard on the topic is every person is different, and you should experiment with different cadences during training to find one that’s right for you.
Just keep in mind that this advice doesn’t mean that completing some of your interval training in a lower gear at a cadence between 60–70 rpm and practicing a high cadence above 100 rpm won’t help you develop your pedaling efficiency and power; both can be a beneficial way to mix up your workouts.
If you want to get the most from your workouts, you should always have a plan. This means avoiding Zone 3 efforts or workouts that are neither hard or easy, fast or slow, and fall somewhere in between. While easy, short rides are needed for recovery, the majority of your rides should either be long and slow or short and fast. The stuff in the middle won’t benefit you as much and will eventually lead to a plateau in your fitness.
This quote from professional Greg LeMond couldn’t be more true. Cycling is a hard sport, and no matter how long you ride it will always (and should) be difficult. As your fitness improves, you should be riding harder or longer — and challenging yourself to the same kind of difficulties you felt as a beginner. The only thing that should change is the speedometer.
Yes, the general rule of thumb is to ride to the far right of the road in the bike lane or shoulder. But when traffic is tight and cars are constantly trying to squeeze past you, it’s much safer to claim your space on the road and ride directly in the lane of traffic. This gives you more space to operate, is totally legal, makes you more visible and can keep you from getting clipped by a vehicle attempting to inch past you in a tight space. When stop-and-go traffic ceases and the speed of the vehicles picks up to a pace you can’t keep up with, you can always move back to the right.
Learning to draft can make a huge difference in the amount of distance you are able to cover. This is because on average, the cyclist riding behind another rider saves about 35% of total energy expenditure as compared to riding the same speed alone or on the front. But to get comfortable with riding closely behind another cyclist you’ll need to practice a lot with cyclists you trust.
Either with a group of friends or with a few members of your cycling club, practicing with a paceline — pulling at the front then drafting. Try to stay about one bike’s length behind the rider in front of you until you get more comfortable, then decrease the distance to about the width of a wheel for maximum benefit. Practice on a road with little traffic or other obstacles where sudden braking won’t be needed, and make sure the rest of your members are on the same page so you can communicate accordingly when a decrease in speed (or a stop) may be needed.
There will be days when you either don’t have the time to go out for a ride or the weather doesn’t allow it. On those days, it’s still possible to get in just as good of a workout — if not better — on the indoor trainer. While it will cost some money to set up initially (trainers range from $100–$1,000), you’ll find yourself using it more often than you might think.
An indoor trainer makes easy to get in a quick ride almost any time of day, doesn’t require much pre-ride preparation and is much safer when doing high-speed interval training. You also won’t have to worry about traffic lights, stop signs, traffic or getting a flat tire in the rain. Since there’s no coasting, an hour on the trainer is as good a workout as an hour and a half on the road. This convenience and efficiency makes it an essential tool for anyone looking to lose weight or boost their overall fitness.
If a trainer isn’t in the picture, an indoor cycling class at your local gym or studio works, too.
Just like anything else, if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, the chances of you being successful are significantly decreased. Whether you’ve taken up cycling to race, lose weight or socialize on the weekends, you need to enjoy what you’re doing and have as much fun on the bike as possible. In the end, this is what keeps you coming back for more and leads to the fitness gains you’re looking for.