The Top 5 Ways to Be a Better Cyclist

Marc Lindsay
by Marc Lindsay
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The Top 5 Ways to Be a Better Cyclist

Whether it’s an overuse injury or neglecting basic bicycle maintenance, most of the problems you’ll encounter as a cyclist can be avoided. And more often than not, it’s the simple stuff that gets overlooked.

Here are five ways to keep simple slipups from happening to you.

1. GET A PROFESSIONAL BIKE FIT

Believe it or not, most injuries related to cycling have nothing to do with falling off your bike. In fact, a recent study shows that up to 85% of cyclists will suffer an overuse injury at some point during their lifetimes. And the culprit is almost always a bad bike fit.

Anterior knee pain turns out to be the most common ailment, resulting in over 50% of the reported overuse injuries in the study above. While high revolutions per minute is a factor, the research points to common bike fit issues as the likely cause. A saddle that’s too low or too far forward can put more stress on the tendons and ligaments in the knee than is necessary, and often leads to inflammation and pain.

A bike-fit expert can fine-tune your position is worth the seemingly hefty price tag. Millimeters matter, and though a $300 bike fit might sound expensive, it’s a lot cheaper than the cost of seeing a physical therapist, or worse.

2. PRIORITIZE BIKE MAINTENANCE

During my last visit to my favorite local bike shop, Bicycle Emporium in Scottsdale, Arizona, I asked one of the the mechanics what was his biggest piece of advice to keep a bike out of the shop. His answer: Keep your drivetrain squeaky clean.

While neglect is often the cause of the collection of dirt and grime that can build up on the chain, derailleurs and cassette, it isn’t the only reason. Putting too much lube on your chain can be just as big of a problem because it collects all that road gunk quicker than it would with no lube at all.

To combat this, make sure you clean your chain and other components with a degreaser once per week. Follow this up with a chain lube. One drop per link should suffice, but make sure to wipe off any excess lube with a rag before you head out.


READ MORE

> Bicycle Maintenance 101: How to Change a Flat Tire
> 1-Minute DIY Bike Maintenance Fixes
> Your Pre-Ride Checklist


3. DIVERSIFY YOUR TRAINING ZONES

Cyclists all too often get sucked out a little too fast by a riding partner on an easy day or end up chasing the wheel of a stranger up the road on a relaxed commute home. This can really kill a good training plan, because you end up training with the exact same intensity every time you ride — and doing the bulk of your training in zone 3 is neither slow enough or fast enough for you to see big improvements.

While zone 3 is likely the most comfortable for you to ride in, you’ll quickly plateau and see minimal gains. These studies show that an 80:20 ratio of easy to hard training is the most beneficial for endurance athletes who want to improve aerobic fitness and speed. This means lots of long, slow miles in zones 1 and 2, and shorter interval workouts that stay in zones 4 and 5 no more than 1–2 times per week.

4. GET THE PROPER NUTRITION

The cool thing about cycling is that you can cover huge distances on your training rides and burn lots of calories. The catch-22 to this: To ride all of those long, slow miles, you’ll need to focus on fueling properly.

A big mistake cyclists make is skimping on pre-ride and recovery meals because they want to lose weight. This is counterproductive, because you’ll recover slower and have less energy to ride those long distances.

While a well-balanced meal that includes plenty of carbohydrates, protein and fats is generally a good way to go, this study shows the importance of including plenty of carbs in your pre-ride meal and during exercise for optimal performance — particularly for rides greater than two hours in length.

So if you want to ride long distances and burn big calories, you’re going to need the fuel to do it right.

5. BE PREPARED

No matter how long your ride is, there are two things you always have to be prepared for:

  1. A flat tire
  2. A change in the weather

Two mistakes cyclists often make are thinking that one flat tire is all that could go wrong and assuming that a sunny sky means a storm isn’t lurking around the corner. The good news is you don’t need to carry a toolbox or your closet with you on the bike to remedy these potential hazards.

To be ready for what the road can dish out, follow this advice:

  • Always check the weather online before you leave the house. This includes not only the current forecast, but also the future forecast for where you are and where you’re going to be.
  • Carry a packable raincoat, especially in the spring and fall when the weather can change quickly.
  • Get a patch kit, and know how to use it. If you already carry a spare tube and mini pump, a patch kit can repair most minor flats without the need for multiple tubes.
  • If you do have a flat, don’t toss the old tube. Keep it around if a repair is possible. The next flat could be worse.

GEAR UP FOR YOU NEXT RIDE

> Men’s Cycling Gear
> Women’s Cycling Gear
> All Cycling Gear


About the Author

Marc Lindsay
Marc Lindsay

Marc is a freelance writer based in Scottsdale, Arizona. He holds a master’s degree in writing from Portland State University and is a certified physical therapy assistant. An avid cyclist and runner of over 20 years, Marc contributes to LAVA, Competitor and Phoenix Outdoor magazines. He is the former cycling editor for Active.com.

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