3 Rules to Becoming A Better Cyclist
When it comes to performing your best on the bike, there are plenty of people willing to give advice. But what do the world’s best riders do? Let’s look at their top 3 suggestions…
1. Ride with people who are better than you.
Professional athletes in any sport usually get there because of the inspiration and instruction of a mentor. Cycling is no different. Top female cyclist, Jillian Petersen quickly improved her cycling by riding several times a week with a few guys who were speedier than she was. “They would go on these very difficult, hilly, technical rides,” Petersen said, and she would have to ride her best just to stay up with them. These rides would last anywhere from about two to three hours.
2. Ride your bike alone.
There are no real shortcuts to becoming a better cyclist—you simply have to get your bum on the saddle. If you are committed to getting better you have to fit rides in whenever you can. In the morning, before lunch, following an afternoon meeting, or before dinner. It’s nice to ride with others but that’s not always possible. “The longer I spent on the bike, the faster I got,” Petersen said. But don’t think that your cycling strength is going to materialize overnight. “It took me, at least two full years to really get a good handle on the strength side of cycling,”
There are three scientific principles of endurance training:
For an individual to reach their maximal performance potential for a given endurance competitive event they must put in a certain amount of volume and intensity for that exercise (or combination of exercises) – but most importantly they must do so consistently. The main take away message here is that volume and intensity are crucial parts of any training program and you have to incorporate them consistently if you want to get better.
“Ride your bike alone” not only touches on how to get faster, it also touches on what you should be doing to get faster. This gets into cross training and other exercises besides cycling. Some people swear up and down that some kind of exercise other than cycling, be it core, yoga, running, weight lifting, etc., helps them get faster on the bike. Well, maybe. It depends how you slice it. In the strictest sense I’d say probably not. Becoming a better cyclist boils down to this: If you want to get faster on the bike, are motivated to ride your bike, have time to ride your bike, are injury-free, then ride your bike.
3. Ride with a tracking device.
I don’t think it can be stressed enough how important it is to log your workouts. Tracking your progress is a mark of training maturity. It is the realization that in order to move your training forward you must know where you’ve been, and in order to do that you must keep a record of what you are doing. It is taking ownership of your rides.
Remember this principle: You can not improve what you do not measure.
Tracking is an important habit to develop. Some of us are extremely competitive with others, but ALL of us will compete with ourselves! If you ride your bike on a regular basis, you’ve probably got what it takes to log your training. Once you start, oh my, you can become your own best competitor! When you are tracking your rides, even parts of them (the 2 mile incline at Grass Valley, or the 10 mile telephone pole stretch into Stuart, you start competing with yourself to improve!
There are several smart phone apps for cyclists. Each is free, but with some of them you can unlock more bells and whistles for a fee. Most of will measure your distance, moving time, elevation gain, energy output, elapsed time, calories burned, etc. The most important feature of all would be their ability to save, track and compare your progress with previous rides. Once done, uploading a ride results in automatic ranking of your times over popular stretches of road and trail. There’s nothing better than seeing a “PR” medal show up on your screen after your ride, or a segment of it. And if your friends ride also, apps like Strava (#1 below), is a great way to share your activity and get some high-fives from your ridding buddies. No doubt, Strava’s special sauce is its social component. Much like Facebook, you can follow your friends and see where and how hard they’re riding, leave comments and give kudos on their rides, and post Instagram photos that automatically link with your own rides.
Here are five of our favorite Apps for cyclists:
4. Cyclemeter: Learn more: Cyclemeter for iPhone (not available for Android)
Undoubtably, the new Apple Watch will be a contender, and maybe #1 on our list, but it’s new and we haven’t collected enough feedback from our riders yet. It comes with a heart rate sensor, GPS, and accelerometer. Expect an article coming soon covering the Apple Watch for riders and athletes.