Tips On How To Become A Better Cyclist | Step-By-Step Guide
Cycling is a great way to get around and be healthy at the same time. It's no wonder it has surged in popularity in recent years.
This article will teach you how to increase your cycling endurance and strength, as well as tips on how to bike more efficiently. Whether you're a beginner looking to build up your strength or an avid cyclist, this guide will help you reach your goals.
Get the right gear
There’s a lot that goes into cycling, and some of it is just optional. You can get by with riding a bike as-is, but you’ll go farther and faster if you have some basic equipment to help your ride along. Here are the basics:
- A helmet that fits you well
- Clothing that is good for biking and weatherproof if needed
- Cycling shoes or whatever shoes fit best on your pedals (running shoes work too)
- Bike lights so you can see at night or in low light situations
- Gloves to keep your hands warm and experience less road vibration through your wrists
Training to improve your cycling performance starts with aerobic training. The foundation of any good training program is a big aerobic base, but if you want to be a better cyclist, there are other elements to consider when planning your training. To make rapid improvements in performance, you need to ride often and consistently, but quality counts too.
Strength Training for Cyclists
Strengthening your muscles and building power is an important part of improving as a cyclist, especially during the off-season. You can do this with upper-body resistance training (think push-ups) and lower body strength work using machines or body weight exercises like squats and lunges. On the bike, either on the road or in spin class, focus on high-intensity intervals of 20–30 seconds with 30–40 seconds rest that target muscular strength and endurance.
Ride on different terrains
To ride like a pro, you’ll need to become an expert on many types of terrain. Try riding in the hills for a workout one day and riding flat roads for a more relaxing ride another day. Cycling apps can help you explore new routes nearby and allow you to share your adventures with friends.
Not all routes are created equally. A hilly route can give you a full-body workout, but it will also be much more challenging than riding on flat terrain. On the other hand, a flat route will be easier, but won't push your limits as much as a hilly route would.
- Map out your rides before hopping on your bike.
- Explore new types of terrain.
- See how far you've gone and how long it took.
Practice riding in different weather
Learning to ride in different weather conditions is not only important for your safety, it’s also a good way to improve your bike handling skills.
Here are some pointers on how to do just that:
- Ride in the rain. It can be fun! If you don’t believe us, check out this article on how to ride in the rain like a pro. Of course, this isn’t always possible—if you live in an area that gets cold and snowy weather, riding in snow is probably not very practical (or safe).
- Dress appropriately. This means having extra layers on hand if you get caught out when it starts sprinkling or the temperature suddenly drops. You can also purchase various gear such as gloves or shoe covers made from waterproof materials (like GoreTex). Rain jackets are indispensable for wet riding conditions and there are plenty of options available from brands like Showers Pass and REI.
- Protect yourself from the elements by investing in some fenders for your bike if the idea of getting pelted with muddy water sounds less than ideal (and it does).
Be a year-round cyclist
No matter what the weather is like, there's always some way you can get outside and ride your bike. The key is to be prepared for whatever comes your way.
Pack the right clothing, including winter gloves, knee warmers and a headband or balaclava if it's really cold out. If you're riding in wet conditions, make sure you have a jacket that will keep the rain off you. A good pair of water resistant pants will also keep you dry on those wet days. And don't be afraid to use fenders to keep your bike clean and mud and water off of yourself as well.
If the temperature drops below freezing, you'll want to use studded tires so that you can still ride on icy roads and trails. If it's extremely cold, but not icy out (or if there's no snow), it could still be nice enough to ride outdoors with the right gear, so don't discount riding because of temperature alone!
Once summer rolls around and temperatures are at their peak during the day, either train early in the morning or late at night when things have cooled down a bit or take advantage of air conditioning by jumping on an indoor trainer or spin bike in your basement or local gym instead! Whatever time of year it is, there's always an excuse to get out and enjoy riding your bike.
Adjust your training to your goals
Before you begin planning your week of training, take time to identify the differences between long-distance and short-distance races. The races are often separated into two types, those that span less than 30 miles and those that are longer, sometimes much longer. Long-distance races tend to be more about endurance and a steady pace, while short-distance events emphasize higher intensity and power.
If you are training for a shorter event, such as a criterium (or crit), which is typically around 1 mile long with multiple laps in a closed circuit course, focus on high intensity efforts during the race to break away from the pack or prevent them from breaking away from you. For example, at the end of each ride do some standing sprints or high cadence intervals (increase cadence by 10%) in your highest gear so that you can practice delivering maximum power output in short bursts.
If you are preparing for an endurance event like a road race or Gran Fondo, which can range anywhere from 100 kilometers (62 miles) to over 200 kilometers (125 miles), work on increasing your aerobic capacity by doing long rides at least once per week at 75% max heart rate or below so that your body gets better at using oxygen efficiently.
Plan ahead to bike more often
Whether you're heading to the shops or taking your family on a sightseeing trip, Google Maps has a nifty cycling directions tool which allows you to calculate the shortest route by bike. This is useful for planning your commute, too.
You can also use these tools to find the best cycle paths and greenways in your local area. They might be slightly longer than the fastest option but they'll be more scenic and may well be quieter roads if you'd rather avoid busy traffic-filled routes.
Once you've done this, keep an eye out for any detours or closures that may affect your journey when you set off.
Ride in a group
Riding in a group is one of the best ways to improve your cycling. Not only is it safer and more fun, but it also provides a great opportunity to learn from others and push yourself.
When riding with a group, riders take turns at the front of the group pushing wind resistance, allowing all riders to save energy and move faster than they would on their own. This is called drafting. If you don’t already know this term, then you’re not ready for group rides!
One significant advantage of riding with a group is that it allows you to experience various styles of riding and learn from other cyclists. For example, good bike handling skills are important in order to ride safely in close proximity to other cyclists (and moving traffic). This skill can be learned by regularly riding with more experienced cyclists who have excellent bike handling skills.
- It is safer.
- You get to learn from others.
- You can push each other.
- It is more fun.
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Choose a cycling partner wisely
You should choose a cycling partner who has similar goals, experience, fitness level and training schedule to yours. You will spend many hours together on long rides and early mornings in the saddle, so make sure you enjoy each other’s company! Choose someone who is good at motivating you and keeping you accountable.
Reap the benefits of a coach or personal trainer
You’re probably not a professional cyclist (though if you are, feel free to send us an email. We’ll help you out). That means there’s a lot you can learn from working with someone who is an expert in their field. Here are some of the benefits of working with a coach or personal trainer:
- Motivation to achieve your goals.
- Helping you focus on technique.
- Creating a workout plan for you that gets results.
- Accountability for hitting your goals and milestones.
- Being a great resource for questions and guidance.
Focus on technique
The single most important cycling skill that you can learn is how to ride better. This seems like a silly thing to say, but bear with me.
One of the biggest factors that separates cyclists who are fast and fit from those who are slow and struggling is technique.
Of course, training is important, you have to put in the time and hard work if you want to get faster. And aerobic capacity (your body's ability to utilize oxygen) helps you go longer farther, but how well you pedal makes the largest difference when it comes to speed and efficiency on a bike.
Improve your bike setup
Cycling is a sport that requires incredible amounts of leg power, so it’s crucial that you have your bike set up correctly. The correct setup will help your knees stay in alignment and also allow you to transfer power more efficiently. Most bike shops offer an initial bike fit for free and will help you determine the right size of frame for you as well as set up the saddle height and fore/aft position. If you live somewhere where this isn't an option, or if your local shop has been less than helpful in the pas
Strengthen your core muscles
You've got your new bike, you know the rules of the road, and you're wearing a helmet. You're ready to ride!
Before you hit the open road, take some time to strengthen your core muscles. Core training will improve your overall cycling ability and reduce the likelihood of injury. A strong core means better posture on the bike, which in turn means fewer aches and pains after a long ride. It also helps with balance, allowing you to maintain control in more precarious situations. Additionally, a well-trained core will give you better power transfer from your legs to the pedals.
Know when to push and when to rest
The most important things to remember when you start cycling are these:
- Push yourself hard enough that you're going to enjoy it and want to do it again. Use intervals of harder exercise, such as sprints, climbs or hills and recover with shorter, easier rides.
- Moving at the same speed from start to finish is more sustainable than moving faster and slowing down more often (which means doing less total distance).
Stretch before rides
Warm-up rides are important to prevent overuse injuries, and you can take the time to get your body prepared. Stretching before a ride helps warm up muscles and ligaments, which means they won't be subjected to the same type of stress when you're on the road. Stretching also improves how well your body performs during a ride, helping reduce the chance of injury. A good warm-up routine includes:
- Standing : Stand up and move your arms and legs in circles as if you were doing jumping jacks. Do this for three minutes before starting a bike ride or run.
- Walking : Walk while moving one foot at a time in front of the other leg, making sure both feet do not touch the ground at any point (think high knees).
Stretch after rides
Stretching after a ride is just as important as pre-ride stretching. What you want to do at this point is slowly ease your muscles into recovery mode, so you don't want to push them too hard or over exert them. A few stretches that are helpful are:
- Leg swings—hold onto a wall and swing each leg back and forth like a pendulum, then side-to-side. Do 10-20 reps on each side.
- Kneeling hip flexor stretch—kneel in front of a chair and place one leg on top of the chair with the knee bent at 90 degrees. The other leg should be planted on the ground in front of you so that your knee is almost touching the floor. Lean forward, keeping your torso upright into a lunge position. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs. Repeat two times per side.
- Calf stretches—stay standing up, but move both feet back until you're in an "updog" yoga pose (feet pointing behind you). You'll feel pressure on your calves, but not pain; if it hurts too much or feels uncomfortable, try moving farther away from the wall by taking another step backward with each foot until you get to a point where there's just enough pressure without feeling any pain or discomfort. Do 15 reps and three sets for each foot position.
Rest up for recovery
When you train, you break down your muscles and deplete your energy stores. It’s only when you’re resting that your body repairs itself, builds new muscle fibers and replenishes energy stores. And it’s this adaptation process that makes you fitter and stronger, ready to handle more intense training sessions in the future.
That means rest days are just as important as training days. So what should you do if time is tight? First of all, try to build a complete rest day into each week. That means no cycling at all – not even a short spin on the turbo trainer. If that isn’t possible, then think about including some recovery rides into your schedule instead of high-intensity sessions or long rides (it can be beneficial to vary the intensity of your training programme). A recovery ride is one where both effort and duration are low – around 30 minutes at an easy pace will suffice (try chatting with a group mate for those 30 minutes if that helps keep the intensity down).
And on any given day, don't worry too much about how far or fast you ride; instead focus on how well you recover by making sure you eat well immediately after exercise - aim for 1g of protein per kg of body weight within 30 minutes - getting plenty of sleep at night and having an ice bath pre-bedtime if possible (to relieve inflammation).
Now that you know how to get stronger and faster on your bike, it's time to put it all into practice. The best way to improve your cycling is to simply ride more. And while you're riding, work on building power, climbing smoothly, and getting the most out of each pedal stroke.
Of course, there are other important things like strength training off the bike and tuning your bike fit so that you can focus on pedaling circles rather than trying to get comfortable.
However, remember that even with a perfect bike fit and a body like Superman's, there will always be days when you won't have what it takes to ride fast or far. Stay tuned in to your body's signals so that you know when it's time for rest or recovery after an exhausting ride or race.