11 Ways to Bike Ride Faster and Longer
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There aren't many cyclists that wouldn't want to be better riders, but many don't know how. They think that getting a lighter, super expensive bike is the best way to do this, but the most expensive bike won't do much on its own. Instead, here are proven techniques to improve your performance.
Learn to Spin
Increase the cadence, also known as RPM (revolutions per minute), of your legs, to at least to 70-80 RPM. Pros, especially hill climbers, usually spin at around 90-100 RPM. Cycling is about endurance and if your cadence is too low then it means your muscles are pushing too hard and they will become saturated with lactic acid forcing you to rest. High cadence/RPM will train your muscles to use more oxygen (increase mitochondria) and to clear the lactic acid faster.
Climb Hills and Ride Against the Wind
Long rides are fine, but if you want to get stronger you need to work against resistance. This is the same principle that strength training is based on. Riding up hill or into a head wind may not sound pleasant, but both are excellent ways of increasing resistance. In fact, if you have little time to train, this is one way of maximizing your workouts.
At least once a week leave your bike at home and do something else. Go for a swim, a long walk, to yoga, or do whatever other activity interests you. This will help reduce boredom, use unused muscles and joints, reduce the chance of overuse injuries, and make you “miss” cycling a bit.
Have Two Bikes
Keep two bikes, one will be your good bike which will be the lighter one. The other bike will be your training bike and should be heavier, especially the wheels. Most of the time train with the heavier one. This will make you a stronger rider and you will definitely notice the difference when you get on your lighter bike.
Ride with Others
Riding on your own might be fine for maintaining fitness, but if you want to get faster you should ride with others that are a little bit faster than you. This will force you to push yourself in order to keep up.
The value of proper nutrition is often underestimated. What you put into your body will be your fuel for your training, but it will also provide the necessary nutrients for recovery and fitness improvement. For example, if you don't obtain the vitamins and minerals you need your body will not be able to repair the muscle tissue damage caused by your workouts.
If you've studied physiology in high-school you may remember the subject of how energy is made/released so that muscles can work e.g. Kreb's cycle, ATP release. In those physiological reactions water is needed, a lot of it. Without water these processes can't work and therefore muscles can't contract.
Fix Your Weakest Link
What is yours? When riding hard which happens first, do your legs burn or do you feel out of breath? Which ever happens first means that is your weakest link, work on it. For example, if you run out of breath first then you need to work on your cardiovascular fitness. If your legs burn first then you need to work on your muscular endurance.
Apply F.I.T.T. Principles
F.I.T.T. stands for Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type. Apply these principles to improve your cycling fitness.
- Frequency: Refers to how often you perform an activity. In general, in order to maintain a fitness level, 3 workouts per week is enough. However, to improve you should be biking (or exercising) 5-6 times per week.
- Intensity: Relates to how hard a workout is. Most of us have a comfort zone and we tend to stay in it, but this will not result in improvement. To get better you need to increase the intensity (a.k.a. difficulty) and step out of your comfort zone.
- Time: If you normally ride for 45 minutes, bump it up to an hour.
- Train for the Event For example, if you're planning on doing a multi-day ride in 2 months with your riding friends, then that's what you should train for. There's no point in doing 45 minute rides if you are working towards a multi-day tour. The opposite is also true. If you have a sprint competition coming up, it would be a waste of your efforts to focus on long rides.
Proper Bicycle Fit
Being properly fitted is vital to riding long and fast. If you are not comfortable you will get tired much faster and performance will suffer. Or worse, you might end up with a chronic injury forcing you to take time off riding.
The off-season is not an excuse to stop riding. The body likes to return to its natural state, and a lack of working out will result in loss of gains made during the in-season. The first to go is cardiovascular and endurance gains, followed by strength. While you may not be able to go outdoors and do your regular workouts there are still plenty of things you can do:
- Get on that trainer and do what you can to address the boredom e.g. watch TV. It won't be the same, but it'll be better than nothing.
- The off-season is an excellent opportunity to work on muscle strength and joint strengthening by lifting weights.
- Shed those extra pounds. This is hard to do during the in-season because you need to eat to fuel your body for the hard workouts, but in the off-season it should be easier to cut back.
- Just like the pros, get a couple of buddies together and go somewhere warm for a couple of weeks and do some serious riding. This will help you maintain your fitness level.