Shatter your best race times with these five simple tricks for going faster.
improving fitness, raising lactate threshold, and producing enough wattage to toast bread (or at least your riding buddies’ legs) takes time and hard work. There are no shortcuts.
What’s often overlooked, especially with a big event like the 947 Cycle Challenge around the corner, is that there are small but significant gains you can make just by refining your technique. Working on these skills now can make you faster come race day. Here’s how you can gain instant speed. Sprint Faster Gear down a hair. One of the most common mistakes riders make when initiating their sprint is tossing it into a huge gear before they jump, which actually leads to a slower blast-off than they’d get out of a lighter gear, says cycling coach John Verheul.
“That big resistance may feel powerful, but remember: power is force times velocity, and that second component is worth a lot,” he says.
“Most people accelerate better at a pedalling cadence of 100rpm than at 80rpm. Even muscular, weightlifting track sprinters don’t start the sprint at 75 or 80rpm; nor do fast road and criterium sprinters.” Climb Faster You often have to start more slowly, so you can ramp up your pace as you get closer to the top instead of fading back to a grind. The first step is starting in an easier gear. Punching a tall gear into a climb – no matter how good you feel at first – is a recipe for cooked legs.
Click into a gear you can spin at least 70rpm and keep your effort level below threshold, at about a six on a one to 10 effort-level scale. As you work your way up the climb, gradually pick up the pace, increasing your effort to a seven, then to an eight. When the top is within sight, get out of the saddle and crank it over the top. Shift Seamlessly Good shifting can make you faster in a matter of seconds. Seriously. “Ask yourself: Am I always in the most effective gear for what I’m doing at that moment? If not, why?” says Verheul. The goal is getting your hands to shift in sync with what your legs need.
Practise, practise, practise. “Find a rolling section of road and practise – over and over – shifting smoothly to stay at a constant RPM, even when speeds vary widely,” he says. “That’s not necessarily your ultimate goal; but it’s a good drill to learn the skill of shifting at the right time, so it becomes intuitive.” Descend Smoothly Ironically, some of the best climbers lose the most time on the descents, because they never bother working on the downside. If all descents were a perfectly straight line, this wouldn’t be an issue. But corners cause problems.
To carve them more confidently, concentrate on one thing: your weight distribution, says Verheul. “Put your inside hand on the drops and the outside foot down with the crank at six o’clock. Those two points are where 80% of your weight should be, with the remaining 20% on the saddle.” That position keeps enough weight on your front and rear tyres to help them grip.
Learning to scrub speed rather than treating your brakes like an on/off switch will go a long way towards helping you to maintain faster pace overall; and more importantly, to ride safely. “Learn to feather your brakes, and have some nuance,” says Verheul. “Figure out how many fingers you need to modulate your speed, and keep the others wrapped around the bar.”
Practise pulling lightly and evenly to control your speed – even pedalling, while lightly feathering your brakes – to finesse your speed, rather than slowing way down and having to accelerate back up to speed over and over, which wastes energy.