Fit Chick

Bicycling (South Africa) - - INSIDE! - FIRST THINGS FIRST:

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.

Brake Smarter

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.

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