Canadian Cycling Magazine
How to Get the Most Out of Summer
Maximize every bit of the season this year
Ride farther, take on new challenges, get a friend cycling and enjoy a tasty drink
Want to make this the best biking summer of your life? Whether you’re a new rider or you’ve been racing for years, 2021 is going to look a little bit different than past summers. You may not get to travel to faraway cycling destinations, but you can still have an awesome time riding to your local swimming hole (and maybe even camping there). Here are the ways you can make the most out of the warm months in 2021.
Ride a gnarly descent
So you finally want to tackle that local descent, the one that trips you up every time you’re out on your mountain bike or gravel rig. First step: don’t show up to the descent exhausted – but be warmed up and feeling good.
“Once you’re there, pause and walk the obstacle, looking at your different line choices,” says Ontario-based mountain bike skills coach Peter Glassford. “Part of line choice that people often don’t think about is mapping out little points that they’re going to get to, especially on a longer descent or something that has a couple corners. Think about going from Point A and then B and then C and then D and connecting those dots. This is much easier and more effective than thinking about the whole monstrous descent. If you just look at this first chunk to the first corner, that’s doable. Once you are at the corner, then you look to the next section. You might have to stop and pause and restart, but that’s fine.”
When you do start your ride down, think of the attack position. “Be standing on the bike, with your knees and elbows slightly bent,” Glassford says. “Feel confident in your posture, feel centred and athletic. I always try to relate this position to basketball when you’re poised and waiting to jump or catch the ball.”
“When you are going down the descent, you want to be scanning the trail. A mistake a lot of riders make is thinking that there’s one magical spot to look,” he adds. “If we fixate on one log or one rock, that’s obviously going to be an issue. Skilled descenders are going to be very good at looking past things and letting their bike roll over obstacles smoothly.”
Crush your first century (or farthest ride ever)
When it comes to long rides, it is all about the snacks. So, instead of focusing on a training plan for covering a big distance, here’s a look at what to eat to sustain you through 100 miles of riding. “Assuming that you’ve trained properly physically, what is going to limit your success? For most people, that’s going to be fuel and hydration,” says Anne Guzman, Ontario-based performance nutritionist and founder of NSAG.CA.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an elite rider or a recreational athlete, you should have a plan or strategy in place for fuelling a 100-mile (160-km) ride. Guzman recommends testing before you go: ride 80 km and practise your hydration and fuelling strategy to make sure the gels you’ve chosen don’t give you instant gut rot.
If you’re hoping to set a new personal record for a 100-miler, focus on fuelling before and during your ride with simple carbohydrates to keep your glycogen stores replenished. “Your strategy should be pretty dialed in terms of timing,” Guzman says. “Know how much you want to eat and drink per hour.” Aim for between 60 to 90 g of carbohydrates per hour (240 to 360 calories) – but do your homework ahead of time with those mock events so you know the amount that’s right for you. Make sure you know where you’ll be able to refill water bottles, or plan to carry enough water to make it through the day. “If you’re dehydrated, your day is over,” she adds.
Remember: act early and often when it comes to fuelling a long effort. “I suggest eating and drinking in the first half an hour, not waiting until you get depleted after two and a half hours,” Guzman says. Set a timer to remind you if you’re not great at eating on the bike.
If your goal is simply completing a century for the first time, you have many fuelling options. “The good news is that if you’re not going at high intensity, you can have a bit of fat and protein mixed in there,” Guzman says. “You have more leeway to enjoy something like a peanut butter and jam sandwich rather than just relying on gels and drink mix. If you’re getting to that eight- to 10-hour mark, you’re going to get tired of just eating sugar. You may even want some savoury options, such as a soft pretzel or sandwich with a slice of cheese.”
Do the thing you hate
This tip may seem to run counter to a summer full of fun riding, but there’s a method to the madness. If you dread hills, it makes heading out on a ride with friends stressful if you haven’t seen the route. You may find yourself skipping certain events or getting stuck using the same few flat routes around you, never exploring beyond them. But it’s time to see these dislikes and challenges as chances
“It is all about the snacks.”
for easy, fast improvement. ”I don’t think of these things as weaknesses,” says Neal Henderson of Apex Coaching. “Instead, I call those things opportunities – areas where we can make big improvements.”
Get Socratic about it by questioning why you believe that you don’t like hills. Ask yourself why you hate them, and keep asking why until you get to an answer that you can fix. For example: “Why do I hate hills? Because they’re hard. Why are they hard? Because I feel like
I’m going super slow. Why do I feel slow? Because I’m looking down at my computer and see my pace drop.” You can keep exploring and dig even deeper, but right there, you have a potential solution to your hill issue. Cover your computer so you’re not confronted by a slower pace. You can also plan shorter routes when hills are involved so you don’t have to worry about taking more time. Once you know why you are hesitant about doing hilly rides, you’ll likely see that your dislike wasn’t based on a strong foundation. Maybe it was even a bit silly. Then, you’ll happily accept your slower pace on your next adventure.
Bring a non-cycling friend out for a ride
Bringing a new cyclist out for a ride is one of the best ways to remember how much fun riding can be, since your goal here isn’t going to be getting your workout done, taking a Strava segment, or hitting a certain wattage. It’s all about showing your friend that riding is a pleasant activity. So no dropping them in the first 400 m.
“When I’m talking to a new rider, they’re often nervous that they’re going to get dropped on one of our group rides, so they don’t want to come out,” says Laurie Ewen, one of the driving forces behind the women’s arm of the Moose Jaw Pavers cycling club in Saskatchewan. “But I explain to them that our Monday-night rides aren’t about being the fastest. We’re not about being the best. We’re both encouraging each other, and having a good time, playing on more technical trails and learning from each other but not pushing anyone to do anything that they don’t want to do.”
Plan an extremely easy route, preferably one that ends with ice cream or cold beer. Make sure that you’re constantly checking in with your friend to make sure that he or she is feeling OK with the pace, drinking enough and having a good time. Remember, if you’re struggling to get a sentence out or feeling like the pace is feeling a little hot, it’s almost a guarantee that your friend is suffering too. (If you’re considering a “cute” tandem date with your partner, try at least one regular bike ride first to get on the same page. There’s nothing worse than sharing a drivetrain when one of you hasn’t ridden in 10 years.)
Mix the perfect refreshing DIY sports drink for summer
If you have a drink mix that you love, by all means, enjoy it this summer. But if you’re looking for something new, consider making your own. In Fuelyourride, sports nutrition expert Nanci Guest explains how making your own drink is a great way to save money and dial in the flavours that you like. Her favourite recipe for a diy drink is simple: mix a pinch of sea salt, 350 ml of filtered water, and 175 ml of organic cranberry or apple juice in your water bottle. You can play with the flavours for summer. Go for cranberry with a squirt of lime for a cocktail-onthe-beach vibe. Margarita lovers can consider shaking two tablespoons of agave syrup, a pinch of sea salt and a few squirts of lime together for a virgin version of their favourite drink.