10 TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR ROAD-RIDING PERFORMANCE
You spend the majority of any triathlon race in a saddle, so if you can make it as comfortable and hassle-free as possible, why wouldn’t you? Here are 10 simple tricks and techniques to boost your ride time…
01 CHOOSE YOUR POSITION
Do you stand or do you sit? It’s a common question when it comes to ascending. The answer? That depends on your anatomy as there’s evidence that larger triathletes will benefit from remaining in the saddle while lighter ones should stand more. A further study from Professor Ernst Hansen showed that road cyclists were more efficient when remaining seated until the gradient hit 10%. After that, standing became more efficient.
02 TAP INTO TECH
A bike computer’s a worthwhile purchase and not one that needs to break the bank. Yes, top-end models from the likes of Garmin and Polar generate enough data to satiate the most committed technophile’s appetite. But there remain more affordable options like the sub-£50 Cateye Micro Wireless Bike Computer, which has 10 features including current speed and trip distance.
03 LEARN TO WIND-CHEAT
Riding in the wind’s a useful skill to learn in the UK. More experienced can learn to ride in packs and even form echelons, where you shape your mini-peloton depending on the angle of the wind. But to start with, simply remember to shift down a gear or two to maintain a smooth, efficient pedal stroke. That’ll mean decreased speed but that’s fine. Measure your ride by effort rather than what speed/hr you can hit. This is where a heart rate monitor comes in handy. When the headwind strikes, aim to remain at a pre-specified hear rate and you’ll pace your ride far more effectively.
04 INVEST IN A TURBO
A turbo trainer’s a useful purchase to keep you riding through all weathers. Beyond increasing fitness, they’re also great to improve technique. The one-legged pedalling drill naturally achieves this goal by ensuring you pedal in a nice, efficient circular fashion. To take this to the next level, hold the opposite hand off the hood as well so that you’re engaging your trunk. This is particularly good for your abs and obliques.
05 MAINTAIN SPEED
Your bike’s only as good as your cleaning routine. That means ideally cleaning your chain, gears, brakes and wheels every two to three weeks. Lubricate the moving parts regularly, too. When it’s winter, go for the ‘wet’ version so they won’t wash off through puddles.
06 HANDLE LIKE A PRO
Crank up your confidence by improving your cornering skills. A guaranteed way to turn more proficiently is by entering a corner wide, cutting in and then exiting wide. Reduce speed before entering the corner rather than during. Once this becomes easy, ask a cycling or triathlon friend to ride into the corner ahead of you and follow them. Start a couple metres back and, as confidence grows, ride closer. This’ll improve your handling with and without a riding pal.
07 MAXIMISE YOUR COMMUTE
With many of us returning to the office, your commute can provide a perfect platform to boost cycling time and triathlon fitness. Just remember to mix things up. So instead of cycling, say, the six miles to work at the same intensity, cycle two miles easy, two hard, two easy. Or one-mile easy, one-mile hard and do that three times. Or even one-mile easy, halfmile hard, half-mile easy four times over. You can even ride to work as fast as you can in the easiest gear. This variety stimulates a number of physiological adaptations, like greater stamina and speed, and will add fun to your working week.
08 WORK ON CORE
A strong core can help prevent excessive upperbody movement. That’s why you should consciously focus on your core muscles when riding plus strengthen them off the bike with some at-home exercises, including the plank. Also, avoid muscling big gears round at low revs. Unless you have superb core strength, you’ll rock from side to side, which creates a lot of drag.
09 PICK THE RIGHT SEAT
Saddle sores range from small spots to large boils and, as you can imagine, are incredibly painful. They’re likely to be caused by chafing but can be prevented by saddle choice, specifically cut-out saddles, which help relieve pressure down below. Also, chamois cream is a must and ensure you wash your bib shorts after each ride.
10 PREVENT BACK ISSUES
Lower-back problems are common in cycling, especially when starting out and if you’re of a ‘slightly older persuasion’. One of the main reasons is down to an incorrect bike set-up leading to overstretching in search of the handlebars, which exerts increasing pressure on the lumbar spine. To remedy the situation, a professional bike fit’s the ideal, if funds allow, although there are several DIY actions you can take. These include flipping the stem over and raising the handlebars. A shorter stem will help to reduce stretch, too. For newcomers, as distance increases, it really is key that you become higher at the front end and less stretched.