Tips to help you climb better, recover quicker and feel comfortable on any group ride, even one as big as the Telkom 947 Cycle Challenge. By Brian Fiske
It’s time to make yourself unstoppable! We consulted with experts in bike maintenance, nutrition, training, and more to help you reinvigorate your riding. Here’s their advice for becoming a faster, stronger, and even friendlier cyclist.
On a Climb: Do steady-state intervals, which help you produce more power more comfortably. Twice a week, during a ride, pedal 10 minutes at an intensity where you can’t easily converse, but aren’t gasping. Recover 10 minutes. Repeat two more times.
In the Pack: Get in line. Tucking in behind another rider can cut wind resistance by more than 25 percent. The next-to-last cyclist benefits the most, but even the first in line gets a boost—areas of low pressure between riders help push the leader along.
After a Ride: Break out the foam. Like massage, foam rolling loosens adhesions that can keep muscles from working smoothly. When you find a tender spot, hold the pressure on it for a few seconds, then roll through.
On a Climb: “Trick yourself. When a climb seems like too much, fire up iTunes from your jersey pocket”, says cyclocross national champion Jeremy Powers. Even if you can barely hear it, the music can be enough to distract you from the hill ahead.
In the Pack: Stagger your position. Ride just to the left or right of the rider in front of you so that you can see the road ahead. Knowing that you have extra time to react to what’s coming can put you more at ease.
After a Ride: Ditch the chamois ASAP postride—bacteria thrive in sweaty shorts.
On a Climb: Break away with this workout from Robert Pickels, lead physiologist at the University of Colorado Sports Medicine and Performance Center. On a moderate climb, do 8 to 10 efforts of about 30 seconds: Shift up until you’re pedaling at 50 to 60 rpm. Sprint out of the saddle until you hit 100 rpm. Sit and accelerate, shifting to maintain cadence. Recover 3 to 5 minutes.
In the Pack: Kill the creak. Bike squeaking? It’s probably your bottom bracket, says Tony Bustamante, owner of Velosmith Bicycle Studio. If so, a squirt of water (not sports drink!) from your bottle may temporarily quell the noise. Remove, clean, and reinstall per the manufacturer’s instructions before your next ride.
After a Ride: Don’t gorge. While you need both protein and carbs after a ride, kick off your chow-down with something labor-intensive to chew, such as an apple or pear, says Leslie Bonci, co-author of Bike Your Butt Off. It’ll curb hunger so you don’t blow through an entire bag of Lays.
On a Climb: Shift early and often to keep your cadence above 70 rpm whenever possible. Grinding big gears forces your body to rely on fast-twitch muscles, which fatigue quicker than their slow-twitch counterparts.
In the Pack: Give yourself space to maneuver if you need to respond quickly to an obstacle, traffic, or another rider—don’t ride the white line or stick to the edge of the pavement.
After a Ride: Close your eyes. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep each evening, but a Stanford University study found that elite athletes felt less fatigued and were able to run faster with even more—up to 10 hours a night.
On a Climb: Don’t make it a thing if you’re having a good day and your buddy’s having a bad day. Instead, focus your conversation on a more pressing issue—like the differences between a flat white and a cappuccino.
In the Pack: Be vocal. Let newcomers know what to expect on your ride: You’ll point out obstacles, call out approaching cars, signal all turns and stops, and ride no more than two up.
After a Ride: Log your mileage—and don’t boast about it with a million selfies uploaded to Instagram.