Cycling enthusiasts of all levels of performance are notoriously obsessed with making their bikes lighter and faster. While there’s nothing wrong with decking your bike out with amazing parts, one component that is often ignored as needing an upgrade is the rider. That’s right…you. Sure, shaving grams from the bike will have a positive effect on a rider’s ability to shave seconds, but authentic, sustainable growth as a cyclist requires a look at your training program, your fitness level, and your dedication to staying lean and mean in the saddle.
To offer perspective, a world class climber generally has less than 2 pounds of body weight for every inch of height. While that weight/height ratio is uncommon for mere mortals, it’s safe to assume that decreasing that difference between your height and weight will pay dividends on the road. Additionally, a training program that is lined up with your cycling objectives is key.
So here are a couple of general guidelines to consider that will help you up your game:
Pearls of wisdom such as, “lay off the Twinkies” totally ring true, but diet is a pretty complex part of your fitness regimen. Complicating things further, there are about 50 million diet books, guides, and experts out there with the one true plan for you. And don’t forget…everyone’s metabolism and body structure is different. The best thing a rider (or anyone) can do is take a little time to learn how different food groups, amino acids, electrolytes, vitamins, and supplements can affect how a body feels and performs. No one knows you like you do, so develop your own program, find what works, tweak where needed, and get results.
If you’re really putting in the time and effort in the saddle, but notice more frequent and more sustained slumps in your performance, consider the possibility that you may be over training. When an athlete goes full bore during every training session, he or she will experience increasing difficulty getting to that next level of performance. Building muscle can be very strenuous on the body. After muscles build, they need time to recover and repair from the strain. Joints, ligaments, tendons, and vital organs all feel the burn from hard work and maximum heart rates. The bottom line is that recovery rides and down days play an important role in real, sustainable improvement.
There are so many great reasons to cross train, and so many great training activities, a rider can gain a lot of ground by mixing it up. Primarily, burnout is a real danger to your cycling training program. Hitting the same routes, tweaking the same muscles, all on the same bike can simply sap your motivation…and you may not even be aware.
If you live, breathe, and bleed cycling, mix in some mountain biking or try your hand at some cyclocross riding…it’s all on 2 wheels, but the sports are refreshingly different from one another. If you’re open to non-cycling training, the sky is the limit! Running, swimming, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, and kickboxing are just a few examples of fun, dynamic activities that give you a change of venue, great muscle group building, and a serious cardio challenge.
Get a Coach
If you’re very serious about road cycling and are entering the realm of competitive cycling, consider the services of an expert. There are gifted coaches out there who can make a world of difference.
Lighten that Bike
It’s a fact that a leaner, meaner rider is critical to winning riding, but putting that rider on a leaner, meaner bike is a winning combination. So how does a rider know where to begin?
Start by taking stock of your bike. Conventional wisdom says upgrading wheels is a logical first step…but don’t make assumptions. Your wheels may not be the lightest or most aerodynamic on the market, but you may have a terribly overweight saddle. Switching that saddle might make a greater weight difference, and would mean a lot less weight loss of the wallet. Know what’s going on with your bike and you’ll be able to make the best decisions and not waste money.
That said, generally upgrading wheels and cranks can give you the most weight loss (be sure to learn the weight of your current setup and determine the real value of an upgrade). Upgrading to lighter, more responsive derailleurs is also sure to upgrade your performance…but again, be sure to weigh the value of one potential upgrade over another.
Lastly, understand the true purpose of the equipment you’re considering. A perfect example is aero bars. Aero bars offer an excellent improvement in aerodynamics by lowering the rider’s profile in the saddle…they work great especially in triathlon competitions where rider’s are lone wolves. But if you’re riding or competing in groups, the benefit you get from drafting would make aero bars a non player—and therefore an expensive component that only adds weight to your bike.
Hopefully, this information has encouraged you to think more analytically about your training, given you some valuable tips about personal cycling growth, and inspired you spend time in the saddle. And as always, hit us up anytime, from anywhere via Facebook, email, or telephone…we’re always ready to hear your comments, answer your questions, and help you get where you want to be.