Whether you’ve just removed your stabilizers or you’ve been hitting the open road for more years than you care to count, if you’re reading this then chances are you’re looking to improve your cycling ability. Fortunately for you, we’ve collated a wide range of tips that will have you riding the Tour de France (okay, maybe just one stage of it) in no time.
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It all starts with a plan; if you have a rigid schedule then you’re more likely to stick to it, and those improvements will start coming thick and fast. We recommend writing down all of the daily activities that you just have to do – work, pick the kids up, football training etc. and work out exactly when and how long you will be able to train for.
Your plan doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should be do-able and give you no excuses to ever skip practice. Want to go out for a few beers? You can’t. Not until you’ve completed your training, anyway – if you’ve got a ride penciled in for that day then that must come first. Don’t complain, no-one ever regretted a workout…
Your first rides aren’t going to be breathtaking (breathless, perhaps) and you should plan small, 3-5 mile flat routes. Once you’ve done two or three rides in your first week at this level, you should build up to 5-8 mile routes with at least one small hill to battle your way up. In the third week, you should be aiming for 8-10 mile routes with much steeper climbs to contend with.
As your muscles become more accustomed to the work, they’ll be able to cope with heavier demands. You’ll be able to go further and faster, so keep increasing the distances each week if time allows.
As well as practicing the physical aspect of cycling, you also need to practice something else that is extremely important – being able to eat and drink as you pedal. It sounds much easier than it actually is.
What do you need to be consuming on your bike rides? For rides that will last less than an hour, you should be drinking water and eating energy gels. If you’re going to be cycling for over an hour, you should be drinking water and sports drinks whilst eating energy gels and supplement bars.
A great way to increase motivation, stamina, strength and more is to try and sprint through every light that is on green. Needless to say, you need to take precautions with this that you aren’t going to have any accidents, but if the light is obviously going to stay green then power your way through with no slowing down. Use the traffic lights as an extra push that will reward you in the long-term and help to develop your explosive power – necessary for those sprint finishes!
Another way to increase your motivation is to find cycling buddies; no-one wants to be out on the roads alone. If you have someone to pester (or pestering you) to go out on rides more often, you’ll be more likely to do so. Whilst you’re out with a few friends try practicing riding in the Peloton – ensuring that you never undertake and helping you to conserve maximum energy throughout a race.
If you have the luxury of being able to own more than one bike, it’s definitely advised that you train on one that is significantly heavier than the one you plan to race on. With a heavier bike, you’re going to build stronger, more efficient muscles so when it comes to race day you’ll really pack a punch.
There’s one thing that you need to practice time and time again, and it’s equally as important as the cycling itself; puncture repair. Punctures are commonplace when it comes to bike riding and if you’re stuck with a flat tyre miles from home, you’re going to have a problem. Repair kits are reasonably cheap so you should be able to try them out a few times to ensure you know exactly what you’re doing.
Want to be at your most comfortable whilst on your bike? Lose the pants, seriously. Going ‘commando’ is highly advised by the majority of regular cyclists and cycling shorts are even designed to be worn without underwear. If you’re a little… uh… hairy down there too, you’re going to need to sort that out with a wax, or a trim at the very least. You’ll thank us in time!
Finally, rest days are important. Make sure you don’t overdo it – but don’t use this as an excuse to be lazy. To help aid maximum recovery, eat a full meal within one hour of finishing your training – and no, we don’t mean a pizza. Make sure your post-training meal consists of a good portion of lean protein, at least two portions of veggies, and some good clean carbohydrates like sweet potato or brown rice to help restore the glycogen stores in your muscles.