Most new cyclists have huge gains in fitness during the first few months of riding regularly. After this initial introductory period, improvements become much more minimal and may be harder to recognize. Instead of being satisfied with your performance, there are easy ways to identify individual deficiencies that will help continue your progression and ultimately help you to become a faster cyclist.
Here are 13 tips to include in your training plan that will help you get faster, stronger and break free from your everyday training rut. These training tips will help you become a fitter, faster, better cyclist.
Improve Your Fitness
The first and easiest way to become a faster cyclist is to improve your fitness. This can be done simply by getting on your bike more often. Just ride! Start by finding a way to commute to work, attend a group exercise class, or squeeze in another ride on the weekend.
Ride with Stronger Cyclists
Jump into a group ride with cyclists that are above your level of fitness. This will push you to step outside of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. Set your mind that you can go above and beyond what you've done before and eventually your body will catch up. You may get dropped a few times, but the lessons learned will make you stronger, and the experience of succeeding will be priceless.
Train off the Bike
Cross-train at least once per week and devote a few weeks in the off season to work on muscle groups other than those used to cycle. Try different activities to keep the body balanced physically. Cross-training activities like swimming, running, hiking, yoga, weight lifting and resistance training can help strengthen muscles that commonly go unused on the bike.
In cycling, your body is the engine. That means the food we put in our bodies is our fuel. An easy way to have better fitness, which equates to a stronger, faster rider, is to eat what our bodies need most, not what it wants. Typically athletes can afford to eat food that they probably shouldn't because of all the calories being burned. But there are good and bad calories. Eat balanced meals and watch your portions from fatty foods and sweets. Keep track of how many calories you're burning while exercising and try to replenish the nutrients your body has lost.
Work on Your Position
Build your core so that you can maintain an aerodynamic position for longer periods of time. The lower your position is on the bike, the less you'll be exposed to the wind and the faster you'll be. The key is to have a strong core so that you are able to push the pedals while keeping your back flat and your hands in the drops. If your back hurts while in an aero position, the problem may be that your core is not strong enough to maintain an aggressive position for the duration of your ride.
Use Variety in Your Workouts
Many cyclists make the mistake of doing the same workout over and over. Going out and riding will provide improvement up to a point. In order to get beyond a basic level of fitness, you will need to have a plan that sets a goal for each training session. Interval training is a good way to add variety to workouts.
Which aspect of your training you want to work on will determine the length and intensity of the interval. In general, a good block of interval training can be done in an hour or less. This can be a good break from the long hours in the saddle, but shouldn't be done more than a few times a week—and make sure to get plenty of rest in between. Break down your training into macro (yearly) and micro (weekly) segments to ramp up your intervals at the right time during the year.
Try a Cycling Coach
Find a good coach to develop a personalized training program. This can help a cyclist to set attainable goals and tweak training programs as problems arise. A coach can also help to plan your training around a particular race and offer other services such as nutrition plans or specific drills to improve pedaling technique based on your individual weaknesses. Find a good coach in your area by searching the USAC or USAT websites. Most coaches are set up to help any athlete anywhere in the world through the Internet.
Make every ride count
Look at your time frame. If you have until midday, for example, do a long, normal paced road ride. We call these rides 'base km' or 'base miles' to work on your overall fitness. But if you only have 30 minutes to and from work, why not time yourself and make it a hard effort tor get some quality in? Make sure you allow yourself at least five minutes to cool down after your effort.
You should make sure every ride has a purpose, whether that’s intensity, endurance, or just enjoyment. If you know the purpose of your ride, you can make sure you stay focused on that intention and make the most of the time on the bike.
Ride harder for longer
Make sure you build up your capacity for long rides slowly, gradually increase your long rides by 30 minutes if you’re coping okay. Once you’re comfortable with a certain distance, you can then add a bit more intensity [via] a few efforts here or there. Perhaps go out with a group of stronger riders and start off by trying to last one-and-a-half hours with them. Then increase that to two hours, two-and-a-half hours and so on.”
Being able to ride for longer is also about learning to pace yourself – and fuelling regularly. Start easy and keep eating more than you think you should. If you're worried you can't complete a distance, do smaller loops close to home so you can stop if you need to – I find when I have the back-out option of going home I rarely take it, but the comfort gives me that confidence to try more things than I might otherwise!
Ride safely in a bunch
Know your limits. Only ride as close to the wheel in front as you feel comfortable. I’ve seen many a rider crash in training, which is often down to riders getting carried away. Riding with experienced riders will help drill good technique and etiquette into you.”
You need to pay attention at all times. Accidents happen when people are distracted, so make sure you're focusing on the wheel in front, even while talking to the person beside you. You don't have to maintain eye contact while out on the bike! Look ahead if you can, in front of the bunch. This will give you more warning if an obstacle is coming. Be vocal, make sure you yell or point out an obstacle or hazard if it's likely to affect the bunch.
Make sure you have a realistic plan of what training you want to do each week and keep it different and interesting and know why you're doing each session. Try to organize rides with other people – it’ll push you more and having company for longer rides is more fun!”
You must buy in to your training and truly believe in it. “This is what motivates me, knowing the effort I’m making is resulting in gains.
But if you don’t feel motivated all the time you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. It isn't a failure if there’s a day you don't feel like going out on your bike. When you give yourself permission to be imperfect in that respect, I think it makes the whole game a lot easier!
If you prepare mentally by planning my route, so you will have a clear idea of what you are going to encounter on the ride. Also, you make a big breakfast. That helps your mind a lot. When you have a big breakfast you should know you have a big day ahead of you.
When it comes to fighting the mental battle on a long climb, focus on time rather than distance
When it comes to fighting the mental battle on a long climb Tiffany Cromwell says it’s better to focus on time rather than distance. “Break it down into five or 10 minute segments to help get you through it. I find if I look too much at the distance, especially when you’re climbing a 10, 20, 30km or longer climb, those distances can tick by very slowly.
Try to distract yourself too by taking in the scenery, focusing on your breathing, and your pedaling technique, and keeping a still body – all of these things will not only help you become a more efficient climber but you’ll also find the climb passes by quicker.
People forget how important rest is that rest is just as important as training days. I try to keep off my feet for most of the day. You want to be fresh and ready for the next day training. The other thing you have to try to not forget is to eat properly. It’s good to make sure you keep eating but eat the right things!
Recovery days don’t mean you always have to stay off the bike completely. I sometimes go on a mountain bike ride to keep things fresh. I also stretch a lot, use compression clothing and get regular massages, all of which help my muscles recover.
Keep in mind these simple bike riding techniques and you can enjoy riding your bike as much as you can!