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Training Tips for Better Cycling

Ten Tips For Better, Faster and More Efficient Bicycling

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Updated July 09, 2011

While you may never make it to the Tour de France, applying these ten training strategies will help you become a better, faster and more efficient cyclist, no matter what speed or distance you ride.

1. Train for Cardiovascular Endurance

Long-distance bike racing requires cardiovascular endurance. This refers to the rider's ability to generate energy to the working muscles for hours of intense exercise, day after day. There are many different ways to train in order to increase endurance. Some of the most well known endurance training programs include:
  • Long Slow Distance Training
  • Pace/Tempo Training
  • Interval Training
  • Circuit Training
  • Fartlek Training

Also See

2. Build Power for Sprints

Although elite-level cyclists tend to specialize in one area of riding, a well-rounded cyclist will be able to ride long and hard and still have enough of a "kick" or sprint at the end of the race. Explosive exercise training routines are one way to increase power output, and hopefully increase your odds of winning a group sprint. Also See

3. Eat The Right Food at the Right Time

It's essential to eat and drink for sports performance and recovery. It can be a complicated process and many athletes work with nutritionists and coaches to find the perfect balance of calories and nutrients that work best for them. Even the most complicated food plans, though, share these basic principles:

4. Make Sure Your Bike Fits You

No matter what type of cyclist you are, riding a bike that fits you well is essential to both comfort and efficiency. If you have neck, back, or knee pain, saddle sores, or hand or foot numbness, your bicycle probably doesn't fit you properly. Good bike fit can also improve your pedaling efficiency and aerodynamics and actually make you faster. Also See

5. Don't Forget to Stretch

Recommendations to stretch or not stretch change from year to year and from expert to expert. However, due to the repetitive nature of cycling, it is important for cyclists to maintain flexibility and muscle balance in some specific muscle groups. Cyclists tend to develop muscle tightness in the in the hamstrings, hip flexors and chest if these muscles aren't stretched regularly.

6. Improve Your Bike Handling Skills

Pro cyclists have amazing bike handling skills. They are smooth through corners, stable on descents, are aware of road conditions and traffic. Skilled cyclists ride predictably and follow the rules of the road.

Good bike handling is essential if you plan to ride in a paceline where riders follow within inches of each other to take advantage of aerodynamics. In a paceline, the lead rider battles air resistance and creates a draft that saves the other riders up to 30 percent of their energy. This type of riding takes tremendous bike handling skill.

If you want to improve your bike handling, ride with skilled riders, take a bike safety course, or join an established local club and ask questions about improving your bike handling skills.

7. Don't Go It Alone

Training alone day after day can become a bit of a training dead-end. In order to improve your cycling and your results, you should consider joining a local club or bike racing team that matches your skills and goals.

Being a part of a team is also essential if you want to race at a competitive level. Team strategies and tactics are a huge part of every bike race.

Find a local Bicycle Club at USA Cycling.

8. Get Some Rest

Don't forget the value of rest days and cross training off the bike. Rest and recovery is essential in order to achieve peak performance in any sport. Stretching, massage, sleep and general downtime are often used by pro athletes to recover from their demanding workouts.

Overtraining can easily occur in athletes who train frequently and at high intensity. It's important to watch for the signs of overtraining and listen to your body when it is calling for rest.

Also See

9. Exercise Off The Bike

If your main sport is cycling, it's important to get off the bike and do a bit of cross training on occasion. This is most important in the off-season, but maintaining flexibility and enjoying another form of exercise throughout the year can keep your muscles balanced and help you avoid overuse injuries.

Training the same way day after day often leads to staleness, fatigue, boredom and makes your more prone to injury or burnout. You may eventually hit a plateau and fail to see any additional improvement. Elite athletes use the off-season to mix it up and modify their workouts every few weeks or months.

10. Wear Cycling-specific Clothing

Cycling clothing may look a little strange at first, but the specialized clothes do serve a purpose.

Clothing
The tight fitting clothing minimizes wind resistance as well as increases visibility. The shorts have special padding to eliminate chaffing and increase comfort on the saddle, and yes, they are to be worn without underwear.

Bike Shoes
Most cyclists now wear special shoes with cleats that attaches to the pedal with a click and release with a twist. This not only increases cycling efficiency (you can pull up as well as push down on the pedal), but also increases safety.

Bike Helmet
The bike helmet is a mandatory piece of safety equipment. No sanctioned bike races will allow a rider to compete without a helmet.

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