There are a lot of cycling guides out there, and they will advise you on a number of different aspects; claiming to improve your speed, better climbing tactics or the body of a sprinter, but what do you really need to know to become a cycling success? How can you go from being stuck in a rut, to improving week after week after week? At ProBikeKit, we’ve put together this in-depth guide to give you everything you need to succeed. Whether you’re a beginner looking to get started and build up fitness, or an advanced cyclist looking for that next new gain, this guide caters for cyclists of all levels, and it could change your pace right now.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to:
- Take bit size steps towards your goals
- Be mentally prepared
- Manage your nutrition
- Keep your body in tip-top condition
- Use the right cycling gear
- Maintain your bike
- Use analysis to improve your performance
- Cross train for strength and overall gains
I teamed up with our in-house cyclist, Torq Performance Team rider Joanne Clay, to bring you ProBikeKit’s ultimate guide to cycling success. Read on to start clipping in and breaking (personal) records.
Take bite-size steps: Rome wasn’t built in a day.
If you want to make progress, chances are you’ll have an end goal. Maybe you want to lose a stone, maybe you want to shave 2 minutes off your triathlon bike leg, or maybe you’d like to be fit enough to cycle for 5 hours straight. You can’t just simply go out and ‘do the thing’, which is where a lot of people lose track of their goals and end up ‘burning out’ too soon.
Set small stepping stone goals to track your progress for your end goal. If you want to lose a stone, set a time period – let’s say 7 weeks – you know that you have to lose 2 pounds a week to reach your end goal. What you can now do, is monitor your weight every week to see if those 2 pounds are disappearing, if they aren’t, then lower your calories. If you keep losing the 2 pounds on time, then you’ll lose the stone by the seventh week. You can delve deeper still, and have a daily weigh-in planned in; if you’re losing a pound every 3 or 4 days, then you’re obviously on track for your weekly goal of 2 pounds. Here it’s easy to see that monitoring every step and altering your habits on a minuscule and zoomed-in scale will result in you having much more control over your long term goal.
Take bite-size steps in everything you do, even the pros will gradually adapt to improve on their current speed, endurance and performance.
PBK Tip: It pays to plan ahead and be aware of your day to day activities towards that end goal.
Be mentally prepared.
It’s brilliant watching the Tour de France, pelotons full of suntanned cyclists gliding through the clear, glistening mountains. You can watch them all day, they’re grabbing a drink, some energy snacks and then cycling off some more. If only that’s what cycling was actually like. Stepping out on a cold winter’s morning, shielding yourself from the wind, rain and bitter frost. Avoiding traffic and staying alert for hours on end, reaching to the very bottom of your lungs as you keep up the cadence on a long, gradual climb. Cycling is like most sports, they often look a lot more fun and easy than they actually are. It can be good practise to stay mentally tough, because your first ride is going to be hard, really hard. The same also goes for advanced cyclists, when you step up your game, it is important to blank out your thoughts and stay focussed on the task ahead. A weak mind means a weak body in sports performance, and don’t let yours bring you down.
A good technique is to have a pre-ride ritual, make sure that all distractions from work and family life are shut off long before you start your ride. Once all the mental ‘noise’ is taken care of, practise thinking about nothing. This may seem strange, but it’s actually a meditation technique to promote clarity and level thinking. If you can maintain this state for the hour or so before your ride, you’ll have only one thing to focus on: beating your personal best.
PBK Tip: in the hour of clear thinking before you ride, try busying yourself with simple tasks, such as eating a small meal, preparing post-ride shakes and tuning up your bike. Keep your head equally detached from all other distractions.
Get your nutrition sorted.
There are so many nutrition articles to choose from these days, and we should all now be experts on how to bulk up, slim down, sprint faster and get a six pack. The real story however, is quite different, it’s easy to skim through nutrition guides and diet plans and get lost in what it is you actually want to achieve. In this guide, we thought we’d cut out the bits you don’t need, and leave you two very simple guides. These guides don’t have ambiguous goals and false promises, they’re designed to help you get the most out of your rides and smash all your records, allowing you to concentrate on getting fitter, stronger and faster.
Nutrition guide 1 – Beginners
The first guide is designed for the beginner cyclist, and will help you get your nutrition sorted around your rides. It focusses on basic such as carb loading and staying energised on the bike as well as how to recover after. Here you’ll find information about energy gels,electrolyte tablets and recovery shakes. It’s got all you’ll need to start off in cycling, click here to read!
Nutrition guide 2 – Advanced riders
Our second guide is aimed at the seasoned rider, so we spare you the basics you already know. If you feel like you’ve been riding at the same level for years and you just can’t break the pattern, you can try advanced nutritional tactics involving BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids) such as taurine and glutamine. Get to grips with essential amino acids by reading the guide here!
Keep your body in tip-top condition.
Cycling is a highly repetitive, time consuming sport, which we don’t realise as cyclists, because we love it! However, we should be aware of the effect this can have on our bodies. Humans weren’t meant to pedal for five hours straight; we just haven’t adapted and evolved to that level yet. So in order to get the most out of your long and hard rides, it’s important to treat your body like an athlete. This isn’t just about eating right; it’s about being body aware every minute of the day and keeping yourself in a state of recovery and readiness. Top tips you can do here are:
- Take a multivitamin every morning, in order to keep your body nourished.
- Sleep at least 8 hours a night, getting in as many hours before midnight as possible (difficult I know!)
- Make time for active rest and recovery, such as light rides, stretches etc.
- If you feel a cold coming on, take a few days off, wrap up and rest.
With these few tips, you’ll be sure never to burn out your reserves and always be in a ready state for your next ride. It can be difficult to follow every piece of advice given, but just by taking a few of these tips and adding them to your daily routine, you can maximise your potential to succeed.
Invest in quality.
Investing in quality kit isn’t just spending more on flashy gear for the sake of it, in cycling it’s all about getting the right gear to actually perform better and more efficiently. To go to the extreme end of things, if you go cycling in a pair of jeans and a button-up shirt, you’re going to end up very uncomfortable very soon! So it’s obvious why we all wear lycra tights for cycling, but it goes even further beyond that.
By purchasing professional kit from ProBikeKit, you’re enhancing your performance as a cyclist. Whether it’s protecting yourself from catching a cold with a jacket, protecting your eyes with sunglasses or keeping safe with a quality helmet, it’s all helping your ride efficiency.
Know your Bike.
Buying a bike is easy. Maintaining one is not. At the same time it’s not too difficult, it just requires a little time and patience. At ProBikeKit we have a wide range of maintenance books and DVDs to help you learn the basics. Some jobs are extremely intricate and detailed, and we leave those to the bike shops and professional mechanics, but we can learn some things. Have a look at our bike maintenance guides here to learn how to fit handlebars, change bar-tape and quick release skewers.
You can save yourself a lot of money with a little knowledge, but not just this, learning about your machine and how it all fits together will give you a better idea of what needs tuning up before a ride. All in all you’ll become more ‘at one’ with your bike and make smarter decisions based on how it feels. Another box to tick off on your journey to becoming a cycling success!
Analyse, improve, analyse…
Having a step by step goal is what we talked about in the first section of this article, but how do we keep track of these accomplishments? How can we know how far off we are? Sometimes it can be impossible to constantly keep a mental record or even to write things down. This is where sports analysis computers come in, or cycling computers as they’re more commonly known as. These computers usually come in the form of handle-bar mounted units such as the Garmin Edge 510 and 810. There are two main tools that cycling computers use, and they can be extremely useful for cyclists of all abilities looking to improve any aspect of their performance.
The Heart Rate Monitor – heart rate monitors have been a feature of most cycling computers for a long time, and they are a key performance indicator that you can instantly work with. If you know that you can travel at 20 mph for half an hour at a certain heart rate, then you can aim to either maintain that heart rate at 20 mph for longer, or bring your heart rate down whilst maintaining that speed and distance. With a cycling computer you can save the data over time and track your progress. They’ll often come with computer software such as Strava, this way you can see all your data on the big screen, monitoring your progress over time.
GPS technology – GPS technology allows you to track where you are on your ride. This is great because it means that when you come to analyse the results and compare rides, you can see a map of your run, and how long it took you get from A to B. you can also break down sections and analyse certain parts of you ride, such as a tough climb or the finishing stretch. GPS technology will help you to become a better, more efficient rider.
Using these technologies, you can have a bank of data stretching as far back as you wish, all about your performance over time. You can share this with friends, compare against other rider’s times and use it to your advantage. Data in sports is making professionals better and better, so it’s about time we grabbed ourselves a piece of the action.
Cross train for overall gains.
In a section in our previous article we gave you ways to increase your cycling strength. One of these tips was to cross train and try other sports. Why on earth would you try other sports to get better at cycling? Well if you’re having trouble progressing in your cycling, it could be that you have an unknown weakness, muscle imbalance or injury. Cycling more could actually harm you.
These things can be brought to light by a physiotherapist or sports expert, and then there’ll be ways to work on getting stronger. More often than not, the treatment won’t be ‘carry on what you’re doing and it’ll get better’, and because cycling consists of hundreds of thousands of repetitions, and each time you pedal with that imbalance, you’ll be neurologically cementing the wrong pathways for your brain’s muscle memory.
Having a weight training programme or even an alternative sport such as swimming or running to balance out your physique and build strength, can be a really good asset to your cycling. Check out the full article here.
Master your cycling!
Using this guide, you can become the cyclists you always wanted to be. Whether that means getting out and completing your first 100 miler, or making your way into the next racing category; these tips are universal.
If you enjoyed this a guide, please share this article and help others to learn how they can improve their performance too. Also, if you liked any of the products shown in this article, you can buy them from ProBikeKit UK, ProBikeKit USA, ProBikeKit Australia, ProBikeKit New Zealand and ProBikeKit Canada.