This is perfect time of year, when a rider is mostly alone, to work on things. One of the worst habits a cyclists can get into is just putting in miles . . . worsening bad habits. Slow down and think about what you are doing. If getting better is the goal, a cyclist must train to be that way. How? Observation is one of the cheapest ways. The Tour de France is still on most of our DVRs. Watch a sprint. Watch a climb. Put it in slow motion and watch body position, head position, bike position, hand position, try to make out the gearing, and keep a close eye on pedal stroke.
Here’s something of what I am attempting to make better: climbing. Just the word will cause some people to hyperventilate. The Secondrate Cyclist was one of those people, but it is this “off season” where I have decided to do what I hate the most and NOT just climb hills . . . but learn how to do efficiently and with more confidence. As I train, there are five things on which I am focusing:
- Cadence: I am very aware that gradient will cause a fluctuation, but I am staying within 80-90 rpm. Seated vs. Standing will cause a small variance, but that’s the numbers for now.
- Seated Power: For a longer and more steady climbing endurance over a longer period of time, I plan on climbing with my butt on the saddle. Yes, I will stand to bring my cadence back up or hit different muscles for a moment or to provide power in a quick pitch in gradient.
- Standing: Speaking of which, I will make sure to keep my hip bones over my pedals and not lunge out into a sprinter’s stance when climbing. Chest up. Head up.
- Full and Rounded Pedal Stroke: Moving away from stomping the down stroke on a climb, I want to focus on pulling through and over the top of the stroke. I catch myself stomping down and pulling up, but not swiping through the bottom and pushing over the top.
- Breathing: Many cyclists fail in this cause for two reasons . . . blowing like a fat man in a 5k or, in the heat of a hard pull in a steep pitch, holding their breath for a second or two. Watching my threshold and adjusting my cadence (higher cadence will lower heart rate a bit) and shifting properly will allow me to have a steady breathing rhythm.
There are many other areas that will come, as the climbing work goes on and on. The point is that I must train and recognize bad habits. When a person gets extremely tired, muscle memory will revert to bad habits; that is why a cyclist must re-train the body to think differently. No, I am not making something that I love into a job. I am making something that is an aggravating part of my love into something I do better and enjoy.