Exhaustion can be our worst enemy on the bike. Wait. It’s not a “duh.” Being tired is a common thing, if you have cycled for any decent amount of time. Deal with it, get a sip from the bottle, pop a fig newton. Exhaustion in itself leads to sloppy riding form. Sloppy riding form leads to developing bad habits, as the miles click on and on.
Most of us recognize when we are starting to struggle. It is at that exact point when your focus should come into effect the strongest. You must force yourself to think of what you are doing on the bike and NOT how to make the next mile. Being aware of your position on the bike will make for better pedal stroke and less drag, resulting in better use of your energy. Here are some brief checkpoints to consider, the next time you begin the slide:
- Hands-are you holding your bars as if your life depended on it? Squeezing the bars and remaining in the same hand position for long periods of time are natural reactions to being tired. You compensate your slumping body by white-knuckling the bars. Relax that grip. Bring your thumbs to the side of your other fingers, not wrapped around like you’re about to do a power clean.
- Back position-are you rounded, in an arching form, from your hips to the base of your neck? Yeah, we all nod to this one. When the body is tired the core gives way and allows the stronger muscles of the back to do the heavy stuff. Tighten your core by producing a straight back (45-degree angle) from your hips to the base of your neck. No, don’t ride stiff. Relax . . . which brings the next problem.
- Shoulders height-are you shoulders pinned to your ears because your arms are locked out to hold the weight of your tired body? Conscientiously drop your shoulders and produce a softness in the bend of your arms. This makes for a better drag coefficient and the wasting of energy by being hold muscles in a tense position.
- Knees-how far away from the top tube are your knees? The more tired a rider becomes his knees will generally track away from the top tube because it feels more comfortable because the hips, buttocks, and thighs don’t feel like keeping them in the correct position. Again, force yourself to keep in a good position. Knees inside will allow for less drag and better power transfer.
- Bobbing-are you rocking to your iPod or are you bouncing around just to get the pedals to turn over? Many tired cyclists will flail about, as the body becomes more and more tired. Calm, even, circular pedal strokes must be your focus. Be in control of you.
We’ve all been extremely tired on a bike. Discipline is the key. Keep training your body to have the muscle memory to stay where it should be without conscience thought. I’ve caught myself in very poor positions many times . . . and still do! Here’s something to try next time, and I’m serious: listen and feel for the wind in a good position in contrast to the sound and feel in a bad position. It will tell on you. Quiet the wind by allowing it to slip all around you. No, there is no chanting involved in this and it has nothing to do with the energy of the earth. It is the defeating of a strength robber. Try it and let me know what you think.