Recently I was asked to join a slower group. In the rotation of my training days, it was a low-zone day, so I jumped on. On a side note, my periodization training has been such an eye-opening experience for me. I can truly see and feel a difference in the benefits and performance. Anyway, this particular group that asked me to join them is a nice bunch of guys whom I have ridden with individually at random times but never in their group. Just talking with them, I could easily tell they love the sport of cycling. Most of them are new to the sport, trying to lose weight, adding to their bikes and, from what I hear, training to be faster and more competent on the bike.
During the ride, I could see the gaps in knowing what to do on group rides and using energy foolishly. Some had trouble with the slipstream, opting to stay in the wind for the ability to see ahead. Some stayed in a heavy gear and ground themselves into dust and fell off the back. Some drank very little. Many had locked arms with a broad chest to gather a bunch of wind. A few decided to burn all of their matches on the first small hill and struggled to maintain the pace after that. I just watched and wanted to help. It is a sticky situation though. These are grown men. Plus, I am not going to be invited to a ride a be the let-me-show-you guy. We have all been there, and I have written before about my struggles to learn and fail and fail and fail. I have NOT arrived, but I am better at doing certain things on the bike that I use to be and feel that I can help many new riders.
If you are new to cycling or want to get faster or learn how to conserve as much energy to last longer on the bike, here are few things on which you can focus to see steady improvement:
- QUIT riding the same route, day in and day out. Yes, it is a comfort blanket to hold and feel somewhat good about yourself, but you will only improve to a certain point.
- CLIMB hills. Yes, it sucks. No, it is not always fun, but it will help you in so many areas of your riding. This cannot be emphasized enough.
- FIND a group. Every now and again, ride with a group that is way better than where you are presently. Get dropped. Train. Ride again and try to hang on a little longer.
- SUFFER beyond what you think you can do. Back to LeMond . . . it never gets easier, you only get faster. Being uncomfortable is a huge part of getting better.
- EAT correctly. It is simple math. If you burn 1,100 calories on a ride, but take in 3,400 calories a day . . . uh, you will not slim down. Do not fall into the lie of “I ride hard, so that I can eat what I want.”
- SPIN your pedals. There is only so much glycogen in your body. It burns quickly. The main thrust of cycling is aerobic. Your aerobic engine should be trained a lot and often. There is not a specific number on cadence, but start with 85 rpm and work on your spinning.
- ASK for help. There are generally better cyclists around you, from time to time. Shove down your pride and ask them to help you. Take one or two suggestions and work on those . . . over and over . . . then . . . ask for something new.
Nothing worth doing is easy. Yes, some people are naturally talented, but at some point they still had to put in the work. All of it takes time, practice and patience. I know that it is not everyone’s cup of tea to peel the paint off of their bike with speed or suffer like a pig on a long climb, but if you are a person who wants such things, you must put in the work.