How to Ride Faster on the Road (Without Buying a New Bike)
Poring over all the ‘go-faster’ advice available is a huge part of road cycling, from specifically designed aero bikes, to shedding weight, to the pursuit of marginal gains that has become widespread in the pro peloton. However, diving into the latest magazine article only to find that the top tips are improving your power to weight ratio (losing weight), or adding a lightweight or aero bike to your stable gets tiresome. Granted these are probably the best ways to guarantee improvement, but there are other means of achieving a greater average speed that drain your bank balance.
Food is fuel
Unless you’re building towards the Tour de France there is little point putting yourself through a nutrition regime like a professional cyclist, but you can tailor your meals to improve your performance. Slow-release energy foods like porridge pre-ride, natural foods and caffeine gels during, and protein-rich recovery food will help you to feel lighter and faster, even if your calorie consumption remains the same.
Forgetting to eat and drink on rides longer than 90 minutes will near enough guarantee a significant decrease in speed and efficiency. It’s amazing what a little bit of water and a banana can do for your legs and your morale!
You can do interval training on an indoor trainer or out on the road and you will very quickly experience the benefits. The aim is to get your body used to working when energy stores are depleted. It can be great for improving acceleration and explosive power, particularly on short climbs or sprints.
Wheels and tyres
Wheel and tyre choice can make arguably the biggest difference to your performance on the bike. Depending on the terrain you ride most you might choose lighter or deep-section wheels, carbon rims or bladed spokes. As for tyre selection, width, pressure and weight will all make a difference, but it’s worth remembering that saving weight may mean poorer puncture resistance. You could even consider going for tubeless wheels, which are lighter because you don’t need a tube, but you would need specific wheels and lots of patience. Shop Specialized’s range of high performance wheels and slick, go-faster tyres.
The aerodynamic benefits of wearing lycra are clear with tests showing that form-fitting summer cycling kit can be worth 90 seconds over 40km. Besides the statistical advantage though is the psychological effect. Wearing lycra and sunglasses as seen in the pro peloton should make you feel faster and more positive about your cycling ability. We offer sharp-looking gear for both men and women.
Pedals and shoes
For many cyclists the next items on the shopping list after buying a road bike are clipless pedals and cycling shoes. Scary though it may seem to attach yourself to a precariously balanced object in traffic, converting from ‘flat’ to ‘clipless’ pedals will allow you to experience far greater pedalling efficiency and a better overall speed. Shop Specialized cycling shoes online now.
Don’t buy upgrades, ride up grades
Simply the best way to understand the way your body and your bike work together is to find a mountain and aim for the top. If you live near any climbs that take longer than 15 minutes to climb then you’ve probably already undergone the brain training that occurs when the road goes up. If, like many of us in the UK, you are confined to rolling roads at best, you should seriously consider taking a few mates to the Alps or Pyrenees to test yourself on some of the legendary Tour climbs. Some of these beasts will take well over an hour to ride and you learn very quickly how much more your body can give than it lets on – even when your legs are full of pain and your head screams for you to stop. The biggest lesson on trips like this comes on the second morning when your legs are full of lead and your head full of doubt, but you will still make it up the mountain.
You will find that what you learn in the mountains will help you ride faster at home. You will push yourself harder when the road goes up, you will recover better on the bike and you will be able to go faster for longer.
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