The good thing about apps like Strava, MapMyRide etc is that you can look back and see how far you’ve come. It’s not the KOMs/QOMs or the one upmanship of beating your friends (or foes) on certain Strava segments that matters at all, it’s the personal development of the user in question. That thought came to me halfway up Ide Hill at the weekend, as I remembered the first time I tried to conquer that particular road and had to stop halfway up because I was knackered.
That ride on Sunday covered 65km in two and a half leisurely hours. By comparison, the 16km ride back home from my Mum’s house when I picked up that bike in 2014 took an hour and a half (with a lot less hills!). I considered that I’d also spent a lot of time off the bike following the London to Brighton in June 2014, in fact I didn’t get back on a bike again until March 2016 so really I have only been riding regularly for nearly 4 years. All of this got me thinking how much I’ve learnt along the way and how all of the experiences have got me to a level that I would never have anticipated 6 years ago.
Be A Weight Weenie…..
……but with yourself, not your bike! The difference you can make by eating right and losing a few pounds is quite extraordinary but you don’t have to live a monk’s life! The below shows two versions of me, 4 months apart in the same kit but with about 20lbs in weight difference
The above has coincided with a marked improvement in times on Strava segments that I ride regularly. A prime example of this is Box Hill, since the turn of the year I have knocked a whole minute off my previous best time on the Zig Zag Road. I have been doing Zwift workouts as well but I’m in no doubt that the weight loss is the main driver of the improvements.
Protect The Core!
A phrase I’ve used many a time at work, albeit with a different meaning. I started doing exercises that focussed on core strength as I had read a few different articles that all highlighted that as a key area. I have to say, they were right! Just a few sessions of planks, sit ups and squats (amongst other things) really started to make a difference on the bike as all of the pedalling motion starts at the core. The best thing is, you don’t need a gym for most of the exercises!
You Get What You Pay For
When you started cycling, unless you’ve more money that sense, chances are you were fairly frugal and bought some fairly inexpensive kit. Question: how long was it before you went out and bought some better kit? Not long, I’ll wager.
Now it is a fair point that there are brands out there, for example Dhb, that are producing good quality kit at extremely reasonable prices but I still maintain that the more you are willing to spend, the better the kit you will get. Fortunately the internet is a great platform for finding a bargain, whether it be the last of a certain size or last year’s colour, so there are brilliant brands available at very good prices. Sportful and Endura are two brands I really like that you can usually find in promotions online.
Get Your On Board Fuelling Right
This is a completely personal thing so it takes a bit of trial and error to find your perfect fuelling strategy but when you do you’ll unlock much better rides with more energy. I didn’t understand this for a long time but when it clicked I started to enjoy cycling a whole lot more.
I start pre ride with mini pittas with scrambled egg and chorizo. I find them a perfect ride fuel and easy on my stomach, plus they only take a couple of minutes to make. I used to have yoghurt, berries and granola but on odd occasions that disagreed with me
During a ride I favour real food over gels (although I still carry gels in case I need a quick hit) and I favour bars from either Science in Sport or Veloforte. The latter are expensive but absolutely worth it, they taste amazing. As I have suffered with cramp in the past my bar of choice is the Avanti, which has sea salt as a main ingredient along with dates, pecans and almonds. They’re vegan, gluten free and 100% natural – an amazing ride food that won’t leave you disappointed. Try them!
Ride Abroad (If You’re From The UK)
Simple one this. The roads and attitudes to cycling are so much better everywhere else in Europe.
A Clean Bike Is A Happy Bike
I’m a weirdo, I like cleaning my bike. I find it therapeutic. I’ve always loved tinkering with bikes, skateboards etc and cleaning the bike allows me that bit of time to indulge that personal joy. There’s a lot of products out there for this task and I’ve bought a lot of them over the years – personal favourites are Squirt Chain Lube and Fenwicks Foaming Chain Cleaner. A clean bike is likely to be more efficient and the cleaning process gives you a chance to figure out potential issues. I had a wobbly brake lever for ages, who knew there was a small screw to tighten under the brake hood that would sort it all out?!
Ride your bike, say hello to other cyclists, wear what you want, ride where you want, ride for however long you want just so long as you’re having fun. Ignore those who think they know it all (apart from professionals, of course), they’re just jealous you’re having more fun than they are.
Enjoy The Ride!