Here at Cycling Torque we have put together a panel of cycling experts and enthusiasts to give their take on some of the key issues in the industry. The questions will range from advice on improving your riding, all the way to who’s going to win the Tour de France.
For May, we asked our panellists; ‘What is the one thing you’ve learnt that has most transformed your riding?’
‘The one key thing that transformed my riding was learning to ride slower. I used to ride ‘hard’ all the time, however that makes you good at riding ‘quite fast’, which is no good for anyone looking to race. By riding easier at times, I was then able to ride ‘really hard’ at others, helping me become a faster athlete. When I ride really hard, it’s absolutely flat out at times – so it’s actually a much harder way to cycle – but much more beneficial in developing your form.
So many riders that we coach at Rowe & King ride ‘Zone 3’ or ‘quite hard’ all the time. There are huge gains to be had, relatively easily by including some specific intervals in your training’.
To be the awesomest of riders, you need to feel at one with your bike. It needs to be your best friend. There are 3 simple steps to achieving this:
- Ride it, but don’t just ride for the hell of it. Always have a purpose to your session. I have been getting into ‘mindful’ riding recently – consciously knowing how your heart rate is responding to the effort you are putting in, and concentrating on each and every pedal stroke. Find a comfortable cadence and use your gears to be able to spin away smoothly.
- Invest in a Bike Fit. It might cost a bit of money, but making sure that every part of your bike is set up perfectly to your own anatomy will maximise your power output and prevent injury.
- Maintain it. Keep the operational parts (gears, brakes, headset, bottom bracket etc.) clean and oiled / greased. Know how to fix little faults yourself rather than relying on your local bike shop. Give your best friend some well-earned TLC.
This way, you and your bike will become inseparable. Perfect.
For the majority of athletes that I work with, initially most have previously overlooked really simple and basic training principles.
- They have no training plan, or if they do, it is not specific to them (a free plan from a book/magazine) or a generic computer based plan. As a result, they lack clear focus and direction.
- They don’t really know their own training zones. Or when they do, they often don’t stick to them.
- Easy rides are generally too hard, hard rides are often too easy. As a result of this, (and above) training lacks clear distinction between recovery and overload sessions (and weeks).
- Good (training appropriate) nutritional practices often get overlooked.
- They would rather spend time and money on kit (which won’t make them significantly faster [for a sustained period of time]), than use the time and money to advance their own body, or understanding of better methods of training.
Adopting one simple rule transformed my riding – “find your own rhythm”.
As I developed as a road cyclist I was able to tackle more interesting routes and, inevitably, some monster climbs. Riding in a group of very mixed ability it became obvious we would all need to find our own rhythm. It was less about total ascent time and more about how we approached the slopes. Some of the more powerful riders would tear through tough sections at a very inconsistent pace. Others preferred to ride evenly throughout and they often made back time in the final few kilometres.
I take a lot of inspiration from the wonderful world of pro cycling and it helps that one of my favourite riders, Tom Dumoulin, is a master of doing things his own way. At both the Tour de France and Vuelta Espana we’ve seen Tom gain time through his patient riding. He is the master of holding tempo and ignoring the erratic rhythms of the riders dancing alongside him. Just take a look at his ascent of Green Mountain at the 2016 Tour of Oman!
As much as I hate to sound like one of the annoying people at the café stop shouting about their ‘threshold power’ and ‘training zones’, getting a power meter has totally changed my riding.
A power meter lets you understand exactly how hard you’re working, how much fitter you’re getting and when to rest. Your workouts become more focussed and effective, and you can plan your training more easily.
You do need to learn to ignore the tool and just enjoy the bike sometimes too though; remembering what it is that got you into cycling in the first place is important otherwise you get too wrapped up in the training and it can become a chore.
First, I suppose there is never ‘the one thing’, or at least I wouldn’t want to personally nail one down as being the most important.
That being said, there is certainly some truth in this: ‘pushing’ has produced a lot of new discoveries, as well as making me stronger and more resilient on the bike. I’m very far from knowing what my physical limits are but I do know that I will probably never reach them, and this makes me glad. I think that I can ride hard into my old age and continue to learn things about myself and improve my riding, as long as I keep pushing the limits of what I used to think possible.
Most of my riding is done through London’s mean streets, commuting to and from work.
The one thing which I hold at the forefront of my mind when in the saddle is to anticipate what’s up ahead. This allows me to position myself appropriately at lights and junctions, and in heavy traffic (of which there is no other kind in central London). Mostly – although not always – keeping a watchful eye focused up the road helps me avoid being ‘doored’ (not wishing to tempt fate, this has happened to me just twice since 1989).
The benefits of reading the road are not confined to urban commuting. It’s a real aid to riding in a large group too. On sportive rides, club runs and charity events like London to Paris, the ability to prepare yourself in good time for what the ride is throwing at you, is invaluable – just ask the guy straining every sinew to restart uphill in his biggest gear, when the traffic light which stopped him in full flight, turns green.
Having a keen awareness of the riders around you in a bunch is crucial to avoid clashing wheels and acquiring painful road rash – or worse. Being proactive is always better than being reactive.
A little unexpected perhaps, but it was what I didn’t do, rather than what I did that transformed my riding the most.
In 2006 I was forced to take a break from cycling. At first it was tough to stop, but it enabled me to take a step back and review everything I thought I knew about my training.
When I returned, I needed to develop a very individualised training programme suited to the unique needs I had — I simply couldn’t train in the same way as before. What happened next was eye-opening. My performance improved, the results were amazing.
Taking the necessary time out gave me a great awareness of just how crucial it is to focus on the individual, not just the outcome and thanks to this, Truly Personal Coaching was born.
That´s it for now! If you have any top tips you´d like to share with us, please comment below! Thanks for reading.
If you are interesting in learning more about the panel, click here.