My first article on Medium so it has to be about cycling. More accurately, How to increase your average speed.
As the picture above would suggest I’ve been cycling since the early 80’s. At one point I was a Junior CAT 1 racer in track and road. That was a long time ago and it’s pathetic to dwell on considering I’m almost 50 now and have not won a CAT 3 or masters race ever. However I can help you, the Millennial, go faster than you once did and teach you some racing tips that might just get you on the winning blocks unless of course you are like every other Millennial I meet on race day and know everything you need to know about everything because you are gifted with omnipotence. in that case, GET OFF MY LAWN!
Okay here we go. These are tips told to my by coaches of Olympians and professional racers I have stalked over the years. First, learn how to tune your bike. When you get a new machine, spend some time with your local bike whisper and learn everything you can about basic maintenance. If you have to bring tires in to fix a flat or adjust the seat height, you’re not a serous cyclist so GET OFF MY LAWN. Still reading? Here are a couple things you should look for in your ‘pre-flight check’- are your rims straight? If not true them or take them into be trued. It’s tricky and it takes some time to learn so it’s okay, you can sit on my lawn. Bent rims will slow you down. Make sure your wheels are spinning freely. It’s really easy to over tighten the nuts down so they pinch the barrings. If your wheels are in place and tightened down but they have a little ‘give’ or ‘wobble’ in them the nut is too loose. If your wheel doesn’t spin freely for a good 20 seconds when you give it good hard spin, the nut is over tightened and you need to loosen it just to the point that your wheel spins freely without slowing down quickly and it doesn’t wobble in the wheel bracket. Having a perfectly ‘tuned’ wheel set will add 2–4 avg. mph to your Strava/MapMyRide data. Next during your ‘pre-flight check your chain, is it greased up? Dirty? rubbing on the front derailer? All these things will slow you down. A couple turns of a screw will fix derailer contact. Are your break pads in place? Sometimes they get knocked out of line and are rubbing on your rims. Do you have the maximum amount of air in your tubes? most 700 x 23 tires can take up to 120 psi. top them off every time you ride. If you don’t have a gauge on your pump or hand held, sell your bike and take up running and for god sake, GET OFF MY LAWN! Soft tires will slow you down as much as 5 avg mph. Second, make sure your bike fits. Every bike has it’s own specific geometry that engineers have spent a lifetime developing. The European steel frames of my day are still relevant and fast but do not fit like a carbon fiber TT bike of today. The frames are smaller for one. The seats post further back, the reach longer. It is a very different ride. Get second and third opinions about how it should fit your unique build. If you are sliding forward on your saddle, maybe you should move your saddle back. Yes back, not forward. Trust me on this. if you don’t feel you are getting your hips to rotate fully then bring it in for a fitting. or if your knees hurt or your toes are going to sleep, bring it in to your trusted bike whisper. Something isn’t right. Cleat placement and direction is also something to consider if you want to shave some time off your ride data. Moving your cleats on the bottom of your shoes a milometer can engage a whole set of muscles not previously used when you stomp on your peddles. Which brings me to the most important piece of advise I can give you, Heels down when you are stomping on your peddles in your saddle, and toes down when you are posting out of your saddle. Got it?! Heels down unless you are sprinting or climbing. This will hurt if you are not used to it but once you train these muscles to react to your stomping style, you will go faster than you ever have. I have seen cyclist go from 15 mph avg speeds to 20 mph avg speed. Lastly, you need to learn how to dance or drum or fuck like a porn star because cadence is everything! 1,2,3,4 1,2,3,4 1,2,3 1,2,3 5,6,7,8 what ever your rhythm you need to own it and focus on it. I know for $2000 you can get a power meter that will dial you in but it’s not necessary. You know the European Tour de France riders of the 80’s Greg LeMond, Frankie Andreu, Sean Kelly were not any slower than the riders of today. Their equipment was heavier and looser but they were strong and they could count for hours and hours. They did not have computers with metronomes doing it for them. Which brings me to focus. You need to stop thinking about your day, your relationship, your job when you are riding. You need to concentrate on the road, your cadence and your power. When you drift off in thought, you loose speed. It’s a fact. you need to focus. If you can’t, get meds to help you do it or join a zen sanga.
I hope this helps in some small way. In part 2 of this 2 part series I will go over some road and track racing tips and strategies. Feel free to send me questions or comments and if I offended your precious sensibilities, GET OF MY LAWN!