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Cycling

Tips and advice

Cycling

There's a lot to consider when taking on a cycling challenge such as climbing techniques and how to look after your kit. Read on for advice on all of this and more. We've also included help on cycling in groups and extensive training plans.

Bike gif

Your bike

To start off with, any bike will do for your training and racing. However, at some point you may want to invest in a good quality road bike with suitable tyres. It’s worth going to a specialist bike shop and getting fitted. They will be able to give you good advice about the right type of bike for you within your price range.

Your helmet

Having a good-fitting, robust helmet is an essential safety requirement and particularly important if you plan to train in a group.

Shoes and cleats

After your bike and helmet, the most important thing is to get right are your shoes and cleats. You’re about to spend a lot of time in the saddle so it’s imperative that you’re wearing something comfortable.

Your new pair of cycling shoes should be comfortable above all else. They should be the most comfortable pair of shoes you own!

Using cleats over normal trainers with flat pedals means that you are firmly attached to your bike and in more control of it. You don’t have to concentrate on your feet slipping off the pedals or your foot alignment. Instead you can focus on pedaling efficiently and more powerfully. This is particularly useful when climbing.

With cleats / clip less pedals you can take full advantage of the pedal stroke and conserve more energy.

If you’re afraid of using cleats or new to them, start with flat pedals and then progress onto Shimano SPD single or double-sided pedals. As you become more confident you can use different pedal systems such as Look or Speed play. There are many types of cleat / pedal systems out there.

Once you have your shoes and cleats sorted out, make sure you invest in a good pair of socks. You don't buy a Ferrari and put go-cart tyres on it, so get a comfortable sock on your foot. A good sock will wick moisture away from the foot, keeping it cool and reducing the amount of rubbing that can occur.

Cycling Shirts and shorts 

Cycling shirts or tops are designed to be close fitting so as to eliminate drag from the wind.  They are made of a technical fabric that will keep you dry by ‘wicking’ away the sweat from your body. They also have several handy pockets in the back to carry all your essentials including ride snacks, mobile phone, waterproof top, etc.

If you plan to do cycling of any length or distance, cycling shorts are essential pieces of kit for your comfort. The padded seat built into cycling shorts will add considerably to your comfort and again they share the technical properties mentioned above.

Investing in some good cycling apparel will keep you cool during warmer rides but also allow you to layer it up so that it keeps you warm during colder ones too.

Gloves

Gloves are a must to protect your hands from rubbing and will save you several layers of skin if you come off your bike. For colder rides, if you usually ride with fingerless gloves, consider wearing full finger gloves, as they will keep your hands warmer.

Checking your tyres

Always keep your tyres pumped up within their recommended range of pressures. They'll roll better, last longer and be more puncture resistant.

Check your tires regularly for embedded thorns, glass and other debris. If there’s anything embedded without a puncture, then remove the offending object before it punctures your inner tube.

Cuts in your tyre can be repaired with superglue. First deflate the tire then clean the area, let it dry and before drizzling a small amount of superglue into the cut. Press it together for a minute or so and your tyre should then be repaired.

Never ride on a flat tyre, it'll damage your tyres, tubes and rims.

Equipment to take out on a ride

The list below is not exhaustive list but contains some essential things to take with you:

  • Spare Tube
  • Puncture Kit
  • 2 x CO2 canisters
  • Allen Key set
  • Chain breaker
  • 2 x tyre levers
  • Zip ties
  • Hand Pump
  • Small change / mobile phone
    (make sure it’s charged before you leave)
  • 2 x water bottles with water and /
    or energy / electrolyte drink
  • Sun cream if on a long ride on a warm sunny day

Other equipment to consider

Water bottles, tyre pump, spare inner tubes, puncture repair kit, eye wear, lights, bike computer and multi-tool.

Cycling safety and etiquette should always be of the utmost importance. Safe cyclists should always ride with etiquette and the highest regard for other cyclists, road users and pedestrians. Knowing the right calls to make, and how to approach certain situations can make all the difference to you, your fellow riders, other road users and pedestrians. Good cycling etiquette is always well appreciated especially within large groups of cyclists.

Ride consistently and predictably 

Your movements will affect everyone in the group. Hold a straight line, don’t weave and always overtake around the right-hand side of the group.  Don’t grab your brakes so you brake sharply. If you want to take a break by standing up in the saddle keep the effort up and don’t let your bike drop back. At drinks / feed stations, slow down safely, respectfully and with due consideration to riders around you. Don’t veer sharply across the road either.

Don’t ride in the gutter

If you’re on the front of the group, don’t sit in the gutter. You’ll be increasing your and everyone else’s chances of hitting an obstruction. As long as the traffic conditions allow, ride 1m out from the curb.

Don’t overlap wheels

In case the rider ahead of you needs to brake, don’t follow their rear wheel directly. Give them 6–12 inches space but don’t overlap their rear wheel. If they have to perform a sudden movement then you both of you could come crashing down if your wheels are overlapping.

Half wheeling

If road and traffic conditions allow you’ll often be able to ride two abreast. Maintain an even pace and stay level with the rider next to you. Upping the pace whenever a rider draws level to you is known as ‘half-wheeling’. Half wheeling is definitely frowned upon.

Wheel suck

Don’t stick in the group and avoid your turn at the front. Even if you just put in a short period on the front, it’ll be appreciated. However, even if you’re finding the pace easy, don’t get on the front and accelerate, try to maintain the pace of the group.

Be alert

Groups will often change, fragment and reform as a ride progresses, especially on undulating or hilly rides. Be alert to this happening. On the flat, the group may be large but on long climbs they’ll break up. Equally on descents, due to the increase in speed and need for a greater reaction time, groups will spread out too.

Don’t drift off into your own bubble

Stay relaxed but constantly look around and don’t mindlessly follow the wheels. Look past riders in front so you can plan ahead. Always look first and clearly let riders around you know before moving within a group.

Obey the rules of the road

Most of your training and sportives that you enter will take place on roads that are open to traffic. Even when riding on closed roads, there’s no guarantee of your route being completely traffic free. Respect junctions, the high way code and road signs at all times. Always stay on the correct side of the road.

Learning the right climbing technique is essential for fast, efficient hill climbing The most efficient way to climb for most riders is by sitting in the saddle. This makes the best use of your gluteal muscles and places less stress on your breathing. Spinning a lower gear while seated will also keep your legs fresher for longer. Get out of the saddle on a climb to add a short burst of speed or just to stretch the legs. It can also be useful to stand up on the pedals when the pitch of the hill gets a little steeper. Use this technique sparingly though as it can use up far more energy than a seated effort and push your body into lactate overload.

Before tackling hilly or undulating rides, carefully consider the following.

Bodyweight 

If you are carrying excess weight, you are starting every climb with a major handicap. If you think you could do with losing a few pounds, then please contact us for some more nutritional advice. We can provide some sensible and easily implemented action points to help.

Practice

The more hills you climb, the better you will get at them. Make sure that you don’t shirk riding on hills in training. It will help you in particular to prepare for Box Hill come race day.

Gearing

Slogging up a climb in too big a gear is slow, inefficient and will drain your energy reserves. There’s no shame in fitting a compact chain set with a wide-ranging rear cassette. If in doubt, always opt for lower gears than you think are necessary.

Pacing 

Some hills are can be too steep and it’s a case of just getting up them. However, on shallower gradients and longer climbs, pace yourself sensibly by not starting the climb at too hard an effort. Make sure you’re in the correct gear from the start. On steep hills this is particularly important, so you don’t fall out of your cleats. Don’t push too hard too soon. Ride within yourself so that you stay out of the red zone.

It's important that you cycle at the right effort level and intensity to ensure you're training to reach your full potential. Most of us think that cycling "harder is better" so we end up cycling too quickly, which can result in feeling tired, getting ill or injured.

Understand what each session is trying to achieve and how it should feel is the way to train smart. Below you'll find a guide to the sessions that you'll find mentioned in your training plan and a note of how they should feel as a 'talk test'.

Type of Ride/HR  Zone                                               

Perceived Effort Level (1-10)*                                                                          

Heart Rate  

 How it should feel - 'the talk test'

Recovery Ride / 1

6 - 6.5

65 - 70%

You can speak in complete sentences, totally conversational, you're cycling relaxed, enjoying it and not worrying about the watch/pace

Long Ride / 2

6.5 - 7

65 - 70%                                                                 

You're in control, cycling fludily and very much at a conversational level but you'll feel slightly flushed with a gradual build up of muscular fatigue

Steady Effort Ride / 3

7 - 8

70 - 80%

You can speak in short sentences but have a slight pause on your breath. This can often be 'no man's land' in training terms if this is all you do

Race Pace / 4

7.5 - 8

78%

You can speak in short sentences, you have a slight pause on your breath but are not out of breath, relaxed and in control

Threshold Effort Ride / 5

8 - 8.5

80 - 85%

You could speak 4-5 words if somebody asked you a question. Your breathing is more laboured and you know you're working, we call this 'controlled discomfort'

Speedwork  / 5A                              

9 - 9.5

90 - 95%

You can say only 2-3 words maximum and are out of breath but still know that you could do more if you had to

*Perceived effort = where 1 is easy and represents minimum effort and 10 is hard and represents maximum effor

100 mile training plans for every ability 

More help with your challenge