Whether you’re a novice rider or an established pro have you ever dreamt of what it would be like to pull on the coveted yellow jersey on the Champs Elysees? Maybe you visualise being crowned king of the mountains as extra motivation for your tough hill climbs. Perhaps you imagine being Mark Cavendish as you jump out of the saddle and chase after cars on those long, flat roads.
Racing with with the pros may seem a world away. However, there are practical steps you can take to bridge the gap between you and those in the peloton.
The following ten steps may not make you a Tour De France winner but they will definitely provide you with the building blocks necessary for you to get the most out of your riding.
Ten steps to improving your cycling performance:
1. Have a dream. If you have no goal then you have no purpose in life. Seriously, pick a challenge that is going to make you that proud that you constantly pat yourself on the back during social gatherings.
2. Test yourself. Before you can set off on your journey to claiming the yellow jersey, you need to establish your baseline level and then your training programme will follow suit. Unless you are fortunate enough to own an SRM bike or a friend that works at in Sport Science department at a university, then I would suggests finding a gym with a watt bike. There are various tests you can beast yourself on, all will give you a starting point. Just make sure you repeat the same test around 6 weeks time.
3. Get out and ride your bike. Your bike a tool for training and not a trophy. You don’t get extra brownie points for your bike sparkling like a vajazzle. Come rain or come shine you need to be out on your bike getting in those all important miles. If you are serious about your riding then nothing less than 100 miles a week should be your bare minimum.
4. It’s not a fashion show. Unless you have recently signed for Team Sky, leave the pro gear to the pros. Wearing your favourite cyclists clothing doesn’t represent the same symbolism as wearing your favourite footy top. Don’t be that guy with all the gear and no idea. Get yourself something that is comfortable and durable. You will be needing several tops, shorts and rain gear. Your gear is going to require regular washing as you are going to be doing some serous sweating.
5. You’re not John Wayne but you walk like a cowboy. If you are serious about your cycling, then you are going to be spending some serious time in the saddle. Make sure you pick the correct saddle for your anatomy, 200lb sitting on something hard and thin…well you can imagine the pain and irritation after a four hour slog.
6. Lube up. Once you have got right saddle for your derriere, make sure that you choose a good chamois cream to avoid nasty blisters. Trust me, your partner will thank you for this little bit of advice.
7. Lay off the cakes. Many people often ask how they should approach hill climbs, my reply is lose weight! If you are carrying timber then you are going to pay the price and it’s going to hurt. The less weight you are carrying the less baggage you have got to carry, capisce!
8. It’s ok to be a heavy drinker. Stay hydrated during your rides, most bikes have the capacity for two bottle cages. This will be important for your longer rides. Your drinks should consist of electrolytes as these have been proven to be more effective than plain old water when focused on performance.
9. Measure everything. The more data that you can gather the better. Your training diary is your holy grail. It will be your point of reference for planning sessions and charting your progress. There are now many fancy apps and programs available for you to track your progress, however nothing beats the good old notebook and pen.
10. Manage your chimp. The backbone of the Great Britain Cycling Team’s success came form them taking time to understand their inner chimp. Our only limitations are the ones we place on ourselves. Being able to manage the primitive and impulsive chimp inside will allow you to unlock you potential and achieve the impossible.