Riding a bicycle is one the best forms of fun, transportation and exercise (in my opinion). Whether you are a professional cyclist, a daily commuter, or just trying to clock some miles in with friends – there are certain things you can do to get a little more out of each of your rides.
These tips probably won’t make you the next winner of The Tour de France, but they can help you stay on top of your game and improve how well you ride your bike.
The term, “Food is Fuel” is no lie. Some of the following tips also mention food, the reason being that food will keep your engine going. Look at the human body as if it were a car and look at food as being the gasoline. Your car will have a hard time moving without a sufficient amount of gasoline. In that sense, your body will have a hard time moving without food.
Certain foods have different roles in making your body run in different ways. For extensive cardio workouts, like riding a bicycle, a sufficient amount of carbohydrates is recommended. Carbs, like bread, pasta and oats, break down into sugars and provide the body and its muscles with the energy to keep going.
Having a solid carb intake before and while you are riding is a must and will help improve your rides. Gels are great for getting those carb levels up while riding. Without proper fuel, you are sure to hit a wall and feel sluggish, slow, and tired when you least want it. Fuel up!
Hit those hills! When you do something long enough you risk falling into a routine. Suddenly, anything different from your routine is foreign, weird, exciting, and maybe even painful. That being said, when you consistently ride flat routes you are setting yourself up for a hell of a surprise when you see that first hill.
Don’t be scared of hills. Look at them and say, “Hey! I’m going to climb you,” and then do it. The first few, depending on the grade, may be a pain in the butt. And to be honest, climbs are always going to be a pain, kind of like taking out the trash – it sucks, but you have to do it.
In the case of improving how well you ride on the road, hills are your friend. The more you climb, the stronger you will become and the easier those flat rides will become. Hill climbs are the lifting weights of riding bikes; they increase strength and make the light work more pleasant (the light work being flat sections of road). Don’t dodge the hills!
Light Cardio on Rest Week
On rest weeks, it is important not to fall into the couch potato trap. As nice as it may sound to simply hang up your shoes, order a pizza, and pass out for a week – the end result will not be fun. Light cardio on rest weeks is recommended.
Try going for a brisk walk, a light ride, or a nice swim every day. These exercises should be drastically less strenuous than your average workouts or rides and are meant to simply keep the bones, muscles and tendons moving and loose.
Rest and Recover
Have you ever tried not sleeping? The next day is not so fun, right? Rest is immensely important to function regularly as a human and to live. The more active you are, the more important rest becomes. With rest comes recovery and with recovery comes the ability to continue riding. It’s recommended to get 8 hours of sleep a night. Whether you can function on less or not is irrelevant, the fact remains that getting a healthy amount of sleep is important to allow your body to recover effectively.
Recovery is a different beast altogether. Recovery is a product of the fuel you put in your body after a long ride. Protein, for example, is great at refueling the body and helping it recover from strenuous workouts. In contradiction to what was mentioned about light cardio on rest week, when you’ve finished a hard workout, one of the best things you can do is eat (healthy) and rest. Your body will thank you the next day when you go out for another ride.
Ride Your Bicycle
The easiest way to get better at something is to continue doing it. Whether you are playing video games, cooking, running, reading, writing, or procrastinating, the best way to get better at those things is to continue doing them. It should then go without saying that the best way to improve how well you ride your bicycle is to simply continue riding it. Take it for a spin around the block every morning and every night.
There’s no need to go on lengthy rides every single day – just being on your bike will do wonders with how well you ride it. Take it to get groceries, to get beer, to visit a friends house – any excuse to take your bicycle over your car is a great excuse.
These tips may not make you the strongest rider, but they will help you get more comfortable on your bicycle and soon enough you’ll feel more comfortable pedaling than walking.
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