Friday, June 5, 2009

What I Learned about Cycling This Spring

I have been training for the Colorado Peace Ride now for a month or
so, after about 5 or 6 years off from any significant cycling. I had
done the Boston to NY AIDS Ride twice a ways back and competed in some
small triathlons, but my body only vaguely remembers those events. I
am incredibly grateful for the training plan and tips that Colby
Pearce has provided for the Peace Ride. I tend to like to do things
my own way, but following his plan has been incredibly helpful and I
feel like my conditioning has improved greatly in a very short time.

So I thought I would share the things I have found most helpful in my
training so far...

1. There is no substitute for time on the bike. I am generally in good
condition, but I have found nothing helps build up my legs and lungs
for cycling like cycling. I have done a fair amount of cross training
in the past, and it’s definitely valuable, but for long rides there is
nothing that seems to get my body used to riding like actually riding.
I have been pretty consistently riding every few days for at least an
hour or so, and ramping up my long rides to 2 and 3 hours, and my body
has really responded. Rides that were a significant challenge just a
few weeks ago are now my short rides.

2. Spinning, spinning, spinning. When I was into cycling I read Lance
Armstrong's biography and discovered that he had great success riding
in a light gear and at a higher cadence (revolutions of the pedals per
minute). It makes cycling more of an aerobic activity and lightens
the impact on your muscles. You can always pump more food into your
body to provide more energy, but once your muscles are shot or have
cramped up, there is not much to do but suffer through it (or humble
yourself and call your buddy for a ride home!) Colby Pearce has also
greatly emphasized riding at a high cadence, and so I have done a lot
of that, and I feel it is responsible for my increased stamina and

3. Play with your bike set up. I have been tweaking just about
everything on my bike: the handlebar positioning, my seat height and
positioning. I changed my pedals and the positioning of the cleats on
my shoes. There is not much I haven't adjusted, and I feel much more
comfortable on my bike, which seems to make even more of a difference
on longer rides. I am in the process at the moment of changing the
stem on my bike to bring my handlebars closer in as I feel like I am
stretched out a bit far, especially for riding lots of hills vs.
flats. Every small change I have made has helped me feel more
comfortable and more efficient.

4. Mix up your routes. I tend to be a creature of habit, and will do
the same thing over and over again. With riding I have found it’s
really helpful to switch up my routes a lot. It keeps everything
fresh, keeps me alert, provides new challenges, and lots of new
scenery. It seems especially helpful on those days when my body would
rather be on the couch eating ice cream!


What have you found most helpful in training for long bike events / rides?

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