Cycling is a data-rich activity that gives you countless opportunities to analyse and improve your performance, but it’s important to remember what got you into cycling in the first place.
If you’re anything like us, it’s the sheer sense of escapism - you don’t need to answer your phone, look at emails, or reply to any messages. It’s just you, your bicycle, and the road or trail ahead. In fact, for many of us, it’s the only quiet time we can carve out in the midst of hectic schedules and family life.
Not every ride can - or should be - a chance to beat your PB or take the KOM/QOM title. Some of the best rides are the ones where you’re simply enjoying time with your friends or family.
Here’s how your long, slow rides improve your cycling:
Riding at a lower intensity burns more fat than high-intensity cycling
Long, slow rides help build your aerobic fitness
You can use these rides to focus on your cadence
When you don’t tax your body on every ride, you can maximise your high-intensity sessions
If you’ve recently taken up cycling (even if your intention is to lose weight), we’re happy to tell you that cycling will increase your caloric requirements. But, before you get too excited, this doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want.
If you want to estimate how many additional calories you should eat after a ride, multiply the distance traveled in kilometers by 25 to 30, depending on how large your frame is. So, if you rode 30km and multiplied it by 25, you’ll need an extra 750 calories.
If your main goal is to lose weight, be careful about how many calories you eat back. You need to be in a caloric deficit to lose weight, so experiment with eating back less than your burned calories if the scale isn't budging.
Here are some extra nutrition tips to improve your cycling:
Don’t eat too much before a ride. Cycling while full is uncomfortable, to say the least, so eat a small meal that includes protein and carbohydrates a few hours before your ride.
If you struggle with low blood sugar, diabetes, or anything else that affects how you need to fuel yourself for a ride, speak to a dietician before embarking on a training program.
If you’re riding for under one hour, you don’t need anything more than water on your ride.
If you’re riding for between 1 - 3 hours, take water, an electrolyte sports drink, energy bars, and gels.
If you’re riding for over 3 hours, water, an electrolyte sports drink, energy bars, and gels, along with a small meal like a sandwich.
Whether you’re a seasoned mountain biker or just started hitting the trails, there’s always some part of your cycling that you can improve.
Skills clinics offer various courses where, if you’re a beginner you’ll start on the easiest course and work your way up to harder courses as you improve.
Mountain bikers who are already comfortable or looking to polish up specific skills can join more advanced courses - although brushing up on the basics never hurts, especially if you’ve never had a coach or trainer.
Along with becoming a better cyclist, skills courses also teach you things like pressure control, body position, climbing and descending, and cornering at high speeds. When you’ve finished the course, not only will you be stronger and faster, you’ll also be more relaxed and comfortable on the bike - both of which are key for minimising the risk of injuries and accidents.
Remember you never have to do anything you aren’t comfortable with, and no good coach will push you past your limit - so there’s no reason for beginners to be intimidated!
Here are a few of the skills courses offered around Australia:
Some level of discomfort can be expected if you’re training hard and riding long distances, but it can be tricky to know what’s normal, what’s an indication that your bicycle doesn’t fit you properly, and what may be an indication of not having enough core strength to support your posture.
Once you’re sure your bike fits you correctly, you can get to work on conditioning your body to hold your cycling posture. Core exercises like pilates are great for strengthening your muscles, and a stretching or yoga routine after rides can help you avoid normal aches and pains.
Switch Your Commute for a Bike Ride
This probably goes without saying, but the quickest way to improve your cycling is to simply cycle more. But, for most people, that’s easier said than done. Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in a day to work, spend time with your family, relax, and ride.
One of the best ways to incorporate more cycling into your daily routine is to start commuting by bicycle. Not only will it improve your performance and rack up training kilometers, but it’s also great for your overall well-being.
Studies show that commuting to work by car or public transport can wreak havoc on your mental health, causing increased levels of stress and anxiety. In fact, there’s even a term for it - commuter burnout. If your daily commute is more than 35 minutes each day, you may be at risk.
Still wondering if you should take the leap? Here's why you should cycle to work:
It’ll make you happier and healthier
It’s an easy way to improve your cycling and get in extra kilometres
It’s environmentally friendly
It gives you more chances to interact with your city and community