Ride faster, longer, more stylishly, more enjoyably and in more comfort! Here are 67 Road Cycling tips, not in any particular order and, yes, I know 65 is a random number but that’s just how it came out! If you have any other road cycling tips please add them in the comments below!
1 Enjoy Road Cycling
This sounds a bit obvious but it’s the simplest and yet the most difficult thing to achieve. We all, primarily, do road cycling for the same reason – we enjoy it, it gives us pleasure and enhances our lives. The key is to work out which element of road cycling is your prime motivation and then simply do more of that! More of what you enjoy equals more pleasure – job done! All of the rest of it is superfluous and may well indirectly add to the enjoyment but the primary joyful element is key.
You see, I think the problem with the amount of information so readily available to us today is that we are constantly aware of what other people are doing. Constantly comparing ourselves and constantly think we are doing things wrong and should be doing it like the other people we see. Road cycling should be fun, there’s no right or wrong way and you can take it as seriously or un seriously as you like as long as you are enjoying it.
You don’t have to have a carbon bike and spend four hours a week doing intervals strapped to a heart rate monitor and then upload all your data on to Strava to be a proper road cyclist. This is fine if it completely floats your boat and gives you untold pleasure but you are still a proper road cyclist if you like going out once a week for a ride out to your local cafe in the sunshine. You may still derive the same amount of pleasure and still do yourself good and that absolutely fine.
Road cycling is what you want to make it and that should be guilt free. There’s no bad way of doing it, it’s all good. Make it your own and don’t compare yourself to others. Your way is the right way, work out what that is, what gives you joy and do more of it!
That said, take what you will from the road cycling tips below! They are designed to help you derive pleasure from your road cycling, to make life easier and to ultimately enjoy it even more. Take from them what you see as being relevant to you and don’t feel that if you don’t agree with them or if you don’t do them then you are doing road cycling wrong!
2 Clean Your Bike After Each Ride
…..or at least on a regular basis as psychologically at least a clean bike is a faster bike! Of course this isn’t scientifically true but if you leave the grime to build up it will be harder to shift eventually and it can lead to corrosion and damaged components.
All the moving parts of the bike’s drive train and braking system will work much more efficiently if they are clean and they will last longer too! If you are really keen a wax polish of the paintwork on a quarterly basis will keep the frame looking good and also prevent mud and grime from sticking to it so much.
3 Oil and Lubricate Gears Regularly
Keeping your chain and gears clean and well lubricated is vital to helping them to perform at their best and preventing premature wear. Use a degreaser to thoroughly soak the drive train on a regular basis, a good scrub with an old toothbrush works well with the degreaser and is great for getting bits of grit and dirt out of the nooks and crannies!
Make sure you degrease the jockey wheels as well and pay special attention to the inside of the cassette on the rear wheel where dirt and grit easily accumulates. Once everything is degreased and clean wash off with clean water.
Dry thoroughly (it should all look silver again by now!) and then use a good quality special bike chain lube. Apply sparingly to the chain, spin the wheels and change through the gears and then wipe off the excess so that it isn’t splattering all over the place on your next ride!
4 Check Your Tyre Pressures Each Week
This is an obvious tip but one which can easily be overlooked and makes a huge difference to the performance of your road bike. If you have ever tried riding a bike with under inflated tyres you will know what I mean as it’s a bit like trying to bike through sticky treacle!
Firstly make sure that you know what the optimum pressure for your tyres is – it’s usually indented onto the wall of the tyre and, in the case of road bike tyres, is likely to be crazily high! Mine is 90lbs per square inch for example – wow that’s a lot of pressure! It’s well worth investing in a good quality pump with an accurate pressure gauge to make correct inflation of the tyres easy and accurate.
It’s a good idea to have a quick feel of the tyres before a ride to make sure there isn’t any obvious pressure problem and I like to properly check them on a weekly basis. They do seem to loose a bit of pressure, even though they haven’t got any problems or punctures and need a little top up every two or three weeks.
5 Always Ride with Tools and a Puncture Repair Kit
I learned the hard way about how foolish it is to ride without any tools or puncture repair kit having had to walk home both after the crank working loose on my bike and also after getting a puncture. It’s not a nice experience and walking any distance in road shoes is not a good idea! Plus which you get very cold very quickly just walking in cycling gear and feel a bit of a Wally as well!
I can’t believe it took me so long to realise that I needed a small saddle bag containing a multitool, spare inner tube, mini pump and tyre levers. Of course, since I have kitted myself out with this I haven’t ever had to use it!
6 Learn How to Fix a Puncture at the Road Side
It’s no good having a puncture repair kit if you don’t know how to use it! It’s also very different repairing a puncture in the comfort of your own home to doing it at an isolated road side in the rain!
Have a go at practicing taking the front a back wheels of your bike off, taking the tyres of and replacing the inner tube several times until you really have got the knack of it. Learn how to do it when it isn’t urgent and then, when the time does come for having to do it out on the road the whole experience will be much easier.
Also make sure that you can do the whole operation using your “emergency” tool kit, check that you know how to use the mini pump and that the multitool has all of the tools you need for the job.
7 Don’t Pinch Your Inner Tube
When putting a new inner tube onto a wheel don’t screw the valve into place until after the tyre is on and inflated. If you do it before there is a risk that the inner tube will get pinched between the tyre and the wheel rim and puncture when you re inflate the tyre.
8 Take Your Phone With You
Road cycling is a great “get away from it all” activity and a lot of us see our cycling time as time away from the distractions of phone calls and notifications. However, bear in mind that, even on a moderately long ride, you could end up a long way from home. You could have an accident or suddenly become ill. It seems a bit silly with all of the advantages of modern connectivity to put yourself unnecessarily at risk and not to do a simple thing like popping your phone in your back pocket. It can be a good idea possibly to put it on silent so that you can forget about it whilst on your ride but it’s a good idea to have the back up in case of dire emergency.
9 Let Someone Know Where you are Going
You may well have your phone with you but you should always let someone know where you are going and roughly what time you are expecting to be back. It’s not that road cycling is a particularly dangerous activity but there is always the possibility of something happening a long way from home and help and, if there is someone who is looking out for you then any problems will probably get sorted more easily.
I think it’s a peace of mind thing for me as well but I always roughly describe where I’m going to y partner before setting out and also do a guestimate of what time I’ll be back. In the worst case scenario and I got knocked off my bike into a ditch she would at least know where to start looking!
10 Always Warm Up
Even if you don’t think of yourself as being particularly athletic warming up at the beginning of a ride is always the best idea. There’s always the temptation to go too fast too soon and pushing cold muscles hard can increase the risk of muscle damage. I know from my own rather meagre sporting experience that if I go too hard too soon the muscles in the back of my legs ache really quickly and take the best part of an hour to recover.
Gradually building up is a much better policy and better for your body all round. A simple warm up routine would involve a good 10 – 15 mins of easy relatively fast spinning before getting down to business. This will warm up the muscles without putting undue strain on them and get them nicely prepared for the rest of the ride.
11 Go Slow Then Fast
On a long ride, where your main consideration is endurance, (for me anything over about 20 mins!!) try to ride the first half or so well within your capabilities. This saving of energy and pacing yourself will then allow you to really go for it towards the end of the ride where you can pace yourself a little more easily. You will have more of a sense of how much further there is to go and also have the promise of recovery off the bike after the ride to look forward to! (think cake!)
You will, overall, go much faster by doing things this way round rather than going too fast at the start and running out of energy in the latter part of the ride.
12 Vary Your Position on Longer Rides
I don’t think the human body was really designed to spend long hours bent over a road bike. It’s a bit of an unnatural position – particularly if you’re long and gangly like me and, no matter how well you are fitted to the bike it can be a good idea to vary your position from time to time on a long ride.
I think there’s always a temptation to forget to move and I know when I first started road cycling I would sit on the drops and not really move for the whole ride – bad idea! I found that my back ached and got rather stiff, shoulders ached, neck ached, hands, arms and back side ached…….in fact most of my body! Now this was clearly due to the fact that I was a relatively unfit and inflexible middle aged person – I’m still middle aged but am a bit fitter and more flexible now and things are a little better.
However, it’s still important to move around on the bike. Try to ride on the hoods, sit up a little and ride with your hands up on the bars and also spend time on the drops as well. It’s also important to ride out of the saddle for short spells as this stretches the muscles out and is invaluable for allowing the blood to flow to any numb regions also! Whilst sitting on the bike it’s possible to move the balance of your weight around a little too, wiggle a little in the saddle and change positions as often as you can. Try resting your hands in different positions, keep your fingers moving and be almost constantly adjusting and on the move.
This all might sound a bit mad but, by just keeping moving with a little more variety, you will prevent yourself from seizing up and your long term comfort on a ride will noticeably increase.
13 Get Your Bike Carefully Fitted
Making sure that your bike is the right size and is also correctly fitted for you is vitally important. An incorrectly fitted bike will not only le uncomfortable but will effect your performance and could lead to injury as well.
One of the most important settings is the seat height and it might well take a number of attempts and some fine tuning to get it exactly in the right place. Similarly, there are adjustments for reach, in terms of how far away the handle bars are, also the height and angle and even the width of the handlebars is important as well.
Back at the other end of the bike the seat can be adjusted fore and aft to make sure that you are sitting correctly relative to the pedals and the angle and float on the cleats which connect your shoes to the pedals needs to be considered too.
As you can see bike fitting is a large and complex area, a bit of a dark art that s shrouded in mystery and contradiction. It’s very possible to fit a bike yourself with some research and also a willing helper and maybe a phone to video yourself on and a turbo trainer. There are apps which help measure the right angles and lots of help and advice available.
The ultimate bike fit can be had by going to your local bike shop or bike fit specialist and they will work with you to look at your riding style, physical strengths and weaknesses and will be able to recommend the exact settings for you to ride with the optimum efficiency and comfort.
14 Do Interval and Sweetspot Training
The quickest way to get stronger and faster is to help your body get used to making longer and more sustained efforts. You will get faster and stronger over time if you just sort of, well cycle around, but you can accelerate the process by being a little more scientific about it.
Interval training or HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is the way to do it and, although not particularly pleasant whilst you are doing it, HIIT training really does work. Basically you ride at your threshold pace for a prescribed time, then recover for a short time, then hit it hard again etc etc and rinse and repeat – or sweat sweat and repeat! As time progresses you can increase the time intervals that you are working and reduce the recovery time and you will make great progress in terms of your overall strength and speed.
Sweet Spot training is much nicer and involves cycling for increasingly lengthening times at a level that you can just sustain for the interval time. So you might ride for 20 minutes in the sweetspot effort range and then have 10 minutes recovery. You aren’t going flat out but you are cycling at pace, your body is working hard and, over time the amount of effort you can sustain will increase and the time you can sustain it for will as well.
Voila! With both types of training, particularly in combination you will, over all, and over time go faster!
15 Practice Clipping in
If you are new to using a clipless pedal system you really do need to practice clipping in and out leaning on a wall at home in the safety of your own garden and then on a quiet stretch of road. Even when you have got the basics it’s worth specifically choosing busy routes where you will need to frequently clip in and out to perfect your technique. Nothing wastes more time than not being able to reliably clip in when you set off and the pain and embarrassment of forgetting to unclip and then falling over is not great (yes, the voice of bitter experience!)
16 Make Sure Your Saddle Fits Your Sit Bones
Yes, everyone’s bottom is a different size and the contact points between your bike and your bottom are of the most vital importance! I didn’t really appreciate this until I changed my saddle and got one that fitted better. The improvement in comfort is unbelievable and well worth paying for and, in hindsight I cant believe that I suffered with the incorrect saddle for so long.
If you feel that your saddle in unreasonably uncomfortable it could be that it is the wrong size for you. You can measure the width of your sit bones either by getting a very close friend with a tape measure and a strong constitution to measure for you or you can sit on a carpeted stair on a sheet of tin foil and measure the distance between the indentations. The choice is yours! Your saddle should be a couple of cm wider than your sit bones but the saddle manufacturer will be able to match the saddle to your sit bone measurements correctly.
17 Don’t Ride on the Inside of Vehicles at Corners
Road cycling, and cycling in general is a relatively safe activity but a huge proportion of cycling accidents do happen due to cyclists cycling on the inside of vehicles as they go round corners. This is particularly dangerous by the sides of heavy goods vehicles as you may well be in their mirror’s blind spot and, as they turn into the corner you could find yourself trapped and in great danger of being knocked off.
As a general rule motorists don’t expect to be “undertaken” ie passed on the inside and, as a cyclist, you are putting yourself in a position of danger every time you do it. The situation isn’t helped by the fact that the position of cycle lanes encourages undertaking and you are spending a lot of your time in driver’s rear blind spots.
The solution is to avoid putting yourself into risky situations and wherever possible, particularly in slow moving and stationary traffic to over take on the outside. You will be far more visible and far safer doing so.
18 Imagine You are Invisible
No driver ever intends to hit a cyclist but, as a driver myself, I am acutely aware of how difficult it can sometimes be, particularly in busy traffic, to see people on bikes. You can wear all the brightly coloured gear you want and be lit up like a Christmas tree with lights but you still can’t assume that drivers will see you and allow for you on the road.
It’s a harsh reality but, if you start assuming that other road users haven’t seen you and start taking responsibility for your own safety rather than assuming that others will do it for you, you will be in a much safer position on every ride.
In practical terms this means not assuming that drivers will give way to you at T junctions and roundabouts for example. Of course they should do and in 99% of cases they will be there is always the odd one that doesn’t see you and pulls out in front of you. If you have already assumed that they haven’t seen you and your speed and road position has been adjusted accordingly you stand a much better chance of not being hit.
19 Use Chamois Cream
“Chammy cream” is the weirdest stuff in the world. I think it’s bad enough waddling around in cycling shorts with what essentially amounts to a nappy pad between your legs. It’s many times worse to then smear the nappy pad and your nether regions with greasy cream so that you get a sort of constant squelching sensation downstairs!
The most gross part is when you fit apply chammy cream and pull up those shorts. The sensation of cold goo is disconcerting to say the least!
However, once you get on your bike the magic starts to happen! It’s cooling, soothing and absolutely does erm smooth the way, particularly on long bike rides where the build up of heat due to friction and rubbing is decreased. I love the stuff and have used it on very long rides – for me it is definitely worth using though I don’t bother with it on shorter day to day training rides. It’s just a treat for the weekends!
20 Keep a Record to Motivate Yourself
Sometimes it’s hard to see the wood for the trees and easy to forget the progress we have made. Recording your rides will, over a period of time become an inspirational tool when you look back and you can sort of see the accumulations of miles as “money in the bank” towards whatever your cycling goal is.
You don’t even need to be seeing improvements in times or distances or power outputs to make this effective. Just the record of the sheer number of rides and the commitment that you have previously put in will be enough. Wanting to continue that legacy is a great motivator and can be great for getting you out and onto the saddle!
You can record your activity in a notebook or on a spreadsheet but it’s much more interesting to download an app like Map My Ride or Strava and to see where you have been and get a few more electronic details as well. Many cycling apps are free for the basic recording functions and easy to use. You just hit start, go on your cycle ride and then stop and save ride at the end!
21 Prepare the night before
You know the feeling where you have promised yourself that you’ll get out of bed in good time and go for an early bike ride before the main activities of the day begin You know you”ll feel great once you’ve done it and that it will be fine once you’ve got going but………bed is so warm…….it’s still dark outside…….it might be raining……..you don’t know where your cycling gloves and warm top is……etc etc etc!
We are all great at procrastination and talking ourselves out of doing things! I’m a past master at this sort of thing and I find that if I give myself the least number of excuses and make the activity I want to do the easiest thing to do rather than the hardest, then chances are I’ll follow through!
So, sort out all of your kit the night before. Have it all laid out ready so that all you need to do is literally step out of bed and into your cycling gear. Have breakfast all set out if you are going to eat and have your bike checked and ready for action. If it can be at the bottom of the stairs so that you trip up over it and can’t avoid it then all the better!
All this pre prep also psychologically preps you and programs you to follow through as well. The chances are that you will go for the ride now, the barriers and excuses are no longer there and you have paved the way much more thoroughly than just going to bed the night before and promising to get up early and get out on the bike!
22 Check the long term weather
It can be really helpful and motivational to plan your week’s riding in advance. No matter what level you are riding at it’s important that regular riding becomes a habit and, if you have scheduled riding time into your calendar and it has become a scheduled activity you are more likely to keep going at it!
It makes sense to look at the potential weather for the week and to plan around this as well. There’s little point in cycling in a howling gale if it can be avoided by just rescheduling your ride to the day before in sunshine. Similarly, you will make fewer excuses to yourself about not being able to go for a ride because of the weather if you schedule your rides for when the weather is good! Try to be flexible where possible and work with, rather than against the elements!
23 Keep Hydrated
Even when it’s cold you still need to keep drinking whilst you are riding. I used to not really take any notice of this, particularly on shorter rides and in cooler weather but I have found that drinking a little in all conditions does help and keeps me feeling fresher and helps with my recovery time.
You should drink on all rides over an hour or so but it’s helpful to drink on short rides as well. Apparently if you are feeling thirsty then, to a certain extent it’s too late and you should drink a little and often on the bike even if you feel you don’t need it. It’s recommended to have a slurp every 15 minutes throughout a ride.
I do personally find this a bit excessive and you have to balance it against the risk of then being desperate for a wee in the middle of nowhere. The combination of tight lycra (particularly bibs) and a full bladder is a conundrum that really can’t be solved without a lot of careful thought and a careful balance of elastic pulling against one’s modesty. I’ve never had a truly successful wee whilst wearing bib shorts so just bear that in mind and if you have perfected the technique then please enlighten me in the comments below!
24 Eat whilst riding
Have you ever been for a long ride and then got home and then just hoovered up the contents of the fridge in a post ride feeding frenzy? Or, almost worse still been out on a ride and experienced an absolute drain of energy where you feel as though you simply can’t pedal on for any longer?
Both are pretty unpleasant and can be avoided by regular eating whilst you are out on the bike. No I’m not suggesting carrying a rucsac with sandwiches and a thermos flask but, high energy bars and special high energy gels are light easy to eat and digest on the go and, most importantly do make a huge difference.
When I first got to the stage of being able to cycle for two of three hours or more I didn’t really take much notice of the advice about eating on the bike thinking that it was a bit of an affectation really. Yes, I thought that eating whilst training was for girls and my pig headed stupidy meant that my body was craving calories when I got home and was eating like a horse. Generally not the right sorts of things as well – wow how it made my chocolate a sweet cravings worse!
I first tried the whole snacks on the go during my first sportive event and found the feeding stations a revelation. What a Wally! I felt so much better during the latter parts of a long ride after eating, I had more energy surprisingly enough but, most noticeably, my recovery time was much better and I felt much better immediately after getting off the bike.
There are a number of energy bars and products available. You can buy specialist cycling ones ot just use ordinary cereal bars or bake flap jack or whatever takes your fancy really. Just make sure that it isn’t specifically low calorie! Great joy!!
25 Do a pre breakfast coffee ride
This sounds like a nightmare for a big girls blouse like me but here’s the scenario:
Prise myself out of bed before the rest of my lazy family (generally on a weekend morning). Get into cycling gear and down a small but very strong coffee. Cycle out in the crisp, fresh sun shining morning and do a short sharp ride with beautiful views and no early morning traffic (!). Meanwhile my body needs some energy to keep me going and, as my stomach is empty starts to draw on the not insignificant stores of middle aged fat predominantly around my middle. Get home slightly panting and sweaty, core and inner body warm and toasty, hands face feet and toes tingling with cold. Jump into piping hot shower. Do some gentle stretches. Body is still burning up fat due to the speed that my metabolism is going at. Sit and have healthy breakfast with family feeling tingly, fantastic and very very SMUG!!
Try it – it’s great, but don’t cycle for too long as you will tire out quickly!
26 Use two front lights at night
Yes two! A lower powerful one pointed downwards so that you can see where you are going and also one mounted on your helmet that motorists are more likely to see. You cannot be over illuminated at night, you have to be seen or you will suffer the consequences.
27 Use tin foil inside shoes
When it’s cold outside there’s nothing much worse than cycling with your toes feeling like blocks of ice. Fingers go the same way but at least you can, to a certain extent, keep them moving and rub them together for some warmth. You toes are just stuck there in your shoes getting colder and colder.
Using more than one pair of socks works well as does putting a sheet of tin foil/aluminium baking foil around your toes before you put them in your shoes as well. You have to be careful that it doesn’t tear but it does make a difference as it reflects the heat back onto your toes and also acts as a seal keeping draughts out.
I have tried cycling in the cold with one foot in foil and one not. (Seriously do I just have too much time on my hands!) It really does work – OK it’s not like having central heating in your shoes but there is enough difference to make it worth the hassle of trying out!
28 Look at power/heart rate rather than average speed
We often tend to look at average speed as an indicator of performance. This is OK to a certain extent but can be misleading as, in calculating average speed, there are a huge number of variable factors involved. Wind, hills, traffic, how bad your hangover is etc etc all have an impact on average speed making it less than an accurate indicator of progress.
In an ideal world a power meter is the best thing as it accurately records the actual power that you are putting through the pedals over a given period of time. It would be very possible to produce high power and to have a low average speed if you were fighting a headwind or grinding up a long climb for example. Similarly coasting along with a backwind downhill and then boasting about your high average speed really isn’t an accurate indication of your cycling prowess!
The only issue with power meters is that they are still relatively expensive and may well be out of the reach of many. A good compromise is to use a heart rate monitor which essentially monitors how hard your body is working at any given time. With this you can track your body’s progress in terms of it’s ability to work harder for longer stretches and also keep tabs on your maximum and resting heart rate.
29 Don’t wear underwear under lycra shorts
30 Shorter regular training rides are better than one long ride
If you are pushed for time doing two or three shorter focussed training rides during a week is better than doing one massive long ride at the weekend. If time really is an issue then try to incorporate cycling into your daily routine. Could you commute by bike for example or drive part of the way and cycle the rest on a couple of days a week? Is it possible to cycle during your lunch hour or could you change your meal routine and eat later one evening having done a cycle ride after work?
It’s never easy finding time, particularly if it’s for doing something just for yourself as it can easily not become a priority as many of us can feel guilty at the self indulgence of putting ourselves first. However if you can make cycling a habit and get it ingrained into your schedule it will become much less of an issue over time. Apparently it takes about a month for a habit to form. So being deliberate and mindful over your cycling schedule for a month should see it ingrained into your daily habit. Interesting theory!
31 Ride with a focus in mind – follow a plan
There is of course much to be said for just “going for a ride” and it’s lovely to meander through the country side aiming at nothing more than a nice cafe for a coffee and a mid ride snack. In fact I would argue that this type of riding is one of life’s great pleasures but, as with anything nice, if you do it all the time it loses it’s appeal. It’s much better left as an occasional treat.
Well that sounds a bit mean doesn’t it! I think I’m trying to say that if you keep doing aimless pleasure rides you might well find that you get a bit bored, you will see only slow improvements in your fitness and endurance levels and you might not be getting the best out of this road cycling thing!
I can only talk from my own experience and, it might just be because I’m an unimaginative task orientated bloke sort of person (not sure that’s strictly true) but, once I started a training plan the focus and discipline that it gave me was great!
Now I have to point out that my great “training plan” of self improvement was hardly an iron man programme and that I have a very low threshold for discomfort but it did give my rides purpose and focus and over time I did record a noticeable improvement in my fitness and a pleasing loss of flabby weight!
So, even if it’s relatively low key. A long term goal and a plan as to how you will achieve it is a good thing in my experience. I worked over a period of 12 weeks and then had a month or so of “free wheeling” before getting back into a more structured pattern. It really does work well for me and hopefully will for you too!
32 Ride with an end goal in mind
Not everyone is goal orientated but I do think that it is a good idea to have some sort of mission or purpose behind your road cycling activities to motivate you. There’s nothing like being on a bit of a personal journey and achieving your targets, however small they may be, to promote a feel good feeling and to motivate you even further.
For me personally I have tended to to think of my cycling in twelve week blocks and, if there is a sportive or event at the end of the 12 weeks then it gives me a purpose to my training. You don’t have to be aiming to go further or faster though you could just aim to cycle for a certain amount of time per week in order to help with weightloss or general health, you could work towards being able to complete a weekend of cycling in the hills or be trying to get faster at your local time trials if you are very competitive.
I could also see great benefit in making it my cycling aim to cycle to every nice cafe within a thirty mile radius and try as many of their cream teas as possible in a given amount of time. Each to their own of course and naturally some people’s aim and aspirations are more virtuous than others!
33 Shed some weight
Ok, there’s no disputing the fact that the lighter the weight you are trying to haul around on your bike the faster you will go.
There’s also no disputing the fact that there’s a cheap way of doing this and a very expensive way. The expensive way involves buying carbon framed bikes, ultra lightweight kit and expensive featherweight accessories. The cheap way involves eating less!
Harsh words I know but there’s little point in spending thousands on a carbon framed bike if you are a few KG over weight yourself.
If you are absolutely at your optimum weight and are super fit and looking for incremental gains in speed by shedding a few extra grammes by riding a very expensive bike then fair enough. Unfortunately, I personally have some way to go before my body would be in any shape or form worthy of mounting anything more exotic than an aluminium framed road bike!
34 Do cross training to keep overall fitness
Road cycling does tend to put the emphasis on developing strength in particular areas of the body only and it can be a good idea to do some sort of cross training in your overall exercise routine as well. Swimming is perfect as it is relatively stress free on the body and is good for using the body a little more evenly. Yoga is also a great compliment to cycling and is really good for flexibility and core strength.
You don’t need to go crazy with the cross training for it to be beneficial, maybe only one or two short sessions a week, and you will find that the contribution that it makes to your overall fitness level helps with your cycling performance as well.
35 Work on core strength
Road cycling puts quite a lot of strain on your core and having strong core muscles is fundamental to your long term comfort on the bike and your ability to perform at your best. Very often nagging back pain, tightness over the shoulders, neck pain and other discomfort has at it’s root the fact that the core needs greater strength so that it can help with stability as you cycle. The more stable you are and the more comfortable the more power you will be able to transfer to your pedalling.
There are a number of simple exercises that you can do at home to improve things and all it takes is ten minutes or so a day and you will see improvements. Cat stretches, plank exercises and pelvic tilts are all particularly effective and a number of these types of exercises are good for alleviating general back pain as well.
I have to work hard in this area myself as I do frequently suffer from lower back pain on the bike. This is mainly to do with the fact that I’m an inflexible middle aged bean pole but I have found over time that spending time working on my core off the bike and particularly doing cat stretches and exercises to open and relax my back muscles has made a noticeable difference. It’s a work in progress!
36 Wear glasses/eye protection
Not all road cyclists do this but it makes sense to me that there is the distinct possibility that I will be hit in the eye by flying grit and dust from passing cars. I always wear some sort of eye protection on the bike and in the winter this is a pair of clear glasses and in the summer, well I’m Mr Cool with shades (not!). I also tend to find that, whatever the time of year if I cycle with “naked” eyes my eyes are soon streaming, not with tears of joy at my latest athletic performance, but just…. well…… streaming as the air hits them.
37 Wear gloves/hand protection
I wear gloves all year round. Obviously in the winter they keep my little hands warm and toasty (I wish!) but also in the summer as well. Summer gloves are lightweight and easy to wear and wearing gloves gives me a certainty of grip as well as a little extra cushioning on the handle bars and a little more comfort.
Yes, we are back to the same old thing again of how much I like to be as comfortable as possible for as much of the time as possible!
Also, if I fall off the bike my hands are most likely to hit the tarmac first. I don’t like the idea of the palms of my hands skidding along the road surface at 20mph with the full weight of my body behind them so, if I can put a protective layer of glove between them and the road I will do so.
38 Get a buff
I think to become more buff isn’t what I mean. Hold on, I’m just Googling it now………….yes, youth slang for being attractive and toned……Ok, no I mean to get a buff which is a nice piece of material that goes around your neck a bit like a more streamlined scarf.
It makes a massive difference when you are cycling in the cold and in the wind. Again, an item of comfort. I love them!
39 Join a club
In many ways this is what it’s all about for many road cyclists. The joy of being with like minded people and the sense of camaraderie and community is probably one of the most fundamental pleasures of being in a cycling club and the motivation, encouragement and advice is priceless.
There is a huge variety of clubs around suitable for riders of all sorts of abilities and aspirations. Some clubs hold time trail events, some organise competitive sportives whilst some are much more socially orientated. Central to a majority of clubs is the weekly club ride, usually on a weekend morning and incorporating a sociable stop off in a cafe.
Have a look in your local area and you will probably find a choice of different club possibilities. Most clubs are very happy for new members to try a few rides and events before formally joining and they are always welcoming of new members.
40 Don’t pedal too slowly
Cadence is the rather lovely word used to describe the speed at which you are pedalling. It’s a well known fact that a majority of new road cyclists pedal too slowly and this can be really tiring and cause all sorts of aches and pains. As a general rule your cadence should be above 80 rpm ie 80 revolutions of the pedals per minute. This is much more energy efficient than pedalling harder but more slowly and less tiring on your muscles.
For a start you may well feel as though your legs are spinning round super fast and it might feel a bit out of control. A higher cadence does come more naturally over time with practice and you will soon get the hand of it!
41 Ride with your hands covering the brake levers
Particularly when you are in traffic or cycling at speed it’s important to be able to react quickly and to be able to brake at a moment’s notice. You could lose vital seconds and several meters of stopping distance by having to scramble around the handlebars reaching for the brake levers so try to keep your fingers at the ready at key times when you might have to react quickly and brake suddenly.
42 Lift your inside pedal when cornering at speed
When you are cornering you obviously lean into the corner a little and, depending on the speed it can be a good idea to lift the inner pedal as you are freewheeling. This prevents the risk of the pedal scraping on the ground as you lean apparently although I have to say that you would have to be cornering at some crazy speed and angle for this to be a problem – I can categorically tell you now I have never come even close to encountering this problem!
More relevantly though having the outer foot lower helps with stability and balance and, when you are ready to make the first pedal stroke and power out of the corner is somehow feels a bit more natural to push out with the inner foot!
43 Ride on the drops more
It always surprises me when I see a flock/gaggle/herd of road cyclists how many of them are riding on the hoods. This really does seem to be the default position for most of the time.
Why not just get a hybrid bike then?
Surely the point of having a road bike is that you can get into a more aero position. The wind resistance on the hoods is significantly higher than on the drops and when you are on the drops your body is in a much more dynamic and potentially power delivering position. Try to make riding on the drops your default position, not just for going down hills and cycling into head winds!
Over the course of a long ride you will save a a great deal of energy due to the lesser wind resistance, your average speed should be a little higher and frankly you will look fractionally cooler as well!
44 Keep flappy clothing zipped up
There’s a good point to all of this skin tight lycra business and, not only is it comfortable to wear on a bike, it also, when used properly offers very little wind resistance.
Imagine cycling along with a sail dragging along behind you a bit like the emergency brake on a drag racing car or a parachute. That’s basically what you are doing if you have any flapping clothing or even if you gave zips undone and fabric open. Anywhere where a pocket of air can gather will offer wind resistance and slow you down.
You need to be as slippery and smooth as possible my friend. Keep your clothes tight and flap free and you will go like the erm ……..wind!
45 Keep elbows in at speed
When you are down on the drops there can a bit of a tendency to let your elbows flap out and it often follows that your back hunches up as well. Neither is particularly good as the hunched back becomes uncomfortable and the elbows offer quite a lot of wind resistance.
Try to keep the elbows in. It will follow that your back will flatten a little, you centre of gravity will move forward a little and the angle that you are pushing down to apply power to the pedals will improve.
These are very subtle changes but can make a big difference!
46 Learn where your heart rate zones are
Zone training can seem a bit of a dark and mysterious area if you haven’t tried it but it is relatively straightforward once you get into it and offers a great way of maximising your training time and keeping track of your progress.
Essentially there are different zones of heart rate bpm which correspond to the amount of effort you are putting in. In the first instance you need to make a calculation of what your heart rate should be for each zone. There are a number of ways of doing this including working it out from your age and , probably more accurately, doing a threshold test. This will allow you to calculate your personal heart rate for each zone.
You can then use this information in conjunction with your training plan and you will be able to gauge the amount of effort you are putting in much more accurately. Training in specific zones for a specific duration is a much more effective use of your cycling time and leads to faster improvements than just randomly cycling around hoping to get fitter!
47 Get a bike computer
If you haven’t already tried one a bike computer can transform your ride experience as you can, even on the most basic models, keep an eye on your speed, average speed, distance covered, time spent riding and approximate calories burned.
Having this sort of information is interesting and motivating and really does give you something to focus on when riding. More complicated bike computers include GPS mapping, directions, heart rate monitoring, cadence monitoring, power out put monitoring as well as having various gadgets and settings to help with training.
It really depends on how into stats you are as to how complex you want to go. From my own perspective I have derived a great deal of pleasure from essentially the cheapest bike computer which displays the basic information and cost very little.
48 Use Map my Ride/Strava
I would highly recommend taking your phone with you on the bike and if you do it’s very interesting and motivational to use one of the many GPS tracking apps available. These are generally free for the basic functions and allow you to record your rides, see where you have been and, if you are so inclined, upload and share them. This can be really interesting if you want to compare your performance with other riders over the same routes or if you just want to see how your own performance has increased over time.
If you upgrade to the premium functions of the apps they allow tracking of heart rate and power etc and will bluetooth to any sensors that you have. Most apps are compatible with bike computers and you are able to pool information about your rides into the same place.
I always think this is an interesting one as many road cyclists love recording and comparing stats whilst others just like, well riding the road and admiring the view!
49 Try a spin class
If the weather is a bit rubbish or you fancy a bit of a move sideways for a while and for a change why not have a go at a spin class? You can also do a regular spin session as part of your training and use a spin session to do threshold tests and other ghastly forms of self torture.
The big advantage is that there’s no traffic, it’s nice and warm inside but the view is usually a bit rubbish!
50 Keep warm after a long ride
If you have been out cycling for a while, whatever the external temperature, you body core will be warm and toasty. It’s in happy work mode and as such is pumping out heat and energy. Once you stop things change quickly and it takes a little while sometimes for your temperature regulation system to catch up.
Now this happens to me quite a lot. After a ride I get get home, generally shower and change and, despite having just had a warm shower and being in warm clothing I get the shivers. Not in a major worrying way but just a sort of internal chill that lasts for a few minutes and then goes as I re regulate my temperature.
I’ve tried gradually cooling down, wrapping up really warm after a ride, trying to keep cool after a ride……..nothing really makes much difference. All I want to do is be warm, warm, warm!
So, even if you come off the bike steaming with sweat try to keep warm, let your body readjust gradually and at it’s own speed. I can’t seem to avoid the shivers but you may well be able to!
51 Change gear before the bottom of a hill
Have you ever been on your way up a hill, maybe even standing up pushing on the pedals only to come to the crushing realisation half way up that you are stuck in a gear far too high?
Try to anticipate your gears in advance at the bottom of a hill. You might end up pedalling pretty fast for a short while but you will be able to transmit far more power by pedalling quickly uphill than you will by struggling along on a small cog.
If the worst comes to the worst you might be able to change down on the rear dérailleur on the go if you ease off the pedals for a while. However, if you find yourself on the wrong chainwheel at the front half way up a hill you are doomed.
You have been warned!
52 Taper before a big event
It makes a lot of sense to “taper” your training before a big event. Essentially you won’t really get a lot fitter in the week or so before a big ride so your priority should be to conserve energy ready for the big day and to keep your muscles loose and ready for action.
Shorter easy rides are good and, even the day before, an easy ride at a high cadence can be great for keeping your legs feeling fresh and raring to go for the big day itself.
53 Refresh your bar tape
One of the quickest and cheapest ways to upgrade your bike is to refresh your bar tape. It’s easy to do and will instantly smarten your bike up as well as make it feel better when riding.
Bar tape is basically cheap so why not splash out on something special be it in the colour or maybe luxurious padding!
54 Keep gears indexed
It’ well worth regularly checking that your gears are properly indexed as gear changing will be unreliable if they are not and it will also lead to increase wear in the moving parts. It’s amazing how quickly you can get used to gears that don’t quite change as smoothly as they could and you can easily forget that the slight noise that incorrectly indexed gears make is damaging.
As the gears are used, cables stretch and parts move and wear slightly so it’s worth checking your gear’s adjustments on a regular basis.
55 Check brakes regularly for wear
Brake pads are cheap and easy to replace and you should inspect your on a regular basis to make sure that they are in good working order. To a certain extent ordering and sorting out new brake pads is a boring chore and I find that I will sometimes put off jobs like this until it’s almost too late. I keep spare brake pads and other consumable bits and pieces ready for when I need them and then replace the spares. That way I tend to change the pads when I should do rather than when I can be bothered to go round to the bike shop to buy some more!
56 Check tyres regularly for problems
Your tyres are your only contact with the road and as such need to be in tip top condition. Check them regularly for wear and to make sure that they haven’t got any sharp bits of glass or flint in them that could lead to a puncture.
57 Check your chain for wear
You can also check your chain for wear. It is essentially a consumable part and, over time it will stretch and wear creating problems when trying to mesh with the teeth on the cassette. You can buy simple and very cheap chain wear check tools and these give you a good indication of when it’s time to replace.
Chains and drive train components will last varying amounts of time depending upon the conditions in which they are used but on average a chain should last between 1500 and 3000 miles.
58 Record your road bike’s details
Unfortunately road bikes are prime targets for bike thieves and, if you are unlucky enough to have yours stolen, you stand a far better chance of recovering it and also a far better chance of recouping it’s value through your insurance, if you have a proper record of it.
Keep a note of the bike make and model and also the frame serial number which should be stamped somewhere underneath the bottom bracket. Also take some photographs of the bike, particularly recording any defining features like marks or scratches and keep them in a safe place. If you have a receipt for the purchase of the bike the insurers will probably ask to see it along with receipts for any other accessories that were on the bike as well.
The likelihood of getting your bike back is unfortunately quite remote but it’s important to report it’s theft to the police anyway so that you can get a crime number to claim on your insurance.
On a happy note I did recently get my bike stolen only to have it traced and returned by the police a few days later!
59 Get a car bike carrier
Why? Well you can obviously then take you bike to cycle events etc but, on a more day to day basis, it allows you to vary your cycle routes a bit so that you don’t get bored doing the same thing. It’s relatively quick and easy to pop the bike on the car, drive for 15 minutes and then cycle and this will open up a whole new window of route possibilities.
You could also consider driving half of your commute, parking and then cycling if your whole commute isn’t practical on the bike.
Once you get a cycle carrier you may well be surprised how much you use it. A simple rear mounted model is relatively inexpensive and you could possibly try this to see how much you do actually use it before upgrading to maybe a roof or tow bar mounted one if you want a bit more stability, security for the bike and access to the rear of the car.
60 Try a different sort of cycling
Just because you are a speed freak, super aero baby, lycra clad road cyclist doesn’t meant that you wouldn’t enjoy other types of cycling as well. Mountain biking or cyclocross for example are all great training for road cycling and allow you to develop your cycling skills in a slightly different direction as well.
61 Get a maintenance stand
I hate working on my bike on the floor. It’s not great turning it upside down as well and life is just really difficult without a bike maintenance stand!
I might even do more bike maintenance if I had one!
I do enough crouching down and bending my back in half whilst on the bike never mind when I;m cleaning and working on it as well!
Yes, I want a bike maintenance stand. I don’t as yet have plans to get one but I’m sure it will be life transforming!
62 Spend the most you can afford on shorts
You will never ever regret wearing really good quality bib shorts. Your bottom is the prime area of contact with the bike and, if you can pay for the ultimate in pad technology to cushion this vital area, then go for it and splash the cash. It might hurt your bank balance for a bit but I can tell you, nothing hurts like a numb bum in cheap shorts during a long cycle ride. Long after you have forgotten the pain of the expenditure you will be rewarded with comfortable riding for mile after mile, week in week out, for months and probably years afterwards.
Quality cycling shorts are an investment. Go for the best.
63 Quickly upgrade your bike with tyres/wheels
One of the most cost effective, quickest and easiest ways to upgrade your bike is to fit better quality tyres and, if you want to take it a step further, better quality wheels as well. Most “off the shelf” road bikes come with rather middle of the range tyres and wheels and an upgrade can really improve the ride, speed and handling of the bike.
In terms of tyres you may well be able to fit a lighter and stronger pair which will offer less rolling resistance, improved grip and also the handling.
Upgraded wheels will be lighter, stiffer and better balanced and will noticeably change how the bike feels.
64 Learn how to bunny hop
Have you ever been going full tilt on your bike only to realise, too late to do anything about it, that you are inevitably about to hit a big pothole or rough patch on the road? Obviously this isn’t a great situation to be in but there is a was of avoiding hazards like this that’s quite easy to learn – particularly if you’re clipped to the bike pedals with a clipless shoe and pedal set up.
The technique is called “bunny hopping” and you can probably guess that it involves literally jumping the bike over the hazard at speed. With a bit of practice you will be able to go high enough and long enough to avoid most last minute road hazards and it’s a lot safer than crashing into a pothole at speed.
From a standing position crouch down slightly and then jump pulling the pedals up with your shoes and the handlebars as well. It works best if your hands are on the hoods and takes a bit of practice to perfect – mainly the landing! – but is well worth having up your sleeve to use in a emergency.
65 Use cheek bone head phones for music and tracking
These are great and really cool! It’s really not a good idea to cycle with in or on the ear headphones on as you obviously can’t hear what’s going on around you. However, having music when cycling and being able to hear your GPS app updates is rather pleasant so why not try a pair of cheek bone headphones?
The headphones rest on your cheek bones outside your ears so that you can still hear the outside world and the music resonates through your cheekbones and mixes in rather nicely with the ambient sound. It’s a slightly strange sensation at first and the sound takes a bit of getting used to but it works really well for me and I wear mine on most of my solo rides.
66 Use two bike locks
This probably seems a bit excessive but if you have to leave your bike in a risky location then locking it twice makes sense. Bike locks are expensive and a hassle to carry round but I know from bitter experience that the theft of a cherished road bike is a horrible experience and a huge amount of hassle and doing everything you can to prevent it in the first place is preferable to having to sort it out once it’s stolen!
67 Be seen
It always amazes me that some road cyclists scoot around on black bikes, wearing black lycra with a black helmet on etc etc! I understand that it looks super cool and sort of ninja road bike like but, to a motorist, it makes you significantly less visible than a cyclist wearing bright colours.
You might not want to wear bright colours because they might not suit you but next time you are in a car have a look at what cyclists are wearing and note which ones you do actually notice.
The more easily motorists can see you on a bike the safer you are. It’s as simple as that. Reflective strips are great, brightly coloured clothing is great and having flashing rear lights even during the daytime is great if it is legal where you are cycling.
Wow, well done you made it to the end! That’s quite an achievement if you’ve read through all of the road cycling tips! There are doubtless many more that I could have included and many that you might disagree with! If can think of any more them please leave a comment below and share your words of wisdom with other cyclists!