Do you want to get faster, ride further or simply feel more comfortable on the bike? We asked long-distance cyclist and mechanic Sam Gupta for his top tips.
Adopt a more aero position
An easy way to get a bit more speed on the bike with minimal effort is to reduce your impact on the air in front of you by getting into an aero position. When I was racing, I quickly learned that this was an easy way to keep my energy expenditure as low as possible. Here's how you can find those aero gains:
- Keep your forearms flat to the level of the bars or hold onto the drops
- Keep your head up to allow air to pass over your helmet as it was designed.
- Bring your shoulders together to make yourself narrower. This tends to have more of an impact than getting low down.
Rotate your bars back slightly
As we come into winter you might be wanting to do some longer, slower rides or just spend a lot of time on the turbo. Whichever you choose to do, a great way to improve your comfort is to reduce your reach on the bike by rotating your bars back. It only needs to be by a few degrees, but this will allow for a more relaxed position. You could even raise the bars up a little higher on the steerer tube.
Move your cleats back
Looking after your knees and legs essential if you want to enjoy riding for years to come.
If you've recently got some new clipless cycling shoes but feel like you might not have got the cleats in the right position, you might want to try moving them further back, keeping them straight and central.
Everybody is different but this is a sensible place to start for most riders. A qualified bike fitter will also be able to help you out and dial in the cleat position.
Shave your legs
Many road cyclists keep their legs clean-shaven during the summer, but it's still here is still useful to keep going through winter! Smooth legs are easier if you need a sports massage while you're getting the long winter miles in.
If you were to have a tumble, those plasters will be a lot less painful when they come off! But let’s hope it doesn't come to that.
Try a different climbing position
If there's a climb in your local area you've been targeting but haven't quite cracked, here are a few tips that might help you get there.
- Make sure your saddle height is comfortable. It shouldn't be so low that it’s hard to get around the whole pedal stroke, or so high that your hips are bouncing around on the saddle and locking your knees out. A saddle that’s too high will also push your weight further onto the handlebars which could cause you numbness in the hands, back pain and will also mean you have a weight bias to the front wheel, which isn’t great for handling
- Grab hold of the tops of the bars and sit up straight, this will help get air into your lungs and also opens up your hips.
- Choose a nice easy gear early on and just spin to win. Keep your cadence steady and one you think you can maintain. If the going gets tough you might want to then jump up out of the saddle for the last push. If you always seem to be running out of gears, you may want to consider changing the ratios on your gearing. Either a new cassette or new chainrings could do this.
Make marginal gains by dropping some weight
You can make substantial weight savings by switching larger components such as wheels and handlebars for carbon fibre equivalents, but the cost quickly adds up. However, you can still ditch a few grams here and there with some fairly inexpensive upgrades.
Light-weight inner tubes can be 30-40% lighter than the standard ones making them well worth a try. Or, you could switch your quick-release skewers for lighter ones. The weight I saved by switching to titanium skewers was equivalent to the weight of my Garmin!
Try wider tyres
When the roads get wetter and more unpredictable, wider tyres will give you a bit more confidence you're going to stay rubber side down.
Going for wider tyres will increase your contact patch with the road, providing you with more grip and you can also run them at a lower pressure which will help with comfort without sacrificing on rolling resistance.
Be sure to check what the maximum size of tyre your bike can accommodate is before purchasing!
Food is a great way to keep spirits high when on a long cold ride and having something nice to look forward to can really help. Bars and gels are great but there are other options.
You could try just taking some chocolate bars or gummy sweets or maybe just try a different brand of energy bar with new flavours.
Another thing you could try is making some of your own snacks to bring out with you. There's plenty of recipes out there to try. A high sugar content will keep the bonks at bay and provide you with the right energy you need to keep you going.
Fructose and glucose are the key fuels that will keep you going and they’re really fast to enter the bloodstream. Oat-based snacks are also great for a longer slower burn of energy if you're not doing any crazy efforts and just out for a relaxed ride.