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Becoming faster on the bike is easier than you might think.
Bicycling magazine editor and fitness authority Selene Yeager filled her new book Get Fast!: A Complete Guide to Gaining Speed Wherever You Ride ($19.99, Rodaleinc.com) chock-full of time-tested advice using her 15 years of experience. She covers the various ways you can gain speed in triathlon’s second leg — it’s not just about a light bike and the right training plan; the small stuff like cleat positioning and nutrition timing can make all the difference. Here are a few of Yeager’s helpful tips:
Spinning in smooth circles and staying properly aligned is the key to pedaling efficiency, and the latter can be altered when you lose momentum in the upstroke. Yeager writes that to minimize the chances that your knees will track laterally, and thereby cost you energy, focus on an active upstroke.
“As you begin to come across the top of the stroke, visualize driving your knee forward toward the bar,” she writes. “This helps lighten the pressure on the pedal coming up the back of the pedal stroke, so the one pushing down has less work to do … the end result is a more efficient pedal stroke with each leg doing less fatiguing work.”
Surveying the terrain and reacting to it preemptively often becomes inherent as you ride more, but if you’re newer to cycling, stick to Yeager’s simple reminders for when to anticipate a shift: Before you stand on a climb, shift to a harder gear and back down once you sit. Shift down as you coast to a stop so you can start again without mashing. Shift when you head into a turn so it’s easy to pedal out of it.
Think Your Way Uphill
Becoming a good climber is often a numbers game — Yeager devotes a chapter to helping you achieve your ideal power-to-weight ratio — but because dropping pounds isn’t an overnight solution, you can start by thinking positively to get up and over hills quicker. Think “light” thoughts, Yeager suggests, like butterflies, birds, clouds, etc.
“If you’re thinking, ‘I’m going to get my butt handed to me again’ you likely will,” Yeager writes. “If you think, ‘I can do this climb,’ you will as well. Sounds corny but try it.” She also advises to keep your back straight and chest open for maximum oxygen consumption on ascents, and to relax your upper body so much that “if someone were to see you from the waist up, they wouldn’t know whether you were climbing Mount Washington or cruising to the coffee shop.”
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