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Sometimes it’s the little things that help you break your own speed records. Try these moves to get ahead.
You put in as many miles as the next athlete and your bike is just as nice. So why did he pass you before the run? He might know some bike handling subtleties that you don’t … yet.
“Sometimes getting faster is about doing the easy things,” says pro cyclist Carmen Small. “I did a triathlon a while back and was surprised to see all of the places that people were giving up speed because they weren’t doing certain basics.”
Stop throwing away speed. Use these tips from roadies and track cyclists to come out ahead on race day:
Take a smarter turn. “I passed two or three people in a corner because I was carrying my speed and they weren’t,” Small says. Smooth cornering is about physics and practice. Start by figuring out a good, smooth line through a turn—try starting a little wide and cutting the corner—and do any braking before you get into it. Bring your inside leg up and shift your weight onto the outside pedal. At the same time, “countersteer” by applying a little pressure with the inside hand. Look where you’re going, be clear about it, carve your turn, and pedal out of it.
Pedal downhill. “In triathlon, you don’t stop moving when you are swimming and running, so why ‘rest’ when descending on the bike?” says Karen Edwards, Ph.D., co-owner of North Coast Endurance Coaching in Cleveland. “Maintaining a steady cadence will not only help you get ahead, but can also help reduce lactic acid buildup in your legs.” When the descent is too steep or too technical to pedal through, don’t stay in your aerobars, but do get in a tuck position with access to your brake levers, she says. “Keep both cranks horizontal; don’t have one foot down. This will act as a shock absorber, which helps keep you stable.”
Try the track. “In track cycling, you can purely focus on your riding. Forget about monster potholes, traffic distractions and speed limits,” says Edwards, who, in addition to multisport coaching, also teaches the Track 101 class at the Cleveland Velodrome. “Track cycling also builds power, since steep banks require a constant speed of 16 to 17 miles per hour to simply stay upright during the turns.” Practice riding on a banked track, and you’ll likely feel more confident leaning into corners and tackling challenging descents on the road. Since fixed-gear track bikes require you to constantly pedal, “at the very least, a track bike will help you become more aware of your pedaling habits.” You don’t have to jump into racing to get the benefits; many tracks offer lessons or “try the track” days.
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Do the group ride every now and then. Don’t wait until you get on the course to learn to deal with bike traffic, says Steve Pyle, a multisport coach (founder of Tri-eCoach.com) and former competitive road cyclist. “If you hesitate when you’re in bike traffic, you lose time,” he says. “You want to learn to move around people with a seamless energy flow.”
Don’t junk up your bike. “Keep your bike as aerodynamic as the manufacturer intended,” says Robbie Ventura, former pro cyclist and founder and owner of Vision Quest Coaching. Too many people, he says, tape their nutrition all over their bikes and pile on hydration systems that just get in the way. Don’t slow down a $5,000 bike with $2 gels.
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