Every cyclist celebrates a birthday on January 1. OK, it’s not a birthday, per se, but close, because regardless of when your actual birthday may fall on the calendar, you’ll be a year older at some point during the year. And for licensed racers — amateur to professional — age is calculated by calendar year, so we all gain a year on January 1. As you celebrate a new year, what resolutions are you going to make to ensure this cycling year is better than the last?
Here are some of mine, past and present:
1. INCREASE YOUR CADENCE
Casual bike riders pedal at 65–80 revolutions per minute, while cyclists prefer 80–95 rpm. Increasing your cadence allows your body to generate more power per minute as the extra pedal strokes add to your work total. Start by reducing resistance until you are able to add 3–5 rpm. Over time, add resistance back while maintaining increased cadence. (Note: your watts will go up.) The goal is to maintain your cadence as resistance increases.
2. LEARN MORE ABOUT CYCLO-CROSS
Cyclo-cross involves grass, dirt and sand — and that’s only if it doesn’t rain. Riders jump over barriers, even resorting to carrying their bikes on their shoulders when pedaling doesn’t cut it. With races lasting an hour, over several laps, it’s easily the most social form of cycling.
3. STOP THE PENDULUM
Oscillating body weight from side-to-side to pedal through a difficult effort takes the work out of your workout. A cyclist’s center of gravity is always right over the pedals. The bike may sway; their bodies don’t. While it may sound obvious, learn to pedal in fluid circles. Ideally, you should rarely feel the bottom of your pedal stroke.
4. ATTEND A PROFESSIONAL BIKE RACE
Between men’s and women’s races, as well as local events, there are plenty of opportunities. The Amgen Tour of California (and to a lesser extent the Tour of Utah) always attract a strong field of riders preparing for larger races in Europe. Defending world cycling champion Peter Sagan’s presence makes this a marquee race. The Philadelphia International Racing Classic draws countless pros to America’s only one-day world tour race. Additionally, two world cup cyclo-cross races were on this year’s calendar — Cross Vegas and Jingle Cross in Iowa.
5. USE A HEART RATE MONITOR
Heart rate monitors measure exertion — how hard your heart is working at any given time. Newer, wrist-worn activity trackers typically have heart rate measures built in. Chest strap monitors may display info on your watch, smartphone, an indoor bike’s console or bike computer. Lowering your resting heart rate is an admirable goal.
6. TAKE A BIKE MAINTENANCE CLASS
Most bike shops host clinics on basic bike maintenance — or you can read about it. At a minimum, learn how to fix a flat, adjust brake pads, fix a chain and perform adjustments to the seat and handlebars. Armed with these skills, solo bike journeys become less daunting.
7. LOWER THE HANDLEBARS
Cyclists ride with lowered handlebars to reduce wind resistance. The idea is to allow your core, not your arms, to support the torso. Allow your body weight to sink into the pedals versus the handlebars.
While interning on Wall Street one summer, my boss explained, “There are two types of experience: the person who does the same one year of experience 20 times, and the person who looks to grow and challenges themselves annually.” It applies to the bike too! Share some of your resolutions in the comments below.