Road Cycling Tips

giro riders

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Base-Layer Basics
When cool fall temps roll around it becomes important to properly regulate body temps and sweat output. A snug base-layer made from a quality wicking material does two things to accomplish this task. It can take the bite out of a chilly morning while you begin your ride, as well as it can quickly move sweat away from your skin when you begin to heat up. This is especially important if your ride includes many hills and descents. Itís much more comfortable to descend through the cool morning air in a nice dry jersey rather than shivering in sweaty one.


Clip-In With Confidence
If your ride requires you to clip-in and clip-out at regular intervals, it can be frustrating if you're not engaging your cleats quickly and efficiently. It's especially important to keep your momentum when you're pedaling out into traffic from a complete stop.

The first step to insuring proper pedal engagement is to check your cleats. If they look beat-up, have rounded edges, or are missing bolts, you should head to the shop and invest in a new pair.

Also be sure to thoroughly clean any dirt or debris from your cleats with a stiff brush. After you're finished with the cleats, clean your pedals in the same way and add a little dry lube to both.

Follow these steps and you'll be clipping-in smoothly and easily every time you hit the road.


Check Your Lid After a Crash
A cyclist's helmet is a crucial piece of safety gear and should be in optimum condition every time you ride. If you've been in a crash or damaged your helmet in any way, it's protective qualities could be compromised. Inspect the inside and outside of the helmet for dents or cracks. If it's damaged, replace it. If you're not sure, you can send it to the manufacturer and it's condition can be assessed by experts.


Ride Early to Protect Your Lungs
It's smog season in many urban areas around the country. High afternoon temperatures in the summer mix with man-made pollution to create the toxic brew known as smog. Poor air quality at these times of the day can be a potential health threat to cyclists and other endurance athletes. Check the air quality index in your city before heading out for hard efforts during the afternoon or switch your schedule around so that you can workout in the morning or evening when air quality is better.


Improve Your Cadence with a Fixed Gear or Single Speed Bike
One of the hallmarks of a seasoned rider is the ability to maintain a smooth, high-cadence pedal stroke. Novice riders can often be seen pushing big gears with a slow choppy pedal stroke.

A great way to improve the smoothness of your stroke and the speed of your cadence, is to ride a fixed gear or single speed bike. If you opt for a bike with a flip-flop hub you can try both. Single speed or fixed gear training can help you increase leg speed by forcing your legs to spin very fast on descents. On the flip side, you'll increase leg strength when climbing hills with only one gear.


Make Your Chain Last
The chain is a very important part of the drivetrain. If it's neglected, you can expect it to wear out (along with your crank rings and rear cogs) in one or two years.

    Here are a few things that can keep your chain spinning smoother and longer.
  1. A more expensive chain uses higher quality materials and construction. As a result, it will last longer.
  2. Road dirt and grime acts like sandpaper on your drivetrain and will wear it out faster than anything else. Wipe down your chain with a rag when it starts to look dirty and lube it regularly. Be careful with chain lubrication though. Too much wet lube can attract dirt in certain conditions.
  3. If your a big-wattage masher and spend most of your time pushing big gears, you're putting more stress on the chain (not to mention your knees, but that's another subject). More stress causes the chain to wear out faster. Try pedaling in the small chainring with a higher cadence to extend a chain's life.

Folding Tires vs. Wire-Bead Tires
Tires are an often overlooked piece of equipment for the inexperienced rider. They can contribute as much to ride-quality as a new all-carbon fork. Here are a few advantages to consider when making the choice between a folding tire and a wire-bead tire.

  1. High quality folding tires often use soft, flexible rubber which grip the road better and provide a smoother ride.
  2. Folding tires are usually lighter, which means you go faster.
  3. It is possible pack an extra folding tire in your seat-bag. You'd need a very large seat-bag to pull this off with a wire-bead tire. This can be a life-saver if you do long rides in sparsely populated areas.
  4. Many people find that folding tires are easier to mount because of the more flexible bead. I've actually found them to be harder to mount when they're new, and easier once they're broken in a little.

Minimize Hand/Wrist Pain and Numbness
If you're suffering from hand or wrist pain while cycling there may be a few simple things you can do to prevent it and have more fun on your rides.

Some people like to wear cycling gloves and people don't. If you're having issues, cycling gloves can provide padding and reduce pressure on nerves in the hand that may cause numbness. They can also improve grip if you tend to have sweaty palms.

If you tend to ride with your hands in the same position all the time, you may want to mix it up. Ride with your hands on the brake hoods then switch to the bar tops and drops at regular intervals on long rides. This variation in hand position can also reduce pain and tightness in the shoulders and neck.

The amount of bend in your elbows is also critical to a comfortable and efficient riding position. Locked out elbows do not provide any shock absorption and will transfer all bumps and road buzz. Keep those elbows slightly bent to soak up bumps and reduce fatigue.


Find More Time To Ride - The Lunchtime Road Warrior
Most recreational cyclists I know have trouble finding the time to ride and train. Most of us have full-time jobs, families and a myriad of other time-gobbling obligations.

After trying to fit cycling into my schedule every which way, I've found the most convenient time slot to be my 1 hour lunch break. The lunch ride is great for many reasons. First of all, it's a great way to break up the work day. Most of the time I come back more energized than when I left. For most people it's also a highly structured block of time. This makes sticking to a training regimen easier. Because the lunch ride is in the middle of the day it allows you to ride later into the year. In many places it's warm enough to ride at noon all year round.

There are a couple of challenges to the noon ride. If your employer doesn't have showers, it can make for a sweaty afternoon. My favorite solution to this is taking a box of baby wipes and doing a quick "commuter's bath" after a ride. This should do the trick in most cases.

The other downside is a limited amount of time. I've found 45 minutes to be more than enough to maintain your fitness. If you only have a short amount of time, it forces you into higher intensity riding.


Troubleshooting a Flat
When changing a flat tire be sure note the position of the tire on the rim before you get down to business. Sometimes flats can be caused by an object on the inside of the tire or rim. Once you've found the hole in the tube, match it up with the tire and the rim to diagnose the cause of the flat.

If you're having difficulty finding the leak, try pumping the tube up and holding it near your cheek. I find it much easier to feel the air leaking from a hole than to hear the leak.


Don't Get Doored
When riding in an urban setting this is a very real danger. Often times riders get fixed on what's going on in the lane to their left but forget about parked cars on the right. Try to keep at least three feet from all park cars and look for signs of exiting passengers. When turning, check to make sure the lane your riding in is clear and then take the center. This is to avoid getting forced too close to a parked car. Just because the road you're riding has a bike lane doesn't mean your absolutely relegated to riding there. Cyclist have the right to exit the bike lane at any time to avoid obstacles.


Maintain Proper Tire Pressure for an Improved Ride
The first thing you'll want to do is check the tire pressure rating on the sidewall of the tire. This should be a good starting point.

Next, consider the road you'll be riding. If the roads you usually ride tend to be poorly maintained in spots you may want to decrease pressure a bit. This will help soften bumps and soak up more road vibration. However, too much air loss could result in a flat or rim damage if the wheel takes on a big impact.

If the roads you usually ride are ultra smooth and maximum efficiency is your primary aim, consider bumping the tire pressure up. You'll ride faster with less rolling resistance.


Don't Forget to Change Your Cleats
It's easy to keep riding with the same worn out cleats year after year. Give the cleats a visual check to identify advanced wear and replace if you notice a difference in release or engagement difficulty.