Category Archives: Quick Tips

Training Truths

There is no spoon.

Nowhere to go but up.
Nowhere to go but up.

First and foremost, there is no one thing that holds true for everyone. No magic bullet. No “perfect practice.” The only way to learn what works for you is to try it.

Want beats need.

Your mindset towards training can be as important as the training itself. Don’t think of it as “I need to do my intervals.” Think of it as “I want to do my intervals.” Don’t think of it as “I can’t eat that cheesecake.” Instead, think “I don’t want to eat that cheesecake.” (Okay, that last one might be extremely difficult). When you associate words of choice rather than words of requirement with an action, those actions are taken (or not) with a more positive attitude, yielding better results.

“Cycle” also means “repeat.”

It’s the name of what we do. We cycle – we repeat what we do over, and over, and over. That’s how we get better.

Returns diminish.

The more you do it, the less special it is (I’m talking about focused training, of course). Whatever you start to focus on will show significant increases at first, but will eventually level off. However, it’s the minute increases at the top of this flattening arc of improvement that will set you apart from the field.

Food is fuel.

Remy’s dad in “Ratatouille” said it best: “Food is fuel. You get picky  ’bout what you put in the tank, and your engine’s gonna die.” I don’t mean that you can eat Twinkies all day and go climb the Alps d’Huez. But you also don’t have to eat kale chips and deprive yourself of a cookie once in a while.

You are not your results.

It’s only too easy to get caught up in the end-game: complete a century; do a sub-5; podium. Cyclists are nothing if not obsessive. If you train for months and don’t make your goal, what then? Was all that training wasted? No. There are all sorts of reasons for not making a goal. As thousands have said before me, shit happens. You could be perfectly placed one moment for the sprint, and the next you’re spit out the back. You can get 90 miles into your century, and suddenly you’re out of gas and cramping. Don’t let the achievement – or not – of your goals define who you are.

Rule #5 is more of a guideline.

You can’t be bad ass all the time. You are not made weaker by saying, “I’m not riding today.” You choose, and should never feel bad about choosing. Riding is a luxury, something to be enjoyed. If it becomes a hardship or requirement, then seriously, what’s the point?


“Ride the damn bike.” Whether you’re new to cycling, or a multi-century-per-day monster, doesn’t matter. You want to get better? RTDB. You want to go faster? RTDB. You can’t afford expensive gear – doesn’t matter, RTDB. You think you might be dropped? RTDB. If you add saddle time, you’ll improve. That’s it. No fancy intervals or meal plans or ultra-pricey gear. Just ride.

Quick Tips: Tire Changing Extras

Flats, flats, and more flats.
Flats, flats, and more flats.

There are hundreds of videos and how-to’s online that you can look up on how to change a tire. Thing of it is, no matter how many times you watch it done, you’ll never get good at it until you do it yourself. Many, many, many times.

But this post isn’t about changing the tire itself. It’s about the things to remember when you have deal with a flat. These will keep you safe, and get you on your way faster.

1) Clear the road. By far the most important thing you can do. If you get a flat, don’t just stop in the middle of the street or bike path. And don’t start changing your tire there. Move off the path and/or road. Try to find a level patch of grass (if your bike falls over, better on grass or dirt than asphalt or gravel).

Continue reading Quick Tips: Tire Changing Extras

Quick Tips: Street Riding

Stay calm, think ahead, adjust to conditions, ride predictably, and enjoy exploring new roads.
Stay calm, think ahead, adjust to conditions, ride predictably, and enjoy exploring new roads.

There’s nothing to fear but fear itself… and a big-ass SUV doing 75 mph. Is riding on the streets safe? Debatable. Depends on the streets, the traffic, the weather, the region, and lots of other things. But in large part, it depends on you. Here are a few tips to keep you safe (well, safer) on the road.

Think ahead. Both driving and riding require forethought, preparation. Think and plan ahead. Know your route, and prepare for it accordingly. Hill coming on a high-traffic road? Save some energy to climb faster. Turn coming soon? Start checking for traffic and give yourself plenty of time to signal and merge over. Watch for hazards ahead that might force you further into the lane so that you can slowly take more of the lane instead of jumping into it.

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Quick Tips: Riding in the Rain

Helmets up, rubber down. Riding in the rain ain't so bad.
Helmets up, rubber down. Riding in the rain ain’t so bad.

Sometimes you’re out and it’ll start to rain. Doesn’t make sense to avoid it, because sometimes you just can’t. Better to be ready for it. It’s done all the time, and like other outdoor elements you can adjust for it (within reason).

Slow down. Drop your speed by a couple miles per hour, more as the rain gets harder.

Stretch the line. Add space between you and other riders, giving yourself more reaction time.

Stay slightly off-line. This helps to avoid wheel spray in your face, and gives you an extra margin of safety if the rider in front of you has to slow down. Since you’re going slower, the draft won’t be as effective anyway, so might as well choose safety over speed.

Continue reading Quick Tips: Riding in the Rain

Quick Tips: Grinding Out Big Climbs – Part 2

Slow and steady is not a bad. thing.
Slow and steady is not a bad thing.

Still not quite alive after that last hill? Here are some more tips that your legs and lungs may thank you for.

Remain seated. Standing uses more energy per pedal stroke than sitting. You’ll apply more force (in direct body weight dropped into the pedal), but you’ll also use more energy to do it. For long climbs, stay seated when possible and use a lower gear / faster cadence to reduce the power required per stroke.

If you have to stand, position your weight correctly. When standing, we tend to lean forward, which can removes weight from the rear wheel. This reduces traction and will cause the wheel to slip/spin under the added pressure of standing. Don’t lean forward. And don’t pull hard on the handle bars while standing and leaning too far back… that’s a nice way to do a wheelie.

When group riding, announce your intentions. In a group, you’ll get lots of riders with lots of different climbing abilities. If you’re going to stand, call “Standing” to avoid hitting a bike directly behind you (bikes tend to shift backwards when you stand on a climb). Use “Slowing” if the climb comes up suddenly. And use “Passing left/right” or “On your left/right” to get around fellow riders.

Also when group riding, add some space on the sides. The steeper the climb, the lower the gearing, and the more bikes will tend to drift left and right. Allow more side-to-side space to prevent clipping.

Quick Tips: Grinding Out Big Climbs

A nice line of Team Superior cyclists.
It’s a long climb; don’t burn yourself out.

Here are some things to help get you over that next big climb. NOTE: This won’t make the hill any shorter or the road shallower. But you might not fall over when you’re done.

Study the terrain. If you have a route map, check out the terrain profile before the ride. By knowing how far into a ride your the climbs are, they won’t take you by surprise.

Conserve energy. If you’ve got a climb coming up, ease back on the pace a little to avoid early burn-out on the climb.

Ease into it. You’ll be tempted to hit a hill hard. That works fine for short, punchy hills and rollers. But if you’ve gotta grind it out on a really long climb, you’ll be spent way before you crest. Better to go easy into the climb and if you find you have more to give further in, go for it.

Don’t downshift too far. Some people see big climbs and will immediately shift down to their granny gear. Problem is, you’ll lose most of your momentum because your cadence will be too high. Instead, shift down as your cadence begins to drop. Just remember that each time you downshift, apply a little more pressure to the pedal to up the cadence a bit. If you downshift and keep the same cadence, you’re just bleeding speed and momentum.

Quick Tips: Taking Turns at Speed

Don't overlean, don't brake, and... don't crash. :)
Don’t overlean, don’t brake, and… don’t crash.

Handling turns at speed can be scary. Here are some tips for taking high speed turns.

PRACTICE! Don’t just fly into a curve, especially one you don’t know. Ease into it, and work your speed up. As you get better, you’ll find there’s a limit to what your bike can handle, though what you can handle is usually reached before what the bike can. 🙂

Resist leaning into the turn. Our first instinct is to lean into the turn, to go where we want the bike to go. But what it really does is move our center of mass away from the bike – to the inside of the turn, off the bike. This decreases the downward force that’s on the tire, making it easier to skid. Shift your weight to the outside pedal, and lean the bike more than yourself. This will put more of your weight over the center of the bike, helping the tire keep contact with the ground.

Don’t brake. That turn might be coming up fast, but the surest way to skid out is to brake while in the turn. Bleed as much speed as you can before entering the turn, but once you start turning, commit to the turn and lay off the brakes. The faster you take a turn, the less braking needed to cause a skid. Braking adds another force counter to the line of travel, making it more likely that your wheel will slide out from under you.

Don’t over-turn. Riding is all about maintaining momentum – using the energy you put into the bike as efficiently as possible. If you take a turn too sharply, you’ll feel the bike resisting you in the turn. That resistance is eating away at your speed. The sharper your turn relative to your speed, the more momentum you’ll lose. It feels cool to thrash that corner, but what you’re really doing is throwing away the energy you put into the bike. Watch your entry and exit lines, and if you have room, ease up on the turn – increase the radius – to save energy.

Quick Tips: The Paceline Part 3 – Taking a Pull


Help the line, and share the load.

Drafting’s going well, and you’re riding nicely in the paceline. You’ve experienced the wonders of speed and efficiency it has to offer. Now it’s time to go to work. No free rides on this train. Time to take some pulls.

Don’t be afraid. No one’s expecting you to be Superman. But even when you’re riding with exceptional riders, it’s good etiquette to take even a token pull before rolling off the front. This has two benefits: it shows you’re a team player, and it keeps the front-to-back rotation going smoothly.

When your second in line, the rider in front will usually signal one of two ways. Either they’ll make a “come here” motion (waving the hand forward, while the arm is pointing towards the ground), indicating they want you to take over, or they’ll signal that they’re pulling off the line. NOTE: This might not always be the case. Some riders will just pull off, especially at faster paces, but for now, practice signalling when you’re done with your pull, even if other’s don’t.

Continue reading Quick Tips: The Paceline Part 3 – Taking a Pull

Quick Tips: The Paceline Part 2 – Things to Avoid

Drafting going well? Time to pick up the pace.

So you’ve been riding with a buddy or two, and you’re getting the whole drafting concept pretty well. Now it’s time to close the gaps and ride in a tighter paceline. But before you do, there’s a few things you need to keep in mind – and dare I say, practice – before closing in.

1) Don’t stare at the wheel in front of you. You’ll regret it. Instead peak over the shoulder of the rider in front of you, and judge your distance from the rider’s back, not their bike. If your distance to their back is consistent, the distance between your wheels will be, too. If you’re riding behind someone bigger, pull slightly off-line (SMOOTHLY!!!) to check the road ahead. Don’t rely on them to be your eyes.

2) Don’t hit your brakes. At least, not hard. Braking has a ripple effect, causing harder and harder braking down the line. Practice bleeding speed by one or more of the following methods:

  • Soft pedal – ease up on the pressure
  • Sit up – break out of the aero position to catch more wind
  • If you’ve gotta brake, feather the brakes – squeeze them lightly while still pedaling

3) Don’t stop pedaling. Riders get into a rhythm behind you, and if you stop pedaling two things happens: first, it breaks the rhythm. Second, you start to lose speed (another ripple effect down the line). If you feel like you need to stop pedaling for some reason, try shifting gears and cadence instead, or if you really have to stop pedaling, make it as brief as possible.

4) Never, ever ride between two pacelines. Not only is this bad etiquette, but if something goes wrong, there’s nowhere for you to go, and a crash in the middle of pacelines can be nasty for everyone.

5) Use your signals. If you need to drop out of a line, don’t just pull off. The riders behind you will naturally start to follow your lead, messing up the line. Instead, indicate that you want to move off the line by pointing in the direction you’d like to go (towards the ground, at an outward angle). Then pull out of the line smoothly. And if a rider in front of you pulls out of the line, speed up evenly as they clear the line so you can close the gap. Don’t burst the speed suddenly, or you’ll break the line behind you.

The safer you ride in a paceline, the more enjoyable it’ll be.

Quick Tips: The Paceline – Ease Into Drafting

Take your time, and work your way closer.

NOTE: Going back to my perma-newb roots, I’ll be posting a series of quick tips I’ve picked up from über-riders that have helped me step-up my riding.

Start out about a whole bike-length back (about 5-6′). The idea at first isn’t to save energy (and at this distance, you probably won’t feel any savings), but to get used to following the rider in front of you, also known as “keeping the line”. Work on maintaining maintain a steady distance, and staying in line with the rider in front of you.

After you can follow them pretty well, close the distance to about 3-4′. It’ll feel close at first, but you’ll get used to it with practice. You start gaining the benefits of a draft (riding behind one or more riders) as far back as 4-5′, depending on how strong of a headwind you’re facing and how fast the paceline rolls. So there’s no need to get any closer than you’re comfortable.

After a lot of practice, work with someone you trust to keep a steady pace on a relatively flat stretch, and close the gap to about a foot. Here you’ll really feel the draft (especially in head-winds and/or faster speeds). Play with sliding on and off the leader’s wheel to get the feel of the draft air bubble that’s created.

Warning: Don’t close the gap on riders you don’t know! At mass start events, if you find yourself with a group of riders you don’t know, watch them carefully. They might have excellent bike handling skills, or none at all. Only draft closely to riders you trust! As your skills increase, you can trust yourself more to compensate for some bone-headed mistake, but in the meantime, why risk it?