Pro and amateur bike racers log thousands of training miles to make themselves as cycling fit as possible. Power meters, strict diets, equipment upgrades, and sacrifice all go into making them the best cyclist they can be. You may think you need to do the same to get faster, but there are much easier and less time-consuming ways to go fast on a bike. Our list here is far from complete, but it’s a great start if you want to go faster without really trying.
6 Tips To Elevate Your Performance on the Bike
1. Get Your Sleep.
Rest is the number one performance booster — both the night before and the night after a ride. A solid seven to eight hours before you ride will give your body and brain time to top off, so you can start your day with a physiology and psychological full tank of gas. Conversely, after your ride, a good night’s sleep allows your body to recover and repair your muscles for your next ride. Strange as it may sound, quality sleep can help you become a stronger, faster cyclist.
2. Keep Your Chain Clean and Lubed.
A dirty chain is a slow chain because gear shifts take an extra pedal stroke or two. Clean your chain with a chain cleaner, and then apply fresh chain lube once every seven to ten rides. This simple maintenance routine will allow you to shift crisply and quickly and keep your momentum and pace.
3. Improve Your Streamline Position With an Aero Road Helmet.
The most aerodynamically efficient position on a road bike is in the drops, which makes your torso as flat as possible. But holding that position takes time for the back, arms, and neck to adapt. Start your adaptation by holding that position for five minutes at a time for five to six rides. Increase that to six minutes on the next block of rides, adding a minute every five rides until you can hold that position for 20 minutes or more.
Then, once your body adapts, take advantage of today’s versatile aero road helmets, such as Rudy Project’s Nytron, which use strategically placed ventilation ports to channel airflow in and hot air out of the helmet while delivering an aerodynamic profile that will shave time off each mile — without requiring your to change anything else.
4. Boost Your Vision.
Clearer vision will give you the confidence to ride faster in challenging conditions, such as a group ride, road race, or technical terrain on a mountain bike. A premium pair of sport sunglasses with amber, red, or green lens tint boosts contrast and depth perception, helping your eyes process the ever-changing terrain faster. This advantage allows you to make split-second course corrections and bike handling decisions on the fly.
Today’s photochromic lenses (see Rudy Project’s ImpactX lenses) offer the ultimate flexibility, quickly changing from clear to dark depending on the amount of UV rays hitting the lens. This technology makes them perfect for rides at night, dawn or dusk, shaded forest trails, or the bright noon sun.
5. Stay Hydrated.
Everyone knows they need fluids during exercise, but it’s easy to forget, especially when cold or you’re distracted by riding in a group. But your body doesn’t forget. You must stay hydrated to keep up your pace. Rule of thumb: Down one water bottle of sports drink or electrolyte-laced fluid per hour on the bike. More if it’s hot out and you sweat a lot. These fluids will keep your body’s systems working smoothly and help you maintain your best performance. Go ahead and put yourself on a drinking schedule during a ride and knock back three to four gulps of fluids every 20 minutes or so. That should equal approximately one bottle an hour.
6. Eat Up.
If you’re going to be biking longer than 75 minutes, you’ll need some fresh carbohydrates that you can digest quickly and keep going. A sports gel, gummy, or drink will do the trick. But make sure not to overeat; the body can digest roughly 150-160 calories an hour. Any more than that risks an upset stomach and less blood for your muscles, as the body diverts vital blood flow to your stomach to digest the extra calories.
Every athlete is different, so you have to find the approach that works best for you. That said, if you start with the basics above, you’ll see quick improvements that fuel your training — and excitement! From there, you can dial in your preparation routines and race-day techniques to see your performance rise and your times drop.