A Guide To Road Bicycle Training

training techniques that anyone can do and a guide to proper bike fit, breathing, and riding for improved performance and endurance.

Pick up any fitness magazine and you'll get pages of advice on the latest training techniques. There's tons of expensive equipment, heart monitors, computer software and professional trainers available at hefty prices to help you.

But what I'll give you in this article are easy to do, inexpensive ways to improve your road cycling so you can ride faster, longer and climb better then you are now.

First, make sure your bike fits properly. Do a squat low to the ground and stand. Now do a squat going half way to the ground and finally do a squat bending just a few inches before standing up. You found out by doing this that the easiest squat is the shortest and the hardest was close to the ground. Now you know why you need good leg extension in your pedal stroke. Your seat should be raised high enough so that without dropping your hip when pedaling, the knee will have a slight bend at the bottom of the stroke. You don't want to raise the seat so high that you end up having to over extend to make a complete stroke. In other words, your hip should not dip for the leg to make the bottom of the stroke.

When you pedal, keep your knees in over the axle of the pedal and not out. Many riders tire and their knees begin to drift out. Keep them near to the top tube for maximum strength. When your hands are on the bars, drop your wrist while riding and let your arms stay relaxed, this allows your lungs to expand quickly. Find a cadence that works for you. Try to keep your RPM (revolutions per minute) high, it's called spinning. Some people find they don't spin as well as others but try to keep the RPM at a high rate that works well for you. Older riders tend not to spin as much as a younger rider does.

Let's start with an exercise to improve your pedal stroke. This will teach your legs how to make the most effective use of their muscles. Ride your bike in an area that is somewhat flat. Clip out of one pedal, holding that leg slightly away from the crank and pedal with the other leg. When you first do this, you will notice your leg will jerk, try to control the stroke by thinking of wiping your foot on a doormat. As your leg nears the bottom of the stroke think of wiping the bottom of your shoe and bringing the leg back up. This will force the leg to rotate in a smooth manner. You should not be bouncing in the saddle and your leg should work on the up stroke. Remember, most of the force will be on the down stroke, but your leg can also work on the up stroke. This exercise is great to practice even if you're an experienced rider, to keep bad habits from forming. Pedal with one leg and then the other, until you feel you have the stroke in control. It will build muscle as well.

When you tire of that, clip in both legs, put the bike in an easy gear and spin like mad. Speed is not wanted; it's control that you're working on. Your butt should be steady in the saddle not bouncing. Keep doing this until you can sit in the saddle without bouncing at all while spinning like crazy. If you have a RPM readout on your bike computer, you want to do this at 120 RPM's. If not, just spin as fast as you can, that will be close to 120 RPM.

The fastest way to build up endurance and speed is to raise your maximum cardio limit with intervals. This works best with a friend, you don't need to train with another person but the competition will keep you from cheating on yourself because you will want to put out more with a little friendly competitive training. On a flat area, race as fast as you can for one block. If you're not in an area with blocks, use the distance of about a hundred yards. The next block or hundred yards you recover by going easy, without pushing a big gear to let your body rest. After that block or hundred yards, race the next as fast as you can. Repeat this exercise, as often as you want, it will raise your cardio level and by doing that you will see a quick improvement in speed and strength.

With distance, you want to increase your mileage gradually. Don't try to do fifty miles if you have only been doing ten miles. Each week add another three to five miles to your route until you reach whatever goal you have in mind. The reason to increase gradually is that your body needs time to adjust. There is a gland at the knee that keeps the joint lubricated and if you over do it, the gland doesn't have the ability to produce the lubrication fast enough. It needs time as well to evolve and produce what your body now requires of it. You must remember that you can't expect results in a week. If you have to train for some event in too short of a time, you could end up hurting yourself. Give your body time to adjust.

Hill climbs are tough and take the longest to improve on, with some basic guides to climbing, you can make it. Remember, every pound makes a difference. If you're overweight, hill climbing will be a struggle. If your bike is heavy, it will make climbing harder but of the two, body weight makes it the toughest. No matter what you're carrying in baggage, these pointers will give you an added edge to your climbing.

Choose a climb you're familiar with and know. Before you begin the climb, focus on what you're going to do. Start the climb easy; the most common mistake is to start fast, hit the wall and drop. Get as much oxygen in your lungs as you can by exhaling deeply, rather then inhaling. By purging your lungs of old air trapped deep in the tissues, your lungs will automatically fill up with fresh air. Exhale deep and start this before you begin the climb. Relax, the best thing for you to do is relax, let your upper body relax and your legs work. Keep your arms loose so that you can breath. If you tighten up, it constricts your upper body and you can't breath as well. Find a gear that's easy to use. Don't struggle in a gear that is too big for you to push. When you look up ahead and see a curve, think about standing out of saddle on that curve, then sitting down for the straight section. Curves tend to be steeper; by standing, you get more muscle in the climb and you use a different part of the leg, letting your other leg muscles rest a moment. When you get near the top, say the last fifty yards, give it all you got. Put it in the big chain ring if you can or go to a small tooth cog in the back, get out of saddle and hammer all the way to the top.

The secret is to take it easy in the beginning, let everyone pass you; you'll be passing them later when they're struggling while you're watching your pace, staying focused and exhaling. Don't let yourself become short of breath until the push at the end. If you're new at climbing, just getting to the top will be hard, so try it without the sprint until you're accustom to the work. If you find you're short on breath, or you tire and begin to struggle, then stop. You can't improve if you are struggling and out of breath. Stop; let your heart rate go down, take a drink or two of water, look at the view. You worked hard to get that high so look around and relax a few minutes. Now that you have recovered, the rest of the climb won't be as bad. It is better to stop and recover then to force yourself to go on. The next time you'll go further before you have to stop and soon you will do the climb without stopping at all.

When you start climbing well, there is another exercise to try. This one takes some care, you don't want to injure yourself, so if you feel pain in the knees, stop and back off. Wait a week before attempting it again and use an easier gear. Find a climb where the grade is slight. You want to climb in the big chain ring, making it as hard as you can tolerate to push the gear. Speed is not important. Push the gear as long as you can. Remember, don't go overboard, better to go with short times and a day off then to push and hurt yourself.

One last piece of advice. Bicycling is fun, if you aren't having fun in training then your pushing yourself too hard and you'll stop doing it. Keep the fun in cycling by including a relaxing fun ride with your training rides. It will help flush out the toxin build up in the cells from hard work and keep a smile on your face. Ride whenever you can, even if it's just a half hour after work or a ride in the neighborhood, you are out on the bike putting in miles.

Many times you won't see the improvements but your friends will. They'll see it before you do and one day that rider you always wanted to beat will struggle to keep up with you and not the other way around if you stay focused and practice these simple training techniques.

© High Speed Ventures 2011