Spring CyclingCongratulations, Utah! We have finally made it out of the misery that was winter! If you are a skier, the last few months have been great, but for us cyclists, the snow, ice, and cold have been major hinderances in our cycling enjoyment. Now the flowers are budding, the birds are singing, and the roads are clearing!

Spring has sprung, and it is time to whip out that glorious vehicle again.

From Active.com comes some great tips to transition into spring cycling:

Tune Up Your Bike:

At the start of the season, it’s a good idea to have your biked checked thoroughly so that it’s in tip-top shape for the adventures ahead! You could check yourself, or have a local mechanic give you a once-over.

  • Clean and wax the frame
  • Clean and grease the hubs and true the wheels
  • Put on new rim tape, tires and tubes
  • Clean, lubricate and adjust the deraileurs and brakes, and replace the chain, cassette, and brake shoes
  • Inspect cables; especially shift cables and braking systems
  • Lubricate your frame and floor pumps

If there is a local event, plan ahead because shops get very busy during this season!

Getting Your Muscles Back to Cycling:

You’ve been doing a great job of cross training inside, or maybe you haven’t, so now’s the time to get back into cycling fitness mode.

To improve your pedaling economy, start by concentrating on different parts of the stroke. 1st the top; imagine you are pushing your knee forward or kicking a soccer ball as you apply pressure, your glute muscles should contract to open the hip. 2nd the front; pushing power downward, your quadricep muscles will do the work to straighten the knee. 3rd the bottom: if you point your toes slightly downward, and imagine you are scraping them on the ground, your lower calf muscles should engage. Finally the back; don’t pull upward on the pedal (that is inefficient), just lift it, so your other leg doesn’t need to push.

One drill that might improve your stroke is the one-legged pedal on a training bike. Rest one foot on a stool, box, etc., and have the other foot pedal at 50 to 60 rpm for 30 to 60 seconds. Then pedal with both legs for a minutes recovery, and repeat 3-6 times before switching legs. Each week add five seconds to the one-legged cycle.

Build Up Some Power. If you do intervals just below your maximum effort for 30 minutes–in the “sweet spot”–you’re body will kick itself back into gear pretty darn quick! How to tell where the sweet spot is:

  • You should be riding hard enough that you can’t talk, but not gasping for air.
  • “Your legs should be talking to you, but not complaining loudly”
  • If you are measuring heart rate: 93-97% of your lactate threshold (the average heart rate you can sustain in a 30-minute all-out time trial)
  • If you are measuring by power: 88-94% of your Functional Threshold Power (FTP). To find your FTP, it’s 95% of your average power for a 20-minute all-out trial

This all depends on your current fitness level. Make sure you warm up for at least 15 minutes before trying a sweet spot interval. SS workouts are difficult, and no matter what shape you’re in, you shouldn’t do more than 2 a week.

Another way to build up some good muscle responses is to sprint. Even if you don’t race, fast-twitch responses in your muscle fibers activate cycling muscles. Every 5-10 minutes, shift up to a hard gear, and go as fast as you can, as hard as you can, for 10-30 seconds. Your neuromuscular coordination will improve (which is a very good thing!)

Your core is also an integral part of riding, more so than you might guess. Much upper body fatigue comes from locking elbows, tight shoulders and necks, etc. But if your core is strong enough, your hands should rest lightly on the bars (like they would if you were typing), and your elbows should not be supporting the upper body, but they should be bent. If your abdominal muscles are strong and engaged, and your lower back is supporting your upper body, you’re in good position to ride wherever you want to go.

Slowly build yourself back up to that great shape you were in last summer (or the great shape you WANT to be in THIS summer) and enjoy  this fabulous weather!


Image courtesy of Eunice