As readers of Smart Marathon Training know, cycling is a great option for cross-training, providing runners with a valuable tool to build supporting and opposing muscle groups while building a bigger cardio engine, all without adding more stress onto tired or sore joints.
To get the most out of your cycling, though, you need to know what you should be doing once you climb onto the saddle. Here are some good tips to get started:
Pedaling Try to relax; cycling tense will drain your power and shorten your workout. At the same time, aim to also get a feel for your application of power on the pedal stroke. Smooth your pedal stroke and fly up hills by learning to pull back and up on the pedals. This will help you generate more power.
On the downstroke, learn to pull back. Imagine that you are scraping mud from the bottom of your shoes. With practice, your pedal stroke will become more efficient.
Cornering One good rule of cycling is the same as in skiing: never look where you don’t want to go! generally, you will end up riding your bike exactly at the spot you’re looking at. This can be a dangerous problem when cornering. Aim to look to the inside of the turn so you stay on track. As you get comfortable with this, practice accelerating once you are halfway through the turn.
Shifting If you don’t shift enough, you can end up exhausted and injured, as you will be applying too much stress to your knees. Avoid this by paying attention to your cadence: aim for 70 to 90 pedal revolutions per minute. Adjust your gearing accordingly to maintain your pedaling rate. If it’s hard to pedal, drop into an easier gear.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the gear options. Your main rule is to avoid cross-gearing with the chain. That’s the situation when you have the chain on the farthest gear on your front cassette, and the opposite farthest gear on your rear cassette. This puts a lot of strain on the chain (and can cause that clicking sound you might have been hearing). Instead, aim to adjust the gears so that the chaing is as straight as can be, in whatever sequence you choose.
Another good tip on gearing is to remember that the front gears are for making big dramatic changes, while the rear gears allow for more subtle, minute changes.
All of these tips are good, but nothing beats getting out there and practicing, so try to get in the saddle as often as possible.