Tags: advice, beginner, biking, cross, cycling, cyclocross, diary, tips, training
Guess what? I’ve been doing some ROAD biking. I know! I’m as surprised as anyone. And I’ve been enjoying it! And getting better at it (these two are not unconnected, naturally).
Avid readers will remember me: I’m the one who took up cyclocross as a way of avoiding road riding. Road riding was dull, cold, depressing and dangerous. So whence the volte-face?
It’s not the weather, for sure; that’s been as rubbish as ever. No new steed: I’m still riding my ‘cross bike (complete with mudwrestlers, despite @spandelles threatening to put road wheels on it. I’m not keen; I like a bit of off-road optionality). I HAVE got some new kit, which is clinically proven to make you ride up to* 53% faster: I am looking the part in new (bargain) shoes and new (half-price) shorts. I even have a jersey with some pockets in it, for my tracker bars and lipsalve.
But the real reason it’s all going better is I’ve discovered the SECRET of TRAINING. Yes! Really. Get a pencil! It can be summed up as follows:
Try A Bit Harder.
To be more specific:
- Try and ride faster, all the time. On the flat? Change up a few gears, get down low and pretend you are Michael Hutchinson. Uphill? Someone shouted at me from a car as I was grinding up a hill, ‘Pedal faster!’ He was right.
- Pretend you are Emma Pooley, or Ellen van Dijk. Attack your imaginary bunch relentlessly on climbs. Try to pass someone in real life. Try to stay away.
- Do something counter-intuitive. When the going gets tough or you start feeling tired or bored, don’t slow down. Try harder. Up the pace. Get out of the saddle. Change up a gear.
- Don’t pace yourself, or worry about running out of steam. Just go for it as much as possible. I was stunned to see that I could completely bury myself on a short effort, then be ready for another one a minute or two later.
The completely unexpected side-effect of this approach is it is RIDICULOUSLY good fun. I ride around grinning like an idiot, puce in the face, sweat dripping off me. I shout SHUT UP LEGS! at myself, and sing going downhill (usually just as someone awesome on a Cervélo is passing me). I beam at other cyclists; they give me almost imperceptible Yorkshire head nods of recognition. I no longer feel like a fraud when pro types wave at me, because I am trying really hard. I can’t walk down the stairs when I get home, but I feel like I could conquer the WORLD.
I just need a bit of lunch first.
* statistics experts will note that the term ‘up to’ includes the number 0**
** this joke (c) Monty Python