Pro athletes develop simple techniques that become automatic. A three-point shooter’s follow through or a golfer’s silky stroke are techniques they’ve honed until they no longer think about them.
Pro cyclists, too, develop characteristics that separate how they look on a bike from the rest of us. It’s not simply a matter of appearance. Unlike golf, when you’re riding, you can get scuffed up out there. Looking like a pro means safety as well as style.
Want the look? Master these three techniques and you’ll be on your way.
1. Relax. Great athletes in any sport let it flow, making impossible moves and extreme effort look easy. Here’s how to be loose as a goose on the bike:
Face Off. If your facial muscles are tight, your whole body follows. Consciously relax your face and neck. Loosen your jaw muscles. Don’t clench your teeth in grim-faced determination.
No Turtles. Tense riders hunch their shoulders until their ears disappear. Drop your shoulders and relax the muscles that run from the top of the shoulder to your neck. Don’t look like a turtle hiding from danger.
Get a (Light) Grip. Bend your elbows slightly and relax your forearms and hands. If you hit a bump or get bumped, loose arms absorb the blow without affecting the front wheel. You keep your line and stay in control.
2. Pedal Smoothly. It’s easy to spot the smooth pedal stroke of a pro compared to a novice’s lumpy plodding. Here’s how to get supple stroke:
Practice Slowly. A rapid cadence of 90 to 110 revolutions per minute is efficient and stylish. But it’s hard for your brain to keep up with your feet going that fast. Practice at a slower rpm of 60 to 70 so you can concentrate on your stroke all the way around.
Remember Mud. Three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond first gave us this tip in 1985, and it’s just as helpful today: When you pull your foot through the bottom of the stroke, imagine you’re scraping mud off your shoe. This will help you pull your foot through smoothly with added power. Try it and see how well it works.
Knee the Bar. As your foot comes up and over the top, pull your knee forward like you want it to touch the handlebar. This adds power to the weakest part of the stroke.
3. Recover Quickly. Pro riders can do a three-week race and go just as hard on Day 20 as in the prologue time trial. Here’s how to recover like a stage racer:
Pump Fluids. The loss of as little as one percent of body weight as sweat can compromise your performance. So drink at least one bottle of sports drink each hour you’re on the bike. After the ride, drink more until your weight is back to normal. If you aren’t getting up twice each night to urinate, you aren’t sufficiently hydrated.
Replenish Glycogen Supplies. A 150-pound cyclist needs 80 to 100 grams of carbohydrate in the two hours immediately after riding. An energy bar contains about 40 grams of carbo, a bagel and banana about 60.
Rest. Pros sleep nine or ten hours a night and often take an afternoon nap after training. We can’t do that because we have real jobs and the boss would frown. But because sufficient rest is crucial to recovery, try to fit in at least eight restful hours of sleep each night and catch a 15-minute “power nap” in the afternoon.
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