British Cycling's ten top tips to get the most out of your cycling this spring.
Look back before moving forwards
Whether it was a lack of motivation, excesses over the festive period, the weather, illness or a combination of all of the above, you might not be emerging from winter in quite as good shape as you had planned. If this sounds familiar, don’t just plough on with the goals you might have set in the autumn but adjust them and start re-building your fitness.
If your winter did go as planned, make sure you also spend some time scheduling in your key events and working your training around them. For Intermediate and Advanced riders our In-Season plan is perfect for this. Less experienced riders should look at our Improvers Modular Plan.
Appropriate goal setting and planning, based on a realistic and honest appraisal of your current fitness level, is essential for an enjoyable and successful season.
Avoid drastic dieting and panic training
Drastic weight loss and hard training don’t go together. By restricting calories, you won’t have the energy for intense sessions and will compromise both their effectiveness and your recovery from them. You also risk making yourself ill and being forced to take further time off the bike. Safe and sustainable weight loss should ideally be undertaken during periods of lower intensity training.
Similarly don’t attempt to ramp up your riding suddenly, increases in either training volume or intensity should be progressive and in line with the training you’ve recently managed. Sudden jumps in training load are likely to lead to illness, injury or overtraining. Look at the riding you have consistently managed over the last 6-12 weeks and find a training plan where the initial training mirrors that.
Take a break
If you have been racing track or cyclo-cross regularly through the winter or have been really disciplined about your training, maybe take some time, even if only a week, off from structured training. You won’t lose any significant fitness and your mind and body will definitely benefit from a bit of a break. You don’t have to avoid the bike completely but ride for fun and leave the heart rate monitor or power meter at home.
Start structured training
If you are just getting into cycling or, have been riding for a while but have never followed a plan, putting some structure into your training is, without a doubt, the best way to improve. Structured training plans are not just for very serious or competitive riders but anyone who wants to ride further, faster or just better. We’ve got plans ranging from our Sofa-50km for complete novices right up to discipline specific plans, including sprinting and hill climbing.
Keep up your off the bike work
Although many riders will hit the gym during the winter, the majority stop once the weather improves and the season starts. However, even if you only fit in a maintenance strength session once per week, it can help to prevent injuries, maintain strength and muscle mass and improve your on the bike performance. It will also mean, when you increase your strength training next off-season, it won’t be quite such a shock to your system. If you really don’t think you will make it to the gym, some regular mobility work at home is a great complement to your cycling.
There is no doubt that incorporating some off-road cycling into your training can improve your performance on the road. Bike handling, pedalling efficiency and top end fitness can all benefit from a bit of the rough stuff. Whether you go for full-on mountain biking or exploring by-ways and bridleways on a cyclo-cross or gravel bike, it is an ideal option for endurance rides, a bit of fun during a recovery week or for a quick evening blast.
Show your winter bike some love
If you have been riding a dedicated winter bike, don’t just put it away without giving it a much deserved clean and service. Make sure that it is running smoothly and replace any worn parts. Pay particular attention to chain stretch as, catching this early, can save you having to replace the cassette and chainrings. Also, check all cables for stretch, that your gears are correctly indexed and replace worn brake pads if necessary. Finally, make sure you lube your chain before packing the bike away. Do all of this and, when you get the bike back out in the autumn, you will be confident that it is ready to ride.
Don’t ditch the mudguards just yet
Even though you might be switching over to your summer bike, spring showers can mean wet roads. You can get clip-on mudguards for even the most tight clearing aero frames without eyelets and they will definitely help keep your feet and backside dry and make you more popular on group rides. If you are racing, unclipping them should only be a five minute job.
Be ready for all weather
It is not unusual, during the course of a spring ride, to experience a full four seasons of weather. Staying comfortable in unpredictable mixed conditions is all about flexible clothing and layering. Toe covers, arm/leg/knee warmers and a weather proof gilet or lightweight jacket are all essentials that can easily be put on or removed as the conditions change.
Get a power meter
Although not essential, if you are looking for a spring upgrade to motivate you and improve your cycling, a power meter should be at the top of your shopping list. In training you will know exactly what your achieving from every pedal stroke and, during events, it will help you to pace accurately and effectively. British Cycling Members can save 15% on an InfoCrank package with Verve Cycling.