His fondness for maple syrup is matched only by his knack for long rides. Racing all over the globe the past decade, Ted King gleaned a few handy tips. Here’s one for every pro year he raced.
Wave. Pros wave. Retired pros wave. I don’t care if you ride by 100 cyclists on your half-hour commute. Wave, nod, give ‘em the cheesy guy pistelero shoot. Whatever you do, acknowledge your bike-riding brethren.
Be prepared. This is all-encompassing. Take your bike to a shop before a big tour or training block to make sure your brake pads aren’t paper thin, your chain and cassette aren’t all about to snap, and your tires aren’t threadbare. Charge your computer battery the night before. Make sure your eTap batteries are topped off. Don’t just have a flat repair kit, but know how to use it. Properly air up your tires before a ride. Having to habitually apologize for an annoying squeaky chain is inexcusable. Don’t be the one who always runs out of water nor constantly be asking for five bucks. Be ready for whatever.
Don’t take up more than half of one car lane. It drives me bonkers when Left Lane Larry obliviously crosses the yellow line, especially when rolling down a road as straight as an arrow. Even when riding two abreast, there’s no reason to take up more than that piece of paved real estate. Riding three abreast, zig-zagging all over the road, or taking up more than half of one lane is dangerous, it’s unnecessary, and you’ll immediately put any motorist into a tizzy.
Find a trusted local bike shop and become good friends with them. You’ll generate cool likeminded friends, you’ll find riding partners plus new routes, and earn some bonus random perks – maybe a discounted tuneup, some swag, or a sweet holiday party. Pro-tip: mechanics like six-packs; they also like cash.
Proactively and prematurely breathe full, deep breaths before any sort of big effort. Whether an all-out sprint or a really hard steep climb, if you consciously put more oxygen into your system, you’ll be able to stave off lactic threshold just a little bit longer. It works for deep sea divers, it’ll work for you.
Relax. Relax your entire body. Your arms, hands, stomach, shoulders, even your face. All too often, you see the vice grip o’ death on the bars paired with a concrete face of excruciating pain which looks like no fun whatsoever. You’re riding a bike for goodness sake, you may as well enjoy it.
Eat real foods. Don’t choke down something inedible because the glossy training magazines or your riding buddy tells you it’s the latest and greatest. Know what you’re ingesting and at least partially why it’s making you better. Aerobic activity isn’t anything new to the human race, so similarly focus on the macro nutrients found plentifully in real foods. Take maple syrup for example: there are 54 antioxidants, it’s loaded with electrolytes and chock full of amino acids, it’s water soluble for easy digestion, and darn it, it’s delicious. Cupcakes are delicious. So are carrots. Eat real food.
OK, OK, admittedly random, but this is one tip I used throughout my career. If you’re riding in a big group and as long as you aren’t the one towing the peloton down a sinuous descent, hold your breath when rounding a big corner. When everyone is hard on their brakes and you can smell that caustic, gritty air, you can be sure those burning brake pad fumes aren’t good for you.
Have a coach. JRA* is perfectly acceptable a big chunk of the time. But if you want to continually improve, a coach is the way to go. They’re knowledgable, have your best interest in mind, and can see the forest and not just the trees. The balance of training, personal life, and professional life is the harmony you’re seeking, and a coach is the way to achieve it.
Spin to win. Too often you’ll see people lumber around in an enormous gear throughout the day, so that when they reach a climb they’re already muscularly taxed, therefore their cadence drops even further into the sub-30rpm category or what I call “the molasses zone”. This is bad. (Maple syrup, good!) That’s a recipe for dislike and/or tipping over. Instead, spin on flats and rolling terrain around 95-105rpm. On climbs, maintain 75-85rpm.
Ride with the entire spectrum of cycling demographic that you experience a little of everything. That’s the best way to find out what is fast/slow/cool/lame/exciting/boring/hip/ridiculous/epic/sensible in the sport. Plus you’ll find out which are your favorite riding partners and you’ll likely stick closer to them.
* Just Riding Around