Boosting Your Cycle Rides

One of the questions that I get asked the most is: ‘How can I get more out of my rides?’

Improvement is the metric of success in the world of cycling.

Every athlete wants to improve their performance. Weight lifters are always finding ways to lift those extra few pounds, runners are forever seeking to shave a few seconds of the clock and even footballers seek week-on-week improvement with their skills. Ironically enough, it’s often the case that in order to improve at your chosen sport it’s better to train in another discipline.

Cycling is one of those sports that many other athletes choose as their auxiliary exercise. It’s affordable, (relatively) safe and is a great way of improving cardiovascular fitness and toning muscle.

Still, should you wish to make some serious gains on your bike it might be better to take some time off the saddle and try out one of these alternative forms of exercise:

Jump in the Pool

Although cycling is fast becoming the go-to low-impact sport for the older generation, there is one aquatic past time that provides a fully body workout and truly stretches the body’s aerobic abilities. As long as you exercise good pool safety you’ll be at much less risk in the pool than on your bike, giving you a stress-free environment to push your cardio limits and improve your strength for your return to the road.

Reach Up

So much of endurance cycling depends on your strength, yet you’ll often find that you won’t make significant improvements in your training if you keep on tackling the same routes at the same speed. In order to prepare yourself for sudden inclines or shorter bursts of speed it can be beneficial to spend a few nights a month on a climbing wall. Climbing (or bouldering if you don’t fancy the ropes) tightens your core and activates dormant muscles all over your body which will make riding your bike that much easier.

Cross Yourself

You can find an elliptical trainer (or x-trainer) in pretty much every gym in the country. A cross-trainer allows you to get a robust cardiovascular workout whilst reducing impact to the absolute minimum, the best thing about these machines are the multiple resistances that you can set them to. Crank up the level on your machine and get your blood pumping for 45-minutes to really burn some calories and work on your core.

Get Rowing

Finally, it might seem paradoxical to spend time working on your shoulders or back when you’re trying to improve your cycling, however rowing is the kind of activity that you’ll reap the benefits from in a matter of weeks, should you commit to a couple of sessions a week that is. You can pick up your own rowing machine for as little as £129, they don’t take up much space and once you get going you’ll be surprised how addictive it is!

At the end of the day if you want to get more out of your rides you should try to commit to one or two alternative exercise sessions a week. Take a break from the bike and you could be surprised by the long term improvements you make.

Starting Out: What Bike Should I Buy?

Are you at the beginning of your cycling journey?

Have no fear! I have some words of wisdom to share with you.

One of the most common messages that I get sent through to the site goes something like this:

“Hi Oscar! I really want to start cycling and lose some weight, but I have no idea what bike I should buy. Is there a particular size that I should go for? Is there a certain type of bike that is best suited for me? How much should I spend? Thanks for your help and keep up the great work!”

OK – so the last bit isn’t always there but it’s nice to receive a compliment once in a while.

Anyway, I receive excellent questions like these on a daily basis and, unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to answer them with any degree of accuracy as the answers will inevitably depend on an untold number of variables that are completely subjective. Still, I’ve decided to publish a series of posts that are aimed at the complete beginner, someone who has the urge to cycle but is completely lost as to where to start.

As with all deceptively simple questions, they tend to create more questions rather than simple answers. The following are questions that I’d choose to shoot back at those making the queries, hopefully any beginner will be able to get some further guidance from these:

Where are you going to be cycling?

The type of bike that you buy will necessarily be influenced by the terrain that you are planning on cycling across. If you’re confident that you’ll be sticking to urban areas, then it makes sense to buy a road bike – these are lightweight vehicles that are fitted with thin wheels allowing the rider to travel faster without having to exert themselves on the flat. Buying a mountain bike will make riding in the city much more difficult and are therefore not advised for commuters.

Can’t make up your mind? That’s OK, although they’re more expensive, you can purchase a hybrid bike that is suitable for both terrains.

How far are you going to be travelling?

Those looking to become an adventurous touring cyclist will need plenty of gears to tackle the big hills that you’ll eventually come up against. Gears are an absolute necessity if you’re thinking about doing any kind of long distances, but they’re not important if you’re only planning on commuting. In fact, if you’re only planning on cycling 5-10 miles a day (and your route doesn’t involve any mammoth hills) then you could opt for a single-speed bike. These road bikes only have one gear and take some getting used to, but because of their simple set up they require a lot less maintenance.

How much money do you have to spend?

The answer to this question will drastically change the kind of bike that you eventually end up riding. Whilst I wouldn’t recommend spending a tonne of money on your first ever bike, this is the kind of purchase that rewards bigger investments. If you’re strapped for cash you’ll be able to pick up a used bike from Gumtree or Ebay for around £50. Bear in mind that these bikes might need some initial maintenance and are also prone to failing as you’ll have no idea how old they are.

My recommendation is to head to a legitimate bike shop and talk to a professional. Don’t let yourself get persuaded into buying something above your price range, just learn as much as you can and take your time. An investment of £250-350 should be enough to buy you a quality mid-range bike that will serve you for many years.

If you have any more questions then please send them along or check out the rest of my site for more information!

Becoming a Touring Cyclist: What You Need

Looking to take your rides to the next level?

Step up from the commute and hit the road for a long tour.

If you’ve not noticed it yet, cycling is considered by many to be quite the addictive sport. Whether it’s the thrill of propelling yourself at high speed or the feeling of accomplishment that you get from stepping off your bike after you’ve covered a huge distance – cycling is widely considered to be a very moreish pastime. Thanks to the low-impact nature of the sport it’s the perfect activity for overweight or older people to use as an introduction to cardiovascular exercise; plus, once the rider’s been bitten by the cycling bug they’ll find that their fitness improves exponentially.

At first, novice cyclists will not have the confidence to tackle longer distances, usually staying within their local neighbourhood. As such, they won’t need to worry about investing in any serious touring equipment, however once they feel up to expanding their horizons, it’s important that the right equipment is purchased so that the cyclist is prepared for the unpredictable nature of the road.

If you’re looking to really push yourself (as well as your bike) then it’s time to take the plunge and invest in some touring gear:

Pannier Racks/Panniers

For a one-day cycle or a simple commute you’ll not have to worry about taking more than a good-sized rucksack with you, but as soon as you plan hitting the road for longer than this you should consider fitting a pannier rack to your steed. Thanks to the competitive online market there are so many options when it comes to the style/capacity of pannier system that you opt for, if in doubt you should spend more as you’ll inevitably regret going cheap. breaks down your options here.

Lycra Base Layers

There was a time when donning lycra was something that only professional sportspeople took part in. Understandably, the idea of pulling on skin-tight material is the last thing that many overweight people would want to do, but if you’re planning on tackling a long distance they really are a necessity. Chafing is one of the most uncomfortable and unexpected results of long-distance cycling and not something you ever want to encounter. You can buy discontinued Nike wholesale gear through a number of sites, instead of paying full price.

Road Quality Lights

You might be able to get away with a cheap set of LED lights on shorter distances but if you’re thinking of spending more time on the road and potentially riding at darker times of the day then it’s a smart idea to invest some real money in lights. My recommendation when it comes to purchasing some serious lights for your bike is to avoid buying online and head to your local cycle shop to check out their selection. You should consider what light you’ll be cycling in, whether you need them to see the road ahead of you or simple be seen by other road users.

Pump & Tools

Finally, regardless of how new your bike is you should always carry a decent set of tools, as well as a pump that will be able to hack a rough journey. Skimping on these touring essentials is a bad idea, spend good money on them and you’ll be rewarded with equipment that will mostly likely outlive you and any offspring that you choose to bequeath it to. Whilst your local cycle shop will no doubt stock everything you need, it’s worth checking out Tom Allen’s excellent blog post detailing all the gear that he takes with him on his touring adventures.