The Beginners Guide to Road Cycling
Here’s a quick run-down of some training, nutrition and equipment tips to help you past the bumps in the road that can beset newbie cyclists.
Starting out cycling can get expensive quickly. There’s plenty of advice on-line about buying bikes and you may already have a bike. Either way you should get along to your local cycling shop for some face-to-face purchasing advice or, importantly to get old bikes serviced.
Remember there’s additional equipment that you’ll want to buy over and above a decent road bike. These include clothing: shorts, shoes, tops and glasses and of course helmets; nutrition products: things like water bottles and food you can eat on the bike, as well as other useful kit like heart rate monitors.
A great guide to budgeting for equipment can be found here.
Training schedule and rest: more is not always better.
At first you’ll be keen to go all out, but be warned that this may not be the best course of action. Developing your capacity to cycle longer and harder means time on and off the bike.
Cycling triggers changes in the body that can only properly happen when resting, you have to give the body time to recover from the previous ride. It is in this time that the adaptations that improve your performance and technical abilities are developed. A proper program like the one below schedules both training and rest.
A sample schedule:
For the first 2-3 months you’ll want to schedule 3 to 4 rides per week:
1) One will be a long ride gradually building from 90 minutes to 3 hours over a few months
2) One will be a shorted more intense ride of about 40-50 minutes with some hills that mean varying intensity
3) One or two will be a shorter less-intense steady ride of about 50 minutes
4) You'll have 3/4 rest days per week. Separate the ride, especially the logner or more intense rides with a rest day and focus on your diet for recovery.
This might seem like something that doesn’t have to be discussed but, remembering that the body gets fitter by adaptation to a training stress, if you keep on doing the same thing over and over then your body will get used to the challenge and stop adapting, in other words your fitness will plateau.
To overcome this schedule shorter, harder rides as well as longer less intense work. This will help to mix up the demands in the body, boosting recovery speeds and getting you riding quicker for longer.
Cycling is an energy intense sport and you’ll soon learn that hitting the wall AKA ‘bonking’ - where you literally run out of fuel – can be a real problem. Disappointing rides due to poor recovery levels are frustrating, but literally running out of fuel 10 or 20 miles from home can be a lot worse. To ensure your perform your best and avoid the bonk think and eat like an athlete. In particular splitting your nutrition into three phases around training:
Here fuelling for the ride ahead is important. Although not as weight critical as say running you may well be interested in getting fit and loosing fat, but if you’re serious about cycling you need to fuel up before the ride.
A mixed meal rich in lower GI, complex carbohydrate and with some high quality protein about 2 to 3 hours before a longer ride is important. Follow this up in the half hour before a ride with a small carb rich snack and remember to keep drinking water to improve hydration levels
There’s more about hydration here.
Food on the bike is vital on longer rides where you’ll be working hard for longer than 40 minutes. After this time the stores of carbohydrate in your body start to run out. If you’re out on a long ride you need to start replacing them before this point.
After training your aim is to restock the lost glycogen (carbohydrate) stores, as well as supply energy and nutrients so that your body can recover properly. Time is of the essence and there’s a variety of recovery shakes available that make this job quick and easy, but whether you use these or not the ride should be quickly followed up with a decent sixed whole-food meal, rich in starch and including high quality protein foods as well as healthy fats and plenty of vegetables.
Something like a piece of meat or fish with rice, pasta or potatoes and some vegetables would be a simple template. This along with your pre ride meal is one of the most important meals in your schedule.
For more tips on endurance training and lifestyle have a look through the Multipower blog archive.