You don't need expensive gear to progress3 January 2023
Improving your cycling performance can feel impossible at times. You’re ready and willing to step it up a gear, but your bank account slams on the brakes at the cost of that flash new gear you’ve got your eye on. No matter how much you think it would improve your ride, you can’t justify splashing the cash - so you’ll just have to resign yourself to a subpar cycling experience, right?
Wrong. Despite the popular misconception that cycling is an expensive hobby, we’re here to tell you that you can improve your performance without having to cough up for overpriced kit. Read on to find out how.
How to get better at cycling
When it comes to ramping up your cycling performance, there are four main areas you should be looking at, and your gear is only one of them. The others are your fitness, your technique, and your preparation - and the good news is that you can work on all three without breaking the bank.
If you want to progress to take on harder rides, you’ll need to make sure you’re fit and ready to achieve your goals. Don’t just launch into something you’ve never tried before - take on new challenges in gradual increments to build your endurance levels and keep the ride enjoyable. Additionally, you should consider improving your fitness in other areas that aren’t directly related to cycling. For example, weight training strengthens the muscles, which can prepare you for strenuous hill climbs. If you have access to a barbell, back squats are a great exercise for working the glutes, hamstrings and quads, while deadlifts offer an almost full-body workout.
Being the fittest athlete alive won’t help you if you’re not using the right technique in the saddle. Remember, different types of cycling require different techniques - you need to be able to adapt in the moment. Start by getting it right on the flat, practising bends and using your body weight to your advantage before you add extra difficulty such as tackling a downhill stretch. One crucial area many cyclists could benefit from working on is pedalling efficiency. This can help you to increase your power while putting in the same amount of effort. Aim for consistent revolutions of the pedals as opposed to stop-start ups and downs that result in torque spikes as you push down. Poor cycling technique doesn’t only hinder your performance. It can also cause accidents and injuries that can keep you off your bike for prolonged periods, so it’s well worth taking the time to get your technique right at your current level before attempting harder rides.
No cyclist will perform at their best without proper preparation. Whether you’re looking to beat your personal best in a time trial or tackle new terrain, it’s important to remember that a good ride starts before you mount your bike. Hydration, nutrition and self-care are all integral to a cyclist’s performance, so don’t forget them. Drink plenty of water, fuel yourself before and during the ride with a healthy, balanced diet, and make sure you allow yourself plenty of time between rides to rest and recover.
Do you need an expensive mountain bike?
None of the above means that your cycling gear is irrelevant - just that it’s not the only thing impacting your performance. When it comes to tackling rough terrain, you’ll need a mountain bike with good suspension - as well as the skills to handle the ride. The question is, is it worth spending big on mountain bikes?
The answer to that is never going to be simple because price doesn’t always equal quality. The more important factors are:
- Does it have all the features you want? There’s no sense in buying a full-suspension bike if you need a hardtail setup
- Is it the right size for you? Riding a bike that’s too big or too small for you can be painful and that can have a big impact on the quality of your ride.
And this isn’t restricted to buying a mountain bike either! Getting the right gear for you is the most important thing when buying any bike, as our videographer Jamie Hilton recently discovered when his trusty road bike outperformed flash new models in an Olympic distance triathlon.
In the end, price can be a deciding factor when it comes to buying cycling gear, but it shouldn’t be the only factor. The most important thing is to enjoy your rides with the right gear for you - and remember, progress takes time.