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Watching the pros pedalling is almost like watching a work of art unfold as they ascend mountains and descend into valleys. To reach this level they have practiced for hours and days. 

Pedalling-cadence-sportactive-cyclingThe better you can pedal, the better and smoother your rides.

To improve your pedal cadence, you need a strong core, a good bike setup, and develop a good pedalling/cadence technique. This leads to more efficient bike riding. The idea is that by maintaining a smooth natural pedalling technique no matter your speed, saves and optimises your energy levels. Let’s explore this in more depth.

Pedalling Should be Smooth

For good cadence technique you must be in control of your upper body with little movement. Any unnecessary movement when cycling is a waste of energy and impacts your overall ride. A strong core will assist in controlling upper body movement. This is achieved in two ways:

Use a Circular Pedalling Technique - Turn the pedals using a circular motion rather than pushing the pedal down hard at the 5 past 12 position. Many cyclists tend to push down hard rather than form a circular pedal stroke which opens the door to unnecessary movement. This stabbing technique often results in using your upper body to form the pedal stroke sometimes pushing from the shoulder wasting energy in the process. Instead, imagine the pedals turning in a smooth circular motion and move your legs accordingly.

Strong Core – To achieve stability in the saddle it is vital that you have strong core. This is essential to every aspect of your cycling. As well as keeping your upper body stable, you will avoid injury and back pain, and be a stronger and better sprinter and climber. Your core’s importance cannot be overstated.

Improving Core Strength

When starting core exercises it is good practice to take professional advice in the first instance. Do not overexert when performing core exercises as this can cause injury. When developing your core, these selected exercises  will help you get started, improving the right muscle groups. Good core strength will allow you to improve the stability of your upper body. This helps you utilise the muscles in your legs to maintain a good smooth pedal/cadence.

Bike Setup and Bike Fit

A proper bike fit is an added essential to pedalling correctly. If the saddle is too high, your pelvis will rock, making smooth cadence impossible. If your saddle is too low, your pedal strokes will tend to adopt the stabbing motion we discussed previously.

Consider the following three factors when setting up your bike fit:

1. Saddle height

The ideal way to get the correct saddle height is to use a professional bike fitter.
If you don’t’ have that facility this is an alternative. Get someone to watch you ride as you pedal on a turbo trainer to see if you’re rocking your pelvis. If you are, adjust your seat in small adjustments until you stop the rocking motion. If you do not have a willing volunteer, straighten your leg when sitting on the seat so your heel touches the pedal in the six o’clock position. It is important not to overstretch your leg. This is not an ideal way to do it as mistakes can creep in so you may need to do this several times to get it right.

2. Saddle Handlebar Drop

The other aspect to look at is the drop between your handlebars and the saddle. This is determined by your anatomy. If you are a bit bulky you will have a different setup to a more flexible rider. It is good practice to speak to a bike fitting professional. This will make your riding position more comfortable giving you a smoother pedal cadence as a result.

3. Cleat Position

Finally, take a look and your cleats. Position your cleats, so the balls of your feet are directly over the pedal spindle. This will help you push down on the pedals with maximum power. When adjusting cleats, the secret is to ensure there is no stress on your knees when you turn the pedals. A small adjustment to your cleats can make a significant difference so it may be a case of trial and error to get the perfect cleat position. Having one leg slightly longer than the other is not uncommon. If this is the case, consider using a shim between the cleat and the shoe to compensate. 

Cadence Drills

It is good idea to fit a cycle computer with a pedal cadence sensor to the bike as this will make it easier to measure how fast your revolutions/cadence per minute is (RPM). They are low cost and more accurate than using a manual method.

This is an exercise to use to improve your pedalling cadence technique:

  • Warm up.
  • 2 minutes @ 80 RPM – Choose a relevant gear and focus on moving the pedals in a smooth circular technique keeping your upper body stable.
  • 2 minutes @ 100 RPM – Increase RPM ensuring you maintain technique and upper body stability
  • Repeat the exercise two to three times depending on how you are feeling.
  • Warm down.
  • To measure your success consider videoing your training session to see if you have any upper body movement.

Try and factor cadence drills into technique-based training sessions. Like all training techniques practice regularly.

When riding normally either on the road or on a turbo trainer, try and maintain a cadence between 75-85 RPM.

Final Thoughts

When coming to the end of your ride, you may notice pedalling becoming less fluid and unstable. This is mostly due to fatigue and the lack of concentration on your pedalling technique.

As such, slow down, and keep focused on smooth pedalling. It is a good feeling to achieve good pedal cadence technique, maintaining it throughout your ride.

sportactive-cycling-pedalling-cadenceUse cadence drills to improve.

Submitted: 11/10/20
Sources: G2N, Bike Radar

Now autumn is here we know that winter is not far behind. The colder months bring shorter days and a nip in the air. Nonetheless, with a little planning, you can keep the pedals turning to keep your cycling skills sharp and your condition great.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at some winter training tips that will help you prepare for next season and excel.

SportActive - Faster, Fitter, Stronger...

winter-training-cycling-tipsSet goals this winter for a better, more structured approach to your training.

Set Goals and Commit

The first step when putting together a winter training plan is to set goals. You may want to work towards riding a sportive such as Marmotte Alps or the Mallorca 312. You may want to achieve a distance or a power output figure. Whatever your goals may be, write them down. This will help give you focus.

Next, take some time to reflect on how well last season went. Identify things you were good at, and areas you feel need strengthening. This could be your endurance, sprinting, climbing, and so forth. Improving these areas could be part of your goals.

Your goals don’t have to be this detailed. If you’re a new cyclist, your goal could be, for example, ride a local sportive.

Plan and Progress

Once you have your goals, write down available training weeks between now and your goal. In other words, if your goal is to ride the Mallorca 312, work out how many weeks you have to train before the start of the event.

Next, try and workout available training time during the week. If you commute, include your ride to work as you can use this to train. This exercise will give you a clear picture of how many hours you have to train in a given day and week.

Now you have a good picture of when you can train you can start putting together a training plan. This should be a good mix of intensity and distance rides. If you are trying to sure up your weaker areas, factor this into your training plan. So if you feel your climbing needs work, ensure you use training techniques to improve it.

Progression in Cycling

There are, in essence, three ways to progress in cycling. They are:

  • Volume – Train for longer
  • Intensity – Train harder
  • Frequency – Train more often

Ideally, try and balance these elements when planning your training. Increasing either volume, intensity, or frequency, ensures you are training harder.

Recovery

It is important to build recover into your training plan. It is a good idea to read our post, 8 Pro Recovery Tips to Enhance your Cycling Career in the first instance. Pro cyclists have recovery plans and so should you.

As you improve, you’ll be able to ride further and faster with less recovery time needed. You might, for example, find you only need one rest day per week rather than two. Listen to your body and adjust your training plan accordingly.

Base Miles and Intensity

Although it would be lovely to be able to train like a professional and do base mile training week in week out, the fact is that life is not just for cycling even though you want it to be. Family, work, and everything else ensure that you never have a dull day.

Winter nights means less daylight and this impacts on your training time too.

As such, try and do longer rides at weekends or when you have more time and do specific exercises to on your ride to work or turbo trainer sessions. (Take a look at our turbo trainer posts and videos as a guide.)

To progress, look to increase the intensity of the specific exercise as and when you can. The progression here is important, and as you become fitter and stronger should become easier over time.

Preparing for Bad Weather

Preparation and flexibility are key to coping with bad weather. Clothing should include overshoes, gloves, and a waterproof jacket. If you can stay dry, you will stay warm.

Flexibility is needed during the colder months. If the roads are icy, high winds, torrential rain, and so on, think about jumping on the turbo trainer to train. Not only could a crash result in serious injury, but even a minor crash can set back your training considerably.

It is worth checking the weather forecast for a week and planning your rides around the weather if possible.

During February and March, our Early Season Cycling Camp in Mallorca allows you to increase your strength, power, endurance, VO2 Max, and develop your FTP.

sportactive-cycling-winterHave a stellar season in 2021!

Core Strength

Core strength is essential to cycling. So when off the bike, consider doing core exercises to strengthen the muscle groups needed for strong cycling.

With a good winter plan, you will find that when the new season starts hitting your final goal will be much easier, and you will be a fitter and stronger cyclist as a result.

Submitted: 28/9//20
Updated: 19/11/20

Cycling is a fantastic exercise. It works certain muscle groups, exercises your heart and keeps you in better condition. It is also good for your immune system, which in the current climate is no bad thing. It can also be a good way of losing and maintaining weight and is a low impact sport. It you’re a beginner rider this may be one of your goals, if you’re more seasoned, you can use weight loss to find your ideal power to weight ratio.

Losing a few pounds or kilos is one of the fastest ways to be able to ride further and faster with less effort. As such, one will help the other: Cycling will help you losing weight and being lighter will increase your cycling performance; a win-win situation.

Let’s get to it.

sportactive-lose-weight-cyclingCycling is a brilliant sport to adopt to lose weight

1 Diet

A good diet is essential for good cycling. Generally, have three meals a day but cut down on your food portions. This will help you avoid snacking during the day while keeping the calorie intake high enough to sustain you when riding your bike but not too high that you put on weight.

A good rule of thumb is to get in the habit of weekly/monthly shops to avoid popping into the supermarket where you might be tempted to buy snack food which isn’t very good for you. Over a week you will have more time to ride your bike shopping in this way.

Your diet itself should be healthy food choices rather than high fat or sugar foods. Eat smaller portions, and if you feel hungry, it could be a sign of dehydration. So drink some liquids, and you’ll find the hunger pangs will go away.

As with everything, it takes practice to get the balance right. You may want to discover our cycling nutrition posts.

2 Avoid High Fat and Sugar Drinks

There is a feeling of satisfaction at the end of a long ride from drinking a can of your favourite fizzy drink. Given the fat, sugar, and calorie intake, it is not great from a health or weight loss perspective. There are alternatives such as specialist recovery drinks which tend to have high carb concentrations.

Other options include water with a carb-based snack, or a glass of milk. Both provide good alternatives to fizzy drinks.

Similarly, when you choose a coffee from a café, try and avoid the mochas and lattes. Consuming this drink is often similar to consuming a meal, and you won’t see much weight being shed as a result.

3 Drink Less Booze

Drinking alcohol, especially a lot of it will see you pile on the pounds. After a few drinks, you can lose perception of how much you have consumed and drink a few more drinks. You may then think it is a good idea to eat something, and as you can see, the pounds are piling on all the time.

Try and cut out a few drinking sessions and enjoy the results.

4 Avoid Fuelling if Possible

Unless you need to eat on the bike, you shouldn’t’ do so. Rides under an hour will not require food to be eaten mid-ride. If your ride is over an hour, take the food you’ll need to complete the ride but no more.

Always ensure, regardless of how long your ride, that you take plenty of water

5 Commuting

Commuting to work is a great opportunity to ride your bike. Depending on the nature of the roads, you may be able to do specific bike exercises such as over gearing, or high-intensity interval training. If your commute isn’t suitable for these exercises, you could try riding longer routes home. Ideally these would incorporate good, challenging climbs. 

Always take a safety first approach if adopting this strategy to lose weight.

As always, don’t be afraid to experiment.

6 Talk to a Pro Cycling Coach

Pro cycling coaches know all about nutrition, and it is a good idea to talk to one. Why not attend a cycling holiday or camp and improve your cycling techniques and your nutritional knowledge at the same time?

sportactive-cycling-weight-loss-tipsWeight loss can help you determine your power to weight ratio

Submitted: 20/9/20

There can be no denying that riding fast is a thrill. We all love the long winding descents like you encounter when you ride Mont Ventoux or Bonette. The wind whips around you, and the road disappears beneath your wheels. This is what riding fast is about.

mallorca cycling sprinting techniques tipsSprinting, is a cycling skill in of itself

Sprinting is a slightly different animal as you are providing the power to ride fast. It is a cycling art in of itself. Like all cycling skills, it takes practice. With this in mind, ensure when you practice your sprinting, you are on a quiet stretch of road and take a safety-first approach at all times.

Although we are not about to emulate our cycling heroes, we can still sprint well. What follows are sprinting tips you can put into practice to hit some great speeds on the flat.

Low on the Bars

You have probably seen Tour de France riders low on the bars. The idea here is by going low, they make themselves more aerodynamic(aero). The normal riding position is a little like a sail and you catch the wind slowing you down.

Going low allows the wind to pass over you. Many sprint specialists have a long front end setup letting them get close to the crossbar. To adopt this method, you need to practice, and it is essential you look forwards and not at your cycle computer. Practice gradually going lower over time rather than going low from the get-go.

Going low is a different riding position and rushing into it may cause injury. Practice using quiet roads taking a safety-first approach.

Big Gears

Most road bikes have a 50 x 11 as their largest gear ratio. The pros normally use a 53 x 11. Sprinters, normally opt for 55 x 11 to give them the extra gears for speed.

Of course, to hit a good speed, you’ll have to produce the power on those pedals.

Strength & Endurance Training

We covered several great techniques for improving your cycle strength and endurance training. Check out the following exercises to do on the bike:

Deep Wheels

Most pro sprinters use deeper wheels. Anything less than 40mm won’t do. Deeper wheels are stiffer than stock wheels. This is significant as more of the power you generate through the pedals goes into the road. Deeper wheels tend to be more aero than standard ones.

Many sprinters have the stiffest components possible. Take a glance at a pro’s bike and you’ll see bulky carbon stems. For the bigger rider, stiffer components rather than small weight savings may be the way to go and allow you to produce more speed.

Use Sprinter Shifters

Electronic groupsets such as SRAM and Shimano come with sprinter shifters buttons. You can change the placement of the shifter buttons, giving you more control of the bike. Locating the buttons in a natural place makes gears easier to change at crucial moments, and you can have a full grip on the drops.

Think Aero

Increasingly, aero components and clothing are becoming standard in professional cycling. If you want to do a check on your aero credentials, helmet, jersey, wheels, and handlebars are good starting points.

If some of these measures seem a little off-putting, don’t use them. Just practice sprinting and you will see improvements regardless of whether you have big wheels or electronic gear shifting. If you feel ready to step up and get more serious, then make the changes to make yourself faster.

Sprinting is an aspect we go into on our Early Season Training Camp. Strength, endurance and improving your VO2 max are other aspects that you'll improve. Check it out and give your cycling a boost.

Keep cycling.

sportactive sprinting cycling tipsA successful sprint is its own reward...

Submitted: 14/9/20

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About SportActive

We've made it our mission to make your experience of cycling in Mallorca one of the most incredible of your life

Every member of the cycle training team at SportActive is a passionate and accomplished cyclist in their own right, not to mention an expert in cycle training. Indeed, it was after taking part in numerous races across Europe, America and Australia that Flora and I eventually decided to set up SportActive in order to offer a new approach to training for cyclists. Having experienced the very best that cycling clubs had to offer, we wanted to make these experiences accessible to everybody, which eventually led us to found SportActive - a unique cycling break company, committed to help cyclists at all levels improve their skills and have fun doing so.

 

Contact SportActive

28 Gelvin Gardens, Trench Road, L/Derry, BT472DQ, N Ireland
Tel office : 0044/ (0)287136 5997

Martin Birney - 0044/ (0)75 997 191 79 or 00353/ (0)86 196 6006

Flora Mittermair
Landline : 0033/ (0)4 78 59 18 90 (leave voice message only on mobile number) or Mobile : 0033 / (0)6 99 79 12 54