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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

When first starting in cycling, it is easy to make mistakes. If left unchecked, these mistakes can become habits affecting your performances and enjoyment of the sport. So, with this in mind, let’s take a look at the most common cycling mistakes new riders make.

cycling-mistakesThrough eliminating mistakes you will ride and feel better

1 Incorrect Saddle Height

An incorrectly positioned saddle leads to all kinds of issues. You are more at risk of injury if you are not seated correctly. You may bob up and down as you ride or bounce on the saddle.

All of this is a waste of energy. You should be focusing your energy through your glutes and legs.

One way to know your saddle height is to get a professional bike fit. The ideal saddle height should see your leg almost fully extended if you push the pedal down with your heel. You can use this method to work out your saddle height quite accurately.

2 Overdoing It

We all want to ride further and faster, but overextend, and you could find cycling isn’t quite as much fun as you first thought. Take the time to build up gradually. This will not only reduce the risk of injury, but you will grow in confidence with each ride, getting more enjoyment with each mile ridden.

3 Fuelling

Getting your nutrition right is important, and there is a balance to find. Too much food and you’ll overload on carbs and feel sluggish. Too little and you’ll run out of energy and ‘bonk’. Take the time to get to know how much food and drink you need to pack away to keep the pedals turning on longer rides. It is good practice to take more food on long rides than you think you’ll need. You can check out our cycling nutritional posts for advice.

Always take plenty of water with you on every ride. The importance of keeping hydrated can’t be overstated.

4 Carry Spares

It is essential you prepare for a puncture or two on every ride. Being stranded miles from home is no fun should something go wrong with your bike. Being able to change innertube is an invaluable skill. As a minimum, ensure you pack:

  • Two innertubes
  • Tyre levers
  • Puncture repair kit
  • Lightweight pump or gas canisters
  • Multitool

It is good practice to take a bank card and a note just in case you run into issues.

5 Maintain Your Bike

Although this is obvious, routine bike maintenance can be ‘something I’ll do later’ especially if you have a full, busy life. Poorly maintained bikes develop more faults, and there is a significantly increased risk of breaking down mid-ride.

Essentially, you want to ensure that your bike is well lubricated, and you inspect your tyres for wear, and you keep the brakes and gears in good working order. While you’re about it check for rattles in the handlebars. If you are super busy, you may want to schedule maintenance with your local bike shop a few times a year.

6 Braking Too Hard

Braking is a cycling art in of itself. If you can learn to control your speed using your brakes only when you need to, then you’ll find your cycling will be more efficient. In other words, it will be faster and more enjoyable.

A common mistake is to slam on the brakes hard rather than applying them just enough to keep at a manageable, safe speed. If you learn to use your brakes effectively, you will not lose valuable momentum and expend less energy.

Slamming on the brakes and almost coming to a stop slows you down, requiring more effort to get back up to speed and this eats into your energy. Unless you have to do an emergency stop or have to stop dead for junctions and the like, try and keep the bike moving as much as you can.

Cycling mistakes are common; however, once you’re aware of them, you can work on eliminating them to ride more effectively. One of the best ways to avoid cycling mistakes is to cycle with us in Mallorca on one of our holidays and training camps. This is where the pros train, and after a week’s cycling with our pro coaches, you’ll soon be riding mistake-free.

cycling-mistakes-avoid

Submitted: 6/9/20

Pro cyclists know exactly what their heart rate and functional threshold power (FTP) is. They use the numbers to guide their training by splitting their training rides into zones. Zone 1 is a very casual ride, while zone 4 is similar to the power needed to climb a mountain.

Increasingly, it is not just the pros who are crunching numbers to train more effectively. You can too, especially as the costs of the equipment tend to fall with increased competition and patents expiring. If you want to improve your cycling, an investment in either a heart rate monitor or power meter is a good idea.

Once you know your maximum heart rate (MHR) or FTP you can split your training into zones. Using zones rather than how the bike feels on the ride allows you to train more effectively. The better you train, the better your performances in big cycling events such as sportives.

power-meter-heart-rate-monitorUsing zones in your training plan will help you train more effectively

What You’ll Need

You can work out training zones by measuring your heart rate or power for FTP. This is accomplished by using either a heart rate monitor or power meter.

  • Heart rate monitors tend to involve strapping a monitor to your chest as you ride. The data is fed to your phone and cycle computer, which you can review for analysis and monitor as you ride. There are some monitors that read your heart rate from your wrist negating the need for a chest strap. They tend not to be as accurate, however, so there is a trade-off.
  • Power meters attach to the bike often on the crank or wheel hub. It gives you a reading in watts fed to your cycle computer and are downloadable for analysis. Many cyclists prefer power meters to measure how hard they are riding.

Whichever you choose you will need to determine your MHR or FTP. So let’s look at that next.

Determining MHR

MHR is determined by riding intensely to find your maximum heart rate. You can either do this by finding a quiet, steady climb with few junctions or use a turbo trainer. If you opt for the former always take a safety-first approach. When you are ready to begin, do the following:

  • Warm-up for 15-20 minutes. During the warm-up ensure your muscles are ready for seated and standing efforts and climb your chosen hill for about five minutes at a brisk pace. This will give you a good idea of the gear ratios needed to ride at maximum effort up the hill.
  • Main Test: Climb the hill four times. On each climb increase intensity about every 30 seconds up to a sprint speed that you can maintain. Make a note of your hightest heart rate figure for each of the four climbs.
  • Warm down for 10-15 minutes. After you have completed four climbs, spin out your legs to avoid lactic acid build-up.

The highest heart rate reading during the test is your MHR. Make a note.

Determining FTP

Like MHR, determining FTP involves pushing your limits. If you are planning to use turbo trainer to discover your FTP we have published a detailed post about it: Home Trainer Program - week 1 - Power Meter Based.
If you are planning to cycle on the road, safety first please and do the following:

Warm-up

Warm-up for 15-20 minutes. Ride at a steady pace. This should be followed by intermittent efforts for five minutes. Here, pedal hard for 30 seconds followed by 30 seconds soft pedalling. Do this five times. This will open your blood and oxygen flow, ready for the main test.

Main Test

Make sure your power meter is recording and start a new interval. Pedal hard to a wattage you think you can sustain over the test. Like time trialling, do not start too hard. Progress to a wattage you think you can sustain over the next 15 minutes. Bear in mind that the best cyclists in the world can only sustain 400-500 watts for an hour. So if you’re starting at around this figure, you’re going to struggle.

After 15 minutes riding to the highest sustainable effort, ride flat out for five minutes. If you find yourself fading, you have probably ridden too hard in the first 15 minutes. Adjust for your next test.

Save the data and start a new interval.

Warm Down

Warm down for 5 to 10 minutes to spin out your legs to avoid lactic acid build-up.

I Have the Numbers What Next?

Once you have the numbers, you can structure your training around zones. See below:

Zone 1

  • Easy effort.
  • You can chat freely.
  • 60-65% MHR
  • 56-75% FTP
  • Feels like you are warming up.

Zone 2

  • Steady effort.
  • You can speak one sentence at a time.
  • 65-75% MHR
  • 76-90% FTP
  • Riding on the flat.

Zone 3

  • Brisk effort.
  • You can speak a few words at a time.
  • 75-82% MHR
  • 91-105% FTP
  • Feels like you are riding hard.

Zone 4

  • Hard effort.
  • You can say one word at a time.
  • 82-89% MHR
  • 106-120% FTP
  • Feels like a tough climb.

Zone 5

  • Very hard effort.
  • You can’t speak!
  • 89-100% MHR
  • 121%+ FTP
  • Sprinting.

Zones are individual to the rider. So your zone 3 may be different to your riding buddy’s zone 3. Also, note that as you improve your MHR/FTP will change. So redo the test periodically.

Now you have your numbers and zones you can incorporate this into your training plans. It is recommended that you use the serviecs of a qualified cycling coach to assist you with a structured training programme. A good coach can outline the benefits of zonal training and answer questions you may have. Structured training will be covered in more depth in later blogs.

Keep cycling!

cycling-sportive-trainingUse zones to train for big events such as sportives

Sources: Martin Birney, Cycling Weekly 

Submitted: 27/8/20

Although cycling is fantastic, there can be no denying it can be a time-consuming sport. Improving means putting in the hours and effort. If you are short on time, this may make you feel that big cycling events such as sportives are out of reach.

The good news is that by using specific training techniques, you can see real improvements to your cycling, building endurance and strength two essentials for long rides.

Both techniques demand no more than a ninety-minute ride and provide plenty of benefits to your cycling.

Although nothing replaces a long spin putting away the miles, you will notice tangible improvements to your physical condition and riding style.

cycling-techniquesBuild strength and endurance using specific techniques

Commuting and Safety

Given the length of the ride, you may feel you can do these techniques on your commute to work. As you’ll be doing this on open roads with vehicle and pedestrian traffic hazards, you must find quiet roads where junctions are minimal, and traffic levels are low. As such, you may want to consider using a turbo trainer for these exercises, especially if quiet roads are hard to find.

Let’s take a closer look at the techniques.

Strength Endurance Training

Strength endurance training for cyclists essentially means riding in a higher gear for a defined length of time. Some professional cyclists have likened this to cycling weight training.

To get started warm-up for around five minutes. Once you are on a suitable road, do the following:

  • Select a high gear. When you pedal, this should feel like you are making a 7/10 effort or using 85% of your maximum heart rate.
  • Cadence should be around 50-60 RPM
  • Ride for 5 minutes continuously unless you have to stop for safety reasons.
  • Recovery time should be just under 5 minutes. Take the opportunity to select an appropriate gear and spin your legs.
  • Repeat between 3-6 times depending on your ability. Try to work towards doing this six times in a ride.

If you can't measure cadence and heart rate just go by how the ride feels.

To get the most from this exercise you should concentrate on your technique. So with this in mind, ensure you are:

  • Using your glutes, the strongest muscles in your body.
  • Keeping your core stable.
  • Adopting a smooth sustained pedalling technique.

Cycle coaches believe that this exercise increases the power your muscles can produce through overloading and recovery, and it improves neuromuscular recruitment. Put simply, your muscles will be stronger, and you’ll be using them more effectively.

If you do the technique correctly, you’ll improve your core, strengthen your glutes and improve your pedalling form.

When you’re done, ensure you refuel and rest your legs if possible.

strength-endurance-cycling-trainingStrength and endurance are needed for long rides and sportives

Fasted Endurance Training

Fasted training provides endurance benefits which are needed to ride sportives, long rides, and cycling events. Although fasted cycling can’t replace long endurance rides, they are still highly useful in building endurance and provide other cycling benefits.

Riding in a carb depleted state puts your body into fat-burning mode. To ensure you reach this state, it is advised to do this exercise in the morning. Your body burns carbs overnight, and you’ll be ready for your fasted ride.

You may want to consider a protein breakfast. Boiled or scrambled eggs are good for this. Any food with carbohydrates in it is a no-no. This includes:

  • Toast
  • Honey
  • Cereal
  • Fruit
  • Bread
  • Milk

The ride itself will ideally be for 60-90 minutes, and you’ll ride at a steady pace, at about 70% of your maximum heart rate. It is important to keep the ride steady and not try anything like high-intensity training due to fatigue. This makes it ideal for commuting as it doesn’t matter if you’re stopping at junctions frequently. Always, however, adhere to road safety guidelines.

When finished, ensure you refuel but don’t go overboard.

Some pro riders use fasted training as part of their training programmes.

Both of these exercises are good if you want to ride the big events but have limited training time. Both build endurance needed for long rides, and if you adopt the right cycling techniques, you will notice real benefits to your cycling.

As well as these two techniques consider using high-intensity interval training to help develop your cycling abilities further.

Sources:  
Strength endurance training
Fasted training

Date submitted: 18/8/20

 

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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