The best road bikers are downright miserly with their energy. They find ways—wearing Lycra, riding in their handlebars’ dropped position, even drafting off each other—to make every calorie consumed and every muscle fiber twitched count. That’s because, in the end, it’s all about the slow burn—using your energy efficiently over the long haul so you can call on extra stores when it’s time to unleash your race-winning attack. We asked some cycling pros what their secrets are for squeezing more out of their rides. Follow these tips to ride faster, farther, and more efficiently.
1. Find your sweet spot.
Focus on maintaining a good position on the bike. If you’re unsure of proper positioning, consult with a local bike shop. Improper positioning—like sitting too far forward on the seat or leaning forward too far—often results in poor energy transfer, and can even lead to injury.
—George Hincapie, retired 17-time Tour de France rider [pictured above]
2. Hit your rhythm.
Riding with a proper cadence (80–100 cranks per minute) will help your muscles and legs last longer. On climbs, always shift to an easier gear—I spin about a 90-95 cadence; your muscles tire out quicker when you’re pushing a slow 65 or 70.
—Evelyn Stevens, two-time U.S. national time trial champion and two-time world team time trial champion
3. Save your strength.
When your legs are fresh, it’s tempting to push the pace. It’s better to ride conservatively in the first half of a long event so you’re strong on the way to the finish. Not only will you have a faster overall finish time, but you’ll enjoy the final hour on the bike a lot more.
—Chris Carmichael, founder/head coach of Carmichael Training Systems [pictured above]
4. Let your legs do the work.
Try to keep your upper body as still as possible, because the more you move it around, the more energy you’re losing. Focus on being relaxed and on directing all your energy into your pedal strokes.
5. Feed the fire inside.
What you put into your body has a huge impact on the performance you can get out of it.Hydration is key. Bring a good energy drink, like all-natural Skratch Labs, and hydrate constantly—at least a bottle every hour—especially if it’s hot. Eat every hour on any ride longer than two hours to properly refuel your body.
6. Look where you want to go.
On a technical descent, look where you want to go and relax your upper body. Your bike wants to go fast and follow the best line; if you loosen up, stay focused, and trust your bike—it’ll respond.
—Evelyn Stevens [pictured above]
7. Ride with the pack.
You’ll go much farther in a group—thanks to energy savings from drafting and good conversation—than you would going it alone. Being in close quarters with a pack of, say, 10–20 riders will also help improve your technique.