There are a lot of aspects besides pedaling your bike that go into cycling- to do it right, it becomes an entire way of life. Everything from what you eat to what you do in your down time is effected. To be the best cyclist you can be, there are some common lifestyle changes and tricks you can follow.
What you eat is extremely important for your performance on your bike. Cycling burns a lot of calories, so you're going to need to increase your intake. A good rule of thumb is to add about 50 calories per mile traveled on your bike. You will also need to load up on carbohydrates, which are the fuel for your cycling. This is a bit trickier to calculate, but generally adding a handful of whole grains, fruits or vegetables to every meal will do the trick- these types of foods are considered low-glycemic carbohydrates, so they will burn slow. Before a ride, a big early breakfast is always recommended. Protein is good for muscle recovery, so including beans, lean meats, fish or low-fat dairy to your evening routine may be a big help.
Rest and recovery can be just as important as the ride itself, if you want to avoid muscle failure. One of the easiest yet most ignored ways to do this is to be sure not to overwork yourself and get plenty of sleep. Regularly stretching before and after exercise goes a long way to prepare your muscles to be flexible and avoid tearing. Compression clothing has recently been proven to reduce soreness and swelling during recovery, and is even recommended to wear during exercise. You can also apply topical remedies, such as copaiba essential oil, to help soothe the muscles. In addition, copaiba oil is good for your skin and can uplift your mood. You may have heard about competitive athletes taking ice baths after difficult exercise, but this is a myth and should be avoided. Instead, try an epsom salt bath to relieve aching limbs.
To keep your ride as smooth and effortless as possible, and to keep you out of the bike shop too frequently, you should practice some simple bike maintenance tasks between every ride. One of the most basic things you can do is to keep you bike clean, especially if you've been riding through dust or mud. This will help to keep your parts working longer and to prevent rust from forming. Remember to include your drive train. A bike-specific spray cleaner is usually enough- try to avoid pressure washing so that you don't lose all the oil on your bearings. Be sure to keep your chain lubed and check your tire pressure regularly. Check your brakes for worn pads or contamination. You can also learn to index your gears at home to keep your shifting smooth, this usually just involves tightening your cables.
You may think you should be learning how to go faster, but it is equally as important to learn how to brake correctly. This helps regulate the speed of the bike and avoids wasted effort. Most of all, you want to avoid skidding, losing grip or eating the pavement. You should also know precisely how long it takes you to stop, to avoid accidents. The front brake is most effective- it holds about 80% of the bike's stopping power. You won't go over the handlebars if you use the front brake correctly and shift your weight towards the back of the bike by squatting behind the bike seat. On the other hand, it is wise to avoid braking during turns or while cornering so you don't lose traction and wipe out. Make sure to scrub enough speed before going into a turn.
It takes more than just power to boost your performance on your bicycle. Luckily, there are many ways you can go about improving yourself as a cyclist. Consider making some of these changes and watch your personal best skyrocket.
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