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Want to be a better cyclist? Just ride. Every time you turn the pedals, you naturally improve a little. Of course, one well-placed tip, trick, or nugget of wisdom can help you achieve something you might otherwise not learn for years.
Drawn from Bicycling book, 1,100 Best All-Time Tips, here is a generous helping of wisdom from the most skilled and knowledgeable coaches, physiologists, and cyclists in the world.
NO. 1 To avoid muscle soreness and fatigue, don't hunch your shoulders. Tilt your head every few minutes to stave off tight neck muscles. Better yet: Stop to admire the scenery.
NO. 2 By sliding rearward or forward on the saddle, you can emphasize different muscle groups. This is useful on a long climb as a way to give various muscles a rest while others take over the work. Moving forward accentuates the quadriceps, while moving back emphasizes the hamstrings and glutes.
NO. 3 Don't move your upper body too much. Let your back serve as a fulcrum, with your bike swaying from side to side beneath it.
NO. 4 Keep your shoulders behind the front wheel axle. Too much weight forward makes the bike hard to handle and could cause the rear wheel to skip up into the air.
NO. 5 If you don't have a chance to slow for an obstacle such as railroad tracks or a pothole, quickly pull upward on the handlebar to lift your front wheel. You may still damage the rear wheel, or it might suffer a pinch flat, but you'll prevent an impact on the front that could cause a crash.
NO. 6 Beware of creeping forward on the saddle and hunching your back when you're tired. Shift to a higher gear and stand to pedal periodically to prevent stiffness in your hips and back.
NO. 7 Relax your grip. On smooth, traffic-free pavement, practice draping your hands over the handlebar. This not only will help alleviate muscle tension, but also will reduce the amount of road vibration transmitted to your body.
NO. 8 Handlebar width should equal shoulder width. A wider bar opens your chest for breathing; a narrower one is generally more aerodynamic. Pick the one that favors your riding style.
NO. 9 A squeak is from a pedal rather than the chain if it occurs at the same place on each stroke. For conventional pedals, spray lubrication where the cage and body connect. For clipless pedals, clean all cleat contact points, then apply a silicone spray to these points and wipe off the excess. Also make sure the cleats are tight.
NO. 10 A chirp is almost always from the chain—it is crying out for lubrication.
NO. 11 If a chain clicks, it has a tight link. Turn the crank backward by hand and watch the chain as it winds through the rear derailleur pulleys. The inflexible link will jump. Grasp the chain on either side of the stiff link, bend it laterally to loosen it, then apply lube.
NO. 12 Clicks during out-of-saddle climbing and sprinting sometimes come from two spokes rubbing. Put a drop of oil on each spoke intersection.
NO. 13 Never trust your ear. Frames transmit noises. You might swear a sound is coming from your cranks, but it could be your saddle rails. Check all possible points.
NO. 14 When you start to feel stressed and overwhelmed by a hard pace, try this breathing technique: Instead of actively drawing air into the lungs then passively letting it out (our normal pattern), push the air out and let it naturally flow back in. Bonus: Because of how you activate your lungs to do this, it also helps you get into a low riding position and maintain a flatter back.
NO. 15 On descents, your bike is much more stable when you're pedaling than when you're coasting.
NO. 16 Whenever you make the transition from standing to sitting, gain a few free inches by pushing the bike forward as you drop to the saddle.
NO. 17 Put your left foot down when stopping to prevent greasy chainring "tattoos" on your right calf.
NO. 18 Normally, applying the front brake harder than the rear is the most effective way to stop. On slick surfaces, however, braking hard up front invites a front-wheel skid, which will almost always result in a crash. Better to emphasize the rear brake. It's much easier to keep things under control if it's the back wheel that momentarily locks and slides.
NO. 19 Always ride with your elbows bent and your arms and shoulders relaxed. This prevents fatigue caused by muscle tension. It also allows your arms to absorb shock instead of transmitting it to your body.
NO. 20 If a headwind finally defeats you, don't let it ruin your day Accept the slower speed, shift to an easy gear, and work on your pedaling form and your ability to stay relaxed.
NO. 21 Occasionally take one hand off the bar and shake it. This relaxes your shoulder and elbow and encourages blood flow to your hand to prevent numbness.
NO. 22 To stave off muscle fatigue during hard, sustained pedaling, learn to "float" each leg every three or four strokes. Simply let your foot fall without exerting force.
NO. 23 Quickly get to a place where you can thoroughly clean and disinfect the wound. It is less painful if done within 30 minutes of the crash, because nerve endings are still numb from the trauma.
NO. 24 As tempted as you might be, don't take a day completely off the bike after the week's hardest effort. The best way to recover is with a short, easy spin—30 to 60 minutes at a pace that always allows effortless talking.
NO.25 Get more life from your tires by switching them from one wheel to another. The rear wears more than twice as fast as the front, so swapping every 500 miles or so significantly extends their longevity.
NO. 26 KNEE PAIN: If the pain is in the front of your knee, raise your saddle in 2mm increments until the knee stops complaining. If the pain is in the back, lower your seat instead.
NO. 27 NUMB HANDS: You're probably putting too much weight on your hands. Raise your handlebar or shorten your stem (or both). Also check the saddle—if it angles down, you could be sliding toward the bar.
NO. 28 SORE NETHERS: Make sure the saddle is level and straight. A low handlebar can cause your pelvis to rotate forward and down, so try raising it with spacers. Finally, test seats of different widths, lengths, firmnesses, and shapes.
NO. 29 How long of an event can you handle? Most cyclists can go about three times the distance (or time) of their average rides without struggling so much they risk falling to pieces.
NO. 30 Don't take the day off before a big event. If you need complete rest from riding, do so two days before, then take a short ride on the eve of the event — including a couple sprints to make sure your body (and your bike) are well oiled.
NO. 31 After adjustments to your saddle position, handlebar height, stem length, or cleat placement, minor discomfort is normal as your body adapts to the changes. Resist the temptation to fiddle again after just one short ride.
NO. 32 When climbing out of the saddle, if you feel your body bobbing too much, shift one gear harder. If you feel like you are excessively swinging your bike from side to side, shift one gear easier. These adjustments will give you an ideal balance of power and cadence.
NO. 33 Two easy (and most overlooked) ways to improve your bike's performance: Inflate the tires before every ride, and keep the chain lubed.
If you have any other suggestions, please leave your comments below.
AUTHOR: JASON SUMNER