If you cast your eye over various Youtube channels and Tik-Toks there’s a deluge of top tips and hacks for cycling. Some great – some not so great.
Cycling is my work, it's how I met the majority of my close friends and it's where I go to clear my head. Cycling bonds us all – normal people with normal lives – as we juggle family commitments, work and the changes of day to day life. However, sometimes the most valuable insights come from personal experiences and unconventional wisdom. So, for what it’s worth, I’m going to delve into my cherished memories, anecdotes and a love for the sport that goes beyond the ordinary to share ten unconventional thoughts for getting the most out of your riding.
Enjoy the wild
We’ve all been guilty of it: chasing an average speed or power, that self-loathing when you haven’t hit your distance target for the week – so what? Trust me here, there’s a place for training plans, but for your everyday, do me a favour and leave your computer and heart strap at home for at least one ride this week. Take it as an opportunity to clear your mind, be present in the moment and focus on the sheer joy of riding. You’ll thank me later.
Look after your cheeks
As a Brit with a fair amount 200km+ races in my locker, I’m no stranger to long days in the saddle and riding in the p*ssing rain. Therefore, two pieces of kit I will always invest in are a good waterproof and bibshorts.
If you can look after your cheeks and keep your core warm you can ride from sunup to sundown. Bonus points for a lightweight and breathable jacket, and likewise look for bibs that are breathable and have antimicrobial properties that will eliminate moisture and friction.
I’ve had some shockers in the past with golfball-size saddle sores and red-raw chafing so don’t forget to apply chamois cream while you’re at it.
Don't sweat the 5%, embrace the 95%
Ever since I picked up my first 9 speed, the aero equivalent of a Ford Mondeo, cycling tech has come a long way. Brands now tell us they are willing to “innovate or die”, that their latest model has a 33% increase in stiffness-to-weight, and if you ride for an hour at 45kph you’ll save 24 seconds. Obsessing over marginal gains can sometimes take away from the sheer joy of riding. I have a fair few bikes, a number I’m not willing to disclose in case my partner happens to chance across this article (N+1 is the rule after all) but my all time favourite is 3 years older than me, a ‘90s MTB. I can ride it down stairs, leave it outside the local pub safe in the knowledge I’d have to pay someone to steal it, and on my local trails I feel like Kade Edwards riding it.
As Tyler The Creator said, “Get a bunch of bikes and ride them round with your friends…it’s the sh*t!”
Embrace your feminine side
For skinsuit-sundays, crits and club 10s, shaving legs is all part of the territory. You might Veet it, you may have forgotten and have to hastily buzz from your sock line to bib line (I’ve been known to forget and go to the shops with hairy ankles), but if you go the full monty and shave your legs, opt for a woman’s razor. The spaced and angled blades, rounded head and moisturiser strips are perfect minimising nics and cuts.
Make friends with your LBS
Who doesn’t love an online saving with next-day delivery or flirting with buying parts from Aliexpress. While online shopping may offer convenience, your local bike shop (LBS) should be a staple.
When I first started cycling, my LBS introduced me to my first local club, gave invaluable expert advice on everything from nutrition to bike-sizing, and taught me basic maintenance tips. Having built that relationship, they have pulled late-nighters for me the day before a race, leant me tools, and introduced me to some incredible friends.
There’s one rule I will never break though: never go to your LBS with a dirty bike.
You might think I’m beginning to paint a picture of an upright tee-shirt rider who cruises all day. But it’s all about moderation, and I have my race calendar for the season too. So, challenge yourself by entering a new event or your first race. I can remember racing abroad for the first time, my first gravel ultra and even my first local club 10 mile TT like it was yesterday. Find something new or completely wild for next year and circle it in your calendar.
Break the doldrum of your weekly routine, push your limits, and find a fresh perspective for your cycling.
Fuel your rides properly
My god I’ve had my fair share of hitting the wall and bonking. Crawling the last 10km home, dying on a hill 100km out in the sun, or sitting at home fully clothed under a hot shower still shivering. Many beginners (and even more experienced riders) I know don’t know if and when to fuel on the bike. If you’re riding for less than 60 minutes, you likely don’t need to consume any additional calories in the saddle. Although, if you’re riding longer than 60 minutes, you will want to consume easy-to-digest carbohydrates, such as the Styrkr BAR50 or GEL30.
Eat every 20 to 30 minutes to avoid the dreaded bonk. If I'd learnt about fueling earlier, I'd have saved many a phone-call with my partner asking her to pick me up roadside, so now this is a hill I'm willing to die on. For more advice and guidance on how often you should be eating on the bike, you can use the Styrkr Fuel Tool.
Give a little nod now & then
The community of athletes at Styrkr I have met over the last year has been amazing. Cycling is a community of like-minded individuals that just love exploring the outdoors, pushing their bodies and testing new boundaries. So, next time you cross paths with another cyclist on the lanes, give a little nod or a friendly “good morning.”
With every Daily Mail journalist and Range Rover driver gunning for us, we might as well be kind to each other.
Meet your heroes
Going to a pro race is rad. Whether that’s planning a weekend in Belgium to witness back-to-back cobble classics, scrambling up a French Col to cheer on the gruppetto in the Tour de France or just heading to the finish of a local national services, there’s no other sport in the world where you can get that close to your sporting heroes.
If you’re lucky you can wander round the team buses, meet some of the pros or even come away with a bidon souvenir (just don’t wrestle a kid for one).
Beat the rat race
I’m not sure where this one fits in exactly, but personally, commuting by bike puts me in the best headspace for the day ahead. Along the way I’ve found new shortcuts, pubs and shops that I would never have known existed and saved countless train and uber fares. It’s also brought me small joys in life such as crossing Albert Bridge in London at sunrise.
Pay it forward
For the eagle-eyed amongst you, you may have noticed I’ve only left you with nine tips. That’s where you come in. In the spirit of camaraderie, my final tip is pay it forward. Cycling is a shared passion, and as cyclists, we can support and uplift one another. Cycling has gotten me out of some dark places (that’s a story for another day), so if you see someone struggling with a flat on the side of the road, offer to help. If a friend has just brought their first bike, offer to take them on a ride. If someone in your club or team is looking to make an upgrade, offer to lend your tools or share your experiences. And if you are new to all of this, don’t be afraid to ask for help - we’re a nice bunch on the whole.
In the end, it's these acts of kindness that make the cycling community stronger and more welcoming.