Getting the most out of bicycling means different things to different people. To some, it might be shaving 30 seconds off their best time, or maybe just not getting dropped by their group ride with some friends. Other people may just want to make their daily commute without feeling like they need to towel off when they get to work, or to get up that one bastard of a hill. Maximizing your performance on the bike equates to two things: getting the most out of your machine, and getting the most out of its engine (you).
If you think of the analogy of an automobile, then it is easy to understand how different machines are better suited to different tasks. You wouldn’t want to commute through San Francisco in a monster truck; you also wouldn’t want to take a Prius on a camping trip in the High Sierras. Choosing the right bike is not quite as easy as it sounds when you start out riding. There are some choices that work well in several environments, but as any futon owner will tell you, being functional at several things usually means being great at none of them.
If you know you want to ride trails, then obviously you want a mountain or cyclocross bike. If you see yourself racing through traffic to class, work, or your daily excursions with simple functionality, then a single speed or the ubiquitous “fixed gear” might be your bag. Maybe you want a cruiser with a sweet basket to hit up the market — or if you see visions of the Tour de France as your inspiration, then a nice road bike with all the accessories are the direction you want to go.
Another pursuit growing in popularity is triathlons. Most of these athletes choose “TT bikes” (time-trial machines). They are extremely aerodynamic and specially made for going fast in a straight line. Of course we haven’t mentioned BMX and freestyle bikes, commuter bikes or “townies”, and all of the sub-categories within every group we just listed. So once you have chosen the best ride for your wants and needs, it comes down to tuning up the engine.
Nutrition and fitness go hand in hand, and what you choose to put into your body will have a great effect over time. You can work out hard and feel the results right away with sore muscles and better muscle tone/definition. Eating and drinking is not that way. The results are slower to appear but they are just as important. Eating clean isn’t easy, so make the best choices that you can and try to balance fats and sugars with healthy green veggies and fresh fruits, healthy grains and nuts. Lean protein and healthy complex carbohydrates like multi-grains are also crucial to an athletic diet. Don’t starve yourself either. When you are hungry, your body is telling you it needs food. Listen to your body.
Lastly, think about your mind. Don’t make yourself miserable from over-training or eating foods that you may not like. Find your balance, find your pace, and find your path. Then, get on your bike and enjoy the ride. If you have specific questions that you’d like answered in On The Left! Please email me; I look forward to hearing from you. Viva la Revolutions!