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Jase Alexander, experienced club cyclist, helps us to extend our bike rides with a bit of fun, training and improved motivation.

It is that time of year again. The days are getting longer and summer feels like it’s not too far away. One of the great things about cycling is that it really doesn’t matter what standard you are at to enjoy it. If you just want to go out into the country to see new things and go to new places, visiting by bike is a beautiful way to do it.

To some cyclists the warmer weather can mean that all the hard work and long rides put in over the winter period are coming to an end. Now we can focus on convincing ourselves that those very expensive, new carbon wheels are worth every penny and will definitely make us go faster.   To others it can mean contemplating digging the old trusty steed out of the barn and giving it a quick dust off. If it’s the latter, I would highly recommend taking it to your local bike shop for a quick once over, just to make sure your brakes and other components are working safely.

Spring can also mean that there are still a few extra pounds hanging around following the festive season. Luckily, cycling is a great way to lose them, and with many other health benefits such as lower blood pressure, cholesterol and stress levels, you will be benefitting from the pedal work in no time. The good news is that you don’t have to go over the top to gain those benefits.

cycling the roads of sw france

Starting out

First of all, just start to ride your bike, enjoy yourself, invite some friends to come along and, over a few weeks as you start to feel stronger, go a little further. During these rides just try to stay in a nice easy gear and get used to spinning your legs. You will find that speed and distance just comes naturally as your fitness starts to grow.

It’s important to remember that as your kilometres increase, so does the need to feed your body. Even if you are trying to lose weight, once your rides are longer than an hour or so, you should start refuelling as you ride. Not only will you be able to ride for longer, you will avoid the dreaded “cyclist hunger” which, when you arrive home, will see you raiding the cupboards for anything you can lay your hands on. So stock up on bananas and treat yourself to some energy bars, they both fit nicely in your jersey pocket and will make your ride even more enjoyable. Along with your food you should always try to stay hydrated. Even spring days can be hot so take water in your bidon and think about carrying a sports drink containing electrolytes for longer rides.

Strength Training

When you are comfortable with longer distances and feel like you need to start training to improve your strength and fitness, you can start to integrate interval sessions into your rides. For example, make sure you are nice and warmed up on your bike, then do 30 seconds of high effort riding, followed by an easy one minute. Do this four times. Then 40 seconds high effort followed by one minute easy and, again, repeat four times. Remember that you need to work up to this kind of intensity as it is very demanding. If you need ideas for interval sessions, YouTube has thousands to choose from.

 

 

Motivation

It is at this point that motivation can sometimes become a bit of an issue so keep an eye on your progress and feel good about what you have achieved. A really easy way to do this is with a phone application called Strava. Once downloaded, it will map your rides, speed, calories burnt and other types of information that will prove to be really interesting. You can also follow friends on Strava and see how they are doing on their rides but bewarned, it can lead to friendly competition and be highly addictive!

However, just as some of us like this kind of ride, others like something a bit different. Something a bit, well, painful. Cycling is a beautiful sport but, like any other, it can be cruel. That’s why people love it. You can have your best day on the bike and your worst, all in one weekend. You can take it easy or push yourself as hard as you can. For those who do love to push themselves hard, our region has plenty to offer.

Whatever your goals, good luck and happy riding.

Competing

The road bike season is now well underway and, if you are looking for a good place to start competitive cycling, a Sportive could be ideal. The distances vary from 60 to over 100km but you can take them at your own pace. Just taking part and finishing some of these is a major achievement, and you will normally find a nice, welcoming atmosphere and even a couple of cold beers at the finish.

For those who want even more of a challenge, there are well organised races right through to October but, as you must have a racing license to compete, you will need to join a Club. The races, which are usually very fast, are categorised by rider levels and can also vary from 60 to 100km. Amivelo is a great website featuring all the up and coming races complete with information on how to get there, distances and start times.

So roll on those super sunny evening rides with friends, and those fast, painful race weekends.

First published in the March/April 2019 issue of The Local Buzz

Images: Jase Alexander and Shutterstock