I headed over to Nashbar on a whim and found they’re having quite the blowout on Jerseys again. If you’re looking for one, check them out.
I like my Cavalo Squadra Jersey so much I picked up another one for $70 off! It’s a hundred dollar jersey and I picked mine up for $30. If you like the looks of the jersey, they run very tight so keep that in mind. I’m 6’0″ and weigh about 170 and the medium fits like it’s painted on. It’s perfect. Go by the European sizing chart (I’m a 39).
I also picked up the Pearl Izumi Factory Jersey – normally $110 and I got mine for half that. Pearl Izumi’s run just a little bigger but still fit quite good.
Technically, this post comes with a caveat. I’m assuming you’re already a decent cycling weight – nothing like a pro climber but at least a decent 2.2 to 2.6 pounds per inch for the men and 1.8-2.2 for the ladies. In other words, I’m 6’0″ and I weigh 170 pounds: 2.36 pounds per inch (I’ve been as low as 2.08 but that’s just too damn skinny so I had to start eating a little more to keep a healthy weight). This will change slightly with frame size, but those numbers are decent goals. Oh, and that pro climber? 2.0 pounds per inch is the general rule.
I wish I could have come up with a few more tips in addition to what I’ve already laid out before (here and here), but when you’re already attacking the hills (speed up going up the hills, don’t shift to an easier gear and spin up – rollers, not mountains), once you’ve navigated the intricacies of holding a decent 85-95 rpm cadence, once you’ve gotten a decent circular pedal stroke and down, once you’ve mastered the few neat breathing techniques (don’t breathe in deeply when your gassed, breathe out sharply and let your lungs fill naturally, three times in a row – try it, you’ll like it) and once you’ve got duration and intensity going for you (meaning you ride a lot and you ride hard regularly)…
Once you’re doing all of that, it comes down to one simple thing: It comes down to Want To, pure and simple. I hate to sound like Mark Wahlberg in Pain and Gain, but it is that simple.
A plateau, though it seems entirely a physical thing, unless you’re already on the cusp of joining the pros, in which case you don’t need this post to know this, is also mental. It’s your brain telling the rest of you that you’re just not willing to push any harder. I’ve run into this myself and now that I’m beyond it and finally able to cycle with some of the elites in our area (believe me this is not a cocky statement, there’s still a phonebook full of guys and a couple of girls who can kick my ass – I don’t have to go too far to find one), I can see what holds me back a little more clearly. I get to a point where I say, “Okay, that’s enough”.
Don’t mistake diminished returns for a plateau either. I’ve also made that mistake. The reality is that once I started nearing the edge of my natural ability, my gains just weren’t as big anymore. It’s not that I don’t make gains, they’re simply not as noticeable as that first year when I went from 20 mph over a six or eight mile route to better than 21 over a 32 mile route (solo, relatively flat). Once I shake the rust from the winter off, and that takes about four solid weeks, when I’m back to being lively with the A-group again, the question becomes how much harder do I want to work to get fast enough to finish with the lead group in our “everyone gets dropped” ride? To explain, at the start we have between 25 & 40 cyclists. All that’s left in the lead group is three to eight guys and they sprint to the finish. Everyone gets dropped.
Now I am close to the point where I’m simply not willing to work any harder to make gains. I’m not going to the gym to lift weights and I’m not willing to get a whole lot more uncomfortable on the bike than what I am now… Sure I’m doing my uphill sprints and I’m using those club rides as a chance to push just a harder and farther than is comfortable, but if I want to see some big gains, I’ll have to become willing to get a little radical (for those in the NSA and IRS, I am talking about going to the gym and lifting weights as being “radical”. That’s just the proper English word to describe the struggle we go through to get fast[er] – nothing more). The point is, cycling isn’t a conquest to kick ass for me, it’s fun and I’m just not willing to make it any more work than what it is. This decision is fear-based of course, but I’m okay with that (I’m worried that I’ll either go all the way off the deep end or I’ll lose my enjoyment of the sport – both of those will make worse a great balance).
I’ve tried every way I can think of to get around actually doing the work and I’d love to report that, other than riding dirty, there’s a way around getting used to the work once all of the good tips become a part of how one rides a bike, but I can’t. If you do all of those things and can’t beat a guy like me, it’s because deep down, you don’t have the want to. The same applies for me and the folks I ride with – they simply have more want to than I do.
Now here’s where this gets fun… Want To is a matter of perspective, to a point. The trick is to learn to enjoy the extra effort. Done correctly, improvement is not as difficult. If I’m coming up to a little roller with dread and thoughts of spinning up that hill in an easy gear in my mind, 15 miles into a 65 mile training ride, I’ve got a problem. That’s not what I do though. I see those rollers as an opportunity to get faster. I upshift into a harder gear and hammer that hill, usually with a smile on my face as I start to become winded. I truly enjoy that extra effort. It only lasts a few minutes after all. This is my trick to getting faster – and it absolutely works. The only question is how far am I willing to go?