So you want to be a cyclist. You want to fly down the road with the big dogs, having women swoon (or men cross their hands on their lawn rake with a slack jaw at your awesomeness) and children stare in awe as you fly by. Fantastic!
Now, before you get too cocky there are a few things to understand before you find out the hard way that, while all of those articles written about getting faster do help, they amount to, in total, maybe a half mile an hour over your normal average. That means if your current pace is 16 mph, once you perfect all of those tips you can look forward to maybe 16.5. Seriously. Also, before you drop ten grand on that superbike, you might want to consider that it’s only worth another half mile an hour. No kidding, a whole half mile an hour for ten grand. That’s $2,000 per tenth of a mile an hour (I spent about $750 per tenth, I know what I’m talking about).
It gets better… You know how, after your four-hour long 100k, you’re hungry for like a day and a half? Double those hunger pains. You’ll wake up so hungry that you’ll contemplate eating a rhino’s ass-end for breakfast (if you could just find one to hunt down). All of that crap you think you’ll be able to eat because you’re burning tons of calories on the bike? Forget about it… You get to eat, sure, but it’s not like you might think. You might think it’s Big Mac’s, brownies, ice cream and soda as far as the eye can see for eight months out of the year but it’s not. You get to eat a little bit extra, sure, but only on the long ride days (long is defined as 60 miles or better, not 15) and you still have to stay away from most of the crap anyway if you happen to be over 30 years-old.
Then there’s the pain. After a long day on the bike, no matter how well it’s set up, you will hurt if you really pushed yourself. Your shoulders, arms, neck and especially your legs. That’s just the way it goes. You have to get used to it, even learn to enjoy that feeling knowing you’ve done something. Of course, that’s not even the hard part, the “after”. No, the hard part happens while you’re out on the road and you just want to quit hammering so you can take it easy for the rest of the ride back because you’re legs quit working normally ten miles ago, your shoulders have been hurting since three miles ago and… Wait a minute, now you can’t feel your toes… Great! Well folks, that’s the edge. Not the “time to slow down” edge, that’s the “kick it for ten or fifteen more miles because now you’re going to make some real progress” edge.
Then there’s the dedication… Yeah, those days when you’d rather kick it on the couch? They’re gone. No more procrastinating, screwing around with cleaning your bike for the third time this week to waste time until it’s too late to ride (admittedly, I’m not afflicted by this performance killing condition – I actually can’t wait to get out on the road, but I figured I’d throw it in there for others). You don’t want to ride in the snow but you find the trainer boring? Tough titties boys and girls, because while I hate it too, I know there’s only one way to hit the spring rolling: Workouts in the winter. Of course it’s boring and mind-numbing.
And here’s the real crappy part: All of that only gets you up to 20-23 mph. To beat that, you only have to push harder, eat better and ignore more pain.
Now, the more miles you put in and the faster you go, the less difficult it becomes to push yourself, so it’s not all bad news. The reality is though, if you want to go faster you have to push harder on the pedals. That’s all there is to it. Speed equates to time and effort. The more time and effort you put in, the faster you go.
I promise I’ll be looking for the magic silver speed bullet (that doesn’t involve an electric assist motor) and the second I find it, I’ll post it here. I wouldn’t hold my breath though.
A fellow who goes by the name “Fossilcyclist” added: “And just don’t even think about ageing!” Too true!
Proper maintenance of the cycling helmet, at least as far as I’m concerned, is a big deal. I am hyper-sensitive about keeping my dome cover from getting too funky because nothing can mess up an otherwise good ride than being able to smell the stink emanating from my cycling helmet. For that reason I go to great lengths to keep it smelling as fresh as possible. Technically, I’m overdramatizing that just a wee bit, it’s really not that big a deal. However, I have been experimenting with different soaps and I can share a new one that sticks out above the rest. Now, a new helmet can last up to a month or two without a washing and without stinking – as a noob (and I mean brand noob), I didn’t think to wash the brain bucket out and for a month or two I was just fine letting it dry out… Then, all of a sudden, while out on a 30 miler I noticed a mild but persistent stink that I couldn’t place. When I got home and I took my helmet off, oh dear God did I come to know just how bad a sweaty helmet can stink. It was then that I hit the web to find out how to quash the funkiness.
The secret to keeping my melon protector fresh is washing it after every ride in which I break a sweat. There are those times when it’s cold enough or the training schedule calls for an easy day, so I won’t break a sweat. On these rare days, I can just hang it up in its spot and forget about it. On the other hand, if I sweat I simply take the dome cover into the shower, soap it up, let it sit for 1-2 minutes, rinse it and squeeze out the water from the pads, dry off the top, dab the inside to get most of the water out and hang it to dry overnight.
Now, I’ve tried quite a few soaps though I’ve never bothered with the products that are marketed specifically for the purpose. The non-scented soaps work, but not all that well. Eventually I’ve found that without the scent to knock the odor down, the stink wins. While almost any body soap will work, I mainly use the liquid versions anymore (that’s what my wife buys fellas). Old Spice works quite well, but I happened on a new one lately: Irish Spring Gear. It is, not exaggerating, spectacular.
Now, there is one more small but important piece to this: You must make sure you rinse the soap out completely, otherwise the next time you break a really good sweat, you’ll have soap dripping into your eyes. For this very reason I used to use Johnson & Johnson No More Tears (when my daughters were younger) as that was suggested on another blog. As long as I’m sure to rinse out regular soap, going to that length isn’t necessary (and the J&J didn’t do a very good job of knocking down the stink).