It is very easy to get stuck in a riding rut – when you find something you enjoy, it’s understandable that you just want to keep doing it – but there are so many ways to enjoy cycling it seems a shame not to explore the options.
Here’s a look at 5 things I reckon every road cyclist should try at least once…
1) Time trialling
If you know me, you’ll know that I’m a little addicted to this. In the “Race of Truth”, it’s you vs the clock, and the other competitors should you choose to court the leaderboard for a position.
Time trialling requires you to stay right on the line – go over it, and you’ll blow up, under it and you’ll regret it the moment you finish. It can be frustrating when it doesn’t go your way, but when it does, the sense of achievement is immense.
Unlike other forms of cycle racing (I’m coming to them..) when you do well, you know it was purely on the strength of your legs or an improved position – you have complete control over your success or otherwise so you can truly glow when it goes well. Effectively, it’s an exercise in self improvement, with an entirely quantifiable success/failure measurement – that makes failure feel pretty dreadful, but success is wonderful.
And, finally – get the position right and choose a fast course and you’ll just be able to bomb it as hard and fast as you damn well want – get it right and there’s no feeling like it.
Now for something completely different.
Touring – packing your tent, tent poles, sleeping bags and kit into panniers, to cart around a foreign country for a week or so – is very definitely completely different. This said, in my case, touring alongside my whippet husband, up and down Normandy, did result in a few efforts that felt equally testing as time trialling, in a whole different way.
We’d ride all day, exploring the world, stopping for baguettes and that amazingly gorgeous fruit that seems to grow in every country but our own, then begin contemplating a campsite as the evening drew nearer. On finding a site – always completely different to the last, I’d lie down on the grass and proceed to pass out with general exhaustion, before being (gently) kicked when it was time to erect the tent (yea I did that on purpose).
Total freedom, total bliss. Except for any occasion where I needed to lift the bike, with panniers attached.
3) Road racing
I tried this – dipped my toe in, and personally it’s (sort of) not for me – but I’d definitely advocate anyone have a go – provided you are comfortable in a group and have been on quite a few club rides, or ideally, attended one of the many road race training days available.
Road racing – or crit racing on closed circuits – gives you such a buzz. It’s a bit addictive – my problem was I just felt the crash risk was too high to want to let myself get addicted. One of the (few) I did, I managed to average 193 bpm – probably suggesting I didn’t really take a chance to sit in the bunch, which perhaps explains why I’m not so great at road racing, but it was a damn good training session and a huge adrenaline rush.
The women’s road racing (and I’m sure the men’s too) has really great feeling within it. Yes, women’s racing is somewhat marginalised and in many cases frustrating – smaller prize funds, fewer attendees, fewer actual races – but there’s a great community of racers. Of course, once the gun goes, friendship (aside from shared kit) goes out the window, but after the event there’s a lot of care and mutual support. Racing in a bunch means motivation is constant, and there’s a lot of skill to be learned, which isn’t the case in time trialling – those extra interests will appeal to riders who find they get bored just chasing themselves and the clock.
4) Cyclocrossing / Mountain biking
A lot of roadies tend to stick to the road – which is understandable – doing otherwise requires an extra bike, plus often the schlep of loading the bike into the car to transport it somewhere where it gets super muddy, thus requiring a full clean – etcetc.
This said, going off-road is great for your handling skills, cadence, and leg strength – short sharp hills can be a real test, and muddy portions often require you to spin a gear you’d never touch on the road.
Causal MTB rides are one option, but if competition motivates you, CX might be more up your street – and it is great fun – here are 8 tips for your first race.
Above are 4 things that I’ve tried – this one is something I’ve yet to give a go – and definitely something I’d like to explore this summer.
Hosteling – arranging rides with club mates from one hostel to another, travelling light, exploring the country and having a good time with friends doing it sounds like an awesome idea to me.
The planning is simple – choose a town, appox 100 miles away, ensure there is somewhere to stay there, and ride to it. Not a lot of luggage need be taken, and it’s a great way to make a long ride (which I usually find a bit boring, hence preference for 25mile TTsm Olympic Triathlon’s and crits!) more purposeful.
I haven’t told the RedhillCC girls yet, but I’m sure they’ll be game for a trip.
Have I missed anything you reckon everyone should try? Tell me in the comments…