Five ways you can ride faster without spending money

I received an email the other day from a newbie to road cycling who stumbled across Road Cyclist. Keen to improve but with a limited budget like myself, she asked how she could ride faster without spending any money. Having researched this myself, I had a few answers which I was happy to share.

This is really for beginner road cyclists, so if you have been on the road a while, feel free to move on. I won’t be offended. 🙂

1.  Clean and lube your bike

It may seem obvious, but keeping your bike clean and the moving parts lubricated is a quick and easy way to gain speed. Maintained properly, the bike works at its optimum, mechanical resistance is minimised and any drag caused by poor lubrication or grinding bearings is reduced as much as possible.

Plus, shifting is smoother which can reduce speed loss when shifting gears. This is especially useful when grinding hills.

2.  Remove everything you can live without

Unless you’re riding in poor visibility or in the rain, remove your mudguards and lights. Take any racks or saddlebags off the bike and carry as little as practical to get you round. You will still need liquids, a multitool and spares, but you can put these in your jersey pocket.

Removing everything else reduces weight and any aerodynamic penalty they incur by being on the frame.

3.  Tight is right

There is a good reason many road cyclists wear tight-fitting Lycra and it isn’t the mistaken thought that we look good in it! MAMILs are here for a reason. That reason is because Lycra is tight fitting and flexible which lowers air resistance and allows you to slip through the air with slightly less resistance.

Any baggy clothing creates drag which slows you down. So keep it as tight as possible without overdoing it. You don’t have to buy Lycra when you’re starting out, just wear something comfortable and fairly close fitting.

4.  Assume the position

If you have read my posts on “How to set the correct saddle height on a road bike” and “What length stem is right for you?” you will have an idea about how to set up the bike correctly. Essentially, getting as low as possible while still remaining comfortable and fully in control is the order of the day.

Get used to riding in the drops and sliding forward in the saddle for sprint efforts. Keep your body as still as possible and position the seat correctly so you can get all your power down. As you gain fitness and confidence, you will gradually see yourself riding lower for longer. As your body provides around 80% of the wind resistance you experience, minimising this as much as possible will offer immediate benefits.

5.  Under pressure

If the condition of the roads in your area allows, keep your tires up to pressure. It used to be that you needed 100 – 110 psi to go fastest. New findings suggest 90 – 100 with slightly wider tyres might be faster. Whatever tyres you ride, check the pressure regularly.

I ride 25s at 90 psi which is about as high as I can go with my local roads as they are.

So there are five ways you can ride faster without spending money. Cycling has a strong commercial side that will do everything in its power to part you with your cash, but you can gain a lot without spending anything, as these tricks prove!

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