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Written by Karen Talley Mead 
(Cardinal Fit Expert & Competitive Rider)

About the Author

Karen Talley Mead has been riding for over twenty years, racing cyclocross and ultra-endurance mountain biking at the elite level, and is a certified cycling coach and nutritionist.

When asked how riders can improve cycling performance, she answered that there are hundreds of ways, but if she had to pick, the five ways below will give you the most return for your effort with the least cost. Check it out, and give us a shout with questions!

1) Try Structured Training to Maximize Your Training Time

A short well-planned workout can provide more benefit to your performance than a longer ride without a specific goal. Both beginners and experienced riders can benefit from adding structured interval workouts to their weekly training. The best place to start is to find a coach, but if that isn’t in your budget, you can find training plans online, in books, or as part of services like TrainerRoad or Zwift. The best training plan is going to be one you can stick to. There is no single answer that works for everyone, so find a coach or a plan that works for your life, your goals, and your interests.  

Create a list of skills you want to improve, and practice them on every ride. 
Not sure which skills to work on? Come to a group ride to learn.

2) Practice Your Skills to Ride Faster Without Working Harder

The ability to ride with skill through technical sections of road or trail is like free speed. In mountain biking, the benefit is obvious when it comes to things like rock gardens, switchbacks, descents, obstacles, and technical climbs. 

Road and gravel riding have their share of required skills too—cornering at speed, descents, riding in a group, grabbing bottles in feed zones--the list is endless in any discipline. Joining a weekly group ride can help you practice these skills and learn from more experienced riders.

4) Dial In Your Nutrition

Race day nutrition and hydration can make or break your event. Your daily training rides are your time to figure out a fueling strategy that works for you and to train your gut to handle the amount of food you need to fuel your ride. The length of your event determines exact fueling needs, but in general, aim for 40 to 90+ grams of carbohydrate per hour. That is a large range, which is why it is important to figure out what works for you during your training. Properly fueling your training has the added benefit of more effective training, which in turn can result in improved performance.  

Getting dialed in at the Cardinal Fit Studio at the Grandin Village location.

3) Get a Bike Fit to Optimize Power Transfer

A good bike fit will not only make sure you are pain-free on rides, but also ensure you are properly positioned to maximize power transfer. Studies show a dynamic bike fit can improve power output by as much as 10 to 20 watts. Physics tells us exactly where and what direction applying force to a pedal will generate the most power, and an accurate fit will dial in your set up. While you can certainly try the old plumb-bob from the knee trick, this static measurement is performed in one position and is a rough approximation. 

Systems like Retul take dynamic measurements while you pedal, enabling you to fine tune your saddle height and setback down to the millimeter.  Learn more about bike fittings.

5) Train Your Brain

The motivation to stick to your training plan, dealing with pre-race anxiety, reacting and dealing with unexpected issues--these are things that all riders eventually encounter. Successful athletes just deal with it better. While you can’t control what happens in training and racing, you can control your reaction. Meditation and yoga can be effective for managing your response to stress and visualizing your desired outcomes. 

A good coach can also help you uncover different types of motivation and provide strategies for anxiety and overcoming problems that may otherwise derail training and racing. Most importantly a supportive and engaging cycling community will make sure that you keep coming back post-injury or set back.

Join weekly rides and become a member of the cycling community to ensure you get the support and motivation you need.

Your Bike Should Be Comfortable

If you are feeling sore, we can help you find the perfect remedy. Consider upgrading your saddle and pick up a pair of gloves and padded shorts to make your rides more comfortable. 

We’ve Got You Covered From Head to Toe

If you are searching for a stylist, you are barking up the wrong tree. However, if you want some guidance on building a basic cycling wardrobe, we'd love to help!

Build Your Bike Maintenance Kit

We recommend having a few products at home to help you keep your bike in excellent condition between annual tune-ups. Pick a pump, chain lube, and a multitool to keep your bike rolling smoothly. When in doubt, stop by our store and have our professional mechanics assess your bike's needs.