rendimento

Technique also counts in cycling

Training

Improving performance is far from an impossible goal on a bicycle. The key is to focus on all the aspects needed for a comprehensive training programme: strength, resistance and technique (in the broad sense).
Each aspect is as important as the others. But if we are honest, many training programmes place resistance and strength ahead of technique. This is a mistake athletes should always take care to avoid. Otherwise, it is easy to fall short of one’s potential. Here’s why.

Energy expenditure

In sport, efficiency refers to the metabolic cost of exercise, in simple terms this is how much energy an athlete uses to do something. The less efficient a cyclist’s technique is, the more energy is required to reach a certain speed, with an increased likelihood of greater fatigue or tiring more swiftly.

In cycling, energy efficiency is about 23% of total work, with a variability of +/- 2%. Taking the top and bottom of this range, the potential difference is about 4%.

In a competition lasting about 4 hours, the energy expenditure of a 65 kg athlete is in the region of 3.500 kcal. Consequently, a highly efficient or really inefficient technique could add up to a difference of 150 kcal. Expressed in other terms, this is the difference between two energy gels that – on the road – might mean a less impressive final climb of the day or an underwhelming sprint to the line. It becomes a complete waste (of money), to spend thousands of euros on the latest bike, if you don’t work on your pedalling efficiency.

 

cycling

Importance of balanced posture

How can one improve technique? Choosing the best technical materials can help, but isn’t the focus here. So, the first step is to make sure the bike is properly setup to promote posture that combines comfort, drive and aerodynamics.

Simply measuring an athlete’s height, weight, waistline and so on to mathematically calculate bicycle dimensions is overly simplistic. Such an assessment must be more global, also looking at the athlete’s muscle structure, and his or her attitude and goals.

Lab testing – such as incremental cycle ergometer testing while measuring oxygen consumption – can measure actual performance levels. Such efficiency can be trained, especially with technique training, and even make pedalling more effective and some cycling less monotonous.

Biomechanical indications

Our bodies are constantly changing, such that any results we achieve today cannot be taken for granted in the future. In practice, you should regularly check – probably in the off-season – your technique, perhaps even seeking help from a specialist for a biomechanical analysis of your posture in the saddle. Such an expense is not only relatively small but could also prevent problems and optimize output. You should also do this every time you buy a new bike.

From theory to practice

The winter (off season) is the best time for this as the reduced work load and increased downtime give our bodies more time to “metabolize” any changes in cycling posture.

 

Having graduated in Sport and Movement Science, he is now the athletic coach and owner of “Reaction", a centre in Saluzzo offering a range of sports and exercise programmes, from rehabilitation to performance training. In addition to being the athletic trainer for Alex Zanardi and Vittorio Podestà, who won gold medals at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics, his main areas of interest are biomechanics and functional assessments to improve athletic performance. He loves endurance sport and is an accomplished long-distance cyclist. He has been part of Equipe Enervit since 2014.