Technique also counts in cycling
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.