As cyclists, especially those of us in the amateur ranks still just getting our feet solidly into the sport, it’s very easy to build this anxious mind around improvement. It’s when we spend silly money on gear, supplements and weird diets. It’s when we fret over our fit, our drop, our reach, and areas of irrelevant marginal gains. We get focused on small things simply because we can change them quickly, instead of trusting in the simple principles of improvement that take a long time, but are steady and sure.
I see this a lot, A LOT, in our bike shop on a daily basis and in the cyclists around the state. Do aero road helmets create a performance advantage? Yup! Are they more important then saving up for a coach, or simply being more consistent in training? Never! And even though I see it all the time, I am as much a practicer of these rituals as anyone else.
Recently this came in the form of being overly analytical with my bike fit since the transition from cyclocross. There is this weird need in a lot of guys, myself included, to get our fit to be as “pro” as we think it should be - whatever that means. This means we try to make our fit for a long legged, super flexible, super skinny cyclist when we are short legged, mostly flexible and not so skinny. I definitely have a complex from being more short legged then most cyclists my height (a fact I’m reminded of every time I do a Body Geometry fit for cyclists in our shop and see their seat height relative to mine!)
So, in January I moved my saddle up a centimeter cause “it looked low.” How dumb is that? Now, I know that seat height falls into a knee angle range of 25 (high) to 35 (low) degrees as the ideal setting. Where you fit in the range has to do a lot with flexibility. So, without adding stretching to my routine I moved my saddle to 25 degrees, and figured I’d just get used to it.
Well, after a couple weeks behind both knees I could feel tension from them being stretched too far. I still kept the saddle height there, wanting to “make it work.” Well, that turned into last friday being on an easy endurance ride and feeling a sharp, deep, pull behind my right knee! Stupid.
It’s just strain, and it meant just taking two days off the bike this weekend (gorgeous days by the way). But it was a good reminder to focus on the right things to change and focus on instead of the silly ones. (Saddle is back to what it needs to be by the way.)
You need a proper fit, but you don’t need to try and make it the fit for someone else.
You do get a gain from a faster bike, helmet, kit, wheels. But there is a real significant gain from having a coach build best-practices into training that engine of yours.
You need to train, but you don’t need to binge train on the weekends because of the rides you see everyone else posted on Strava.
You are never behind. You are simply where you are, making the progress you can, with the commitment you have for that day.
Consistent progress is a balance of patience and laser sharp discipline. We don’t need to freak out because we can’t gain 100 watts at threshold before Tulsa Tough. But we do need to freak out if we keep missing workouts. As Joe Friel states in his training books, it takes 7–10 years of focused training to reach your maximum potential. And riders 3 years and under of serious training (yours truly included) are still considered “Novice.”
Be patient for the progress, and think about how you spend your money if you have high aims for your cycling experience. Calm your mind on the progress because it is a year over year process of improvement. And focus your mind on the daily disciplines, nutrition and workouts, that are going to build that engine. And get whatever gear or bike you want, but do so without a false presumption that it’s a shortcut to results. There are no shortcuts in cycling.