A pretty familiar position for many of you I’m sure but my biggest problem with cycling is the struggle with time. It’s modern life and, with adding children in the mix, the opportunities for social and sports are slim.
This is why I’m trying to add more ‘hacks’ to my routine, all in a bid to allow me to always be ready to ride. By ‘ready’ I mean being able to maximise the time I get so I can squeeze the most out of my cycling, make it feel like I’m improving my ability, and keeping healthy.
So far I’ve found the following ways to boost my time:
Go to bed early – Some of the best times to cycle are first thing in the morning, beautiful crisp clean air, sunrises, and no traffic. That’s not the only benefit of early to bed, rest is the only way to recover. Maximising bed time is maximising recovery. If I wanted to get more cycling in than normal into my week, for example if available time was over three consecutive days, the only way to get consistent mileage in would be to be properly rested. Plus getting out of the house for 7am and being back for breakfast at 9am with your whole day still ahead of you is a great feeling.
Buy flexible clothing – Now this isn’t always the cheapest thing to do. But I’ve found having the right crossover of clothing is essential, and maybe multiples if the budget can allow. You need to have a selection of clothing that can be combined or layered to give you the flexibility to ride in comfort anytime, in all weathers. A pair of leg warmers and arm warmers are essential, they give you great flexibility to keep wearing your summer kit that little bit longer and change easily mid ride. Especially when teamed up with a decent sleeveless/short sleeve base layer. I would recommend owning both a short sleeve/sleeveless and a long sleeve base layer. On those cold dry days a long sleeve base can be worn under a jersey (yes it does give you that 90’s boy band t shirt over a long sleeve shirt look) to keep you warm. For winter I would recommend some waterproof bib tights, long sleeve jacket/jersey, and some overshoes. I cant recommend buying Castelli Nanoflex pro bib tights enough as they are waterproof and warm (worn down to -4 degrees last winter). I have recently purchased a matching Castelli Gabba jersey, waterproof and wind-stopper fabric, a truly versatile piece of clothing with matching Nanoflex arm warmers. This combination gives me a fully versatile all weathers setup.
Get a saddlebag – No one actually likes a fanny pack. Fact. They are also against the rules. But do you really want to spend your time stuffing inner tubes, gas canisters, tyre levers, and tools into your back pockets before you head out to ride? No. Buy a pack, stock it, and leave it on the bike you are riding. I’ve purchased a Topeak item that fits to saddle and seatpost with velcro meaning it take all of 30 seconds to remove from one and install onto another bike.
Get a winter bike – This isn’t the cheapest option, but it depends on what approach you take. You can buy a cheap geared road bike and run that through the winter or you can do what I have done and mix up your winter training with a single speed. One of the best decisions I have made. I suggest a single speed, there’s so little maintenance and cleaning is easier as well. No messing with taking mud guards on and off, no adjusting gears, and no changing to winter tyres. Just jump on and ride. Plus have you ever seen a chain and cassette last more than one winters worth of proper riding? and replacing ultegra every year? ouch!
Get a turbo trainer – Going hand in hand with the winter bike purchase, if you can rest up your summer bike in a trainer all winter you are in a very lucky position. This makes jumping on a bike to train in the evening a hell of a lot more appealing. Being able to fit a heavy half hour session on a turbo in when time allows can give a massive boost to your fitness levels. Having the kit ready and waiting, perfect scenario.
Have multiple water bottles – This may sound like a silly suggestion but I always have bottles on rotation in the dishwasher. There’s always a dry one in the cupboard, with a tube of hydration tabs next to it. Bottle, tab, water, go!
Stock your nutrition cupboard – Bonking mid ride is a pain in the arse. Not having anything to take with you for sustenance whilst out riding is a big issue. I need to eat if out longer than an hour or im shot so I take advantage of offers and stock my cupboard with bars and gels.
Add running to your training – This has been massive for me. It may sound counter productive, you want more time for your cycling so why distract yourself with running. Running is hugely flexible, you can have a half hour session as heavy or as light as you want, at any time of the day, and at anytime of the year. It takes 5 minutes to get ready, and therefore 5 minutes to get undressed! This is one of the most time efficient ways to keep your fitness levels up, you can have the equivalent of a 2 hour ride crammed into a 30 minute run. When you do jump on the bike you can ride harder for longer!
Do a bike check before you put your bike away – I’m now in a routine of checking my bike over before I put it away. This takes all of 5 minutes but could save you coming back to a bike with a flat, or heading out on one that won’t get you home! Check the both wheels for tyre damage, rim damage, and spoke damage. Check the frame and forks for cracks, check the brakes and cables for wear and fraying, check the bearings in the bottom bracket, headset, and wheels. When you come back to the bike all you need to check is the tyre pressures.
Take supplements – Now this isnt a necessity but I take a decent multivitamin and omega 3, and maybe an amino acid supplement. Multivitamins that have zinc have been proven to reduce duration of colds by boosting immune function, a sure fire way of putting you off riding. Omega 3 supplememts have been proven to help with DOMS, so another thing that will help you get back on the bike quicker. The aminos help with muscle repair, again getting you back out on the bike faster. All three help contribute to having good energy levels as well.
Hydrate – By that I mean stay hydrated. Remember to drink throughout the day, I try to drink at least a litre of water whilst at work. The benefits are obvious of this, keep your energy levels up and dont go gulping for water after 5 minutes of struggling on the bike.
Dont drink – Alchohol. I love beer, I love rum, and I love cycling. This is probably down to each individuals ability to metabolise alchohol but in my case all I need to drink is one potent IPA and the next day I will feel like I’m cycling through mud. It keeps me in bed for longer and halves the routes I can get in in the time alotted. You may be fine, but for me I only drink when I know I’m lying in!
Plan your routes – Everyone has a lunch break right? and who doesnt like to take their mind off work for a minute to think about their hobby? I use Strava to plan my routes. Not only is it good to get yourself fired up about a good ride, you can create and bank a load of routes based on timescale and distance. Only got an hour free? then use one of the short routes! got 3 hours? pick a longer one! If you have a Garmin or similar you can even upload the GPX files to give you directions, making ride outs possible even in unfamiliar places. This saved me in America this year, I had one day available and 4 hours in the woodland of Massachusetts and no clue where I was going!
The above have made getting out on the bike a lot easier for me, and they may work for you! I’m sure there’s more I do as well, but when it’s habit you end up not even noticing!
The weather looks changeable tomorrow so I may even go get my clothing ready a day in advance!