There are lots of fancy & expensive bikes on the market. Weight is a big factor. Usually the lower the weight for a bike or a bike part – the higher the price. The most important component for riding fast isn’t the bike. It’s YOU the rider – the engine that turns the cranks.
Two important riding techniques: Torque on the pedals & Cadence
- Spin Torque: The most efficient way to spin is to apply force on the pedals through the entire 360 degrees of the pedal turn. Many novice cyclists only push down, reducing their spin efficiency. To practice full spin torque, you need to concentrate on four segments of the 360-degree circle. Think of the large chain ring as a clock. Push down from 12 o’clock to 4 o’clock. “Wipe the bottom of your shoe” as you would on a floor mat from 4 o’clock to 8 o’clock. Pull up from 8 o’clock to 11 o’clock. Feel the top of your foot against the inside of your shoe. And go “over the top” at 12 o’clock. Whenever you’re on a training ride, concentrate on just one foot at a time, and focus on each of the 4 segments of the “clock” for about 30” to 1’ until you feel the full circular movement. Spin in perfect circles.
- Cadence: Maintain a pedal cadence of about 90 rpm (between 85 and 100 rpm) on flat and rolling roads, and 60 to 70 rpm’s when climbing hills. Change your gearing accordingly throughout the ride in order to maintain the 90 rpm target cadence. Practice. Practice. Practice.
Bike fit. Get fit properly at a bike shop. If the bike shop doesn’t offer a fit kit, shop somewhere else. For a new bike, the fit should be part of purchase. If you’re not sure that your current bike fits right, you can bring your bike in to most good bike shops and get it fit and readjusted as necessary for a modest fee (plus parts if needed). Proper fit is not just leg length, it’s also upper body length and arm length. Different brand bikes have different length top tubes relative to the height of the bike. Choose carefully for your body size. Saddle height; fore and aft position of the saddle relative to the pedals and handle bars; handle bar height and distance from the saddle, etc. are all important. A poorly fit bike isn’t just uncomfortable, it can also cause a variety of physical problems including lower back pain and possible knee injury.
OK. Your bike is properly fit to your body, and you know the basics. Now get out and ride. Practice flat riding, hill climbing using variable gears climbing seated and standing, ride time trials where you push your self for a fixed distance (e.g. 5 or 10 miles). And always wear a helmet.