24 Cycling Tips To Look and Feel Faster (That Are Low Cost or No Cost and With Minimal Effort)

24 Cycling Tips To Look and Feel Faster (That Are Low Cost or No Cost and With Minimal Effort)

24 Cycling Tips to Look and Feel Faster

Looking and feeling faster on the bike does not always require spending hundreds of dollars on new equipment, complex technical adjustments to gearing, endless hours at the gym or going on a diet where the only protein you get comes from tofu. While, all of these things are essential for peak performance, it’s important not to forget the little things that add to our sense of speed and flow.

So while there is no shortcut for getting faster or stronger, there are certainly things we can do to look and feel faster and to make each ride that much better.

Here are 24 ways to look and feel faster with little or no effort and without having to spend a single dime.

24 Cycling Tips That Will Make Look and Feel Faster, Cost Nothing, and Require Minimal Effort

These 24 tips are broken down into 6 categories. Each of these simplify how we prepare for a ride, what to bring on the ride, what to keep in mind, and not forget how to have fun.

So here we go…

How To Carry (What To Carry)

1. Ditch the Bike Pack Attached to Your Bike. If you want to look faster, lose the the bike pack attached to your saddle or top bar. Instead, carry your patch kit, lever, and pump in your jersey pockets. Not only are they easier to access, but I’ve found that I never forget them on a ride. Ever. With bike packs, I would take things out and later forget that I had done so half way through a ride. Carrying these items in your pocket ensure that you subconsciously have them for every ride. The added bonus is that you don’t have a $20 nylon pack hanging off the saddle of your super light and fast looking carbon fiber bike.

2. Leave the Bike Computer at Home. Another key to simplifying and freeing up your state of mind is less information. If your end goal is to feel faster, do you really need the computer distracting you with reminders of how you are 2 miles per hour off your average pace? See if less information and simply listening to your body helps to make you feel faster.  If you must, stuff the computer in your jersey pocket. Just be sure to have it out of sight.

3. Don’t Wear Gloves. Gloves are key for cold weather. But if temperature is not an issue, I will sometimes ride without gloves to feel more connected to the bike and to the pavement. The feel of leather bar tape and increased vibrations through the handlebars increases the feel of being connected to road. This is especially awesome on super fresh, smooth rolling pavement.

4. Wear All Black. Not much to say about this one. I would have suggested pink, but that would perhaps actually warrant being fast. You simply can’t go wrong with all black unless, of course, it’s 90+ degrees out and you’re only on mile 65 of 100…

5. Carry Only What You Need. I was so put off by bonking at first that I used to pack enough for three rides when heading out for a mere 40 or 50 miles. Over the years I’ve ramped down the amount of nutrition that I bring along. This is more easily done on well ridden, familiar routes. It is much harder to do on unfamiliar or challenging routes that you may be doing for the first time. In these cases, I find that it’s OK to bring extra. Keep in mind that SAGS are usually available on long, organized rides so be sure to take advantage of those. Long story short, carry and use only what you need.

How To Ride

6. Point Your Toes Downward and Keep the Bike Pointed Straight and Steady. As the miles pile on, one of my favorite zen state pastimes is noting my form and position on the bike. If I have a few spare matches to burn, I’ll take note of the position of my toes and point them downward. It’s one way to pass the time on long stretches of open road. I’ll also play a game to see how straight I can keep the bike as I hammer through a flat or work my way up a climb.

7. Focus on Maintaining a Steady Level of Breathing On All Your Climbs. This practice has helped me in life far beyond the saddle. In order to breath steady, you need to be clear minded and focused. You are aware but you are also in the zone, focused on the task at hand. Unwavering. On climbs I try to pay attention to my breathing more than anything else. This helps me monitor and aim for steady output and effort.

8. Stay Loose on the Saddle. Here’s another mental check. There’s no point in having the most expensive bike or the slickest looking kit if you are tense all the time on the bike. Keep grip, arms, and shoulders loose on climbs and firm on the descents (and avoid the death grip)! I’ve really had to focus on the latter on my descents lately. Gotta stay loose!

9. Focus on Pedal Stroke. As the miles pile on, another go to past time is noting my pedal stroke and position on the bike. Sometimes I’ll picture scraping gum off the bottom of my shoe at the lower end of the pedal stroke as my down foot is moving front to back and up again.

10. Use the Drop Bars On Flats and Descents As Often As Possible. This one’s obvious. But it fits the bill of a simple act that requires no cost and no effort perfectly. If you can gain an aero advantage on flats why not take it? Using the drops on descents will take more practice and getting comfortable with though…

How To Accessorize and Maintain Your Equipment

11. Color Match Your Gear. Custom Colored Valve Stem Caps, Wattle Bottles, Cabling, Helmet, Glasses, and Bar Tape. Just do it.

12. Make Your Bike as Quiet as Possible. A quiet bike is a smooth bike is a fast bike. Eliminate that squeaky chain with lube and keep it clean. Which leads us to our next tip…

13. Wash Your Bike And Wheels. Keep It Clean. See #12. A clean bike looks like a fast bike. It will look faster clean and so will you. When washing your bike, remove the wheels to get to the whole frame, use a new toothbrush for the cassette and chain, and avoid high pressure water directed at sealed bearings and the bottom bracket. Don’t use chemicals or cleaners!

14. Custom Name Decal On Your Bike. One way to totally customize your bike on the cheap is a name decal on the rear length of the top bar. (This one will cost you a bit, but not much). It’ll look super custom!

15. Stay Organized and Keep All Your Ride Equipment Together. Prepare everything the day before your ride. Preparation is key, especially the day before an organized ride or event. Why? Because this impacts your state of mind and being. Forgetting something or rushing to the start line messes up your flow!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Photo by Jason Chen

How To Have Fun

16. Ride With People Slower Than You Every Now and Then. Introduce someone to cycling and invite them along for the ride. Everyone wins. Not technically a hack since you are actually faster, and not just merely looking the part.

17. Do Half The Ride Distance You Normally Do But At Twice the Intensity. Break Your Own Strava Records. I don’t usually set out thinking, “I’m going to get my intervals in.” It’s easier to give myself the goal of riding fast and hammering if I know I am doing a much shorter distance than usual. OK… This one requires effort…

18. Hit the Trails. Mix It Up. I find that hitting the trails build leg strength. This is helpful if you don’t frequent the gym or regularly do strength building exercises.

19. Check Out A Local Club Ride. Join a local club ride on Saturday morning in your area. You’ll meet new people and make new friends. Plus, you’ll discover new routes along the way.

How To Consume And Prepare

20. Use Extra Hydration to Stay Cool. Apply extra hydration to your helmet and back on a hot day to stay cool. If you find yourself with a leftover bottle of hydration after every ride, consider going with one bottle on shorter rides.

21. Eat Something and Stay Hydrated. I find that nutrition becomes a big factor anytime I ride 40 miles or more. Be sure to eat regularly and consistently over the course of the ride. Focus on nutrition the week leading up to the ride as much as you do the day of the ride.

22. Sleep Well Before a Ride. 6 to 8 hours. Get it in.

How To Adjust Your Bike Settings

23. Try Different PSI Settings. We often forget to check the tire pressures in our cars. This is results in reduced gas mileage and performance. PSI is perhaps one of the biggest factors that impacts ride quality on the bike as well. At the end of the day it’s all preference and dependent on a variety of factors such as wheel size and riding styles and preference and weather conditions. Experiment.

24. Lower Your Bars by One Spacer. This one doesn’t take much, but like the PSI, one simple adjustment can change your entire position and mindset on the bike. If you want to look and feel faster (and actually go faster), this is another adjustment to try.

Photos by Markus Spiske unless otherwise noted.
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