Tips to Improve your Cycling Efficiency

Cycling, January 10, 2023

You hear me talking a lot about swimming and running efficiency but what about cycling? Well I decided to write these helpful tips to help you improve your cycling this season!

You hear me talking a lot about swimming and running efficiency but what about cycling? Well I decided to write these helpful tips to help you improve your cycling this season!

1. Bike Fitting

We all know how important is to have a good bike fitting but I still see a lot of athletes making mistakes. The biggest mistake that interfere directly with pedal efficiency is saddle too high. If your saddle is too high your hips will be rocking side to side and it will cause a lot of upper body movement (besides lower back and hamstring pain), therefore losing efficiency. Also important to point that the BIGGEST cause of saddle discomfort is due to saddle too high (increase pressure) and not the type of saddle you ride!!!

When thinking of bike fitting, have always in mind the "Golden Rules" :

First Comfort, then power and last aerodynamics!

* As a SBXTRAINING athlete you can have your fit analyzed by me for FREE. Just send me a video of you riding on the trainer (front, both side and back).

2. Minimize Your Effort

Relax ALL muscles you are not directly using for the pedal movement! engage your core and relaxe shoulders, arms, hands and most importantly, your face! 

Don't waste your energy with tension on muscles you don't need to use to cycle, as you ride, think about relaxing your shoulders, elbows, and hands. Staying light will improve bike handling and avoid over-corrections. When you "lock your elbows" gripping the handlebars strongly, you are actually taking away the "shocks" of your bike. Imagine a car without shocks?? Same happens on the bike, if you keep your arms stiff when riding, you will feel MORE every bump on the road and your bike will jump at any change in road surface. 

Keep your arms slightly bent and mobile especially on downhills and bumps!

3. Proper shifting gear Technique

Anticipating the best gear is a skill that will save you a lot of energy; it takes practice and experience. New triathletes sometimes wait too long to shift when approaching a hill or corner. This can result in the chain coming under load, risking the chain coming off or making it very hard to shift. Shifting early helps you maintain your optimal cadence and momentum.
Riding a long and hilly route requires careful pacing. There’s nothing worse than running out of gears when your legs are already tired. This causes muscle micro-tears and lactate build-up, both contributing significantly to overall fatigue. To help, set your bike up with easier gears so that you can ride at your normal cadence up the hills and at an appropriate power output. If you have a 53/39 chainring on the front, you will need 11-28 or even 11-32 or 11-36–tooth cassete on the back. If you have a 50/34 chainring on the front, you might still want the option of a 28 or 32-tooth cassete on the back if you re not a strong cyclist. Your legs will thank you for it :)

4. Cadence x Big Gear relation

Cadence, combined with your gear choice, will determine your power output. To increase your power, you can use a higher cadence or bigger gear; which is better?

This can depend on the type of cyclist you are, your physique and strength. You have heard from many experienced cyclists that higher cadence is better because it can save your muscles BUT it's ONLY true if you have high pedal efficiency that very FEW of us have. If you are not super efficient and try to ride at a high cadence it will require a lot more effort and you will notice by the increase in heart rate. I recommend you to practice high cadence to develop efficiency and to pay attention to your body and heart to find your own "Sweet Spot". What is important to know is that the higher the power/effort, the higher will be the need to ride at a higher cadence! That's why if you try to do intervals at a high wattage/effort, you will not be able to do it at a low cadences like 50-60rpm because your legs will "shut down". You will need to increase the cadence.

When I race, my cadence changes depending on the length of the race (different efforts, different cadences). For Ironman i race at 73-75rpm. for 70.3 75-78rpm, for Olympic Distance (Standard) 78-80rpm and for Sprint Triathlon, over 80rpm. You notice that my cadence increases as the length reduces. We go harder on shorter courses therefore we need higher cadence.

I hope you enjoy the information and start practicing! Have a great week!