Tell me if this sounds familiar. You're pedalling at a fair rate of knots and feel you’re riding well. Then a fellow cyclist of a similar age and build comes flying past, leaving you for dust as he overtakes you with apparent ease.

If this seems to be happening to you a lot lately, it's time to do something about it. Read on for the seven most likely reasons that other rider is faster than you.

 

1. He Has Better (Maintained) Kit

The kit itself is unlikely to make a big difference, but improper maintenance of it can. Choosing bike components carefully and maintaining them properly helps avoid unnecessary losses of power. The drive train is a good place to start. A worn chain or sprockets coated in thick grease could lose you valuable time in longer races.

 

What's letting you down when it comes to crunch time?

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From riding on your drops to practicing cornering drills, there's a lot you can do to be more competitive.

 

What to Do About It:

Ensure your drive train is well maintained, and check your chain regularly to see if it is worn. Use a good quality thin lubricant for your chain and clean the chain frequently to remove road grit. Ensure your gears are well adjusted and cables run smoothly.

 

2. He Has Less Air Resistance

Hills aside, air resistance is the biggest challenge you're going to face when cycling. It could simply be that your opponent is managing his air resistance more effectively with key positional or clothing adjustments.

 

What to Do About It:

To maximise your air resistance, you need to be comfortable riding on the lower part of the dropped handlebars or "drops". Don't just ride on the hoods of their brakes because it’s more comfortable. If you find riding in a lower position uncomfortable, incorporate mobility work such as foam rolling in between sessions. This will loosen up your glutes and hamstrings in no time. You can also try wearing fitted clothing to avoid the drag of loose material and avoiding clothes with open zips and pockets. Mudguards may be good for commutes in poor weather, but if you want to go faster you need to remove them.

 

3. He Weighs Less

Any unnecessary weight will slow you down on the hills. A 90kg rider will require 50% more energy to climb the same hill as a 60kg rider, and unfortunately, any additional weight you’re carrying will not help you pick up speed downhill. Galileo’s famous experiment showed us that two objects of differing mass fall to the ground at precisely the same time. So all other things being equal, when freewheeling downhill a 60kg rider and a 90kg rider will descend from it at the same speed.

 

What to Do About It:

Train consistently and be mindful of your food consumption. Track your intake and make adjustments to your nutritional habits if needed. Avoid situations where you may be tempted to overeat and choose long, moderately paced rides to optimise fat loss where you can.

 

4. He Can Pedal Better

Most of us learn to ride a bike at a young age. Unfortunately, once we’ve learned how to stop falling off of it, we usually put our pedalling skill development to the side. But pedalling is a skill that can be honed and drilled to great success. A rider who knows the ins-and-outs of pedalling will outperform one who doesn’t every time.

 

Power through after hill climbs to maintain a decent average speed.

Sprint for 30 seconds after stops and hills to maintain a decent average speed.

 

What to Do About It:

Get familiar with your pedal stroke and spend time improving it. For an optimal pedal stroke, your foot has to apply force at just the right moment at the top of the pedal stroke before reversing direction. Most cyclists just do not apply this force soon enough. The glutes and quads need to be activated as soon as possible in the one to three o’clock position of the pedals for maximal power. This is far preferable to pulling the pedal back through the six o’clock position with the comparatively weaker hamstrings at the bottom of the stroke.

 

Train an effective movement pattern to improve your timing and muscle recruitment by doing regular pedal drills. Nicholas Romanov mentions several good pedalling drills in his book, and I've also given some good drill examples on here in the past.

 

5. He Can Corner Faster

Whilst you should always corner safely and assess the road conditions appropriately, learning to corner smoothly and quickly will save you time. Needless cycles of braking and speeding up again reduce your overall speed.

 

What to Do About It:

Practice your cornering in a safe environment. Learn to assess corners and anticipate the speed required well in advance. Take a smooth, curved line through the corner that has a large, safe radius. Push the outside pedal down and lean the bike into the corner, keeping your eyes focused on the exit of the bend. Combine your next ride with cornering drills or set up some cones on disused land for cornering practice.

 

6. He Speeds Up After Stops and Hills

It’s inevitable that you’ll need to stop and slow from time to time due to traffic conditions or from easing off at the top of a hill, but this will cost you valuable seconds and minutes overall if you make a habit of it. Keep the effort high to stay ahead of the other guy.

 

"If you’re serious about the sport you need to train for three or four times a week on a consistent basis, mindfully working on your weaknesses and reinforcing your strengths."

What to Do About It:

Do a quick sprint for thirty seconds to get back up to speed after traffic stops and hills. Once you’re back on pace, settle into your normal rhythm again. Practice this every time you are out on your bike. Every time you crest the top of a hill, keep applying effort for ten to twenty seconds, and only ease off for recovery when you start descending the hill. As well as saving you time, this can be a great interval workout.

 

7. He Trains More Consistently

Just mindlessly riding your bike won’t cut it to get the competitive edge in races. If you’re serious about the sport, you need to train for three or four times a week on a consistent basis, mindfully working on your weaknesses and reinforcing your strengths.

 

What to Do About It:

Assess your current performance and identify any skills you could improve. Write them down and incorporate the relevant corrective strategies into your training plan. Training drills can seem repetitive but they need to be done in order to hone your ability, so fit them in wherever you can. Do pedalling drills in your turbo sessions, or practice corners on your club rides. Incorporate them regularly and with discipline in order to improve.

 

Remember Why You Started

Whilst it may feel frustrating to be left at the bottom of the hill by your competitors, it’s important to remember why you started cycling in the first place. Few of us are paid professionals, who are able to train full time with the support of sponsors. There’s also little we can do to reduce our own skeleton size if our anthropometrics let us down in the face of our fellow riders.

 

Only train towards what is feasible and desirable for you. What is most important is that you smash your own goals and can be satisfied with achieving them.

 

This article was originally published on Breaking Muscle UK.

 

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Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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