If you’re a sometime cyclist, you may find sunshine beckoning you on longer or more rigorous rides this summer. But many riders—especially new ones—are nervous about shifting their cycling into high gear, says Selene Yeager, author of Bike Your Butt Off: A Breakthrough Plan to Lose Weight and Start Cycling (No Experience Necessary!). With a little know-how, though, you can get more out of the time you spend pushing the pedals. Check out Yeager’s tips on tackling some of cycling’s biggest challenges.’
1. Pain in the rear. While a little saddle soreness is normal in the beginning, lingering problems may mean your seat isn’t in the optimum position. “New riders often ride with their saddles too low, likely because they want to be able to plant both feet on the ground when seated,” Yeager says. To reduce strain on both your rear and knees—and generate more power—your seat should be high enough that you’re forced to stand on tiptoe to reach the pavement.
2. Fear of hills. Sure, hills can be scary. But tensing up on your approach will only make your job harder. “All that tension wastes valuable energy that could be propelling you up the hill,” Yeager says. Keeping your breath measured will also help you pace yourself as you’re making your ascent.
3. Running out of gas on a climb. Instead of jumping up out of the saddle and charging up the hill, stay seated as long as possible while shifting to lower gears to conserve energy. On super-long climbs, stand occasionally to stretch your legs, but know that you’ll have more momentum if you spend most of your time in the saddle.
4. Dealing with traffic. “The most important thing to remember is that when you ride on the road, you follow the same rules as when you drive on the road,” Yeager says. That means cycling with—not against—the flow of traffic; riding on the street (or designated bike lane), not the sidewalk; stopping at stop lights and stop signs, even when there are no other vehicles around; and signaling for turns (right arm out for a right turn, left arm out for a left turn). Make eye contact with approaching drivers and/or other riders, and be sure they see you, especially at intersections.
5. Not making progress. If you ride for fitness but feel like you’re not getting stronger, you’ve got lots of company. “Many cyclists never go hard or easy enough to make big gains,” Yeager says. Bust out of your rut by varying your intensity from ride to ride rather than always training at the same pace. Alternate hard rides with super-leisurely spins. “The combination makes legs strong,” she says.