You were fast the day you brought home the cycle, but not anymore. Vishal Joshi takes us through some quick fixes to light that spark between you and your bike
Well, after all, it’s a relationship. You brought it home because you fell in love with it. I am pretty sure you felt awesome. You were excited to take it out. You loved its beautiful, sleek body. You spent all your spare time in its company, washing it, maybe polishing it, let it sleep on your bed (No? Too far?). Then in time, the glow, the spark begins to ebb, gradually leading to a dissipation of the connect and you start spending less time on the saddle. No? Well, fret not, all it needs is some TLC to get back to its fast pace. Let’s take a look at what could be slowing down your bike. First things first. The wheels. Resistance is the first warrior that fights to slow you down. And it emerges from different parts of the cycle, starting from those outgrown wheels. Most of the bikes that we start with come with entry-level wheels. Why? It decreases the overall purchase price significantly for the manufacturers. The wheels are pretty heavy, the rims aren’t deep enough to give you the aerodynamic benefit, the hub isn’t the responsive and fast-rolling type. This, in turn, increases the rotational weight of the overall wheel. Well, like the stock wheels, it isn’t cheap to upgrade to a better pair of wheels, but if you do, there’s more than a fair chance you’ll be noticeably faster in the same amount of power.
Tyres are for a bike what shoes are for you. The way a killer pair of heels can transform a dull smock into a shiny black dress, good quality tyres can do the same to your slow, ambling bike, especially when you’re not in the mood to amble. Replace your tyre(s) if it has nicks or rips on the skin. If you want tyres with minimum resistance, look for a pair that has the highest TPI - Thread Per Inch rating that are made from a flexible rubber compound. Of course the TPI rating changes as the terrain gets rough. Now, I think everyone knows about how important it is to check tyre pressure, it’s something we all have done since childhood, haven’t we? But what we fail to understand is that the overinflation of tyres significantly lowers your speed. How? It creates unnecessary bouncing, which not only adds to fatigue but also slows down your momentum, particularly over bumpy surfaces.
Next is the way you sit on the bike. Now, you wouldn’t sit on a chair the way you would on a bean bag, would you? Your neck or your back would start hurting after a while, right? The same applies when you’re on a bike. If you’re sitting too upright, your chest will be exposed to the oncoming wind, which in turn will create resistance and slow you down. You won’t be able to pedal for long if your posture isn’t right. Dialling in the right fit of your bike would solve the problem. Not only because your neck, back and legs will be comfortable, but because lowering your centre of gravity will create a more aerodynamic position, decreasing wind resistance as well. And striking that right balance between comfortable position and good aerodynamics will help you drop and push further, and more comfortably, for a longer period. Any cycle store will help get the right fit.
Now I am going to tell you about the excess weight you carry. Not your body weight, obviously, as it’s one of the main reasons many of us go ped’lling right? Nevertheless, it’s important to keep the power-to-weight ratio in mind. How much power you produce per kilogram of your body weight. The power you generate from your core to your legs is limited; you can’t control it. What you can control is the stuff you carry with you on the ride. Now, there is a thin line between being prepared for the ride and lugging along a suitcase worth of stuff, maybe in a backpack or filling your jersey pockets or even saddle bags. It’s simple. Don’t carry anything that you’re unlikely to use. Well, that’s where the adventure lies now, doesn’t it?
Don’t dress to impress! The aforementioned warrior is the real enemy. I understand a loose tee or fluorescent-coloured baggy jersey might look cool, especially when it is filled with air. But at the same time, it will slow you down because it acts like a parachute. Wear something that fits you snugly for better aerodynamics. But remember, it doesn’t mean that you need to wear a skin-tight suit, be it a weekend ride or the weekday commute. Seriously. Please don’t.