Since I started riding at the end of last year, before the weather forced me indoors, all I heard from everyone was ‘ You need more time in the saddle’. While it got too cold to get any more rides in before spring, I focused on building up my endurance on the spin trainer and I feel I have progressed quite a bit with some serious focus work. It was not til recently though that I truly understood those words, ‘ You need more time in the saddle’. With just two weeks of riding again, I am starting to understand what that means.
The last couple of weeks has been warmer in Georgia and I have spent at least one of the weekend days out riding. My first was last Saturday with a stiff 12 mile ride that felt like pulling teeth. This weekend, Saturday was looking chilly, but not too brisk so I decided I would go out for something close to a twenty mile ride. While out on this ride I started to realize that when I topped a hill or steep climb it was the wrong time to take a break, instead it was go time. By this I mean I began to learn that getting to the top of a climb was the perfect moment to flip to the big gear and drop as much resistance as possible and then push and fly down the other side. The advantage here resulted in greater speed up the next following climb and less pedal work to get up the climb. I spent the rest of the day flying down hills and up the next with less hard spinning to reach the top. It was truly blissful to fly down and up some of these climbs.
Of course with all learning comes the hard falls and on Saturday I found my self pushing up a climb, I was in low gear and had a good cadence going. I had used the fast down and up method to climb three quarters of the way up this climb and only had one good hard push left to summit the climb. When I almost got to the top, just as I am summitting, I flip the gear to the big ring and start to move the back chain to add more torque. I get over and am on my way down the same hill I had just muscled myself up, legs are tired, but I know this is the time to push because there is another beast right in front of me. I go flying down the hill and start up the next incline. Turns out its a bit steeper than I planned and I am shifting to easier gears and I feel the speed flow from my pedaling. The incline wins and at the last moment I try to go into my small ring, this results in a total stoppage of motion and I go crashing to the ground. Elbow and leg hurt, but no one witnessed the fall, my immediate ego is intact. I get up and walk the bike to the top, stop and take a sip from my water bottle. Everything is ok, just some bruises and a busted elbow. The bike will be fine. Sometimes I think I am learning how to fall better, more so than ride better. Once everything feels ok and intact yet bruised I decide I still want some more time on the saddle and I ride on for twelve more miles. Later that evening, I realize I bled enough to soak the sleeve of my jersey with some blood and I sleep trying to not push down on my new bruises. With time on the saddle comes extreme learning sometimes.
I ended up staying the night which meant I could ride the following Sunday. My original goal was to get some easy recovery miles, loosen the legs a bit. I did a loop with some steep climbs totaling about six miles, the bruises from the day before hurt a bit and my legs were sore. After six miles I stopped and walked around for a few minutes. I was not in a hurry, just enjoying a lazy Sunday ride. It was bliss, just enjoying the warmer day and putting some more miles on my legs. The six miles warmed up my legs pretty good and I felt strong, so I decided to tack on a few more miles. Initially the idea was to ride along a flattish section for a small ways. When I got to the end of that I decided I wanted to go on so I tackled some more climbs and enjoyed the nice spring afternoon.
This two day stretch of riding totaled around 35 miles and had some good climbs associated with it. I am still working on my ability to cycle and it truly comes down to the adage ‘ You need more time in the saddle’. I understand now that you can build up endurance on the indoor trainer and you can build strength, but there are truly things you cannot learn from riding in the shelter of a gym or home on an indoor trainer. Only by getting time on the saddle can you learn how to shift gears, climb ascents and fly down descents. Only by spending time in the saddle can one truly learn to muscle up a hill with quads burning and your mind in a panic, wanting to stop and walk, but you push on. Only with time in the saddle can you learn how it feels to make a blunder and fall hard, just to get up and ride on…
Til next time.
- Back In the Saddle Again (chatterdoesfitness.wordpress.com)
- 5 Weeks To Tour De Cure Ride – Week 5 And Counting Goals (chatterdoesfitness.wordpress.com)
- What I Think About When I Ride My Bike (lettersonthetrain.wordpress.com)