Lazy Cycling

I’ve been on my bike for the first time this year. I generally ride when DST starts and stop when DST stops. While gasping for breath on the first hill of the year, I got to thinking about why I like cycling when it’s clear that I am a lazy bastard. The reason for this is simple. Of all the ways you can hurt yourself in the name of fitness outside of team sports, cycling is by far the best for the lazy. This is because the point is to cover distance quickly, under your own power, while doing as litle work as possible. Here are some tips on how to be lazy on a bike:

Buy a Road Bike

Mountain bikes are heavy and slow. They make you work too hard for any given distance. Often you have to put the mountain bike in a car to get it somewhere where it can be useful. This is too much work. I like to ride out my front door and back to my front door. My front door has a little ramp on it so I don’t have to get off my bike before opening the door. I like that. You should do this for your front door. Carrying the bike into the house is a lot of work.

So, ride road bikes. The only thing mountain bikes have going for them is that the cheaper ones are cheaper than even the cheapest road bikes.

Get a Bike That Fits

The bike industry likes to convince you that bike fit is mysterious, almost mystical. Really it’s pretty simple. The two key things are seat position and handlebar position. You want the seat high enough to pedal comfortably, and you want the bars placed so you can reach them comfortably without being too stretched out or hunched over. So, you want a bike frame that lets you get the seat and the bars in the right place without resorting to extreme measures.

To fine tune the fit, I prefer to sit a bit in back of the pedals and I like the bars to be about even with the seat so I don’t have to bend over to reach them. This puts less weight on my hands. I can right the bike while laying my hands down lightly on the bars and still have complete control. In general, I think the simple guidelines that Grant Peterson favors are just about right.

Ride a Lazy Gear

You should ride in a gear that lets you spin comfortably at about 90-100 rpm. Spinning like this means you aren’t fighting the resistance of a high gear and you are generating power with leg speed rather than sheer brute force. This is good for gimpy weaklings like me who don’t want to do weights to build power. Of course, when you get on that hill that is too steep, you can’t always manage a high cadence. Well, unless you are Lance Armstrong.

Coast Down Hill

You worked hard to get up the hill. Have fun going down. Unless you are chasing down that breakaway that threatens your lead in the overall, I see no reason to hammer down hills.

Suck Wheels

Find a friend who you can keep up with and the next time you ride, just stick to his back wheel like your life depends on it. Guess what? You can ride the same speed, or faster, than you usually do while doing less work! You’ll find that you can take little breaks on the flats while he plows through the wind for you. This is great! Whatever you do, do not get on the front and take a pull unless you are threatened with bodily injury. Doing work means you are not being lazy.

When I’m in shape enough to keep up with a fast group ride over the rollers, I find that I gain about 2-3mph in average speed over what I can do on my own on a 30 mile ride. This is all because i sit behind my friend Bill while he does all the work.

If you feel bad about mooching off of others, watch Lance Armstrong in the next Tour. All he does is sit there behind his teamates while they do all the work. If Lance can do it, so can you.

No Fitness Data Collection

Generally, fitness gadgets are junk that cost money and time. You don’t need a heart monitor to tell you if you are in better shape. And for God’s sake don’t download heart data into a spreadsheet and start calculating average power output. This will tell you very little besides the fact that compared to Lance your cardiovascular system is puny and weak.

The one device that is slightly useful is a bike computer that tells you distance and average speed. Now, to find out if you are getting more fit, just find a big hill and note if you can climb it faster. When I get more fit, I can climb hills at faster speeds in higher gears. You aren’t training for the Tour De France here. You’re just having fun. So spend the time riding, not data mining. If you want, you can keep a simple ride diary to track average speed. But that’s a lot of work too.

The Best Way To Get in Shape

This isn’t really for the lazy. But the best way to get better on the bike is to climb hills. Yes, it hurts, but trust me, making yourself ride time trials or do sprint intervals on a regular schedule is less fun and probably not that much more effective unless you are training to race, and lazy people do not race. So, go out and ride up hill. At least that way you get to coast (remember! lazy!) down the other side when you are done.

Next time: How to train for a century ride the lazy way.