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How to take your cycling to the next level

If you're a cycling enthusiast, it's time to upgrade. Here's the Lounge guide on the best bikes and bike accessories out there

Get the most our of your cycling obsession with these tips.
Get the most our of your cycling obsession with these tips. (Istockphoto)

If you are among those who took to cycling in the early phase of the pandemic and lockdowns and still find yourself enjoying pushing pedals, then you are most likely a serious cyclist. In that case, it is about time to ditch the budget cycle and cycling gear you bought and get an upgrade in almost every department. 

Since cycling is a comparatively new recreational sport in India there often is a lack of knowledge of the vast and complex the world of cycles, cycling gear and components. To help you level up your cycling game, here are the upgrades you ought to invest in.

Also Read: The Lounge guide to bicycles

Upgrade your cycle: First things first, get yourself a better bike. Whether you like mountain bikes or road bikes, upgrade to a cycle with at least a carbon fork. And if you have the budget, by all means settle for nothing less than a full carbon cycle. The carbon bike sheds almost all excess weight so that you don’t have to work too hard to keep moving at your best speed. The carbon frame is likely to have a more efficient frame geometry and design and it will absorb most of the vibrations the cycle creates while moving on the road. This will make your ride a lot smoother and less jarring. 

A better cycle also comes with better group set, gear system and derailleur. These ensure that the power you produce with every push of the pedal is utilised to propel the cycle forward. The better gear system means you can shift gears smoothly and truly. There are plenty of good brands readily available in India including Trek, Scott, Giant, Specialised, Cannondale and Fuji while performance bike dealers can also get you strictly performance brands such as Pinarello and Cervelo. A road bike with alloy or aluminium frame and carbon fork starts at about roughly  50,000 while a full carbon bike starts at over  1,00,000. It is expensive but totally worth it.

Also Read: What you need to know if you plan to take up cycling

Get yourself clipless pedals and cleats: The funny thing about clipless pedals is the fact that your cleats (cycling shoes) actually clip on to them making the pedals an extension of your lower limbs. What happens with clipless pedals and cleats is that when you push down a pedal with one leg, the other pulls up the other side to generate more power and thereby making you more efficient and fast. When you get off your saddle (seat) to either climb or work up some speed, oftentimes you might have felt your foot slip off the pedal thereby forcing you to stop mid-motion and return to your saddle to keep your balance. With clipless pedals and cleats, your foot never slips off the pedal but improves your power output when you pedal harder while standing up thereby aiding your climb or speed or both. 

One thing you must remember before using clipless pedals and cleats is that you must practice locking and unlocking your shoes from the pedals many times before venturing out on roads with full on traffic. If you get overconfident and venture out without figuring that bit out, you are guaranteed a fall whenever you have to stop suddenly. Clipless pedals start at about  3,000 with carbon ones coming at upwards of  7,000. Some of the top end clipless pedals come with an inbuilt power meter as well, which professional cyclists use to get extensive data on their rides. Among those available in India Shimano, Look and Garmin clipless pedals are the ones to consider. You need to match your cycling shoes to the pedals you put in your bike and these will put you back by a minimum of  5,500 but the good ones cost about  7,500. Shimano, Pearl Izumi, Specialised, Vittoria, Giant and Giro have a decent range available in India. 

Also Read: Five mistakes to avoid while you're training for a triathlon

Buy bib shorts: The bike is sorted as are your pedals and shoes. Let’s focus on the bit that bears most of the burden in cycling—your butt. You simply cannot cycle long distances with a smile if you don’t have a pair of cycling shorts on. They do everything and more than what you thought the gel seat cover ought to do but didn’t. Even the most basic cycling shorts will cushion the most high contact points of your body while on a bike as well as protect you from chafing. 

If you already have the shorts, it’s time to upgrade to a pair of bib shorts. They fit better and stay in place much more than the shorts. They are truly a game changer if you regularly clock up 50-100km rides. Complement the bib shorts with a good weather appropriate cycling tee and you will have a comfortable ride for sure. While you can always get the basic cycling shorts, bib shorts and jersey from Decathlon ( 700 onwards) you would be better off with an upgrade. 

Scott offers mid-range cycling shorts starting  3,999 and jerseys  2,999 onwards and the upgrade make a huge difference. On the high end, you would find Castelli and Scott offering shorts, bib shorts, jersey and even racing suits. Castelli is the brand that plenty of professional cyclists and teams dress up in at the big races. Good bib shorts cost about  10,000 and up.

Also Read: Cycling to stay fit

Invest in a trainer: There will be plenty of days when you cannot step out of your house but don’t want to miss your training. The strict lockdowns taught us that. There will be days when you need to do a climb but you live in a flat city and days when you need a flat route but find yourself in the mountains. No matter the course, weather, pollution, if you have a trainer, especially a smart trainer, you never have to miss your rides ever again. 

You can do them while watching the World Cup T20 game or attending a Zoom meeting from your home. The trainer gives you the advantage of simulating any terrain or course so that you can be ready for any race in any part of the world. Basic trainers start at about  20,000 while high end ones often cost as much as a mid-range carbon cycle.

Also Read: Five great workouts to help you stay fit through Diwali

Bike computer: You need a device to track your rides and other cycling related metrics. Tracking this information not only keeps a record of time and distance but also helps pinpoint when you tend to slow down, pick up pace, start tiring as well as your heart rate patterns. If you have an advanced run tracking watch, it will most likely track your rides too with a couple of added sensors. However, a bike computer that sits on your handle bar works best. Garmin’s most affordable bike computer is the Edge 520 Plus for  17,990 while its most popular mode in India is the Edge 530 Bundle (with speed and cadence sensors and heart rate monitor) priced at  37,990.

Upgrade your wheels: If speed and performance is what your’re after, the final piece on your bike would be the wheels. Carbon wheels, whether disc or carbon spokes, totally change your ride and minimise loss of power and hence your effort helping you go further and faster with every push of the pedal. However, they are extremely expensive and even used carbon wheels from brands like Zipp, FFWD, Corima or Shimano cost a fortune, at times, even more than mid-range carbon bikes.

Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.

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