Become a Stronger Rider by Commuting

08
Jun
2012

Loving the Commute Series

by Aaron Madrid

I have a secret to tell… I want to be a racer.  In fact, this fall I plan on competing in my first race at the Mass Ave Crit in Indianapolis.  I have some friends that are coaches, and hope to take advantage of their services some day, but until then I am resolved to search the internet for tips and tricks.  The biggest challenge for my training has been finding the time to get in the rides I believe are needed to improve my riding.  That’s when it occurred to me that I can just train on my commutes!

Unlike many commuters I speak to, I don’t have the benefit of a long trail that takes me to work.  Most of my route, especially if I wish to make it work on time, requires me to share the road with the 4 wheelers of my fair city.  However, that has leant itself well to my training plan.  One thing I have noticed is a common suggestion for most training plans, regardless of your end goal, is the ever painful interval. In truth, intervals are actually much easier on my commute than on most of my other rides.  Thanks to stop signs and lights, I frequently have the opportunity to sprint my legs off for a good distance before sitting again.

There is nothing I love more than pulling up to a stop light next to a moped, and then pouring my soul into the pedals as I sprint passed the driver when the light changes.  Of course, I don’t always win, but it’s a blast to try.  When I cross through town I try my hardest to stay out of the saddle from light to light so I am working on my endurance and power at the same time.  Obviously intervals require short breaks in-between bursts of work, but I find the lights usually comply well with my need to sit. The important thing to always remember is to stay aware. I have discussed at length the dangers of commuting.  Adding these intervals and a bit of focused training can actually create more danger for you if you aren’t careful and still obey the laws of the road. I’m not sure if it’s the look of anguish on my face or the sweat pouring from my brow, but I find when I am killing myself down a bike lane, drivers tend to feel my pain and give me a bit of a break.

Another thing I like to try to do is climb every hill I can find on the way to work.  I used to avoid the big nasties, but now I seek them out. Sometimes I will even take a longer route to work, just so I can test my legs on a big hill.  If you can tell your legs to shut up first thing in the morning as you climb, you can beat them every time.  Climbing is a great way to improve power and endurance as well, and has worked wonders for my riding.  It’s a short ride in for me, but adding hills ensures I need the morning shower.

Handling skills have to be top notch if you plan to commute by bike.  You never know when you will have to slam the brakes or dodge a sudden pothole that seems to have opened up from nowhere in front of you.  Your reaction time can only improve as you focus on your surroundings and your intervals.  I have even learned the art of the bunny hop, though I have yet to use it for more than the occasional curb hop.

The final hidden benefit of training to race during a commute is all about the mental anguish.  As I mentioned, I have yet to compete, myself, but one thing I always hear the pros say is just how mentally exhausting racing is.  Commuting can be pretty darn mentally exhausting as well.  In fact, I like to think that the constant battle I wage with traffic on a commute is great preparation for the peloton ahead of me.  If you can ride a few feet from a speeding car or truck, you can ride closer to another cyclist, no problem.  Some people might say that pretending the car in front of me is my lead out at the Tour de France, might be an indication that my mental prowess is actually doing the opposite of improving, but I tend to disagree.  Be safe, keep a good head, and ride hard.

Enjoy Your Ride

Tags: , , ,

Pin It

13 Responses to “ Become a Stronger Rider by Commuting ”

  1. CJ on June 11, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Good read. There’s nothing better than accompishing more than one thing at a time. I’ve been an off again on again commuter and really need to make it stick. Thanks.

  2. Frankie on June 8, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    This reminds me that I need to start commuting. Monday.

  3. Jim on June 8, 2012 at 11:08 am

    I commute 7 miles each way and often add additional miles after work. I’ve just started using the Strava app on my phone and there are several sections that I can challenge myself against other riders that do the same route. As a result, it has made me tackle alot of segments at a faster speed than I would normally. Great interval training!

  4. Anthony Lussier on June 8, 2012 at 10:30 am

    Great post! I love commuting into work but I think I enjoy the ride home more. I always seem to be in such a rush to get in to work in the morning. Maybe it’s the chill in the air that I try to rush through, or maybe the fact of riding in the dark that bugs me. Overall though there is no better feeling coming into work after knocking out 16 miles :)

    • Aaronthestrong on June 11, 2012 at 2:31 pm

      I tend to feel the same way! The ride home is always much more fun for me…except for the traffic!

  5. jack h on June 8, 2012 at 9:45 am

    I’m pretty new to commuting but already finding myself wanting to challenge things more each week. I’m set on taking on your tips and working harder on my commute to become stronger. I hope getting stronger will make the ride faster as well.

    • Aaronthestrong on June 11, 2012 at 2:32 pm

      Keep it up Jack! Just make sure you get a good safe route down before you worry about improving! It’s dangerous out there!

  6. Brian on June 8, 2012 at 9:32 am

    I agree that commuting can be very exhausting indeed. Like you I like to think of my commuting time as training time so I can make the most use of my time. Good luck out there on the road.

    • Aaronthestrong on June 11, 2012 at 2:32 pm

      Thanks for reading, and good luck to you as well, Brian.

  7. Ashley Hill on June 8, 2012 at 7:41 am

    I biked to work this morning! Didn’t really mean to, but I woke up late and missed my train. At least I have a backup plan. It’s a 34 mile round trip.

    • Aaronthestrong on June 8, 2012 at 8:13 am

      Awesome, Ashley! I wish I had that long of a commute to enjoy every day :) Keep on riding and be safe out there!!

  8. Riaan Coetzee on June 8, 2012 at 5:25 am

    Another nice article, Aaron. I’m more into the MTB side of biking, and can tell you that commuting on a MTB makes you STRONG. And don’t forget endurance – us commuters get to ride twice EVERY day, something a lot of ‘racers’ and ‘weekend warriors’ would kill for :)

    Of course, there is always a silly race waiting to happen …

    • Aaronthestrong on June 8, 2012 at 8:15 am

      No doubt, Riaan! When I started commuting I was doing so on a mountain bike myself. I don’t even like to think about those times…I need the speed, haha! Hoping to try my hand at some actual mountain biking this fall! Should have an interview with a amateur MTB racer coming to LTB soon as well, keep an eye out!

Leave a Reply

Sponsors

Featured on these top sites

Blog Partners

Cycling 360 Podcast

Causes

Sugar Alternatives for Energy and Hydration

Question: I am using the homebrew sugar formulations (sometimes added to green tea).  I am also trying to wean myself off 1/2 dose adrenalean “lip tonic delivery system” (biorhythm brand- caffeine, hoodia g, synephrine, yohimbe) capsule for energy.

My question is other than juice, can you suggest modifications in lieu of table sugar for energy and hydration.

Answer:

Both raw/organic honey or agave can work great in the homebrew (substitute in the same quantities for the sugar, or to taste), but you do have to shake well in order to make sure they don’t settle out.  Have you tried either of these?  Also, make sure to use at least the minimum amount of salt recommended in the homebrew as the temps rise, you need the sodium replacement if you’re sweating.

Sports Drink Homebrew

Please send us your questions for our Expert Sports Nutritionist, Kelli Jennings to “Ask the Sports Nutritionist“. Kelli Jennings is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for healthy eating, wellness, & sports nutrition. For more information go to www.apexnutritionllc.com.

Nutrition Tips