Saddle Up

Spring is here. Time to wipe the cobwebs off your bike, oil your chain, and kick your fitness into a new gear. Here's how.

Dave Zabriskie

Dave Zabriskie, Team Slipstream, record holder for the fastest time trial in Tour de France history (2005)    Photo: Joe Toreno

Positive Spin
Take it from Jim Ochowicz, the guru of professional American cycling: If you're not having fun, you'll never be fast

If there's a wizard behind the curtain of American cycling, it's Jim Ochowicz. Lance Armstrong? "Och" was an early mentor and his first pro director, and is the godfather of his son. Greg LeMond? He won the 1983 and '89 World Championships riding for the U.S. team managed by Ochowicz. Team 7-Eleven? Ochowicz, now 56, founded and managed the first U.S. pro team to compete in the Tour de France. He also competed in two Olympics ('72 and '76) and headed up the 2000 and '04 U.S. Olympic cycling teams. Here, Ochowicz shares his tips for getting the most out of your training, whatever your level. Rule number one: Enjoy the ride.

1. Find Your Motivation Remind yourself that you're riding because you want to. Don't let it become work, and don't be afraid not to ride when you need a break.

2. Don't Stress About Form Some of the strongest riders out there have terrible form—their toes are pointed and their pedaling is choppy. As long as everything fits you right, you'll be fine.

3. Get Gear That Fits Proper bike fit is about more than just comfort. A bike that's too big or small can be dangerous, because the handling will be way off.

4. Pamper Your Bike For day-to-day training, check the tires and lube the chain. For big events, take it to a shop and have them do a full tune-up. Then, be sure to take it out for a good ride before the event.

5. Love Your Wheels and Tires They get the most wear and tear. If you're thinking at all about racing, do everything you can to have two sets of wheels—one to handle the heavy miles of training, and a nicer pair for racing.

6. Join Group Rides Your bike shop should have information on rides in your area. It's essential to learn how to ride in a pack. And conversation makes long rides more fun.

7. But Be Careful Never trust anyone riding ahead of you. Watch the tire of the rider in front of you, but also be aware of what's happening in front of him. It's easy to let your guard down and crash. Don't.

8. Take Your Turn Ride in the front of your group and allow others to take a break in your draft. Nothing turns off fellow riders more than someone who won't take his turn. When it's yours, ride up naturally and maintain the speed of the group.

9. Get Lean and Mean Obviously, "lean" for a weekend ride and "lean" for the Tour de France are different things. But the physics is the same for both: Any extra weight you've got is weight you'll have to carry.

10. Get Your Nutrition Dialed For long rides and races, the old strategy of carbo-loading is a good one. On the bike, experiment with energy foods and drinks. Find out what your body can handle, then stick with it. Race day is not the time to try something new.

11. Work Your Core Abdominal and trunk exercises stabilize you on the bike, so you can better put your power to the pedals.

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