A couple of weeks ago, I was on a ride in the country on my own. I wasn’t worried about speed, although I maintained a nice average pace. I was just out to enjoy the ride before the day became oppressively hot.
As I rode, I started noticing something about the way I was piloting the bike. I felt like I was mashing the pedals going up hills. Every so often, the gears would crunch when I shifted — and it didn’t matter if I was shifting up or down. Hm, I thought — that’s odd. I haven’t been getting that on the bike lately.
And then it occurred to me: Sure I have. It seems like every ride I’ve done lately has had its share of crunching gears and mashed pedals. I know better. But I’ve let myself lapse into bad habits.
It didn’t used to be this way. I used to regularly do a ride where all I concentrated on was my cycling technique. But I haven’t done that for a while now, and I can tell.
So, what should I be doing?
Well, on the hills,I like to keep up my forward momentum by “pedaling in a circle.” That means applying even pressure to the pedal throughout the stroke. It’s a more efficient, and more powerful, way to ride. I know I’m doing it right when I feel a burn in both my calves and my quadriceps. Maybe that’s why I don’t concentrate on doing it as often as I should. I am pain averse.
But because pedaling in a circle stresses the big leg muscles, it makes you a better rider. You get up the hills a tad quicker, and you have the strength to power through tough spots on rides — even if they’re on the flats.
It’s something I have to remind myself about. I resolved (once again) to pay attention to my pedaling technique and make sure I pedaled in a circle more often.
The shifting thing is an easy fix, too. I knew the problem didn’t lie with my chain. I replaced the chain not too long ago. No, this had to do with something I learned way back when I was young.
Ease up on the pedals when you shift.
It’s tough when you shift while you’re stomping on the pedals. The chain makes a nasty noise as it scrapes across the cogs. When I was a kid and got my first English three-speed “racer” bike, I was told to pedal backwards while shifting gears. I think that was my father’s way of telling me to let up on pedal pressure.
From that point on, I concentrated on each shift. I kicked myself (figuratively) when I forgot to ease up on shifts, and congratulated myself (literally) when I shifted smoothly and noiselessly.
That was two weekends ago.
On today’s ride, there was the “crunch” again. And I caught myself mashing up a short, sharp hill again.
What’s the rule? You have to perform a new action for 21 days straight to break a bad habit?
I think I have several weeks of habit-breaking ahead of me.