Cycling nutrition - keep it simple


If I had to describe Greenville cycling in one sentence it would read
"Beautiful, hilly, hard, bumpy, nature, country, farms, bike-friendly."

We absolutely love our cycling playground but easy riding doesn't get mentioned much, outside of the Swamp Rabbit Trail. (SRT). From downtown (where we live), you can find a side-road or jump on the SRT and in 6 miles you reach the first mountain, Paris Mountain, which sits right next to Paris Mountain State Park. (where Karel does his Mountain Biking).

In about 7 miles, you are out on some of the most beautiful country roads, with hardly a car in sight. The roads are not always paved well so  a smooth ride is always a treat when you can find one. Turn after turn, hill after hill, every ride requires concentration and focus and strong legs and a strong heart...and a very well-fueled body. 

The endless farm-like and nature-views that extend for miles make Greenville, SC absolutely magically for riding. A typical ride (for most of our routes) is around 1000 feet of climbing per hour on the country roads. We don't even bother looking at our speed or mileage covered because a solid 4 hour ride may average 16mph. It's hard to control your power because there is so much climbing and rolling hills so most of our rides is by RPE and we often do a lot of specific effort/cadence/heavy gear work rather than a MS of specific power zones. We never have an average ride even close to 18mph despite some fun descends and smaller rolling hill sections. Bottom line, every ride makes us stronger because you have to be strong to ride in Greenville, SC. 

Cycling in Greenville, or on any challenging terrain, requires exceptional use of bike handling skills. Never have I found having electronic shifting more beneficial than in my new cycling playground (which also comes in handy on race day as I can shift my gears in my base bars and aero bars with the push of a button). 

But in addition to great cycling skills, keeping up with sport nutrition is critical. I can easily feel exhausted after 90 minutes of riding, just because of the nature of our routes. We often get a hilly and windy ride which makes things a bit more interesting...and exhausting. And because we have so many routes to choose from, we don't get use to any routes....we never follow the same route twice - there is always a new discovery of a new road or we return home in a different direction than we came. To be honest, there are no boring rides - every ride comes with an added feature, from suffering to beautiful nature views. 

Although I have always been adamant about my coaching and nutrition athletes perfecting their fueling on the bike by relying on liquid nutrition, it is just as important that you have good skills to keep up with your fueling strategy no matter what fueling regime you follow. I see many triathletes who are not comfortable riding their bikes outside or are still progressing with bike handling skills on challenging terrains and this only increases the likelihood  that meeting nutritional needs will be compromised as safety on the bike is just as important as good nutrition to stay focused and alert.

If you aren't comfortable removing your hands from your bars or grabbing a bottle while climbing/descending or riding with others, it is very hard to meet your fluid, electrolyte and calorie needs. I can't tell you how many times I have seen/heard athletes with cages on their bike and filled water bottles that they are unable to grab/reach. Riding in windy or chilly conditions also makes it difficult to stay up with fueling so it is imperative that you simplify your fueling regime....immediately, as race season is approaching and learning how to fuel on the bike is just part of your athlete development. 

Stay tuned as I will next offer a few very easy tips to help you increase the chance that you will meet your nutritional needs on the bike, no matter the terrain, workout or race. 

After reading, if you have any questions, send me an email and I can help you perfect or simplify your cycling fueling regime.