By Martin Sigrist
My other sport is golf. While there may not be an obvious connection to cycling, a few do exist. Here are a couple.
Video Yourself Riding
Every golfer thinks they have a swing like Tiger Woods. The only reason the ball goes half as far and they need a pack of balls to complete a round rather than just the one is obviously down to equipment. Golf manufacturers have an even easier time selling their wares intended to make golfers better than do bike manufacturers.
At least that was the case until the invention of the mobile phone. Now we can film our swings and the result looks like an imposter has wandered into shot. Rather than looking like Tiger we resemble someone desperately attempting to swat a bothersome fly doing a loop the loop around our body.
Seeing yourself actually riding a bike can be an equally sobering experience. I took time trialling seriously for a while and spent a fortune on every possible piece of equipment guaranteed to save me watts. Adding them all up should have given me an FTP around 1,000 watts, but still I didn’t seem to get a lot faster. I even went to the trouble of videoing myself on my trainer, and I had the shape of a svelte speed machine when I was going nowhere.
But then someone posted some actual footage taken during a real race. I looked like a sack of potatoes having a fight with a bike. All my smooth lines were gone, I was as aerodynamic as a brick. Looking back, it was a pivotal moment. I’d like to say that I went home, reduced my drag coefficient to 0.15 and then smash all my personal bests. But I didn’t. I carried on but I had embraced my inner Nairo and decided I was probably better focusing going uphill less slowly than others rather than ride the flat more quickly.
Still, whatever the outcome, it can be worth seeing yourself in action. Hopefully you will get a more pleasant surprise than I did.
Hinge at the Hips
The second golf tip leads on from the first. The first thing many golfers realize when they see themselves for the first time is that they are doomed to hit a bad shot before they have even started to move the club. You need to lower the club to the ground and there are two ways to do this, the right way and the wrong way.
Unfortunately for many of us the wrong way is our natural habit, especially if we spend much of our day sitting down. We round our backs and hunch over the ball looking more like a we should be ringing bells in Notre Dame rather than playing a sport.
The right way is to push your butt back and hinge at the hips.
The same applies to cycling. The butt won’t be pushed back but it is worth having a sense of how your pelvis placed on the saddle. It can be thought of as a bowl full of water and its usually best not to try to keep it level but rather rotate it so some of the “water” spills out over the front of the saddle. People vary in terms of what’s right and the style of riding can have a big impact too. Still having a sense of rotating your pelvis can help in finding the right compromise between power and comfort. Just rotating it a bit during long rides can help too.
Hinging at the hips is also something most cyclists would benefit from, especially riding in in flatter terrain. It will help stabilise the upper body which in turn leads to more power. This stability also reduces the shear forces on the spine that can cause back pain. And it should mean your head is lower which should make you more aerodynamic and so faster.
So a couple of tips from a golfer to a cyclist. There should be a vice versa but none come to mind. If anyone has any suggestions of what golfers could learn from cyclists I’d love to hear them.
Now among the world’s fittest sexagenarians Martin Sigrist started riding on doctor’s orders in 2005 and had to push his bike up his first hill. Next year he soloed the Tour de France. He has since experienced every form of road cycling from criterium to ultra endurance. His ongoing mission is to use the latest in science and technology to fight a, so far successful, battle against Father Time.