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Sometimes it just doesn't make sense to copy the professionals, here's why…

Being more 'pro' is seen as a good thing in the world of cycling but just because something is right for top-level racing doesn't mean it's right for the rest of us. Here's when it's best to strike out on your own.

Don't slam that stem

Loads of pro riders have their stem slammed right down on the headset to keep the bike's front end as low as possible. Ideally, the stem will be at least 130mm long too! Pro riders are fast, so you'll be fast if you copy them, right?

Tour de France 2019 Movistar stem - 1

It doesn't work like that. Pro riders spend years developing a race position that works for them and many, many hours a week training in that position. If you simply copy a slammed stem position you could end up with an achy back and neck and spend the whole time riding with your hands on the hoods, never on the drops.

Tour de France 2019 Movistar stem - 1 (1)

Our advice would be to set your stem height – and every other dimension – on the basis of a professional bike fit. That could result in a slammed stem... but it probably won't.

Check out our video on the importance of getting a bike fit 

No need to be a weight weenie

Pro riders want their race bikes to be as close as possible to the UCI's 6.8kg minimum limit for racing – ideally bang on. Fair enough, all other things being equal a lighter bike will be faster than a heavier one (although being more aerodynamically efficient is often of greater importance). 

6.8kg scales 2 - 1.jpg

Lightweight v aero: which is best? 

Bear in mind, though, that pro riders care only about performance. A bike or component is durable enough as long as it makes it to the finish line.team ineos riding2 copy.JPG

When pros aren't racing, other factors come into play, as they do for the rest of us. Longevity is a consideration, for example. You can drop three grand on a 1,100g pair of carbon wheels but they won't necessarily outlast the cheapo wheels that came fitted as standard on your everyday bike. Comfort is important to all of us too, as are price and value.

It's certainly fun to upgrade your bike to improve the performance, but obsessing about weight doesn't make sense for most of us, and materials other than carbon-fibre are acceptable!

Fit sensible tyres

The majority of pro riders spend most of their race time on skinny tubular tyres. Chances are that you're not using tubs the whole time but you might well be on lightweight 25mm-wide clinchers.

Schwalbe One Evolution Line V-Guard 28mm

Most (not all) modern road bikes will take at least 28mm tyres and the same is true of the majority of newer rim brake callipers. Going for extra width can add comfort and grip while reducing rolling resistance. 

Why you need to switch to wider tyres 

A proven puncture protection system might add a little weight to a tyre but it's certainly worth considering as a means of keeping you on the move.

Pirelli_Cinturato_Velo_Tyre_Fitted_1.jpg

How to avoid a puncture 

Another option is to make the leap to tubeless tyres and use sealant inside that will plug most holes without you even knowing about them. 

Road tubeless: everything you need to know 

Embrace mudguards!

You won't see mudguards in the Tour de France but they're hugely practical for most types of riding, helping to keep you, your bike and anyone behind you dry.

Check out 16 of the best mudguards for any type of bike 

Unless it's raining properly, spray from your wheels is what gets you really wet... unless you're using mudguards. If you've not fitted them before, you'll be amazed at the difference they make.Laurens ten Dam LBL 2015

Pros know this too, of course, which is why you'll see plenty of them using mudguards in training. You'll also spot them riding with seatpacks, daytime flashing lights and other concessions to practicality when there's no team car following behind.

You don't have to ride a road race bike

Just because you ride on the road doesn't mean you should be on a road bike – or at least not on the type of road bike raced by professionals. Non-race road bikes make more sense for many people, even those who like to ride fast. 

Mason Definition Ultegra - riding 2.jpg

Take the Mason Definition that we reviewed here on road.cc, for example. It's made from aluminium, the geometry isn't aggressive, you get eyelets for a rack and mudguards, there's clearance for mudguards with 30mm tyres... 

In other words, it's unlike a race bike in many ways, yet we still described it as "fantastically speedy" and it has the bonus of being versatile enough to ride over many different types of road – not just tarmac – and to handle a British winter without any problems. 

Pick the right tool for the job rather than the bike you've seen on TV.

Check out our bike reviews for other ideas

Go steady on the gels and sports drinks

Gels and sports drinks definitely have a place. They provide concentrated and easily quantified energy for when performance really matters. However, they mostly serve a purpose rather than giving you a whole lot of pleasure, and they're certainly not the only option when you're riding.

We spotted Team Sunweb's Nicolas Roche the other day talking about taking slices of his Auntie Carol's Christmas pudding with him on training rides! 

Malt loaf, flapjacks and bananas are popular options for providing the energy you need without being too bulky, and they taste like normal, everyday food.Malt loaf - 1.jpg

How to get the right food to keep your energy levels up and avoid the dreaded bonk

Don't rely on the jet washer

You see team mechanics jet washing pros' bikes all the time so it must be okay, correct?  

There are a few things to say about that. First, those team mechanics need to clean a helluva lot of bikes on a daily basis so speed is the number one priority.

Karcher - 1

Second, pro teams have sponsorship agreements that mean they're not short of equipment. If they accidentally spray water past a hub seal they have plenty of other wheels they can use instead.

Third, team mechanics have the expertise and the equipment necessary to service any bearing that gets a soaking, which you may or may not have.

How to clean your bike – from a quick lick to a full makeover 

A jet washer can also blast off decals and even paintwork in certain cases.

Many people believe you should never go anywhere near a bike with a jet washer. We wouldn't go that far, but if you do decide to, make sure you keep the spray well away from bearings and be very careful with the finish.

Relax and enjoy the ride

You don't need to go full-gas every ride. Even the pros have plenty of steady sessions in their training programmes so you can definitely afford to back off, at least sometimes. 

Things you only see on pro race bikes

It's easy to get caught up in the numbers – speed, cadence, time in the saddle, power output, training zones, and so on – but don't lose sight of the fact that we're riding bikes for fun and it's great to just get out there and savour the experience.

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

27 comments

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liam92 [22 posts] 3 weeks ago
3 likes

Also, no need to maintain tan lines by wearing cycling kit to the beach! 

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richtheblade [1 post] 3 weeks ago
4 likes

Great Article. However, surely there needs to be a section about leg shaving? I mean really whats the point? Most people who ride a bike: a) don't race to a high standard; therefore don't need the aero benefits (b) don't have regular massages post race, (c) don't fall off regulary and have road rash. So whats the point? Is it just to look like a Pro? 

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ktache [2215 posts] 3 weeks ago
7 likes

There is always a possibility of road rash, unfortunately.

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alotronic [642 posts] 3 weeks ago
12 likes

And unless you are in an *actual race* take the moment to wave hello to other riders when you are out in the sticks. The number of  riders who think doing 35kph on a Canyon Aero and wearing head to foot black makes them look cool enough to not acknowledge others out on the bike... 

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rtw [67 posts] 3 weeks ago
7 likes
alotronic wrote:

And unless you are in an *actual race* take the moment to wave hello to other riders when you are out in the sticks. The number of  riders who think doing 35kph on a Canyon Aero and wearing head to foot black makes them look cool enough to not acknowledge others out on the bike... 

Why do you need to be acknowledged this way?

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jollygoodvelo [1892 posts] 3 weeks ago
2 likes

These are all very good points, especially the last one.

The absolute state of the rear Crud Raceguard on that Jumbo Vismo rider, though!  Some people clearly need the mechanics to do everything for them...

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Jetmans Dad [210 posts] 3 weeks ago
7 likes
richtheblade wrote:

Great Article. However, surely there needs to be a section about leg shaving? I mean really whats the point? ... Is it just to look like a Pro? 

Personally I shave mine for the sake of vanity. 

As a middle-aged man, I suffer from male pattern baldness, but on my legs. The outside of the calves are almost bald while the insides are mostly hairy, but a bit patchy, which means they look ridiculous when I wear shorts (which is most of the period between April and October) and when I am out on the bike. So out comes the razor. 

Also ... my wife likes them that way ...

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Boatsie [537 posts] 3 weeks ago
2 likes
richtheblade wrote:

Great Article. However, surely there needs to be a section about leg shaving? I mean really whats the point? Most people who ride a bike: a) don't race to a high standard; therefore don't need the aero benefits (b) don't have regular massages post race, (c) don't fall off regulary and have road rash. So whats the point? Is it just to look like a Pro? 

Shaved legs slide, hairs tear.
Road rash not chunked and gashed.

I like the wide tyre bit.. I don't Watt anywhere near a pro hence with wind force tripling the exponential factor, if happy averaging lower speeds they're fantastic. A budget build over-sized sort of wind tapered frame and loving wider tyres. Sort of a care less ride.. If speeds are slower, pump 'em up. Rim durability increased too.

I think aero works. We might not be fast but still get head winds. Tyres less important though because if he's blowing, they'd probably blow too.

 1
Dude.. Wax, sugaring, more environmentally friendly.  3

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fincon1 [13 posts] 3 weeks ago
7 likes
rtw wrote:
alotronic wrote:

And unless you are in an *actual race* take the moment to wave hello to other riders when you are out in the sticks. The number of  riders who think doing 35kph on a Canyon Aero and wearing head to foot black makes them look cool enough to not acknowledge others out on the bike... 

Why do you need to be acknowledged this way?

It's not about being acknowledged. It's about being friendly!

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Boatsie [537 posts] 3 weeks ago
3 likes

Long story short..
Spin to win and at moment beyond grin, spun too much and bust some dust.
There's a fraction of faction with fiction of friction.
Hence. Shave to graze or wear hair and tear.
Aero? Who cares, hurts less.
Edit:
Wax to max with sugaring to make the wind sing.

 3

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joules1975 [610 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes
jollygoodvelo wrote:

These are all very good points, especially the last one.

The absolute state of the rear Crud Raceguard on that Jumbo Vismo rider, though!  Some people clearly need the mechanics to do everything for them...

Except that fitting the race guard like that means there is no rub on the rear wheel, and is thus quieter, and is quicker/easier to fit because you don't need to try and squeeze it between the tyre and brake and affix around the brake bolt with a zip tie (which if you've done it you'll know can be a right hassle).

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Judge dreadful [431 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes

All good points. It makes me chuckle when I see a tubby, hairy legged, faux pro, trying to give it billy big bollocks. " out of my way, I've got a ( insert ridiculously OTT bike) I'm a cat two I'll have you know, A CAT TWO DAMN YOU"

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kil0ran [1725 posts] 3 weeks ago
1 like

To get the best comfort out of 28mm tyres I think you either need to be a whippet or go tubeless. A 100psi 28mm is just as rock hard as a 25mm one...

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crazy-legs [1157 posts] 3 weeks ago
2 likes
fincon1 wrote:
rtw wrote:
alotronic wrote:

And unless you are in an *actual race* take the moment to wave hello to other riders when you are out in the sticks. The number of  riders who think doing 35kph on a Canyon Aero and wearing head to foot black makes them look cool enough to not acknowledge others out on the bike... 

Why do you need to be acknowledged this way?

It's not about being acknowledged. It's about being friendly!

Do you wave at everyone driving the same make of car as you? Or everyone in the supermarket?

I mean, don't get me wrong, I'll acknowledge most riders most of the time depending on things like practicality (traffic, weather, speed) but trying to wave at every rider round Richmond Park for example would mean your right hand was off the bars the entire time!

If I'm doing 40mph down a hill, I won't be waving or even glancing across at a rider going uphill on the other side!

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caw35ride [43 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes
richtheblade wrote:

Great Article. However, surely there needs to be a section about leg shaving? I mean really whats the point? Most people who ride a bike: a) don't race to a high standard; therefore don't need the aero benefits (b) don't have regular massages post race, (c) don't fall off regulary and have road rash. So whats the point? Is it just to look like a Pro? 

...and then you go and spoil it all by saying somethng stupid like...

 

...surely there needs to be a section about leg shaving?

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alotronic [642 posts] 3 weeks ago
3 likes
crazy-legs wrote:
fincon1 wrote:
rtw wrote:
alotronic wrote:

And unless you are in an *actual race* take the moment to wave hello to other riders when you are out in the sticks. The number of  riders who think doing 35kph on a Canyon Aero and wearing head to foot black makes them look cool enough to not acknowledge others out on the bike... 

Why do you need to be acknowledged this way?

It's not about being acknowledged. It's about being friendly!

Do you wave at everyone driving the same make of car as you? Or everyone in the supermarket?

I mean, don't get me wrong, I'll acknowledge most riders most of the time depending on things like practicality (traffic, weather, speed) but trying to wave at every rider round Richmond Park for example would mean your right hand was off the bars the entire time!

If I'm doing 40mph down a hill, I won't be waving or even glancing across at a rider going uphill on the other side!

 

Yeah fair point. Maybe it's just my London life which is so anon, I pass dozens of riders every day and no one says hi. Call me a bit of an of fashioned romantic but I guess I like to think of cyclists as having something of a community spirit. So yeah, naive as fuck I guess.  Also I am a kiwi so grew up waving to people and, beleive it or not, people with the same cars did used to acknowledge each other. So maybe there's some cultural difference in there too and I am expecting a bit much from the avergae busy Brit (flame wars start! Go back home if you don't like it etc etc etc)

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Jez Ash [253 posts] 3 weeks ago
5 likes
kil0ran wrote:

To get the best comfort out of 28mm tyres I think you either need to be a whippet or go tubeless. A 100psi 28mm is just as rock hard as a 25mm one...

Why would you run 100psi in a 28mm tyre? I'm around 85kg and run 65-70psi which is notably more compliant than 100psi in a 25mm tyre.

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antride [5 posts] 3 weeks ago
3 likes

Great article and spot on. But the bicycle industry marketing departments would possibly disagree with your column.  Spend your money peeps, and if you can't be Pro at least look Pro.  And keep those corporate dollar wheels spinning. wink

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brooksby [5167 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes

Grant Petersen wrote a whole book about what he considered to be the bad influence of "cycle racing" on "cycling".

http://cycloculture.blogspot.com/2012/07/grant-petersen-on-just-ride.html

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CyclingInBeastMode [131 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes

Don't push situations like every second counts, don't leave braking til the last second/metre, pros/competitve riders push and push until they crash, this is inevitable, your riding doesn't have to be like that.

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daturaman [47 posts] 3 weeks ago
2 likes
rtw wrote:
alotronic wrote:

And unless you are in an *actual race* take the moment to wave hello to other riders when you are out in the sticks. The number of  riders who think doing 35kph on a Canyon Aero and wearing head to foot black makes them look cool enough to not acknowledge others out on the bike... 

Why do you need to be acknowledged this way?

Common courtesy.

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Morat [349 posts] 3 weeks ago
2 likes

MUDGUARDS!! Couldn't agree more.

Riding in the rain is so much better when you're only getting the clean water falling from above and not the filthy muck coming up from underneath.

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andyp [1608 posts] 3 weeks ago
1 like

Christ on a bike, when did 'Watt' become a verb??

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peted76 [1609 posts] 3 weeks ago
1 like
rtw wrote:
alotronic wrote:

And unless you are in an *actual race* take the moment to wave hello to other riders when you are out in the sticks. The number of  riders who think doing 35kph on a Canyon Aero and wearing head to foot black makes them look cool enough to not acknowledge others out on the bike... 

Why do you need to be acknowledged this way?

Surprised this is even up for discussion. Strangers all over the world smile and acknowledge each other, it's part of a basic human requirement to be recognised in a positive light by others, by offering a simple positive action, like smiling, or waving. 

Agree though that sort of 'breezy wanton' behaviour might not go down so well in London* though...  no one seems to ever smile or says good morning to each other in our great nation's capital. 

I'll keep on waving to other cyclists they are all brothers and sisters of the saddle to me!

 

(*other miserable and or busy cities are available)

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Rapha Nadal [1167 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes

I honestly cannot believe that people are paid a salary to write this tripe.

Let people do whatever they want on, and with, their bikes.  I know a 63 year old rider who runs a slammed stem purely because he can and finds it comfortable for example.  The fact that he's still super fast makes it all the better.

And as for the comment relating to spray & rain?  If i'm out in the rain on my own then do you know what gets me wet?  Rain.  And that's with my mudguards on!

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Boatsie [537 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes

Summarized with ride something you enjoy riding (cosine) because (get the humour?) riding is enjoyable.
I liked the reading. A couple of years ago some bloke I've never met made my hero list on this site or a similar site as he had ridden a fixie and done well on a long race.
Fixies weren't mentioned above. I had a decent descent ride a year or 2 ago.. Ohh that feeling on a cheap maintenance bicycle. Head stems 1 spacer, drop grips fore of leading axle, legs spinning direct tune of drive, legs aching not from muscle strenuous, aching from rhythm. Already beyond comfort of cadence, arse getting pounded from motions of giddy up, only a couple of descent kilometres to go. Scary.. Stoked! Didn't stack it.
Yet we all understand displacement theory, move something out, something replaces. They're all the same just different due to languages. Air displacement, fluid displacement, energy displacement, solid mass displacement, vacuum displacement, light displacement.
Like the aero foil points at the slipped stream, energy kinetic fore of axle builds that flat wall and positioning points such at the drive, with turn and aid assistant of potential energy, the tune of kinetic energy osilates via the seat; giddy up. If laziness is choosen then stability is lost and with fore grasping onto Watt feeling of large amounts out front. Advancing pressure by 180° helps yet energy stability is heavily bias fore. Hence.. Didn't stack it.
Other bike has 3 spacers, ridden more often, too me such suits more often and wouldn't be enjoyable slammed.
What's a pro bike frame worth? Acceleration? Tapered shape? Low friction? Built to purpose going fast?
What's Wattage of man enjoying ride?
I like bikes too. The nearly slammed I guess average at 25-30kmph yet that's a work-out.
The triple spacer nearer 20-25kmph and awesome fun.
Flat bar nearer 20kmph yet horrible weather normally.
Lots of older men have more muscle than I.
Great article

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Boatsie [537 posts] 3 weeks ago
0 likes

Maybe less confusion?
Ever ridden a skateboard? Loose trucks are far more agile yet if wheel grabs board the brakes become. Hence as a beginner although I've skated lots of years, my trucks are tightened more so than mates whom rock.
Similar is a slammed headstem. Some blokes have ridden lots, some blokes prefer less agility such that their enjoyment of energy spent is such on the drive system.
It's really fun bolting down a hill, visually surveying the long bumps; the short flats, and preparing the journey with simple choices; increase traction or Prepare to get loose and expect higher acceleration.
Hence beginners would likely more so enjoy raised stems.. One could always experiment with the spacer stack and move spacers as appropriate above and below to suit.
One more example. Imagine a round stick on a perpendicular round stick. To balance a beginner would be use of most energy rather than jump.
I love my night bike, that ain't slammed but grips leverage of mass fore of tyre. She don't break wind, she joins wind behind. An agility mix that allows blind speedy flicks.
Stuffed if I roll into a pothole though.

Faster than giddy up  1