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8 ways you don't need to copy pro cyclists

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?


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.

slammed stem - 1.jpg

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).

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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.

2021 Goodyear Eagle F1 Supersport Tubeless Complete 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.


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.

2021 SKS Chromoplastics mudguard rear wide.JPG

Check out 20 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, 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.

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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

Giro stage 10 ride - dave with a finish line beer

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 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 over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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