Cheating is something that we all do or have done. To cheat: Act dishonestly or unfairly in

Quest ToH team
The South Downs Way Team in Surrey

order to gain an advantage – according to the Oxford Dictionary. That pretty much sums up what we cyclists do. How often have you tried to buy your way to speed or wheel sucked your ride home? Cheat!

I considered “cheating” the only way to gain an advantage when I was racing my mountain bike. All the other riders were either younger, not working (at least not as hard as me), didn’t commute… I had no end of excuses to justify it. Whilst my cheating was not necessarily dishonest nor unfair I still felt that is was a cheat, albeit justifiable.

How did I cheat? I would take the better line. I would give that extra effort to hit the single track first. I would pedal smoother. I’d get the gearing right. I’d use Conti Cross Country 1.5” whenever it was muddy (do you remember those?). These were all things that would give me the edge as I knew that I couldn’t do the training that the other riders seem to do. It was never about money and buying the ultimate kit but it did feel as if I was cheating the other riders.

Q-rings and chain
Q-rings and broken chain, lost 20mins but caught them up!

What reminds me of this is not the doping discussion that seems to continue to come back into cycling but Sunday’s ride. I seem to be going fairly well this year so I thought I’d see how much cheating that I am doing. First off I have changed my position on the bike. I have changed the way that I ride up hill. I have lost weight (2 kilos this year and 3 the year before). I am lower on the bike. I have fit Rotor Q-Rings. And, I take beetroot juice!!! These are all things that seem to be helping me go quicker and for longer. Sunday’s ride extra investment was a paltry £5.37 (3 x Zipvit Nitrate Gels).

My bike goes quicker uphill as I am more over the pedals I moved my saddle forward 20mm. I have made a conscious effort not the hang onto the hoods, with a teeth grinding death grip fighting the bike, but to grab the top of the bar, relax, open up my chest, breath and use the gears. I keep the cadence high early in the climb and spin to the top. I use Q-Rings. And I take concentrated beetroot juice in the form of a Zipvit Nitrate Gel for any endurance event and they have worked incredibly for me.

I alluded to the fact that it was not about money so you may ask about the Q-Rings. Well, compact chainsets have their place but with a 50 up front there is a tendency to use it all the time, cross chaining up every modest climb and that means it wears out. My Campagnolo Record 50 ring was hooked and looked like a mountain biker’s worn out middle ring. I had to change it because of the chain suck. The Q-Rings weren’t much more money than Record so that was a justifiable and a necessary expense. The oval rings give me, effectively, more power just at the point where I put maximum effort into the pedal. The 52/36 allows me to use the 36 much more than I used the 34. My Scott Addict 10 has an even better gear ratio with its 53/39 chainset and MTB proportioned 11/28 cassette – shame that the rings are round.

That’s the road bike covered. However with the mountain bike I did spend to go faster and as a shop owner I should encourage that sort of thing. I fit a Rotor chainset and Q-Rings just to get me across the South Downs as quickly as possible. Is that cheating?

Here is the ride, The Tour of the Hills (Surrey) well worth downloading and doing either as one ride or split over two: beautiful! We had rain, sun, clear roads and filthy roads. Thanks to the organisers for such a good event and the masses of food at the finish.

If you want help with your riding position or technique think about having a bike fit, its not cheating.

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