6 Cycling Tips For A Better Workout | Women's Health

6 Cycling Tips For A Better Workout

by | Jan 4, 2018

You never forget how to ride a bike. But a few pointers can help you get more out of your workout. Olympian Alison Dunlap, who runs mountain-bike skills clinics in Utah and Colorado, offers these tips for elevating your ride to the next level.

Pedal Smoothly

Your goal: Cycle in fluid circles rather than jamming down on the pedals. With the ball of your foot on the pedal, push down, then pull your foot through the bottom of the stroke, then pull up and back around. Aim for about 90 rpm (to calculate rpm, count how many times your right knee comes up in 60 seconds). “A faster cadence works your cardiovascular system and doesn’t tire your muscles as quickly as slower, low-gear pedaling does,” says Dunlap. Your speed will naturally slow on hills and quicken on descents. In a cycling class, your instructor may call out specific rpms, and some studio bikes will give you a computerized readout. Though you don’t need cycling shoes, they help transfer power into your pedals while keeping your feet from fatiguing.

Eyes On The Prize

Resist the urge to put your head down when you’re going hard or getting tired. It can slow your oxygen intake, tiring you out faster. (Not to mention it spells danger on the road.)

Core Performance

While your legs are busy pumping, keep your upper body still—don’t rock side to side, especially while climbing. Always maintain a flat back and keep your elbows bent and relaxed (it helps absorb shock when you hit a bump). Hold your arms in line with your body, not out to the side. Keeping your upper body relaxed will reduce strain on your lower back.

Take A Seat

Your weight should feel evenly distributed, with 60 percent on the saddle (seat) and 40 percent on the handlebar. The saddle height should be positioned so there’s a slight bend in your knee when your foot is at the bottom of a stroke. Most of all, you should be comfortable. Your best bet? Get a professional bike fit at a shop.

RELATED: What Cycling Does For Your Body?

Get Up

Sitting is the most efficient way to ride–you can use up to 10 percent more energy when you’re out of the saddle. But sometimes, like on a monster hill, you need extra power. When you stand, all of your body weight pushes down on the pedals, giving each stroke more oomph. If you stand, shift into a harder gear so your legs don’t circle too quickly, rise up, and keep your butt over the seat.

Stop Smart

“Brake smoothly and evenly, lightly squeezing and releasing the brakes to control your speed rather than grabbing fistfuls at once,” says Dunlap. About 75 percent of your stopping power comes from the front brake (left-hand side). But squeezing that one too hard can send you over the handlebar. Keep in mind that when you hit the brakes, your bike slows but your body keeps going forward, making it harder to steer. Shift your weight back to maintain better control.

RELATED: Meet Grace Elvin: The Pro Road Cyclist

This article originally appeared on Women’s Health US.

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8 Of The Best Exercise Shorts That Will Power You Through A Summer Of Movement

It’s official: Shorts Season is officially here. While lockdown has seen many of us realise that activewear is less something to be worn for a workout and more a uniform we choose to do any and all daily activities in, when the warmer temperatures roll around, that favourite pair of sweatpants and leggings sometimes don’t cut it. Sure, they might be a staple in any wardrobe, but the Aussie sun doesn’t listen to reason, no matter how comfortable or cute it might be. And when it comes to summer, working out in leggings can feel like being trapped in a sauna, the sweat pooling at your ankles and around the waistband – as well as those other areas we won’t mention here. 

But as we transition from leggings to shorts, it becomes clear pretty quickly that not all shorts are created equal, and certainly not all shorts are fit for a workout. Take it from us at Women’s Health HQ, we’ve been there, tried it and lived to see the consequences. From the shorts that look cute but ride up to show your undies on the run, to those that feel like being strapped into a harness that’s digging into your hip bones. Then there are the fabrics that can cause chafing – a big no – and those that basically shine a spotlight on any area you might be sweating. 

Thankfully, a number of brands are here to cater to your exercise needs with innovative materials, fabrics and sustainable options to see you through a summer of movement. Regardless of your workout preferences or daily activity, we’ve selected the best shorts that will ensure you feel good in your body, shorts that get you excited to embrace the day and attack it with energy, that make you want to get outside and enjoy the outdoors, whether it be walking, running, or socialising in the park. Here are our pick of the best bike shorts below. 


Uptown Biker, $240

What says summer more than a pop of orange and the sleek shape of these Nagnata biker shorts? With its mid-length and horizontal raised rib side detail, these are shorts you can wear both for a workout and out to meet the girls. Made in Australia with a technical knit fabrication, the double-layer jacquard provides gentle sculpting qualities for the body, making it an excellent choice for light to moderate fitness activities like yoga, pilates or barre. 

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New Balance

Q Speed Fuel Short, $70

We love the colour of these shorts from New Balance which are cut with a sleek, speedy look that also helps to elongate the legs. Featuring NB DRY moisture wicking fabric, these are the shorts you want for high intensity exercise or long runs, keeping you comfortable and dry. There’s also an interior brief for added comfort and a stash pocket to keep your essentials. 

All Access

Ultra High Rise Zip Front Biker Short, $78

Yes, the colour is amazing but the fit is equally sensational on these All Access shorts. For those who love a high-rise fit and wide waistband that holds you in at the waist, look no further. The sleek, shiny look offers mid-compression and the fabric is moisture-wicking, so you can stay comfortable even during your sweatiest workouts. 


Nike x Naomi Osaka Utility Short, $90

Few things are worse than heading out the door for a run and realising your shorts offer no pockets for those essentials you need. You’re left to hold your iPhone, keys, and anything else you might need in your sweaty palm. Thankfully, Naomi Osaka knows what we need when it comes to exercise shorts and these utility shorts from her collaboration with Nike offer all that and more with a relaxed fit and elastic waistband. 


Session short Tights, $72

When it comes to bike shorts, you want to feel supported and held in but you also want to be able to breathe. These Tracksmith session short tights are exceptional in offering support while still ensuring comfort remains a priority. Forget about chafing, these shorts won’t ride up and down and the fabric offers more coverage and support against the body. 

Outdoor Voices

Relay 3” Short, $48

Who said summer shorts have to be boring? Outdoor Voices brings fashion-forward style and playfulness to their collections with fun prints and exciting colours. We love the relay 3” shorts for their ultralight, quick-drying fabric that also happens to be made from recycled polyester. But more importantly, we love the print and Poppy Swirl is as good as it gets. There’s even a hidden pocket for your valuables, too. 


Align High-Rise Short 6”, $69

If you’re familiar with the buttery-soft feel of Lululemon’s tights, you’ll want to get your hands on a pair of their shorts, too. Made with the same Nulu fabric that their tights are known for, these shorts feel weightless and super soft. They might be our go-to staple for any workout, but the feel is so second-skin that it’s hard to not wear them for every other activity, too. 

Spiritual Gangster

Seamless Biker Short, $112

These biker shorts from Spiritual Gangster move with you, thanks to a three-tiered compressive waistband that offers a flattering high waist that hugs you in all the right places, without proving constrictive. They offer medium compression but are built for all day comfort, and the colour is a true summer staple because, let’s face it, who doesn’t love tie-dye?