A leisurely bike ride is a wonderful way to relax. But letting your mind wander while on a bike can be dangerous if you’re a bike commuter and can negatively affect your performance as a competitive cycle racer. These five essential cycling tips can help you become a more focused rider.
Avoiding Brain Drain
The brain consumes energy when telling your body what to do, sorting out information coming in through your senses, and solving everyday problems. Piling on too much information, whether by going over your shopping list or worrying about work, imposes a greater cognitive load on your brain, causing it to use more energy.
Mental distractions detract from your ability to focus on cycling, especially as you approach “the bonk,” or that moment of hitting the wall. When the bonk hits, you need all the mental toughness you can muster to get through a training session or a race and resist the temptation to quit.
Studies have shown that cyclists who complete cognitively demanding tasks (“Brain Endurance Training” or BET) after training rides perform better over time.
Tips for Staying Focused While Cycling
There are several things you can do to become a more focused cyclist. The following are effective options for improving your focus.
Establishing a Pre-Ride Routine
Creating a routine before you start cycling can help ease your mind and mentally prepare you for the ride ahead. This pre-ride routine could include stretching, deep breathing exercises, visualization, or listening to your favorite music or podcast.
Setting Goals for Your Ride
Whether it’s reaching a specific distance, improving your time, or staying alert throughout your ride, setting goals can help you maintain your focus and motivation. Plus, you can enjoy the satisfaction of meeting your goals and even create a reward system for yourself.
Distractions typically come from your mind, but they also stem from your body. Uncomfortable clothing, sunburn, insect bites, and sweat can all affect your performance. Don’t forget your sunscreen—some brands include insect repellent as well as sun protection. Wear technical apparel designed for cycling to keep you comfortable as your ride. You can invest in a quality cycling headband that diverts sweat away from your eyes, helps keep your vision clear, and prevents that annoying salty sting.
Try Mental Intervals
Just like HIIT for the body, you can do interval training for the brain. Practice focusing on pedaling for one minute, then switch to breathing, then check in on your goals for the ride. Remember to take a break in between intervals of this kind of focused concentration to re-evaluate your surroundings and make sure you continue to ride safely.
Mix Up Your Routes
Constantly riding the same route can lead to boredom, which can cause your focus to wane. Explore new routes and terrains to keep things fresh and mentally stimulating.
Staying focused while cycling is crucial for your safety, performance, and overall enjoyment of the sport. Begin implementing these cycling tips to become a more focused rider, and track your performance improvement as you go.