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Road Bike Skills 101: Sprinting

Now that you know basic road bike body position, how to shift, descend, corner and draft it’s time to increase the speed! Learning how to sprint on a road bike will help you catch up to the group, become a more confident bike handler, and develop your winning sprint! Learn the basics of how to sprint on a road bike below.

Body Position

  1. Hands in Drops

Placing your hands on the drops instead of on the hoods will give you more traction and leverage to throw the bike during your sprint.

  1. Out of Saddle

Standing up and getting out of the saddle during a sprint will allow you to put more power into your pedals and accelerate during a sprint. When you stand, your weight shifts forward.

  1. Bent Elbows

Bending your elbows as you stand will give you room to move the bike underneath you. In addition, bending your elbows inward will add to aerodynamics.

  1. Flat Back

The taller you are on the bike, the less aerodynamic you will be. By getting your back as flat as possible you will not only be more aerodynamic, you will also have more weight forward which will increase your acceleration.

  1. Look Up

Don’t forget to look where you are going! When practicing your sprint, having a target (like a mailbox, road sign, or spot on the road) will give you focus. During a race, looking up will allow you to pick your lines around riders and keep you moving in a straight line.

Basic Sprinting Tips

Shift before you stand: As you ramp up for your sprint, you should be shifting into harder gears while you are seated to increase your power output. Right before you stand, shift one or two gears harder so you have more resistance to matched the increased power output you get when you are standing on the pedals.

Keep shifting: While you are standing and sprinting, you might find that your cadence is getting too fast and your power output is leveling off. To keep accelerating, make sure you continue to shift into harder gears. If you are shifting while in the midst of your sprint, remember your gears are under load. Shifting under load could result in skipping gears or even breaking a chain. Before a race, make sure your gears are in tip-top shape and you have a new chain on your bike to avoid any big problems. You can also lighten up on your pedals for a half stroke while you shift, which will take some practice to perfect!

Arms control the bike and add leverage: As you sprint, pushing and pulling on your handlebars (and thus moving your bike from side to side underneath you) will help you control the bike and increase your leverage – helping your legs provide more power!

So how do you get faster at sprinting? Practice! Set aside some rides specifically for sprint training. Whether you are practicing hill sprints while seated or standing, flat sprints where you give an all-out 10-second effort, or you challenge your friends to sprint to the town limit sign, the more you practice sprinting, the better you’ll get!

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