Stop Stressing Over Flats
Don't wait until you're on the road to hone your flat-changing skills, says Lennard Zinn, author of Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance. "Practice changing a tire in the comfort of your garage using the same pump and tools you carry on your ride, and you'll be less worried about getting a flat far from home."
Ride a Fast 100
Take a cue from the pro peloton and ride with a group of friends, says 1984 Olympic gold medalist Connie Carpenter. "Cycling is always more fun—and faster—in a group. And don't stop for long at the aid stations, if at all."
Find the Right Saddle Height
"Lean against a wall, sit on the saddle, then hang both feet straight down," says Todd Carver of the bike-fitting company Ret?l. "If your saddle height is correct, your heel should just graze the pedal at the bottom of the pedal stroke." If you have pain in the front of your knees after the first few rides, your saddle is probably too low. If you feel pain in the back of the knee, drop the saddle a little.
It's okay to glance down at your bottle before grabbing or replacing it, says former Tour de France rider Frankie Andreu, "but keep your eyes on the road as you reach. Don't tilt your head to get the water into your mouth--tilt the bottle." "If something comes up while you're drinking," adds mountain bike pro Todd Wells, "bite the bottle until you're through the tricky part." Try one of these 11 Tasty Beers for Post-Ride Recovery for a refresher.
Shift Like Butter
Anticipation is the key to proper shifting, says Frankie Andreu. "To make the transition smoother, try to change gears just before you really need to." Tom Zirbel recommends shifting at the dead spot of your pedal stroke, when your feet are at 12 and 6 o'clock. "The less pressure you put on the pedals," he says, "the more reliable your derailleurs will be."