2021 – what did I learn?

What a year. The second full year of COVID, including several lockdowns and limited ability to meet people and travel. Still, things eased up compared to 2020.

Here is a summary of what happened:

  • Got myself a new road bike, the Cannondale CAAD 13. An unexpected purchase, but it is really nippy and light and just wants to be ridden at high speed!
  • Rode in my first race, the Wachauer Radmarathon. So much fun, despite the rain. This was primarily due to amazing team mates (you know who you are!).
  • Rode my first and second solo time trials (16 and 22 km). Despite pretty crummy performances (including a puncture 300 m from the finish line) I came in 15th in the overall rankings (including races I never participated in). I learnt a lot about aerodynamics and body position – this requires a lot of practice, but is really worth it in racing.
  • Rode my first criterium and came last (a proud lanterne rouge!). Quite a learning experience about the application of power, slipstreaming and group riding. I can only improve next time!
  • Rode the Donauradweg from Passau to Vienna within a day. My longest ride at 330 km.
  • Instead of Berlin-Munich, I bikepacked on a 340 km 2-day cross country trip to my first day of my summer holidays. This started riding 180 km in headwind along the Danube to Linz in the rain, overnight in a barrel at a friendly campsite, and 160km cross country to Altausee.
  • Rode my first e-mountain bike in the Salzburg mountains, what an amazing experience. I want to try out more mountain bike trails in the mountains. Time for a new mountain bike?
  • Rode my first team time trial at King of the Lake. Amazing atmosphere and it was great to ride closely with my team mates. Ok performance from my side, but a really good learning experience.
  • Did my first performance / lactate test and got my first official FTP value (340W, booya). Sounds pretty epic, but I’m a big guy so my FTP/kg is fairly average. Time to lose some excess baggage.
  • Speaking of which, I’ve focussed on improving my diet. I’m not necessarily concentrating on dramatic weight loss, but leaning up a bit and improving my nutrition. I lost about 10 kg this year.
  • Started properly training for the 2022 season, and got a TrainingPeaks account so it’s official. I’m planning on self coaching using the Cyclist’s Training Bible by Joe Friel and The Time Crunched Cyclist by Chris Carmichael. TSS (Training Stress Score) is my new friend!
  • Got myself a smart trainer and started using Zwift. Not quite the same as riding outside, but interesting nonetheless. I tried racing and also rode up the virtual Mount Ventoux.
  • I lost my fear of cycling uphill and oddly enough I actually enjoy it. I’m not planning on practicing outside until spring comes around (too much ice, and I like my teeth too much), but this will become an important part of my training.

What are the top 5 things I’ve learnt in 2021?

  • Racing isn’t frightening – make sure your bike well maintained, keep an eye out on what is happening around you, and cover your brakes.
  • Learn basic bike maintenance and carry around at least a mini-tool, pump and an inner tube. Practice changing a tyre, as well as adjusting your brakes and derailleurs.
  • Bike touring is the best. Take a few bags, your bike computer, and just cycle in one direction. Make sure you overnight somewhere before going back home – a hotel, hostel, campsite, tent, or bivvy bag.
  • Look around you when cycling. Don’t get too focused on the road (but stay safe!) and enjoy your surroundings – look for animals, birds, nice trees and flowers, interesting buildings, hills, anything! My personal favourites are trains.
  • Using your bike for your chores is awesome. Bring a strong lock, pannier bags, and a GPS, and you can nip around town faster than by car, taxi, public transport, or on foot.

What did you learn this 2021? Please comment below, I’d be interested to read your insights!

(Credit for header picture: Designecologist (Pexels.com)

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