How to Sprint

Winning races usually requires sprinting ability. If you’re racing a bike, as an amateur or professional, becoming a better sprinter can be the difference between the 1st place or the 20th.

You can say “I am not a racer, why work on my sprint?” Because sprinting is fun. It is pure play to go fast. Also, the ability to sprint is useful in emergencies, like evading a car that is coming at you from a side street or outrunning a chasing dog.

Mark Cavendish
You never try to be a World Champion, maybe, but sprinting is still fun.

Here is the basic sprint training:

  1. Roll along comfortably to warm up.
  2. After warm up, shift to a slightly larger (easier) gear.
  3. Grasp the handlebar in the drops.
  4. As your pedal goes over the top of the stroke, come off the saddle.
  5. Accelerate smoothly and powerfully. Put all your effort to the pedals.
  6. Go as hard as you can.
  7. To keep the bike under control, pull hard with the arm that’s on the same side as the foot that’s pushing down.
  8. Keep your both arms rigid. But your arms also be relaxed enough overall to let the bike move slightly beneath you. It should stay almost vertical, swaying back and forth only a bit. Do not emulate riders who swing the bike wildly from side to side. Doing that makes it hard to sprint in a straight line. Even badly, if you should encounter something slippery on the surface (water, gravel, sand, oil), slanted wheels could slide out from under you.
  9. Keep your weight back. This will help to maintain traction on the rear wheel.
  10. Keep your head up to scan the road for obstacles.

Once you have got the sprint basics down, try the drills below to really improve in sprinting.

  1. Pick a road sign, telephone pole, or mailbox about a hundred meters up the road. Roll slowly in an easy gear (i.e., 39×15-tooth), then sprint hard out of the saddle. As soon as you get the gear turning fast (about 110-120 rpm) sit down and smoothly maintain that cadence to your landmark. Shift to an easier gear and roll easily for 3-5 minutes. Repeat this sequence about 5 times.
  2. Find a gradual hill about 300 meters long. Using your small chainring (e.g., 39×17- or 19-tooth), climb the first half in a moderate gear. Then shift to the big ring but leave the chain on the same cog (the 17 or 19). Sprint as hard as you can to the top. If you blow up before the top, this means the gear is too big or the hill too long for your present fitness level. WARNING: Do not do this workout before you have a solid base of cycling fitness. Even then, limit it to once per week.