I was riding my bike this weekend trying to prepare for my big ride in August, and I came to a startling realization.

Sometimes, it’s okay to coast.

No, that’s not fitness blasphemy for someone trying to get a good workout; it’s actually good strategy. This epiphany came to me when I was working some hills (bumps in the road to my friend Sally, but hills to me) and trying to get the most from my legs and my bike. When my feet were doing nothing more than spinning the pedals on the downhill run, I realized some things:

  • At a certain point, pedaling faster or harder doesn’t take you any farther, regardless of how much you’ve geared down. You just use up precious energy you’re going to need the instant you bottom out and start to climb again.
  • Coasting doesn’t mean quitting; sometimes it is simply a means to marshal your reserves.
  • The important part of coasting is knowing when to start and stop. Coast only when your extra effort brings nothing in return. Start pedaling the second your effort adds even the tiniest bit to your forward motion.

Chances are, you have a lot of miles ahead of you. Know when to ease up and prepare for what’s coming, and that applies to more than a bicycle.