The fundamentals of getting faster on your bike. by Coach Craig
Cycling is like any other sport, there are fundamental skills, equipment and conditioning that create our performance on the bike. Like the elemental table they are the building blocks of all matter, in our case they build the cyclist we are or want to become. Some of us use only some of the elements, and others use all of them in the right quantities and the right order to maximize our speed and performance. Here are some helpful tips if you want to get faster this season.
1. Be sure your bike fits you well, you could be leaving 10% or more of your speed in a bad fit. We see it every season, riders with power meters see instant gains after getting fit correctly to their bikes. Plus they enjoy cycling more if they are comfortable and fast on the bike.
2. Lighten your load. Better hill climbing is the #1 focus of many riders, especially around here. The equation to improve is simple and proven: increase your watts per kilogram. Watts is how hard your can push the pedals over time, and kilograms is how much you AND your bike weigh. So many people have extra things on their bikes, take off everything you can, and buy the lightest parts you can ride comfortably. See my article on weight loss to lose 10 pounds in a month and still feel great: Varsity Diet
3. Train harder and have a plan. The most important part of any cycling training plan is figuring out the number of hours or miles you will ride on a daily and weekly basis. These training rides are the building blocks that will prepare your body and mind to ride long and hard on the day of the event. The less time you have to train, the harder you should ride. If you only do 2 spin classes a week, you should be puking at each one! If you ride 12 hours a week, you need longer endurance days and hard short days. Get a plan and work it!
4. Learn to draft and ride with others. Take a cycling skills class from Cycle U and join a community like the Cascade Bicycle Club or the Portland Wheelmen or join a racing team to learn the language of group cycling and become comfortable riding with other people. You will instantly be 20% faster if you can learn to draft and ride behind other faster riders.
5. Take your time and work at a level your body will allow. Don’t ride as hard as you can on every training ride. This is the most common rookie mistake. Start your training with easy miles and add an occasional hard day once every week or two. The rule of thumb for any long ride is to gradually build your endurance until you can complete 75 percent of the mileage of your longest day of your event or goal.
6. As your miles increase, also increase your speed. On normal training rides, slow down when you start breathing hard and if you can’t say a 10-word sentence at a normal tone. After a month of riding, pick one day a week to go really hard on a hill and repeat it 5 times. This kind of hard interval training is an example of what it takes to increase speed and stamina.
7. Take care of yourself. Eat right with an emphasis on carbohydrates for recovery and endurance, stay hydrated and sleep at least eight hours a night. Two weeks before the event – after your last big ride – focus on recovery. Your mileage will decrease, but keep your cadence high and your effort at or above your target speeds to help ensure fast legs. Massage and foam rollers are great tools to help you recover.
8. Rest up for big rides. During the last 2 weeks before a big ride, ride hard every 3rd day, and rest the other two. Remember: by this point, your training is already in the bank. Resting up will get you fresh for the big day and these rides will keep you as fast as possible and loosened up. A short spin the day before will help you get going faster on your event day. Recovery is as important as training, give yourself a day or two after a big ride to recover before you do more.
Some of these tips will give you instant improvement like lightening your bike, others will take time like learning to draft or training better. Tackle one at a time and soon you will see your average speed increase, and your enjoyment of cycling rise as you climb.
Have a great time preparing for your season, and like we say at Cycle U, Get Ready To Ride!