Riding faster

I was asked last week how do you ride fast. The guy that I was speaking to rides regularly but doesn’t seem to be able to ride any faster. That got me thinking as I like riding fast. But before we get to involved we need to ask, what is fast? It is all relative. Fast for you, fast compared with you mates, fast compared with your fellow competitors, fast compared with your heroes (heroines)? You need to know what fast is for you before you can try to be faster.

I ride a bike because I enjoy the feeling of speed.  Cycling can be fast downhill when the adrenalin can really pump, it can feel fast on a climb when you know that you are cutting a fair pace, most of all, for me, its about overall ride speed. Not how quick I made a climb or descent but how fast I rode overall. All I want to see on my GPS is my average speed. On or offroad it’s all the same.

Recently I’ve been nursing an injury and have had to back off a bit so I have been riding on my own. I ride briskly and after a few weeks I was starting to think that I was going fast. Here is the first mistake if you want to ride quick. On your own you think that you are quick, Strava may even massage your ego and tell you that you are quick but you are not. If you want to be quick you need to ride with someone who is quicker. I started out today thinking that I was fast but realised that my buddies were quicker. Today it hurt.

So let me give you a few tips on riding fast. It may seem obvious but to ride fast you need to ride fast. Don’t think that by riding as hard as possible for the whole of ride will make you any faster. Ride faster for shorter distances first. If you can’t average 18mph over 30 miles, try riding 20miles.

There are several types of speed but to keep it simple just think about pedal speed and power speed (the hard one). You’ll never really realise how fast you can pedal and how much of an asset it can be until you are maxed out with you legs in a blur trying to stay on some ones wheel. Put simply, for the average guy, if you want to go quicker you need to pedal faster. Power is limited, whereas you can always pedal a bit faster (with practice), you can only dig into you power reserves for limited periods and only for a restricted number of times. Dig too deep too often and you’ll burn up and have to crawl home.

Break your ride down into small sections. On the fast pedalling bits don’t change up to hit 25mph but turn the pedals quicker saving energy for your power sections. It may feel odd but you’ll get used to it. Use a cadence monitor or count: 16 full revolutions in 10 seconds is 96rpm, 100 is fast 120 is faster. When it comes to the inevitable climb and your cranks slow down use you power. Stamp on those pedals and put in some real effort. I’d recommend choosing a route that has power climbs that match your strength. Avoid the Bostal but try to max out on shorter sections. Always break down your rides into manageable chunks, better to go really hard on a short climb than burn up on a long one. Over time you’ll start to manage your efforts to match the ride and your average speed will go up. This is all about starting to ride quicker. Shorten your rides but ride faster. Once you can regularly hit your new average target you’ll know how it feels and can start to extent your distance.

Spinning and power workouts do over lap. Did you see Steve Cummings breaking away on the last 4km in the Vuelta two days ago? He gave a master class in combining maximum power and spinning together matching it to his ability (he was a 4,000 pursuit champion).  There’ll be times when you realise that you are pedalling too slow, your usual option would be to change gear but, as you get stronger, you can use your power to push harder to get your cadence up. Take care here to manage your effort so that you don’t blow up. Remember that speed is what you want. You’ll find yourself constantly trying to manage the balance between pedal speed and effort.

One other thing to remember is that going faster means more effort, and just as you may be familiar with your car’s engine screaming, you will need to get used to your body screaming. No pain, no gain! Not everyone takes the same approach (and enjoying cycling doesn’t require this) but for those of you that are willing to go that extra mile the pain is worth it and you may discover the masochistic side of any sport that gives so much pleasure.

Today we went for a ride out towards Goodwood avoiding too much climbing. As usual in post Olympic Britain there were riders everywhere and unlike most motorist there was an idiot on the lane between Halnaker and Goodwood. He obviously had the wrong idea about the Paralympics thinking that maiming another cyclist might be a good thing! There was plenty room on the road so why hate cyclists so much? Do you know the owner of a black Passat reg no. W4 W5P (could be an S)?

Here’s the ride on Strava and on Garmin Connect. You can still get £30 back when you buy a Garmin Edge 200, that is what I use but the 500 would be the one to get if you want to monitor your cadence.

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