Tips to Increase Cycling Speed
Whether you’re a road cyclist or a triathlete all of us have one common goal…RIDE FASTER! Perhaps you’re putting in the time, yet aren’t seeing the desired results. It’s possible you’re not doing the right training that will translate to increased mph. However, by following the five tips below you’ll increase your speed and work towards that PR you’ve been chasing.
There are different interval training workouts that really improve your efficiency and speed on the bike. Although challenging, it is a great workout to complete once you’re in the build phase of your training during racing season. Depending on the distance of your next race, you can determine how long your interval workout will be.
It is prudent to not start intervals without a proper warmup, as this could lead to muscle strains. Hence, a warmup of 15-30 minutes depending on your fitness level is indicated. Ensure that during your warmup phase you’re simply spinning, in a small-medium gear, with a few off-seat pedal strokes. Upon completion of your warmup, you may begin your intervals using the following sequence: work interval (WI): x amount of time, with a rest interval (RI) that is ½ of your work-interval. For instance, if you had a work interval that lasted 10 minutes at a high intensity, then your rest interval should be no more than 5 minutes. This pattern should be repeated and becomes the bulk of your workout. The length of time for interval training depends on your fitness level and duration of your next race.
In addition, there are different types of work intervals that can be completed to increase speed. You can complete work intervals that have you riding at goal race pace. Another effective interval, is riding in a smaller gear with a high cadence, and maintaining that cadence throughout the WI. If you’re a beginner cyclist, then these WI can include drill work such as single-leg pedal strokes. In this drill, you spin with one leg doing the work, while the opposite leg glides along. You complete this until fatigue sets in, then switch legs, completing this pattern until the WI time has elapsed.
An effective method to increase speed work and cadence involves trainer workouts. Although they can be incredibly dull to the senses, trainer workouts is great for cycling training. On a trainer, you can manage the amount of resistance by adjusting the back knob to your rear wheel. There are no gaps when riding on a trainer, forcing your muscles to constantly work.
Tempo rides involve a proper warmup as listed above followed by a specific duration where you’re riding at a sub-maximal level or goal race pace. Once again the duration of your tempo ride depends on your fitness level and distance of next race. Typically, these are very challenging rides that push you to new limits and help your body adapt to a higher average speed.
It is recommended to do these as a group ride with riders that are at a similar or higher fitness level than yourself. By riding with more experienced riders you push yourself beyond what you’ve grown accustomed to thus, improving. These can be completed 1-2 a week during your build and peak phases of training. These group rides are sometimes conducted by your local bike shops or through memberships to cycling teams/groups.
By reading this headline “riding more” it seems like an obvious concept however, as a beginner cyclist you may just try to ride the duration of your next race and think you’re set. However, in order to become fast it’s important to ride at least double the distance of your next race. If your next race is 24 miles, then have some long rides where you’re riding 50-60 miles. In using this method, once you ride those 24 miles they’ll feel like a breeze and you’ll be able to push yourself more during the shorter distance. Additionally, if you’ve only been riding 2-3 times a week then it would be advisable to increase your riding sessions to 4-5 times a week. However, ensure you do not make this jump from one week to the next in order to avoid injury. This increase in riding has to be completed gradually over time in order to adapt the body to the higher volume.
It is imperative you do not ride just for the sake of riding; each workout has to have a goal and execution plan. For example, if you’ve been noticing that you acquire lactic acid buildup quickly and need to increase your threshold, then insert some workouts that involve anaerobic work. If the issue is endurance, then include long rides at a more moderate pace.
Integrating weight-lifting sessions with your cycling regime is beneficial for numerous reasons. For one, if you’re increasing your volume or speed, strengthening your legs can help address muscle imbalances and prevent injuries. If you’re new to the world of cycling then weight-lifting that is centered around high-weight/low repetitions would be helpful in building muscle mass and preparing your legs for the cycling sessions to come. By building muscle mass, you increase the amount of cells within those muscles which house mitochondria. Having more mitochondria, helps increase your aerobic capacity and energy production, because you have more cells working towards the same goal. As an experienced cyclist, it is indicated to weight-lift with low weight and high repetitions. In doing 15-20 repetitions with low weight you increase the endurance of your muscles thus, increasing the time they reach lactic threshold when riding.
Many times cyclists think that by buying a more aerodynamic bike and corresponding equipment it will help them go faster. Although a carbon frame is lighter than aluminum and can make riding easier it is not the ultimate solution to increasing speed. It’s been shown that aerodynamic equipment makes the biggest difference when long course racing, but not much in short course races. The vital component is working on the “engine” and having the equipment become a secondary help. In following these 5 tips your cycling “engine” will improve significantly.