Improve performance/speed how

by stevetaylor20   July 1, 2014  

Guys & girls,

I'm okay at cycling but prob an amateur compared to some. I like a challenge so i've decided I want to beat or get close to a strava kom around Richmond Park in London. I've been out around it twice, once on my old bike and didn't try hard and recently on my new cervelo s3 2014 and got ranked about 1,000 our of 11,000 with a time of 19:52 av. speed 20.1. I wasn't feeling the best and i am still recovering form some kidney problem. Anyways, the record is 15:33. How on earth can I beat this?!

I don't wear full lycra or a helmet, so i'll prob have to start doing that, does it make much difference? Do i need better wheels, i have the standard average mavic's that come with the bike.

Any advice would be really appreciated Smile

23 user comments

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Sorry to ruin your day but David Millar did it in 13.5 mins in 2011.....

posted by andycoventry [120 posts]
1st July 2014 - 7:49


Ride more!

Do intervals, and speed play - flat out for a few minutes, rest, then flat out again. Google it.

posted by gazza_d [422 posts]
1st July 2014 - 8:38


My first suggestion is to pick a different place for your challenge, there's a 20mph speed limit enforced in Richmond Park.

If you want to get faster though, join a cycling club and ride with some fast folk there, rip yourself to shreds trying to keep up. Your bike isn't the limiting factor in your speed, tight clothing will help to reduce drag more than any mechanical upgrades.

posted by Nick T [906 posts]
1st July 2014 - 8:43


Lycra shorts and a non-flapping jersey would help, but a normal vented helmet won't. There isn't much speed gained from wheels.

By far the biggest part of going fast is to get a low position on the bike and PLF (pedal like f..k).

gazza_d and Nick T have made good suggestions. Nothing worth achieving is ever easy.

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posted by Simon E [2420 posts]
1st July 2014 - 10:14


Miles in the legs. The more you do (regularly) the faster you will become.

Also, to be the quickest cyclist out of 11,000 others, will require the right genes ... and they don't stock 'talent' at the LBS.

posted by Joeinpoole [437 posts]
1st July 2014 - 10:27


i'm not sure why that would ruin my day,a human did it therefore someone else can do it also!

posted by stevetaylor20 [9 posts]
1st July 2014 - 10:48


Cool thanks for the info chap.I'm only trying to improve speed and get near or break record for my own personal challenge to get better. I know I can definitely get 17 mins from the 19/20 mins I currently have, mainly because i've been pretty ill and only starting to just feel a lot better. everything else I guess will come from hard work. Thanks again for the info.

posted by stevetaylor20 [9 posts]
1st July 2014 - 10:52


Maybe have a proper bike fit done? I have just booked one for myself, mainly because I am stuck with my current bike for the foreseeable future and although the £120 for a bike fit isn't cheap, it is a lot cheaper than any other upgrade.
Maybe lose some weight?
Do lots of different cycling; if you just do laps of Richmond Park your times will drop quite fast initially but then it will get harder and harder to see an improvement.

posted by Daveyraveygravey [315 posts]
1st July 2014 - 13:10


Hey i've had a full fit done so all good there,i weight about 12.5 stone. I could lose half a stone maybe but nothing major. I'll just keep doing laps all the time until I get faster, then starve myself!

posted by stevetaylor20 [9 posts]
1st July 2014 - 13:13


If you want to be serious about it, start by analyzing the lap record, understand what speed you need to be doing at each part of the lap and see how you compare.

This will highlight if there are any immediate areas to address...

Then its a case of developing the power you can produce for 15-20 minutes, whilst at the same time lowering the amount of power required to achieve the speed necessary.

The former is dong through structured training, the latter is done through improving aerodynamics, dropping weight, improving mechanical efficiencies.

An example of this was a couple of years back... I was able to drop 300grams of rotational weight from pedals and shoes. At same time, this enabled me to drop me pedal stack height, which in turn meant I could lower my saddle (lowering my overall frontal area) and actually get my position on a smaller frame, dropping further weight.

An old school way of improving speed is to start doing intervals at the average speed required to get the lap record... ride at that speed until you pop, recover with easy riding for 2-3 mins, then go again.

If you do it on the actual lap, you may start by being able to do 4x 2mins at the desired speed per lap... then you can start to extend interval length and shorten rest period, adn before you know you are getting close to the record.

Good luck with it.

posted by Jimmy Ray Will [433 posts]
1st July 2014 - 14:15


Thanks for the reply chap, interesting stuff. I just like a challenge and it's good to know thoughts on how to best improve, I don't want to just spending money when really it sounds like I need to toughen up.

posted by stevetaylor20 [9 posts]
1st July 2014 - 14:32


Purely on speed: A helmet will just make you slower (a special time-trial helmet might make a tiny difference, but only if you can learn to stay in the right position - and you'll look a bit of a plonker). A good old cycling cap to make the air flow more smoothly over the head, than it would over hair, is likely the fastest.

However, the differences these make are marginal compared to:

1. Improving your fitness


2. A good position on the bike.

For 1 see comments on getting kilometres into the legs, intervals, strength training, losing any useless weight, etc. For 2 you need to get low and tucked in and you need to train your body to be able to stay in such a position for the distance requireed. Ultimately, 2 demands a time trial bike.

posted by Paul J [817 posts]
1st July 2014 - 14:38


There are no short cuts.
Train hard, train even harder the next day. There's ways of targeting specific fitness, and there's ways of training more effectively, but the long and the short of it is that you need to hurt yourself, a lot.

posted by bashthebox [764 posts]
1st July 2014 - 16:00


Hijacking the thread a bit... I don't have such a specific target, but I need to get faster and build up endurance again after allowing other things to take priority for a while. I'm signed up to the RideLondon 100, so do need to get distance in the legs.

Is it better to ride as hard as I can, sprint intervals, until I pop, and let the distance get gradually further? Or do the distance at "tempo", and allow the speed to creep up?

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

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posted by Gizmo_ [1251 posts]
1st July 2014 - 23:18

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Dude i'm dude ridelondon 100 also. I've had some crap kidney disease that's made me tired as for ages, i'm prob at about 80% of what I was. From all the info, it seems that basically we need to show some balls an toughen up and be hardcore and frickin go for it with interval training. So i'm basically going to go around richmond park sometimes full on hardcore and other times at sprint intervals. So as you say, both in one go. i'm also doing the gym class spinning, that's prob a good thing too i'd guess. I'm also going to do the ridelondon track a few times before the ride.

posted by stevetaylor20 [9 posts]
1st July 2014 - 23:31

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I've just been in France for 2 weeks and did 8 rides of varying distance (climbs, flat, heat!, altitude all included). Was on my first day back of commuting and was absolutely flying!...and I'm on a steel bike so nothing special in the weight/aero 'department'. Got into the top 50 (out of 1000) on a Strava segment so was pretty pleased. Party


posted by Shades [273 posts]
2nd July 2014 - 11:48

1 Like

Shades wrote:
I've just been in France for 2 weeks and did 8 rides of varying distance (climbs, flat, heat!, altitude all included). Was on my first day back of commuting and was absolutely flying!...and I'm on a steel bike so nothing special in the weight/aero 'department'. Got into the top 50 (out of 1000) on a Strava segment so was pretty pleased. Party

I'd say this too, varied training makes the biggest overall difference. Might not be what you need for your Richmond Park challenge but it will on Ride London. You also need to look at recovery; some day(s) off the bike, some days riding for a couple of hours at 65% of your max HR, roughly. Both of these will help long term.

I'm doing Ridelondon too, and I know if I do any cycling in the week before (after Sunday August 3rd) it will have to be very gentle and not far.

posted by Daveyraveygravey [315 posts]
2nd July 2014 - 13:03


The last time I had a day off the bike was in May :-o but I do vary intensity and distance.
Whilst laps of Richmond park have their virtues, I would go stir crazy training for a 100 miler on them.
I would recommend heading out into the surrey hills to at least get the feel of leith and box hill* as richmond laps won't prepare you for them. Hill training also helps strengthen your legs and will make you go faster.

* I left newlands corner off as I think there's too much traffic on it

posted by arfa [651 posts]
2nd July 2014 - 14:51


Yeah, the North Downs ridge is great, there's loads of good climbs - some may hurt you more than others though. I guess for height and profile similar to Toys, give Brasted Chart a go (the gentle side of Toys Hill). Or do Box itself, of course, but it's not a hard hill... pretty gentle slope, just grind your way up. Leith is a smidge harder, but people are going so slowly up it on RL100 that you'll be doing your best to pick your way in between them.

posted by bashthebox [764 posts]
2nd July 2014 - 16:20


+1 for hill training and hill repeats. Increases your cardio pretty quickly as well as strength. I'm pretty light so I've never been really good on flats but the more climbing I do the faster I get on flats--went from 14-16 mph to 18-20 mph in a little over 6 months with doing mostly climbing rides (5-10% grades for 10-20 mile routes throughout the week) which helped me get faster on the club runs which are mainly flat as I'm outnumbered by all the racers/track riders.

Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling. ~James E. Starrs

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posted by movingtarget [144 posts]
2nd July 2014 - 22:47


Spending money won't buy talent, if you genuinely want to ride faster you'll need to ride a bit, ride a bit more and when your sick and tired, ride a bit more. At the same time, think about your diet. Cut out all booze and eat healthy. Also, eat the right food depending on your training plan. Carb load the night before a hard ride and eat protein within 30 mins of finishing a hard ride.
In someways riding in flappy clothes will make you stronger due to the wind resistance, when you switch to Lycra you'll move through the air with less resistance.

Stick with a training plan and you'll see gains quickly but don't feel too discouraged when you feel as though you've hit a wall.

The best of British to you!

posted by Leeroy_Silk [114 posts]
8th July 2014 - 19:03


Paul J wrote:
Purely on speed: A helmet will just make you slower

Not true. While a TT helmet is quickest, getting a road aero helmet like the Giro Air Attack will make you quicker than a using standard vented helmet or a cap.

That said, you are right. The best ways to go faster is to train, train and train, and find a good aerodynamic position.

Outside of these, with inordinate sums of money you can find about 20% energy savings in equipment, which includes wheels, bike, etc. But a 20% efficiency disproportionately helps those who have trained in the first place. The more power you can put out, the more you will save.

posted by Gordy748 [105 posts]
8th July 2014 - 19:41


Gordy748: [citation needed] on your claim that a Giro Air Attack will be quicker than a cap. An aero road helmet will indeed offer benefits over a more traditional vented road helmet. However, a bald or capped head is pretty aerodynamic. A "safety" helmet significantly increases the frontal aero of the head, which has a big impact on aerodynamic force. See also my comments in this other thread:

I can't find anyone whose done recent tests and published, but way back when Kyle Chester tested this, the reports I've found of that say that a bald human head form out-performed a TT helmet, and was only beaten by a "pure aero" (i.e. not for crash protection) TT helmet. A close fitting cap to cover hair should be pretty close to a bald head form, in my opinion.

I'll see if I can get some anec-data on cap v aero helmet later over the summer.

To go back to increasing performance and buying gear: Absolutely agree with advice not to waste money on expensive stuff. Best thing I recently did for my training was to buy an old, heavy, 1970s road bike from Ebay for very little money and use it as my winter and wet-weather training bike. Climbing hills and having to work harder to stay with other riders with that extra weight and the heavy gears they must have preferred back then really helped with leg strength and fitness, I believe.

posted by Paul J [817 posts]
8th July 2014 - 23:39