How to get good

by dunnoh   August 18, 2013  

This sounds a little bizarre. I've got rid of the car, I commute by bike, I did 60 miles in the Peak District today with no problems and yet when the Macclesfield Wheelers passed me at supersonic speeds I realised how slow I really am. They also looked like cyclists should. I cant really invest any more time on cycling so the only thing I can do is drop some more weight. Is there anything else I could do?

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join the club they will look after you and eventually you will have enough speed and miles to enjoy a club-run

nicky

posted by rossi [12 posts]
18th August 2013 - 22:43

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You shouldn't compare yourself to the group that passed you. You've no idea how long they had been out, where they had been or what their racing category might be. They also benefitted from the aerodynamic advadtages of group riding that you just don't get on out on your own. Stick with what you are doing, losing weight will help and inevitably follow from your lifestyle changes if you keep a lid on your diet. When you feel like it, push on and add some intensity to your rides, don't bother when you are not up to it. Lots of people find the competitive aspect of Strava enjoyable and a source of inspiriation for pushing themselves a bit harder. If you get the chance to join a group ride then that might help too. Set yourself some realistic goals like adding 1mph average speed to a familiar route and see how you get on. If you can hack 60 miles in the Peaks you are already well on the way to getting good.

Good luck with your riding.

Ah! Condor

posted by Bedfordshire Clanger [304 posts]
18th August 2013 - 22:45

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Just build up speed over time.have you a cycling computer/garmin etc.try and better your time commuting,try knocking a minute off every few weeks.what is your average speed?

posted by Shanefutcher [103 posts]
18th August 2013 - 22:46

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Bedfordshire Clanger wrote:
You shouldn't compare yourself to the group that passed you. You've no idea how long they had been out, where they had been or what their racing category might be. They also benefitted from the aerodynamic advadtages of group riding that you just don't get on out on your own. Stick with what you are doing, losing weight will help and inevitably follow from your lifestyle changes if you keep a lid on your diet. When you feel like it, push on and add some intensity to your rides, don't bother when you are not up to it. Lots of people find the competitive aspect of Strava enjoyable and a source of inspiriation for pushing themselves a bit harder. If you get the chance to join a group ride then that might help too. Set yourself some realistic goals like adding 1mph average speed to a familiar route and see how you get on. If you can hack 60 miles in the Peaks you are already well on the way to getting good.

Good luck with your riding.

This!

posted by McTag [35 posts]
18th August 2013 - 23:45

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My average over say 30-40 miles is about 16mph with a few hills. But Im slow up hills and pretty quick down em so I think it skews things a little

posted by dunnoh [143 posts]
18th August 2013 - 23:51

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Why worry - you are mixing up basic cycling for transport with leisure/sport riding.

Many find averaging over 10-12mph ruins the enjoyment of a bike ride, where you have the ability to stop, look, and communicate with local people as you travel.

As for special kit - I don't own a scrap of fancy technical clothing, unless you count Harris Tweed

47 years of breaking bikes and still they offer me a 10 year frame warranty!

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posted by A V Lowe [432 posts]
19th August 2013 - 1:55

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I was in a similar position to you I think, felt generally fit and did quite a few miles including a commute, but wasn't getting any faster. Preparing for a sportive I borrowed a turbo trainer and started looking for bits of my commute where I could safely do properly hard sprints, and in just a month or so I could hold a higher average speed and turn over faster too. It doesn't necessarily take that much more time either, certainly compared to 60 hilly miles (know which I'd rather do though). I also got hold of a heart rate monitor to keep an eye on how hard I was working.

So one answer might be some boring, hard, repetitive interval training, maybe on a turbo trainer. In his book Graeme Obree talks about the difference between "training" and "just riding quite fast for a long time"; one of the differences between serious sportspeople and the rest of us is just how hard they're prepared to work. I can't remember the last time I had to stop and throw up and then do ten more sets of whatever horrible thing I was doing.

It's true what others have said about making sure you still actually enjoy riding your bike. If you stop looking forward to it you just won't go out, and that's no fun. But doing some short intense intervals will probably help.

posted by msw [124 posts]
19th August 2013 - 5:29

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If you want to get quick,
First have a look at how much time you can spend on cycling. Work out the most time efficient way you can do it and how much you want to do it. Can you squeeze rides into lunch 'hours' I get up at 5 a couple of days a week and jump on the turbo or it gives me more hours in the weekend to get a long ride done and still have time for everything else.

Once you have a realistic number of hours (some v v quick people do less than 10 hours a week) divide it up into a few rides that really push yourself of an hour or so and a few that are still effort, but sustainable for 2-4 hours. Have at least 2 days off a week. If you have few hours drop the longer easier stuff and focus on being well rested for the hard stuff.- Maybe get some miles in for a few months first, it sounds like you are new so try a few months of just riding as much as you can to get general fitness before going mad. Once you start doing the shorter rides try to find a loop where you can measure improvement over time.

But do whatever is enjoyable for you. It becomes a chore for some. I love pushing myself though and would nor ride without a competitive aspect (even if it is just against myself a lot of the time)

posted by ilovemytinbred [155 posts]
19th August 2013 - 8:05

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You didn't say how much cycling you're doing but you're not going to get fast if you're not willing to invest your time.
8-10 hours a week (annual average including winter, bad weather, holidays etc...) of riding would be a sensible target but if you have less time available then you need to crank up the intensity of your rides.
Extending your commute would be the most time effective way of getting more miles in.

I don't follow trends. Trends follow me.

posted by BBB [164 posts]
19th August 2013 - 9:25

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Losing weight is a good way to improve your power to weight ratio which will help -a lot- on the hills. But it is difficult to lose weight without losing power as well.
A good training regime will have speed, strength and stamina sessions in it. To increase your speed you need to focus on interval sessions (short hard sessions) and strength sessions (weights or hills).
You sound like you have the basic stamina that you need, joining the right club will improve your ability dramatically.

posted by SideBurn [731 posts]
19th August 2013 - 10:30

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I am kind of at a similar stage myself.

Most clubs have groups to suit all abilities and development/beginner rides that don't drop people and stop for mechanicals etc. I have been doing that for six weeks (40 miles at around 14-16mph) at the weekend with a cycle commute each day plus one evening a week a 12-20 mile hilly route and have noticed some improvement. I vary the commute as its very short to incorporate a couple of short climbs.

But group riding has been key for me and you get good advice and tips from those you ride with.

I went from being tentative and full of trepidation on my first group outing to it being the highlight of my week. So in short go along to a club beginner group ride. You won't look back.

posted by SlowSPDRider [22 posts]
19th August 2013 - 10:47

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Thanks all. I'm doing about 7 hours a week - it sounds like I need to fit in more. I've thought of getting a turbo trainer but I'm worried it will sit in the shed - half the joy is getting out really. I got rid of the car 12 months ago so I've been riding solidly since then - all weathers including snow!. I've shied away from doing interval work as it sounds almost too premeditated - maybe I do need to think about properly training rather than mapping a ride and doing it. I would like to join a club eventually, but I cant commit to defined times with a 1 year old.

posted by dunnoh [143 posts]
19th August 2013 - 11:56

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Totally agree with SideBurn,if you lose weight try not to lose power.also gain leg strength with running,squats etc.dont worry too much about hills as nearly all amateur cyclists aren't built like a Froome or Contador.most cyclists are more like classics rider

posted by Shanefutcher [103 posts]
19th August 2013 - 12:52

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7 hours is doable, it just means you will be most adapted to going quick for an hour or 2.
Three 1 hour long proper hard rides and two 2 hour steady (not easy) rides would be your best bet I reckon.
Personally I would leave the turbo for now. I use mine a lot, but only because I am goal driven at the moment. I would not touch it with a shitty stick if I was just starting and generally trying to get quicker. They are hateful.

You sound similar to me when I first got going, focus on having fun but trying hard. You dont need too much structure yet.

posted by ilovemytinbred [155 posts]
19th August 2013 - 13:02

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losing weight very slowly is the key, that way you can always et properly which you need to do to perform well.
Your frame dictates whether you will ever be a lightweight, but most weekend warriors could lose a few pounds Smile

posted by ilovemytinbred [155 posts]
19th August 2013 - 13:07

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ilovemytinbred wrote:
losing weight very slowly is the key, that way you can always et properly which you need to do to perform well.
Your frame dictates whether you will ever be a lightweight, but most weekend warriors could lose a few pounds Smile

+1

and then hopefully

minus many

posted by SlowSPDRider [22 posts]
19th August 2013 - 13:24

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Hi dunnoh, our club regularly passes people at speeds such as you describe, but honestly, the bulk of that is momentum built up by the group. I sometimes feel a little sorry to see a guy plugging away on his own then hear 'passing on your right!', only to be overtaken as if he was going backwards... I certainly don't ride at those speeds on my own!

16mph avg is fine to join most clubs, and is in fact what I'd probably achieve on my own. The social groups will go slower, the racing groups will go quicker, and somewhere in the middle you'll find what you're after. It takes a few weeks to get used to the pace and holding wheels etc, but all good fun.

I've started commuting recently. Only 2 days a week at the moment, as I can work from home for the other 3. This is how I do it:

Wed morning: Rucksack & pannier, pretty quick for the 7 mile run, focusing on a powerful pedal stroke with all the additional weight I carry.
Wed evening: Leave the rucksack (laptop) in work so pannier only, extend the commute to 18 mile loop (may extend further), make big efforts on hills.
Thur morning: Extend the commute to 18 mile loop.
Thur evening: Rucksack and pannier, focus on powerful pedal stroke again but absolutely give it the beans on the sections of road where safe to do so.

Sunday: Long steady ride, currently building back up to rejoin club runs after an injury.

Other days, core strength, gym or whatever else I can fit in.

Dodging the saccadic masking

posted by notfastenough [2607 posts]
19th August 2013 - 13:48

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dunnoh wrote:
I got rid of the car 12 months ago so I've been riding solidly since then - all weathers including snow!.

Firstly, congratulations on taking on that car-free challenge.
Secondly, I'd say that's where your "problem" lies. Riding all the time (because you HAVE to) is a way of effectively being fit but "steady". ie you're only riding at one pace. You can keep going all day but when commuting you're on the same route at the same time, day in day out and that repetitive aspect does nothing for "training", especially not training to be fast. Without realising it, you've probably turned it into a steady-away plug along ride.

Need to mix it up a bit, get in some short fast rides, some longer steady rides and definitely a few intervals. Don't even need to think about them, just make it a sprint for a set of lights, a roadsign. Throw in a diversion on the way home. Take the hilly route. Take a day off (can you get a lift/get the train?). The day off will help no end, will freshen you up and allow you to go that bit harder the next day.

posted by crazy-legs [436 posts]
19th August 2013 - 14:47

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Oh and don't worry about the speed the group passed you at. The difference between riding on your own and riding in a well-drilled group is incredible, it's an extra 5-6mph without even trying. If they're gunning it, it can be an extra 15mph!

posted by crazy-legs [436 posts]
19th August 2013 - 14:48

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What do you want out of cycling? Faster commute? Be better on hills? Train for long sportives? Road racing / time trialling?

If you want to ride in a group and socialise, mix with other cyclists or just benefit from others' knowledge and experience then you really should find a club, or at the least a group of like minds near home.

If you prefer to ride alone (as I do) that's fine too, though don't dismiss club membership as being an in-crowd or cliquey thing. Most clubs are not like that at all.

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posted by Simon E [1778 posts]
19th August 2013 - 15:22

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Stop worrying, keep riding. Simples Smile

Merlin Cycles women's race team ~ http://www.merlincycles.com
Manx nerd peddler ~ http://mooleur.blogspot.com

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posted by mooleur [359 posts]
19th August 2013 - 15:38

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As others have said, joining a club will get you fit fast. Your technique will improve (maintaining speed better through corners and knowing how to climb will boost your average for free) and having faster riders to train with will naturally make you push harder. Riding with others quickly taught me that I could push a lot harder than I thought was possible, and that's great for getting fit fast.

I went from pretty much unfit with say a 15mph solo average when I joined my club at the beginning of the summer to about a 19mph solo average now (not too hilly round here). Don't worry about being passed by a group, we can easily hit 25mph on the flat in a group ride, I'd be dying if I tried that for any distance solo!

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posted by tom_w [46 posts]
19th August 2013 - 15:47

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dunnoh wrote:
Thanks all. I'm doing about 7 hours a week - it sounds like I need to fit in more. I've thought of getting a turbo trainer but I'm worried it will sit in the shed - half the joy is getting out really. I got rid of the car 12 months ago so I've been riding solidly since then - all weathers including snow!. I've shied away from doing interval work as it sounds almost too premeditated - maybe I do need to think about properly training rather than mapping a ride and doing it. I would like to join a club eventually, but I cant commit to defined times with a 1 year old.

It does not have to be pre-meditated; just riding as fast as you can between two fixed points a few times is OK. Go for shorter rather than longer say 40 seconds hard and 20 seconds rest (40, 20's) up a hill or on the flat focussing on pedalling 360 degree's of the pedal stroke. But most important stop when you feel you have 'done a bit' not when you are knackered! So you feel you can do some more tomorrow. A few hard sessions a week not every day. It should be satisfying not a chore.

posted by SideBurn [731 posts]
19th August 2013 - 15:50

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Keep it fun! Structured, formal intervals are "horrible" - soul destroying - leave them to the racers. Make your "intervals" what you want them, just ride harder than you would normally go for a bit. If it's windy do some of the efforts with the tail wind and get to feel "fast."

Other times if you're feeling strong do them uphill or into the head-wind - just keep doing a variety of efforts above your normal speed. Give yourself time to recover, then go again. And as above - stop before you're knackered. 45 mins max, then finish with a gentle potter home in a small gear to ease the legs off.

The runners call it "fartlek" - speed-play. It's what kids do when they get a bike. Keep it fun and you'll look forward to it and enjoy it - and get faster!

posted by JohnnyRemo [46 posts]
19th August 2013 - 16:21

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EPO!!
Cool

"I can't believe I ate the whole thing..."

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posted by Cooks [467 posts]
20th August 2013 - 13:25

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Lots of good advice but I would also suggest an hour or two per week of pilates. Strengthening my core really helps and I find gets good results quickly. No matter how fit you are you can always improve core strength and it will feed through into more power/speed.

posted by arfa [358 posts]
20th August 2013 - 15:32

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JohnnyRemo wrote:
Keep it fun! Structured, formal intervals are "horrible" - soul destroying - leave them to the racers. Make your "intervals" what you want them, just ride harder than you would normally go for a bit. If it's windy do some of the efforts with the tail wind and get to feel "fast."

Other times if you're feeling strong do them uphill or into the head-wind - just keep doing a variety of efforts above your normal speed. Give yourself time to recover, then go again. And as above - stop before you're knackered. 45 mins max, then finish with a gentle potter home in a small gear to ease the legs off.

The runners call it "fartlek" - speed-play. It's what kids do when they get a bike. Keep it fun and you'll look forward to it and enjoy it - and get faster!

Thought that was really helpful - thanks!

posted by NickK123 [41 posts]
20th August 2013 - 15:37

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Again. Thanks all. I will print this thread out and stick it in the shed. Ill deffo try some speed play interval stuff - its actually clicked that cycling should be fun and not grueling. Ill try to make the commute more purposeful than just a daily grind.

posted by dunnoh [143 posts]
20th August 2013 - 22:11

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Looking forward to my intervals complete with rucksack, rack & pannier tomorrow morning, best get my head down!

Dodging the saccadic masking

posted by notfastenough [2607 posts]
20th August 2013 - 22:54

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A good way to start would be to chose some 'primes' on your route. Tradition would dictate that these would be the tops of hills or the town boundary.
But practicality would suggest a feature that you can see from some distance away that will not move (so not a dead Badger) in an area where you can ride as fast as you can.
Again the 'sprint' should last 30 to 60 seconds and don't get into a routine.
Imagining you are riding down the Champs Elysees on the final stage with Cavendish chasing you down optional Cool

posted by SideBurn [731 posts]
21st August 2013 - 8:36

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