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How much distance do you need to ride to match an elite cyclist? Strava end-of-year stats compared

Elite vs Cat 2 vs Cat 3... the road.cc staffers compare their stats to see if riding further does indeed make you faster

Strava's end-of-year stats always manage to fire up a bit of competition in the road.cc office... but is it as simple as the more you ride, the quicker you are on a bike? Jamie, Dave and Ed compare stats and discuss how to move up the race ranks.

Here at road.cc we often get asked questions pretty much along the lines of: "I’m a Cat 4 cyclist and want to move up the ranks this coming race season, how much distance should I aim to ride per week?” 

> How to use Strava to make you fitter

Sadly it isn't as simple as riding X amount of miles to get Y amount quicker; in fact, it’s kind of like asking how long is a piece of string, without a tape measure

Fear not though, because our annual game of office top trumps when the Strava end-of-year stats dropped soon revealed that there’s an undeniable correlation between speed and time in the saddle!

The competitors

So who's playing the game? Well we have Dave, an average cat 3 (apart from being a bit taller than average) who mainly just rides for the joy of riding and occasionally dabbles in a bit of racing on the side when he feels like it.

2022 wheels test, road.cc Jamie riding shot 2

I was feeling pretty confident about my stats before we started playing. I'm a remarkably average cat 2, who always seems to be able to get enough points to retain my licence and place in a few races, but nowhere near enough to actually move up or challenge the levels above…

Finally we have Ed. You probably haven’t seen him before but he writes reviews for road.cc behind the scenes, and also races for Wales' racing academy. He came into 2022 with his Cat 1 licence, and is now our resident elite.

The stats

Without any further ado, let's crack into the stats...

Total Distance

2022 ed vs jamie vs dave distance

Must try harder this year...

Total riding time 

It's no surprise then that Dave and I didn't win this one either. I completed 440 hours on the bike in 2022, Dave 315 hours and Ed a whopping 676 hours despite having a few weeks off with a broken collarbone.

Average speed

2022 ed vs jamie vs dave average speed

> How to get started with Zwift

When it comes to average speed, there are obviously quite a few factors at play, such as elevation gain and how much if the riding was on virtual training apps such as Zwift. All three of us all tend to train indoors on a regular basis though, so we sadly can't moan about the result...

Total elevation

Dave: 75,000m

Jamie: 140,000m

Ed: 227,450m

Most hours in a month

We all got off to a strong start to the year, with 53 hours for me in January and 50 hours for Dave in the same month, before he injured himself for much of the rest of the year. This paled in insignificance compared to Ed's biggest month of 85 hours in March. 

If you do the maths then yes, that is over 2.5 hours a day! No wonder we aren't all elites...

Personal records

2022 ed vs jamie vs dave personal records

Biggest ever ride

Everyone's favourite all-time stat: what's your biggest ever bike ride? I kicked us off with a 210km ride in the Alps, Ed upped it with a 350km ride covering a large part of South Wales, but Dave took the biscuit with a 602.6km Audax which you can find out more about here...

Dave's 600km Ride

Biggest ever climb

Despite bonking twice on the ascent of Galibier and Telegraph, it still wasn't enough to beat Dave's monstrous 2,033m ascent of the Stelvio in Italy. Who's going to be the first of us to book flights to do the Teide then!?

2022 ed vs jamie vs dave biggest climb

The takeaways

In conclusion, it would appear that if you ride further then you will be faster. There are a few things to bear in mind before simply grinding through as many miles as possible, though.

Firstly, not all the distance you ride is created equal. Obviously flat miles are easier than hilly ones, just as zone 2 chatty ones are also easier than intensity. That’s to say that to get as much training benefit as possible, you need to vary the type of riding you do rather than simply focussing on the most time in the saddle.

> How training zones can help you get your greatest cycling fitness gains

Just take Ed as an example. The majority of his training is structured by his coach, and if you’re really keen like him then the type of riding you do will actually vary depending on the time of year. The early off-season/winter will include long easy base miles, building into sweet spot, threshold efforts and finally, high-intensity efforts as the season progresses.

Then there’s the fact that the more distance you do, the more chance there is of injury and illness. Running (or should that be cycling) yourself into the ground by spending hours in the saddle each day is certainly not going to benefit your performance.

If we sent Dave out to try Ed’s weekly mileage, for example, he is the first one to admit that while he might be able to do it once, his joints or muscles would give up maybe just before his willpower. 

2022 Carbon wheel testing jamie

> Can you get fit by cramming all of your riding into the weekend?

If you are thinking about increasing your workload, then the best way is to do it gradually. That way you lessen the chance of injury, as you're giving your body a chance to adapt. As your mileage goes up you’ll also need to consider upping strength training and conditioning sessions, or maybe at least starting them…

That brings us on to another important point. We’ve seen loads of riders train and train, and then wonder why they’re not getting any quicker. You have to have some rest built into your training to allow those hard-earned adaptions to take place. It's common to reduce the volume of every third week of training to allow time to recover, not just physically but also mentally.

> How to maximise your recovery — 7 ways to boost recuperation and build fitness

So, it seems that the key to success is perhaps not simply riding as much as you possibly can, rather consistent training with progressive overload while building in adequate recovery. 

How many miles have you ridden this year? Drop us the end-of-year stat that you’re most proud of down in the comments section below...

Jamie has been riding bikes since a tender age but really caught the bug for racing and reviewing whilst studying towards a master's in Mechanical engineering at Swansea University. Having graduated, he decided he really quite liked working with bikes and is now a full-time addition to the road.cc team. When not writing about tech news or working on the Youtube channel, you can still find him racing local crits trying to cling on to his cat 2 licence...and missing every break going...

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