Home

I'm 5'11, 70kgs and fortunate enough to ride good quality, lightweight bikes.  I've been cycling a little over 3 years now.  I average 100 miles a week.  I live in the Cotswolds.  Lumpy when I need it to be, or flatish over towards the Malverns.

I ride with two other 'enthusasitc amateurs' on a frequent basis and can hold my own on the climbs, but have always struggled on the downhills (I am very cautious, and sit on the back brake all the way down).  No problem so far (I'll never master going fast downhill, and that's fine by me).

Where I seem to fade, or at least, drop back consistenly on my group rides is on flat stretches of road.  I just can't figure out what I am doing wrong!  It's very frustrating.  I am fit, have an FTP of 255w and I can easily hold a cadence of 95/100 for 8-10 minutes.  

The guys I pedal with seem to make it look effortless, yet I am pushing threshold just to keep up, having to sprint to catch up and then work hard to keep with them.  It's disproportionate in effort compared to climbing.  I would be much happier at a permanent 8-13% incline that suffer the misery and embarrasment of 2 miles of 1% open road.  I know the segments locally that cost me time.  I've gone out solo to try and crack them and just can't get quicker.   

Fellow Roaders, please help - your candid views are appreciated (e.g./ man up, pedal harder, do more miles)... but even better would be useful advice about how I can train to be better at this.

 

50 comments

Avatar
sergius [561 posts] 9 months ago
2 likes

Are the guys you ride with much bigger than you?  I.e. 80+ kg chaps with a correspondingly higher power output?  The actual power number matters more (rather than w/kg) as the slope decreases or other factors (wind resistance) increase.

On the random front:

- Check your tyres, are they using better tyres than you?

- Are your tyres inflated appropriately?

- Are you riding in a vaguely aerodynamic position? Elbows-in at least if you aren't on the drops

- Are your clothes appropriate e.g. tight rather than baggy

 

 

Similarly to you I tend to do better when climbing rather than blasting along the flat.  On a few sportives I've had to work very hard to hang on in a group, only to easily pull ahead on the climbs.  I only got a trainer with a power meter last week, but our numbers and experiences appear similar (I'm 62kg with a FTP of around 250 or so - must get around to doing a proper test!).

Just get into the habit of sucking a wheel on the flat IMO!

 

Avatar
IanEdward [213 posts] 9 months ago
1 like

The way I've always understood it is that wind/air resistance punishes the lighter rider more, something to do with the F=ma equation when F is the force caused by the air pushing on your body, m is your mass and a is the (backwards) acceleration caused by the wind.

Avatar
slippy62 [4 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

Thanks for the advice sergius.  The guys are somewhat heavier than me but not by a significant margin.  They are almost certainly putting more power through the pedals though.

- My tyres are top quality.  I am a bit slack pumping them up, but I'm probably at 90psi on (on 28's) at this time of the year.

- Not in the tuck, ever.  Crouched down and elbows in is about as aero as it gets.

- Tight lycra and Kask helmet etc, so all the gear on that front.

Sounds like I need to just work harder on my power output to compensate for the differential on that type of terrain.  It's just damn frustrating!

Avatar
slippy62 [4 posts] 9 months ago
2 likes

IanEdward - reassuring to know that when I run out of excuses with my riding buddies, I can blame physics  1

Avatar
nadsta [195 posts] 9 months ago
2 likes

If you can actually hold your ftp for an hour in a reasonably aero position on a flat road then be happy. You’ll probably be averaging 35-40kmh which is good going.  If that’s the case and you’re getting droppped then you just need to find slightly slower buddies. And I hope you begin to enjoy descending some day, it’s one the absolute joys of cycling. There was a good ‘how to’ thread here about it not so long ago. 

Avatar
rjfrussell [492 posts] 9 months ago
7 likes

"I just can't figure out what I am doing wrong!  It's very frustrating.  I am fit, have an FTP of 255w and I can easily hold a cadence of 95/100 for 8-10 minutes.  "

 

#humblebragging

Avatar
alansmurphy [1895 posts] 9 months ago
1 like

One of my bigger riding buddies can drop me if he ramps it up in 5% increments every 30 seconds for a few minutes. Weirdly, if he tries to drop me quickly I can hang on. You say you're not confident descending, are you confident to sit on the wheel, nice and close? This is a great way to save energy and cling on, then you can build on this.

As a lightweight spinner, hills may come naturally. Maybe some power exercises for the legs in the gym could help...

Avatar
ChrisB200SX [838 posts] 9 months ago
4 likes

I'd hazard a guess that you're just not very aero and/or you need more power.

Avatar
BehindTheBikesheds [2430 posts] 9 months ago
4 likes

Simply sounds like those you're riding with are better on the flat, sometimes that's just how it is.

If you're not in a race then is it actually that important that you keep up, if so why, if it's having a negative mental effect on you then you need to change something that you are in control of. Either ride with others who won't/can't drop you or you accept that that's just what it is and get on with it.

I doubt it's pedalling technique, aero position probably has a part of it, as above the ability to get in fairly close would help (so save a bit of effort to sustain your output) but whatever it is the end result is bothering you enough to post up to ask for advice.

If it's that big a deal make changes other than worrying about trying to get faster. 

Avatar
slippy62 [4 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

Thanks ChrisB200SX and BehindTheBikesheds - all noted and taken onboard.

My riding buddies aren't dropping me intentionally, but rather I just find that the disconnect between the relative performance on this type of terrain odd.  

I'll focus on power and aero position for a few weeks and assuming  it's interesting to someone I'll post back accordingly.

Thanks all for your input.

Avatar
Welsh boy [565 posts] 9 months ago
4 likes

For a start forget all about the number, figures, percentages and all that crap and enjoy riding your bike.

100 rpm for 10 minutes is not good, you should be able to do that sort of pedalling rate all day.  You say you have to work to keep up with your mates, has it ever occured to you that they are working to ride at that pace too?  Learn from the people you ride with who are better at a particular discipline, watch their gearing, pedalling speed, road position, body language etc and, if they are better than you, try doing what they are doing but dont expect an immediate improvement, you will have to work at something for a while to see a benefit.

Avatar
madcarew [819 posts] 9 months ago
7 likes

Slippy, you've asked a few questions, with a  few parts. I'll try some basic maths and explanations, and then some training tips. 

Horses for courses, if you are on a decent bike wheels, tyres etc, and in lycra then 255 watts is enough for:

32 kph if you are sitting up right riding on on the tops

33 kph if you are on the hoods

33.5 kph if you are on the drops

35-36 kph if you are hunched over with a flattish back and forearms level with the ground. 

If you're in non-form fitting clothes you can scrub 1 kph off any of those speeds.

The first thing is to look at your position. I'm 80kg and on my local track 255W will have me doing 37 kph. I'm reasonable aero. If you're riding on the hoods with arms reasonably straight, and your mates are reasonably aero doing 37 kph, then up on the hoods in their slipstream with a flappy jacket then you are actually doing more work than them. Look at pros and work on imitating their style.

As someone else said, 90-100 rpm for 10 minutes is not particularly special, but it's not that important either. Adjust your gearing so you are in a comfortable gear. For you that might be 80 rpm. Nothing wrong with that. 

You say you can hold your own on the climbs. Does that mean you drop them? If you simply stay with them and they are 10% heavier than you then they are putting out (+/-) 10% more power than you. Another 25W is a big difference especially noticable oin the flat. Another factor that may be playing is position on the bike and flexibility. One of the big limiters of power is how acutely bent the hip angle is at the top of the stroke. If you are climbing, especially out of the saddle, then your hip angle is very open and far higher power can be generated. It is quite possible that you aren't particularly flexible, or you simply don't porduce good power very bent over, in which case your FTP might be gained in a more upright position, and your buddies can keep producing it in a very aero position. The answer to this is good bike fitting, and practice being in the aero position. 

Last bit on position is Bunch position.

Are you any good at sitting in the bunch? Are you a few centimetres off their wheel, or are you half a metre back?

If you're the second rider in the pace line and you're a few centimetres off his wheel you will save about 25% effort. If you're half a metre back you will save 10% effort. If you're 3rd rider in the line you will save about 35% effort if everyone is at a few centimetres gap, and 10% effortif you are half a metre back. Learn to ride good position. if you're more than half a wheel back you are starting to lose large amounts of shelter.

 

 

Avatar
madcarew [819 posts] 9 months ago
7 likes

Part 2: Training.

Horses for courses. For about 75% of the population doing overstress intervals is an effective way to build strength and endurance. For about 75% of the population doing lots of miles is an effective way to build strength and endurance. For about 2% of the population nothing makes any difference at all. 

FTP

You should be able to hold your FTP for 20 minutes reasonably comfortably, it should be quite difficult to hold it for 40 minutes and absolute pergatory to hold it for an hour. If this doesn't sound right then you need to have your FTP re-assessed.

Intervals

It really doesn't matter how or what kind of intervals you do, to a large extent, except that they should be at or above your FTP. A general starting point is 110% of your FTP. (for you about 280W) The most important thing about intervals (to maximise returns) is that they should be done to failure, aiming to spend as much accumulated time at the interval level as possible.  

So, for example, you set out and do 280W and hold it for as long as you can. Let's say you get to 4 minutes before you can't maintain it any longer. You can wait 10 minutes (riding gently) and try again. You might find you can do it for 4 minutes again, but more likely you can only do it for say 2.5 mins. You do that as many times as you can. Generally speaking, you'll manage about 4 repeats before you can't make the number any more. That is an effective interval session.

Another approach is, if you know that you can hold your 110% power for 4 minutes, then do that power for 60% of that time (2.5 mins) take a 2.5 min break (pedalling gently) and do the same again. Chances are you can do this about 8 times. The first example had you spending 10 mins total at your target power, this one has you spending 20 mins. Arguably a more efffective interval session.

At first these kinds of efforts are very difficult. There is a lot of neuromuscular programming that goes on, but perservere, and after 2-3 sessions a week for 3 weeks you will find they are considerably easier. As an example, I can do 3 mins on 2 mins off at 110% FTP for 18-20 repeats. But it takes 6 months of 2 sessions a week to get to that. As part of the neuromuscular programming, you need to do these efforts in your aero position. No point teaching the muscles to do it in an upright position and then trying to apply it in an aero position.

Hope this all helps!!!!!!

Enjoy!!!!  1

 

Avatar
Htc [46 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

Absolute power normally wins out easily on the flats. 

You said you were 70kg and your FTP was 255watts, that puts you at 3.6w/kg. If for example one of those you ride with is 80kg and has 3.5w/kg that would mean their FTP was 280watts. Thats a 25watt difference which on the flat is going to make all the difference. As gradient increases w/kg starts to take over and the longer the climb the more likely you are to pull ahead. 

Avatar
CXR94Di2 [2251 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

You need to be able to hold 95rpm for hours. Get tucked in behind a bigger rider on the flats downhill sections, I mean really tucked in.  once the road tilts upwards more than a couple of percent then you will come into your own.  If you let the draft break then your lightweight and lower power will not be enough.  Im a big rider, can stay with our club runs most weekends, but we always(well it seems that way) go up a steep drag 10-15 miles from home. I get dropped everytime by the lighter and younger riders.  It really is horses for courses. 

Avatar
BBB [487 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

250w is too little and 90PSI (for 28mm tyres) way too much.  

Avatar
andyp [1592 posts] 9 months ago
3 likes
BBB wrote:

250w is too little and 90PSI (for 28mm tyres) way too much.  

what a strange answer. 250w is way too little for *what*? and 90PSI for 28s is way too  much...why?

 

Avatar
fenix [1097 posts] 9 months ago
1 like

Definitely don't need that much pressure in 28s. I'd have that in 23s...

Less pressure will give a nicer ride.

But you need to look at your position. You're as aero as a brick. If you can get lower you'll be far more slippy.

Avatar
andyp [1592 posts] 9 months ago
1 like
  • fenix wrote:

    Definitely don't need that much pressure in 28s. I'd have that in 23s... Less pressure will give a nicer ride. But you need to look at your position. You're as aero as a brick. If you can get lower you'll be far more slippy.

 

but it's a personal preference thing, rather than the blanket statement above...

Avatar
wknight [59 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

What chain rings and casette are you using compared to them? They may have rings more suited for the flat. Remember the pros often change theire dependant on the route. I remember watching G struggle a bit going up the climb, but coming down he beat everyone because he had rings suitable for flatter terrain. 

 

Look at a technique call the limit point or vanishing posint, its used om motorbikes but works just as well for bikes and teaches you how to measure your speed going into a bend so you never over cook it. If you have ever wondered how a police motorbike takes bends at high speeds, this is the answer

Avatar
wknight [59 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

What chain rings and casette are you using compared to them? They may have rings more suited for the flat. Remember the pros often change theire dependant on the route. I remember watching G struggle a bit going up the climb, but coming down he beat everyone because he had rings suitable for flatter terrain. 

 

Look at a technique call the limit point or vanishing posint, its used om motorbikes but works just as well for bikes and teaches you how to measure your speed going into a bend so you never over cook it. If you have ever wondered how a police motorbike takes bends at high speeds, this is the answer

Avatar
Charlie-CarbsAn... [24 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

I'm 60kg so flats can be tough, no1 i would say practise doing intervals on the flat

20mins at 300w on the hills was not too hard for me but 300w on the flat was a lot harder. After 2 months of doing intervals on the flat my power is now the same on the flat and the climbs.

Also getting aero is very important obviously and also practise holding the wheel, if you are new it can be a bit hard to hold the wheel and maintain consistent power.

Also ask your riding partners what numbers they are doing to see if they are just doing more power than you or no

Avatar
slippy62 [4 posts] 9 months ago
3 likes

Sheesh, thanks everyone for their input.  In particular the detail provided by madcarew!

For the avoidance of doubt, I can hold 95 RPM for hours - no problem.  My areas of focus are to get more aero and simply get more power through the pedals, so that I can give myself a chance of tucking in behind them and hanging on.  It's unlikely I'll lead from the front on this stuff!

I also take onboard the bit about varying the training to build better legs for this.  I am Zwifting twice a week, at least during these (UK) difficult months, so I'll try and get a workout session in to this.  And to keep myself cheery, I can always head out to the hills around me and get some elevation.

Thanks once again, road.cc community!

Avatar
peted76 [1164 posts] 9 months ago
2 likes

Madcarew has more than nailed what I was going to say about vo2 max and interval training, so here's another angle.. 

 

I ride with some fast lads,  some are monsters on the flat some are monsters up hill, most things being even, any given day one of those fast lads can be dropped on a sunday bash. That sunday group is so well formed now that they play to each others strengths, so flat monster puts in a bigger turn on the flat, hill monster leads out up the hills and keeps the pace even over the top. 

You've been riding three years, although that's probably a lot of miles, it's not a lot of time, I'd question whether that's just with your two mates smashing your legs up, or are you regular rider in pacelines where the group is working for the group, as a group?

I'd refer to one of the points above and add in 'old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance'.

 

 

Avatar
Acm [44 posts] 9 months ago
3 likes
IanEdward wrote:

The way I've always understood it is that wind/air resistance punishes the lighter rider more, something to do with the F=ma equation when F is the force caused by the air pushing on your body, m is your mass and a is the (backwards) acceleration caused by the wind.

Just to clarify, F=ma applies to anything that's accelerating/decelerating. Riding on the flat at a constant speed, your acceleration is 0, so there's no force due to acceleration. All the force you're producing is to overcome air resistance, which follows a more complicated equation.

The reason lighter riders tend to struggle more on the flat is because they'll produce less power than a heavier rider with the same power-to-weight ratio. The percentage increase in aerodynamic drag is less than the increase in required power uphill for the heavier rider, so heavier riders do better on the flat, lighter riders in the hills

Avatar
peted76 [1164 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

Just another thought... and I might get poo poo'ed for it.. but a heavier and or more aero set of wheel rims/tyres is easier to 'maintain speed' than that with than a lighter or less aero rim/tyre combo. 

 

Avatar
Jimmy Ray Will [947 posts] 9 months ago
1 like

The obvious question that's yet to be asked is what power are you running at when you are struggling to keep up on the flat? Are you running at your FTP, above or below?

The answer to the above will dictate the relevance of the next question; was you FTP established climbing a hill, or on the flat / stationary trainer. If a trainer was the resistance set high (i.e. to simulate climbing)?

My initial thoughts are that you are not exactly small (you'll be punching a decent sized hole), nor are you that light, nor is your FTP exceptional. 

For you to be dishing it out to your mates on the hills for me, means that your mates are going to be fairly heavy. The problem with heavy mates is that they have to work pretty hard on the hills, all the time. Which means they are working on their power, all the time... so they tend to naturally gravitate to being stronger on the flat when they get there.

There could be an argument that you are not riding in the wheels effectively (your stated caution on descents is a red flag in relation to this), but personally speaking, I think you are simply better on the hills than your mates, and your mates better on the flat than you.

As highlighted, this can be trained.

As an aside, I have always marvelled at how better climbers automatically assume they are simply better riders (I say this as an embittered flat lander), or more accurately that poor climbers are simply poor riders. Horses for courses innit?  

 

 

 

Avatar
BBB [487 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes
andyp wrote:
BBB wrote:

250w is too little and 90PSI (for 28mm tyres) way too much.  

what a strange answer. 250w is way too little for *what*? and 90PSI for 28s is way too  much...why?

It's not a strange answer. It's a very simple one. 

Objectively 250W is a moderate amount of power and clearly not enough to keep up with the other guys.

90 PSI in 28mm tyres at 70kg is simply too much pressure. On typical UK roads it'll slow you down, reduce comfort and distrupt the pedaling rythm. Far too many people still don't understand what pneumatic tyres were invented for.

Avatar
PRSboy [334 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

@Slippy - How fast are you mates going on the flat?  255w should be enough for 37kmh...

It could be that they are just making it look easier- keep the upper body still, then its a better 'platform' to push power through the legs.

I would stay in the saddle too and just wind the effort up to get back on the wheel rather than sprinting, unless you have a good aero sprint position, otherwise the extra drag from standing will offset the extra power, as well as pushing you into the red.

 

Avatar
alansmurphy [1895 posts] 9 months ago
2 likes
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

As an aside, I have always marvelled at how better climbers automatically assume they are simply better riders (I say this as an embittered flat lander), or more accurately that poor climbers are simply poor riders. Horses for courses innit?  

 

 

Guilty as charged. Before I became a weekend warrior I was a commuter, before I was a commuter I liked sports that hurt. As a weekend warrior and being relatively light, I started to escape my mates on hills and enjoyed it, thought I might be naturally talented. Then started to work on hill ‘training’ and got even better, whether it be short sharp attacks or really chilling on long climbs then putting a kick in.

 

A bigger rider joined our group and really spinned the hills. As we became a bit mock competitive it was obvious he had more power and would hurt me on flats and even slight inclines, I’d escape on those over 5%. We ‘trained’ together and it reduced the differences in each discipline, unfortunately he learnt the way to drop me on the flat was to lift the power in small increments over a long time, this resulted in me trying to suck his wheel and him gapping me when my HR was at 180 (i.e. over max). As I do the route planning though, I can still feel like King if I map correctly  1

Pages