So you have been slowly but gradually getting faster at cycling and reaching average speeds for someone of your experience and age when suddenly you seem to plateau and instead start losing power and speed.
Speed is the holy grail of cycling as the faster you can go the more confidence you can have to take on bigger challenges such as long-distance rides and sprints. As such it can be quite disconcerting to start getting slower.
There are many reasons for a slow speed but the biggest ones have to do with the bike and the rider. Some of these aspects include:
- You Ride a Lot
It has been pounded into our heads that the only way to become faster is to grind out the big miles. While this can be true for beginner cyclists since they are getting fitter, once you reach a certain threshold riding great distances or for too long does not do much.
To get faster in such a scenario you probably need to boost your threshold and train your top end if you are to sustain higher speeds. You could also do speed work that incorporates interval training to increase endurance.
- You Blow Off Your Core
For cyclists who lose speed due to general fatigue or back pain, the biggest issue is often about neglecting their core. This is not a unique problem as even cyclists that have been doing this for years can have a tendency to get complacent when it comes to taking care of their core.
What you need to know is that training your core is like pumping up your tires since when you have a weak core, you will lack the efficient power transfer from the upper body to the lower body and the legs thus making you slower overall.
- You Do Not Respect Your Rest
Sometimes you have to take it slow so that you can go faster. Deep rest is critical when you are riding hard these will break down muscle fibers and suck dry your glycogen stores. As such you will need to restock and repair through rest to keep up speed.
The rule of thumb when it comes to rest is to ensure that your rest easy rides are as long as your hard rides. If you cannot manage that then it is better to take days off working your core instead of riding.
- You are Hung Up on Weight Loss
The average rider can store between 1700 to 2000 calories of glycogen in the liver and muscles. Hard rides can usually burn up to 800 calories particularly if you ride for more than an hour.
As such it is never advisable to count calories or carbs when riding hard as it will burn all you are likely to burn through all your glycogen stores in no time leaving you grasping for straws and losing power and speed.
- You Neglect Technique
You can be relatively fast and fit but still get left behind by equally fast and fit riders because they have better riding technique and bike handling skills. The good thing about this deficiency is that it can be learned.
Some skills you could practice include taking cyclocross clinics, practicing cornering, pedaling out of corners to maintain speed, and anticipating gear shifts better so that you are not bogged down and lose speed unnecessarily.
How to Improve Cycling Speed
Increasing speed is something almost all cyclists seek to attain at one point or another. The following five are simple workouts you can do to improve your cycling speed.
- Get Higher Power Output by Riding in Bigger Gears
You can always get a higher power output by riding in bigger gears at the same cadence in particular conditions. If you regularly ride in bigger gears, you will develop your muscular endurance and power which will make it easier to ride faster
For instance, if you normally cycle up the hills in a combination of gear 34 and 19, you can shift to34 and 17 for a few minutes. In the next ride, you can add a few more minutes until you are able to maintain the same cadence that you used to do in the lower gear.
- Ride Uphill to Develop Muscular Endurance
One of the most effective ways of enhancing muscular endurance is riding up hills. You can usually do this through progressive overload wherein you can start with shorter hills of say 1000 feet and over time increase this to 3000 feet.
Another effective way of doing this is through high-intensity sprint intervals up hills that should last between a minute and a minute and a half. You can do this in several reps of up to 10 and significantly improve your speeds over time.
- Ride Into Headwinds
If you live in a place with relatively flat terrain riding into headwinds is just as effective as climbing hills. Riding into headwinds is just as effective as riding uphill or with big gears to enhance muscular endurance.
While it is not always possible to plan a headwind, you can ride on windy days and plan your route into a rectangular circuit and accelerate when the wind is in your face, and pedal in a moderate gear and a speed of about 90rpm to get the benefits.
- Boost Cycling Power Using Block Training
Block training is all about rigorous workouts for two to three days followed by a similar number of recovery days. Block training is very effective in boosting power and promoting physiological adaptation since it places a lot of stress on the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems.
The key to making this work for you is to ensure that you get enough rest. For instance, you can do a three-day training block that consists of hill climbs on the first day, sprint intervals on the second day, the third day of rest, and the fourth day for recovery.
- Make Use of the 75% Rule
According to the 75% rule, during a given training week, at least 75% of the time you need to be below or at 75% below your maximum heart rate and functional threshold power. The 25% remaining is then used for endurance-building rides and easy recovery.
Cyclists can usually get faster by dedicating ten percent of their time at between 90-100 percent of their maximum heart rate, 105% of their lactate threshold heart rate, and between 106-150% of their functional threshold power to become faster.
By focusing on short but intense periods of exercise, you modify your physiology by using intense effort in combination with adequate recovery and endurance work.
What Makes My Bike So Slow
If your bike is excruciatingly slow, it usually has to do with mechanical issues such as friction in the drivetrain or the wheels, the brakes, loss of power, extra weight, or some other unusual riding condition such as not having enough pressure in your tires.
Does Cycling Get Easier Over Time?
Overall cycling gets easier over time since your mind and body will increasingly have a positive response to cycling exercises. The reason for this is that the more you ride your bike the stronger and fitter you become which will make you have more power and become faster making cycling easier.