building speed...

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Anonymous's picture

I've been biking for a number of years, and while I know I've improved my skills, etc, I've found that over time I haven't really increased my average speed that much. Using the NYCC central park gauge, I'm around a 15 cruising speed.

Any suggestions for ways to increase my speed and stamina?

Anonymous's picture
Anthony Poole (not verified)
Consider next spring's SIG series

If you can keep riding through the winter, that would be great. Do a non-stop four-lap, self-assessment ride in mid February 2006 and see how you come out on the NYCC self-assesment test, and then chose the appropriate SIG.

When you do the self-assessment, avoid weekends and try it on a weekday between 10AM and 3PM when the park is closed to motor traffic. In mid-February, you shouldn't be plagued by too many pedestrians and roller-bladers etc unless the weather is unseasonably warm.

The A-19 SIG usually holds a gentle-paced 'get-to-know the leaders' ride in mid-February, which allows the opportunity for you to ask them questions, and it might help you to make a choice.

In the meantime, you might want to consider doing some interval training and when you do laps of the park, ride one lap in your session one gear higher than you normally would. That might help speed and climbing. Insofar as stamina is concerned gradually increase the distance you ride when you go on rides outisde of the city.

If you are used to doing, say a B14 ride, try a B16 or B17 and see how you get on.

Look up a ride on the club's library and download a cue sheet and give it a go. If you are used to riding 50 miles, try a 60 miles ride, then a 75 miles ride. Before you know it, you will find a century a realistic goal if you are riding regularly.


Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
since you asked...

--Lose weight.

--Get a lighter bike.

--Regular cardio training.

--Quad strengthening--lunges and leg presses.

I found Sally Edwards's Heartrate Monitor training book and workouts to be useful for what little time I have.

We can always improve. But age and physique seem to set the upper limits.

Anonymous's picture
fendergal (not verified)

Carol, while those are all good suggestions, I think the order is backwards, if one looks at these as steps to be done incrementally.

First, strength training. This should include all the major muscle groups of the legs, as well as core exercises. Yes, the quads are a major player in cycling, but don't neglect the calf muscles and the hamstrings. Core exercises should include the lower back and the abdominals.

Second, ride with people who are a little faster than you. This will force you to go to that cardiovascular place where you would not normally go on your own. Go for a ride that doesn't have a long stop in the middle. It's okay to stop, but not for an hour.

Third, riding more will take off pounds. Don't try to diet. Riding more means eating more, but also means staying away from crap.

Fourth, when you've done all these things and you've increased your overall cruising speed, distance, and climbing, then consider getting new equipment. Build the motor, then upgrade the chassis.

Anonymous's picture
Gary Katz (not verified)
What type of speed?


Are you referring to your average speed on a given ride, or your speed for relatively short segments?

Most cyclocomputers will tell you your average speed, and your actual riding time. There may also be a feature for total elapsed time on the computer, or you can use your watch or heart rate monitor.

Cycling is not a steady state activity. Whether or not you increase your speed on flat segments significantly, you can improve your average speed by climbing and descending faster. These are two skills that work well together. When safe to do so, you can use the momentum gained on downhills to propel you up all or part of the next climb.

The other posters have given good advice. Skill development and improvements in fitness will both help you to ride faster. Don't forget that often neglected element of training---recovery!

Good luck.


Anonymous's picture
April (not verified)
cruising speed = climbing speed

"Of course NOT.

But there is, after all, ONE hill in the CP loop. If you can increase your climbing speed, your ""average"" or ""cruising"" speed as reported by that little pesky eletronic gizmo on your handlebar WILL creep upward! ;o)

On the other hand, you may have the same problem as me. I can easily hang out with any B18 rides in Westchester (i.e. hills), I had trouble staying with a B14 group to Long Island! I got dropped when the gang ""cruise"" down the mirror flat Service road at a true 17 mph!

Building flat speed take quite a different approach. Getting a lighter bike may increase climbig speed significantly. But it doesn't do squat in flat speed. On the other hand, having a low and areodynamic position helps flat speed quite a bit. So does paceline skills. I think advice from 'fendergal' are also useful for that purpose."

Anonymous's picture
John Z (not verified)
Ride and Recover...

"When a rider says they desire an increase in ""speed"" what the rider means is he/she wants to increase their functional threshold power, which is the foundation of anaerobic cycling ability. Performance then is largely based upon morphotype. Smaller riders tend to have a better power-to-weight ratio and perform better in climbs, larger riders tend to have a better power-to-BSA ratio (body surface area) and perform better on flat terrain, assuming proper position. Muscle fiber type composition is a subfactor.

So how to increase functional threshold power? Increase training volume just below your functional threshold power. This is the zone that is 80-90% of your maximum heart rate, or about 90-95% of your functional threshold power. Ride multiple times a week for at least 45 minutes (high end, an hour or more low end) in this zone and over time you will see gains in your performance. When you start to plateau, switch to short duration more intensive riding (short-medium hills).

Forget about leg weight lifting; it is at best a waste of time for cyclists and at worst can cause injury, convert valuable Type IIb fibers to Type IIa and lead to weight gain. Core body exercises are great in the winter, but when the weather is nice, ride, but don't forget to structure some recovery time to your training program."

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)

Based on my own experience, discontinuing weight-lifting with the legs was a bad choice for me. I ended up with lower back pain attributable to neglect of the stabilizing, deep core muscles. Last year, I was unable to run or even walk without pain for several months.

After a month and a half of rehab this winter, I started lifting weights again on the advice of a trainer at Equinox (and the PT). That and doing lunges, he said, would increase my strength on hills and help to lower my heart rate. We're talking modest pounds here, not powerlifting.

That I survived the first seven STS rides in decent form suggests to me that the trainer had a point. I also feel a heck of a lot stronger and just better over all.

It may also be that returning to a weekly weight regimen forces me to do more regular ab exercises and stretching, no doubt part of the reason for my injury. (That and insufficient training--last year I was riding 80 miles by my sixth time on the road--and not stretching. Yeah, go ahead and snicker.)

Weight-lifting might not be advisable for racers or certain others. But for a recreational cyclist like me just trying to stay fit? For now I will continue doing my legwork every Monday. I know it has helped me on the hills.

Anonymous's picture
John Z (not verified)


""That I survived the first 10 of John's STS rides in decent form suggests to me that the trainer had a point. I also feel a heck of a lot stronger and just better over all.""

You missed at least 1/2 of the STS rides...

Anonymous's picture
rjb (not verified)

"as Greg Lemond once advised a novice, ""the best way to get faster on the bike is to find hills, and ride up them"".....or something like that."

Anonymous's picture
Michael Y (not verified)
do some training at the edge of your lactate threshold

"There's been a lot of good suggestions in this thread. Essentially, if you want to boost your ""cruising"" speed, you have to push yourself to ride faster than your cruising speed. You will have to work to increase your lactate threshold by training your body to become more efficient at clearing lactate as your muscles produce it. One way to do it is by doing high intensity intervals. In The Ultimate Ride, Chris Carmichael describes them as SteadyState IntervalsTM. He suggests doing them at about 90% of your mhr as determined by his CTS Field Test. The volume is two to four efforts of 8 to 20 minutes each, with a 1:1 work-to recovery-ratio. The terrain should be flat to rolling. Cadence on short hills 70-80, but otherwise 85-95. Allow at least 48 hours between sessions."

Anonymous's picture
JP (not verified)

Weights? To lift or not to lift??

I know some very accomplished riders who do and some who do not.

However, I know several Cat 1 elites semi-pro animals, and one and all, every single one says do the weights. When I mention that so and so does not lift, they ask how many races has he won??

Your choice. But I think all around fitness has a place for weights.

Anonymous's picture
el jefe (not verified)
weight training?

"You said ""I think all around fitness has a place for weights."" That's certainly true for ""all around fitness"", but for cycling specific fitness weight training should be done on the bike. For example, big ring hill repeats at low cadence.

You also said ""However, I know several Cat 1 elites semi-pro animals, and one and all, every single one says do the weights."" There are only about 20 active Cat 1's in the NYC area. I must know the ones you don't because all the ones I know _never_ use weights to increase leg strength.

I don't always agree with JZ, but this time his research is faultless.


Anonymous's picture
John Z (not verified)
Supersonic! (nm)
Anonymous's picture
Gary Katz (not verified)
Fitness on and off the bike

"Cycling is primarily a builder of cardiorespiratory fitness. It cannot compete with resistance training and weight bearing activities in the development or maintenance of bone mass and muscle mass.

These are elements of fitness that we must maintain througout life not only to be well enough to ride in our older years, but to be able to carry out ""activities of daily living."""

Anonymous's picture
John Z (not verified)
Weights -- Read This
Anonymous's picture
fendergal (not verified)

"The ""no weights"" idea seems rather old school. Nowadays, most coaches include it in their programs.

As a longtime racer, I am a big proponent of weight-lifting. I know it has made a major positive difference in my riding. In addition to the winter and spring, I lift moderate weight through the summer.

I look forward going to the gym, as a break from being on the bike. Yes, one can do ""strength type"" riding on the bike, but it's also beneficial to have the body work out in other planes of movement."

Anonymous's picture
B. Dale (not verified)
weights for trained cyclists

"I too enjoy hitting the gym- especially in the winter when the cold weather precludes riding. I also ""feel"" a bit stronger on the bike when I've been training with weights.

However, the fact remains that there is not a single published account (that I know of) that has shown weight training to be beneficial to trained cyclists (the exception being trackies). Sure, there are some studies showing improvements in untrained cyclists, but the interpretation is that any type of exercise would have helped these people.

The fact remains that the forces required to push the pedals on intermediate to long distance events are not that large; the biggest obstacle seems to be delivering oxygen to the relevant muscles (building aerobic capacity) and teaching them to process lactate (anaerobic capacity).

If anyone can find a scientific study demonstrating the benefit of weight training for trained cyclists for intermediate to long distance events (say 40k and up), I'd love to see it. Maybe I'll try it!"

Anonymous's picture
John Z (not verified)
"""Old School"""

"Weights are ""old school."" ""New school"" coaches ewschew weights reference Stern..."

Anonymous's picture
JP (not verified)
JZ, Jefe ...

Sheesh, I'm up against JZ and El Jefe, 2 experienced guys I respect. Be gentle with me.

But, here I go, IMHHO, and I am not cat at all, just someone trying to learn and practice what I learn:

To differentiate between cycling fitness and all around fitness can be misleading. Sure, cycling is largely aerobic- legs, lungs and heart. And JZ’s analysis is on point. However, if you are a fast cyclist but not generally fit and start riding with the hammerheads, or even just longer slower rides, problems start. Weak arms may become carpal tunnel, bad elbows, shoulder pains, neck pains. Weak core may lead to back/hip problems. Your entire body should be addressed, of course with proper emphasis. I think the stress you put on your body will find the weakest link and cause discomfort if not pain, maybe injury. Weights, along with stretching, help lots.

JZ and I had a conversation recently and he is erudite, but I still have questions. He said – and pardon me John if I misconstrue – anything other than training at peak wattage is de-training. But then how do you improve? If, for example, and not considering time/endurance here, peak power for someone on the flats is 100 rpms in the 53 x 15, how do you improve? Do you go to the 53 x 14, lessen your output for a while, but them improve? Same for the hills, but different gearing. I don’t know, but that seems right. And weight training would help you turn a larger gear at the same or faster cadence. I personally prefer “weight” training on the bike, and stick to some weights for upper body, but I do squat and press sometimes. (BTW, some of the weightlifters in the gym do about the same poundage I do with the legs – cycling works for me.)

Jeff, the guys I refer to are mostly folks I see and ride with (well, try to for a few miles, haha). The people I know are Tony Taylor and Kirk Whiteman. Tony especially is an adamant weight guy. But every one that I have asked and who has flourished with a number pinned on his butt, says do weights, leg weights.

Any how, constructive comments – hey, witty anonymous foolery flames – are appreciated ...

Anonymous's picture
John Z (not verified)

"""JZ and I had a conversation recently and he is erudite, but I still have questions. He said – and pardon me John if I misconstrue – anything other than training at peak wattage is de-training. But then how do you improve? If, for example, and not considering time/endurance here, peak power for someone on the flats is 100 rpms in the 53 x 15, how do you improve?""


Soem qualifications. First, ""near peak wattage."" Second, an important qualification is ""for a given duration."" Every person has a power duration curve that indicates how much power can be produced over a given timespan. This is quite intuitive, as no rider, Lance Armstrong included, can sustain the same power for an hour that they can for 5 minutes. Therefore, in order for improvement to occur, one needs to train near the maximum intensity level one can sustain for a given period of time as well as increasing the total volume of work.

The third qualification is more subtle. By ""improvement"" I mean peak season to season performance, not gains from say March to July, as any activity will increase performance from an off-season low."

Anonymous's picture
JP (not verified)

OK, thanks!

Anonymous's picture
Carol Wood (not verified)
Ella knows best

You say to-may-to
And I say to-mah-to
You say po-tay-to
And I say po-tah-to.
Let's call the whole thing off....

Anonymous's picture
NNN (not verified)
Eddy Merckx

Eddy Merckx has the best advice: want to get better, stronger, faster on a bike: Ride LOTS.

I suspect that you're probably not improving because you are pretty much doing the same things with the same frequency, e.g., riding laps in CP and doing club rides.

You'll build Stamina by increasing your mileage, i.e., ride more often for greater distances each week. You'll build Strength if you ride consecutive days as often as you can. Those two things will do more for your aerobic (and anaerobic) capacity than any weight training, and you'll notice your ability to maintain a faster pace for a longer time will improve.

Anonymous's picture
Kate (not verified)
Wow - nice response!

thanks all - I obviously have some sifting to do through all of this great advice.

I did the C-sig this spring (which has finally convinced me that it doesn't have to be 60+ to ride comfortably!), which has helped. And while I'm not going to cry about the 'loose weight' suggestion (damn it, I'm not fat!), I am working on it, by biking most days, and avoiding the crap, as someone so eloquently put it.

I'll keep working at it this spring/summer and get back to you all with what worked for me (a fabulous sample size of one).

thanks again!

Anonymous's picture
Kate (not verified)

60+ degrees that is! I'm a cold weather wus at heart...

Anonymous's picture
John Z (not verified)
Me too (nm)
cycling trips