Done your winter training and long bike rides but still feel as though you’re cycling all your rides at ‘one pace’ and getting no faster?
If you’ve worked on your endurance for many months, then no doubt your body gets comfortable riding at one long steady pace hour after hour. Even if you’ve done a lot of hill work, your body gets used to a ‘set pace’. It’s only when you take part in your first sportive, or get out on a few rides with friends do you realise you’re ‘lacking snap in your legs.’
Now is the perfect time of year to start injecting ‘zip’ into your rides to lift you out of your ‘plod along pace’. To get faster on the bike, you have to ride faster! You have to pedal out of your comfort zone and expose your legs to some harder training.
The good news is sportives don’t demand constant hard accelerations like road racing does, so your training doesn’t have to be aggressively focused towards top-end intervals, or full out efforts of any sort.
To add more pace to your rides, choose a couple of short bike rides midweek and vary the following three trainings over two to three weeks. By the end of week three you should start noticing improvements in your leg turnover, accelerations and general responsiveness to speed changes on all your rides:
1. Fartlek training:
Fartlek is the Swedish word which means ‘speed play’. In other words, you ‘play with your speed’ over whatever distance you wish.
Take a short bike ride, say 1-2 hours and deliberately change pace throughout the ride whenever you dictate.
For example, once you’re warmed up, step on the pedals and hold a minute riding harder than you would on a long bike ride, then resume back to your normal cycling pace. Repeat this throughout your ride, varying the length of the work bout as you so choose.
Remember, the shorter the effort the harder you should work – however, I stress you shouldn’t kill yourself on each work bout – it’s not necessary. The aim is to ride ‘just out of’ your comfort zone to get used to what it’s like changing pace. Your body adapts best to progressive bite sized loads, rather than going ‘all out as hard as you can’, which only serves to overtrain you.
2. Acceleration training:
Again, on a short bike ride probably no longer than an hour (depending on fitness), change to a higher gear, get out the saddle for a few seconds and ‘accelerate’ down the road (for a few seconds) before resuming back in the saddle again.
Hold this faster pace in the saddle for a minute or so (no more than two minutes), before resuming back to normal cycling pace. Give yourself a good five minutes before you repeat. Work from 5 accelerations to a maximum of 10 over the course of 3 or 4 weeks.
Try this on the flats and in the hills – just work to the terrain you find on your bike ride. Again the effort level is about getting out of your ‘comfort plod pace’, but not about all out maximum effort or sprinting here. You should feel the workout is ‘hard’ and look forward to a recovery, but not need to stop pedalling.
3. Cadence (leg turnover) training:
On your longest ride of the week, take some time to become concious of your ‘cadence’ (leg turnover rate). It is useful to therefore have a cadence sensor and read out, but if you don’t, just go by feel.
You want to practice upping your cadence from what you do normally on a long bike ride. So, at various points during your ride ‘spin’ out a low gear so the power to the pedals feels featherlight. The best place to start this is on a flat part of your bike ride, or slight downhill – just so you get the feel of the new cadence level.
Your aim is to hold a higher cadence than usual. So for example, if you usually hold around 80 rpm on a bike ride, try holding 100 rpm for 5 minutes. Repeat at various easy points during your ride over the course of several weeks.
If you’ve done your endurance work and wondering why you’re not faster – it may be you need a quick pace lift. These workouts require no big time investment and can be built into any commute or bike ride you have scheduled.
By riding out of your comfort zone in bite sized chunks regularly during the coming weeks, you should see a marked improvement in your ‘speed’ as we approach summertime sportives.
If you benefited from this post, do share with your friends – I’m sure they want to know how they could get faster on a bike – and these are straightforward workouts to get started with! I also look forward to any comments you have below: