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  1. #1
    fishologist cohophysh's Avatar
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    speed vs distance

    So which one do you prefer and why?
    work on speed first or distance first?
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  2. #2
    SuperGimp TrojanHorse's Avatar
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    Distance. Speed will come. At some point I reckon a serious rider should do speed focused work, like intervals or specific training but for us average joes (assuming you are also an average joe and not a TDF rider) focus on miles first.

  3. #3
    Gears? CliftonGK1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
    Distance. Speed will come. At some point I reckon a serious rider should do speed focused work, like intervals or specific training but for us average joes (assuming you are also an average joe and not a TDF rider) focus on miles first.
    If you train slow, you'll ride slow. Speed doesn't just magically happen without training for it. Base miles are the important part, and without them you won't do well to get into speed and interval training. Focus on the distance first, then work on getting fast.
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  4. #4
    Cat 5 field stuffer bbeasley's Avatar
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    I want the speed. My goal is 20 MPH for 20 miles, I'm currently just under 19. I've always been a speed addict, maybe it's just the Cateye looks better when the first number is a 2

    I poured in the miles for the first year riding over 3,000. Since then I do wind sprints twice a week like my life depends on it and one longish ride on the weekend.

  5. #5
    Senior Member mkadam68's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bbeasley View Post
    I want the speed. My goal is 20 MPH for 20 miles, I'm currently just under 19. I've always been a speed addict, maybe it's just the Cateye looks better when the first number is a 2

    I poured in the miles for the first year riding over 3,000. Since then I do wind sprints twice a week like my life depends on it and one longish ride on the weekend.
    Try a fast-paced group ride (if you haven't already). It helps your body "break through" plateaus to riding goals.

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  6. #6
    Senior Member RoadTire's Avatar
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    Really? Distance first, then speed? So it's better to plan 20 miles for each ride, and just keep upping the speed? Better than 10 miles 3 days a week as fast as I can, and 1 or 2 - 20 mile rides on the weekend? (We're talking riding to get into shape - losing a total of 15 lbs before I gain another 5 lbs this winter..).

    (and ya, it's going to be 20's anyway if I'm going to make anywere near 200 this month. )
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    Quote Originally Posted by cohophysh View Post
    So which one do you prefer and why?
    work on speed first or distance first?
    Speed.

    1. You can spend fitness gained by riding fast riding slow for much much longer, although thousands of slow miles won't make you any faster after you've got a bit of a base.

    Consider a cyclist like Gibertini and Grassi's with .4 m^2 Sd and .760 Cd riding atop the brake hoods but just breaking the Clydestale barrier at 200 pounds plus 20 pounds of bike which we could round to 100kg, and .004 Crr.

    With a 250 W threshold power (defined as what he can sustain for a one hour effort given sufficient freshness and psychological stamina), a 95% effort for him is 237W and 22.8 MPH on dead-flat ground.

    At 15 MPH he's barely turning the pedals over at 82W and (without fit issues that don't show up on shorter rides, failure to eat, failure to hydrate, etc.) and could spend 8:51 to ride 133 miles to rack up the same training stress he'd pickup in a 3x20 threshold workout totaling 1.5 hours with a warm-up, rest between intervals, and a little time to let the sweat evaporate.

    2. Most of us can fit six hours a week into our schedule with a couple hours at that sort of intensity on our hard weeks. To get the same sort of fitness for distance at the all-day pace you might use on a tour would take over twenty hours which is a lot less viable.

    Anecdotally I found 3 ~20 mile spirited rides a week, 6 miles of commuting each day, and a longer 25-40 mile ride on weekends plenty to enjoy a 420 mile week long supported tour with 30,000 feet of climbing.

    3. Increases in what you can manage at 100% for an hour are accompanied with proportional increases at fractions of that.
    Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 07-18-12 at 08:21 PM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Mithrandir's Avatar
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    I generally agree with the above posters. I preferred distance over speed for all of last year, and saw my speed increase from 11 to 13mph, but flatline at 13 for months, despite ever lengthening rides. The distance just did not help my speed at all after a certain point.

    This year I changed two aspects. First I am doing more hills, and second I started doing group rides. Tonight I just had a 20 mile club ride and hit my first 16mph average ever (http://app.strava.com/rides/13786326). I feel amazing at having accomplished this, since my first group rides only 2-3 months ago, I was only hitting 14mph.

    Granted I could have tried to go faster on my own and gotten the same effect, but it's so incredibly difficult to do so. When you have someone who is slightly better than you to pace, it makes you go faster because you're constantly pushing yourself to the envelope; and I find it much easier to go faster than my mind would let me go on a solo ride.

    I'm definitely seeing results. Last night I did a 46 mile 2,500 ft hill ride (http://app.strava.com/rides/13706575), the biggest and longest hill ride I've ever done, into some gnarly headwinds, and managed 12.3mph. Last year a bad headwind on a 20 mile flat would drop my ride average to 11, easy.


    I think what I'm going to see happen now is that with speed, will come distance. I'll be able to go faster and thus go further in the same amount of time.
    Last edited by Mithrandir; 07-18-12 at 08:55 PM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member jeneralist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RoadTired View Post
    Really? Distance first, then speed? So it's better to plan 20 miles for each ride, and just keep upping the speed? Better than 10 miles 3 days a week as fast as I can, and 1 or 2 - 20 mile rides on the weekend? (We're talking riding to get into shape - losing a total of 15 lbs before I gain another 5 lbs this winter..).
    It depends on where your starting point is. If you're just starting out and need to stop once or twice on a 6 mile ride, work on distance.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member libero's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cohophysh View Post
    So which one do you prefer and why?
    work on speed first or distance first?
    I put fun first. In some cases, that ends up in a distance ride, like if it's a social, but all things being equal, going fast is more fun so speed first.

    Some hills are kind of fun too - I try to ride them at decent speed so I'd also lump them into the speed category.

  11. #11
    working on progress treebound's Avatar
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    It's kind of like asking if you should eat your fruit or your vegetables first, you need them both so work on both.

    Define your goals, then work toward those goals.

    For some the goal is to ride 100 miles in a day, and the only speed requirement is to finish before sunset.

    For others the goal is to ride 20 miles in one hour, solo, with no drafting.

    One needs distance and base building, the other also needs to add in some endurance type speed work. Pick up Friels or someone else's training book, apply it to your goals and go forth. And always eat your vegetables.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member CommuteCommando's Avatar
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    Distance. But I am speaking as a commuter, not as an athlete in training. As my distance has improved to the point that I can now do fifty miles once or twice a month, I have actually started "training", and doing intervals and such.
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    Senior Member redvespablur's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by treebound View Post
    It's kind of like asking if you should eat your fruit or your vegetables first, you need them both so work on both.

    Define your goals, then work toward those goals.

    For some the goal is to ride 100 miles in a day, and the only speed requirement is to finish before sunset.

    For others the goal is to ride 20 miles in one hour, solo, with no drafting.

    One needs distance and base building, the other also needs to add in some endurance type speed work. Pick up Friels or someone else's training book, apply it to your goals and go forth. And always eat your vegetables.
    +1 a reasonable training program will have Long slow Days as well as speed intervals and hill repeats. The combination of all these things is related to your goals. To go faster you must do the base building of Long /slow Days - to go farther you need to work on repeats and recoveries

  14. #14
    Senior Member RoadTire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by treebound View Post
    It's kind of like asking if you should eat your fruit or your vegetables first....
    Off-topic, but where did you grow up? We ate our vegies, then fruit then desert. Now that I'm too old for anyone to tell me what to do, I grab chocolate desert first before I'm too full to enjoy it.
    Last edited by RoadTire; 07-18-12 at 11:31 PM.
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    I went for distance and speed in baby steps. They tend to blend into one anyway as the faster you ride the further you go in less time.

  16. #16
    Lover of Old Chrome Moly Myosmith's Avatar
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    You shouldn't think of it as "which first?" as much as "what balance of the two meets my personal goal?". It isn't like you have to work on one or the other. You can do some sprints and short/fast rides mixed in with a couple of long steady rides throughout the week. When I only have an hour or so to ride, I tend to work on speed. On the weekend when I have a few hours, I go on longer rides, but even then I might sprint a couple of times or push the speed over a segment just to break the monotony.
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  17. #17
    Captain Big Ring tractorlegs's Avatar
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    You're all crazy. I vote C. All Of The Above. Both speed and distance are important. However, in context to the forum the op chose to post the question (Clydes and Athenas) I lean to Distance as the answer. I would think most people that are on a bike to lose weight are putting more priority on "Time in Saddle" (distance) rather than speed.
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  18. #18
    2 Fat 2 Furious contango's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cohophysh View Post
    So which one do you prefer and why?
    work on speed first or distance first?
    When I was new to cycling I focussed on the two in different ways - at first I wanted to be able to cycle 10 miles and didn't care how long it took as long as I could do it, and was curious to see what speed I could hit on the flats even if it only registered for a couple of seconds. Then I wanted to see if I could cover a greater distance as one record, while maintaining a higher average over a shorter distance.

    I found my average speeds naturally rose as I got stronger and at the same time my endurance where distance was concerned naturally rose as well.

    One thing I would say is that if where you live is fairly flat you'll do well to seek out hills and climb them. The first time I did a tour outside of my home town I was pretty confident I could cover the distance - I'd done 40 miles in 3-4 hours and found it a leisurely pace so figured I could cover 80 miles in a day easily enough. What I hadn't banked on was that I'd got pretty good at avoiding the hills near where I live and on my tour there were hills, much bigger than the local hills and no way to avoid them. So I spent a lot of time walking up hills. I covered the 80 miles but it took longer than expected, I ended up walking most of the last hill (2 miles, on a busy road, in the dark) and by the time I got to the B&B for the overnight stop I felt utterly broken.
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  19. #19
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    There's no reason you need to pick one. Do both. They will compliment each other as you do them.

    I prefer longer rides, with hill repeats or sprints against my friends on the same ride. That's my definition of a great ride.
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  20. #20
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    mix it up. both offer fun and unique features; benefits; challenges; goals & accomplishments. also, there are personal aspects to this. for example are you a new rider? do you have any specific personal goals?
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

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    Given the choices: Distance, then speed. If you can't made it to where you want to go, then speed is irrelevant.

    That said, you need to do both. For me, the key performance variables are time (in the saddle) and heart rate (interval training).

  22. #22
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    If you ride enough distance, you'll eventually reach a hill; climbing it will be slow, but there's a lot of speed on the way down.

    Going fast for the sake of going fast gets old and boring. I prefer to ride my bike in beautiful places, and that means distance for me.
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  23. #23
    Senior Member tony_merlino's Avatar
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    Years ago I used to aim for more distance, with increasing average speed. I also aimed for more hill-climbing ability, which I'm not sure is totally related to either ... I'd have to think about it.

    Now, I have to say I don't care too much about speed. I care about cadence - I want to be able to stay in a moderate to slightly above moderate cardio zone (for me, that's about 100-115 BPM) for a long time, with some spurts above that, and some rest periods. (I don't have a cadence meter, but after a lot of years, I kind of know when I'm spinning fast enough...) So this more or less translates to increasing distance with a minimum cadence constraint. Hills help the legs get stronger, so speed comes as a side effect of this approach, I guess. But I don't keep track. I'm going to be 60 in a few months, so I know I'm not headed for fame and fortune as a bicycle racer.

    Most of my bikes aren't speed-machines anyway. Even my current road bike (a 1990s Bianchi Eros, when they were still being made in Italy) is more of a sport/touring bike than a racing bike.
    Last edited by tony_merlino; 07-19-12 at 10:27 AM.
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  24. #24
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Cycling isn't running or swimming.

    There is a pretty clear difference between running and walking.

    For most just swimming at all is good excercise.

    Not cycling. One can cycle very slowly and it is less excercise than walking, hardly more than sitting.

    Talking about Clydes makes it even more difficult as we range from fit but big to grossly overweight. Different rules for each.

    Generally speaking work on what you want to increase. Just riding farther at the same speed will do little to increase speed. Short speed work does little to increase endurance.

    If you want to ride farther and faster then do that. Push just a bit more for the whole ride.

    General rule for all training is to train by doing the thing yuo are training for.
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  25. #25
    2 Fat 2 Furious contango's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    If you ride enough distance, you'll eventually reach a hill; climbing it will be slow, but there's a lot of speed on the way down.

    Going fast for the sake of going fast gets old and boring. I prefer to ride my bike in beautiful places, and that means distance for me.
    If you can cover the distance at a higher speed you get to spend more time in the beautiful places and less time going to and fro. Sometimes I like to go all-out to get somewhere, then take a leisurely ride around the area, then go all-out to get back home. Sometimes I'll go all-out near home but then turn onto the riverside path, ride really slowly for a while, maybe stop and enjoy the view, then ride until I can get off the riverside path and go all-out to get home.
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