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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 06-09-11, 08:22 PM   #1
yammay
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Ways to increase my avg speed?

For background, I started commuting about 2-3 months ago. My commute is about 10 miles, mostly flat but a few small hills, a lot of narrow two-lane semi-country roads (it's a former rural area that is turning suburban). My bike is a Haro Express Sport with stock tires.

I'm a pretty slow 11 MPH average right now. Although my main philosophy behind bike commuting is that slow bike commuting is better than no bike commuting, I think I'd really like to increase my average MPH, in order to A) help increase my fitness, maybe get a little faster so that I can go riding with other people and not be the slowest one in the pack, and B) reduce my ride time so I can sleep in a little longer.

Do you have any suggestions for increasing my speed? I'd prefer not to buy another bike but am open to modifications on my current one.
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Old 06-09-11, 08:36 PM   #2
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First thing to check is your seat height. Is it adjusted for optimum efficiency? You get more power transfer if it is set up at the right height.
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Old 06-09-11, 08:40 PM   #3
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Speed comes with effort and time in the saddle. There are no shortcuts.
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Old 06-09-11, 08:43 PM   #4
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Get a motor with a better power/weight ratio.
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Old 06-09-11, 09:04 PM   #5
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Speed comes with effort and time in the saddle. There are no shortcuts.
+1

I don't know what fitness level you're currently at, but after only 2-3 months, that doesn't sound too bad. You'll get faster with time if you want to.
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Old 06-09-11, 09:42 PM   #6
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These folks speak the truth..Proper fit and maybe some slicks if your running knobby tires and Ride hard !!

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/saddles.html (scroll down to "height" adjustment)

If you like pain look up "Base miles" and then "Intervals"

http://www.bicycling.com/training-nu...aining-fitness
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Old 06-09-11, 10:44 PM   #7
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Im not sure how much more speed it will actually gain you but as cfxmarauder said, change your tires out to something thinner and smoother than the .45's on there now. this will allow you to run at a higher tire pressure which will reduce the rolling resistance (and noise). the other way to increase speed (besides pedaling harder/faster) would be to change your gearing, although 14 -28 isnt that far off. Perhaps you could find some larger chainrings that fit your crank spacing.
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Old 06-09-11, 10:46 PM   #8
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Take days off when your legs are tired. Your fitness improves on the days you rest.

You might also want to consider a bike computer with a cadence feature and make sure your shifting technique is good.

http://sheldonbrown.com/gears.html

Beyond that, ride more.
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Old 06-10-11, 12:34 AM   #9
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You get faster by riding faster.

Seriously, you have to get your body to adjust to a faster pace. To help that process, you can do "intervals". Here's some tips.

There's a lot of mumbo jumbo in there. To simplify it, go the section where they talk about telephone poles. The idea is to go really hard between two telephone poles, then go at a more relaxed (but not turtle slow) pace for the next 3 or 4 poles. Do several of these during a given ride, then don't do it again for the next ride or two. You only need a couple of these sessions a week and you need to have adequate recovery time between them.

Also make sure you warm up a good 15 to 20 minutes before you start them.
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Old 06-10-11, 12:47 AM   #10
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Clipless pedals helped me speed up a little. You can spin faster, smoother and more efficiently with foot retention.
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Old 06-10-11, 12:54 AM   #11
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If running platforms sans clips ATM, then just getting some clips and straps on there should net almost 2 mph avg, at least it did for me. Should be about the same for other foot retention methods.

When I had a long flat commute (17.5 miles each way in PHX, AZ) clip-on aero bars got me about 1.5 mph avg.

Otherwise, practice makes practice.

Oooh, just looked at your bike, Haro Express Sport.



A -17 non-adjustable stem, some flat bars with barends and a more svelte saddle should help a bit. See if you can get your saddle height high enough with the stock seatpost - with the heel of your shoe on the pedal in the position in the pic your leg should be straight (no bend in the knee). Make sure the tip of your saddle's not more than 6cm behind the bottom bracket centerline after that.

You're gonna want your bars to be about level with your seat if not lower.

Luckily the Seattube is not super laid back and the seatpost isn't suspension...

Last edited by LesterOfPuppets; 06-10-11 at 01:08 AM.
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Old 06-10-11, 01:40 AM   #12
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The biggest thing you can do is get higher pressure tires. I'm running 700 X 32 at 110ibs. I wouldn't worry about clipless pedals or aero bars or any other equipment change until you got tires good for atleast 95 ibs pressure. You'll enjoy your ride more especially after pushing fat tires around. After you get the tires then just pedal faster in a higher gear.
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Old 06-10-11, 01:44 AM   #13
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Hmmm. I'd get my bars to just about an inch above the top of the headtube 1st. Then a non-fat saddle. Then tires.

But I guess we all have different priorities.

Actually I might do the saddle first. Tough call there.
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Old 06-10-11, 04:22 AM   #14
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"It never gets any easier - you just go faster." - Greg LeMond

don't get discouraged by that, you're not competing.... but there are no shortcuts (and often detours) on the way to improving fitness.

read up on performance training and see what makes sense and works for you. as mentioned, things like tires, saddle height, etc will have an influence on speed but beyond that, the faster you try to ride, the faster you'll wind up riding - it just takes time. i've been riding a commuter for a while and when i first got my tt/tri bike i was scared by how fast it wanted to go without too much effort (it's still kinda scary) but some bikes are made for speed more than others.

if your roads are smooth you'll benefit from a higher PSI... if you roads are not smooth, you'll likely benefit from a lower PSI. hard tires on bumpy roads redirect the energy of the bumps up, while softer tires absorb some shock and keep you rolling forward.

"A relaxed seat angle combined with a taller head tube makes this one comfortable hybrid! We engineered the Express to be easy on your back by putting you in a more upright riding position." - it looks like that bikes is designed for comfort but not for speed (almost like a beach cruiser). spend some time on it, try making some adjustments, and if you get frustrated try out something that's more of a "commuter" bike. if you don't have any plans for panniers, maybe even a "road" bike. the different geometries will make a big difference. for now, enjoy the ride, enjoy the exercise, keep your cadence high.
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Old 06-10-11, 05:13 AM   #15
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Nothing wrong with 11mph average commuting speed. Why strive to go faster on a commute? You might save 3-5 minutes if you push harder. I really see no problem with 11mph average. Your bike is not built for speed either, and there is nothing wrong with that as well. I would not spend much money on that bike. If the slowness really bothers you get another bike with more aggressive geometry.
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Old 06-10-11, 05:24 AM   #16
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Not that much need for more aggressive geo. The seattube angle on that thing isn't overly slack to my eyes. Head tube is REALLY high though. Just gotta get the saddle height and bar height close and vroom!

Could require long seatpost in addition to a new stem.

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Old 06-10-11, 05:59 AM   #17
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As others said, better speed will come with increased fitness. As far as your bike goes, switching to some lighter, narrower tires with a smooth tread will probably increase speed more than anything. You didn't mention how much gear you are carrying. However, if you have your bike loaded down with panniers and all sorts of gear that isn't essential, that will really slow you down. Anything you can do to lower your total weight will help increase speed.
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Old 06-10-11, 06:14 AM   #18
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As others said, better speed will come with increased fitness. As far as your bike goes, switching to some lighter, narrower tires with a smooth tread will probably increase speed more than anything. You didn't mention how much gear you are carrying. However, if you have your bike loaded down with panniers and all sorts of gear that isn't essential, that will really slow you down. Anything you can do to lower your total weight will help increase speed.
For what its worth, I ride a heavy cargo bike loaded with close to 30lbs of extra stuff daily, I consistently have 13MPH averages, and I have just started. Not really a flat commute either. I think this guys dilemma comes down to practice, pedaling method, and basically gaining experience.

I agree with the others: Why rush? You are going to work, not all that exciting I love the days where I just take it easy, kick back, and enjoy my surroundings. Even when I really kick it up and nail a 15-17MPH average I only cut about 4 minutes off my time.
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Old 06-10-11, 06:18 AM   #19
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Anything you can do to lower your total weight will help increase speed.
i've wondered about this... will it really increase speed or just acceleration?

now if only i could find a pannier rack for my tt/tri bike...
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Old 06-10-11, 06:21 AM   #20
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There are a number of good articles on increasing speed scattered across many websites and publications, but the advice boils down to several common themes. Keep your head low and your back flat, strengthen your legs so that you can tend toward the higher gears, and train for speed. I'd also recommend doing some club rides. Try to keep up with the stronger cyclists. You'll probably get dropped pretty quickly at first, but over time your speed will increase. When I'm trying to build speed I also treat the space between traffic lights as a short time trial, racing from light to light.
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Old 06-10-11, 06:21 AM   #21
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I can feel the difference when I have 2 full water bottles and a full seatbag on my road bike. That's gotta be a good 12 pounds, though. There's no cheap/easy way to shave 12 lbs offa the bike in question.
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Old 06-10-11, 06:56 AM   #22
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i've wondered about this... will it really increase speed or just acceleration?

now if only i could find a pannier rack for my tt/tri bike...
Both. Think about the extra work it takes to maintain speed up a hill carrying extra weight. As for pannier rack you could probably find one of those cantilevered gizmos. I have one on a fixed gear track bike. They don't support an enormous amount of weight, but I can carry a change of clothes and my lunch.
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Old 06-10-11, 08:16 AM   #23
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Both. Think about the extra work it takes to maintain speed up a hill carrying extra weight. As for pannier rack you could probably find one of those cantilevered gizmos. I have one on a fixed gear track bike. They don't support an enormous amount of weight, but I can carry a change of clothes and my lunch.
makes sense uphill... downhill or level i'd think it's closer to a non-issue. what affects me more than weight, even on hills, is wellington's wind. my panniers are like sails... there are times i have to pedal downhill and other times when i can almost coast uphill.

link for the cantilevered gizmo rack?
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Old 06-10-11, 08:24 AM   #24
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Nothing wrong with 11mph average commuting speed. Why strive to go faster on a commute? You might save 3-5 minutes if you push harder. I really see no problem with 11mph average. Your bike is not built for speed either, and there is nothing wrong with that as well. I would not spend much money on that bike. If the slowness really bothers you get another bike with more aggressive geometry.
+1

Even though I was the one that posted information about "intervals", I have to agree.

The big question is what do you want your commute to be like? If you want it to be a workout, then you definitely can add a few mph to your average, - if your commute isn't filled with intersections you have to slow down and/or stop at.

If you have a ton of intersections to deal with, that's going to keep your average speed down and there's not much you can do about it.

After looking at your bike (and it is a nice bike), I have to say that 11 mph average is about right for what you have. It puts you in a very upright position which a lot of people like. It's not intended for going fast though and I personally think that swapping out stems and bars may not accomplish much other than making you more uncomfortable.

Finally, figure out how much sooner averaging a few extra mph would get you to work. It may not be worth it.
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Old 06-10-11, 08:33 AM   #25
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+1 fitness and correct bike fit will be the primary factors in your average speed. The bike itself is probably a slight factor - very upright seating position, big saddle - it's more of a "cruise through the neighborhood to buy flowers" type of a bike than one for a 10 mile hilly commute. That said, it will do just fine for you to continue to build your fitness.
Start putting away some money, keep riding the Haro, then when you have $1000 or so saved up we can talk options.

Start out with 2 days a week (Tues, Thurs)of increased effort - really push it on the hills (to the point of being out of breath - near maximum effort), gather yourself on the flats for a minute or two, then pick up the pace again. On the alternating days (the other 3), go a bit easier and don't worry about pace. Your legs should be a bit sore, and riding easier helps them recover. Some studies show that an "easy" ride is more beneficial than a total "off" day. Go with what feels right to you.

After a few weeks, switch so you are doing M-W-F as hard days and Tues-Thurs as recovery days. After several more weeks you should be feeling noticeably stronger.

Diet can also help with this. Make sure you give your body the protein it needs within 15-30 minutes of your rides and get enough sleep.

Now is the time to develop some good form. Spin, don't mash. Maintain an absolute minimum pedal cadence of 60 RPM, preferably closer to 90 RPM. Pedal with the balls of your feet over the pedal spindle (axle), not on your heels. Ensure your saddle is adjusted to the correct height.

Good luck!!!!!!!
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