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  1. #1
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    Peak performance

    For a 50 yo cyclist who is essentially just starting to ride seriously (100 miles/week), at what age can you expect to peak in terms of century best times ? A thread in the training forum indicated that it takes 2-5 years to become a seasoned cyclist, but realistically I ain't getting any younger.

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    There's a book called "Ride Till You're 100" that has a few great bios/stories of riders in their 60's, 70's, and even 80's that are still pounding it out (and several still winning events that they enter).

    Of course, many have been lifelong cyclists to begin with, and their performances are more the exception than the rule for "everyday" cyclists like many of us.

    I would imagine with yourself, your overall level of health and fitness starting out would play a role, along with how much time and effort you dedicate to training. The figure of 2 to 3 years to become a seasoned cyclist that you quote above may have more to do with road racing, rather than riding centuries. If you're in half-decent shape, you could probably complete a century tomorrow -- although you'd probably be sorry the next few days.

    At what age you (and the rest of us) will peak is as individual as we are. I'm certain that you'll see better times each time you do one up until some unknown point in time in the future. What that point will be is anyone's guess.

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    Around now and then DnvrFox's Avatar
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    I started riding (seriously) at age 58 in March, 1998. In June of that year I did the Ride the Rockies - a multi-day several hundred mile tour of the Colorado mtns and passes - and I did it on a mtn bike (with slicks).

    It doesn't take 2-3 years for that sort of thing, although, as you have more years in, you learn more and get a bit "ride smarter."

    It is extremely individual and dependent upon drive, motivation, genes, prior physical condition, time for riding, etc.
    DnvrFox - still bicycling, swimming, walking and weight lifting at 74yo is participating a bit in BFN 50+.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DnvrFox
    I started riding (seriously) at age 58 in March, 1998. In June of that year I did the Ride the Rockies - a multi-day several hundred mile tour of the Colorado mtns and passes - and I did it on a mtn bike (with slicks).

    It doesn't take 2-3 years for that sort of thing, although, as you have more years in, you learn more and get a bit "ride smarter."

    It is extremely individual and dependent upon drive, motivation, genes, prior physical condition, time for riding, etc.
    Agree. 1st year you are learning the intricacies of bike riding. You should be able to do, providing you have the fitness and spent enough saddle time, a century ride.2nd year is when you find your limits, strengths and weakness's but in the 3rd year things start happening.

    I am 58 and still improving on my times for certain rides. Find that I have to train harder and longer to retain my fitness. but "it" is still there. I still have to cope with the odd days when things do not go right, or the hill got steeper from last month, but not as many as I was 10 years ago.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1-track-mind
    For a 50 yo cyclist who is essentially just starting to ride seriously (100 miles/week), at what age can you expect to peak in terms of century best times ? A thread in the training forum indicated that it takes 2-5 years to become a seasoned cyclist, but realistically I ain't getting any younger.
    Age is not the factor to consider since peak physical performance occurs at a much younger age. Your personal peak however with the given limitations and potentials, may be reached within two years. I compete in races and you are already riding as much or more than I. Peaking may also be considered a seasonal or periodic physical state, thus for example during three weeks in July you peak and the rest of the year is spent either recuperating, maintaining or building to the next peak. A seasoned cyclist is one who has years of experience on the bike and may never have peaked in his life. Century best time is not a specific goal thus I would suggest revising it by setting a realsitic time objective for time trialing 20 miles (for example). There are too many variables in 100 miles to really make performance comparisons.

    Wishing you best of luck in attaining your goals.

  6. #6
    Let's do a Century jppe's Avatar
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    Can provide my personal experience if it helps any. I started riding 4 years ago at the age of 49. For simplicity let's say I rode 2000 miles year one and added at least 1000 miles each subsequent year to where I'm at 5500 miles for this year. Sounds like you may be ahead of that pace.

    Anyway, I'm still shaving time off Centuries, time trials and other events that I'm repeating. I think I'm getting close to "peaking" for me as the time reductions are getting substantially reduced each year. Time trialing is probably the best event to measure performance and I was able to set a new PR this year but we're talking just seconds over a 24 minute period.

    On longer rides I'm still learning that pushing myself to stay in groups is a heck of a lot better than being out there solo. So, some of the improvements could very well be "technique" versus actually physically peaking-but I'll admit that there is a lot to learn about "how" to ride.

    If someone is trying to greatly improve their riding abilities, miles per week is one factor, but probably just as important is are they "quality" miles. That is are they miles with "intervals" with increased HR, miles for distance, etc. I don't know for sure but would guess that 5 rides at 20 miles each could be a lot different that other types of rides that could affect overall performance.

    Good luck and keep us posted on your experiences so we can all learn together!

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    I've gotten better every single year since I came back to cycling in about 1987. I'm now 61.

    My club used to put on a century and I was sagging a portion of the course. I got there early because I wanted to enjoy a cup of coffee and read the paper before the cyclists started arriving in my section.

    My section was 18 miles from the start of the century. I got there 30 minutes after the course opened. I started drinking my coffee and reading the paper and a three cyclists passed me by. Since that section of course was a popular cycling road I didn't think anything about it.

    After about 5 minutes I started wondering and so took off. Down the canyon and then the right turn up the climb. Near the top of the climb I passed two of them and they were wearing the dayglo wrist bracelet that we handed out at the start! I drove rather rapidly though safely to the rest stop at the end of that canyon. The older guy with grey hair had beat me there. He had grabbed some food and left before I got there.

    I sagged my section and after everyone had cleared it, I sagged a woman with a broken wheel back to the start. I then cut across the course to the third rest stop and they told me that that old guy had come through WHILE THEY WERE OPENING UP!

    I drove back along the course hoping to see this guy ride but when I got back a little over 4 hours from the start this guy had already checked in and gone home. He had some 100 miles and 2400 feet of climbing in about 4 hours and 10 minutes and had stopped for a minute or so at two rest stops!

    I would have estimated his age at around 55 but he might have been older.

    One of the guys in our club finished the Valley Spokesmen Hilly Hundred when it was still being run. I believe it had something like 4,000 feet of climbing. He finished in under 6 hours at 55. As a comparison, that same course took me 8 hours and I was in a daze when I came in. It took me about 30 minutes to recover enough to eat something.

    One of the "new" club members started riding about 5 years ago and has done 5 double centuries now. Including 3 in a 12 month period.

    What's in your tank?

  8. #8
    Senior Member jazzy_cyclist's Avatar
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    Good comments all. I am a relative newbie in that I've just completed my second season of (serious)cycling; I turned 55 yesterday.

    In terms of performance, I'm reminded of something in Joe Friel's book (Cyclists Training Bible) which is that for the first two or three years, you shouldn't worry so much about training regimens - you should just ride as much as you can. That's been my approach. I'm now starting to working on a bit more structured approach, but I still feel like I learn something new almost every ride. I've got a long way to go, but I've come a long way, and most importantly, I'm really enjoying it.

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    I actually did a little road cycling in the mid-eighties, mixed in with some mountain biking. Between 1987 and 2005, I only rode a couple of times per year. With my 50th BD approaching and in lousy shape I bought a new road bike this Fall and rode everyday for three weeks straight. Gradually the climbs I despised at 30 became a welcomed challenge twenty years (and one more chain ring) later. After two months I lost 20 lbs. and was in the best cycling shape of my life. This was a revelation to learn that I could surpass my conditioning at age 30 twenty years later. The optimum mileage as far as feeling good seems to be around 35-40 (in the WNC mountains).

    Looking ahead to 2006, I'm starting to think about riding the same centuries I considered insane a few months ago even though I think I hit the law of diminishing returns after 40 miles. I guess its human nature wanting to improve, but I wonder whether a goal of maintaining a semi-fit condition is wiser at 50 or wimping out ?

    My cycling mentor has been riding for about 5 years. He is 72, rides grueling centuries and routinely leaves me in the dust, so I don't have to look far for motivation.

    Seems like if improvement is the goal, winter would be the best time to close the gap.
    Last edited by 1-track-mind; 12-21-05 at 09:59 AM.

  10. #10
    Let's do a Century jppe's Avatar
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    Sounds to me like you are well on the way 1-track. I live in the Charlotte region and have done a good number of the organized rides in what I'd call WNC. Here's a few metric and english centuries over your way that I've done in the last year or so that you could shoot for:

    Assault on the Carolinas-Brevard-100k-features 6 mi climb up Caesars head
    Assault on Mt Mitchell-Spartanburg to Mitchell-102 miles-10,000 ft of climbing (could consider doing Marion the first year?)
    Bridge to Bridge-Lenoir to Grandfather-102 miles with 12 mi climb up 181 and 2 miles on Grandfather (one of my favorites)
    Blue Ridge Brutal 100-West Jefferson-100 miles with 6000 ft of climbing
    Hilly Hellacious 100-Fletcher-100 miles with almost 8,000+ ft of climbing
    Fletcher Flyer-Fletcher-various route options but has a 100 miler-around 3000 ft of climbing
    Blood, Sweat and Gears-Boone/Valle Crucis-10,000+ ft of climbing w/ Snake Mtn
    Burnsville Metric-Burnsville-100k and probably 4-5000 ft of climbing but nothing steep-has a long flat section along the river
    Fabulous 4th-Tryon-100k with 6000 ft of climbing w/ a fast finish
    The RAW ride-N Wilkesboro-100k with 4-5000 ft of climbing and a screamingly fast finish the last 6-7 miles
    Hurt, Pain and Agony-Traphill-100k+-Has a 6 mile climb at the start plus another 2 miles at the 52 mile mark-has 2 short sections of 19% grade
    3 Mountain Metric-Mt Pilot-70 miles with climbs up Hanging Rock, Sauratown and Pilot Mtn
    Foothills Classic-Germanton-100k and 100 miles-Loops into Va

    Here are some I have not done:
    Tour de Cashiers-100mi-I hear it's pretty tough with LOTs of climbing
    Tour de Lure-Lake Lure-100 mi
    Roan Moan-Bakersville
    Tour de Leaves-Hendersonville

    Plus, you really need to plan on coming to Charlotte in 2006 and do at least one of the Time Trials at Lowes Motor Speedway. They're a real hoot!!

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    Here's another book recommendation: "Cycling Past 50" (or something close to that) by Joe Friel.
    Friel is well-known as a trainer, but I picked this up on a whim, not expecting to learn much from it (I'm 60, and I've been riding for 35+ years). There was a lot of information in it that I either didn't know or hadn't thought about in a long time, including detailed training guides specific to older riders and how to make sure you peak at the right time for major events.
    He even pointed out a pattern I've fallen into almost without realizing it: Doing a lot of miles, but at a pretty easy pace. He says it's common among post-50 cyclists. Nothing wrong with it for weight control and cardiovascular fitness, but he's sold me on the benefits of some higher-intensity workouts, too. I've been sort of lazy and idle for the last few weeks, but now I'm pumped up again.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jppe
    Sounds to me like you are well on the way 1-track. I live in the Charlotte region and have done a good number of the organized rides in what I'd call WNC. Here's a few metric and english centuries over your way that I've done in the last year or so that you could shoot for:

    Assault on the Carolinas-Brevard-100k-features 6 mi climb up Caesars head
    Assault on Mt Mitchell-Spartanburg to Mitchell-102 miles-10,000 ft of climbing (could consider doing Marion the first year?)
    Bridge to Bridge-Lenoir to Grandfather-102 miles with 12 mi climb up 181 and 2 miles on Grandfather (one of my favorites)
    Blue Ridge Brutal 100-West Jefferson-100 miles with 6000 ft of climbing
    Hilly Hellacious 100-Fletcher-100 miles with almost 8,000+ ft of climbing
    Fletcher Flyer-Fletcher-various route options but has a 100 miler-around 3000 ft of climbing
    Blood, Sweat and Gears-Boone/Valle Crucis-10,000+ ft of climbing w/ Snake Mtn
    Burnsville Metric-Burnsville-100k and probably 4-5000 ft of climbing but nothing steep-has a long flat section along the river
    Fabulous 4th-Tryon-100k with 6000 ft of climbing w/ a fast finish
    The RAW ride-N Wilkesboro-100k with 4-5000 ft of climbing and a screamingly fast finish the last 6-7 miles
    Hurt, Pain and Agony-Traphill-100k+-Has a 6 mile climb at the start plus another 2 miles at the 52 mile mark-has 2 short sections of 19% grade
    3 Mountain Metric-Mt Pilot-70 miles with climbs up Hanging Rock, Sauratown and Pilot Mtn
    Foothills Classic-Germanton-100k and 100 miles-Loops into Va

    Here are some I have not done:
    Tour de Cashiers-100mi-I hear it's pretty tough with LOTs of climbing
    Tour de Lure-Lake Lure-100 mi
    Roan Moan-Bakersville
    Tour de Leaves-Hendersonville

    Plus, you really need to plan on coming to Charlotte in 2006 and do at least one of the Time Trials at Lowes Motor Speedway. They're a real hoot!!
    That's a tough lineup. I ride portions of the Bridge to Bridge, Blood Sweat & Gears or Blue Ridge Brutal every ride I make from the house but am still intimidated by them in their entirety.
    Which would you pick for the first three to start on ?

  13. #13
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    I know several people in my club who became faster after retiring at age 60 or 61; and they were members of the 'fast' group to begin with!

    On a personal note, at 50 years young, I've gotten faster in each of the last 4 years since I got my lowracer. At my present rate of improvement, I'll be doing 4 hour centuries in about 2 or 3 years. Not bad for someone who, 8 years ago, thought 17 mph was a good average for any club ride.

  14. #14
    Let's do a Century jppe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1-track-mind
    That's a tough lineup. I ride portions of the Bridge to Bridge, Blood Sweat & Gears or Blue Ridge Brutal every ride I make from the house but am still intimidated by them in their entirety.
    Which would you pick for the first three to start on ?

    For a 100 miler this year you might take a look at The Fletcher Flyer. It's very flat for being in the Mountains and late enough to where you could have some good base miles under you.

    The Blue Ridge Brutal 100 might be a good option as well if you need something later in the year. It has a 70 mile option that leaves the 100 mile route at about the 60 mile mark. You could see how you're feeling and make a decision then. There's nothing very difficult the first 60 miles as I recall. There is a 2-3 mile climb that's pretty steep at about the 70 mile mark on the 100 though. That was one hill I was glad to get to the top!!

    As far as the 100k's, Assault on the Carolinas is a good ride with some really fast, curvy descents. However it does have the 6 mile climb up Caesar's Head.

    Burnsville Metric (100k) is a nice ride with no real steep/long climbs.

    I always enjoy The RAW ride as well. There's nothing like doing some climbing and being rewarded with a fast 6-7-8 miles of downhill at the finish.

    You could always jump in and join the throng of approx 1600 riders that do Marion and Mitchell from Spartanburg. It's fun being in a huge group like that even at 6:30 in the morning. I did Marion my first year and while there are no really steep hills-except for Bill's Mountain-the 70 miles and 6000 ft of climbing was enough for me! Now that I do Mitchell, when you get to the campground at Marion it's only a little over half-way time-wise as there is still a lot of climbing up Hwy 80 and the Parkway......

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1-track-mind
    For a 50 yo cyclist who is essentially just starting to ride seriously (100 miles/week), at what age can you expect to peak in terms of century best times ? A thread in the training forum indicated that it takes 2-5 years to become a seasoned cyclist, but realistically I ain't getting any younger.
    Since no one took the bait, I'm gonna say fifty-eight.

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    Senior Member Red Baron's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jazzy_cyclist View Post
    Good comments all. I am a relative newbie in that I've just completed my second season of (serious)cycling; I turned 55 yesterday.

    In terms of performance, I'm reminded of something in Joe Friel's book (Cyclists Training Bible) which is that for the first two or three years, you shouldn't worry so much about training regimens - you should just ride as much as you can. That's been my approach. I'm now starting to working on a bit more structured approach, but I still feel like I learn something new almost every ride. I've got a long way to go, but I've come a long way, and most importantly, I'm really enjoying it.
    This is the book I go by - I'm 61 1/2, faster than I ever was. Even when I was mid 20's (on a bike that is)

    fastest Age = next year I can't wait till i hit my 70's
    **Fate is a fickle thing, and in the end the true measure of a person is not fate itself, but how they master it**

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    Senior Member NOS88's Avatar
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    I think you have to define what you mean by the use of the word "peak". I suspect that many on the thread you reference are misusing the word. I believe there is a developmental curve that takes place when one first starts to ride or returns to riding after years away from the sport. Perhaps more accurately stated one could say, "It takes several years to develop cycling specific skills and physical attributes that will allow you to cycle efficiently given your individual potential." Hence, your individual potential will change as you age. However, I would venture a guess that for many they aren't any where near their potential regardless of age. If you really want to improve in a specific area, focused training to meet specific goals is the only way to go.
    A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking. - S. Wright

  18. #18
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    In one of our local clubs, almost all of the A riders that I used to ride with have dropped out. I guess when they started hitting their 50's, they could not really perform as well as they used to. Rather than dropping back into slower groups, they just stopped cycling or at least that is my guess.

    I have been a strong recreational cyclist. I like going fast at times. But going fast in a competitive sense has never defined the sport for me.

    Now, I have seen a bit of a fall off in my physical power (I am 57). I used to be able to crank out 20 mph solo centuries and I don't think that I can do that now. Sure, in a group I can do it but not solo.

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    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    I restarted cycling in May 2006 turning 60 this year. I was in good shape at the time but it was pretty ugly on the bike (it still is at times). I started serious training and racing last year - hill climbs, TTs, track and road races. I do not do centuries. As far as lessons learned, I should have hooked up with my coach at the start instead of waiting one year. I will have a lot of comparative data this year as I participate in races I did last year.

    In 2007, I did the Mount Hamilton Hill climb (19 mile climb ~ 5 to 6% grade). I knocked 11 minutes off time in 2008.

    I think it takes two years to get your legs and lungs back and heart stroke volume up. In addition, posture, flexibility and cycling efficiency are very important. Good luck.
    "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Einstein

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    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Was still riding double centuries in my mid-50s. Clocked my best time then at 12 hours even.
    Now at age 76, still riding 5,000+ miles annually.

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    The 2-5 year period commonly mentioned really has to do with getting a solid base established. You can do it in less time with careful and planned training. In order to do the kind of training to improve speed, two things are needed - a solid base of aerobic miles and specific speed drives of high intensity. Try doing one without the other and it doesn't work and likely results in injury.

    Building up an endurance base takes time. You should never increase weekly milage by more than 10%. So just feeling comfortable on the bike and getting your distance at reasonable limits takes a year or two. After that you can introduce things to increase speed and strength - intervals, hills, sprints with friends, one legged drills, power intervals, spinning drills, etc.
    You're just trying to start an argument to show how smart you are.

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    I started riding about 2 1/2 years ago on a hybrid around the park. Then 2 years ago I attended my first group ride on a used (and ill fitting) road bike I had just bought. Tough day to say the least. At 59 I have seen steady improvement in my century times and my ability to stay with faster groups. I finally broke 6 hours on a century in October, '08. My total miles for '08 was 5800.
    Now I am turning my attention toward tour type rides and not worrying about speed. Endurance will be more important and the ability to ride in less than good conditions. I will continue my group rides on the road bike, but cut back on century rides.
    I do not feel I have peaked, but I may not truly know because of the change in riding I am making. I believe it takes around 4 years to get your riding muscles in shape.
    I started riding my bike to get healthy. Now I try to stay healthy so I can ride my bike.

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