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  1. #1
    Retired dabbler hobkirk's Avatar
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    How to improve MPH

    Looking for magic answers from older riders (those with slower recuperative powers). I am quite sure the answer is to practice going faster, probably via interval training, just like it is (I think) for younger riders. But I am often surprised so I ask.

    One advantage of aging is less worry about acting/looking/sounding stupid. My kids insure I never forget I already do! I am 67. I used to be somewhat hard core - I was a runner, my 5 marathons (ages 38-40) were 2:51-3:00.

    Today I rode with a group of twenty riders, mostly over 50. It was a 40 mile ride with an average ascent of 40' per mile. My average speed was 15.3 MPH (all average speeds are "while moving"), my average heart rate 127 (LTHR = 143 [I think], max ever seen riding = 160), average cadence = 88.

    I simply could not keep up with the faster riders on the flats. In my almost 3 years of cycling, I have had very few rides with an average speed over 16 MPH. I did 15.3 on both centuries my first year (I was riding a LOT - almost 5K miles my first 7 months). Almost all 16-17 MPH rides were shorter rides (20-30 miles) while I was making a serious effort to go faster.

    Weight - I have put back on 25 of the 40# I had lost last year in 5 months (a bad side effect of breast cancer) so I am now 220# (3.0# / inch of height). When I was around 200# last year, I did find I was faster. Hills simply did not affect me as much. I expect (hope might be a better word) to get my weight back down to 200, but I doubt I will ever get it down to 185 (2.5# per inch).

    As an aside, I was lucky and the chemo, surgery, radiation did not screw me up very much. I just finished radiation ten days ago, but I was riding (although less often) throughout treatment and my riding was not affected very much (other than a much higher HR during chemo). The only good side effect I hoped for was to lose some weight, but the chemo never diminished my appetite. And I think (or maybe it's just an excuse) dealing with stage 2 cancer triggered the "eat and live" response.
    2007 Specialized Roubaix, 105 Triple
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    200# as of 9/9/2012 (mostly from diet, 40# in 5 mo)
    2010 (1st 7 mo) = 4.7K miles (a little nuts), 2011 = 6K

  2. #2
    A might bewildered... Dudelsack's Avatar
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    I'd be thrilled to go as fast as you do.

  3. #3
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    I wrote this in the other thread, but what worked for me was getting a HRM book and figuring out an organized schedule of training which incorporated hard days, rest days, and strength-building. I found the hardest thing about the schedule was doing the easy rest days because all my friends would ride off ahead, obviously enjoying the opportunity! But after a while, I could drop them even on my easy days. Which is when I started riding with a faster group and the process started all over again.

    You can ride for enjoyment or you can ride to train. If you're lucky, you can enjoy the training. I do. My biggest issue is the amount of time I can devote to it. But most people over-estimate how hard they're working, and spend most of their time in the 'dead zone' of training. Which is great if you're cycling for enjoyment, but not so good for improving your speeds.

  4. #4
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    Best way at 67 y/o is too lose weight.

    One gets slower with age.

    Ride when you can and enjoy it.

    My wife took a physical beating from radiation treatment.
    She has not been the same since.
    Last edited by 10 Wheels; 05-15-13 at 04:00 PM.
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  5. #5
    Cat 5 field stuffer bbeasley's Avatar
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    I do gut wrenching wind sprints 2 or 3 times per week followed by a longish, 50 mile, weekend ride. Doing this I've scratched and clawed my way from near 0 to a 19.7 MPH bike leg of a 20 mile Triathlon. I'm 55 y/0, 5'7", and 205 so plenty fat.

    My wind sprints consist of 60 seconds of all out effort followed by 120 seconds of rest. I warm up a bit and cool down a bit, total ride is about 30 minutes.

    I tried doing a couple of 20 mile rides and the long weekend ride but it did nothing for speed.

    Like BlazingPedals I enjoy the training and agree completely with his comments about the "dead zone".
    Last edited by bbeasley; 05-15-13 at 02:21 PM. Reason: added age

  6. #6
    Senior Member Bill Kapaun's Avatar
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    You didn't mention the equipment you have to ride.
    Possibly a change in cassette, giving you closer spaced gears, IF you happen to have a wide spaced cassette with seldom used gears on the "top" and/or "bottom" ends.
    Tires?

  7. #7
    Seat Sniffer Biker395's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dudelsack View Post
    I'd be thrilled to go as fast as you do.
    That's what I say. Yea, I can do 18-20 MPH on flat ground with no wind all day ... but on a ride with hills, stoplights and wind, there is no way I could do close to that.
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  8. #8
    gone ride'n cyclinfool's Avatar
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    You are recovering from cancer and you want to go faster, man - be happy your beating the big "C".
    However if that is not enough, on a group ride stay in the draft, not at the end of the slinky but in the middle, save your energy for the hills so you can stay with the pack and not have to burn matches to catch back up. Stay out of the lead, learn the art of drifting back in the pack when it is getting close for you to lead. Push yourself a little each ride and eventually it will get easier again.

    Good for you on your courageous fight back.
    "Of all the things I ever lost I miss my mind the most." Mark Twain
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  9. #9
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    I joined our local club last year and Monday nights in the summer is a recovery ride for those that have raced over the weekend. 15 miles at an average of 15mph. I struggle to do that ride and still be with the group. To average 15 mph you will be going slower at some point and faster at others but when I saw 25mph on the garmin and it was my turn next in the pace line- I realised that I was not as young or as fit as I used to be.

    I have slowed up a bit in the past few years but this has come about through a mind change. I used to do a 4 hour ride- get home and I was shattered. I still do 4 hour rides but get home and feel fine. May not be as fast as I used to be but still have a great time on those rides even if I don't do the mileage I used to.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


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  10. #10
    A might bewildered... Dudelsack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclinfool View Post
    You are recovering from cancer and you want to go faster, man - be happy your beating the big "C".
    However if that is not enough, on a group ride stay in the draft, not at the end of the slinky but in the middle, save your energy for the hills so you can stay with the pack and not have to burn matches to catch back up. Stay out of the lead, learn the art of drifting back in the pack when it is getting close for you to lead. Push yourself a little each ride and eventually it will get easier again.

    Good for you on your courageous fight back.
    What? You're telling him to become a lowly wheelsucker?

    It's actually good advice.

  11. #11
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    First of all, good luck with your recovery from cancer. There are worse things than putting on 20lbs.

    However, as you already know, losing the weight again will make things easier. And the advice given above about learning to draft is also good. Find a wheel and stick to it, riding as close as you can, and no more than a couple of feet behind. That makes a huge difference, and it is worth burning a match or two to stay there when the pace increases a bit, because once you're more than a bike length back, the energy required to get back on is much greater.

    As far as training is concerned, it's not rocket science. Most of your time should be spent at endurance pace (Z2, since you know your LTHR.) Riding at tempo for an hour or so at a stretch is also effective at bumping up your threshold a bit. And, as you suggest, some interval sessions. To the best of my knowledge there's not really much difference in training strategies between us and the younger element, with the exception that we need more recovery time. I find that if I do a VO2 max interval session it may be two full days before I am fully recovered and able to go as hard again, and I'm nearly ten years younger than you. If you want to go faster you need to be fresh as well as fit, so I'd recommend not tiring yourself out with frequent hard sessions, but doing a couple of short but hard rides, well separated in the week, and going nice and easy the rest of the time.

    And, as others have said, a 15mph average on a moderately lumpy ride isn't bad. There's always someone faster, but even as things stand you'll have plenty of people behind you.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  12. #12
    Retired dabbler hobkirk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlazingPedals View Post
    I wrote this in the other thread, but what worked for me was getting a HRM book and figuring out an organized schedule of training which incorporated hard days, rest days, and strength-building. I found the hardest thing about the schedule was doing the easy rest days because all my friends would ride off ahead, obviously enjoying the opportunity! But after a while, I could drop them even on my easy days. Which is when I started riding with a faster group and the process started all over again.

    You can ride for enjoyment or you can ride to train. If you're lucky, you can enjoy the training. I do. My biggest issue is the amount of time I can devote to it. But most people over-estimate how hard they're working, and spend most of their time in the 'dead zone' of training. Which is great if you're cycling for enjoyment, but not so good for improving your speeds.
    I try to alternate hard days (like today's ride described above - HR in Zone 3 for 2-3 hours) with recovery days (usually a day off, since I find it very hard to ride in HR Zone 1). My last long ride (64 miles, my first over 40 this year) was in the "dead zone" (AHR 118, 79 RPM, 14.6 average, 48' ascent/mile) but I wanted to enjoy the day and avoid any cramping or bonking. But most of my rides result in an AHR in Zone 3.

    "Riding for enjoyment" seems an awkward concept to me, especially now that I am only riding 2-4 times a week. I end almost all rides feeling spent. But that's how I want it. And obviously I plug into the concept of training as proved by my question.

    Thanks. Thoughtful and useful answer.

    Quote Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
    Best way at 67 y/o is too lose weight.

    One get slower with age.

    Ride when you can and enjoy it.

    My wife took a physical beating from radiation treatment.
    She has not been the same since.
    Sorry to hear that about your wife. I was lucky. Yeah, I know about the weight. But to us ectomorphs, losing weight can be very hard. I really did like everything about how I felt at 200.

    Quote Originally Posted by bbeasley View Post
    I do gut wrenching wind sprints 2 or 3 times per week followed by a longish, 50 mile, weekend ride. Doing this I've scratched and clawed my way from near 0 to a 19.7 MPH bike leg of a 20 mile Triathlon. I'm 55 y/0, 5'7", and 205 so plenty fat.

    My wind sprints consist of 60 seconds of all out effort followed by 120 seconds of rest. I warm up a bit and cool down a bit, total ride is about 30 minutes.

    I tried doing a couple of 20 mile rides and the long weekend ride but it did nothing for speed.

    Like BlazingPedals I enjoy the training and agree completely with his comments about the "dead zone".
    Intervals twice a week out of 3 rides? Ouch! I've done speed intervals a couple of times (3 minutes each) and hill intervals several times (7 minutes, 200' ascent in one mile). They hurt. Which is why I am asking in this forum - get an idea if the old folks do this.

    Thanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Biker395 View Post
    That's what I say. Yea, I can do 18-20 MPH on flat ground with no wind all day ... but on a ride with hills, stoplights and wind, there is no way I could do close to that.
    Well I can't! That is my point. There isn't much flat land around where I live, but I'd guess I'm mostly 15-16 on the flats. Here are some metrics from Ride With GPS -
    Metrics 01 Speed at grade.jpg

    Others
    Thank you. I am grateful for my health. I enjoyed my group ride today - good conversations, I didn't slow the group down, and I do draft sometimes. But my issue is improving my personal capability, not keeping up with the group.

    And, on equipment, I have a 53/42/30 triple with 11-34 gears. I am definitely not hurting for gearing options! I ride almost entirely in my middle ring, and I regularly use all ten gears.


    These forums continue to amaze me. Seven replies in less than an hour, IIRC. Some good opinions and useful history. Thank you all (past and future) responders.
    2007 Specialized Roubaix, 105 Triple
    Started cycling 6/1/2010 at 64 - lethargy, bad knees, & 247# triggered my foray into cycling
    200# as of 9/9/2012 (mostly from diet, 40# in 5 mo)
    2010 (1st 7 mo) = 4.7K miles (a little nuts), 2011 = 6K

  13. #13
    Senior Member Rwc5830's Avatar
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    hobkirk, congrats on beating your Cancer!

    You are to be commended for that alone, and wanting to improve on your bike just proves that your are a fighter.

    I agree with others that losing weight will help quite a bit but it is tough to do once you reach certain ages, like us 50+ riders. If you really diet and try to take it off too fast then your riding will likely suffer.

    I've been cycling two years and what helped me get faster, besides doing endurance rides is riding with "experienced", faster riders and really pushing myself when I felt good. I tried intervals and it just did not work for me, but I just don't push myself when riding solo like I do when riding with other riders who are better than me.

    Finding out how long it takes your body to recover along with proper hydration/nutrition also helps. For me, that took some experimentation and I have found it does not hurt to change your routine every once in awhile.

    I'll be 60 later this year and have gotten to the point of being able to do rides with a small group of experienced riders (3-6) in the 20-21 MPH range for overall average if I'm feeling good and the weather is not too bad. Also talking about distances of 40-80+ miles for some of those rides. But that took a LOT of riding and I'm healthy for the most part!! Currently 6' and 180-185 pounds. Also have the advantage of being able to ride outdoors 12 months a year.

    If I push it in a solo ride and don't average at least 17.5 MPH then I'm having an off day. So is it possible, yes for me, but take your time and listen to your body and of course your doctor.

    Good luck
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  14. #14
    johnliu@earthlink.net jyl's Avatar
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    I wouldn't judge yourself yet, just 10 days out from radiation your body is certainly not performing anywhere near its potential. And sounds like you are 6' 1" and have gotten up to 220 lb, that isn't too bad compared to the alternative - most chemo/rad patients lose a lot of weight and not in a good way. I will bet that after a month of riding, even without making any special effort to be faster or lighter, you will be (faster and lighter).

    Improving your aerodynamics will probably give you the biggest bang for the buck. Ride in the drops, bend your elbows and/or lower stem to get your back as flat as possible. Stretching and yoga may be required if you've been getting less flexible with age, as we do. Avoid flappy, blousy clothing.

    Possibly your gearing could use some tinkering. There is likely a particular cadence where you are most efficient, the cogs at the little end of the cluster need to be close enough to let you match that cadence to the speed you are trying to hold.

    Losing weight will naturally help a lot on even a slight grade, but has much less impact on the flats.

    As far as training goes, in addition to long rides to build endurance, I would do shorter rides where you hold as high a speed as you can for a set distance (like a mile), recover, then repeat, making the speed higher and the distance longer on each ride. Normally on the road there are periods when you can rest a little - road slopes down, wind eases, you draft someone - and periods when you have to hammer. The hammering periods are when you keep, or lose, contact. So you basically need to build up your hammer, make it longer and bigger.

    Last summer, I was able to do average-while-moving of 17 mph for long rides, longest being the first day of Seattle to Portland (98 miles at avg 17.03 mph). No wheelsucking for most of it :-( That basically means cruising at 20+ mph on the flats to make up for the slower parts. At 20+ mph, aero drag is the biggest enemy. I spent almost 4 hours of the 5h48m ride down in the drops. If I'd been on the hoods - no possible way.

    Use this calculator to see the power required to maintain different speeds in different riding positions.

    http://bikecalculator.com/
    Last edited by jyl; 05-16-13 at 06:10 AM.
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  15. #15
    Semper Fi, A way of life. qcpmsame's Avatar
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    I right now promise not to ever feel sorry for myself after reading your OP. Congrats on beating cancer, your times and speed rate are not bad at all, mine are almost identical but, I am not getting over cancer surgery and radiation treatments. Size wise we are similar, I'm 6'-1", 230lbs, down from 278 last year and dropping. My mother had them following colon cancer, 2X day, 7 days a week, 6 weeks and it damn near killed her. You have nothing to be hanging your head about.

    JYL and Chasm probably had the best summary of what you might try doing, I'll suggest you get Joe Friel's book, "The Cyclist Training Bible" http://www.amazon.com/Cyclists-Train...ords=joe+friel and maybe a few other books he has written. I really like the Cyclist/Bible tome a lot.

    Best wishes on your training and riding Hobkirk, you are one of the members here that encourage and inspire me.

    Bill
    "I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me" Philippians 4:13

  16. #16
    Senior Member digibud's Avatar
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    1. Lose the weight. That's by far the biggest thing as you already know.
    2. Get "The first twenty minutes" which is a really well written book that goes into some depth on High Intensity Interval Training which is probably your best fundamental approach to gaining speed.
    3. Consult your doc and determine if you have low testosterone and whether you want to approach that option. I have low testosterone but am not going to take anything for it. There are potential downsides and for me there is no point in it.
    4. Look at an overall weight training program or exercise program that addresses core muscles and such. Being able to properly rotate your pelvis into position and get fully on the drops for extended periods without discomfort will get you another 1 to 1.5mph all by itself but maintaining that proper pelvis positioning is a learned thing and it took me two years of riding just to be able to begin that.
    5. Be 100% confident your bike fit isn't just good...it's excellent. Proper stem/reach is so critical and the old plumb drop from the knee may not really be the perfect thing.
    6. If you are on the drops easily and comfortably, or if you are moving toward that, consider trying a Specialized Evo Romin saddle or one of the Romin type saddles with a bit of a curve to the back side that is best suited to being on the drops.

    It's easy to say that we should be happy to do 15mph and while that's true, for many of us including myself, it's a matter of challenging ourselves to do as well as we can. There will always be somebody faster and somebody slower. My goal is to not judge myself against anyone else because that's an automatically endless quest with no win in sight, but I do enjoy trying to understand and work toward the best level of fitness and speed I can do.
    One odd thing I finally bought that may not make much difference is a pair of very light shoes. I used spd mtn bike shoes for a long time and now that I have lightweight road shoes my old shoes feel like I'm lifting a brick when I put them on.
    But all of this pales in comparison to that weight loss....I'm a clyde but I'm still working my way downward. I'm 61yrs, 223lb but down from 285. I can roll for a good period at 17mph on the flats with no wind but I can't keep that up forever. I can do a pretty steady 16 for a long time and of course even that is a huge improvement for me compared to last year and the year before.
    Sadly each year brings with it some further diminishment in our strength and speed and I don't know how that all balances out with our efforts at this point in our lives but as long as I have more weight to lose I think I can continue to improve my speed and fitness just on that approach.
    Enjoy the journey!

  17. #17
    A might bewildered... Dudelsack's Avatar
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    I have a standing offer: I'll send you my Joe Friel and Thomas Chapple books for free if you pay the postage. I don't use them.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Bill Kapaun's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hobkirk View Post
    ................And, on equipment, I have a 53/42/30 triple with 11-34 gears. I am definitely not hurting for gearing options! I ride almost entirely in my middle ring, and I regularly use all ten gears.............
    Something like a 12-25/27 cassette may work out much better for you.
    It'll have closer spaced gears so you can spin a narrower, more ideal cadence range that matches YOU.
    Use the small ring for hills when needed and the big ring for your higher speed needs.

    This has really worked for me with my emphysema. I have to ride a narrow cadence range (80-85) and being able to shift up/down 1 tooth with the slight changes in head/tail wind or slopes allows me to maintain that narrow range.

  19. #19
    Seat Sniffer Biker395's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Kapaun View Post
    Something like a 12-25/27 cassette may work out much better for you.
    It'll have closer spaced gears so you can spin a narrower, more ideal cadence range that matches YOU.
    Use the small ring for hills when needed and the big ring for your higher speed needs.

    This has really worked for me with my emphysema. I have to ride a narrow cadence range (80-85) and being able to shift up/down 1 tooth with the slight changes in head/tail wind or slopes allows me to maintain that narrow range.
    +1 ... good advice!
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  20. #20
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    You do have to work hard to get faster but you don't have to do it all at once.
    Start slowly...Once well warmed up increase your effort until you are nearly at the panting state and hold that effort for thirty seconds...recover for five full minutes of easy riding...repeat several more times then after full recovery continue your normal ride.
    Try this two days a week with a day or two in between as recovery/steady pace rides.

    You should notice your average speed and your strength improving after a several weeks.
    It takes time to improve as well as intent to become faster...if that is what you want.

    I'm 57 and still do intervals for fun...I don't use any sort of regiment any more but use a "fartleking" system http://running.about.com/od/speedwor...lekworkout.htm while it is generally for runners I've used it over several decades of racing/training as a less regimented and more fun way to do intervals.

    Good luck and keep us informed.

  21. #21
    BF Avatar Zombie Hunter Jseis's Avatar
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    I now ride three days a week with one day a combo of interval and fast for 16 or 25 miles. One day recovery at 16 miles and one day (weekend) endurance at 50+. The rest days make a huge difference at 58 YO. I usually ride alone. My interval/fast days are on a MUP (off peak use times) though the 24 slow down, crossings, stops and other pace breaking interludes means that averaging 15 is my usual target. I pace the endurance distances on the highway at 15-16. I'm 5-10 @ 194 but I still have 20 to lose. My goal in the next year is a 17-18 mph average on endurance rides. Just losing 20 has made hills easier and losing 20+ more will be more fun. My ultimate goal at 60 YO is to ride at 190-200 watts steady and do the STP solo one day in under 13-14 hours.
    Amerika, Land of the Very Brief.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Mobile 155's Avatar
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    I looked but didn't notice any mention, base miles. You get better and stronger by riding more but there seems to be a point where things get better after a number of base miles. I have been told ever since I started in these threads you learn to love hill by climbing hills. (That was a lie, you learn to climb hills by climbing hills but that is very different from loving to do it. JMHO.)
    Life is like riding a bicycle - in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving. ~Albert Einstein.

  23. #23
    tsl
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    Good to see you back!

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Kapaun View Post
    Something like a 12-25/27 cassette may work out much better for you.
    It'll have closer spaced gears so you can spin a narrower, more ideal cadence range that matches YOU.
    Use the small ring for hills when needed and the big ring for your higher speed needs.

    This has really worked for me with my emphysema. I have to ride a narrow cadence range (80-85) and being able to shift up/down 1 tooth with the slight changes in head/tail wind or slopes allows me to maintain that narrow range.
    I run 12-23 in the back for this reason, but I'm sure it's hillier where you live, so the 12-27 probably makes more sense.

    In any event, I'd go a step further and replace the 42 with a 39. I found the 42 just high enough that it was sometimes too hard to push, but I kept at it anyway because the jump to and from the 30 was so large that it discouraged its use. The 42 also encourages big cogs in the back.

    The other thing to consider is time. Without dealing with cancer, it wasn't until my third or fourth year of 5,000 miles a year that I began to make significant improvements in speed. This year (year eight) for some unknown reason, without really trying, my speed has jumped up again.

    So to all the rest of the advice, I'd add, "Give time time".

    The things mentioned already that helped me were riding more with groups--it's easier to slow down if you're alone--and tagging along on racers' recovery rides. Those were just far enough above my comfortable pace that I had to work to keep up.
    Last edited by tsl; 05-16-13 at 06:08 AM.
    My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything.
    The perfect day: Riding a bike to the library.—Peter Golkin


    Lucky for me, I work at a library and bike to work.

  24. #24
    Around now and then DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dudelsack View Post
    I have a standing offer: I'll send you my Joe Friel and Thomas Chapple books for free if you pay the postage. I don't use them.
    Ditto for "Bike for Life" - heck, I have almost completed that journey, and "Enter the Zone" - (I think I have already zoned out). Somewhere I have a Friel book, also - likely unread by human eyes.

    Otherwise, they are going to Goodwill.
    DnvrFox - still bicycling, swimming, walking and weight lifting at 74yo is participating a bit in BFN 50+.

  25. #25
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    Congratulations on coming out of your treatments in such good shape. May your good fortune continue.

    You have been getting good advice. Rehashing a few things:

    Adjust your eating habits so you'll drop the extra pounds.

    Keep riding with the faster group. Keeping up with them will make you faster when you ride solo.

    Adjust your gearing to match your riding. I think smaller big and middle rings combined with a narrower range cassette would serve you much better. Leave the granny ring for extreme climbs, but use the other two to cover the range you need most often.

    Take it easy once in a while if you can do that without causing yourself too much stress.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

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