Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Orlando, FL
Bikes: litespeed, cannondale
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Well, I found that performance gains tend to increase rapidly at first and the rate of improvement falls off over time.
Think of it this way, you have a certain maximum performance ability on the bike given the body you have and its basic genetic potential. If you start off cycling out of shape and have only 20% of your maximum performance potential, any kind of riding at all on a regular basis will improve your performance dramatically. But as you improve, the remaining improvement remaining gets to be less. Also as you get in shape, there is a certain maintenance level of training you have to do to sustain your current level of fitness.
Going from the 20% level to the 40% level might take something like not drinking a 6 pack of beer at night and a big bag o chips and going out and doing a brisk ride around the neighborhood.
Just maintaining an 80% level of max fitness might require 10 hours of aerobic exercise per week and carefully following a diet. To improve, you might have to do intervals, sprints, honking hill climbs and add another 5 hours of exercise. You see where this is going?
It is very difficult to get near your maximum realizeable fitness level. Most atheletes do not even try to sustain this level. They intentionally "peak" for the big events.
The thing is to become happy with a fitness level that you can sustain and learn how to sustain it with the maximum efficiency.
As for average speed, that does not really correlate with performance very well. I used to commute 11 miles. My lowest average speed was something like 7 mph. I was going into a horrendous headwind. I was shifting up 2 gears on hills (they blocked the wind enough to give a huge benefit). Boy was that strange. My top average speed was something like 29 mph. That was within a day or so of the minimum only that time I got the tail wind. My fitness level was probably nearly identical both times.
As for heart rate, since I have gotten into reasonably good shape, all heart rate tells me is my intensity level. When I am in not quite as good a shape, I will perform a bit less at a given heart rate. But a 90% effort still seems to be pretty near the same rate. There are days when the heart rate runs a bit high for the speed I am going. That seems to be fatigue or beaten up or something. But that usually is gone by the next day. Heart rate really does not seem to indicate fitness, in my own experience that is.
Watts would seem to be a good non subjective standard for power output or your conditioning level. I have never bothered to get one. For my purposes, more subjective standards work well enough.