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Old 03-13-12, 11:41 AM   #1
Alopex
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Training with someone who is slower than you (help me out!)

Hey there,

I've been appreciating all of the advice and expert opinion on these forums, so I thought I'd toss out another problem that's been pestering me.

After riding about 30 miles daily for a couple of years, I got to the point were I could average 19-20 mph over the 30 mile stretch (it's extremely flat). It wasn't quite fast enough to keep up with some of the LBS rides, but I was happy with my progress and wanted to keep improving.

Then, I met a young woman who had an interest in biking for fitness, as well. However, she hadn't been at it as long, and was averaging more in the 15-16 mph range over the same stretch of pavement.

We'd like to train together, but unfortunately I either see myself being held back, or her keeling over in the grass. Two ideas came to mind that I'd like your input on, or other suggestions, as well:

1). The ride is broken up by intersections, and I've heard that sprints are quite good for increasing speed over long distances. I thought that perhaps I might sprint from intersection to intersection, waiting for her to catch up and join me. I'd end up with a lot of mini-breaks, I suppose, but I'd be going faster per individual segment.

2). Get a tandem (?) do tandems even work like that? Can she set a different cadence or gearing than me?

Is there any decent way to solve this problem? Ideally, I'd like to train to increase my fitness and speed, but also spend time with her.

Let me know what you think!
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Old 03-13-12, 12:26 PM   #2
Don in Austin
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Originally Posted by Alopex View Post
Hey there,

I've been appreciating all of the advice and expert opinion on these forums, so I thought I'd toss out another problem that's been pestering me.

After riding about 30 miles daily for a couple of years, I got to the point were I could average 19-20 mph over the 30 mile stretch (it's extremely flat). It wasn't quite fast enough to keep up with some of the LBS rides, but I was happy with my progress and wanted to keep improving.

Then, I met a young woman who had an interest in biking for fitness, as well. However, she hadn't been at it as long, and was averaging more in the 15-16 mph range over the same stretch of pavement.

We'd like to train together, but unfortunately I either see myself being held back, or her keeling over in the grass. Two ideas came to mind that I'd like your input on, or other suggestions, as well:

1). The ride is broken up by intersections, and I've heard that sprints are quite good for increasing speed over long distances. I thought that perhaps I might sprint from intersection to intersection, waiting for her to catch up and join me. I'd end up with a lot of mini-breaks, I suppose, but I'd be going faster per individual segment.

2). Get a tandem (?) do tandems even work like that? Can she set a different cadence or gearing than me?

Is there any decent way to solve this problem? Ideally, I'd like to train to increase my fitness and speed, but also spend time with her.

Let me know what you think!
Do you have a clunker bike? I ride with somebody 20 years younger than me. He is attached to his 20-year-old heavyweight Pioneer -- god knows why, but he is! When he rides that with me he gets a workout! Last time we rode he told me, "Don, I said we could go faster, but I didn't mean that fast!" When he is riding his Trek Tri-foil, he pushes my old buzzard ass HARD!

With slower riders, I take advantage of hills. I charge into a medium or short hill in a hard gear whooping and hollering and adrenaline flowing, doing my damnedest to maintain speed and minimize downshifting. After this ridiculous exercise in excess, I don't at all mind waiting for my slower buddies to reach the top. Hopefully by that time I am no longer huffing like a steam locomotive and can pretend the sprint was easy for me.

Don in Austin
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Old 03-13-12, 12:46 PM   #3
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A tandem is the great leveler. Both riders have the same cadence but not necessarily the same power output!

There is, however, a great deal of cooperation that needs to occur, and you at least have to agree on distance, stops, when to coast, etc. I suggest you go over to the tandem subforum if you're seriously interested.
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Old 03-13-12, 01:19 PM   #4
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For an average cyclist, a true 19-20mph average is pretty darn good. How long did it take you to get to that point?

Now, you have found a woman you like who is already averaging 15-16 on the same route. Despite what the studs and studettes on this forum will have you believe, 15-16mph is not slow. So you've got a woman you like who is already riding a good pace without "being at it that long". You should just be happy.

That said, does she want to get faster?
Yes: Then work out your riding schedule so that your slow/easy/recovery rides are her fast/hard/go-fast rides.
No: If she is comfortable riding solo for short stretches, then you could work in sprints/intervals where you take off in a hard sprint for 3 to 5 minutes, turn around and sprint back until you're back riding with her again. (And, as a couple of dates have told me, a lot of women like the view of a guy taking off in a full power sprint.)

Join some club rides. If she is comfortable with those, then you can each ride with your own group but meet up at the end for the post-ride lunch/beers.

Figure out ways to change up your gearing & cadence. If you usually are in the big ring, stay in the small ring for a full ride and don't use a cog smaller than 15.

Build up a single speed or fixie with gearing that will force you to match her pace.
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Old 03-13-12, 01:29 PM   #5
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just got off the phone from Ann Landers, she said, "buy her a tandem, wear lots of deoderant and let her be the "captain" every once in a while."

i was surprised she knew what a "captain" was...
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Old 03-13-12, 01:41 PM   #6
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Don: I've got a relatively lightweight cyclocross bike with road tires on it, so it does have a bit of an advantage. If I can dig up a clunker, that sounds like a good way to train, although the weight I've put on in the winter might make the whole ensemble a little more clunky XD Hills are certainly on the to-do list, though!

downtube42 & huey: Thanks, I will certainly look into tandems a bit more -- I have a friend offering to let me use his, but I have a good bit of research I need to do first so I know what I'm getting into and what I'm supposed to be doing.

Telebianchi: Thank you for these excellent suggestions. I haven't talked with her in detail about plans, but I will when I get a chance. The idea of sprinting a stretch and then meeting back up with her actually sounds like a solid way to keep progressing. I'm in the process of looking for a club ride that doesn't drop me on a huge hill 20 miles into the middle of nowhere (the club rides I've tried have either been very slow, or huge ego trips, unfortunately). As far as how long it took me to build up the speed, I spent about a year and a half doing 26-30 miles a day, about 5 days a week, with some breaks to do double that. I ended up being fairly quick on the flats, but despite my speed and low-ish weight, I was pretty bad on hills -- my best guess is that since I never trained with any sort of elevation change, I just didn't develop the right muscles or power output for them.
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Old 03-13-12, 02:11 PM   #7
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Tandem. Very simple solution in theory. When I first talked to my wife about a tandem she said, "But I can't keep up with you!" Well, she sure can if she's on the same bike. Yes, cadence has to be the same on most tandems, but that's usually not a problem. Either the team compromises, or the slower pedaler increases cadence. Either way is fine. Your wattages of course will be different, but that doesn't matter, except that you'll climb more slowly. But you may go about the same on the flat, depending on how great the difference is.

It is said, and rightly so, that tandems are relationship accelerators. Which ever way it's going, it'll get there faster on a tandem. Which is a good thing, either way. No sense wasting time. That said, some couples with control issues just aren't suited for tandeming, though they may reach accommodation otherwise.

Deodorant not required nor is changing captains. The rule is that the stoker is always right.

Used tandems are always available, and can be found on the Internet.
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Old 03-13-12, 03:19 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alopex View Post
-- I have a friend offering to let me use his, but I have a good bit of research I need to do first so I know what I'm getting into and what I'm supposed to be doing.

I'm in the process of looking for a club ride that doesn't drop me on a huge hill 20 miles into the middle of nowhere ... I ended up being fairly quick on the flats, but despite my speed and low-ish weight, I was pretty bad on hills -- my best guess is that since I never trained with any sort of elevation change, I just didn't develop the right muscles or power output for them.
Take the offer of the tandem!! Give it a try. It doesn't work for everyone, but it might work for you. And as Carbonfiberboy says, changing captains is not necessary.



As mentioned before ... 15-16 mph is quite a brisk, very respectable pace. Does she want to go faster than that?

The rest of my answer hinges on that question.
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Old 03-13-12, 03:35 PM   #9
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If your out front in the wind and you can slow down enough for her to draft you, your still able to get some good work in and it should bump up her speed as well.
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Old 03-13-12, 06:12 PM   #10
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Yea, I was going to suggest having her draft you. But some women aren't comfortable riding close enough to get a good draft.

You could ride with her on your easy days. Or go ride for 20 or 30 miles then meet up with her. Both of those would let you train effectively while riding her speed. Riding 20 mph all the time on every ride isn't very effective training.
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Old 03-13-12, 06:28 PM   #11
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Ride with her on your easy days, or on your cooldown after the local hammerfest. Use your CX bike with the knobbiest tires you can find, and stay in the small ring. Or build up an undergeared FG so you'll be forced to spin like a maniac to keep up (and that's actually really great training).
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Old 03-13-12, 11:33 PM   #12
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I've been on both sides of this problem. Riding with a slower companion is a generous act, make sure it's fun for you most of the time, and don't do it all the time if you don't feel like it, you'll just resent her. Go ahead and tell her the truth about this, too, I'm sure she's thinking about it already if she has half a brain and an ounce of self awareness.

Drafting is probably the best strategy, if it evens you out enough. If she doesn't know how to draft, teach her. If you don't know how, then you both should learn. Make sure she protects her wheel.

Weighing yourself down could work - add a rack and some panniers, fill them with water bottles if you want to be able to tune the weight mid-ride. But, on the flats, this might not be enough.

If you have a nice long grade with u-turns that are safe, you can both do your intervals uphill, then she can do her recovery up hill while you turn around and come back down to her during your recovery.

That's about all I've been able to figure out. If drafting, weight or hill intervals aren't working, forget getting a workout while riding actually with her. You can do your warm up and cool down together, but in between, you'll be off the front. You can do out-and-backs if the u-turn situation is safe, or intervals where you go fast then go really slow and wait for her to catch up (or do the u-turn / out and back at that point). But ultimately, if you have a training plan you are trying to achieve, it doesn't work that well to do it with someone who is much different speed than you. Make your rides together your recovery day, enjoy riding together, and get your workouts other days.

Also, it's ok if you ride her into the ground some days, she'll be a stronger rider for it. Find someone faster than you to ride with as well.

As an aside - doing the exact same ride at the same pace every single day isn't the way to get faster. You need to add intensity some days and back it way off others, and actually take a day off every once in a while too.
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Old 03-14-12, 01:00 AM   #13
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one-legged drills can work if you're clipped in. You'll build strength and improve your upstroke technique real fast. Slap some knobbies on your bike if you have the clearance, too. Cheaper than getting a new bike and they'll help you slow down but not lower your power output.
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Old 03-16-12, 10:04 AM   #14
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Thank you for the replies, everyone; they have been very helpful.

I discussed this with her and had her read over the posts, and her responses were:

"Ideally, I'd like to go faster, but I'd prefer to work on distance, for now."

She also wondered who would get the tandem bike if the relationship was accelerated into the ground (thanks for the tip, Carbonfiberboy!).

The current plan is to work on speed and distance a bit, and I will try doing sprints and then catching back up with her. We are also going to try our friend's tandem bike on a fairly flat and straight bike path and see if we like it.
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Old 03-16-12, 10:14 AM   #15
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Tie a cinderblock to your rear rack, that should slow you down some.
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Old 03-16-12, 11:57 AM   #16
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Is she cute? Ride 15MPH then.
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There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
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Old 03-16-12, 12:05 PM   #17
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Quote:
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I discussed this with her and had her read over the posts, and her responses were:

"Ideally, I'd like to go faster, but I'd prefer to work on distance, for now."
i'd kill two birds with one stone and just buy her a watch the runs slow. (think about it, i had to.)

and i don't like the sound of that "who would get the tandem bike if the relationship was accelerated into the ground" remark. that's not good.
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Old 03-16-12, 05:55 PM   #18
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and at the end of the day, remember that girls > bikes
always
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Old 03-16-12, 08:44 PM   #19
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Mix it up a little. Ride side by side on your recovery days but come to an understanding that sometimes you want to train hard but you'll always be waiting for her at the end of the run. If you have a good relationship, you should be willing to support each other's goals and, while you enjoy each other's company, you don't have to be joined at the hip.
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Old 03-18-12, 07:35 PM   #20
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Ride with her on your easy days, or on your cooldown after the local hammerfest. Use your CX bike with the knobbiest tires you can find, and stay in the small ring. Or build up an undergeared FG so you'll be forced to spin like a maniac to keep up (and that's actually really great training).
No need to build a different bike, just turn in the "high limit" screw on the front derailleur 3 turns turns (or whatever is appropriate) before the ride. Should be an even number of turns so shifting can be restored properly and easily when the OP is on his own.

Don in Austin
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Old 03-22-12, 07:31 AM   #21
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and at the end of the day, remember that girls > bikes
always
depends on the bike

OP - ride a mountain bike with some aggressive tires....you'll have to work hard to keep up.
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Old 03-22-12, 05:06 PM   #22
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Something that I've enjoyed is a cat-and-mouse kind of game, which I've found to be way more interesting than sprinting ahead and waiting. You're the cat, and she gets a couple minute head start. You'll be surprised how hard you'll need to ride to catch up and she'll benefit from being in front by subconciously not wanting to get "caught". Depending on how much of a head start she gets, you can be destroyed by the time you catch her and 15-16 mph will feel just fine. Has worked for me and my lady friend since she started riding a year or so ago.
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Old 03-23-12, 02:55 AM   #23
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Caloso's advice above is excellent, IMO. You shoudn't be riding at the same intensity every day, so go out with her on your easy days. On other occasions, his suggestion about staying in the small ring and restricting your range of gears is also good, having to spin like mad to keep up is very effective training.
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Old 03-24-12, 05:44 AM   #24
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Here's a variation on the cat-and-mouse game to make it more enjoyable (for you, at least). She starts each round in a standing sprint. You sit back and enjoy the view as she pulls away. You let her get way ahead, and then start the chase. When you get close, she stands back up and sprints, austensibly to hold her lead, but really to, uhm, augment your view. Once you catch her, you pass her and stay up for a while, to make sure she is properly motivated for whatever after-ride activity you may have in mind.
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Old 03-24-12, 07:16 AM   #25
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Buy an old mountain bike. Put big knobbies on it.

Then listen to your legs scream.

If you can find some Conti Top Touring 2000 tires (assuming they'll fit) those also
make it feel like you are dragging something heavy.
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