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  1. #1
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    Question from a frustrated beginner

    Hello, my name is Brian and I'm a beginner to cycling. I bought a hybrid bike (Giant Escape) a month ago hoping to try out cycling and I've been in love with it since day one.

    Prior to my purchase, I have not ridden a bike in about 6 years and I was never a bike-to-everywhere kid so I'm pretty much still a beginner. The problem is though, is that it

    seems like I have not improved after a month of what I consider decent training for a noobie. I rode about 120 miles/week at 15/16 mph for a solid month and for the past two

    days I was hoping to speed up to a constant pace of 16~17 mph for at least an hour and I just couldn't do it. I've ridden 15mph for 2/3 hours non-stop but when I tried to

    bump it up to 17 mph for an hour, I simply could not. I've always tried to climb the small amount of hills I have in my area and sometimes do some intervals but my biking

    muscles just aren't building up. This is really frustrating to me and I'm really hoping to hear some advice from some more experienced people. Thank you.

  2. #2
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    Moved to Training from General
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    Hi Brian, and welcome to the Forums.

    It helps if you have a specific goal in mind, that way you can structure your training around achieving that goal. "Just riding" is not going to help you improve that much.

    Remember the three important aspects of training:
    - Duration
    - Intensity
    - Frequency

    Duration improves endurance, Intensity improves power, and Frequency improves your rate of recovery.

    Read around the forums, do some research, and ask questions regarding what you've read on specific things.

    Happy riding!

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    Junior Member NaturalFork's Avatar
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    To be honest. I am at about a 13 MPH wall with my bicycle which is a Worksman single speed. On my geared bike I am at a wall as well. I have been peddling for 3 years now regularly. I still pass folks in lycra on the trails. I guess I just dont worry about it.

  5. #5
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brianipmh View Post
    seems like I have not improved after a month of what I consider decent training for a noobie. I rode about 120 miles/week at 15/16 mph for a solid month and for the past two

    days I was hoping to speed up to a constant pace of 16~17 mph for at least an hour and I just couldn't do it. I've ridden 15mph for 2/3 hours non-stop but when I tried to

    bump it up to 17 mph for an hour, I simply could not. I've always tried to climb the small amount of hills I have in my area and sometimes do some intervals but my biking

    muscles just aren't building up. This is really frustrating to me and I'm really hoping to hear some advice from some more experienced people. Thank you.
    1) A month is hardly any time at all ... keep at it, and see where you're at in 6 months, or maybe even a year from now.

    2) A 1 mph/h increase is a big increase, especially after only 1 month of cycling.


    Keep riding, but mix it up ... each week, include 1-2 long rides, 1-2 hill or interval rides, 1-2 days of rest, and some medium length rides over various terrain and in various wind conditions.

  6. #6
    Senior Member bmontgomery87's Avatar
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    I'm with Machka.

    1 month isn't long at all and your body hasn't had time to adapt. Keep riding, I'd say within 6 months you'll have your speed up a bit.

    And 1-2mph is quite a bit of an increase when you're sustaining it for an entire hour. If you're on a hybrid and not planning on doing any serious racing, don't stress too much over your mileage and how fast you're going. Riding is a lot more fun without racing against your Strava.

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    Give it 6 months and you'll notice big improvement. A year or two and you won't recogise yourself. Effortless speed and those 'hills' won't seem like anything anymore.

  8. #8
    Senior Member mrodgers's Avatar
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    I was you last year. I first started last year in August with a Walmart mountain bike. I swear it is 20 lb heavier than the Giant Escape 1 I bought this spring.

    I started out riding too high of a gear and sustaining 10-11 mph for an hour. How are you pedaling? Are you pedaling at a fast rpm or pedaling slow in a high gear (this is your cadence, the rpm you pedal.) I read about cadence here on the forum and even posted a question about it (here it is if you want to look, I got a lot of useful responses that helped me understand it all.)

    I was pedaling in my top gear on my junk mountain bike which for the speed I was running was about 50 rpm. After reading the responses to my post, I started using lower gears and pedaling faster. It felt wrong at first, but as I got use to pedaling at a faster cadence, I started riding at a faster speed. I finished last year when the weather turned riding about 80-90 rpm and riding that heavy bike about 16-17 mph. I also was riding about 3 gears lower than when I started. This was all on a perfectly flat bike trail.

    Now that I have my Giant Escape, I have only been on that trail twice and it was with my daughter, so I don't know what my speed on the new much lighter bike is in comparison as I am now riding rollercoaster hills on the roads around home. I do know that I topped out that old mountain bike spinning the pedals like mad on a downhill to about 22 mph in top gear before I couldn't spin them fast enough to keep up while my Escape I hit 33 mph on that same downhill pedaling and still have 2 more gears to go. On the Escape, I usually leave it in the middle chain ring on the front which can get me up to 28 mph easy on the highest gear in the back going on a bit of a downhill.

    I still remember month 1 of my starting on the bike last year. I rode almost daily and it took 3 months to progress from cruising at 10 mph to cruising at 16-17 mph (on flat.) Note, I am considerably heavy so 220-225 lb doesn't help the speed very well. Unfortunately I am now only averaging 9 mph with the new bike because I am on rollercoaster hills where every quarter mile I am constantly switching from 28-30 mph downhill for 10 seconds to climbing at 6-7 mph for 5-10 minutes. Those same 6-7 mph uphill quarter to half mile climbs that I ride now, last year were 2-3 mph climbs with stopping for a break on the mountain bike, so it's quite an improvement.
    Ride no faster than your Guardian Angel can fly!

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    Quote Originally Posted by brianipmh View Post
    seems like I have not improved after a month of what I consider decent training for a noobie. I rode about 120 miles/week at 15/16 mph for a solid month and for the past two

    days I was hoping to speed up to a constant pace of 16~17 mph for at least an hour and I just couldn't do it. I've ridden 15mph for 2/3 hours non-stop but when I tried to

    bump it up to 17 mph for an hour, I simply could not. I've always tried to climb the small amount of hills I have in my area and sometimes do some intervals but my biking

    muscles just aren't building up. This is really frustrating to me and I'm really hoping to hear some advice from some more experienced people. Thank you.
    That's a fair amount of miles per week. How does that break down per day? If you want to increase the speed, you first have to be able to go fast. If you can't go 20 mph comfortably for a few miles, you're probably not going to see 17 miles over an hour. Steady effort over an hour or more is great for endurance, but will do nothing to build up the legs, and it may even do the opposite. Pick a few days a week to do hard intervals, with a rest day following. Basically as fast as you can go for 5 minutes at a time, then an easy spin for a few minutes, then repeat for not more than 30-40 minutes total.

  10. #10
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    Another factor to consider: Rest is just as important. If you're not already doing so, you need to incorporate some rest/recovery days as part of the training.

  11. #11
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    It takes time to get good at endurance sports like cycling. It is said that a rider won't reach their peak for 7 years. That's 7 years of training. So relax about it a bit and stay in for the long haul. Don't get discouraged. You'll continue to experience slow improvement. The problem with getting faster is that wind resistance increases as the square of the speed. Power necessary increases as the cube of the speed. Thus a 1 mph improvement in average speed is huge. You may already be noticing increased comfort on climbs, if not a lot of increased speed. Hybrid bikes are slow. If you want a sudden big speed jump, get a road bike. Doesn't have to be new; it just has to fit you.

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    I just want to say thank you for everyone's time for trying to help me. As some of you have said I didn't really provide enough information so here's a little bit more about me:

    Height:5"10
    Age:18
    Weight:160
    Body Type:Athletic*
    Avg Cadence(flat surface):~85 (I can sustain a better speed for a longer period of time riding at this cadence rather than lower a gear and upping the cadence)

    *I do not have a lean body like most cyclists do. I played soccer/wrestled so my body is bigger than most people.

    As of right now, this is my "training" schedule (sometimes I don't get to fulfill my schedule because of school work but I try my best to get at least 120/w)
    Mon-Thur
    15/20 miles on the road with short intervals of going ~17mph for a mile (where 15mph is my usual average)
    Fri/Sat
    ~30 miles on the road with lots of short sprints of going 24~27mph for about 15s
    Sun
    Stretch/Rest/Causal 12/13mph easy ride

    I've also been reading a lot about power-weight ratio/cadence/spin circles and other beginner must-knows and just really trying to improve my speed.
    If you have any advice as to improving my training schedule, please let me know. I really appreciate it. Once again thank you!!

    just a general question, is a road bike really that much better than a hybird (Giant Escape2) ? Even for a cheap road bike?
    Last edited by brianipmh; 05-08-14 at 12:39 PM.

  13. #13
    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    Can you take a day off?
    Cyclists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lube but your chains!

  14. #14
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    usually one day during the week I'm forced to rest due to studying so I actually get 2 days to rest a week

  15. #15
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    I think that you're asking for too much improvement too fast. In the beginning rapid improvement comes quickly and easily as we gain fitness. That doesn't necessarily hold true as we progress. Every incremental increase in speed (endurance and power more accurately) takes a lot of work.

    Since we're in the Training section bear in mind Sturgeon's Law. Yet I am certain that the 10% remaining is essential and that some sort of structured, focused training plan can lead to more certain gains. Probably not as quickly as you've seen so far though.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by brianipmh View Post
    As of right now, this is my "training" schedule (sometimes I don't get to fulfill my schedule because of school work but I try my best to get at least 120/w)
    Mon-Thur
    15/20 miles on the road with short intervals of going ~17mph for a mile (where 15mph is my usual average)
    Fri/Sat
    ~30 miles on the road with lots of short sprints of going 24~27mph for about 15s
    I think you could throw in another rest day and up the intensity on selected days. To get the speed up, the intervals really need to be 95-100% effort for at least several miles at a time. One mile is closer to a sprint. At the ripe old age of 18 it will be very hard to over do it on the intensity. But one month is a short time to expect big gains and 120 miles a week is a very respectable training load for starting out. Don't be discouraged.

    Quote Originally Posted by brianipmh View Post
    just a general question, is a road bike really that much better than a hybird (Giant Escape2) ? Even for a cheap road bike?
    The main difference with the road bike is the greater drop to the bar. At 15 mph there isn't going to be a big difference between the two, but as you get closer to 20 mph the wind resistance increases exponentially. For the typical hybrid setup, just removing the spacers and flipping the stem would get you half the way there.

  17. #17
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    What machka said....but I'll add, the faster you go, that next mph takes that much more energy as the wind resistence increases.
    I'd like to say exponentially, but I'm not certain about the actual math.....but as an example, 150 watts might get you 15mph and 160 watts might get you 16 mph, but that 17 mph might require 180 watts or even 190 watts.

  18. #18
    Packfodding 3 caloso's Avatar
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    Since you've just started, I'd recommend just riding by feel for the next couple of months. You'll naturally get faster and be able to go farther. After you've got some miles in your legs, it might make sense to talk about interval training.
    Cyclists of the world, unite! You have nothing to lube but your chains!

  19. #19
    Senior Member squirtdad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by brianipmh View Post
    snip
    just a general question, is a road bike really that much better than a hybird (Giant Escape2) ? Even for a cheap road bike?
    IMHO, yes especially for the amount of riding you are doing

    More hand postions with a drop bar let you adjust to the riding your are doing and surroundings and avoid wrist pain by having multiple positions (in full disclosure, i am not a fan of flat bar as they gave me wrist pain a lot)

    better aero dynamics, especially if you get in the drops

    better bio-mechanics

    doing the same ride with the same percieved effort by road bike is easily 2 mph faster than my upright commuter bike

    beyond the bike, doing the mileage your are doing I suggest bikes shorts and jersey and clipless pedals.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by squirtdad View Post
    IMHO, yes especially for the amount of riding you are doing

    More hand postions with a drop bar let you adjust to the riding your are doing and surroundings and avoid wrist pain by having multiple positions (in full disclosure, i am not a fan of flat bar as they gave me wrist pain a lot)

    better aero dynamics, especially if you get in the drops

    better bio-mechanics

    doing the same ride with the same percieved effort by road bike is easily 2 mph faster than my upright commuter bike

    beyond the bike, doing the mileage your are doing I suggest bikes shorts and jersey and clipless pedals.
    Except that lycra, clips, new shoes and a 15lb bike won't make you any better at going fast, it just makes the ride easier and a lot more costly. I've seen more that a few riders average 19-20 mph on a hybrid, one in particular drops me quite often going uphill on a hybrid with fat tires, running shoes, wearing his soccer uniform.

  21. #21
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Proper bike shorts and shoes with clipless pedals and a 25 lb. used road bike will make you a heck of a lot more comfortable, as well as faster.

    Many years ago when I was starting to ride seriously, I made a mental prioritized list of the things which had helped me:

    At least a $150 used road bike that fits and has clipless pedals.
    Proper clothing: helmet, shorts, jersey, bike shoes, arm warmers, leg warmers, wind jacket and vest, long and short finger bike gloves.
    Saddle bag with spare tubes, patch kit, multi-tool, pump.
    Heart rate monitor.
    Cateye Astrale bike computer with cadence.
    Learning what to eat and drink.
    Good tires.

    Back when I was strong, the group of fast riders I led would frequently average 18 during the summer for 60-80 miles and ~4000', riding all out on light road bikes, and having trained for years to be able to do this. To average 18, one has to be able to hold ~23 on the flat unless one lives in Florida. No, no hybrids. A Cat 2 came out with us sometimes on his fixie, but cut it short after about 30 miles when his legs started to burn out, which is why he bothered to come out with us. That's the reality of average speed. It ain't easy.

  22. #22
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    My roadbike is faster by about 5kmh than my mtb on slicks but, its not THAT much faster. Don't expect miracles from a roadie. Its the engine that counts. I can hold 30-32kmh all day on the flat with hybrid/mtb/tourer. With the roadie its more like 36-37 for the same perceived effort. Yes, it does have a better top end. The mtb tops out at 46 or so at which point the 48t big ring and the wind resistance is like a wall. The roadie goes faster than I really want to go, but for the same effort (in the drops) it will hold 50kmh+.

    Focus not on your gear, focus on you. Speed will come whatever you ride.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by sprince View Post
    Except that lycra, clips, new shoes and a 15lb bike won't make you any better at going fast, it just makes the ride easier and a lot more costly. I've seen more that a few riders average 19-20 mph on a hybrid, one in particular drops me quite often going uphill on a hybrid with fat tires, running shoes, wearing his soccer uniform.
    Wut?

    If it makes it "easier" to go the same speed, you could push yourself harder and go faster....

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by achoo View Post
    Wut?

    If it makes it "easier" to go the same speed, you could push yourself harder and go faster....
    Think you completely missed the point. A faster bike (lycra, clipless, tailwind, or whatever.) does not make you a stronger rider.

  25. #25
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    Just because you can go fast doesn't mean you have to. You can go the same speed for longer which to me is more fun than burning all my energy in trying to maintain 40kmh the whole way. Cycling doesn't need to be miserable. A nicer bike simply makes for better experience. Obviously the difference between a clunky wallmart mtb and a good roadie is noticable, but the difference between a good alumium or high grade steel roadie and the latest go fast carbon version isn't that large. Its the engine that counts.

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