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Gear combinations: how to make commute faster?

Old 01-20-22, 10:57 PM
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HelenP
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Gear combinations: how to make commute faster?

I live in NYC and putting safety aside, Iím always wondering how some cyclists are so much faster than I am. Iíve been commuting for more than 15 years but havenít had any specific training or anything.
My bike is a 24-speed Trek FX2 and my gear combo is usually set at a base of 3 and 4. From there, I only go higher when Iím going downhill. When I go uphill, specifically the first half of a bridge, itís usually a 2 and 4.

Whatís your gear combo and commuting pace?
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Old 01-21-22, 09:25 AM
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Speed is made out of power, mostly. The people who really train look at watts they can sustain per kg of body weight. So that's basically the same thing as fitness. A curly handlebar road bike can be a few mph faster by design but it's not the gearing that makes it that way. It's the aero posture, the weight, the skinny tires, some subtler things. You might be able to find a little more power in a lower gear / faster cadence, or just shifting more, or better position over the pedals, but it may not be a big change.
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Old 01-22-22, 11:36 AM
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Yeah, except at the extremes, your gearing doesn't dictate your speed, since you should be able to compensate with cadence. And I find that the harder I'm working, the higher I want my cadence to be anyhow.

On level ground, there are three things slowing you down. In order, they are: aerodynamics, rolling resistance (tires) and mechanical resistance (drivetrain). Bike drivetrains are extremely efficient, so there's not a lot to optimize there. There's a fair amount of room for improvement with tires. The stock tires on most bikes are generally not very good, and you could possibly save 30 watts by getting high-end tires. Your bike puts you in an un-aerodynamic position, and there's not a lot you can do about that economically. On hills, of course, gravity comes into play.

But all other things being equal, power output dictates speed. You'll need to work on the engine if you want to go faster. Also bear in mind that in urban commuting, it can be really hard to change your door-to-door commute time when you're waiting at stoplights—you need to increase your speed enough that you're beating lights that you couldn't beat before. Otherwise you're just sprinting to a light and waiting at it longer, so your net time is the same.
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Old 01-22-22, 01:19 PM
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City commuting - a lot of it is the route, the lights and stops; both when you hit them and how you treat them. Also look hard at the places you go slow. Real changes of slow speeds make a big difference. Real changes of high speed makes very little.

There maybe one light that if you go all out and make it, you get a sequence (or maybe two) ahead and arrive 5 minutes sooner. I've had commutes where on this stretch of road, it was important to go really fast; even at real cost and other stretches where it didn't matter at all; that I was doomed to miss the next three lights unless I bought a Harley.
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Old 01-24-22, 07:47 AM
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You are riding a 26 lb bike with 35c tires and mountain style, upright bars. Compared to a "race" bike you have more weight, more rolling resistance, and greater wind resistance. This bike is designed to get you there, but not necessarily as fast as possible.

I have ridden a lot of different bikes on my commute, including a "fast" bike. I would rather commute on a bike like yours to be more comfortable, and be able to carry my stuff more securely.

EDIT: I realized that I did not directly address your question: "How to make commute faster?" : Gearing on your bike is good with lots of gears. You should pretty much always be able to gear up or down and find a good gear to be in. That leaves two options in my mind... reduce weight/rolling resistance/win resistance by modifying your bike or getting another, or increase your fitness.

Originally Posted by HelenP View Post
I live in NYC and putting safety aside, I’m always wondering how some cyclists are so much faster than I am. I’ve been commuting for more than 15 years but haven’t had any specific training or anything.
My bike is a 24-speed Trek FX2 and my gear combo is usually set at a base of 3 and 4. From there, I only go higher when I’m going downhill. When I go uphill, specifically the first half of a bridge, it’s usually a 2 and 4.

What’s your gear combo and commuting pace?

Last edited by timdow; 01-24-22 at 07:53 AM.
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Old 01-24-22, 08:23 AM
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you've been bike commuting for 15 years, cool
  • how old are you?
  • how far is your commute?
good luck w/ your quest. we probably all faced the same at some point

fwiw - often, when I think I'm doing good on one of my bikes, I get my doors blown off by someone else. when I started riding & commuting, being passed bothered me. since then, I've done all I could to be a better rider. bike, tires, training, nutrition, etc. I still get passed. don't know what your expectations/goals are. meaning, how much faster you want to be, but there may always be others, that are faster. reminds me when my son started to get faster than me. now, he takes off & I don't see him, unless there's a turnoff he doesn't know about, or wants to be sure he makes the correct turn. I haven't got a prayer of keeping up w/ him. when I go to the gym, I often say to myself, gotta keep the blinders on (meaning those things horses wear at horse races) because my personal training isn't the same as someone else's'

good luck w/ your quest, there's always room for improvement & I realize I haven't answered your question about gearing
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Old 01-24-22, 08:36 AM
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Originally Posted by HelenP View Post
I live in NYC and putting safety aside, Iím always wondering how some cyclists are so much faster than I am. Iíve been commuting for more than 15 years but havenít had any specific training or anything.
My bike is a 24-speed Trek FX2 and my gear combo is usually set at a base of 3 and 4. From there, I only go higher when Iím going downhill. When I go uphill, specifically the first half of a bridge, itís usually a 2 and 4.

Whatís your gear combo and commuting pace?
this is the reason "Iíve been commuting for more than 15 years but havenít had any specific training or anything"

Not a issue with gearing. its probably not even a issue with the bike. Seems like you goal is commuting(since you have done that for 15 years) not racing. unless you are going to start racing I would just ignore it or wave when people pass.
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Old 01-24-22, 09:06 AM
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In my 10 years of commuting pretty much everyone passed me, more so as I got older, drop bar "racing" bike, hybrid, didn't matter. Didn't bother me one bit.
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Old 01-24-22, 09:39 AM
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IME, commuting speed is about 15% bike (road bike with lower rolling resistance and aerodynamic drag could improve your speed, but only slightly); 35% rider (the harder you push, usually with higher cadence, the faster you go); and the other 50% is routing. Stop signs and traffic lights can absolutely kill a commute time. If you can shift your commute 30 minutes earlier or later you may be able to work the traffic better.
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Old 01-24-22, 10:28 AM
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HelenP My two cents. On my lightest road bike my average commute speed is 13.5 mph. On my old MTB I average 11.5 mph with my other bikes falling in between. While the average speed varies a little, the biggest factor in ride time is traffic lights and traffic crossings, which erases any speed advantages for a particular bike.

On the days where I decided to really push it I've raised the average speed to as much as 15 mph which only netted me a 5 minute savings over 9 miles of street riding.

Like timdow after hitting 45 I would gladly trade speed for comfort, and now at 60 comfort and safety are even more important. The idea of daily exercise is my goal now.

As far as getting passed, I live in Colorado Springs, home of an Olympic Training Center and Velodrome. I get passed constantly. What makes up for it is being able to live life with the same health, (almost) stength, stamina and flexibility I enjoyed at 35.
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Old 01-24-22, 05:14 PM
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high cadence and regular, deep breathing are in my experience the best way to go faster
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Old 01-24-22, 06:17 PM
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Age 60; 6.5 mile commute; 11-13 mph average; hilly subdivisions for half the route; currently 32/11-34 single; 1995 Trek 800 Sport mtb, rigid.
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Old 01-25-22, 08:28 PM
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I think I know where you're coming from. It's not that you want to get there sooner. It's just that you see people who are clearly faster than you are and wonder what it takes to get to be like them or at least a little more like them. Is that about right?

As others said, it's not the gear choice or your bike. You just have to be stronger. But how?

I posed this question to myself a few years ago. I looked at my average speed and thought I ought to do better. I had my phone, running a GPS app, mounted on my handlebars. I tried to increase my cruising speed in order to improve my average speed. It didn't work. I was doing everything the same and just trying to increase the effort a little, but it didn't work.

Then I read about high intensity interval training or HIIT. The idea is that you go as hard as you possibly can for a minute or so. Do this every few minutes. It makes you cruise faster with no additional effort (once you gain the strength that HIIT is supposed to give you). And it worked. My average speed went up a bit.

But the lights and other traffic conditions prevented me from getting faster.
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Old 01-31-22, 09:07 PM
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I am the complete opposite of your terrain. I am riding mostly rural roads qith quite a few climbs in AL. I started qith a 3x7 drive train, but wanted to lighten up my bike some and get some bigger cogs on the back end. I converted it to a 1x9 setup with 34T chainring and an 11-34 cassette. I'm able to accelerate quickly, can easily top out at 21 mph with a higher cadence of about 100 rpm, and can still gear down and slowly inch my 45 lb rig up a 15% grade.
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Old 02-01-22, 01:10 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
I think I know where you're coming from. It's not that you want to get there sooner. It's just that you see people who are clearly faster than you are and wonder what it takes to get to be like them or at least a little more like them. Is that about right?

As others said, it's not the gear choice or your bike. You just have to be stronger. But how?

I posed this question to myself a few years ago. I looked at my average speed and thought I ought to do better. I had my phone, running a GPS app, mounted on my handlebars. I tried to increase my cruising speed in order to improve my average speed. It didn't work. I was doing everything the same and just trying to increase the effort a little, but it didn't work.

Then I read about high intensity interval training or HIIT. The idea is that you go as hard as you possibly can for a minute or so. Do this every few minutes. It makes you cruise faster with no additional effort (once you gain the strength that HIIT is supposed to give you). And it worked. My average speed went up a bit.

But the lights and other traffic conditions prevented me from getting faster.
what HIT programs are you using?
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Old 02-01-22, 09:17 PM
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I remember in my prime racing years, we would ride our race bikes on the rollers while watching football games on TV.
Sprint full effort at tallest gear you can push for every ball snap,
and easy gear spin at 90 rpm for the rest of the time; 2 1/2 hours game is a pretty good HIIT.
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Old 02-01-22, 11:34 PM
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Originally Posted by M Rose View Post
what HIT programs are you using?
None currently. Have you used any, and how did they work out?
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Old 02-02-22, 08:57 AM
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Iíve taken many HIIT classes in studio and on Aaptiv but currently have to lay off because of lower back issues (thankfully it isnít so bad while biking).
Conversely, after 15 years of bike-as-my-transportation, I recently learned about cadence training and itís such an improvement! It turns out a lower gear is a basic fix (that my knees just &#128151.
Iím trying to pick mine up to 80rpms because it turns out Iíve been grinding in the 60s this whole time. HIIT/strength training for sure has helped with power, but ironically it might have encouraged the grinding outlook.
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Old 02-02-22, 03:03 PM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
None currently. Have you used any, and how did they work out?
I havenít used any programs yetÖ looking for some to try.
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