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How can I get faster past 15mph?

Old 06-17-20, 09:20 PM
  #1  
TJtheWrecker
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How can I get faster past 15mph?

I currently ride around 14mph for a 20 mile ride on road, and I seem to be stuck at this pace for the last month.
My friends/strava cyclists regularly churn out 18,19+mph on their roadbikes, with seeming much less effort.


Any tips on how can I become faster?

Some information about me -
I'm 6'4" 200 lbs in decent shape. My bike is the 2021 Specialized Diverge Carbon Sport (gravel bike).
I started biking 4-5 months ago. I am very slow on climbs!
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Old 06-17-20, 09:24 PM
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wgscott
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Go downhill.

Lose weight. (I'm the same as you but half a foot shorter.) Lightweight people climb faster.

Train for 15 hours a day.

Get Rene Herse tires. Widest you can cram in your frame.

Increase aerobic capacity.

Wax hematapoietically.

Forget to turn off Garmin when you get into your car.

Last edited by wgscott; 06-17-20 at 09:28 PM.
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Old 06-17-20, 09:30 PM
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More time in the saddle will definitely make a difference if you keep pushing yourself, but basically there are two types of riders, mashers and spinners. If you're a spinner (likes to pedal fast with little resistance) lower gearing will get you where you want to go. But if you're like me, a masher, more strength than speed in your legs, taller gearing will get you where you want to be. I've changed my cassette on the road bike to gain taller gears and I changed my large ring on my MTB to get the taller gears. Both have made a huge difference for me in overall average speed. Now there are some on here that believe their way to pedal is the only way and I say if it works for them, so be it. When I originally asked about gear changes there were even some that said I was trying to compensate for a lack of physical ability-- meh. Ignore them, they're the ones lacking, and it probably isn't physical. FWIW-since my gearing changes, I've passed roadies on climbs with my mountain bike. I'm pushing 70 yrs and can still run circles around a lot of young people. Just keep riding, Good luck,
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Old 06-17-20, 09:31 PM
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Intervals.
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Old 06-17-20, 09:34 PM
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Better tires, train, get better clothes, train, better wheels, train.
There are small things that will help you go faster but only training will get you faster. If you want to do 20mph for 20 miles then focus on doing 30 or 40 miles, as you go further the early miles can become faster. Practice doing intervals to get endurance and top speed up. if your time includes stop lights they can really slow you down. Riding home from the LBS, 5.5mi, if I only catch 1-2 lights I can do it in less then 18min, catch a couple extra lights and it turns to as high as 18 min; when I've worried about average speed I don't record till i know I'm free of most lights.
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Old 06-17-20, 09:40 PM
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AERO

A gravel bike for a newer rider probably has you upright and in the wind like a sail, and sounds like you are a big sail

Can you ditch spacers, slam stem, get in the drops........

15mph is pretty slow for a reasonably fit person so there's probably some simple things you can do

Also get better tires, stock tires are generally not worth wearing out.....just bin em
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Old 06-17-20, 09:56 PM
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Originally Posted by TJtheWrecker View Post
My friends/strava cyclists regularly churn out 18,19+mph on their roadbikes, with seeming much less effort.
Are they solo or in a group?

Group riding is always faster for the same effort and usually adds motivation.

What's that quote? "Your mind will quit a thousand times before your body will". For me its about fifty times but the concept still applies.

Last edited by u235; 06-17-20 at 10:10 PM.
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Old 06-17-20, 09:57 PM
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Get a Heart Rate Monitor, figure out where you fall, with respect to max hr, 220-age isn't great but probably close enough to get a ball park of your effort.

I find riding in a group I can push my HR up higher substantially longer than I feel like I can do on my own with less pain, this is a good data point. A lot of times, you can push a lot harder than you think you can. If I feel like I'm riding hardish but my HR is only running 150 something , I'll push a bit till I'm up closer to threshold, I end up feeling I am working the same, but now going quite a bit faster. Also, ride with people faster than you.

You can check other things that tend to hold people back as well, clothes, cadence, fit. I see a lot of people mashing at <60 rpm and that is how they like it, and they are getting exercise, but they are still slow. slow means low power means less 'exercise' means less calories.

And ya know intervals and stuff, but keep in mind going on feel sometimes lies to you.

A power meter may be nice, but heart rate can give you some indications, at a substantially lower price. You can get a power meter later.

New tires may help but maybe only for a fraction of a mph.
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Old 06-17-20, 10:25 PM
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Aerobic capacity, raw strength, & a higher cadence than you are probably at right now (because most beginners have exceedingly low cadences consistant with walking.) Don't get me wrong, 50 or 60 rpm is fine for a recreational pace. But a higher cadence helps with perception of effort. Spin at 100, mash at 80, It doesn't really matter. What matters is consistancy & sustainability.

Start with a clear picture of what success looks like in your mind.
Go to a long straight & uninterrupted stretch of road.
Pick a metric, be it heart rate, power level, or speed, distance, etc... stick to it until your eyes bleed.

It's ok to bonk or cramp up & need time to put yourself back together or call for a ride home. That's a learning opportunity, (nutrition, electrolytes?) and an opportunity for physiological adaption (mitochondria, glycogen stores, number of red blood cells, etc...)

Be prepared for it to be hard. Growth is never easy.

15mph average for 15 miles was my first genuine dedicated cycling goal. I nearly threw up when I achieved it. A few guys on carbon racing bikes stopped to ask if I was ok. When I told them what I had accomplished, they all offered praise & it felt good.

Accomplishing your goal will feel good, too.
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Old 06-17-20, 10:31 PM
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wheel suck behind some one going faster ..
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Old 06-17-20, 10:44 PM
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TJ,
I was progressing nicely over the last months, then hit a plateau.
For two months, no improvement. Iíve come to two conclusions.
1. Interval training programs likely work.
so Iím on one right now.

2. Interval training sucks the fun out of cycling.
Iím on my second week, itís tough to do.
yesterday I got my trainer stuck in ERG mode, bogged down, got off the bike and walked away.
Today, still irked, I kissed it off and drank beer instead.

Iíll try it again, ďtomorrowĒ.

Barry
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Old 06-18-20, 03:40 AM
  #12  
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Thanks for the responses guys.

As another perplexing piece - I used to have a cannondale adventure hybrid bike with upright position (well over 30lbs) and I was just as fast (If not faster) on that!

How does that make sense?

Last edited by TJtheWrecker; 06-18-20 at 03:45 AM.
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Old 06-18-20, 03:44 AM
  #13  
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E-bike
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Old 06-18-20, 04:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Tacoenthusiast View Post
AERO

A gravel bike for a newer rider probably has you upright and in the wind like a sail, and sounds like you are a big sail

Can you ditch spacers, slam stem, get in the drops........

15mph is pretty slow for a reasonably fit person so there's probably some simple things you can do

Also get better tires, stock tires are generally not worth wearing out.....just bin em

I doubt seriously that aero is a major issue -he's really going too slow for that to matter much, and apparently his biggest speed problem is climbing, which has next to nothing to do with aero.
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Old 06-18-20, 05:01 AM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
Intervals.
Gotta lift the weight if you wanna lift the weight.

Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
E-bike
Otherwise known as "horse shoe in the glove"
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Old 06-18-20, 05:03 AM
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Originally Posted by TJtheWrecker View Post
Thanks for the responses guys.

As another perplexing piece - I used to have a cannondale adventure hybrid bike with upright position (well over 30lbs) and I was just as fast (If not faster) on that!

How does that make sense?

My FX3 was as good or better on climbing as any drop bar bike I've ridden. I could also cruise on it in the low 20s on the flats. Biggest problem with it was endurance at high speed was much worse than a drop bar.I

One thing I would suggest is that you experiment with different gearing and postures while climbing. Lots of people who are spinners find themselves better at mashing up hills and vice versa. The whole riding geometry of the bike is different when the front wheel is higher than the rear so it makes sense that your riding strategy can be different. Also, as I mentioned above, aero has almost nothing to do with climbing speed. Do you stand on the pedals when you climb? If not, give it a try, it might help you use some of your weight as power instead of just payload.
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Old 06-18-20, 05:43 AM
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Math is a funny thing sometimes. The drag on slower riders is less than faster riders. So when you apply savings, the watts difference is less. But, that pesky math. Slower riders save more time because for the same distance rides it takes them longer to do them. For the same 20mi ride, a slower rider will save more time from aero upgrades than a fast rider.

It's about a wheel, but the same can be applied certainly to the larger more important lump up in the wind.......the body......which means bike geometry:
https://flocycling.com/blogs/blog/ho...th-aero-wheels

Next, something that gives everyone an equal improvement for not much cash and still helps slower riders more (due to longer time to go same distance): tires/tubes
That gravel bike likely has either gravel tires, cyclocross tires, or some kind of larger and probably higher CRR tire on it. If you wish, a lower CRR tire can save over 10w each. So double the savings since the bike has two tires. 20 to 25w for a rider riding normally at 150w is enormous and a solid % gain. An easy and quick and mostly inexpensive change you can make even on the gravel bike. Riding road and want to be faster on gravel bike? Swap your tires back and forth.

Then, back to the aero.......keeping the gravel bike, you can still do it:
-close fitting jersey
-more aero road helmet (look for last year's 'team colors', people seem to hate 'team kit' but it's really cheap for last years)
-adjust your fit

Regarding the fit, don't hurt yourself slamming things low if you don't need it. But, a gravel bike has enough stack on the front end between the head and the stem angle you could (if it bothers you) swap the stem to a lower one to ride road. You could flip the gravel stem, but it may be too much. If it's a really positive UP stem original, flipping means really negative down after.

Free stuff: do some core work and stretching. Being flexible means if you want you can hold your weight up while being slick and low while going harder on a flat or downhill.

You're doing well and there are options both with your existing bike and with a road bike to go faster. Some free or cheap! My favorite spending item being some new faster CRR tires. Some GP5000 tires are plenty durable for most any road and super fast.

Extra, if I'm boring don't keep reading:
My 1:1 here is I ride my cyclocross bike on the road sometimes when I just don't feel like fussing with getting the other one ready. If it's ready, I take it. My cross bike has 32mm "dry conditions" cross tires on it. Not really any knob or tread in the middle, but on the sides to corner. Fast cross tires. So dry use and faster tire, pretty optimal for road use on a cross bike. My road race bike with more aggressive geometry and GP5000 tires, race wheels, whole bit..........easily 2mph faster. Maybe more. My neighborhood is a bunch of little short hills at like 5 to 9% and makes about 100 feet per mile. Cross bike all-out I struggle to go faster than maybe 17mph or so. Road bike? I get close to 20mph for the route at 100 feet per mile. Sometimes for 45min roughing it around I'll do 15mi and about 1500 feet. I've not hit 20 yet, but I've come close. That's a massive speed difference. The road bike also handles better and has better tires to corner with. So an intangible seeming thing like that could make you a bit faster also having true road tires and true road geometry to handle the roads.
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Old 06-18-20, 06:37 AM
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Originally Posted by TJtheWrecker View Post
Thanks for the responses guys.

As another perplexing piece - I used to have a cannondale adventure hybrid bike with upright position (well over 30lbs) and I was just as fast (If not faster) on that!

How does that make sense?
BTW, that would be further proof that the major issue is almost certainly not aero, but maybe one of bike fit/geometry/tires.

I like @burnthesheep idea of trying out a road bike to see if suits you better.
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Old 06-18-20, 06:49 AM
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What's wrong with riding 14mph average? Just enjoy the ride. Life isn't a race against the clock. You will get better over time if speed is that important to you.
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Old 06-18-20, 06:59 AM
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There is a lot of debate back and forth on the usefulness of fluid trainers. I started riding about 18 months ago after a 25 year bicycle vacation. I rode enough last year to determine in my soul that I wanted to get better, faster and pull the big local hills. So rather than get off the bike in November and let myself go to mush until April, I decided to get a trainer and try to maintain my very small amount of physical progress. My wheel on trainer is supported by Zwift so this gave me the advantage of both a work out and got me used to my range of heart rate, cadence and power output.

This allowed me to enter the outdoor season with some idea of what I should be able to do on my bike. I have heart rate, cadence and speed on my Garmin. What I've noticed is if I don't look at the Garmin and go by "feel" I'm usually way off thinking that I'm going faster than I really am and my cadence and heart rate is lower. I look down at the Garmin, make adjustments and that is how I pace myself. So for example if you always ride 20 miles at 150 beats per minute and at 70 RPM and never exceed those parameters then don't expect to make big changes in your speed. As others have said interval training. Knowing your heart rate and cadence will help greatly when doing intervals to improve performance. Getting better is painful though.
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Old 06-18-20, 07:40 AM
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I'm afraid you're not going to like my advice.

If you've only been riding for 4-5 months, I don't think you should be worrying about speed yet, particularly if you're not doing many miles. I'm not a Dr or an exercise physiologist, but IME it takes time to train your body to go fast on a bike. It is possible to build muscle and cardio more quickly, but if you push too hard to gain speed you risk injury because it takes more time to strengthen supporting structures (tendons, ligaments, core). There are freaks of nature who can jump on a bike today and, within a couple of months, be knocking out 5 hour centuries, but that's not most of us.

My advice:
(1) increase your time on the bike by increasing weekly ride time by about 5 - 10% per week (with a goal of, say, 6-7 hours/wk; then see how it goes); start doing longer rides (3+ hours) occasionally (once or twice month, maybe, to start),
(2) stick to aerobic and recovery rides as much as possible, limit sub-lactate threshold efforts and anareobic efforts (may be hard to do if you ride where it's hilly/mountainous), BE SURE TO GET ENOUGH SLEEP, eat a sensible diet (limit restaurant and prepared foods); the vast majority of your calories should be food you cook yourself from raw ingredients
(3) every fourth week should be an easy week (lower intensity, lower mileage)
(4) work on your form (spin/suppleness of pedal stroke; upper body positioning) and core
(5) enjoy your rides - keep focus to stay safe, but also look around, wave at the nice people, talk to the birds, notice the nice breeze and the pretty flowers, enjoy the rush of going down a hill, etc.
(6) after a year, you can begin to mix in workouts to increase speed - you can find many books on the subject, Friel is probably considered obsolete now but that's what I used long ago

If all of this sounds like a big change in your life, then you're right. You don't have to be a monk, but if you're really interested in going fast on a bike, for normal human beings it takes some commitment to get to 18+ mph avg on mixed terrain.
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Old 06-18-20, 08:08 AM
  #22  
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Thank you! As follow up:
  • Definitely nothing wrong with 14mph, I just want to be faster on the bike.
  • My current schedule is about 100 miles per week, with a couple of 20 mile rides in the week and longer on the weekends, mostly at easy pace.
  • As for the bike, I can look into different road wheelsets and geometry but for now I want to get best out of the diverge (just bought it). It's long and bit relaxed but no reason it should be slower than the hybrid (>10lbs heavier!)
  • Could it be my position on the bike is not getting the most power I was able to on the hybrid?
  • What interval training do you guys recommend?
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Old 06-18-20, 08:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Barry2 View Post
TJ,
I was progressing nicely over the last months, then hit a plateau.
For two months, no improvement. Iíve come to two conclusions.
1. Interval training programs likely work.
so Iím on one right now.

2. Interval training sucks the fun out of cycling.
Iím on my second week, itís tough to do.
yesterday I got my trainer stuck in ERG mode, bogged down, got off the bike and walked away.
Today, still irked, I kissed it off and drank beer instead.

Iíll try it again, ďtomorrowĒ.

Barry
This reads like a poem! Haha. Which interval training program are you on?
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Old 06-18-20, 08:15 AM
  #24  
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Great comments already. One thing Iíll add is that I forced myself to get stronger and faster at climbing this spring (when I was mainly riding my 80s MTB because of sloppy conditions on our shared trails) by standing on all the hills and denying myself anything lower than 42/21 gear on the climbs. Not quite single speeding it, but only using 14,16,18 and 21. It encourages foot speed on the flats and downhills and forces you to build up the arm and core strength to handle the climbing work.

I can feel a big difference now and the hill climbs are faster and easier whether standing or seated.

I looked up your new bike. I could see that it might put you in a much lower position even when climbing and that might not be best for you. You want to have a position that is somewhat forward and not too low, so that you can pull hard, engage your lats and push hard and strong with the legs in a position that is comfortable to sustain during all that hard work.

Otto

Last edited by ofajen; 06-18-20 at 08:22 AM.
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Old 06-18-20, 08:21 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by ofajen View Post
Great comments already. One thing Iíll add is that I forced myself to get stronger and faster at climbing this spring (when I was mainly riding my 80s MTB because of sloppy conditions on our shared trails) by standing on all the hills and denying myself anything lower than 42/21 gear on the climbs. Not quite single speeding it, but only using 14,16,18 and 21. It encourages foot speed on the flats and downhills and forces you to build up the arm and core strength to handle the climbing work.

I can feel a big difference now and the hill climbs are faster and easier whether standing or seated.

Otto

Probably not going to work for everybody, but definitely worth a try!
Plus it's free.
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