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How Do You Get Better?

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

How Do You Get Better?

Old 09-23-13, 11:04 AM
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StephenKTHill
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How Do You Get Better?

IDK - I feel like an idiot posting this, and I am sure I will be ridiculed publicly or privately for it lol. Nonetheless, I am new to cycling about a month into the sport. So far I really love it and can see myself doing it for the long haul (weight loss journey). What do you do to get better? Right now I am pedaling as fast as I can, but I want to get more involved in the sport and get better at riding? Is it as simple as staying on the saddle and pedaling? Or are there specific things I can do to progress?
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Old 09-23-13, 11:57 AM
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Ride as much as possible of course but intervals and hills have helped me too. Strava is a fun way to make yourself to do intervals. Also, group rides force me to kick it up a notch and charity rides are a fun way to do longer distances. Don't worry too much about it though. If you just ride your bike with regularity the weight will melt off you. I've been doing it about a year and I'm down to 143 lbs. for a loss of almost 35 lbs. That's without even trying very hard.
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Old 09-23-13, 12:00 PM
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Just like anything else. Practice. Lots of hours in the saddle.
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Old 09-23-13, 08:43 PM
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Originally Posted by snookanglr View Post
Ride as much as possible of course but intervals and hills have helped me too. Strava is a fun way to make yourself to do intervals. Also, group rides force me to kick it up a notch and charity rides are a fun way to do longer distances. Don't worry too much about it though. If you just ride your bike with regularity the weight will melt off you. I've been doing it about a year and I'm down to 143 lbs. for a loss of almost 35 lbs. That's without even trying very hard.
In 2 lines this covers everything the OP should need to know. Good job.
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Old 09-23-13, 08:51 PM
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I'm in the same boat as the OP. I recently made some friends on my school's cycling team, and they've been giving me a lot of tips and taking me for rides. Riding with people at a higher skill level has pushed me harder than if I rode solo. It's also great knowing people with more technical knowledge about bike repair that I can go to for advice if anything breaks on the bike or needs adjusting.

Also, Strava is the devil ... now every time I get to a segment I am sprinting as hard as I can ... before I would just cruise on through and enjoy the scenery
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Old 09-23-13, 09:09 PM
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Just keep on riding and soon you'll force yourself to improve. When I started out, I could barely do 5 miles. Then 10 miles was a goal I tried to achieve. Then 20 etc. I was only averaging 10 mph at the time, but I just kept on riding and my speed went up by itself. I started joining groups from the C group and now I'm comfortably in A+ "hammer" rides (of course, I eventually started getting serious and did intervals consistently for a few months to get to said rides). I lost 65 lbs and whenever people see me, they're amazed at how I look and ask me what I did. It's hard to answer the question because all I did was ride ride ride and the lbs just went away. Without me even trying too hard really. Pedal Pedal Pedal and it will all come soon. You'll learn many things along the way so don't worry about it.
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Old 09-23-13, 09:18 PM
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Originally Posted by StephenKTHill View Post
IDK - I feel like an idiot posting this, and I am sure I will be ridiculed publicly or privately for it lol. Nonetheless, I am new to cycling about a month into the sport. So far I really love it and can see myself doing it for the long haul (weight loss journey). What do you do to get better? Right now I am pedaling as fast as I can, but I want to get more involved in the sport and get better at riding? Is it as simple as staying on the saddle and pedaling? Or are there specific things I can do to progress?
There's no substitute for just logging miles. You don't mention mileage; a good goal a month in would be to crack 400 miles in a month.

As you increase mileage, you'll likely run into bike fit issues. Getting that stuff sorted out will certainly make you a better rider.

Finally, find a big, steep, hairy-ass hill and adopt it. Lots of climbing is like taking a HTFU pill.

Last edited by Long Tom; 09-23-13 at 09:25 PM.
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Old 09-24-13, 01:43 PM
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Logging lots of miles is good. But to get faster, you have to ride faster. You have to push yourself beyond your comfort level, recover, then do it again. This can be short duration intervals at intensities you can't maintain for long or long duration intervals at intensities it's a struggle to maintain. There's all sorts of information written on this and it can be as complex and systematic as you want it to be, or as simple as going out and riding pushing yourself every other day.
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Old 09-24-13, 01:52 PM
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When you're starting out, just focus on logging saddle time. Go for long rides, short rides, in between rides. Ride fast, ride slow, ride in-between. Use this time to get comfortable on the bike, making equipment adjustments (particularly contact points) if necessary. Figure out what clothing, food, and hydration options work for you. Develop a relationship with your local bike shop (the wrenches love donuts and beer). I don't know where you are, but if you're in the northern hemisphere, you'll be getting less sunshine so get yourself some good lights, blinkies, and reflective stuff.

Then after a thousand miles or so, you'll have gotten stronger and faster. If you want to get stronger and faster yet, think about working some interval sessions in to your weekly schedule.

But mostly, have fun. You're riding a bike and riding a bike is awesome.
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Old 09-24-13, 03:48 PM
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Agree with everything said above, just posting my own two cents. I would add to this; don't blow yourself out of the water. Especially if you're new to this it's important to keep in mind that you're building new muscles and probably straining joints and tendons in ways that you haven't done in a long time (if ever). So if you're feeling broken, take a day off. I'm still in my first full year of cycling and this is a lesson I've had to learn the hard way more than once.

A great way to get lots of different types of riding is to ride with as many different people as you can. People that are faster and slower than you can all help you get better.
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Old 09-24-13, 04:42 PM
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^ Agree with everything, but will add that you might have to take more than one day off (you should take off one a week anyway), especially if you strain or over-stress any joints, as I did my left knee earlier this year. I took 21 years off the bike needlessly when the same knee gave me troubles back in my mid-20s (life also intervened), so got back into it nice and slow. Even then, I had to back off a few times when I overdid it. For now, just have fun!
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Old 09-24-13, 04:47 PM
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Learn to think pain is fun!

And like many aerobic sports pain is the gateway to endorphins which are real fun.
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Old 09-24-13, 04:56 PM
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Originally Posted by caloso View Post
But mostly, have fun. You're riding a bike and riding a bike is awesome.
And sometimes, don't have fun.

Every once in a while, ride angry. Ride hard enough to rip the bars off of the stem. See no scenery, and focus everything into a little black dot of rage ten, twenty, feet in front of your front tire. Catch that dot. You can if you ride hard enough. Ride just shy of cramping, where you can feel the muscles almost spasming, but before they seize. Ride hard enough to almost vomit. Best way to find this level is to ride until you vomit, and then dial it back a sniff. Make your lungs burn, your eyes sting with sweat, your muscles scream.

If there is someone down the road, they are riding to your house to hurt your family. Catch them before they do. The guy behind you wants to do bad things to you. Really bad things to you. If he catches you, he will. Make your mind push your body where your body doesn't want to go.

And enjoy yourself.
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Old 09-24-13, 05:03 PM
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I cycled for years and didn't see much improvement, but I only went 20-40 mile rides. Even though they were hard efforts, the improvements weren't much. When I started putting in 60-120 mile rides I really noticed some differences in performance.
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Old 09-24-13, 05:03 PM
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Wow! Thanks for all the good advice. I am logging as much saddle time as I can. The other day things finally "clicked" for me and it was a really exciting moment. I was 325 the day I started cycling and between the bike and better eating habits I weighed in at 289 and I am having to buy a new belt as well. I read somewhere online that it is good to cycle 2 days on followed by 2 days off. I dont recall where I read it but I can post the link up as soon as I get off work.

What are some cycling interval training routines I can work on? Is that hard riding followed by light riding? One minute hard ride, one minute soft ride?

Excuse the n00bness of this post lol, but the help is really appreciated.

Oh! Also, my rear brakes are coming to the bars before they engage. I assume its a cable adjustment, correct?
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Old 09-24-13, 05:09 PM
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I'm shocked no one has recommended a Power Tap.
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Old 09-24-13, 05:25 PM
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Originally Posted by StephenKTHill View Post
Wow! Thanks for all the good advice. I am logging as much saddle time as I can. The other day things finally "clicked" for me and it was a really exciting moment. I was 325 the day I started cycling and between the bike and better eating habits I weighed in at 289 and I am having to buy a new belt as well. I read somewhere online that it is good to cycle 2 days on followed by 2 days off. I dont recall where I read it but I can post the link up as soon as I get off work.

What are some cycling interval training routines I can work on? Is that hard riding followed by light riding? One minute hard ride, one minute soft ride?

Excuse the n00bness of this post lol, but the help is really appreciated.

Oh! Also, my rear brakes are coming to the bars before they engage. I assume its a cable adjustment, correct?
Probably. Try turning the barrel adjuster first.
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Old 09-24-13, 05:54 PM
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b
Originally Posted by RollCNY View Post
The guy behind you wants to do bad things to you. Really bad things to you. If he catches you, he will. Make your mind push your body where your body doesn't want to go.
Banjo music helps here.
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Old 09-24-13, 06:15 PM
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Originally Posted by therhodeo View Post
Just like anything else. Practice. Lots of hours in the saddle.
That's old school advice. I would recommend buying and reading time-crunched cyclist. You don't need to ride 20 hrs a week to get better/stronger/faster. I ride about 6-8 hrs/week on average and have tremendously improved my fitness level by following an interval based training method.
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Old 09-24-13, 06:19 PM
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Originally Posted by fstshrk View Post
That's old school advice. I would recommend buying and reading time-crunched cyclist. You don't need to ride 20 hrs a week to get better/stronger/faster. I ride about 6-8 hrs/week on average and have tremendously improved my fitness level by following an interval based training method.
What do you recommend I read?


**edit**
What ELSE do you recommend I read?

Last edited by StephenKTHill; 09-24-13 at 08:21 PM. Reason: Screw up
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Old 09-24-13, 06:40 PM
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Originally Posted by fstshrk View Post
That's old school advice. I would recommend buying and reading time-crunched cyclist. You don't need to ride 20 hrs a week to get better/stronger/faster. I ride about 6-8 hrs/week on average and have tremendously improved my fitness level by following an interval based training method.
I would actually strongly recommend OP to NOT read/get that book. Not that it's a bad book, but the book is completely centered around powermeter training, and if you don't have one, HR-zone training, which he admits is inferior to a powermeter for his plans.

If you don't have either, his book is of very, very limited use for use training. You need one of those two, and the book is clearly written specifically targeted at PM owners.
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Old 09-24-13, 06:40 PM
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I started riding less than a year ago & think I have progressed at a good pace. I think the thing that helped my progression the most was to remember to ride with a purpose. Try to improve one aspect of your cycling with every ride. I'm not saying to not have fun, but it helps to ride with a purpose.

My wife started about the same time as I did & she hasn't improved all that much. She simply rides for a little fitness & doesn't really focus on improving - she just rides. As such she doesn't get any faster. It all depends on what you want to get out of cycling.
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Old 09-24-13, 06:45 PM
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Originally Posted by fstshrk View Post
That's old school advice....
Coppi was I guess old school and look where he got with all that saddle time he kept blabbing about; if he was around and on this forum we'd recommend your book to him.
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Old 09-24-13, 06:51 PM
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For a big guy, you should be proud of yourself. At this point, you need time in the saddle. Lots of it
Keep it fun, enjoy the scenery and make friends. Eat right and the weight will melt off. After 8-12 months, think about putting together a periodized training plan.
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Old 09-24-13, 08:41 PM
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As a heavier guy you're going to be building some serious strength too, once those pounds shed your kg:watts ratio is going to be awesome.

For now just stay pedaling and have fun
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