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Can't Keep Up

Old 07-16-15, 08:22 AM
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bikesd
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Can't Keep Up

I love riding with my partner, however, he is so much stronger than I am, his natural cruising speed is way faster than mine. (I cruise at about 12 mph, he cruises at about 17 mph.)

I've only really been biking since 2008 and only seriously commuting since April but I've been working hard and have improved quite a bit.

What can I do to increase my pace so I can keep up?
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Old 07-16-15, 08:34 AM
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Originally Posted by bikesd View Post
I love riding with my partner, however, he is so much stronger than I am, his natural cruising speed is way faster than mine. (I cruise at about 12 mph, he cruises at about 17 mph.)

I've only really been biking since 2008 and only seriously commuting since April but I've been working hard and have improved quite a bit.

What can I do to increase my pace so I can keep up?
1. Ride 5-6 days a week at your current perceived effort.

2. Add 10% to your time or miles each week.

3. Once riding an hour a day on your short days, for 3 out of 4 weeks on the day following an off-bike rest day ride 7-10 minute intervals as hard as you can with 2-5 minutes rest between them pedaling gently. You'll need to focus to maintain the pace. At the end you should be forced to slow down. 3x7 is a start, 4x8 - 4x10 is good. Expect heavy breathing, grunting, and lots of sweating. Stop your repeats when you're too tired to get there because you're no longer doing yourself any good, but are still accumulating fatigue which will impact your riding for the next 1-2 days.

4. Generally ride at a pace where you're exerting yourself, but can still carry on a conversation. Many cyclists try to ride "fast" which ends up being not quick enough to force training adaptations at higher intensities, too fast to improve aerobic performance over hours, and fast enough to make them tired.
Don't do that.

5. When that pace is too tough because of your hard day, take an easy day where you don't feel the effort.

6. Ride twice as far one day a week.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 07-16-15 at 09:07 PM.
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Old 07-16-15, 09:17 AM
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A couple thoughts:

Do you have significantly different bikes/setups? A rider can get a couple more MPH for the same exertion by having a more efficient position. If you have knobby tires on your bike, get slick tires in a moderate width.

Is your bike tuned up properly? No brake rub, tires inflated enough, chain lubed... some of these have more of an effect than others, but can affect how much of your output moves you forward.

Are you trying to pedal too big of a gear? Just like driving a car, shifting into top gear too soon will bog you down instead of making you go faster. Try staying in a slightly lower gear and pedalling no slower than 60 RPM (easy to count out).
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Old 07-16-15, 09:47 AM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
Do you have significantly different bikes/setups? A rider can get a couple more MPH for the same exertion by having a more efficient position. If you have knobby tires on your bike, get slick tires in a moderate width.
I would consider a full road bike... Carbon Fiber if you wish. Every little bit helps. Definitely don't rider a cheaper bike than your partner.

Get your BF an old 80's model steel MTB And, if going for a picnic, or running to the store, make him also drag a trailer.

As Drew Eckhardt mentioned, a lot depends on your riding. You said you are commuting... which can rack up a lot of miles. How far? Perhaps try pushing a bit further.

Another thought....
It is awfully hard to be dropped when riding a Tandem.
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Old 07-16-15, 10:27 AM
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Another vote for "Get a tandem." Worked great for us. Increasing your cruising speed by 5 mph after already riding for 6 years is probably not realistic. That would mean more than doubling your current comfortable power output. A 25% increase wouldn't be outrageous, but more the doubling is.

We had a similar disparity when we bought our tandem in '07. An odd thing is that my wife became much stronger riding stoker than she did after years of riding her single. She loves it. There are many, many happy couples riding tandems. Almost all of them went to a tandem for exactly these reasons.
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Old 07-16-15, 10:33 AM
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Originally Posted by bikesd View Post
I love riding with my partner, however, he is so much stronger than I am, his natural cruising speed is way faster than mine. (I cruise at about 12 mph, he cruises at about 17 mph.)

I've only really been biking since 2008 and only seriously commuting since April but I've been working hard and have improved quite a bit.

What can I do to increase my pace so I can keep up?
What type of bike do you ride? What type of tires are on it? What is your typical pedaling cadence?

If your partner spins his cranks at 80-120rpm and you spin your's much lower then he'll probably be faster, all about gearing and efficiency and strength.

If you have a comfort style or mtb and he has a road bike on the road then his bike might be faster due to being more efficient.

If his bike has road slicks and your bike has knobbies or dual-use tires, and if his tires are pumped up to 80-120psi and your's are pumped up to a lower pressure then efficiency kicks in again.

Basically more input about you and your partner is needed before anyone can really answer the question.
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Old 07-16-15, 11:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Another vote for "Get a tandem." Worked great for us. Increasing your cruising speed by 5 mph after already riding for 6 years is probably not realistic. That would mean more than doubling your current comfortable power output. A 25% increase wouldn't be outrageous, but more the doubling is.

We had a similar disparity when we bought our tandem in '07. An odd thing is that my wife became much stronger riding stoker than she did after years of riding her single. She loves it. There are many, many happy couples riding tandems. Almost all of them went to a tandem for exactly these reasons.
+2 on the tandem. My wife and I love it. We also faced a disparity in cycling speed and endurance, with which she was very frustrated (personally, I didn't mind going slower than I would by myself and/or waiting at the top of hills, but it really bothered her).
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Old 07-16-15, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
I would consider a full road bike... Carbon Fiber if you wish. Every little bit helps. Definitely don't rider a cheaper bike than your partner.

Get your BF an old 80's model steel MTB And, if going for a picnic, or running to the store, make him also drag a trailer.

As Drew Eckhardt mentioned, a lot depends on your riding. You said you are commuting... which can rack up a lot of miles. How far? Perhaps try pushing a bit further.
Speaking from personal experience, riding 5000 miles in a year won't get you past somewhere between "slow" and "not fast."

You need intensity to get past that plateau.
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Old 07-16-15, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by Drew Eckhardt View Post
Speaking from personal experience, riding 5000 miles in a year won't get you past somewhere between "slow" and "not fast."

You need intensity to get past that plateau.
Not necessarily. My partner ride occasionally mostly during summer i'm always on my bike but we ride at the same pace. We did a 4 hr ride recently and we were riding both at the same pace.

Originally Posted by bikesd View Post
I love riding with my partner, however, he is so much stronger than I am, his natural cruising speed is way faster than mine. (I cruise at about 12 mph, he cruises at about 17 mph.)

I've only really been biking since 2008 and only seriously commuting since April but I've been working hard and have improved quite a bit.

What can I do to increase my pace so I can keep up?
The trick is to add weight on the faster bike (i'm the one carrying food, water, clothing, etc) and get a faster bike for the one slower.
Also i believe 2 bikes are better than a tandem because in our case even if we're riding at the same pace we're not always at the same pace. This helps by making both improve at weak parts.
She's faster when going up i'm faster when going down. I'm tired when she isn't and vice versa. We both have to push to keep up with the other one at that time.

Last edited by erig007; 07-16-15 at 11:55 AM.
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Old 07-16-15, 01:31 PM
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As a rough estimate, power output increases at the cube of the change in speed. All else equal, to increase your speed by 40%, you would need to increase your power output by almost 175% (because 1.4 x 1.4 x 1.4 = 2.744). These numbers are not entirely accurate, but it is fair to say that you are asking us how you can more than double your power output. The answer is that you probably can't. If you want to ride with your partner, you need to speed yourself up AND slow him down -- and even that may not be enough for such a big discrepancy in speeds.

For speeding yourself up, there are two basic approaches -- reduce the amount of power you need, or increase the amount of power you are able to generate. Some of the above suggestions (lighter bike; smoother, skinnier tires) are good for reducing your necessary power, and others are good for increasing your ability to generate power (more training; faster cadence). I would add two more.

First, if you aren't already using clipless pedals, you should. I once read that the difference between flat and clipless pedals is bigger than all other differences between bikes, combined. In other words, if a professional cyclist had to choose between his/her own bike with flat pedals and a cheap bike from Walmart with clipless pedals, the Walmart bike would be the better choice.

My second suggestion for increasing your speed is to practice drafting. If you follow closely enough behind your partner, he will block the wind for you. This will mean you can go faster with the same power output. I've seen estimates as high as 30-40%, although that is at higher speeds and with perfect technique. It is probably realistic for you to get a 10-20% advantage by drafting, though.

For slowing your partner down, the above suggestions are all good. You can weigh him down, give him an inefficient bike, etc. At the end of the day, though, asking him to slow down soooo much isn't all that fair to him. It's one thing to ask him to slow down a little bit so you can keep up. But asking him to reduce his power output by half means he'd barely be getting a workout.

At the end of the day, I think a tandem may be your best choice, at least for now. Plus, you may find that you love it. I know many do.

Good luck!
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Old 07-16-15, 01:47 PM
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Originally Posted by njlonghorn View Post
It's one thing to ask him to slow down a little bit so you can keep up. But asking him to reduce his power output by half means he'd barely be getting a workout.
With 500 pounds extra on his bike don't worry he will get his workout just right

Bikesd to slowing him down without him noticing i have a 17lb security chain that you could offer him. A good security chain is necessary to protect his bike from being stolen if you know what i mean .

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Old 07-16-15, 02:16 PM
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Originally Posted by erig007 View Post
Not necessarily. My partner ride occasionally mostly during summer i'm always on my bike but we ride at the same pace. We did a 4 hr ride recently and we were riding both at the same pace.

The trick is to add weight on the faster bike (i'm the one carrying food, water, clothing, etc) and get a faster bike for the one slower.
Also i believe 2 bikes are better than a tandem because in our case even if we're riding at the same pace we're not always at the same pace. This helps by making both improve at weak parts.
She's faster when going up i'm faster when going down. I'm tired when she isn't and vice versa. We both have to push to keep up with the other one at that time.
So you're doing things to slow yourself down, in addition to probably deliberately riding slower. Not what the OP was asking about at all.
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Old 07-16-15, 02:25 PM
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Originally Posted by njlonghorn View Post
As a rough estimate, power output increases at the cube of the change in speed. All else equal, to increase your speed by 40%, you would need to increase your power output by almost 175% (because 1.4 x 1.4 x 1.4 = 2.744). These numbers are not entirely accurate, but it is fair to say that you are asking us how you can more than double your power output.
While power to overcome aerodynamic drag increases with the cube of velocity, offsetting rolling resistance and gravity up-hill is only linear. At low enough speeds rolling resistance (flat ground) or gravity (up-hill) is still the most significant factor so the required increases aren't quite that high. You do quickly get past that.

Out and back on "flat" terrain (120 feet total in 30 miles round trip) 100W Z1 gets me about 15 MPH, 140W Z2 17 MPH, and 205W Z4 20 MPH although I wear skin-fit aero jerseys for Z4 rides versus euro-cut for slower.

First, if you aren't already using clipless pedals, you should. I once read that the difference between flat and clipless pedals is bigger than all other differences between bikes, combined.
The difference is too small to measure.

I love my clipless pedals because I can't slip off in the rain, my feet end up in the perfect spot every time, and I feel secure spinning 140 RPM; but they aren't doing anything for my performance.

This doesn't answer whether they're faster, although it does show they're not more efficient:

The fastest slick road tires can save you 20W over the slowest at 18 MPH which is almost 1 MPH. Lots of us like the Continental GP4000S as a compromise between low rolling resistance, flat resistance, and longevity. Treaded and knobby tires leave more room for improvement.

Aero wheels help, but are only 10-15% of your total drag and at that speed only 5W separates a modern shaped shallow aluminum wheel and 50-60mm carbon fiber one. A decent aero jersey can do as much for 1/10th the price (less if you buy a previous year left over). Either way it's only tenths of one MPH.

Position helps too but not as much as you'd hope - Gibertini and Grassi only found a 5% difference between typical hoods and drops position (CdA .318 vs .304). You have less drag riding with the same torso position with your forearms level on the brake hoods than riding on the drops with your arms more vertical.

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Old 07-16-15, 02:53 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
So you're doing things to slow yourself down, in addition to probably deliberately riding slower. Not what the OP was asking about at all.
I'm not deliberately riding slower, with all that weight i'm having hard time keeping up the pace. It's a good workout, it's spice things up and make thing more fun for both of us.

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Old 07-16-15, 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by erig007 View Post
I'm not deliberately riding slower, with all that weight i'm having hard time keeping up the pace. Good workout.
Okay. Still, the OP's question still wasn't "how do I make my partner slower?" For all we know, said partner is already trying to ride slower, so he may resent suggestions to load himself down. Let's focus on the OP's actual question here, where I think there's a lot of opportunity.
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Old 07-16-15, 03:12 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
Okay. Still, the OP's question still wasn't "how do I make my partner slower?" For all we know, said partner is already trying to ride slower, so he may resent suggestions to load himself down. Let's focus on the OP's actual question here, where I think there's a lot of opportunity.
What is the problem here? Both not going at the same pace, isn't it?
The OP going faster is one solution but not the only possible solution.
By the way, there is no limit to make someone going slower. With enough load you can make anyone going backward (uphill)

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Old 07-16-15, 03:18 PM
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Originally Posted by erig007 View Post
With 500 pounds extra on his bike don't worry he will get his workout just right
I've done a heavy bike PLUS heavy trailer.



I was riding alone, but I assure you, a person riding an old Raleigh 3-speed would have ridden circles around me.

And, while I didn't dare get off the bike on a hill (too hard to pull it up the hill), many people could have walked up the hills faster than me.

Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
Okay. Still, the OP's question still wasn't "how do I make my partner slower?" For all we know, said partner is already trying to ride slower, so he may resent suggestions to load himself down. Let's focus on the OP's actual question here, where I think there's a lot of opportunity.
Ok, I don't recommend just pulling a 400+ pound hunk of steel around the neighborhood for fun, although it is a good workout. But, on some light touring, it would be appropriate to distribute most or all of the weight to the stronger rider, even if that means pulling a trailer rather than everyone carrying panniers.

And, enjoying a tour together wouldn't be freeriding.

As far as speeding up:
  • A fast light bike will help some... but it is limited.
  • Training helps some... but it can be an uphill battle... especially when one's partner is already at the summit.
  • Cadence???? I don't know, maybe.
  • Drafting... helps quite a bit, but isn't for everyone. Does one want to have one person do all the pulling and another do all the drafting? And it may be hard to smell the roses when one is concentrating on following distance. As well as too much concentration on speed.
  • Electric Assist. A strong possibility, but personally I don't like the idea, but who knows... perhaps the right situation would come up that would make it reasonable.
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Old 07-16-15, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by erig007 View Post
What is the problem here? Both not going at the same pace, isn't it?
The OP going faster is one solution but not the only possible solution.
By the way, there is no limit to make someone going slower. With enough load you can make anyone going backward (uphill)
The OP's question couldn't be any clearer.
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Old 07-16-15, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
I've done a heavy bike PLUS heavy trailer.



I was riding alone, but I assure you, a person riding an old Raleigh 3-speed would have ridden circles around me.

And, while I didn't dare get off the bike on a hill (too hard to pull it up the hill), many people could have walked up the hills faster than me.
Rocky style! That's all you need

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Old 07-16-15, 03:42 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
The OP's question couldn't be any clearer.
Not looking for what the real problem actually is that's how you solve problems?

Here is an example why it doesn't work well:

i'm overweight. I eat everyday several big macs, 5 chocolate bars and 2L of soda. I workout 30 minutes a day running.
I ask you how i can increase my workout to lose weight.
Your answer would be to answer my question by finding all the ways to increase my workout. Mine would be to look at both increasing energy loss and reducing energy intake + other alternatives that are neither of those 2, just saying.

Here in your post #15 you made the assumption that making the partner going slower wasn't an available alternative. It's nowhere written in the OP post that this alternative isn't available.

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Old 07-16-15, 03:43 PM
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Agree with this. I have a similar issue. The right frame and wheel set makes a difference on climbs. A light carbon frame bike with a high quality wheel set makes accelerating easier. Accelerate and keep the momentum going.
The general answer you get, though from this forum is to train more and do intervals. That may be true for your case since you have a large gap to close. The above changes should help with maybe half the gap.
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Old 07-16-15, 06:21 PM
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General Information for Mismatched Cycling Partners

I have been in the situation where I've been significantly slower than my riding partner, and my riding partner wanted to get in some faster riding, so we talked and came up with several ideas which we used.

1) Time-trial tag - We picked out a 2 or 3 km square, and rode around it a few times to warm up. Then, at one corner, he stopped and I set off, and when I disappeared around the next corner about 0.5 km away, he set off. We both rode as hard as we could ... me trying to keep in front of him, him trying to catch me. When he caught me, we'd ride a few laps slowly to rest, and then do it again. The first couple times we tried it, he caught me relatively quickly ... several laps. But one day, we kept going round and round and round and round ...

2) We would set off about the same time, and he'd ride as hard as he could up a designated highway, while I would also ride up the same highway, but not as fast. At a certain point (in our case about 40 kms up the road) he would turn around and come back to meet me. Then we'd either ride my pace to the turn-around spot, and back, or just turn around where he met me. But after he'd ridden 40 kms as fast as he could, riding my pace was all right.

3) We would set off together up a particular highway, and when we got to side roads, he's sprint down the side road and back, and then catch up with me, ride with me for a bit, then sprint down another side road and back. Or if there weren't side roads, sometimes he'd sprint up the road ahead of me and back to me, and then ride with me for a bit, and then sprint up ahead again. At first I just let him go and kept going my same pace, but after a while, when he dashed off, I tried my best to hang onto his wheel for as long as I could. And of course, he let me know that he was going to do that so I didnt wonder what on earth was up when he went dashing off.

4) He was off work a couple hours before I was, so he would go out and ride as hard as he could for a couple hours. And then when I got off work and was ready to ride, we'd ride together at my pace.

5) Occasionally, I would set off half an hour, or an hour or so, before my cycling partner, and he would ride hard to catch me.


A few years later, my father and I rode together, and then I was the stronger one. So wed employ one of these methods

6) There were several times where I planned out a route that included an "escape route" ... and he joined me for the first of it, then returned home on the "escape route", and I continued on to finish the whole thing.

7) Or I planned a loop route of 3 loops, and hed join me for 1 or 2 of them.

8) Or Id plan a loop route, and go ... and hed leave an hour or two later and ride the route backward to meet me, then ride in with me.

9) Or if we were on an out-and-back, hed turn around at a certain point and I would continue on to another point, then turn around and ride back as fast as I could trying to catch up with him.


Rowan and I have gone through slightly mismatched periods too. Usually, he just rides my pace, but ...

10) A few times, I was trying to build up my speed so I wanted to do intervals. My top speed on intervals wasn't much of an effort for him, and he wasn't particularly interested in doing intervals, so he got out the stop watch and did all the timing while riding beside me. We warmed up, he counted down to my first interval and off I went at my top speed while he just cruised along beside me, then he counted down to a break, and repeat. While he wasn't going top speed himself, what it did for him was to give him a chance to ride faster than we normally did.



11) And also see if there are any multi-distance cycling events coming up. The local century often has 50 km, 100 km, and 100 mile rides. Sometimes they set it up so that all the riders can ride some of the event together before they split off and do their own thing. Just a general tip for mismatched cycling partners.
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Old 07-16-15, 08:51 PM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by macbride View Post
Agree with this. I have a similar issue. The right frame and wheel set makes a difference on climbs. A light carbon frame bike with a high quality wheel set makes accelerating easier. Accelerate and keep the momentum going.
Unfortunately the improvements are proportional to change in total weight and inertia. As a 138 pound rider on a 18 pound bike dropping two pounds of wheel weight only makes me (138 + 18) / (138 + 16) = 1.012 (1.2%) faster up the steepest hills.

Accelerating rotating mass counts more, increasing from just 1X at the axle center to 2X where the rubber meets the road. Dropping a pound of rubber and rim would produce at most the same ~1% improvement.

In practice, bicycle components with less weight and rotating mass are more about marketing than achieving real performance gains.

The general answer you get, though from this forum is to train more and do intervals. That may be true for your case since you have a large gap to close. The above changes should help with maybe half the gap.
While a pound less knocking 20 seconds off your Mt. Diablo hill climb might be enough to break the hour for a free T-shirt, equipment changes aren't enough for situations like this unless they're what pushes you over the edge to having and following a structured training plan. You need to change the rider.

There's 20-25 pounds between healthy by non-athletic standards and optimal cycling weight. Subtract that from a 170 pound bike + rider combination (145-150 pounds after) and they'll be up to 13-17% faster up the steepest hills.

Middle age spread can be even more significant. I dropped 67 pounds (49% better) and added 40W at threshold (22% better) to increase my power to weight ratio 80%, as in I can use a 50 ring on hills where I used to need a 30 with the same cog and cadence.

Last edited by Drew Eckhardt; 07-16-15 at 09:11 PM.
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Old 07-17-15, 08:21 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by erig007 View Post
Not looking for what the real problem actually is that's how you solve problems?

Here is an example why it doesn't work well:

i'm overweight. I eat everyday several big macs, 5 chocolate bars and 2L of soda. I workout 30 minutes a day running.
I ask you how i can increase my workout to lose weight.
Your answer would be to answer my question by finding all the ways to increase my workout. Mine would be to look at both increasing energy loss and reducing energy intake + other alternatives that are neither of those 2, just saying.

Here in your post #15 you made the assumption that making the partner going slower wasn't an available alternative. It's nowhere written in the OP post that this alternative isn't available.
I'm tempted to say something snotty about your reading comprehension, but I won't. I never said it wasn't an alternative, I (and others) said there might be a lot we could do to speed up the OP. If she (where are you, @bikesd?) already has everything dialed in, then it would be an appropriate time to discuss slowing down her partner.

I'm glad that you and your partner have things figured out, though.
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Old 07-17-15, 11:10 AM
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A thing I used to do when riding with slower groups was to ride SS, ~68 g.i., so a 42 X 17 or a 39 X 15. Compact ratios aren't as convenient. Slowed me down a little and I still got a good workout. The speed gap was much smaller than what the OP is talking about though, maybe 2 mph.

As I said above, the OP is talking about doubling her power on the flats. Ain't gonna happen. I certainly would not assume the OP is overweight, guys! Wouldn't affect speed on the flat anyway. Some people simply have a much larger aerobic power potential than others. That's how it is and that's why my wife and I have been happily riding tandem since '07. Our comfortable cruise has gone from 16 to 18 in that time and, needless to say, my power increase between 62 and 70 has not been that great, recently having done the 1-day STP and RAMROD several times at 62.

We just set a PR on a local sprint hill last night. My wife said it felt like she was driving the whole tandem uphill, which of course is exactly how it should feel. Strava said 460 watts, which is about all we're going to get at our age. I put out about double what Stoker puts out throughout the effort range, which is exactly the OP's issue.
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