Newbie question: how can I be faster on the bike?

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 08, 2012 3:01 AM GMT
    So this August I did my first Olympic distance triathlon and my 40 km bike time was pretty horrible in my opinion (1h42min).

    I think I have the right gear. I have a Trek road bike and it's quite light and it is fairly comfortable to ride. I have not started using clip-less pedals but I do have them. I have trouble clipping out and have fallen from my bike using them many times so I decided not to use them for now.

    I want to get 40 km done in 1h30min by next summer and I am not allowed to draft.

    How much time should I dedicate to be on the bike? I don't think I did enough this year.

    Should I dedicate time into learning the clip-less pedals? Does this make a huge difference?

    What's the trick when shifting gears? Do I just shift so that I can maintain the same cadence? Is that the trick to being faster?

    Any advice would be appreciated! Thanks.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 09, 2012 3:08 AM GMT
    The trick to shifting gears and maintaining speed is to use clipless pedals. Otherwise your feet slip off during the sudden jolt.

    Want more speed? Learn to use clipless pedals. Otherwise you'll be forever stuck at 25 MPH.
  • oh_noyeahhh

    Posts: 119

    Aug 09, 2012 3:11 AM GMT
    set up motorcycle's engine into ur bike >>>>Faster
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    Aug 09, 2012 4:40 AM GMT
    I would recommend interval training...basically intermittent hard efforts with short rest periods. Google cycling interval training and you'll find some training plans that will help your leg speed. i do intervals in the winter on my indoor trainer when i can't get rides in after work and they really help. I don't really do outdoor intervals because I just like to get out and ride, but the idea is the same--find a stretch of road you can do repeats of timed hard efforts mixed in with short rest periods. Sometimes, though, I'll go out and do laps around an island on a flat 4-mile circuit alternating all-out and recovery laps. Garmin computers have workouts on them that might help--I've never used them on mine, but they're there if you have one.

    Getting clipless pedals will help too, since your pedaling stroke will be more efficient.

    Do you have aero bars on your road bike? I'd normally never ask or recommend anyone put them on a road bike, but since you're racing in triathlons, it's acceptable to try and get more aero than you can on just your drops.

    I'm assuming you don't want to invest in a TT bike or an expensive aero wheelset and it's probably better for you to first improve your ability before you resort to spending a lot of money to get marginally better.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 09, 2012 4:43 AM GMT
    Go down hills. Never fails me.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 09, 2012 4:48 AM GMT
    I'll second the interval training. And the clipless pedals are are definite must. pushing down on the pedal is only half the stroke, you're wasting all the power you could be using to pull up as well.

    Everyone falls getting used to clipless pedals and its almost always at extremely slow speeds so only your ego will be bruised. once you're used to them you'll never go back.
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    Aug 09, 2012 5:34 AM GMT
    Clipless pedals conserve your muscle power by not wasting some of it with the effort of holding your feet in place. You also pull up on the pedal, not merely push down, making for a more efficient 360-degree pedaling action.

    There are different styles of clipless pedals, and cleats for your shoes. I use a type of Shimano cleat that releases a little easier. You can also lessen the spring tension on the pedal's mechanism, to make the release point lower. I'm not a very powerful pedaler, which allows me to keep the release point rather weak. Stronger riders will like their cleats more secure with higher spring tension. A good bike shop can advise you, and show you how to experiment with these settings yourself.

    What kind of terrain was the triathlon? Your average speed was less than 15 mph, which is rather slow unless it was hilly. Even 1 hour 30 min would be under 17 mph for 40 km, still not stellar for a good road bike on mostly level ground. There's no substitute for daily riding sessions, and interval training is a good technique for many cyclists.

    Gears are used to maintain a steady cadence. I keep my crank speed between 60 & 70 revolutions per minute, although steep hills can slow that. A cyclometer will measure cadence, as well as road speed & distance. I am shifting almost constantly, for even slight grades and changes in the wind, to keep my cadence very steady. Novice cyclists tend to pedal too slowly, as if they were on a single-speed boardwalk cruiser.

    Also have a bike shop adjust your fit. Another common error with beginners is to have the saddle set too low, which makes your legs pump less efficiently.

    As a rough rule of thumb to get you started, when seated place your heel on the pedal at its lowest point. You leg should be straight, with little or no knee flex. When actually pedaling with the balls of your feet over the pedal your leg flex will then be correct.

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 09, 2012 6:00 AM GMT
    this post made me want to go watch American Flyers again...
    PS: There is some ass candy near the end clip..
  • QHCAguy

    Posts: 138

    Aug 09, 2012 6:58 AM GMT
    First you finished the race and had enough fun doing it that you want to go again. Congratulations, that's a win in my book! Bike splits will get better just cut yourself a break on your first race.

    I've used clipless pedals for...well a long time now. I gooned up a stop to retrieve a water bottle this weekend and have the road rash to prove it icon_redface.gif. It happens to us all. Spend the time to get comfortable in the clipless pedals before your next race and it will be a big help. Work some pedaling drills like alternate unclipping one leg and just pedaling with the side still clipped in. That will help you get used to what it should feel like to use your whole leg for pedaling. You're trying to get to a seamless application of force through the entire stroke, not just a push on the down stroke of each leg.

    So far as how much time to spend on the bike...well as much as you can and still get your run time in icon_cool.gif. IMO, speed on the bike and the run is where it counts. You'll notice with the pros even, the first out of the water is rarely the winner of the race... I'll toss in a second (or is it third by now?) to what others have said about interval training. It's a great way to help build your speed. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhcknBmJ2XM Is a good bike specific intro to intervals (in spite of a REALLY annoying music track).

    For shifting, ditto to Art's advice on that. The one nugget I would add is to work to stay ahead of the game on shifting. A mistake a lot of new cyclists make is they try to stay hammering on the big gears until they slow down too much and have to shift. Paying attention to the terrain ahead and getting down a gear or two before you need it will help you stay steady on the power. Plus it's easier on the gears to shift before you put a lot more load on the chain. Win-win!

    Good luck with the training!
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    Aug 10, 2012 1:51 AM GMT
    Great advice guys. Thank you so much!

    The course was pretty much flat so I definitely need to improve my speed. I think my seat might need to be higher too because my leg is definitely not straight when the pedal is at its lowest point.

    So basically

    - Use clip-less pedals
    - Do interval training
    - Adjust seat
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 10, 2012 2:03 AM GMT
    microbiologist saidI think my seat might need to be higher too because my leg is definitely not straight when the pedal is at its lowest point.

    As the video clip indicated, your leg is straight for a STATIC measurement pressing with your HEEL at the lowest point. When you're actually pedaling under way, with the BALL of your foot on the pedal, then your leg does retain some slight flex at the knee on the downstroke.
  • DanOmatic

    Posts: 1155

    Aug 10, 2012 2:21 AM GMT
    Find a group ride that suits your ability level--lots of bike stores sponsor regular weekly rides for different distances/levels, and some are geared specifically toward beginners. You'll learn new routes and meet people who can give you advice on training tips, etc.

    Probably you can improve by riding three times a week. One long endurance ride (probably at this point for you, a long ride would be 2-2.5 hours), one ride where you're doing a structured workout (interval training--lots of different variations are possible, so you'll have to research options that work best for your training needs) and one ride that you can kind of mix up how you get the miles in.

    Since you're relatively new, it's important to get consistent miles under your belt, but also to get some intensity worked in there too. It takes a while to build up experience and handling skills. Be patient with it, have fun, and ride safely.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 10, 2012 8:39 AM GMT




    Join GB Olympic team icon_biggrin.gif




    http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/gbcyclingteam/article/Gbrst_gb-cyclingteam-Becoming-a-Member-of-the-GB-Cycling-Team-0
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    Aug 11, 2012 5:27 AM GMT
    In addition to intervals, throw in some cadence drills as well....assuming your cyclocomputer has a cadence sensor. My coach taught me to pedal smooth, circular, and at a high cadence (start off with a goal of 80 to 90 rpm). The interval training will increase your cardiovascular endurance like crazy.....so once your conditioned for the, pedaling at faster cadences (90 to 100 rpm) will be a breeze. It'll also be easier on your knees vs mashing on your pedals at a lower cadence. Keep your pedal stroke circular, smooth, and consistent.

    I always thought this was a good example of a good high cadence.

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 13, 2012 1:53 AM GMT
    Thanks for the additional tips!

    I went out today with the clipless pedals for a 2 hour ride. They sure did make a difference!

    I am buying a computer/sensors now that can measure my cadence and speed so I can work on those in the coming months.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 13, 2012 4:26 AM GMT
    I have 2 sets of pedals for my bike. One's clipless for longer rides, and the other the older clip or "cage" style, pictured below.

    This is what I first had in 1962 (the straps were leather back then) before clipless were invented, and I still like them because they can be used with almost any kind of shoe. That's perfect for when I'm just riding errands, and will be walking around off the bike, for which rigid bike shoes with cleats aren't good, and may even mark some floors.

    Gravity makes the clip hang below the pedal when your foot isn't in them. But you quickly learn the trick of using your toe to spin them upright to insert your shoe by touch alone without looking. They don't hold your shoe as rigid as clipless, and are heavier, but they're much more versatile for everyday riding.

    7c13921f.jpg
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    Aug 14, 2012 4:05 AM GMT
    Since you're getting a computer with a cadence sensor, also do some high cadence drills in addition to the speed training. As Chris Carmichael would say, if your legs don't move fast, you don't move fast.

    Put it in a faster gear like your 34/39 x 15 and do intermittent high cadence (120+ rpm) and soft pedaling drills. For example do each of these for 5 minutes maintaining high cadence, taking one or two minutes off in between sets:
    60 seconds on/60 seconds off
    45 seconds on/30 seconds off
    20 seconds on all out/40 seconds off

    Again, just google high cadence drills and you'll probably find whole programs out there you can recreate in the wild.
  • Artesin

    Posts: 482

    Aug 14, 2012 4:15 AM GMT
    More explosive exercises that dont involve the bike. More HIIT.
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    Aug 14, 2012 4:21 AM GMT
    I agree with the posts saying to do more short and intense intervals. Before this year, I would mainly just do long rides. This summer I started working on my intervals, and I believe my biking has definitely improved.

    Also, getting clipless pedals will definitely help you out. If you had a trainer or could use someone else's you could also use that to practice getting in and out of them. It definitely helps.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 15, 2012 5:29 AM GMT
    EPO :p