When looked at over a period of months, your average speed can tell you a great deal about how you’re improving as a cyclist. Here’s some top tips to get you increase your average speed.
Whether it’s a race or a local climb with your training partners, one of the biggest mistakes cyclists make is not pacing their efforts correctly. If you begin a ride at a pace you can’t sustain, eventually you’ll have to slow down. While you might think this strategy would end up averaging out to about the same number you’d get riding at an even pace, the truth is riding steady keeps your legs feeling better and allows you to ride faster than trying to hang on during those last few miles.
Also think about those times during a ride when you steer away from a consistent effort. Climbs are one example when this often happens. Hammering to the top of a hill in a heart rate zone well above where you should be can leave you feeling tired and ragged for the rest of your ride, affecting your average speed. Instead, stick to a heart rate or power output number you know you can maintain for the duration of the ride no matter the terrain. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel at the end of the ride and how much faster your average speed is.
2. Ride Negative Splits
If you want to take pacing to the next level, try riding negative splits. This method conserves energy for the second half of the ride when it is more efficient and less risky to crank up the speed.
To practice, take your average speed from a route you’ve ridden several times. For the first half of your ride, ride slightly below this number. Once you reach the midway point, pick up the pace a few notches so you’re at your previous average speed or slightly higher. During the last quarter of your ride, pick up the pace as much as possible and try to hammer out the remaining miles. In addition to boosting your average speed, it’s also a great way to practice pacing and the kind of effort you’ll need to produce for an upcoming cycling event.
3. Improve Your Comfort
When it comes to improving average speed, aerodynamics is what gets talked about most often. And while lowering your head position, tucking your elbows and buying things like aero helmets and wheels can certainly help, if you want to go faster you also need to be comfortable. Too often cyclists adopt aggressive positions on the bike to mimic the pros and to look fast, but it ends up causing is a sore back and neck and a position that isn’t all that efficient for your individual body type, causing you to slow down anyway.
Think of it this way: If you can’t ride in the drops for more than a few minutes because it isn’t comfortable, an aero bike setup isn’t going to do you much good. On the other hand, if you’re comfortable and spinning the pedals as efficiently as possible, you’ll be more likely to put more power to the pedals and average a higher speed over longer distances.
4. Switch Up Your Training Routes
While it might not be feasible to pack your bike up and head to a new area for every training ride, doing so once per week can make a big difference. If your training rides are usually pretty flat, head to a place with rolling hills or a long climb. This shocks your muscles and forces them to adapt to new terrain, which leads to an improvement in fitness. For those other training rides, switch up your favorite route slightly by doing it backwards every now and then. The slightly different ups and downs keep your training from getting stale.
5. Watch Your Diet
To get faster, you’ll either have to get stronger or lose weight. Cycling, particularly when you head uphill, is all about your power-to-weight ratio — or how many watts you can generate per pound of body weight. If your bike, equipment, power and fitness stay exactly the same, your average speed will improve with every pound you lose.
This means opting for meals consisting of lean meats and vegetables that are portioned appropriately following your ride instead of lunging for beer and pizza. Eating a balanced diet and laying off the indulgences eventually will make a big difference out on the road.