In a very near future I will be picking up a new road bike. The frame technology and the aerodynamics of the bike will be cutting edge and top-notch. It will weigh, even with aluminum rims, somewhere in the neighborhood of 16 pounds and it will be awesome. I won’t be buying the $10,000 electronic shifting team edition. No, my bike won’t be anywhere near that price, but it will be very nice.
I will go to every length to make sure that it is set up perfectly for me – it will be one size small so I can have a good aerodynamic drop, proper length crank arms and stem, the whole nine yards. It will be comfortable when I’m done and it will help me to ride, if imperceptibly, faster – and it will be the last road bike I buy for a long, long time.
It will be nice and I will be happy to ride it for the next decade or more but at most, it will be worth a few tenths of a mile per hour (or so I assume). In the end, there really only is one magic pill that will help a noob go from a 16 mph average to better than 21 or 22 mph. There is no magic pedal stroke, no amount of carbon and no expense one can go to that will replace the magic pill:
Frequency and Intensity.
Last week I rode in the Tour des Lacs 100 mile charity ride, I was on my sub $1,000, used, 1999 Trek 5200. In the group behind me was a kid more than fifteen years my junior on a $15,000 Pinarello Dogma. He rode in a group of 15-20 riders and I rode in a group of five. I finished more than 20 minutes ahead of him. My average was 20.5, his was 18.5.
There is no magic bike, no super-awesome technology, that will replace good old-fashioned frequency and intensity. Unfortunately, it’s this simple: I ride faster when I ride faster. There are tactics to be learned, strategies to be considered and equipment that will improve one’s time but in the end it all comes down to how hard I can push on the pedals.
To that end I went out with a few of my friends yesterday for a pre-run of the Assenmacher 100 mile ride scheduled for this coming Sunday and had an absolute blast. As with other rides that start at the local bike shop, I opted to ride over for my warm-up. It’s only 5-1/2 miles so while it is a little crazy, opting to ride an extra eleven miles on top of a full century, we’re not talking about full-blown nuts (at least I don’t think so, I could be wrong). Most of the course was done at or above 20 mph, but we weren’t afraid to take it easy from time to time either. We even stopped for lunch at a Subway in Owosso (I recommend the toasted Chicken Bacon Ranch Melt – after 70 hard miles it was exactly what the doctor ordered to recharge). We ended up with a pretty decent 19.6 mile average, excellent for what was just supposed to be an easy 18 mph ride.
Assuming that I complete the ride on Sunday that will be three centuries, three weeks in a row. I love August in Michigan! Incidentally, I had 198 miles last week which brought the total for the month of August to 411 miles so far (and we haven’t even hit the middle of the month yet). I’m on pace for an 800 mile month which would best my previous best month by 125 miles and I’m riding faster than ever.
Frequency and Intensity: Check.