I’ve gotten a few comments on my Noob’s Guide to a 23 mph average post that made an addendum a bit of a necessity and considering that I’ve already added to that post three times, I figured I’d just write a new one to cover the one thing that absolutely transformed my summer cycling performance and enjoyment – and is exceptionally simple. Before we get going, I wrote simple, not easy, for a reason. Easy, this is not.
Increasing your average speed, for anyone who has ever tried, isn’t easy – especially going from 18-19 mph to 20-21 mph (solo, relatively flat roads). There are two aspects to doing so that are absolutely crucial; the ability to get used to being uncomfortable (or to work harder) and leg strength.
The best thing I’ve found for both that translates to big gains on the flats is climbing mountain roads. If, however, you don’t have a mountain road that you can climb off of your driveway, I have developed a way to cheat that training on relatively flat roads. We’ve got a couple of decent climbs in my neck of the woods (though I have to ride 20 miles to get there) but if I don’t have a few hours to get there, climb the hills a few times and ride back, there are steps I can take to get a fantastic workout in on my normal 20 mile daily ride that pays huge dividends within a few weeks. Do this correctly and you will improve your overall speed (average), your ability to climb tougher hills and your overall fitness.
First, this assumes you are indeed already a cyclist – that you ride your bike frequently already so we don’t have to get into the whole “check with your doctor so you don’t croak” thing. If this is not the case, if you’re not already in shape, consult with your doctor, your nurse, your nanny, local government official, Obamacare Death Panel Advisor™ or priest before attempting physical exertion that might cause you to croak – because this simple tip will challenge you…
Do this once or twice a week: On an otherwise normal training ride, take a few minutes to warm up till you’re at your normal cruising speed, then every time you approach an incline, rather than downshift to an easier gear, up shift one or two gears, and attack that hill (out of the saddle) until you pass the crest of the hill. Then soft-pedal (maintaining your speed) to catch your breath on the way down the back side. If I don’t have a back side of the hill to go down, sad to say, you’re bummin’. No rest for you, downshift to your cruising gear and maintain your speed (this is how I do it at least). The idea is to attack every single incline on your normal training route – even if you have two in a row (I have several of these and they suck). You want to pick up speed going up the hill rather than slow down. Basically, it’s an interval on top of a climb.
This simple tip is so awesome, I’d be amazed if you didn’t see tangible results in as little as two or three weeks.
Happy cycling, and good luck. This one isn’t for the weak-willed, this one hurts.
Oh, I almost forgot… We’ll call them Hill Sprints.