Absolutely, positively, the most difficult “cycling for more speed” tip I’ve found to adhere to is this: Your easy efforts are too hard and your hard efforts are too easy. I’ve read that simple tip from pros more times than I can count.
The hard efforts being too easy is simple enough to understand and do something about, it’s the other part of that equation that I have a tough time with. My easy efforts, on average and historically, have only been a couple of miles an hour slower than my hard efforts – and therein lies the rub.
The problem I’ve always had, since day one, is that when I’m about an eighth of a mile into an easy training ride and my legs loosen up a little bit, I get to thinking I should be putting more of an effort into my ride, that I might be misusing an opportunity to accomplish something if I go any slower. To make matters worse, 18 mph really did seem easy. Unfortunately at 22, I was really working. If that wasn’t enough, I get the ego involved as well. My ego chimes in and says, “you’re not going any slower than 18 and that’s about all we have to say about the matter”. The trick to the recovery ride, as I’ve seen aptly stated from a pro, is that while you keep your cadence right around 90 rpm, you should be embarrassed if one of your friends sees you riding that slow.
So this year my wife catches the cycling bug (thank you baby Jesus!) and we start riding together once or twice a week and her working pace is around 15-16 mph. This means simply by riding with my wife, my easy days are really are easy.
So here we are, it’s only mid-May and I’m flying – my legs feel awesome and I’m already able to do things that I wouldn’t think of trying in the peak of my season last year.
Admittedly, attributing a fantastic jump on the season to riding with my wife is highly subjective. There are several things I’m doing better this year. First, I have my nutrition and hydration down to a science where last year I was just getting everything figured out. Second, my weekend long rides are quite a bit longer for this early in the season. Twenty-five miles longer, every week. On the other hand, the weather this year has absolutely sucked until this week. In fact, yesterday was the first shorts and jersey club ride of the season (!). That’s right, mid-May, the first Tuesday this year that arm and leg warmers weren’t required. Of course, now we jumped right into summer, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Still, what I cannot deny is that my easy days are easier and the reason for this is that I’m riding with my wife. Without her, I’d still be at that 18-19 mph average. So, if you’re training and you have a tough time keeping the lid on your enthusiasm or if you have a problem with your ego burdening you with guilt for riding too slow, get your spouse on a bike and ride with them so that they can provide you with the distraction and reason to take it easier and enjoy the scenery. Of course, the only problem there is that eventually they may become fast as well and you then may have to worry about the easy days becoming a competition… But let’s deal with one problem at a time, eh?