For those who are deciding to make cycling their New Year’s resolution, many will be tempted to hammer the gears hard right out of the gate, only to find out that it’s a lot more work than remembered as a kid. Well, that’s what happened to me anyway, and I figure I’m not the only one.
First, don’t be disheartened. If you put a little bit of “want to” into it, you’ll progress rapidly, adding distance while keeping your speed up. We get out of it what we put into it, but be careful that your goals are in line with reality (weight and age). When I started cycling I didn’t know what to expect. I found out soon enough that 4 miles in 16 minutes on a mountain bike was pretty hard. Within a month I could hold that for ten miles… A year and a couple of road bikes later and I could hold 20+ mph (3 minute miles) for 30 miles on my own, and I was riding almost every day of the week….
However, my legs still took a while to build up. Estimates, depending on age, are two to five years before a cyclist can really start to realize their full potential but the common marker is “cycling legs in three years”. This won’t mean that you can’t realize gains quicker, you will if you work for it, over time your legs become much more resilient to the rigors of daily cycling so that putting together several hard days in a row won’t have you looking to curl up on the couch with a bottle of Aleve and the remote control for a few days to recover.
I’m working on my fifth year now, and last year was a breakthrough for me. I much stronger through my third year, but last year was special. I was pretty fast once I got into road bikes (let’s say a lot faster than average, but not all that fast next to those who race for fun). I increased my mileage year-over-year by 20% and was able to push out three months where I only missed two days on two wheels. Prior years, the best I could hope for was a couple of weeks in a row before I needed a day off… One day off a week was even better. This ability to ride on a daily basis, I ascribe to finally getting my cycling legs.
Cycling with speed is a very simple equation (i + d) w = a:
(Intensity + Distance) Want to = Awesome.
Oh, and one of these won’t hurt: