My wife and I have occasion to ride the trainers side-by-side throughout the winter. She’s mentioned, on a couple of occasions, that it’s hard for her to look over at me, to see me dripping with sweat, pushing the hardest gear I’ve got… all the while she’s struggling to keep her focus on pedaling the bike. Same thing happens when I ride outside. I’ve got no problem, on the appropriate days, hammering the pedals until I’m smoked. My wife’s always had a difficult time with pushing herself.
I can hammer myself in crappy weather, in wind, sometimes rain, on the trainer when necessary… it doesn’t matter.
The question is how? Or maybe even why, but let’s not get lost in the weeds here, we can stick with how for a minute.
When I get on my bike and it’s time for a real workout, my goal is to get faster. I’m not going to get faster putting in junk miles. I know this down to my baby toes. Junk miles may be fun, oh are the junk miles fun, but in terms of getting fast they’re almost useless. Let me be very clear here, I don’t care if you disagree. I don’t even care if you disagree and you’re right. What works for me is hammering out hard miles with a smattering of easy days in between for rest. Period end of story.
The key to getting and staying fast is holding onto the want to.
The way I see speed, as it relates to cycling and how it worked for me, getting there is kind of an incremental thing. You progress and plateau, progress and plateau, until you get to where the gains are minimal. The hard part is wanting to get faster through the plateaus. Working though those sucks. It’s easy to give up and say, “that’s it, this is it, I’m done.” Once you hit that, you’re not going to go much further until you get over that mental block.
There is no magic bullet…
Cycling and speed are pretty simple. While a good bike and a nice set of wheels will absolutely help you to be a faster cyclist, they’re not entirely necessary. I managed my fastest ride ever on a 15 year-old bike with a rusted out headset and crappy wheels… I just had a lot of people to hide behind. What got me down the road was “want to”. No normal person will ride a bike until they accidently upchuck in their mouth, but that’s how I got faster. I had to have the legs to push on the pedals hard enough to push through the wind to be fast… and until I got those legs, it was all work and a little bit of rest.
There may be an end zone, though.
In my case, I’ve found my magical state of balance. I’ve gotten fast enough that I don’t really
have want to get much faster. What’s become most important to me is that my wife and I ride together. If I get much faster she won’t be able to keep up (nor will any of my friends). I’m in an odd place where I know I could ride faster but I don’t want to for fear I’ll be bored riding with my wife and friends – or worse, I end up accidentally hammering them into the ground because my estimation of effort is beyond their ability to enjoy the pace I’m setting. I have friends who crush the group they ride with and I don’t want to be that guy.
To wrap this little post up and put a bow on it (before I run out the door for a “hurry up before it rains” gravel road ride), getting fast is more about want to than equipment or some magic pedal stroke where you’re pretending you’re scraping mud off the bottom of your shoe. Without want to, that pedal stroke and a buck will get you a cup of coffee, and that’s about it.
It’s your choice. Want it, or don’t.
Ride hard, my friends.