Netflix to Jim… “We think you’ll like Lucifer”.
Jim to Netflix… “Yeah. No thanks. Already got to know him once. Then I quit drinking and drugs. I don’t intend on a second meeting, let alone going back enough that “liking” him is possible. Thanks for sharing.
This post is for those who want to be faster on the bike – and I mean fast. If you don’t, if you believe putzing around the neighborhood is for you, then you may not need this post. On the other hand, it can’t hurt. Either way, what’s most important is that you’re smiling when you’re on (and off) your bike – if putzing around puts a smile on your face, fantastic. If putzing leaves you wanting a little more, read on. Fair warning though, I’m not about to beat around the bush.
Speed on a bicycle does not come on its own, and it rarely comes freely. The faster I ride, the harder I have to be willing to work at it. I can’t remember the formula, but there’s a lot of talk out there about how the force required to push the wind doubles as your speed increases. I’m here to tell you, I know exactly what that feels like. Anyone who’s tried to get their bike up to 30 or 35-mph (48-56 km/h) on flat ground knows this feeling intimately.
There once was a time, 14-mph on a mountain bike over four miles was about max effort for me. That was long ago.
My friends, we are going to discuss an uncomfortable phrase for a minute. It’s uncomfortable for some because those who log lots of miles like this have a tendency to think they’re working a lot harder than they are. Then they wonder, after putting in all of those miles, why they struggle to hang with the fast crowd. Pointing out that it takes more than turning the cranks to get off the porch and ride with the big dogs is… uh, touchy. And heavens to Murgatroyd, we wouldn’t want touchy!
The phrase is “Junk miles”. Junk miles are those miles ridden where you can easily hold a conversation, speaking freely in full sentences for hours on end. Your ability to ride fast will be directly proportional to the amount of junk miles you put in. This isn’t to say junk miles aren’t allowed, they’re absolutely necessary. We simply must make sure the junk miles have their place and aren’t confused with what is needed to increase one’s overall speed and fitness. They also like to call this “zone two”.
It’s a lot like eating junk food. Junk food is certainly fun to eat, especially when you’re clocking 300 miles a week. Sadly, the more you eat, the heavier you get, the worse you ride. Well, junk miles work on the same principle – minus the extra weight. Oh, sure, there are those who like to claim cruising around in “zone two” is better for weight loss, but that horse-pucky never worked for me, anyway. And it certainly won’t make one fast. It will, however, get me used to riding a lot slower than I’m capable of.
In other words, if I want to be fast, I have to work at it. And as it turns out, a lot.
First, I’m not without sympathy. Junk miles are awesome fun. My buddy, Mike and I went for a cruise a couple of weeks ago – we averaged 17.3-mph over 35 miles – and it was a blast. Not only could I have pulled the entire ride, including into the wind, I easily could have averaged another couple of miles an hour faster… by myself… but it’s the end of the season and it’s time to sit back and enjoy a little R & R miles before the snow flies and the real training picks up again in January to get ready for spring.
So, the following is how I balance the good miles with the junk miles.
First of all, I’m not a big believer in pushing hard every day, year ’round. That’s a fantastic way to burn yourself out or worse, injure yourself. I admire those who can, I just prefer to take it easy for a couple of months at the end of the year. Usually November and December are all easy miles, mainly indoors on the trainer.
The real works starts January 1st. I eat better, and I work hard on the trainer building up for March. To start, I do hard workouts every other day – Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, rinse and repeat (sometimes I’ll ride easy Sunday if I’m feeling tired). Once in a while, I’ll take a day off, and the other odd days are easy spinning trainer rides to loosen my legs up. I do that for two weeks. Then I switch to a harder gear for part of the hard workouts for a week. Then, the next week, a harder gear still for the tough workouts.
February is a continuation of January, but with a still harder gear (my highest gear) added in. Same easy days, too, by the way. I’ll also work in some intervals during February, steadily increasing the intensity of my workouts until we head outside.
In-season, say from April through October, my schedule is simple. Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday are the hard effort days. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are some varying form of less intensive cycling than the harder days. Let’s say 17-18-mph is easy, I’ll do that one or two days, depending on how my legs feel. The remaining are between 18 & 19. The fast days are 19-20 over the weekend and 21-23 on Tuesday night.
Monday and Wednesday are what could be “junk miles”, but they’re necessary rest for a working stiff who likes to spend an hour a day on the bike whether he needs it or not (or more, especially on the weekends).
A friend of mine who is currently trying to get his pro card enjoys saying, nobody loves going slow like a pro. Some of his workouts show it, too. The trick is, his hard workouts would leave me hyperventilating in a heap on the side of the road. I try to follow the same principle, I just don’t bother with the panting heap on the side of the road part. I’m old enough to be his dad… and I have no desire to work hard enough to be that fast.
In short, to wrap this post up, own who you are and how you want to ride. If you want to be faster, put in the work. Don’t think that by riding slow everywhere you go, you will magically become fast. You’ll be disappointed in your results. Every time.