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Cycling And Speed: There’s A Difference Between Knowing There’s A Hill… And Climbing The Hill; Beating The Mental Block To Being Your Best On A Bicycle


Who can forget when Neo just begins to discover he really is “the one“, when Morpheus utters that simple line, “There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path”, in the movie The Matrix (1999 [1999?!])?

So it is with cycling and speed. There’s a difference between knowing fast and cycling fast – actually doing it.  The tone of this post should not be taken as one of braggadocio, but of humility.  In cycling, the phrase there’s always someone faster was ever thus and shall always be.  I am a very small fish in a very big pond… but I’m a small fish who also happens to be decent with a keyboard – and we are a rare breed, indeed.


First, I’m going to be straight up here.  If you try to push your limits, you’re going to get dropped every now and again.  You’re going to spend some miles crawling back after you’ve popped.  How can you learn to pass your limit if you don’t know your limit in the first place?

Next, and this is a big one, you have to shove aside that negative self-talk and doubt bullshit.  I know people near as strong as I am but talk themselves into hurting when they’ve got gas left in the tank.  They’re miserable and struggling and I’m just cruising along.  If ever there was a saying to embrace in cycling, “this too shall pass”.  When I’m feeling a haggard, I know it’ll pass and I’ll feel at least a little better before long.  There’s an ebb and flow to cycling at higher speeds.  Try to concentrate on the flow a lot more than the ebb.  In fact, let go of the ebb.

Save your good legs for the big days!  If you’re one who lets a lack of confidence gnaw at you, for the love of God and all that is holy, good legs for good days.  You don’t go out the day before a big ride and go hard.  We mere mortals have to pick our battles.  Of course, you don’t take a day off either.  The day before a big ride is perfect for an active recovery day.  You’ll want to be slow enough that you get a little antsy about whether or not you should be trying a little harder.  If ever there was a day to take a few pictures along your route, the day before a big day is it.  Chill out and ride on the bar-tops a bit.

Eat, but don’t be all crazy about it.  Carb-loading is great and all, but you can only store so much “carb” before it becomes “fat”.  An extra slice of pizza?  Great.  An extra pizza?  Not so much.   If you feel like crap when you clip in, you’ll be thinking about that extra pizza weighing you down.  Cue confidence train wreck and you dropping off the back, dejected.  Don’t do that to yourself.

Now, finally, repeat after me:  I am a badass.  I’m a horse.  I am fast.  I am strong.

Now get out there and hammer it out.




  1. unironedman says:

    “A day may come when the courage of Men fails, when we forsake our friends, and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields when the Age of Men comes crashing down, but it is not this day! This day we fight!”

  2. joliesattic says:

    So true! Knowing your limits and body is essential. I did a century ride with a gal, a few years older than I, but I thought, a much stronger rider (this was about 20 years ago). I miscalculated, agreeing to keep her company for the full ride. Why? Because, even though she had great endurance on the flats for 20 mile rides, she wasn’t good for the long haul. Plus, after our initial ascent, she went at a crawl from there on out, which tired me worse than anything. Keep in mind we were climbing a mountain. We started out at just over 4,500 feet and climbed another 2,100 feet in about 3-4 miles, rode another 20 miles at altitude before descending. What I didn’t know about me was that going slow nearly destroyed me. She also wanted to stop frequently and I don’t like breaking my momentum. Each time we stopped, it became harder to get back on and keep going. She was great and refreshed after these stops, I wasn’t. So, I got to where I had to ride faster and go further and double back so I could keep from collapsing. It took me twice as long as it might have otherwise. When we were done, me knees were the size of cantaloupes (no exaggeration) I learned an important lesson there about myself and my body. Plus, I learned not to promise to stay with anyone. There were plenty of SAG wagons that could have picked her up. The problem was, it was on her bucket list to achieve at 50 yr old and I didn’t have the heart to bail on her. I did that same ride two times later and was fine keeping a better pace with better results.

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