by Jarrod Shoemaker
Many athletes are faced with the question, “How do I get faster on the bike?” There’s a misconception that to pick up speed, you should simply increase your time on the bike. Spending more time in the saddle will certainly heighten your comfort, but it won’t necessarily help you to get any faster. A combination of hard interval workouts, long rides, and working on mechanics are the key to achieving faster speeds on your bike.
Oftentimes cyclists forget to think about biking mechanics, but a strong focus on engaging all parts of your pedal stroke can really increase the power on your bike. Did you know that mountain bikers have the best pedaling mechanics? The reason for this is simple: if there are dead points in their pedal stroke, it can cause them to slip out on a steeper uphill, in mud, or in sand.
The best way to think about pedaling is to envision the pedal like a clock. A useful drill is to split up the parts of the clock and focus on pedaling from the 3 to the 9 for 20 strokes, then across the bottom, then pulling across the top, and so on. This is a great warmup for a hard workout and helps to keep you engaged.
After ensuring proper pedaling mechanics, focus on increasing your threshold. Your threshold includes your pace, heart rate, and power, and is generally defined as the maximum effort you’re able to maintain for an hour. Staying at your threshold will only get you so far; with consistent training, you can improve your threshold to maintain faster speeds for longer.
Incorporating a short max power session each week will help increase your threshold and your speed. 6 x 90 second intervals done vigorously with 3 minutes of recovery is one effective way to achieve this. Another great session for increasing threshold is doing 5 x 15 sec at max power with full recovery. This is harder than you think if you are really doing the max effort at max power.
On the days when you are expending the maximum energy, it is important that your body is fully recovered and prepared for the effort. Using an Ember device to measure how your body recovers after a workout is essential. Maximum effort days should occur when you are feeling energized, as that is the best way to get the most out of your session.
If you are training for a half or full Ironman, then spending a good amount of time on the bike is required. Complete at least two five to six hour rides leading up to your race. This will help you to adapt and will also let you know whether you have the proper nutritional fuel needed to sustain your energy.
The final piece is to remember that on strenuous effort days that are time sensitive, stay dedicated to your central goals: warm up, get your hard work in, and cool down. You won’t need extra time if you are focused on the tough work.
Get out there, train hard, and enjoy it!