Cycling and the importance of speed training
Riding long distances at moderate speeds is a good way to build up a base, but if you want to ride fast you have to push yourself. Racers do this in a structured way using tempo and interval training, but if you’re a recreational rider you can just build speed training into your normal rides.
- A few ideas: If you see a rider ahead of you in the distance, make a hard effort to chase him or her down.
- On one of your normal cycling routes, find a section of 10 or 15 km that starts after you have had a chance to warm up well. A loop is ideal. Zero out your computer and then ride hard with a target in mind – e.g. maintaining an average speed of 30 kph. Check the computer at the end of the section and note how fast you went. Once you can do this without blowing up adjust your target upwards by 1 kph.
- Pick a target speed for specific points on your regular routes. No matter how tired I was I always tried to hit 30 kph at the top of the short hill leading past the Woodsman Pub in Fernham.
- Put in a few sprint efforts during a ride. Telephone poles work well for this. While riding at a normal pace, pick a telephone pole in the distance. When you get to it sprint all out to the next pole, then spin easily for a bit before speeding up to your cruise pace. Repeat as necessary.
- Best of all, ride with a group where you have to push fairly hard to keep up. (Make sure you can find your way home if you get dropped!)
One last point. Don’t do hard efforts every day. Speed training takes a lot out of you. If you don’t rest sufficiently between hard days you will end up going slower and be grumpy to boot!