Tips for improving your cycling speed
Whether your aim is to achieve a personal best at that next race, show a friend you can keep up with their tempo, or simply to feel a sense of achievement in improving speed, here are a number of ways that can help you move faster.
Riding fast is not only about pedalling hard, and the following tips that range from training strategies to dietary and technology advice, are an illustration of the fact that great gains in speed are often the sum of many little ones.
- Do specific training – First, it’s a good idea to specify what you mean by going faster. Maybe there’s a certain race distance in your mind, or you want to improve your sprinting speed. Whatever the goal, it is always smart to do goal-specific training to target your energy.
- Learn to work with others – Riding in a group or with a buddy can save 30% of your energy, thus increasing the speed of the group as a whole. But efficiency at riding behind another bicycle also takes some training, so don’t leave this strategy for when it is a last resort.
- Recover well – If you want your hard effort during intense workouts to pay off, you need to give your body proper recovery in between. Also, the faster you recover, the sooner you’ll be able to push yourself to the max again, so it makes sense to focus on adequate rest, stretching and good nutrition.
- Have faster training partners – Once in a while it is great to train with cyclists who are faster than you. These workouts will motivate you to push harder and perform better – and you might learn a thing or two from your exercise buddies.
- Practice your corners – To improve in speed, it is important to cut off the excess – including excess distance and pedalling. Therefore, it is a good idea to practice efficient cornering which calls for a good choice of pace and gear, so you don’t have to break heavily and speed up again.
- Practice an efficient stroke – Your goal for improving speed should be to pedal smoothly throughout the stroke, so that both feet apply constant power. To practice this, focus on the movement of your feet as you ride, aiming for smooth circles. In addition, it is possible to train strokes on indoor training machines that also allow to work one foot at a time.
- Do some downhill training – Riding downhill allows to train your legs for fast movements that prepare you for more efficient high-speed cycling. For this to be truly beneficial, use this moment to practice your perfect stroke.
- Lighten up your bike – A lighter bike means improved speed, because there is less to carry around. Therefore, reconsider the extras that you have attached to your bicycle and even in your pockets – what’s the bare minimum that you need with you? When it comes to buying a new bike or replacing parts, and speed is your priority, look at lightweight options.
- Be more aerodynamic – Less air resistance will improve your speed. Therefore, improving your posture can have great effects without extra energy expenditure. Try to reduce your frontal surface area as much as possible, starting by bending your arms, and bringing your elbows close to the body.
- Get cycling-specific gear – Tight cycling clothes make sure that there is less flapping around, and therefore less air resistance. Similarily, biking helmets have aerodynamic shapes that help to improve speed. Biking shoes allow you to pull the pedals up in addition to pushing them down, making it possible to exert more constant power and develop smoother strokes.
- Do some cycling-specific strength training – There’s only so much cycling you can do in a week, so it is a good idea to improve your strength off the bike as well – but make sure it is targeted. For cycling, it is most important to train your core, legs and glutes.
- Train your explosive power – To increase your potential for speeding up fast, it is beneficial to do exercises that are explosive in nature. Therefore, exercises that include jumping – like jump squats and side jumps – will improve your capacities for accelerating on the bike.
- Go for high intensity – High intensity interval trainings where short bursts of maximum effort alternate with recovery periods, develop your anaerobic capacity, thus improving your ability to push yourself further. In addition, they prepare you psychologically for the moment you need to do so.
- Eat for performance and recovery – Good nutrition helps to support your training efforts and also aids in recovering from workouts. Carbs eaten at the last meal before a workout give your body easily accessible energy that helps you to develop top speed. Straight after a workout, a meal combining protein and carbs will be helpful for recovery.
- Lose weight – Just as a lighter bike allows for more speed, so does a lighter cyclist. If you are carrying some extra weight, losing a few pounds can be beneficial for your cycling performance – but always aim to lose weight slowly so as to not under nourish your body.