How to Cycle Faster: 7 Essential Tips to Find Free Speed

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how to cycle faster

Contrary to popular belief, to become a faster cyclist you don’t need to invest in a pricey power meter, enroll in a fancy training camp or weigh every gram of food you ingest. Learn how to cycle faster with a few simple tweaks to your program that won’t break the bank, but will have you quickly cashing in on some serious speed. 

HIIT it Hard

High Intensity Interval Training is the common man’s training solution: Anyone can do it and it’s fast and fairly straightforward. Leave the long, slow base miles to the pros and reap the speedy benefits you’re after by performing HIIT sessions. Not only will they save you from endless hours of training and a greater likelihood of burnout, but they’re full of variety, are quick and easy to perform and will help you cycle faster in no time.

Try these sample HIIT workouts to give your fitness a major boost. 

Added bonus: HIIT workouts are also the secret sauce to losing fat faster on the bike.

Related: How to Choose the Best Bike Trainer: The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

Build a Strong Core

Power doesn’t come from your legs. It comes from your core. If you’re suffering from back, neck pain or general fatigue, a weak core may be to blame. Even if you’re dutifully performing crunches, this isn’t enough. Crunches isolate one muscle, but there’s an entire group, including the glute max, spinal stabilizers and lats that must first be invited to the party and then learn to work together as one strong unit.

Add strength training to the mix and you’ll automatically be engaging and strengthening your core. Full body lifts like squats and deadlifts teach your body to act as one explosive unit, much like you would do on the bike. If you’re going to perform core-specific exercises, opt for something like a plank that engages the entire core and try to transfer this core engagement to your hard efforts on the bike.

Follow a Fueling Plan

cycling nutrition
Don’t make these common fueling mistakes

Whenever you head out on a ride, you should always have a nutrition plan. Many cyclist deprive themselves of food on the bike in an effort to get lean, but this often backfires and leads to fatigue and the breakdown of muscle for fuel. On the flip side, others will down endless gels and bars on an easy recovery ride, consuming unnecessary calories.

If you want to learn how to cycle faster, you need to fuel your body for the effort. Studies have shown that consuming carbs helps delay fatigue by 30 to 60 minutes. Start the ride by sipping an energy drink such as Scratch Labs mix, which is made with minimal ingredients and is easy on the stomach. Other studies  have found that consuming protein and carbohydrates while on the bike not only increases time to exhaustion, but decreases the amount of muscle damage and aids in recovery. To achieve this, you can either add 10 grams of BCAAs to your water or try a carbohydrate and protein mix like Accelerade.

Monitor Your Recovery

Athletes are used to suffering up climbs and pushing a little harder, so it can be difficult to know when to pull the plug and take a recovery day. Even when rest is scheduled into training programs, it can be tough to pinpoint exactly when recovery is necessary.

What if an app could tell you if your body is ready to train that day? Or something that gives you a heads up before you begin to dig into the hole of overtraining? Good news, Elite HRV does just that and it’s free.

Heart Rate Variability is the variation in the intervals or spaces between your heart beats, but it also acts as a good measurement of how fatigued the body is, primarily the nervous system. Strap on a bluetooth heart rate monitor and the app will guide you through a daily two-minute HRV reading, indicating how ready you are to train that day.

Related: How to Up Your Recovery Game with a Foam Roller

Don’t Let Wind Be a Drag

how to cycle faster
Tuck your elbows to instantly increase cycling speed

Fast cyclists are masters at cheating the wind. Fancy gear like aero wheels can help with this, but it’s not necessary. To outsmart the wind and cycle faster, learn to hide in a group by sitting in and conserving energy when you can. On descents, use the drops to get low and tuck your elbows for an even greater energy savings. In fact, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers found that this simple elbow tuck, along with an aerodynamic bike position can boost your efficiency by 13 perfect. To cheat the wind even more choose clothing that isn’t loose fitting, hence the reason for cycling shorts and jerseys. 

Related: Get Fast! How to Find the Best Wheels for Your Road Bike

Keep Your Bike Tuned Up

A clean bike is a fast bike. Poorly adjusted drivetrains, rubbing brakes or under inflated tires will slow you down. Cleaning your bike regularly not only keeps the gunk out of your drivetrain and cables, but it also gives you a chance to spot a small problem before it becomes a bigger one. At the very least, wipe the chain down after every ride. If you have battery-operated parts, check and charge them on a regular schedule and visibly inspect drivetrain parts like cassettes and brake pads for wear. It’s better to spot a potential mechanical in your garage than out on the road or trail.

Want to perform your own bike repairs? Here’s everything you need to get started.

Practice Your Weakness

If you suck at climbing, you won’t get stronger by working on your descending. Cycling is so multidimensional. To be safe and strong, you must master a mix of skills work along with training the energy systems. Sure it’s easy to go out and try to maximize the fun by sticking to what you’re good at. For instance, if you have a fast engine, but stink at cornering, you’ll save more energy in the long run by learning how to carry your speed through the turns. Boosting up your weaknesses will make you a stronger, more competent cyclist overall.

Not sure what you need work on? Ask your riding buddies where they see you lacking. Or if you’re following a training plan, think back to the prescribed workouts you dreaded doing or couldn’t make it through. That’s probably a good sign you could use more work in that area.

Have any great tips for how to cycle faster? I’d love to hear them. Post them in the comments below.

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