A friend of mine began cycling roughly 5 years ago and has recently found himself hitting a plateau. He told me, “I’ve been riding consistently every week but haven’t seemed to be able to improve my times.” Despite the fact that he rides regularly, the uniformity of his cycling doesn’t make up for the lack of strength he’s building by keeping his cycling routine monotonous.
Today, I’m going to tell you what I told my friend: 5 ways to build cycling strength so that you can overcome your cycling plateau to achieve faster times.
1. Gradually Increase your Speed
Instead of maintaining the same speed on each of your rides, try slowly increasing your speed every time you hop on the saddle. I recommend increasing as gently as possible: start by upping your speed by only 1 mph. By doing this, you’ll be able to conserve your energy while getting faster without shocking your system.
Cycling Weekly also recommends that you think about cornering when you’re concentrating on improving your speed.
“Cornering is an obvious situation when you can lose a lot of speed. Remember it is not how fast you enter the corner that counts but how much speed you carry through it. If you go in too hot and have to slam the brakes on, that will slow you down significantly,” experts recommended.
Additionally, pay attention to how you ride as you ascend and descend hills. Concentrate on keeping momentum by cruising instead of braking on descents.
2. Increase the Number of Days You Ride
Although my friend rode consistently, he only did so once per week on the weekends. If you’re really concentrating on improving your time, be it for personal reasons or for a race, you need to get in more than one ride per week.
Try your best to think of creative ways to fit more cycling into your schedule. I live in Rancho Santa Fe, California, and can bike with ease to work in Solana Beach. Living in the San Diego area is great because there are so many bike-friendly routes. If you can bike to work in your city, fantastic. If not, try fitting in a ride – even if it’s brief – after work 3-4 times each week. By doing this in combination with increasing your speed, you’ll be well on your way to bettering your times.
3. Incorporate Rides with Hills
Another mistake that my friend was making was that he was riding on flat territory for roughly 95% of his regular route. If you’re goal is to improve your strength, cycling the straight and narrow is not the answer. Yes, they’re tough, but if you gradually increase your exposure to riding hills (just like with speed), you’ll find that your times will begin improving by leaps and bounds.
Start looking at your rides as something that can offer variety and scenery. Don’t look at every hill you have to face as a barrier. In my last post, I shared 5 free cycling apps that you can easily download to your phone. These can help you see maps and check out routes that other cyclists recommend in terms of length, elevation gain, and difficulty. By tuning into different routes and by gradually increasing both elevation and speed, your strength as a cyclist will surely benefit.
For those of you who live in the San Diego area, be sure to check out another post that I wrote this past summer documenting my favorite cycling routes in Southern California: San Diego Cycling Routes | Barton Haynes.
4. Ride with Friends
When I first began cycling, I always rode alone. Mainly, I was insecure about my speed as a beginning cyclist and didn’t want to slow any of my friends down. However, several months into cycling, a friend of mine asked me to come along with him despite the fact that he was much more of an advanced cyclist than I. Begrudgingly, I agreed and accompanied him on a ride that he considered easy and I considered medium to difficult at the time. To my surprise, I outdid myself in my performance. After I checked my times at the end of the ride, I was blown away to discover that I’d improved by about 25%. The competition and the encouragement from a fellow cyclist pushed me to perform at my absolute best.
Of course, you have to caution yourself not to push yourself too hard while cycling with those who have more experience. I’d recommend trying to find a friend who is only slightly more advanced than you. This will allow you to push yourself to your limit without injury.
5. Have the Proper Gear
Finally, make sure that you have the proper cycling gear. Cycling can be pricy, but sacrificing comfort in the sport is not an option if you want to do your absolute best.
First of all, make sure that you have a good, sturdy bike that’s fitted to your body. This can be done at any local cycling shop. As I recently discussed in Top 3 Cycling Injuries, you must be fitted to your bike in order to both ride comfortably and to prevent physical harm.
Additionally, making sure that you have a proper helmet, proper riding clothes, proper shoes, and perhaps some helpful technology will allow you ride with ease. If you go out trying to achieve a strengthening ride while wearing an old helmet, ill-fitting shoes, and a cotton T-shirt in the rain, you can wave goodbye to your ability to boost ride times.
If you’d like to learn more about cycling gear, check out my posts below:
- 5 Long-Sleeved Cycling Jerseys
- 5 Best Cycling Shorts of 2017
- 5 Best Cycling Gloves
- How to Pick Cycling Shoes
- How to Pick Cycling Shoes Part 2
- Bike Computers
- Radars for Cyclists
If you’re a cyclist trying to improve your times and strength, these 5 tips will get you on the road to improvement. Thank you as always for following along, fellow cyclists, and best of luck on the road.