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Why am I so slow on the bike?
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Hey, all!

I am looking for some advice about increasing bike speed. I am not talking about going from 25kmh to 30 or some insane ambition like that - I just want to ride 23kmh! I know, that's SLOW!!! But right now I am even slower!!! I rode 5 hours on the weekend and averaged 18.4 kmh!!! I am a BOP racer generally but I always make it out of the Ironman swims with at least 30 min. to spare and I can always run at least a 5 and a half hour marathon but I can't seem to improve my bike time. What am I doing wrong? I tried working with a coach and the only difference was that I felt better after all of my training sessions. So, what gives? Is anyone else this slow?
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Re: Why am I so slow on the bike? [ridinggiants] [ In reply to ]
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What is your weight? If you have weight to lose, that should help improve your power/weight ratio.

I got faster on the bike (to being able to do 30k/hr over 90k) by riding more than I had been, and doing intervals. Do you do any hill training or other interval-like training?

What is your riding training schedule like? Do you ever do any threshold power tests (good not only to figure out your power, but they're damn good workouts too to be riding so hard)?
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Re: Why am I so slow on the bike? [Teags] [ In reply to ]
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My weight is 135 and I am 5' 10 so I don't think that's an issue. I live in a fairly hilly area so hills are a part of every workout. My schedule has me riding four times a week: two short spinning rides (one to two hours); one focus ride (intervals or hill workouts); one long ride (four to eight hours).

I had a bike fit when I bought my last bike (10 years ago). I just bought a new bike and will have a fit done tomorrow. I know it's me and not the bike.

I wonder if I tried riding every day for a few weeks if it would make a difference.

I'm tired of being passed by commuters when I'm on my training rides!
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Re: Why am I so slow on the bike? [ridinggiants] [ In reply to ]
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You might try what worked for me from the wise words of both Dan Empfield and Arthur Lydiard-go long. If you have the time, the strength gained from spending 8 hours either in the saddle or running (yes, 30-mile runs took me that long with bathroom and refueling) will pay big dividends on race day.

I qualified for Boston and was 40 seconds from a IronMan podium finish by the simple tactic of working longer than others behind me. No technology needed; just get on the bike and go if you want to get faster. More time in the saddle will work ;-)

DFL > DNF > DNS
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Re: Why am I so slow on the bike? [ridinggiants] [ In reply to ]
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In Reply To:
I wonder if I tried riding every day for a few weeks if it would make a difference.


I am also a slow cyclist.


It would need to be more than every day for a few weeks. Frequency + consistency = getting faster, so while a block of cycling might help, you might need to add more riding time overall.


I'm going to disagree a bit with Sally. While time and long rides = good, I think you'll get more bang for your buck doing intervals. VO2 max and threshold intervals = good. These are what I'm trying to work into my training.


Good luck and let us know how you progress.

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Re: Why am I so slow on the bike? [ridinggiants] [ In reply to ]
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ridinggiants wrote:
Hey, all!

I am looking for some advice about increasing bike speed. I am not talking about going from 25kmh to 30 or some insane ambition like that - I just want to ride 23kmh! I know, that's SLOW!!! But right now I am even slower!!! I rode 5 hours on the weekend and averaged 18.4 kmh!!! I am a BOP racer generally but I always make it out of the Ironman swims with at least 30 min. to spare and I can always run at least a 5 and a half hour marathon but I can't seem to improve my bike time. What am I doing wrong? I tried working with a coach and the only difference was that I felt better after all of my training sessions. So, what gives? Is anyone else this slow?

Find some group rides that will push you to ride faster. Ideally a good size LBS where they might have A, B, and C rides. Be prepared to be dropped (ie know the route home). Start out with the slower groups, and hold on as long as you can before you get dropped. Try to hold on a little longer every week and as you get stronger move up to the faster groups.
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Re: Why am I so slow on the bike? [ridinggiants] [ In reply to ]
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Something is wrong with your stroke and power output. Riding long is good. Riding fast is good. But riding right is even better.

Do you do drills? One leg, standing/sitting? These things may seem easy, but if your fighting your left leg with your right and visa versa, you're wasting power. it sounds to me like your missing a fundamental stroke pattern and its slowing you down.

Get on the bike, get to 15k on a flat road, unclip your left leg and pedal only with your right. Is it smooth? How much speed did you lose?

"When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace." Jimi Hendrix
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Re: Why am I so slow on the bike? [ridinggiants] [ In reply to ]
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RIde longer, ride faster. Sometimes even in the same ride. Right shortpantssally?

Do 2x20 minutes hard within a longer ride with full recovery in the middle. Mix it up and don't ride the same type of ride all the time.

clm
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Re: Why am I so slow on the bike? [ridinggiants] [ In reply to ]
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ridinggiants wrote:
My weight is 135 and I am 5' 10

sounds like you are TOO thin - like you might need to add some quad/hamstring muscles!!!! - and maybe get more calories in, particularly on rides
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Re: Why am I so slow on the bike? [ridinggiants] [ In reply to ]
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I was wondering if you have enough muscle as well but I really dunno as being too thin isn't my problem :) (not saying you are too thin, I don't know)

How hard do you push your workouts? Are you suffering? I found with bike workouts pain does equal gain (on the computrainer, I'd want to die, but I had a partner to tell me to HTFU). But beyond that, I don't know what to tell you, other than more intervals?

Do you do weights, squats etc to build up muscles in your legs?

What did your coach say/do to addess this?
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Re: Why am I so slow on the bike? [meuf] [ In reply to ]
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no she's not too thin. That's what I weigh (sometimes less when I'm in peak racing shape) and biking is my strength. If you saw my legs you wouldn't say I needed more quads/hamstrings. She doesn't need to lift weights. She needs to ride hard more often (like weight training, but on a bike). but smartly. Threshold intervals and VO2 max intervals each week. Longer efforts during long rides. but not SUPER long rides. And calories can be a big thing. A lot of people don't take in enough. Increase by 25-50 per hour until it's too much (a little each week during the long ride...but it's important to do a good long ride at a similar effort to race day, you can digest a lot more calories when you're just cruising around, and you don't need as many when you're just cruising around), then cut back by 25-50 per hour.
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Re: Why am I so slow on the bike? [GhiaGirl] [ In reply to ]
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I agree - probably not too thin; I'm also 5'10' and weigh less than that and cycling is my strong point.

I don't think cycling every day is necessarily the answer - I'd go for quality over quantity. Specifically, more intervals and more hill repeats (but really work on the hills, don't just spin slowly up (this was a big one for me in the past... I was doing lots of hills but taking it too easy to be beneficial). A short, intense, intentional workout will likely help you more than another 4 hour easy spin.

On the long rides definitely make sure you're getting enough calories, and not just Gatorade; go for something with more sustained energy and maybe some protein.
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Re: Why am I so slow on the bike? [ridinggiants] [ In reply to ]
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Thanks, everyone, for all the great info and advice. I didn't mention this in my original post but I have always felt I've had more power (and speed) riding on the aerobars. I had a bikefit for my new bike yesterday (with an Empfield trained guy) and I am in a remarkably different position on the bike now - way more forward with way more ability to use my legs. Hope this makes a bit of a difference.

I will try the one-leg drills/test today. I can't shake the feeling that there is something basic and simple I am doing wrong.

More effort on hills ... yeah, that is something I can do. I ride hills a lot but I have to admit that I spin up and take my time. My new ride may force that issue as my old bike had a triple set-up and this one only has two chain rings and 11/23 on the back.

I have tried weights to gain strength (lunges with weights, leg presses, etc.) . I've only done it early in the season, though, and stopped once I started real training.

Thanks again for all the help ... I'll let you know how it goes!
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Re: Why am I so slow on the bike? [ridinggiants] [ In reply to ]
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Speed/interval work, as others are saying, will help some (I always liked the Spinervals time trialist specials). Or you could race/TT every weekend. That helps, too ;-) (although it gets expensive).

But really, just plain riding more will help. For my first couple of years riding, I did a LOT of speedwork and focused training and intervals and whatnot. A decade later, I am the same or faster doing nothing much at all (smart person would train more and get faster...I am a lazy person and do less without getting worse :p). I was out a year following surgery, and after a year of doing base riding...I am right back up to speed. Muscle memory, pure and simple.

FWIW, I don't think you need to lose weight at all--I am your size, and while I run better lighter, I ride better at this weight...and I ride a lot better than I run, so I'm always erring in that direction. (Well, and it's about my natural set point. I have to really, really work to maintain 125 or under. I can stay at 135 eating smart and training normally--but not making any sacrifices.)


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Re: Why am I so slow on the bike? [ridinggiants] [ In reply to ]
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Well, I tried the one-legged experiment. I was able to maintain an average that was 2kmh faster with my right leg than with my left leg. Everyone has one leg stronger than the other ... is 2kmh a significant difference?

I also went out on a ride with the specific goal of "attacking" the hills rather than spinning up. Of course I went up faster but also found myself motivated to maintain a faster pace once I was down the other side (breathing hard but not sprint-hard). My average for the ride was quite a bit higher but it was only a short ride (90 min.). I will be riding long on Saturday and see if I can keep it going for the duration.
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Re: Why am I so slow on the bike? [ridinggiants] [ In reply to ]
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ridinggiants wrote:
Well, I tried the one-legged experiment. I was able to maintain an average that was 2kmh faster with my right leg than with my left leg. Everyone has one leg stronger than the other ... is 2kmh a significant difference?

I also went out on a ride with the specific goal of "attacking" the hills rather than spinning up. Of course I went up faster but also found myself motivated to maintain a faster pace once I was down the other side (breathing hard but not sprint-hard). My average for the ride was quite a bit higher but it was only a short ride (90 min.). I will be riding long on Saturday and see if I can keep it going for the duration.

I think you have the idea. I find that while it is difficult to make the jump from warm up to Z2/3 for the first 5-10 min, once I'm there I want to keep it there and don't have much difficulty at all putting the hammer down. But that first jump can sometimes be a big one. :)

Just keep hammering and putting time in the saddle. I ride 4x week and I'm not fast but I feel comfortable on the bike. For real inspiration, ride after watching a tour stage. :)

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Re: Why am I so slow on the bike? [kathy_caribe] [ In reply to ]
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You weight training at all?? That might help for power!
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Re: Why am I so slow on the bike? [ridinggiants] [ In reply to ]
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Intervals on your bike rides. L5 intervals one ride, L4 interval for 2-3 other rides and maybe 1 ride where you just ride along.

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Re: Why am I so slow on the bike? [genkigirl1] [ In reply to ]
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I weight train in the off/pre-season but usually not during. Usually just a kind of maintenance programme. Maybe I should keep it going during the season?
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Re: Why am I so slow on the bike? [desert dude] [ In reply to ]
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Thanks for this. I will try. I always thought of the hills around here as natural intervals but I can see by all the responses that I need a much more organized and aggressive approach to my rides. I'll keep trying.

I'm also guessing, by the number of reads on this thread, that I am not the only one out there who thinks they're slow on the bike!!!
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Re: Why am I so slow on the bike? [ridinggiants] [ In reply to ]
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In Reply To:
I weight train in the off/pre-season but usually not during. Usually just a kind of maintenance programme. Maybe I should keep it going during the season?

Probably not, there isn't a lot of literature to support typical weight training for endurance cycling. You would be better off riding more and faster.

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Re: Why am I so slow on the bike? [ridinggiants] [ In reply to ]
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hills are intervals if you ride them hard. cruising up hills is a GREAT skill to have (more useful than most people think, and most of the guys I ride with think it's unnecessary and/or impossible), but doing purposeful hill intervals is what will make you faster.
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Re: Why am I so slow on the bike? [ridinggiants] [ In reply to ]
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ridinggiants wrote:
My weight is 135 and I am 5' 10 so I don't think that's an issue.


I am a slow rider myself, but that is from lack of time in the saddle due to rehabbing a tear in my periformas/medial glute attachment. So I know my speed is on its way because I see improvements each time I ride. I am however a former figure/bbing competitor... so I know what amazing things the body can do through resistance training.

I think anyone who is 5'10" and 135 lbs and doing as much as you are I would guess is not eating enough of good quality lean meats and (complex) carbs and I would also guess you aren't doing any strength training as well.

Sometimes doing intervals, spin ups and mixed tempo rides isn't going to be enough after you hit a certain physical threshold of fitness, so you are going to need to find other ways to challenge your legs into a higher level of fitness.

I just bet that if you worked in two secondary muscle group workouts you would see some results.

The center heads of your quads and your hams (calves as well but to a lesser degree) get a great workout in the saddle, but if you make an effort to work out your medial and minimus glutes, calves, and the medial and outer (vastus) parts of your quads I bet you would be more sore (than you would ever believe) for a bit but that your speed would improve over time.



Also add/abduction of the inner and outer leg is greatly overlooked (as I learned the hard way) for stabilizing the the hip girdle area on women and we all know about the pelvic floor but few do little to actually exercise it, but it does change things dynamically for women when it is strong. I noticed right away that my transverse abdominus became much more active on my rides when I held my pelvic floor tightly for the greater duration of my rides.

In short, I learned as a result of my injury that you cannot overlook the smaller muscle groups if you expect to be able to sustain good body comp and performance over time. So I would bet some good old fashioned strength training is the next level of challenge your body needs since its adapted to the challenges of saddle time.

Good luck and I wish you more speed :)

I am an avid cyclist who is also the co-owner and buyer for Low Country Multisport a performance specific F.I.S.T. certified fit studio and repair shop in the beautiful Lowcountry of South Carolina. And, I just happen to be married to a retired Marine who is completely addicted to the iron distance. "lord help my wallet!!"
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