Workout Tips on How to Improve Cycling Speed and Endurance
Distance cycling is first and foremost an endurance sport. Increasing your stamina has to be a top priority if you want to handle those long rides.
But that doesn’t mean speed is irrelevant. After all, the more quickly you can cover your ground, the farther you can go. A balanced training regimen will include methods for picking up your pace.
Once again, Coach Darryl is at your service. We picked his brain and pulled some speed pointers from other cycling pros to create this list of crucial techniques to boost your cycling speed.
Build Muscle Strength and Responsiveness
Speed on the bike comes down to two things: strength and muscle response. So, your workouts should include ways of efficiently building muscle mass while also quickening the impulse and reaction time in your legs.
To build strength quickly, incorporate slow, hard pedaling in your upper gears. Darryl recommends a steady stroke at 55 rpm for 6–20 minutes per leg (one leg at a time), twice a week. To make your legs faster, work in some fast spinning in the lower gears. You can even blend the two, switching back and forth every minute or so. You’ll help your legs recover from the hard work while keeping those synapses firing.
Train Long, Train Hard
“Where riders often get into trouble is that they go out and do the exact same ride three days a week,” says Darryl. “What they’re training to do, then, is just that one set of circumstances.”
In other words, your training needs to factor in every possibility. Improving cycling speed doesn’t just mean trying to ride the same route a bit faster every time. Blend long, slow rides with short, hard, fast ones. Distance rides will build valuable endurance that will help you maintain your pace longer, and fast rides will make you more efficient for the long ones.
Darryl suggests a two- or four-day workout routine that alternates fast and short with long and slow rides. Do the faster workout first, then the next day’s long ride can serve as a bit of a recovery from the heavier workout.
Glue It Together
The benefits of interval training are well known. Apart from making your workouts more interesting and more efficient, they are a great way to gradually increase cycling speed.
This process is what Coach Darryl calls “gluing it together.” Let’s say your goal is to achieve a pace of 20 mph for 60 minutes. But currently, you wear out after 10 minutes. Rather than slowly pushing it from 10 to 60 minutes, try gradually gluing six 10-minute, 20-mph workouts together.
Take a break by riding slower between each 10-minute ride. After you’ve done that for a week, then do five 12-minute rides with breaks in between. Then four 15-minute rides. Eventually, you’ll blend it all into one full 60-minute ride.
This is relatively conventional wisdom for distance performance in any sport, but we’ll say it anyway: You can’t treat a marathon like a sprint. So don’t try to get faster on the bike by blitzing it harder.
Instead, work on gradually increasing your pace. Find your sweet spot. If you happen to know your functional threshold power (FTP), train for as long as you can at around 90% of that. As your FTP grows, you can push it harder for the same distance.
You can also improve your pacing by saving your energy for when it will pay off the most. Actively back off when you’re going up hills so you can push it on even terrain or on shallow descents, where you’ll reap more rewards in speed.
Perfect Your Positioning
If you watch any professional racers, you’ll notice one thing: they’re leaning in. Way in.
“What slows the cyclist down more than anything else is the air hitting the rider from the front as the cyclist is going forward,” says Darryl. So, if you want to go faster, you’ve got to make yourself more aerodynamic.
The great thing about this is that it doesn’t require any additional workouts. You just have to train yourself to lean forward. Hold your drops to get the most aerodynamic posture possible.
Becoming a faster cyclist isn’t difficult. Follow these tips on how to cycle faster and you’ll see results after just a few weeks of effort. You won’t just cross that finish line sooner, either. You’ll be a better all-around cyclist.
You can find more insights from Coach Darryl, including tips for the best order in which to put on all this gear, over at his website.