Cycle faster—though not everyone on a racing bike is thinking about this all the time, we do all secretly want to be able to do it. Otherwise we would just buy a touring bike, right? The speed you can achieve on a racing bike depends on a number of factors, however, so we have lined up a few quick wins for you to gain valuable seconds. Read on for more speed!
Watch your position
One of the biggest forces you must overcome while riding your bike is air resistance, or drag. So here is a quick win you can employ at all times when you are on the bike: the key is to reduce your frontal area as much as possible. The best way to study this is to set your bike up head-on in front of a mirror. Look carefully and make sure none of your limbs are sticking out. Turn your elbows in, for example, and lower your head if you can. You may have to train this position—your neck muscles will have to adjust and it can do no harm to try out some neck strengthening exercises such as the dumbbell shrug, for example. Also, training your core stability will help maintain an aero position for longer. Riding in the handlebar drops also helps your aerodynamics (remember to tuck your elbows in). The result? You will ride at least 1kph faster using the same amount of effort!
Start with a headwind
The lower your wind resistance, the faster you will go using the same power—but that doesn’t mean that a headwind isn’t really annoying. It’s worth checking out your weather apps when planning your ride (especially in the Low Countries), and looking at the prevalent wind direction. So when planning your route, plan the hardest part first. Aim to ride into the wind at the beginning (head wind start). The longer you ride, the more tired you will become, and the more difficult it will be to pedal with a lot of power. But once you turn around, you will be blown all the way home. (An added benefit to this method is that your average speed will increase on the return journey.)
Cycle faster in a group
Reducing your own drag is one thing, but you can also ensure that other people do it for you. Yup, ride in a group. If you ride with a group of people, it’s a lot easier to pedal at higher speeds; by taking turns at the front, you share the hard work. And when you are in someone’s wheel, as it is called, you have time to recover some energy.
Keep your gear tip-top
OK, it’s clear that you have to overcome air resistance. Adjusting your riding position has a big effect, but your bike can also be part of the problem. However, there are solutions for this. Unless you have some money burning a hole in your pocket, and can afford an aero bike, you would do well to purchase some aerodynamic cycling clothes or a set of high-carbon rimmed wheels. Take note: the benefits of these extras are often only felt at higher speeds. If you normally ride around at 25kph, then you won’t gain much advantage—the real gains kick in at speeds above 40kph.
As well as air resistance, which must be overcome, it’s a good idea to reduce rolling resistance. Even though we ride on thin tyres, the surface contact between rubber and road has a lot of influence on your performance. Make sure your tyres are well inflated (we pump ours up to around 8bar, or 116psi, on our road racers), in order to reduce rolling resistance as much as possible.
Cycling is muscle power
Your gear and your position on the bike are all important factors for gaining speed. But if the main learning of this story is that it’s all about the gear, then think again. Although you can indeed compensate to a certain extent with some of the tips mentioned above, it basically all comes down to physical muscle power. You can’t buy strength or fitness, as they say. So, if you want to be able to cycle faster, then you will have to get on the bike more often—both indoors and out. And make sure your core is strong enough to convert that training work into (aerodynamic) speed. In short: lots more training. Good luck!