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6 Tips for Getting Faster

Lack Motivation? Trick Yourself into Doing the Work on the Bike

Sometimes we need a self-induced kick in the backside to put in the efforts that make us stronger riders…

Even immensely talented riders I know have to train hard to compete at a high level and win. You can’t just show up untrained on a suh-weet Colnago and expect to hang with the Big Dogs. Maybe that happens when you die and go to heaven; I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

A few of you are goal oriented and you actually put in the work of doing intervals, hill repeats, gym time, and the other training disciplines that make you faster. Some of you even have coaches. The structure of having a competent coach who lays out your program around your race schedule, sets your goals and appropriate workouts, and then analyzes your power and heart rate data keeps you honest and on task. The rest of us unstructured sloths seem to just go out and ride five or six days a week at 15 mph with our heart rates averaging 118 bpm, never getting fast. Okay, I just described myself. Excuse me while I don “The Shroud of Shame.”

But don’t pack it in; there are solutions to your embarrassing, phlegmatic lethargy, you worthless slug! (Okay, that was way too harsh, but I am trying to motivate here.) The following methods of fooling yourself into doing intensity are meant for sport riders who want to get stronger and faster. These suggestions are somewhat arbitrary, and should not be confused with an actual structured training regimen, but they will surely help.

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Ride with other, faster riders

You’ll ride faster in a group of two, three, or more riders, especially if at least one of those riders is, annoyingly, faster than you are. They may be a bit faster on the hills, or the flats, or both. So here’s how you shamelessly use these unsuspecting marks to make you faster… keep up with them! If you have to work hard and exceed your comfort limit, you’ll get faster. After a few weeks of getting dropped, you’ll notice you’re hanging longer each ride. For this to be effective, the other riders should be as strong as or a little stronger than you are. If you’re dropped in the first half mile by very strong riders, that misses the point.

Dispose of hills quickly

Dummy that I am, I’ve convinced myself that if I get up those pesky half mile hills faster, I get the agony over sooner. You can slog up a 6% incline for five minutes in your granny gear, or you can attack the hill in a meatier gear and have the pain end in three minutes. The hill is over quicker, and you’ve actually done some intensity. You will have crested the hill and your pulse will be dropping while the other riders are still laboring. Who’s the dummy now, I ask??

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Use your electronics to motivate you

I’ve covered this in several previous articles, but you can use your power meter, Strava, or your Garmin to prod you into riding harder. Take a familiar portion of one of your rides that’s a steady climb, and try to maintain, say, 275 watts. (Maybe 175 watts; maybe 400 watts, depending upon who you are.) Make it a competition with yourself. You’ll notice that if you regularly do this, you’ll be maintaining your power in watts, but at a lower heart rate. That means you’re in better shape. And then, you can pump more wattage into your cottage…as they say.

Strava segments

This goes back to my last article, which was about Strava. You can get stronger by targeting segments on your rides, and attacking them to try to get a PR. The best Strava segments for increasing your fitness seem to be those 3% to 6% hills that are anywhere between a ¼ mile and a mile. Knowing you’re approaching a segment can motivate you to attack hard and maintain to the top. One of my favorites is on Old Highway 91, “Shivwitz Hill N to S.” It’s actually not north to south; it’s really west to east, but a geographically-challenged senior citizen made this segment years ago. <cough> This segment is .4 of a mile and averages 4%, including about 100 yards of flat lead-up to the actual hill. I like to try to carry speed into the segment, and slam the hill in the big ring, only downshifting when I start lugging a gear. The segment ends just before the crest, right at the yellow “curve” sign, and you can inspire yourself to push to the top.

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Sprint points

On our Tuesday Night World Championship rides out toward Gunlock, which ceased around six years ago, Dave Hunt and I painted white sprint lines across the road just at the crest of many of the hills. In anticipation of these sprints, riders would jockey for position; some attacking at 300 yards, while others would draft and launch their move with 50 yards to go. This 27 mile ride out-and-back provided many of us with intense training, and it was great fun, too. The ride was generally at an unrelenting, brutal pace, but having sprint points guaranteed at least five minutes of anaerobic hijinks. (“Hijinks” a collective noun, is similar to “shenanigans”)

Riding a burnout pace line

This is an effective way of becoming stronger. With three or more riders, ride a paceline, taking 30-60 second turns at the front. If the pace is fairly fast, eventually you’ll have that “uh-oh” revelation that you’re about to get dropped. After your last labored pull, just sit on the back and miss a few turns until you can jump back in. Riding a paceline for a half hour is great training, and you’ll tend to go beyond your limit just to maintain contact with the group. Every time you over-tax yourself with a pull at the front, you get stronger. And another benefit of riding a brisk paceline is it will help to shorten your recovery time.

I hope some of these suggestions will help coerce you into riding harder. Or, like in this clip from “American Flyers,” you can always train with “Eddie.”

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