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Best way to improve average speed

MarkS1980MarkS1980 Posts: 49
Firstly, I'm a total beginner so please be gentle with me :wink::lol:

I used to cycle a lot when I was a kid but I hardly touched a bike since my late teens. Now I'm 29, bought myself a new bike and have just started commuting on it. I'm in fairly good shape but it's mostly from lifting weights so not really the right kind of fitness for cycling. I had been running a few times a week but had to stop a couple of months ago due to an old knee problem coming back so my cardio fitness isn't bad but could be better.
My commute is 12 miles per day. I have to ride one way one day and then return the next, 4 or 5 times per week. Last week was only my second week doing it but I feel like I'm going too slowly. My average speed is around 14mph. The route isn't anything too challenging. Some flat but quite a lot of gentle up or downhill sections and a few steeper climbs.
I know it's still early days but I feel like 14mph average is below what I should be doing so I'm looking for the best way to improve. Is it just a case of improving as I add more miles or can I ride in certain ways (like using a heartbeat monitor and zone training) to speed things up? I want to start adding a longer ride at the weekend but I can't really fit in anything over 2 hours at the moment.

My bike is a Decathlon Sport 1 with Marathon Plus tyres, I have to carry certain things with me so I probably have an extra 3-4lbs of weight plus I weigh around 200lbs and I can't really afford to lose much. The lowest I ever get to is 185lbs but even then I start looking to thin because I have a large frame. I know the extra weight from everything won't be helping but I know if I get fit enough it shouldn't make too much of a difference.


  • jgsijgsi Posts: 5,038
    imo the biggest error you could make is trying to 'rush' things.
    You have mentioned extra miles on the bike and you have your ride to work so it is all to the good.
    You have realised that fitness on a bike is different to fitness elsewhere - you keep riding and it will slot into place. Base fitness takes time.
    Try and keep things up over the winter months if possible and plan a goal for 2011 - be that a timetrial/race or sportive event.
  • kieranbkieranb Posts: 1,674
    Marathon plus tyres are probably one of the heaviest good quality tyres around, but I also use them on my bikes for commuting and in winter. You don't say where you commute, 14mph is not bad for a city commute where lights and traffic will slow you down, even if pancake flat.
  • JGSI, thanks for the reply. I totally agree about not rushing it. I've exercised in one way or another for most of my life so I know what happens when you try to rush anything. I think it's a bit of frustration creeping in because I feel like I should be doing better, but I also know that's a bit silly when I've only just started something new and I'm working my body in a different way.
    I think you're right about setting a goal. I bought my current bike to get me started and as a winter bike but I plan on buying a new one next year when I'll hopefully understand what will suit me better. I think maybe having a goal and only buying the new bike when I've achieved it should keep me focused.

    kieranb, it's partly through a busy town centre so around 3 miles is always slow due to traffic and lights, the rest is either quiet cycle path or A roads (A5117 and A548)
  • ut_och_cyklaut_och_cykla Posts: 1,594
    Take it easy now to start with. Get to a point where your commute lfeels doable in all weathers at all times - only then will you be able to absorb more at the weekend. If you want to ride at the weekends(for a longer period) I'd suggest dropping the equivalent in the commute until everything feels fine- several weeks if not months. Ride steadily, eat normally/healthily but give yourself /you bordy a chance to really get the hang of teh cycling thng before you try anything longer/more strenous - what you don't want now is a niggling knee or low back pain....
  • chill123chill123 Posts: 210
    i think you are worrying too soon. assess how you are riding after a couple of months.

    after a few weeks when you feel stronger and the ride gets easier try and speed things along (literally) by maybe trying to ride intervals on one or two of your journeys a week and start to take a longer route home now and again when time allows and you feel strong.

    once you have more experience sit down at xmas and decide where you want to take your cycling and set some goals for 2011.
  • Thanks guys. The advice is pretty much what I expected to be honest. I guess I'm used to having structured routines so the "just ride" method is hard for me but you're right. At the moment it's a case of doing it and slowly building up the right muscles and stamina before I start to move things forward. I hate being a noob at anything :lol:
  • briantrumpetbriantrumpet Posts: 13,242
    MarkS1980 wrote:
    I guess I'm used to having structured routines so the "just ride" method is hard for me but you're right.
    I've been doing the 'just ride' thing since the end of July - nothing structured, no heartbeat monitors etc. (and have only had a computer for a couple of weeks). I've mixed up the longer steady rides with shorter one-hour pushes, with plenty of hills. Having started out at the 17ish mph range, I set myself the target of 20mph for an hour's ride, and have been surprised how soon I've got there (doing about 200 miles a week, I'd guess), and am now managing to sustain that for longer rides. It must be all down to the miles, as I'm not following any particular plan - just how the mood takes me, really. Setting myself a specific target has given me the incentive to get out for shorter or longer rides as time permits.
  • I've found out the answer to my original question. You ask on a forum! :lol:
    Since Tuesday I've pushed my average up to 16.5mph. Ok so it's still not exactly quick but it's a pretty big improvement if you look at it as a percentage. The tougher sections have felt much easier and that's meant I've been able to go faster on the flatter parts without really trying. I haven't made any changes at all so you were all right, it just takes time. Hopefully it'll keep improving like this.
  • ut_och_cyklaut_och_cykla Posts: 1,594
    Don't give up - at some point it will feel like you've hit a plateau. You'll know when it hits you but its hard to predict. Don't give up. Ring the changes - routes/weekly mix but keep cycling... you'll get there. :)
  • I fully intend to keep things fresh. At the moment I'm happy with the main route I'm doing but once per week I'm changing part of it so it ends up being 18 miles. I've got a couple of ways to change the rest of the route pretty easily too so changing the route/milage is simple enough. I've also made a deal with my girlfriend that I can treat myself to a new bike when I finish my first 100 mile ride. I'm a long way from that now but I know if I keep at it and slowly start adding extended rides once or twice a week I'll get there soon enough.
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