Amy: “I seem to be getting dropped on every group ride I go on. I just can’t keep up with the guys in my group. How do I get faster like them?”
Such is the age-old question, Amy! In fact, your question brings up so many answers that I’m left with one small mantra: Just Ride.
But that only partly answers your question, and certainly won’t win me any popularity contests (but, heck, I’m already too popular. . . . Did the sarcasm come through there?). So let me give you a few good solutions to your “problem”–because it’s everyone’s problem at every level of the sport, so don’t you fret.
1. Ride More, Ride Often, Ride with Others
You’re already doing the right thing. Although you didn’t tell me how far you ride or how often, it sounds like you do ride regularly. Your fellow riders might tell you to get a lighter bike. They might tell you to upgrade your wheelset. Or they might descry the use of 24oz water bottles (because who would need adequate hydration, right?). But after all is said and done, the true key to getting faster is to ride more.
If you consider the pro riders, they’re pretty fast. They generally average speeds in the 30’s, and that’s up hill and in a blizzard. They get paid to ride more, which is what makes them fast. They binge on light weight bikes and gear because it gives them a slight advantage–because they’re already super fast.
Now I’m not saying that the average rider won’t benefit from a carbon bike or an aero helmet even, but upgrades alone won’t make you fast. The key is to hop on that bike and wear that helmet as often as you can.
Sounds like you’re already on your way to doing this. But you’re also helping yourself out by riding with people who are faster than you. Really, you want to ride with people of all abilities–slower than you and faster than you. The faster ones will push you to work harder, and the slower ones will help build your confidence.
2. Burn up the Intervals
So you’re riding more often–or maybe you don’t have the time or luxury of putting in extra miles during the week. Interval training is your answer! You can put in 30 minutes and see serious results in a short time. You can get tons of interval workouts online for free. GCN has a great HIIT workout you might try. Just make sure you switch it up with proper rest days and other rides–otherwise, you’ll stress your body too much.
3. Don’t Be Afraid of Granny Gears
Sometimes, you might fall behind because you’re trying to push a gear that’s too hard. Aiming for a high cadence will help you to select gears that keep your legs fresh, but keep you moving fast. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read this post on cadence.
4. Bonking is Bad
I once bonked hard on a ride to get cinnamon rolls. I was fully kitted out and was bragging about my training rides to a newbie in the club. I, however, was particularly unimpressive that ride. Not only did I learn an important lesson about saving the bragging until after the ride, I also learned that I needed to eat waaaaay more for breakfast than nothing (but, really, who thinks of all these early morning rides anyway? I mean, what’s so horrible about 1:30 in the afternoon?).
It might take you some trial and error, but make sure you’re getting the proper nutrition on and off the bike. Find what works for you. Maybe it’s a PB&J, or maybe it’s two GU packets. Either way, a training diary that also lists your food next to each ride will help you to find what really gives you the best chance for a fast ride.
5. Don’t Forget How Awesome You Are
This is the most important point. You are awesome. You’re on your bike. You’re riding. Stick to your goals, but don’t forget that you’ve already accomplished something big. And Keep Going!
Got a burning question? Send it over to me, and I’ll answer to the best of my ability. Because it’s important to remember, there are no stupid questions. And anonymity is really cool too.