You know what? Buying the latest, greatest, lightest, fanciest frame/wheelset/drivetrain won’t guarantee you faster Strava segment times or more powerful sprints. Of course, riding top-level gear may engender a more enjoyable riding experience. But for long-lasting results that cost a lot less, nothing beats good old fashioned training. Here are five surefire ways to get faster on your bike.
Yes, it’s really as simple as that. We all know someone who rides clapped-out, creaky, several generations-old gear, and yet is always contesting or winning sprints, dropping you on the climbs, and putting in another circuit when everyone else heads for the coffee shop. How do they do it? They’re on the bike more than you are, that’s all. When you are getting errands done they are riding. When you are pressing the snooze button they are pedaling down the street. And when you finally do get out on the bike, they coast less, stand on the pedals, and hammer up the climbs more than you do. So save your cash while getting fast, just ride more, and ride harder, further, and faster when you do.
Ride With Cyclists Who Are Faster Than You
Another effective way to get faster without spending a dime is to try to keep up with the fast folks. Yes, it will hurt. Yes, you will be dropped. But you will get faster and probably pick up some other skills along the way. Ideally, you will be able to tag along on rides with your faster friends, since they will most likely be more forgiving, or at least feel compelled to wait for you once in a while. If you go on a group ride that’s a bit beyond your ability, be prepared to get dropped, but don’t let it discourage you. That’s what you are there for. Just be sure you know how to get home on your own. Give it your all, though, and make yourself hurt. Soon you’ll be staying with the group longer and longer, and eventually riding up at the front, hammering for the whole ride.
This is dangerous, because now you are crossing the threshold of actual training. However, it’s still free, and if you really want to keep improving, you’ll need some type of structure to your time on the bike. A simple way to ensure progression is to have a focus for each ride, which can be simply beating a time goal, or even improving your cornering skills. Also, it’s important to work on your weaknesses. Dedicate a ride each week to sprint workouts or hill repeats until your weakness ceases to be a liability. Additionally, keep track of your times on a couple of your favorite routes, both overall time and several segments/checkpoints of each. The way to get faster is to ride faster, and paying attention to your ride times will let you know how much harder you need to pedal.