For long-lasting results that cost a lot less, nothing beats good ol' fashioned training. Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery

For long-lasting results that cost a lot less, nothing beats good old fashioned training (click to enlarge). Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery​

Editor's Note: This article is courtesy of the team at Art's Cyclery. The original post can be found here.

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.

Ride More

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.

Peter Sagan rides top-level gear, and he rides it a lot! Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery

Peter Sagan rides top-level gear, and he rides it a lot! (click to enlarge) Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery​

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.

Get the miles in when you can! (left) Pedal hard and don't give up! (right) Photos courtesy of Art's Cyclery

Get the miles in when you can, pedal hard, and don't give up! Photos courtesy of Art's Cyclery​

Set Goals

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.

Continue to page 2 for more tips on getting faster on your bike »

Racing will jump start your fitness. Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery

Racing will jump start your fitness (click to enlarge). Photo courtesy of Art's Cyclery​

Enter a Race

After you've been hammering hard a few times per week, and cut several minutes off of your go-to ride PR, it's time to put your money where your lungs are, and enter a race. Racing lets you know your true level of fitness and skill, and gives you a tangible reason to push harder and longer on your everyday rides. No matter what your result is, the energy from the race carries over into your routine rides, giving you the impetus for continuing to improve your fitness.

Get a Coach

This is a real commitment, since there is a tangible monetary investment involved, and is probably only appropriate for committed racers. However, an effective coach will be able to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses, optimize your available training time, provide motivation, and establish a complete training regimen, including varied workouts, nutrition guidelines, and effective recovery periods. Coaches also act as mentors, advising on everything from race tactics to bike set-up, and provide objective, realistic feedback on your training progress. When choosing a coach, the first consideration is local versus remote. There are many online coaches who can provide personalized workout, nutrition, and recovery plans, which will absolutely generate results. A local coach offers the same, with the ability to tailor workouts to the roads and trails you ride everyday, and might have more availability for data analysis and general discussion.

Increasing your cycling speed and fitness requires dedication, and if you want noticeable results, will also demand physical suffering and mental fortitude. Depending on your desired outcome, the path to success can be free and simple or costly and intricate. Just remember to keep it fun, and maintain perspective. We're still just riding bikes after all.