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How to increase my base/cruising speed?

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How to increase my base/cruising speed?

Old 05-28-20, 10:38 PM
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NoWhammies
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How to increase my base/cruising speed?

Yesterday I was out for a ride. While riding, I was cruising at what I felt was a pretty good clip. I wasn't working/struggling. I was motoring along in what I would call my comfortable riding zone.

While in this zone, I was passed by another rider who by all appearances was in his comfort zone. Not working hard, just simple pedaling and boom. He passed me and kept going. I suppose I could have jumped on his wheel and gone along for the ride, but a) I was content in my comfort zone b) I didn't want to work that hard at that moment in time and c) jumping on a wheel uninvited has a whole bunch of other consequences. Anyway...

My question for the forum/group is: how can I improve my comfortable riding zone? How can I raise my base zone of what's comfortable to what's 'work' for me? Or is this even possible? Am I stuck at my level?

Thank you.
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Old 05-29-20, 12:01 AM
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Are you familiar with FTP? Functional Threshold power? It’s the amount of power you can put out such that the amount of lactic acid (the “burn”) your produce in your legs is less than or equal to the amount of lactic acid you can clear. (I think, could be wrong)

FTPs indicate your “blowup” point. Most people can hold their FTP for about an hour. If they go over their FTP, they usually burn up pretty quickly.

But I think you’re more interested in your aerobic threshold. That’s the amount of power you can put down using just fat and air (I think). Any amount of power under this threshold is “easy” and doesn’t really fatigue you at all.

TrainerRoad should have a lot of stuff about this. But my uneducated advice is to try some polarized training. 80% really easy and 20% really hard. Don’t do a bunch of medium pace riding. That fatigues you but doesn’t force much adaptation.

If you don’t have time to ride 150-200 miles a week, you can try riding your 80% fasted. This will force you to burn fat and air due to a lack of glycogen in the muscles. Obviously, you should not do hard riding in this state.

Hopefully some other people can chip in.
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Old 05-29-20, 12:51 AM
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GCN has several videos on this topic, ranging from fitness to tricks and tips for using your existing fitness more efficiently. Easiest way to increase speed is to get more aero.

Lower position on the bike. Use the drops more, or when on the hoods try to get the forearms parallel with the ground. But this demands better core fitness. That's a struggle for me, even with core work -- my neck has been injured twice when I was hit by cars, and sometimes it's hard to hold an aero position for longer than five minutes at a time.

I put a shorter stem on my old steel road bike for comfort, but it's noticeably less aero compared with my carbon fiber bikes with longer stems and lower position. It's only a difference between 90mm, 110mm and 120 or 130mm stems, but it really feels different on the bike, especially over distance and into headwinds.

A few bits of aero kit -- snugger fitting jersey, maybe a helmet. I was surprised to find how efficient an affordable snug jersey was, without going to the expense of a skinsuit. Check out jerseys like the Pearl Izumi Pro Pursuit Speed jersey. I put a few in my Amazon cart and waited for the price to drop. Picked up one for only $20, another for $30. However these require bibs to fit properly -- the waist hem is shorter than some jerseys and skin may show between shorts and jersey. The buyer complaints about fit are from people who wear shorts rather than bibs. I have a few longer tail casual fit jerseys that are an inch to three inches longer and work fine with shorts, but aren't as aero.

Ditto helmets -- an inexpensive discontinued aero helmet with visor turned out to be more efficient than I'd expected. Even when I'm not riding for faster times, PRs or KOMs, I like this kit on days with strong crosswinds -- I'm not buffeted around so much by the wind. But on calm or hot days, or when I'm just riding casually, I usually wear summer weight jerseys that are cooler. The Pearl Izumi Pro Pursuit Speed jersey shoulders have rather thick fabric on the shoulders that doesn't breathe quite as well.

Experiment with tires and pressure. I find it easier and quicker on our chipseal and rough pavement with 700x25 tires at lower pressure. On smooth finished asphalt, higher pressure 700x23 tires at high pressure are fine, but not so great on chipseal and rough pavement. A lot of energy is wasted on vibration.

Drivetrain and chain lube. Yeah, this topic is done to death, but tests show some lubes really are more efficient than others. It may be only 1 or 2 Watts but it all adds up. This year I've been trying Rock 'n' Roll lubes, Absolute Dry and Gold. They are as good as the tests claim (they also don't last long per application and need to be reapplied often). Wax is also good, but I misplaced my bars of paraffin and crock pot back in February when I was having my floors redone and can't remember where I put that stuff. So I tried the Rock 'n' Roll lubes. They're good, but kinda pricey for what you get. They appear to be just naphtha and PTFE, with a little added oil for the Gold. Convenient, though. They don't seem to pick up as much road grit as some wet lubes.
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Old 05-29-20, 01:11 AM
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I agree with 80:20. Have been doing that for a couple of 70.3 races later this year and while my FTP has gone up by a modest amount, my ability to hold tempo has increased significantly. Which fits better with the type of efforts i will be putting in during a medium-course triathlon.

The other benefit of 80:20 is that it lets you get in a higher volume of quality training - which, for most of us, is probably the single most useful thing in terms of long-term benefits.
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Old 05-29-20, 04:22 AM
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For just increasing your comfortable riding zone, the simple answer is ride at a speed where you are slightly uncomfortable and after a fairly short while you will be comfortable riding at the speed! There are ways of doing shorter, more uncomfortable segments to achieve the same thing - but all are just forms of making your body uncomfortable for enough time that you body says "OK, he is going to keep doing that so I will adapt."

It is sometimes mentally hard to just ride comfortably uncomfortable without dropping back to plain old comfortable. If you have a bike computer, seeing your speed constantly can make it easier - if you are normally doing 12 mph on a certain ride, do 13 etc. A cadence sensor can help you to just turn the pedals faster, a heart rate monitor can help too. Those enable structured training, too - much more time-efficient ways others have mentioned for increasing performance.

But, the key to riding faster is to ride faster! Uncomfortable at first, soon comfortably.
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Old 05-29-20, 04:25 AM
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For the not-so-much-thought way of doing it... go out on windy days and look for headwinds. It's like training with a parachute behind you.

Then when it's a calm day, it feels like you're cheating.
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Old 05-29-20, 06:20 AM
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FTP training
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Old 05-29-20, 07:17 AM
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Comfortable? COMFORTABLE? Do you even 41?

Perhaps you should be posting in the touring forum, or the just-riding-down-to-the-shop-for-an-ice-cream forum.
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Old 05-29-20, 07:23 AM
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Endurance, it's your ability to hold speed, the more you have, the faster you can go for longer. Increasing your distance and volume will help build endurance. The limiter there is of course time.
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Old 05-29-20, 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by smashndash View Post
TrainerRoad should have a lot of stuff about this. But my uneducated advice is to try some polarized training. 80% really easy and 20% really hard. Don’t do a bunch of medium pace riding. That fatigues you but doesn’t force much adaptation.
This isn't what 80/20 is. 80/20, as popularized by Seller, means 80% of your training sessions are easy, 20% are hard. I.E., out of 10 rides, eight of them are easy rides, two of them are hard rides. That is a HUGE difference.

And in any case, it's kind of pointless unless you really don't like going hard.

Tempos and threshold work (all that "mid-range" intensity) is going to give you the biggest return for time investment if you don't have a lot of it. For 6-7 hours a week, you can conceivably work up to 3-4 hours of tempo and threshold. That gets you fast way faster, especially in terms of "cruising speed".
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Old 05-29-20, 08:56 AM
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For "easy, fast riding", all I focus on is tempo/sweetspot/threshold. A bunch of that and I can cruise around at 20 mph all day breathing through my nose.
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Old 05-29-20, 09:06 AM
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Interval training.
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Old 05-29-20, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by rubiksoval View Post
Tempos and threshold work (all that "mid-range" intensity) is going to give you the biggest return for time investment if you don't have a lot of it. For 6-7 hours a week, you can conceivably work up to 3-4 hours of tempo and threshold. That gets you fast way faster, especially in terms of "cruising speed".
I seem to recall that it is you who frequently advocates not wasting time with rides - coasting to stops, soft/not pedaling downhill, etc, etc. Over my last few rides, I've been targeting a cruising power of ~90% of my FTP, mostly... just because, honestly. Are you saying that this type of work will reap good returns?

On these rides, there's been an immediate and stark difference in average speed and, surprising to me, perceived exertion has actually been easier than many of my non-deliberate rides.
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Old 05-29-20, 09:23 AM
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Originally Posted by WhyFi View Post
I seem to recall that it is you who frequently advocates not wasting time with rides - coasting to stops, soft/not pedaling downhill, etc, etc. Over my last few rides, I've been targeting a cruising power of ~90% of my FTP, mostly... just because, honestly. Are you saying that this type of work will reap good returns?

On these rides, there's been an immediate and stark difference in average speed and, surprising to me, perceived exertion has actually been easier than many of my non-deliberate rides.
Oh, yeah! The 10% rule (less than 10% of any ride in Z1). A quick and easy way to boost overall average speed and power. But this is obviously highly dependent on routes with little to no stops or downhills in which you can no longer pedal.

90% of FTP is the "sweet spot" region in Coggan/Allen cycling lore. It's one of my favorite "zones" in which to train because it's repeatable for multiple days throughout the week, it gives a lot of aerobic benefits, and it's a lot more enjoyable speed-wise than just spinning around all day in Z2.

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Old 05-29-20, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by rubiksoval View Post
Oh, yeah! The 10% rule (less than 10% of any ride in Z1). A quick and easy way to boost overall average speed and power. But this is obviously highly dependent on routes with little to no stops or downhills in which you can no longer pedal.

90% of FTP is the "sweet spot" region in Coggan/Allen cycling lore. It's one of my favorite "zones" in which to train because it's repeatable for multiple days throughout the week, it gives a lot of aerobic benefits, and it's a lot more enjoyable speed-wise than just spinning around all day in Z2.
Cool. Now that you mention it, I had to go check my power distribution on a recent, deliberate ride and compare it to the same course ridden a few weeks ago, with my usual JRA/somewhat spirited pace. Pretty big difference -


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Old 05-29-20, 09:59 AM
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I did a 12 week SST block on Trainer Road and definitely found it very good for improving my FTP in that period at 5-6 hours a week. If i was time crunched, that is certainly the way i would go.

But i am in the position of being able to train 12-15 hours a week with time left over to rest, etc. And there is no way i can keep that intensity level up for this many hours - not at 47, anyway 80:20 has been great as it lets me get a decent amount of intensity and also get some additional volume in. Most of my 80% rides are in high Z2/low Z3 (so riding with intent), so there isnt much in the way of Z1 - even the Fitzgerald Z1 is mostly traditional Z2.

Just finishing my 9th week of the plan, and while i have seen a modest increase in my FTP, I have seen a big boost in my ability to aerobic threshold and ability to ride for a long time in low Z3 - which is ideal for medium distance tris. And it is laying a good foundation for a 2 month balls-out FTP build effort i plan to do after race season is over.

That said, for a cycling-specific program - how does something like 6-7 focused hours (mostly SST, like the TrainerRoad plans) compared to 10-12 hours of more traditional polarized training, with a mix of long Z2/Z3 efforts on weekends and SST/FTP/VO2 work on weekdays? You'd be doing a little less intensity in the 10-12 hours but a lot more volume - I suspect the answer will be "it depends" but are there any broad generalizations that can be made about one vs the other?

Last edited by guadzilla; 05-29-20 at 10:04 AM.
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Old 05-29-20, 11:28 AM
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Originally Posted by guadzilla View Post
That said, for a cycling-specific program - how does something like 6-7 focused hours (mostly SST, like the TrainerRoad plans) compared to 10-12 hours of more traditional polarized training, with a mix of long Z2/Z3 efforts on weekends and SST/FTP/VO2 work on weekdays? You'd be doing a little less intensity in the 10-12 hours but a lot more volume - I suspect the answer will be "it depends" but are there any broad generalizations that can be made about one vs the other?
Your training doesn't sound polarized at all, and polarized training isn't traditional. Hardly anyone actually trains that way, certainly not professionals (whose season is spent with long blocks of high-intensity racing).

Polarized training has nothing to with time percentages and everything to do with training sessions. In a 10 day span, you'd only be doing 1-2 hard training sessions, which isn't what most people do.

Most people doing structured training will do something like a Tues/Thurs/Sat workout/group ride/race schedule. 3/7 training sessions are therefore pretty intense. Very much not polarized.

In addition, and most importantly, so much training and specific racing requires a great deal of tempo/threshold riding, which again isn't particularly polarized.

Broadly speaking, the more volume you do, the more intensity you can do, but the less relative time you'd be doing it. So yea, maybe a bit more z2/z3 work in there, or an extra z2 day instead of an off day. 20 hours might be just one workout or group ride with more z2/z3 versus 10 hours, which may be a few workouts/group rides with lots more z3/z4 and a lot less z2. Depends on experience and what you're training to do.
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Old 05-29-20, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by rubiksoval View Post
This isn't what 80/20 is. 80/20, as popularized by Seller, means 80% of your training sessions are easy, 20% are hard. I.E., out of 10 rides, eight of them are easy rides, two of them are hard rides. That is a HUGE difference.
That’s... what I meant? What does it seem like I said?
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Old 05-29-20, 11:56 AM
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Trying to keep up with someone faster kinda teaches you that you can put out a higher level of exertion especially over a familiar road, it has helped me but I'm not that fast ~ 15mph for a 20 mile ride
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Old 05-29-20, 11:58 AM
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Originally Posted by smashndash View Post
That’s... what I meant? What does it seem like I said?
Seems like the exact opposite.

Originally Posted by smashndash View Post
But my uneducated advice is to try some polarized training. 80% really easy and 20% really hard. Don’t do a bunch of medium pace riding
You can do 8 easy rides and 2 hard rides and even in a 2 hour hard ride only have 15-20 minutes worth of "hard effort," which is still less than 20%.
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Old 05-29-20, 12:02 PM
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Originally Posted by smashndash View Post
80% really easy and 20% really hard.
Originally Posted by rubiksoval View Post
80/20, as popularized by Seller, means 80% of your training sessions are easy, 20% are hard.
OK I don’t know if I’m missing something really obvious here... how is what I said “opposite” to what you said?
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Old 05-29-20, 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by smashndash View Post
OK I don’t know if I’m missing something really obvious here... how is what I said “opposite” to what you said?
You: 80% really easy and 20% really hard. =

Monday :
100 minute ride; 80 minutes really easy, 20 minutes really hard.
Tuesday: 100 minute ride; 80 minutes really easy, 20 minutes really hard.
Wednesday: 100 minute ride; 80 minutes really easy, 20 minutes really hard.
Thursday: 100 minute ride; 80 minutes really easy, 20 minutes really hard.
Friday: 100 minute ride; 80 minutes really easy, 20 minutes really hard.
Saturday: 100 minute ride; 80 minutes really easy, 20 minutes really hard.
Sunday: 100 minute ride; 80 minutes really easy, 20 minutes really hard.
= 700 minutes of riding, 560 minutes really easy, 140 minutes really hard.

Me: 80% of training sessions easy, 20% hard=

Monday : 100 minute ride; 100 minutes really easy
Tuesday: 100 minute ride; 100 minutes really easy
Wednesday: 100 minute ride; 70 minutes really easy, 30 minutes really hard.
Thursday: 100 minute ride; 100 minutes really easy
Friday: 100 minute ride; 100 minutes really easy
Saturday: 100 minute ride; 100 minutes really easy
Sunday: 100 minute ride; 100 minutes really easy
= 700 minutes of riding, 670 minutes really easy, 30 minutes really hard.

140 minutes > 30 minutes.

Plus,
You: no medium-pace riding
Me: lots and lots of tempo/sweetspot/threshold (medium pace riding)
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Old 05-29-20, 01:01 PM
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Get a power meter, ride normally for a few weeks, and then analyze your power curve. Then simply increase your power by some number of watts for the desired interval duration that you want to improve. For example, if your current power curve (I usually look at my last 6 week power curve) shows that you did 150 watts for 10 minutes, next time you ride, make an effort to ride at 160 watts for 10 minutes. And on each future ride, pick at least one (or several) interval durations on your power curve and make a small incremental improvement for that duration. I used this method for several years to get my FTP60 to 233 watts, and sprinting for a couple of seconds at 1,000 watts.

Last edited by Riveting; 05-29-20 at 01:32 PM.
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Old 05-29-20, 03:12 PM
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Sometimes all you have to do to go faster is shift to a higher gear then bring your cadence back up to where it was before the shifted. You might find that you can now comfortably maintain this new combo. If not, then intervals, strengthening legs and all sorts of things suggested above.

I've many times been thinking I was at my max comfortable gear and pace. But it was just something I'd gotten used too. By trying something different I found out I could do more.
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Old 05-29-20, 03:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
Sometimes all you have to do to go faster is shift to a higher gear then bring your cadence back up to where it was before the shifted. You might find that you can now comfortably maintain this new combo.
This is actually a big part of my problem - accelerating takes more power than maintaining and I'd often accelerate at a decent output and then I'd just not notice that I was slacking once the acceleration tapered off. Clicking to the next tallest gear than I would instinctively select has helped a lot.
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