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Why do I feel slow on flat-ish terrain?

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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Why do I feel slow on flat-ish terrain?

Old 06-28-22, 08:02 PM
  #26  
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I get to the top of a hill..............when I get there. No reason to tire myself out with miles to go before I sleep.

I live on a small hill in my neighborhood. There's this guy that makes laps through the neighborhood. As he approaches the start of the hill, he's looking around to see if people are out working in their yards. If the yards are empty, he stays in his saddle and casually goes up the hill. But if he has an audience, he's out of the saddle, dancing on the pedals and making noises like it's a Cat climb in the TDF. He really puts on a show.. It's pretty funny to watch.
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Old 06-28-22, 08:55 PM
  #27  
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Originally Posted by aliasfox View Post
One thing I've noticed over the past few rides is that I'm more likely to catch up/pass other riders as the road pitches upwards, but strangely enough, have the most trouble keeping pace on flats or slight descents.
The other riders are trying to maintain constant power output which should be the same thing you're supposed to be doing unless you're doing some sort of interval training.

Note, none of these sections are really longer than 3-4 minutes before the road pitches up or down, so I don't think it's a sustained wattage thing, either.
It can be sustained power output if you're going round and round that circuit at constant power for more 15 minutes without stopping. It doesn't matter if the road pitches up or down especially if the gradient is not too big and you can still pedal and apply power on the descents. Training will definitely help in that case.
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Old 06-28-22, 09:48 PM
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Originally Posted by aliasfox View Post
The FD probably just needs a little limit adjustment - she's a new build, almost all of her 250 miles has been this year, in Manhattan. The FD cable went a bit slack a couple of weeks ago - I pulled it taut, so it might be pulling against the outside limiter when I shift up. I just used that point to illustrate that I was going really slow for 20 seconds or so, just enough time to let her pass by in her aero tuck.

Definitely trying different bottle techniques - still not used to the underhanded, side of mouth drinking, but I like it when I remember to do it.

As for the 190-ish? Yeah, gained about ~10lbs during COVID (stopped running 10ks at the gym, 3-4 days a week), dropped about 5 of them this year. If I can stay away from fries, cheese, and donuts, I might knock myself down to low 180s... funnily enough, I set my Central Park PR this year, which is a little over a minute faster than my last time, set back in 2018 (when I was closer to 183 lbs).

Heading out to the SF Bay area in a few weeks (wife has a conference = free hotel) - I'm looking forward to working on a few climbs longer than ~0.5 mi while I'm out there...
I'm sorry... I like a good scoop of hyperbole at times, hence the FD and 'water bottle' thing... I'm just not skilled at making it obvious , often...
I am with you, with your approach and attitude for it all... and doing the Central Park loop can really get to you, if you don;t get some fun mind games goin... True for most any Park Loops, anywhere.
Have a great time in SFO - Tunitas and Alpine/Pescadero were just 'perfect' in temps and quiet, last week... glad I can make the trip a couple times a year...
Ride On
Yuri
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Old 06-29-22, 07:00 AM
  #29  
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You sound pretty experienced, so it's unlikely that I know better than you. However, when I notice I'm having a similar experience (catch people on hills, they catch me on flats) it is usually because I'm working a lot harder on the climbs (because climbs are supposed to be hard) and not as hard on the flats. So, someone maintaining a more steady-state effort might get passed by me on a climb (when I'm working harder than they are) but might pass me on the flat (when the ratio between my power output and theirs is different).
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Old 06-29-22, 08:02 AM
  #30  
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Originally Posted by noimagination View Post
You sound pretty experienced, so it's unlikely that I know better than you. However, when I notice I'm having a similar experience (catch people on hills, they catch me on flats) it is usually because I'm working a lot harder on the climbs (because climbs are supposed to be hard) and not as hard on the flats. So, someone maintaining a more steady-state effort might get passed by me on a climb (when I'm working harder than they are) but might pass me on the flat (when the ratio between my power output and theirs is different).
Steady state power is your best strategy to delay muscle fatigue for as long as possible when doing very long rides with or without lots of climbing.
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Old 06-29-22, 08:38 AM
  #31  
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Originally Posted by scottfsmith View Post
Every rider has a different sense of personal pace. I am like you in that I crank up the hills, I view them as my "intervals". The watts can be double up the hill for me (yes I have a power meter). I ride with other people sometimes and notice they have a different emphasis, some are even more all-out on hills but most are more even on hills vs not. If you do go harder up the hills you are getting into a deficit which you need to earn back in the flats by taking it easier.

Anyway I agree I would try going more even with the watts to see how your pace compares. But, what you are doing currently is in fact a better workout because you are getting some high-intensity intervals in on those hills.
Definitely view lapping CP as a workout, so that's (generally) a good thing.
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Old 06-29-22, 08:42 AM
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Originally Posted by seypat View Post
I get to the top of a hill..............when I get there. No reason to tire myself out with miles to go before I sleep.

I live on a small hill in my neighborhood. There's this guy that makes laps through the neighborhood. As he approaches the start of the hill, he's looking around to see if people are out working in their yards. If the yards are empty, he stays in his saddle and casually goes up the hill. But if he has an audience, he's out of the saddle, dancing on the pedals and making noises like it's a Cat climb in the TDF. He really puts on a show.. It's pretty funny to watch.
Lol. I'll try different things on the hills to see how they feel - low gear spinning, higher gear cranking, standing, sitting, maintaining one gear, shifting up and down just to vary the cadence - but don't do any of it to show off, rather to see if my Strava time gets significantly better or worse on those segments.

The only time I might be accused of showing off is making sure I get up those hills ahead of the rental bikes - my own pride won't let me get passed by a 45lbs Citibike when I'm in full lycra riding an 18lbs road bike...
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Old 06-29-22, 08:45 AM
  #33  
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Originally Posted by koala logs View Post
The other riders are trying to maintain constant power output which should be the same thing you're supposed to be doing unless you're doing some sort of interval training.



It can be sustained power output if you're going round and round that circuit at constant power for more 15 minutes without stopping. It doesn't matter if the road pitches up or down especially if the gradient is not too big and you can still pedal and apply power on the descents. Training will definitely help in that case.
Apparently, according to one of the other posters, I probably am doing interval training, to a degree, without really trying to. Will try to be more even on one of my laps after work today.
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Old 06-29-22, 08:50 AM
  #34  
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Originally Posted by cyclezen View Post
I'm sorry... I like a good scoop of hyperbole at times, hence the FD and 'water bottle' thing... I'm just not skilled at making it obvious , often...
I am with you, with your approach and attitude for it all... and doing the Central Park loop can really get to you, if you don;t get some fun mind games goin... True for most any Park Loops, anywhere.
Have a great time in SFO - Tunitas and Alpine/Pescadero were just 'perfect' in temps and quiet, last week... glad I can make the trip a couple times a year...
Ride On
Yuri
I haven't done Tunitas yet, my riding buddy out there tells me it's a bear. But the Pescadero loop has probably the best views I've seen on the peninsula. Probably not getting a rental car this time (have you seen how expensive rental car prices have gotten?!?!), so may not get to do those on this (shorter) trip, but still looking forward to attempting OLH again, or at least going up Los Trancos (mind the descent!).
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Old 06-29-22, 08:55 AM
  #35  
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Originally Posted by noimagination View Post
You sound pretty experienced, so it's unlikely that I know better than you. However, when I notice I'm having a similar experience (catch people on hills, they catch me on flats) it is usually because I'm working a lot harder on the climbs (because climbs are supposed to be hard) and not as hard on the flats. So, someone maintaining a more steady-state effort might get passed by me on a climb (when I'm working harder than they are) but might pass me on the flat (when the ratio between my power output and theirs is different).
I'm going to see how 'steady state effort' feels after work today, at least on one of my laps. I'm just worried I'll get bored trying to do steady state, especially without a power meter for an instant readout.
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Old 06-29-22, 09:21 AM
  #36  
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Originally Posted by aliasfox View Post
Hi everyone,

Now that my wife is in the office a couple of days a week, we've started spending part of our time in Manhattan again. So instead of riding suburban and rural rail trails, I've started doing laps of Central Park after work. Not the most exciting ride, but it's the only place where I can get a little bit of climbing in relatively close to home.

One thing I've noticed is that my performance isn't what I expect, and I was wondering if anybody had any thoughts. As one does laps around the park, one often ends up yo-yoing with other cyclists who ride at a similar pace. Depending on traffic, terrain, chugs of water, etc, one person might get a few hundred feet ahead, only for the other person to catch up as conditions shift. One thing I've noticed over the past few rides is that I'm more likely to catch up/pass other riders as the road pitches upwards, but strangely enough, have the most trouble keeping pace on flats or slight descents.

What's strange about this is that I'm not a small guy - 190 lbs (~86kg) if we haven't gone out to eat in the past week, often a few lbs more than that. The people who seem to outpace me on flats/slight descents are easily 20-30 lbs lighter than me, and they're often the same ones that I'm able to pass on Harlem Hill (for example).

Is it that I have decent burst/sprint wattage going up climbs that last 1-2 minutes? Or is it that I have pretty crappy sustained wattage on flat sections? Note, none of these sections are really longer than 3-4 minutes before the road pitches up or down, so I don't think it's a sustained wattage thing, either.

I don't think it matters, but for reference, I'm riding a Cannondale CAAD8, home-built with Force22 and Zonda wheels w/Michelin Pro4 Endurance.

Any thoughts on technique, training, diet, etc would be appreciated! Not looking to race anybody, just looking for explanations to help me understand.
Feeling slow and being slow are two different things! I am slow when spring arrives, and I feel slow towards the end of the summer where I am in my peak performance and go fast. Not sure why, but it may be because I go much faster without pushing as much as I was a few months before.

Also, wind is a cyclist's worst enemy.
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Old 06-29-22, 09:59 AM
  #37  
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Originally Posted by aliasfox View Post
Apparently, according to one of the other posters, I probably am doing interval training, to a degree, without really trying to. Will try to be more even on one of my laps after work today.
Interval training is also very useful but if you seldom or never do constant power training, you should start doing it more often.

On some structured training programs, you'll have interval sessions on some days and constant power sessions on some.

On long rides, the best way to maximize average speed is by maintaining constant power output. You'll finish the ride in the fastest time by simply riding at constant power. Even if that sounds boring but that's how it works.
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Old 06-29-22, 11:39 AM
  #38  
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Originally Posted by koala logs View Post
Interval training is also very useful but if you seldom or never do constant power training, you should start doing it more often.

On some structured training programs, you'll have interval sessions on some days and constant power sessions on some.

On long rides, the best way to maximize average speed is by maintaining constant power output. You'll finish the ride in the fastest time by simply riding at constant power. Even if that sounds boring but that's how it works.
Intervals are good even for endurance but what I think he needs is "sweet spot training".
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Old 06-29-22, 11:44 AM
  #39  
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Two guesses:

1. Your power is more variable than those people. They're holding a more constant power uphill and flat. Therefore you catch going up and fall back on the flats.

2. You might not have as aggressive a fit for the flats aero-wise versus them.
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Old 06-29-22, 12:37 PM
  #40  
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It’s probably your brakes.
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Old 06-29-22, 12:51 PM
  #41  
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Originally Posted by koala logs View Post
Interval training is also very useful but if you seldom or never do constant power training, you should start doing it more often.

On some structured training programs, you'll have interval sessions on some days and constant power sessions on some.

On long rides, the best way to maximize average speed is by maintaining constant power output. You'll finish the ride in the fastest time by simply riding at constant power. Even if that sounds boring but that's how it works.
One of my rides when I'm outside of the city includes an 8 mile climb at a heady 0.5-1%, would chugging up that be considered a 'constant power session?'
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Old 06-29-22, 12:59 PM
  #42  
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Originally Posted by aliasfox View Post
1. Doubtful my power to weight's any good - in fact, I'm almost certain I'm pitiful here :-P. I usually ride on the hoods, but even with bent elbows (tucked in) riding in the drops, I rarely reel anybody in.
2. I haven't checked recently, but I hold a cadence between 70-75rpm, and I have a corncob between 11-17 in the back. I'll shift up, only to shift back when my legs have decided they've had enough
3. You're the second commenter to suggest this - I might have to try taking it easy on the climbs, just to see what happens. I've always gone by the "it never hurts less, you just go faster" mantra, so maybe I should try making those climbs hurt less...
Get a wider cassette. The corncob is forcing you to work harder on the climbs than you need to.
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Old 06-29-22, 01:18 PM
  #43  
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Originally Posted by genejockey View Post
Get a wider cassette. The corncob is forcing you to work harder on the climbs than you need to.
The cassette is an 11-28, but is a corncob between 11-17, which is where I spend most of my time. Climbing isn't the issue for me here, rather flats performance.
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Old 06-29-22, 01:30 PM
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Originally Posted by aliasfox View Post
The cassette is an 11-28, but is a corncob between 11-17, which is where I spend most of my time. Climbing isn't the issue for me here, rather flats performance.
Climbing isn't the issue, except you're passing people climbing who then drop you on the flats, which means you're working harder than they are on the climbs but not as hard on the flats. Generally big guys like us have less problem on the flats because aerodynamic drag doesn't increase all that much for us, but we can usually put out more power. And on slight descents we have even more advantage.

Personally, I can't spin a cadence of 70-75 unless I'm on a climb >6%. I find it much easier to put down the power on the flats at a higher cadence - more like 93-103.
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Old 06-29-22, 01:36 PM
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Originally Posted by RChung View Post
I'm thinking you don't use a corncob on OLH.
Funnily enough... the bike I keep on the west coast (at my sister's) is closer to a corncob in the back, and has the steepest granny gear of in my stable. That bike has a 12-27, 9 speed cassette, and a triple in the front (32/42/52, IIRC). So in summary:
- The bike I use on rail trails (no incline worse than 1.5%) happens to have a 34x34 low end
- The bike I use around the city (only short climbs, no worse than 4%) is the 18lbs bike (with pedals) with a 32x28 low end
- The bike I use on real climbs on the west coast is my oldest, heaviest, and fleeciest, and has a 32x27 low end, steepest of the three

I may have my bikes in the wrong places.
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Old 06-29-22, 01:39 PM
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Originally Posted by genejockey View Post
Climbing isn't the issue, except you're passing people climbing who then drop you on the flats, which means you're working harder than they are on the climbs but not as hard on the flats. Generally big guys like us have less problem on the flats because aerodynamic drag doesn't increase all that much for us, but we can usually put out more power. And on slight descents we have even more advantage.

Personally, I can't spin a cadence of 70-75 unless I'm on a climb >6%. I find it much easier to put down the power on the flats at a higher cadence - more like 93-103.
I have trouble with cadences outside of 65-80 (rough estimate). Spinning at or above 90rpm for even a short amount of time has always gotten me winded.
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Old 06-29-22, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by aliasfox View Post
One thing I've noticed over the past few rides is that I'm more likely to catch up/pass other riders as the road pitches upwards, but strangely enough, have the most trouble keeping pace on flats or slight descents.
If you had a power meter, you’d see that your power is higher on the uphill than on the flat. I’m the same. My power meter drops off as soon as the road turns flat. It takes me much more concentration to keep the power from dropping.

I’m a “grimper” (climber), of course. Folks that can put out the power on the flat are “roulers”.
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Old 06-29-22, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by aliasfox View Post
I have trouble with cadences outside of 65-80 (rough estimate). Spinning at or above 90rpm for even a short amount of time has always gotten me winded.
We're all different. I had to build up to it, but once I did, it's very natural. In fact the cadence that 'just feels right' now is higher than it used to be.
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Old 06-29-22, 02:42 PM
  #49  
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Originally Posted by terrymorse View Post
If you had a power meter, you’d see that your power is higher on the uphill than on the flat. I’m the same. My power meter drops off as soon as the road turns flat. It takes me much more concentration to keep the power from dropping.

I’m a “grimper” (climber), of course. Folks that can put out the power on the flat are “roulers”.
+1. My jaw drops every time I climb & check my wattage... 180w average to roll 30kph on the flat & 400w average when climbing at 15kph. Newton isn't our friend, that's for sure.
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Old 06-29-22, 02:51 PM
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Originally Posted by aliasfox View Post
I have trouble with cadences outside of 65-80 (rough estimate). Spinning at or above 90rpm for even a short amount of time has always gotten me winded.
Ah! here ya go! This is were improvement can be realized (not hyperbolizing...). Efficiency is improved and achieved by a balance of 'power'/stroke and cardio efficiency. Truly, efficiency can be improved by being able to ride higher cadences. Without getting into huge detail, muscle, during a pedal stroke, oppose each other. The more you can counter then opposition, the more efficient you become. Pedaling at 60 rpm is very 'efficient', at power loads which are limited. The higher the 'power' requirement, the more precipitous draining of muscle power/strength - hence upping cadence reduces the power load per stroke.
so, increase efficiency by 'training' muscles to become more efficient. Train your muscles/pedal stroke to eventually become comfortable at 90+ rpm for steady riding.
You can't do it in one 'jump' and it takes a relatively long process, done in increments (Many months, some times seasons...).
If you're comfortable at 70-75 rpm on the flat, then work on riding at 75+ for very extended riding, using whatever gear allows you to do that... Your heart rate will become uncomfortable... drop a gear (this process works great with close gearing jumps !). Eventually you will be able to ride at 75+ in the gear you once rode at 70... Now do the same process at 80+ rpm...
Repeat, until 90-95 becomes comfy, with a good size gear - Hence Eddy's quote " Spin a Big Gear!"
This is how beginner racers should train. This is how young Juniors are trained, to build efficiency AND power, as they continue to grow.
Yes, riders can all have different capabilities, but they are ALL dictated by their own balance of power/cardio and efficiency ultimately sets your personal ceiling.
Ride On
Yuri
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