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Why do I feel slow on flat-ish terrain?

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Why do I feel slow on flat-ish terrain?

Old 06-28-22, 09:54 AM
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aliasfox
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Why do I feel slow on flat-ish terrain?

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.
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Old 06-28-22, 10:01 AM
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Wind direction maybe. Also having someone way up in front of you sometimes gives you more motivation to catch up and pass. And lets face it, flat terrain is just boring.

Weight whether you or the bike and equipment you carry might matter too. Especially if you are using all your energy up on the hillier parts and your body is using the level parts to rest and recover some glycogen you may have used on those hills or rapid accelerations.
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Old 06-28-22, 10:11 AM
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If you just started, then it will take time to build up your stamina and strength. Speed is an ever-changing thing depending on the road, the rider's condition, how much sleep you got, how you ate. As you rack up the training miles you change a lot, might have to change the bike setup to suit the newer you, and then change it again in the spring. It is nice to have other riders around to try and catch, that is a good training tool. Some you will catch, some you won't, that is just probability.
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Old 06-28-22, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by beng1 View Post
If you just started, then it will take time to build up your stamina and strength. Speed is an ever-changing thing depending on the road, the rider's condition, how much sleep you got, how you ate. As you rack up the training miles you change a lot, might have to change the bike setup to suit the newer you, and then change it again in the spring. It is nice to have other riders around to try and catch, that is a good training tool. Some you will catch, some you won't, that is just probability.
I've been road riding for about 17 years, own three bikes, and have participated in metric centuries. I conquered Old La Honda in an embarrassingly slow time just before the pandemic, so you could save I've ridden a little bit. I generally understand the dynamics of eating, sleeping, changes in weight (both rider and bike), weather, etc. It's just that this year is the first time I've consistently ridden around Central Park, and am able to observe this directly, multiple times in a row, so I'm pretty sure it has something to do with either how I've conditioned myself, or how I'm actually riding given the course (relative to most other people that ride at a similar overall pace).
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Old 06-28-22, 10:55 AM
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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.
Is it the other riders paces deviating, or yours? You could be the one riding a constant pace while the others are slowing down/speeding up. Or not.
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Old 06-28-22, 11:04 AM
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taking equipment out of the equation... the motor and how you use it.
rolling terrain (Central Park) requires a good knowledge of your status and capabilities. burning matches to jam a hill/rise is often paid for on the flat...
maybe you're not in as good cycling fitness as you think you are?
if you and other's are yoyo-ing, and maintaining the same general pace for the loop, then you're all making the same mistakes, differently...
get an HRM, learn more about yourself and current state, time your park loops... if you want to get 'faster'...
cadence and spinning/gear selection helps smooth out the lumpy profile.
'aero' is quite and increasingly more important anytime you're over 15 mph...
... I do know Central Park - started my riding/training/racing there back in the mid 60's... I can still picture, in mind's eye, most every section, boat house to Museum, Harlem back to 59th...
the loop cutoffs and shorter sections...
horse **** on the lower park road... LOL!
Central Park is one of those rides where 'free-wheeling' is always slow... fastest always requires some level of pedal pressure...
Ride On
Yuri
EDIT: 'Rail Trails', by their nature are mostly flat... any grades are gradual railway grades for what were trains...

Last edited by cyclezen; 06-28-22 at 11:09 AM.
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Old 06-28-22, 11:23 AM
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Originally Posted by cyclezen View Post
taking equipment out of the equation... the motor and how you use it.
rolling terrain (Central Park) requires a good knowledge of your status and capabilities. burning matches to jam a hill/rise is often paid for on the flat...
maybe you're not in as good cycling fitness as you think you are?
if you and other's are yoyo-ing, and maintaining the same general pace for the loop, then you're all making the same mistakes, differently...
get an HRM, learn more about yourself and current state, time your park loops... if you want to get 'faster'...
cadence and spinning/gear selection helps smooth out the lumpy profile.
'aero' is quite and increasingly more important anytime you're over 15 mph...
... I do know Central Park - started my riding/training/racing there back in the mid 60's... I can still picture, in mind's eye, most every section, boat house to Museum, Harlem back to 59th...
the loop cutoffs and shorter sections...
horse **** on the lower park road... LOL!
Central Park is one of those rides where 'free-wheeling' is always slow... fastest always requires some level of pedal pressure...
Ride On
Yuri
The horse **** below 72nd is ever present! As are the tourists trying out city bikes at 4mph...

I'm definitely avoiding coasting for more than the few seconds it takes to get some water. I think I have the perfect gear selection for CP - I'm running up and down a corncob for most of the ride, only hitting 21T or 23T cogs on Cat Hill (in the 48T ring) and Harlem Hill (in the 32T ring). But in the flats/slight descents north of the museum, I can be in an aero tuck, and somebody on a gravel bike will cruise past me while sitting up - and that's where my question comes in.

I don't have a HRM or a power meter - definitely want a power meter, but the expense... especially if I wanted one for each of my bikes...

As for making different mistakes all around, I'm trying to take those into account. For example, was yo-yoing with a girl on a Kestrel, who is easily smaller and lighter than I am - I'd always beat her up Harlem Hill, but she'd catch up a little later on the west side rollers. On one lap, my chain fell off the outside ring as I was shifting just past the crest of the hill, and in the process of shifting to get it back on, she passed me in a full aero tuck - honestly, the first time I've ever seen someone get their chin down in front of their stem, elbows in, butt up, for that part of the loop. Well, there's 10 seconds I've been giving up on every other ride.

(Though honestly, I can understand why I've never seen anybody else do that - one can easily make 30mph there without a tuck, and bike/foot traffic is can be pretty heavy there)
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Old 06-28-22, 11:26 AM
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Originally Posted by seypat View Post
Is it the other riders paces deviating, or yours? You could be the one riding a constant pace while the others are slowing down/speeding up. Or not.
There are riders that I'm faster than, and once I pass them, I don't generally see them again
There are riders that I'm slower than, and once they pass me, I rarely see them until they sit up to do a cool down lap
Then there are riders who seem to start/finish a lap within a few seconds of me, but often times do better when I (and my body mass) ought to do better, and do worse when I (and my body mass) ought to be the one suffering. No idea who deviates more, and how much.
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Old 06-28-22, 11:36 AM
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Originally Posted by aliasfox View Post
There are riders that I'm faster than, and once I pass them, I don't generally see them again
There are riders that I'm slower than, and once they pass me, I rarely see them until they sit up to do a cool down lap
Then there are riders who seem to start/finish a lap within a few seconds of me, but often times do better when I (and my body mass) ought to do better, and do worse when I (and my body mass) ought to be the one suffering. No idea who deviates more, and how much.
No way to tell with all the variables, including the other rider's mindsets. Keep in mind that flat terrain is constant peddle/no coasting or you fall off the pace. Different animal than up/down. I don't know about rail trails. Also keep in mind you're getting into the dangerous territory of CAT 6 racing.
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Old 06-28-22, 11:38 AM
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Originally Posted by seypat View Post
No way to tell with all the variables, including the other rider's mindsets. Keep in mind that flat terrain is constant peddle/no coasting or you fall off the pace. Different animal than up/down. I don't know about rail trails. Also keep in mind you're getting into the dangerous territory of CAT 6 racing.
Could you explain the CAT 6 racing bit? I've never looked into it (aside from following the TdF on TV), so I'm not sure how any of this would relate.
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Old 06-28-22, 11:47 AM
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https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=CAT%206

Bike Snob NYC: Probing for Answers: The Cat 6 Racing Boom

https://www.twospoke.com/threads/cat...e-rules.17697/
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Old 06-28-22, 11:49 AM
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Ride more. Worry less.
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Addiction is all about class.
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Old 06-28-22, 11:54 AM
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well, you're riding seems to be bugging you... so you want to improve that... however...
central park has no real 'technical sections', it's all about matching your strengths and improving weaknesses (as always is the case).
you will likely be able to 'power' up short rises, where someone with less peak power (small woman) might not be able to 'power' as much - longterm climbing is a completely differnt thing...
smaller rider profile means aero advantage is greater than greater mass on short, gradual downhills, also advantage aero on flats...
you did say you are 190 lbs plus...
I expect that there's some to lose. I would also expect all else remaining the same, 175-180 lbs would make an appreciable difference in your riding capabilities and pace...
Ride On
Yuri
Dropping your chain - could use some attention. check the FD settings. also if you're FD is a mismatch to the chain width (9 or 8 spd FD being used for 10 & 11 speed?).
Older FD work well, but even when used with their appropos older systems, they were often too wide cage (unless durace or Suntour Superbe/Cyclone) and would allow chain drop.
The new FDs with new shifters/drivetrain/cranks) rarely drop chain unless their mal-adjusted.
If you drink from your water bottle from the very side of your mouth, tipping bottle by side of head - you can be in the drops and still be pedaling... LOL!
an HRM can teach you many things... strap heart monitor is cheap and eassy, like Kickr , mated to your cell or whatever bar mounted meter... recommend
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Old 06-28-22, 11:55 AM
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Who's worrying?

Would love to ride more. This job thing kind of gets in the way. As do sunset and rain.
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Old 06-28-22, 12:08 PM
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Originally Posted by cyclezen View Post
well, you're riding seems to be bugging you... so you want to improve that... however...
central park has no real 'technical sections', it's all about matching your strengths and improving weaknesses (as always is the case).
you will likely be able to 'power' up short rises, where someone with less peak power (small woman) might not be able to 'power' as much - longterm climbing is a completely differnt thing...
smaller rider profile means aero advantage is greater than greater mass on short, gradual downhills, also advantage aero on flats...
you did say you are 190 lbs plus...
I expect that there's some to lose. I would also expect all else remaining the same, 175-180 lbs would make an appreciable difference in your riding capabilities and pace...
Ride On
Yuri
Dropping your chain - could use some attention. check the FD settings. also if you're FD is a mismatch to the chain width (9 or 8 spd FD being used for 10 & 11 speed?).
Older FD work well, but even when used with their appropos older systems, they were often too wide cage (unless durace or Suntour Superbe/Cyclone) and would allow chain drop.
The new FDs with new shifters/drivetrain/cranks) rarely drop chain unless their mal-adjusted.
If you drink from your water bottle from the very side of your mouth, tipping bottle by side of head - you can be in the drops and still be pedaling... LOL!
an HRM can teach you many things... strap heart monitor is cheap and eassy, like Kickr , mated to your cell or whatever bar mounted meter... recommend
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...
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Old 06-28-22, 12:13 PM
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lol. I'm really just riding my pace, and curious as to why I notice what I notice. I've definitely seen others give 'the look,' however!
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Old 06-28-22, 02:01 PM
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Does your Cannondale have the same wing as this Klein ?

If so it's possible the wing is adjusted for too much downforce - and therefore slowing you on the straight sections

There is a small shop located just outside of Columbus Circle that specializes in wing adjustments
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Old 06-28-22, 02:16 PM
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Originally Posted by aliasfox View Post
Could you explain the CAT 6 racing bit? I've never looked into it (aside from following the TdF on TV), so I'm not sure how any of this would relate.
Que Sellerz.
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Old 06-28-22, 04:17 PM
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Originally Posted by aliasfox View Post
Any thoughts on technique, training, diet, etc would be appreciated! Not looking to race anybody, just looking for explanations to help me understand.
It's hard to give an exact diagnosis without additional info but it could be that
  1. you have relatively good power/weight but relatively poor power/CdA.
  2. your gearing is relatively appropriate for climbing but relatively inappropriate for high speed on the flat.
  3. they're pacing differently so they're steadier (in terms of power output) while you're powering up the climbs and taking it easier on the flats.
Or some combo of the three.
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Old 06-28-22, 04:35 PM
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Originally Posted by RChung View Post
It's hard to give an exact diagnosis without additional info but it could be that
  1. you have relatively good power/weight but relatively poor power/CdA.
  2. your gearing is relatively appropriate for climbing but relatively inappropriate for high speed on the flat.
  3. they're pacing differently so they're steadier (in terms of power output) while you're powering up the climbs and taking it easier on the flats.
Or some combo of the three.
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...
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Old 06-28-22, 05:51 PM
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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...
Ah. If you're holding constant cadence with a corncob regardless of flat or slope then you're almost surely putting out more (relative) power on the climbs than on the flats.

I'm thinking you don't use a corncob on OLH.
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Old 06-28-22, 07:07 PM
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Originally Posted by aliasfox View Post
I've been road riding for about 17 years,.
I have been riding two-wheelers 55 years.
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Old 06-28-22, 07:34 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.

What's strange about this is that I'm not a small guy...
Seems like what you observe conforms with the laws of physics. Gravity accelerates objects at 9.8 meters per second per second, regardless of the weight of the objects. So gravity isn't going to accelerate a large person any more than a small person. But more weight on the tires means more rolling resistance, which may make you go slower. A heavier person putting out the same power should go slower downhill than a lighter person.

On the uphills you do have the disadvantage of having to pull more weight up the hill, so you should be going slower up hills too (holding power output constant). My point is: the disadvantage a heavier person has going uphill isn't offset by any advantage going downhill, because the acceleration due to gravity is not dependent on weight.
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Old 06-28-22, 07:42 PM
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Originally Posted by beng1 View Post
I have been riding two-wheelers 55 years.
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Old 06-28-22, 07:46 PM
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Originally Posted by aliasfox View Post
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...
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.
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