Going faster

Discussion in 'General Cycling' started by Thomas Womack, Apr 27, 2011.

  1. On Monday I managed to average 16km/h from Southwold to Ipswich. I
    felt that I was going about as fast as I could keep up all day, and in
    absolute terms that seems distinctly slow.

    Mostly I'm riding in biggest-front-cog-of-3 smallest-back-cog-of-7,
    switching to 1/4 for uphills (these are only Suffolk uphills ...) and
    at times when 1/1 feels as if it's making my legs hurt. Cadence
    probably about 60. Hybrid bike, tyres recently inflated, chain
    recently oiled. Rucksack strapped on back of bike. Dynamo not
    engaged. Front mudguard rubbing slightly against wheel.

    a) Am I comparing average speeds with other peoples' peaks

    b) Would I find myself going significantly quicker if I tried to use a
    higher cadence in a rather lower gear?

    c) Will I just find that I go quicker if I keep up a habit of an 80k
    ride most weekends?

    Sorry these are vague questions,

    Thomas Womack, Apr 27, 2011
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  2. Thomas Womack

    nmm1 Guest

    It depends who you are comparing with! Many, many people would
    do no better, or even do worse. How much climbing is there (at any
    slope) and was there any wind?
    No. If that cadence suits you, it's entirely appropriate. At that
    speed in that terrain, you are probably expending as much energy
    (for unit time) as a brisk walk, and that is the normal cadence for
    such an activity. Increase it if it makes you more comfortable,
    but doing so does NOT increase your efficiency - see Bicycling
    Almost certainly, unless you are already very fit :)

    Nick Maclaren.
    nmm1, Apr 27, 2011
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  3. I'd definitely fix that though!
    Eleanor Blair, Apr 27, 2011
  4. I dunno. I'd consider a 10mph average over a day including breaks to be
    good, even if I'm usually cruising at rather faster.
    Mike and I cycle together at the same speed, and he uses the top ring
    where I use the middle one. So I think cadence probably depends on what
    suits you. You could certainly *try* it though.
    Probably :)
    Eleanor Blair, Apr 27, 2011
  5. Thomas Womack

    Peter Clinch Guest

    Not really familiar with the route but a quick map check suggests 40 miles?

    if it is about 40 miles that's what I'd term non-trivial for folk who
    don't regularly do it, and I don't think that's too shabby if you're
    /not/ doing distances fairly often. However...
    .... if this is typically at about 10 mph I think you're probably a bit
    of a masher because that's top gear. Without going into specific
    gear-inches etc. it's hard to be completely sure but it sounds like
    you're chugging along in your biggest gear at not particularly high speeds.
    In top gear at 10 mph? I'd measure it properly. Use a watch with a
    second hand/stopwatch etc. and double check.

    Lower cadences at relatively high power, IME, come back to haunt you on
    longer journeys and your thighs just get pumped out and run out of
    oomph. And there's a lot of extra welly required to pick up the speed.
    I recall a trip I took with friends where someone much fitter than me
    was wondering why we were so slow on an ~ 8 mile ride going out... and
    subsequently just disappeared off the /back/ while we trundled at a not
    particularly sporty pace back the same way home (and I mean disappeared,
    we ended up quite worried). He had cadence in line with continental
    drift and despite high fitness he'd turned his thighs in to cream cheese
    in the space of 8 miles. IME higher cadences are easier to maintain for
    a longer ride (they ought to be more like aerobic).
    I don't know, but I don't think you should worry too much about other
    people, rather concentrate on optimising what you can the way that suits
    you. I trundle along at what I think is an amiable pace, the local
    chain gang go /much/ quicker, I'm happy and so are they.
    I think that's a distinct possibility, at least for sustained averages
    on longer rides, though it'll take a while to get used to higher
    cadences. If you pop some toe-clips on it makes higher cadences a
    little easier (though it's certainly not a must-do). 80 or so seems to
    be a popular sort of number. It's what I was told was good on a
    cycle-trainer course but I don't know how much science backs that up.
    Personally I usually run at around that, going over 100 for short, sharp
    hills (I was running at 80 empirically before anyone told me a number, I
    used to be a masher when I was younger).
    /Very/ probably.

    Combine b /and/ c and you'd (very probably) be better off than either b
    or c, and your knees and chain might well like you more too.

    Peter Clinch, Apr 27, 2011
  6. Thomas Womack

    Peter Clinch Guest

    OP apparently wants to go faster thobut...
    One must draw the distinction between comfortable at a slow pace for a
    long period and comfortable at a higher pace (mph, not rpm) for a long
    period. ISTM OP isn't comfortable at that cadence for higher speeds
    which (it also STM) he wants.
    IIRC the edition of Bicycling Science you've quoted from in the past is
    old enough (current edition isn't by Whitt, last one from him was '82)
    that it pre-dates work on muscle physiology that could account for
    differences. That's not saying it does, just that an older edition of a
    book might not be The Answer as we /still/ don't really know quite as
    much as we'd like about human physiology.

    /I/ can't defy the laws of physics. But I can maintain a high speed for
    longer at high cadence than I can at a low one. And I /used/ to
    habitually ride in the highest gear I could.

    Peter Clinch, Apr 27, 2011
  7. I usually reckon on 10mph for planning purposes when planning long
    trips, so 16km/h isn't slug-like.
    Almost certainly ;-)

    Matthew Vernon, Apr 27, 2011
  8. Thomas Womack

    Peter Fox Guest

    Sorry these are vague questions,
    Here's a vague answer.

    With an assisting wind I'd have thought 10mph is a bit slow.
    I'm assuming this was taken from the actual average reading of a cycle
    computer. OTOH if you have only distance then total elapsed time and
    actual cycling time can be very different. (NB Also double check the

    Cadence of 60 strikes me as a bit slow. Experiment with
    70 or 75 for normal and 95-ish for short sprints up small rises. (I
    can really recommend attacking short hills by changing down just
    before hitting the slope. It turns a slow grind into a satisfying
    challenge. As the season progresses you'll be able to whizz up further
    and more often with very little ill-effect.)

    FYI I managed 13.5mph over 41 miles on Sunday which pleased me at
    least for this time of year. (Flatish lands of Essex.)
    • If you're not used to more than 15 miles at a stretch then you have
    to work your way up to it. (Stamina.)
    • If your legs aren't used to slogging away for 5 minutes up hill then
    you need to give them time to learn. (Strength.)
    • A good way to improve speed is to find a buddy. Having regular
    local checkpoints works as well. What took 10 minutes a couple of
    weeks ago now only takes 9.5 (and it feels easier!). 5% doesn't sound
    a lot on paper but that's all roughly what we're talking about here.

    I hope you enjoyed your ride through the lovely Suffolk lanes and also
    the 15+ real ales straight from the cask in the St. Judes Brewery
    Tavern when you got to Ipswich.
    Peter Fox, Apr 27, 2011
  9. Thomas Womack

    nmm1 Guest

    Yes. And a cadence of 60 is perfectly comfortable for sustained
    speeds of 25 KPH in an upright position with a saddle that is
    high enough - it's only pushing about 15 Kg, which is FAR less
    than people do when walking uphill. Trying a slightly higher
    cadence is one thing, but 80 is dangerous for people not used
    to it - I was in 3 weeks of pain from 15 minutes at 90, and have
    spoken to other people who have be caught out the same way.

    Oh, yes, there is a problem with the people who ride at 40+ KPH,
    because they would have to push three times as hard, and that's
    too much for most people. But he's not one of them.

    He's got lashings of margin, though he might need to raise the
    saddle as he cycles more.
    I have looked at more modern ones, you know. If I recall, that
    was still there - as you would expect if you think about it.
    There is no natural activity that corresponds to modern racing
    cycling, either in posture or cadence over time - and it would
    be very surprising if we were not more efficient in activities
    closer to those we have adapted to over 3 million years.

    Nick Maclaren.
    nmm1, Apr 27, 2011
  10. Thomas Womack

    Simon Mason Guest

    Average speeds can be savaged by having to stop, headwinds and hills.
    I commute 24 miles a day on a fast road bike in flat terrain and with
    the wind at calm, I cruise at between 18-20mph. My average though is
    "only" around 16mph as I have many red lights on the route.

    When I first returned to cycling in 1998, I posted to urc that I was
    having a stormer of a ride on my MTB when I reached the giddy heights
    of 13mph! Since then, I have done double centuries, joined a club and
    ridden 4 seasons of Time Trials. All of which have helped to increase
    my average speed. The biggest leap though was getting a road bike and
    joining a club and going out on their training rides.

    If you can stick with the pastings you'd get, week in week out, your
    fitness levels will go through the roof.
    Simon Mason, Apr 27, 2011
  11. I don't have one of those; I looked at my watch when I left Southwold
    at 1455, I looked at my watch when I got into Ipswich station at 1855,
    and I plotted the course on gmap-pedometer
    (http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=4462687) and trusted it for the

    I suspect I am stopping for as much as a minute per kilometre to check
    the map, photograph attractive trees, quaff water, eat thirds of Mars
    Bars &c ... should acquire a cycle computer and see. I had a couple
    of cycle computers in the past but found they had a horrible habit of
    glitching, recording an instantaneous speed of 100kmph, and then
    displaying that as the peak-speed for all time forth; is there a sort
    of cycle computer that doesn't do that?
    I clearly am doing something wrong, I'm sure my cadence slows down
    when I'm going up things - at least, if I go down into a gear where I
    can start spinning furiously, I find my thighs fall off well before I
    run out of hill. Maybe that's something to practice in the gym.
    The lanes are indeed lovely; I'd been in Norfolk two days earlier and
    the unremitting fields of oilseed rape there provide neither shade nor
    beauty. Regrettably I didn't know about the pub, so got to Ipswich
    1855 and caught the 1902 back home. A beer would have been quite

    Thomas Womack, Apr 27, 2011
  12. Thomas Womack

    bugbear Guest

    If you're interested in measuring/improving your
    performance, a cycle computer is a handy thing.

    They're cheap enough, these days,
    and (IME) all but the very cheapest work well.

    bugbear, Apr 27, 2011
  13. Thomas Womack

    Simon Mason Guest

    On Apr 27, 4:42 pm, Thomas Womack <>
    ..  I had a couple
    GPS based cycle computers are very reliable and don't rely on dodgy
    connections and magnet/metal interfaces.
    I use this unit.

    Simon Mason, Apr 27, 2011
  14. Thomas Womack

    mrc7--urcm Guest

    In message <Ims*>
    An alternative to a cycle computer would be a GPS. You can then record a
    tracklog of your route and analyse it later on a computer. Any glitches
    or spikes in the track can usually be identified quite easily and edited
    out. More expensive units combine the functions of a cycle computer with
    a GPS so that you can also see plots of power output / cadence / heart
    rate etc superimposed onto your route.
    You don't want too high a cadence or too low. I prefer to practice on
    the bike out riding and seeing the scenary. I find gyms boring places to
    hang out.

    mrc7--urcm, Apr 27, 2011
  15. Some experimental results

    Cycling from top of Castle Hill to outskirts of Girton (4.6km
    according to gmap-pedometer)

    Way out: 2/3 on front ring, 5th-largest/7 on back ring. Took 14.5
    minutes; average cadence (counted four chunks of one minute) 92. So
    19kph. Something of a headwind.

    Way back: 1/3 on front ring, largest on back ring. Took 10.5 minutes;
    average cadence (same protocol) 58. So 26kph. Something of a tailwind.

    This is pretty much a peak speed; there is one set of traffic lights
    and one fiddly right turn, it's not absolutely flat but it's
    Cambridge. It's left me reasonably sweaty (indeed, glowing quite
    pleasantly), I could probably do it again at similar pace but not two
    more times.

    I suspect this means that I spend longer smelling the maps and
    checking my position on the trees than I think I do.

    Thomas Womack, Apr 27, 2011
  16. Thomas Womack

    nmm1 Guest

    That is very common indeed. And, if you do it for more than a
    very few minutes, you may well find that you have caused enough
    damage to be unable to use your legs for days, possibly weeks.
    And that may even prevent you using stairs. Been there - done
    that. See below.

    There is absolutely no reason to favour increasing cadence over
    increasing pressure for short sprints, and some people get on
    better with one than the other. However, dropping cadence when
    climbing hills is a sure sign that either you don't have enough
    gears or aren't using them enough. Generally, it is far better
    to slow down and change gear so that you are expending the same
    amount of effort at the same cadence.
    Agreed. And the optimal level depends a lot on you, your bicycle
    and your riding style. My optimal cadence is the traditional one
    of 40-60, at speeds of up to 25 KPH. That's fairly common.

    DON'T, whatever you do, try out the recommendations of a much
    higher cadence (and that is anything above 75) without first
    doing extended runs at a slightly increased cadence, and ONLY
    going higher if you are pain-free on that day and the next.
    You can do significant damage by a high cadence, even when
    expending almost no effort, if you are not used to it.

    Nick Maclaren.
    nmm1, Apr 27, 2011
  17. Thomas Womack

    Peter Fox Guest

    I don't have one of those; I looked at my watch when I left Southwold
    Aha! You're actually going /a lot/ faster than that 10mph.
    Yes. A good idea. Get one with cadence as that's important useful
    real-time feedback. Others have mentioned GPS thingies which while
    they may give you altitude, and could be just the thing for a
    cyclist/walker, are a bit of a fudge for the cyclist who likes to know
    about _your efforts and achievements_ rather than route and
    approximate time on the move. Mine is normally set to cadence because
    everything else is 'for the record' or at a point in time.
    1. Wired
    2. Don't use batteries from the pound shop
    Practice on the hills and bumps! Here is a suggestion (when you've
    got a cadence-reading computer): As (or a fraction before) you get to
    the bottom of a hill change down 3 or 4 (one on front is worth roughly
    two on back) Now accelerate. If you soon slow down below say 90
    cadence then you change down more and vice-versa. One training
    technique is steady cycling interspersed by short sprints. I think
    you'll find it is practice with a bit of careful gear-changing.
    Cross keys at Henley cross. Roughly 45min from Ipswich station via
    Claydon and roughly an hour from Woodbridge via curious ways. I have
    gone off the Moon and Mushroom at Swilland but they do have decent
    beers straight from the cask.
    Peter Fox, Apr 27, 2011
  18. Thomas Womack

    Peter Clinch Guest

    On 27/04/2011 15:39, wrote:
    However, he was in top gear on a hybrid doing about 16 KPH, so I
    have serious doubts his cadence was actually 60 unless it's much
    lower geared than it looks. "Cadence probably about 60" is not
    very precise language and suggests to me it was guessed rather than
    measured. IME guessing cadence if you don't have benchmarks from
    measurements is quite hard: I (and I think others) tend to
    rationalise revolution periods to roughly seconds, so it often
    comes out at a guess of around 60. I've seen someone with cadence
    of 40 guess they were at about 60, I've guessed about 60 and
    subsequently measured at 80.
    Which is why I said "though it'll take a while to get used to
    higher cadences".
    Well, I didn't know, which is why I raised it as a possibility.
    OTOH since there's nothing quite like it it might be the case that
    it's dangerous to infer too much from other quite dissimilar
    In other words, it's not enough to say "case closed!".

    Peter Clinch, Apr 27, 2011
  19. I think that there is a big difference between Tom and you Nick.
    Tom is pretty young. You are (if you excuse the term) getting on
    a bit and probably were when you tried that higher cadence.

    Basically as with all exercise you should use your common sense.
    If it feels comfortable you are not likely to be doing any long
    term damage. So if someone increases their cadence by 5 or even
    10 and it still feels OK, and they get a speed increase (which they
    will), then that is fine.
    Andy Leighton, Apr 27, 2011
  20. Thomas Womack

    Rob Morley Guest

    I think most people find that's just a novelty that soon wears off.
    Rob Morley, Apr 27, 2011
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