Make Fast Friends
There's no better way to build speed than riding with people who are faster than you. Add one ride a week with a group that pedals at a more spirited pace. (Ask local bike shops about no-drop group outings.) You may get dropped at first, but each time you'll hold on longer, and eventually you'll be able to keep up. Or ask a speedy friend or two to join you and push your fastest pace.
Oiling your chain at least once a week (at minimum, every 100 miles) will not only make you faster due to reduced resistance on your drivetrain, but also extend the life of your chain, cassette, chainrings, and derailleurs—saving you money. Don't forget: Wipe off all excess oil after you apply it to the chain. The goal is to get oil on the inside of the links, where metal meets metal, not coat the outside, which will attract road grit.
Brake it Up
When aluminum rusts, it's actually a good thing—the oxidization forms a hard, protective coating. But braking creates friction, and heat from that friction breaks down the oxide on your aluminum rims, leaving behind a black film that compromises stopping power. The result? You pull on the brakes harder, further compromising the rims. There's a fix: Wipe your rims clean with a dry cloth and some rubbing alcohol when you oil your chain, and you'll almost double your braking power and rim life.
It's simple: If you want to pile on some speed, you have to pedal either harder or faster (or both). Go for pedaling faster. Merely adding 10 rpm (rotations per minute) to your cadence will increase your endurance, says Russell Cree, a coach who owns Portland, Oregon-based Upper Echelon Fitness. "As a general rule," he says, "pedaling faster is more efficient." And when you put less force into the pedals you don't fatigue as quickly, so you're able to maintain the same power output for a longer period of time. A solid goal is 90 to 110 rpm on flat roads, 70 to 90 on hills. (Try working in some back-to-back workouts for big training gains in three days.)
Take to the Hills
Add one new climb each month to your rides, and you'll build power and confidence on hills. Find new slopes that vary in size and pitch—short and steep, long with various grades, and so on. If you're geographically limited to flatlands, mix a hill-interval workout into your rides each month.