If there's one commonality among cyclists, it's that we'd all like to be a little bit faster on the bike. After all, it can make the difference between leading the pack and struggling to sit at the back.
But what happens when your fitness becomes stagnant, and you're no longer improving?
Hitting a plateau is more common than you might think, especially for beginners. Training too much in zones 3 and 4 can leave you stuck in a rut, and this can be a hard cycle to reverse. You'll have decent fitness, but improvement over time will be minimal.
If this is you, you're in luck. We asked six coaches how to help cyclists of all abilities improve their speed and fitness on the bike. Here's what they had to say:
Include Short Sprints
Jim Castagneri, coach of the Black Sheep Junior Cycling Team in Denver, Colorado, recommends including short, powerful sprints into your weekly routine to increase top-end speed.
"I like to use shorter intervals of 30 seconds to 1 minute, each separated by an equivalent amount of rest in between," Castagneri says.
This workout will improve your ability to bridge a gap, or even create one, in a race.
Start with four sets of sprints twice a week, and you should start to see an improvement in your top-end speed and acceleration.
Attack the Hills
Active Expert Gale Bernhardt recommends heading to the hills to improve overall speed and fitness.
"Depending on the time of season, 2- to 4-minute hill repeats will be similar to threshold intervals or aerobic capacity intervals," she says. "If you train with a power meter, the first interval is at the low end of the zone and the last interval should be at the high end of the zone."
Bernhardt says that the progression of each interval should depend on how many repeats you plan to complete. If you aren't training with a power meter, it's easy to use time to calculate your efforts instead.
If you train on a particular hill often, you should know about how much time it takes to get to the top. Pace yourself so that your last effort is faster than the first.
"These efforts are great for improving speed and mental toughness, and helping you learn how to pace yourself for high-end efforts," Bernhardt adds.