In no particular order, here are the top six ways you can get those wheels spinning faster.
1. Stay Fit1 of 7
When summer drifts into fall, many cyclists enjoy the end of the racing and organized ride season. Before winter has a chance to sneak up on you, make a plan to stay fit throughout late fall and winter. This seems like a no-brainer, but it is very common for cyclists to stop aerobic activity in the winter. Keeping just three days per week of aerobic activity throughout the winter can help preserve some level of fitness. Adding strength training to your cardio work — just a couple of days per week in the off-season — can also contribute to minimizing fitness loss. If you keep some fitness year-round, you won't have to start from scratch next spring.
2. Lose Weight2 of 7
If you lose weight wisely, you can maintain cycling power. By reducing weight and maintaining power by not crash dieting, your power-to-weight ratio increases. This means more speed, particularly as the asphalt or dirt tips upward. No more getting dropped on the hills.
3. Establish Baseline Markers for Fitness3 of 7
There are a number of ways to establish baseline measures for fitness. One easy way is to cycle a self-designed time trial, a TT. This TT can be any section of road, including a climb. Depending on your current level of fitness, begin with a three- to 10-mile distance. After a good warm-up, go as fast as you possibly can on your course of choice. You can use a number of tools as benchmarks. At a minimum, note the time it took to complete the TT. If you have a heart rate monitor, add the marker of average heart rate. Finally, for those with power meters, note the average power produced over the TT course. If you use applications such as Strava, you can create a course segment for your test. Aim to retest every four to six weeks to ensure your training plan is producing improvements.
4. Keep a Journal4 of 7
There are two major reasons to keep a journal. The first is to keep track and have some idea of why your cycling is improving – or not. You can use the journal to revisit your rides and spot reasons for performance increases or declines. The second major reason to keep a journal is to use it as a planning tool. Plan days for fast riding, speedy intervals and long rides. Also, use it to plan recovery days. The telltale mark of a novice rider is mono-speed. There is zero variation in ride speed or intensity from day to day. Fast riders know that speed variation and recovery are essential to improvement.
5. Go Epic5 of 7
Look into the future and plan to do something longer, more difficult or faster than you've ever done in your cycling past. Aim for something that scares you a bit. Seek out the hilliest century ride. Ride a multi-day tour. Do an organized time trial event. Training for and completing a new challenge will improve your cycling speed for weeks after the event. And such risks will change your mental toughness for a lifetime.
6. Get a Buddy or Find a Group6 of 7
If you spend most of your time riding alone, find a friend who rides a similar speed or find a cycling group to join. While there are drawbacks to group rides, the right group can significantly improve your speed. Surrounding yourself with other people can be motivating. There's a saying, "Where there's a wheel, there's a way." This refers to the target of a wheel within sight. You will likely put more effort (speed) into catching up with a person within sight than you would riding the same distance by yourself.