Regardless of where you are in your cycling journey, becoming faster will help improve your power, your time, and potentially even your experience. Improving your cycling speed takes hard work and commitment but can certainly be done—and here are 10 ways to get it done.
Speed training plan
Just like any new routine, you should start with a plan. Speed training doesn’t just happen overnight and needs careful consideration of your baseline, your goals, the time you have, and more. To create a workout plan that works, you’ll need a schedule, proper fuel, and tracking the correct data.
1. Create a schedule
When you train for speed, you want to be intentional about the ways you increase your speed. Your schedule should consider your baseline fitness level, your cycling goals, speed goals, and the time you have available. We’ve suggested different types of workouts below but certainly recommend different speed workouts and cross-training regardless of plan.
2. Fuel correctly
Although you may not think of it as directly impacting your cycling speed, it is all a part of improving your power. While fueling correctly before, during, and after rides helps, for speed, specifically healthy eating, in general, will play a big part.
Healthy habits and food set your body up to be leaner and stronger, which will help your speed. So as a part of the overall training plan, consider implementing nutrition as well. Some things you could try,
- Eating healthy carbohydrates like oats, quinoa, whole wheat bread
- Have fruits and nuts for snacks
- Eat lean proteins like seafood and eggs
3. Track the right data
In order to improve your speed, you need to know the factors that impact your speed, and what you want to improve. While there are lots of data points you can track on your bike like —time, speed, cadence, distance calories, heart rate, and more—our favorites for speed purposes are heart rate, power intensity, and cadence.
Knowing your heart rate helps you understand the intensity of your workout, and the intensity of your sprints. It’s also a great way to gauge a baseline for output effort. For example, as you start your training knowing your max heart rate can help you determine how to improve.
At the same time, tracking power intensity aka power threshold or functional threshold power tells you the overall intensity of your workout. This is great to track because helps you gauge each training session and its intensity. Typically less intense workouts at .6 or so, while anything above 1.05 is short intense rides.
Lastly, cadence will be a large factor in indicating your overall speed and your power. Tracking your cadence helps you set your pace. Working on average pacing, when to speed up cadence and slow it down will help with your overall speed.
Speed training rides
After you’ve planned a bit, and helped create a training schedule, it’s time for the actual rides themselves. Getting on your bike, trying different rides, and just practicing will be what will make an impact.
4. Slow progression rides
Not all speed training has to include rides with sprints. In fact, one way you can improve your speed is by slowly progressing throughout a ride. We recommend you slowly increase your power every 5-15 minutes depending on the length of your ride, and then hold that intensity. Repeat this 3-4 times.
Slow progression rides up the intensity slowly and helps your body become quicker in each stage.
5. Speed interval rides
Intervals are a key part of any speed training. For these sessions, we recommend starting with a solid warmup and riding at a steady pace for at least 10 or so minutes. Then sprint full out for 30 seconds, with a 30 second to a minute and a half cool down, and repeat this multiple times.
6. Climbing and power rides
To increase your overall speed, hills are key. For this workout, you are working on keeping your cadence up, and average speed up even with hills. Start with a warmup, and then increase your gears/intensity and hold for about 5-8 minutes, then relax for 3 minutes and repeat this 4-5 times.
Cross-training for speed training
Cross-training is beneficial for just about any training, and for speed training especially. Your body is your powerhouse and controls how you ride, and how fast you ride. Strength training to increase leg power, and cross-training to lose fat are all ways to help increase your power.
7. Strength training
Many cyclists tend to be wary of going to the gym, especially in speed training because they don’t want to gain any weight, or are skeptical about the impact strength training can have on overall performance. However, studies have shown that strength training does have positive effects on performance, and doesn’t mean weight gain. 1
Another text found that strength training improves overall positive effect on exercise economy (how much oxygen you intact vs. body mass), anaerobic capacity, reduced fatigue, maximal speed, and endurance performance.2
Here are some exercises we recommend—
- Squats with weights
our weight back into your heels and keeping your chest up, shoulders back, and chin forward. As you become more comfortable increase your weight.
- Deadlift with weights
Similarly, choose a heavier weight. This time, keep your legs straight but not locked. With weights in your hands, lean your chest straight forward, engaging your hamstrings and glutes, to where your back is in a flat line from the hips and weight is back in heels.
Plank is a great all-body, with some emphasis on the core and spine. Place your hands underneath your shoulders and legs back. Hold your body in one straight line, breath, and stay here for around a minute. With time see if you can increase your hold.
8. Lose fat
Although cycling is naturally a fat-burning activity. There are also ways you can cross-train to help improve your body composition, which will improve your overall speed. Our favorite cross-training fat-burning activities are
- HIIT training
HIIT training, also known as high-intensity interval training is quick intervals of strength exercises and cardio. The nature of this high-intensity exercise makes it a perfect way to train for the quick speed needed on a bike and help burn fat.
- Body weight cardio
Another way to burn fat, and cross-train, is by doing bodyweight cardio exercises. Things like jump squats, burpees, plank jacks, and high knees are other ways to build strength, burn fat and get in cardio in a different way.
Ride with entertainment to speed up
The last way thing we recommend you include in your speed training plan is entertainment! Although it’s less direct than some of the other ways to train, the fact of the matter is that boredom can slow you down, and by staying engaged you can become faster.
9. Listen to music
Music can be inspiring and entertaining! So when you are training to take things up a notch, be sure to schedule some rides indoors to your favorite tunes. If you love making playlists perhaps try one of the workouts above to a playlist made by yourself. Or you can always check out different playlists online that are meant for specific cadence workouts.
10. Try a virtual training app
A virtual training app like Vingo is one way you can stay entertained during any ride. On Vingo you can try a speed workout while exploring the world. Zoom through volcanoes, and up and down mountain tops. Or find a community while you ride and meet up with friends while you push yourself to the next level.
Key Takeaways:Speed won’t happen overnight, but it also isn’t out of your grasp. With the proper training, some catered workouts for power, cross-training, and the right entertainment you can work to increase your speed one ride at a time.
- Sunde A, Støren O, Bjerkaas M, Larsen MH, Hoff J, Helgerud J. Maximal strength training improves cycling economy in competitive cyclists. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Aug;24(8):2157-65. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181aeb16a. PMID: 19855311.
- Bjerkaas, M. (2010). 1; Larsen, Morten H 1; Hoff, Jan 2, 3; Helgerud, Jan 2, 4 Maximal Strength Training Improves Cycling Economy in Competitive Cyclists. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24, 2157-2165.
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