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14 Tips to Improve Your Cycling Speed

Regardless of where you are in your cycling journey, improving your cycling speed 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. 

Start with a cycling speed improvement plan

Paper with tacked to a board with the word 'Plan!' written on it.

Just like any new routine, you should start with a plan. Improving your cycling speed 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 to track the correct data

1. Create a schedule

When you train for speed, you want to be intentional about the ways you increase your cycling speed. Your schedule should consider your baseline fitness level, your cycling goals, your speed goals, and the time you have available. We’ve suggested different types of workouts below but certainly recommend different cycling speed workouts and cross-training regardless of plan. 

2. Track the right data

In order to improve cycling speed, you need to know the factors that impact your cycling 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 improving cycling 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 improved cycling speed and power. Tracking your cadence helps you set your pace. Working on average pacing and knowing when to speed up cadence and slow it down will help improve your cycling speed. 

Implement training rides to improve cycling speed

A group of cyclists on a road training.

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. 

3. Slow progression rides

Not all cycle speed training and improving your cycling speed has to include rides with sprints. In fact, one way you can improve cycling 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. 

4. Speed interval rides

Intervals are a key part of any cycling speed training and improving your cycling speed. 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.  

5. Climbing and power rides

To improve your cycling speed, hills are key. For this workout, you are working on keeping your cadence up and your 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. 

6. Off-road rides

Many cyclists don’t realize that going off-road can actually help to improve their speed. In fact, studies have shown that cycling on soft surfaces like dirt or sand can lead to significant improvements in performance. Off-road riding requires more power and effort than cycling on the pavement, which helps to build strength and endurance.

Additionally, the uneven terrain helps to challenge balance and coordination, both of which are important for maintaining speed. So next time you’re looking to pick up the pace, consider heading off the beaten path. You might be surprised at how much difference it makes.

Improve cycling speed while riding

A group of cyclings taking a turn on a road.

7. Pedal More

If you’re looking to improve your cycling speed, one of the best things you can do is pedal more. This may seem like an obvious solution, but it’s often overlooked. The more you pedal, the faster you’ll go. It’s as simple as that.

Of course, pedaling more isn’t always easy. It takes effort and endurance. But if you’re serious about improving your cycling speed, it’s worth it. There are a few different ways to approach pedaling more. One is to increase your cadence or the number of times you pedal per minute. Another is to simply pedal harder. And finally, you can try pedaling in higher gears, which will require more effort but can also lead to greater speeds.

8. Make Bike Gears Work More Efficiently

Improving your cycling speed can be as simple as using your bike gears more efficiently. When you pedal faster, you increase the resistance on the chain, making it harder for the wheels to turn. By shifting to a higher gear, you can pedal more easily and thus ride faster.

Similarly, when going downhill, you can shift to a lower gear to make it easier to pedal and maintain control of your speed. Experiment with different gear combinations to find what works best for you and your bike. With a little practice, you’ll be able to ride faster and more efficiently than ever before!

9. Break less

Improving cycling speed by breaking less is something that all cyclists should be thinking about. After all, the less time you spend breaking, the more time you can spend pedaling and going fast! There are a few simple ways to make sure you’re breaking less on your bike.

First, make sure you’re always pedaling smoothly. Sharp, jerky movements will not only make you go slower, but they’ll also make you break more often. Second, try to avoid tapping your brakes too much. If you can coast or freewheel for a few seconds before breaking, you’ll save yourself a lot of energy (and momentum).

Finally, try to “predict” when you’ll need to break, and start breaking earlier than you think you need to.

10. Fuel correctly

Although you may not think of it as directly impacting your cycling speed, it is all a part of improving your power. Fueling correctly before, during, and after rides helps. Improving cycling speed and healthy eating play a big part

Healthy habits and food set your body up to be leaner and stronger, which will improve cycling 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, and whole wheat bread
  • Have fruits and nuts for snacks
  • Eat lean proteins like seafood and eggs

Cross-training for improving cycling speed

A group of people doing situps on dumbells.

Cross-training is beneficial for just about any type of training and improving your cycling speed. 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. 

11. Strength training

Many cyclists tend to be wary of going to the gym, especially when trying to improve cycling speed 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 has an overall positive effect on exercise economy (how much oxygen you are able to maintain vs. body mass), anaerobic capacity, reduced fatigue, maximal speed, and endurance performance.2

Here are some exercises we recommend—

  • Squats with weights 
    Choose a heavier weight to start with, and go for a lower rep and heavier weight. Work on the good form by sitting your 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 the point where your back is in a flat line from the hips and the weight is back on your heels.
  • Plank
    The plank is a great all-body exercise with some emphasis on the core and spine. Place your hands underneath your shoulders and legs in the back. Hold your body in one straight line, breathe, and stay here for around a minute. With time, see if you can increase your hold.

12. 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 cycling speed. Our favorite cross-training fat-burning activities are 

  • HIIT training 
    HIIT training, also known as high-intensity interval training, consists of 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 helps 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 cardio in a different way.

Ride with entertainment to improve cycling speed

Close up of a male cyclists position on the bike without the head.

The last thing we recommend to improve your cycling speed 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. 

13. 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. 

14. 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.

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Sources:

  1. 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.
  2. 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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