Too fast, too slow. What does this actually mean? Is anyone too fast or too slow? Speed is a funny thing when it comes to cycling. It's hard to actually quantify. Most cyclists have been asked the question of how fast do you go? But what does this actually mean? Does it mean anything at all? Well yes, I guess if you are a time triallist then speed is everything. Every little second counts. But what if I said that you can win a race at an average of 8mph you could probably laugh at me and say well, how, that's too slow to win a race! Some of the most eyewatering power stats have come from mountain bike riders and races like Flanders and other cobbled races. The average MPH may not be impressive at all and especially in MTB races some would consider it to be slow, However, in terms of effort, these types of races can claim to be one of the hardest disciplines.
What are the fastest bikes on the planet?
Aero TT bikes are probably considered to be the fastest pedal-powered bikes, if the course lends itself to it. The fastest bikes on the planet are ridden by the worlds most fastest riders over a set distance. And are built specifically for the discipline. They are as aerodynamic as the rules and regulations of the UCI will let them, combined with the most aerodynamic helmets, skinsuits and footwear it is considered to be the fastest combination on earth.
Strava segment specialists
Have you ever questioned if anyone has gone too fast? If you are a keen cyclist and use Strava you will have seen some riders get some eyewatering times. Maybe you have even been lucky enough to have got a king of the mountain and had it taken off you? But how much by? So you ask yourself the question, how have they gone that fast? Well, the power of a tailwind can be very advantageous in theme timed segments! If it wasn't that epic 50mph tailwind then maybe they were in a group and were getting sucked along by the power of the group? Drafting in a group or behind another rider can save up to a massive 30% of energy so just imagine the time benefits a rider could get from this. And if you really aren't convinced.... were they on an ebike! Strava does have a function for riders on ebikes who use Strava so there is no segment crossover, but there is a change the rider forgot to select that function and have robbed you of your KOM!
Does it matter if you are going slow?
Does your average MPH actually matter? No. If you are wanting to improve your speed. Pick a loop and time yourself on that loop regularly. This is the only accurate way you can tell if you are getting any faster! The reason being is that if your loop has 4000 feet of climbing, you're not going to have a very high average MPH. Factors such as terrain, wind, and the type of bike you are using can also affect speed significantly.
Can going slow make you faster?
Going slow doesn't always mean you are not fast or are not powerful. Going slow is actually proven to improve your strength and power by using slow cadence high gear efforts. These kinds of efforts will normally be done on a long shallow gradient where there is already some resistance. The speed or your cadence and the length of time will depend on what has been set for you. There are many tailored training sessions available either on GCN, training peaks or from your chosen coach. Some cyclists even use a single speed bike set up during the winter in an aim to make them stronger in the summer. However, it is also good practice to have time at your natural cadence to avoid injury or overstressing the muscles.
Why would you go on a slow bike ride?
'Im going for a steady spin today,' is a saying that is often said amongst many cyclists, but why? Why bother going on a bike ride if you're going to go slow, you may ask? Going on a slow and steady bike ride is very beneficially for helping reduce fatigued muscles and helps to relieve lactic acid build up. Riders who have had a hard ride the day before or raced will often go out on their bikes for a steady ride. Riding slowly for an hour or so helps to get the blood flowing back into the muscles and can reduce the risk of becoming injured. But you really do have to go slow, there is no point in going out for a steady ride and hurting the legs even more. You simply won't get any fitter or faster. If you rip your muscles the only way for them to get stronger is to repair though recovery. Going slow on a bike ride is one of those key factors in the recovery process.
So you really are slow?
OK, so you really are slow? It either really doesn't matter to you because you love cycling, you enjoy the freedom of being outside, finding new places, riding to your favourite cafe and taking photos of your favourite views. However, if you want to go faster, maybe its time for a new bike! A faster bike, one that has smoother, less resistant bearings, a lighter frame, aero wheels and slick shifting. A new bike which is built specifically for the job you want it for can actually shave MPH's of your normal average speed.