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Cycling Faster 

Part 2

In August we began a topic on cycling faster and presented some strategies. In this section we will focus on equipment and the role it can play in cycling faster. The weight of the bicycle can make a big difference but the lighter the bike the more expensive the bike. Lighter components cost more and in some instances are less durable. Ceramic bearings have very low friction coefficient but can be unbelievably expensive while providing minimal speed increase. Again, the rider must assess the benefits against cost. Checking or having the bike tuned up can eliminate friction points and make for more efficient movement. 

The frame and wheels of the bike are the chassis while the pedals, chain, derailleurs and cassette can be considered the transmission. The rider is the engine and pistons that make it all go. More RPMs (revolutions per minute also referred to as cadence) and or pressure on the pedals (torque) make the whole machine go faster. High cadence with little torque will likely get the rider out of breath without going very far or fast. Think of a hamster on an exercise wheel. Low cadence with high torque will fatigue the leg muscles while not getting anywhere fast. Everyone has their own sweet spot, some combination of cadence and torque. Strong riders usually have a slower cadence and push higher gears, as do older riders. It is up to each rider to determine the best blend for their strengths and riding style. (??Think wear out your gears). Shift as often as needed to remain in your power zone. It is possible to improve the engines performance and provide more available power to the system. Think “Ride Lots.”

Assuming the engine is optimal or at least as good as possible using the available power efficiently will increase speed. A smooth pedal stroke applying pressure through the entire circle will maximize power transmission to the drive wheel. Clip on pedals with stiff sole shoes are necessary to accomplish this. If the shoes move too much (soft soles or loose fit) energy is wasted that could be used to move the rider forward faster. 

Spending cash on equipment and/or effort on training should provide improvement. The rider needs to decide the amount and type of investment they are willing to expend to get results. A good reference book that covers the above-mentioned topics as well some others like cross training, sleep, music, etc., in greater detail is “Get Fast by Selene Yeager”, and is worth checking out.

One of our newer Silver Wheels member shared some of the strategies she has used to improve her endurance and the goals she set for herself in August. She now describes how updating her bicycle helped improve her performance. 

My first two and a half years of riding were spent primarily on my own, riding solo, and learning everything the slow, hard way. But once I joined Silver Wheels in August of last year, that all began to change. I had much to learn and am still soaking it all up. I have a typical hybrid bike with straight handlebars that came with 700x32 tires that I purchased in late 2015. By the time I joined the club, I was a solid 2* rider, but certainly began longing for a bit more speed as I rode with more experienced cyclists on road bikes. However, I knew I wasn’t ready to commit to the purchase of a good road bike just yet, wanting to save up to get something I’d really like. In the meantime, though, several fellow Silver Wheelers suggested I just change out the tires, going with skinnier ones, insisting that would make a considerable difference in speed, and be much more affordable. I also realized that if I could pick up just another mile per hour or so more on average, then I could easily start joining in on some 3* rides, which would give me far more opportunities to ride with the club since I still work during the week and mostly must catch rides on the weekends. 

So, in early May I took my bike into my local shop and had them put 700x28 tires on and took it out for a spin the next day. I could tell the difference right away and managed to easily average over 14.5mph on a trail that I used to ride closer to 12.5-13mph with the same effort in the past. And the price was right… for all parts and labor the cost came in at around $130. I’ve now been out on a couple of 3* rides with the club and am enjoying the extra speed, not to mention getting to know even more club members! Thanks to everyone who made this great suggestion J

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