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Speed

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So when you start getting out there, everybody wants to know how fast is fast. On the Internet, its really hard to get a strait answer, too. Besides the n+1 nature of sports bragging, you have to also realize that even though fast for recreational riders will get you blown out of a bike race, but there's even more to it than that...

 

to ride you need to have endurance, miles in your legs

 

you need to be able to climb which takes power

 

then there is steady state fast, which is a speed you can hold for a long time, and then there's sprints

 

What nobody tells you as a beginner is that it is impossible to have all that maximized all at the same time. What's more, how much of any of those things you have will be a little different every day

 

When I was racing, I actually rode way fewer miles than I did as a recreational cyclist. That was one of the hardest things for me...what to do with the 3 hours a day I was usually on a bike. You see, if you ride those kinds of miles, you will not be as fast as you can be. So to get fast, I had to ride less, but ride with a lot more intensity

 

So how fast is fast?

 

if you want to know about bike racing, being able to ride at 25mph for 10 minutes will definitely help. If you can ride 30mph for 1 minute, you can make up for a lot. One time I was in a crit and my Garmin data had me riding at 30mph for 10 minutes. That was in the pack when the hammer came down, so that's not the same thing as riding 30mph alone, but damn. at the time I didn't know we were going that fast. I was under so much pressure that I couldn't read my computer.

 

so that's one yardstick for "fast" ...can you still read your bike computer? if so, you are not going fast yet

 

Another thing that people won't tell you is that speed hurts. How fast do you really want to go and for how long? When I was riding a time trial, a lot of times the world was reduced to about a one foot diameter circle in front of my wheel. I honestly could not see the shoulders of the road. The really good guys can ride until it all goes black. I'm not that good.

 

"recreational fast" is about 20mph. If you can ride at that speed for an extended time you will start to notice that not many folks come up from behind you. When somebody does ride up on you, ask them if they race. They probably do. that's when I started racing myself. I noticed that the only guys that I was riding with were local bike racers and they talked me into going to my first race

 

now so far we've talked about speed, but not sprinting. You see, you will be starting your sprint from from a high speed. So get yourself going 25-30mph, then stand up and hit it. You'll only have 100 to 200 yards of sprint and the faster you can turn your pedals the better. I could sprint to about 35mph, which really will just get you blown out in a crit, but its good to have a sprint of some kind. It can get you out of trouble in tight traffic situations, it can get you shed of some idiot out on the road, and it can get you back on your buddies wheel after you doped off and got dropped. But a sprint is a short, violent effort. A lot of it is the jump and the first few pedal strokes, so there's technique involved, but it comes down to how fast you can turn pedals

 

Anyway, fast is fast and riding fast hurts. It never gets easier, you only get faster

 

 

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well, people are curious, but also people think that speed is just one thing. It isn't. There's different kinds of speed and whether you have the real hops in your legs actually changes from day to day

 

which also means that if you blow by somebody on one day, it really doesn't mean anything.

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Tell 'em you own a touring bike -- like I do -- and that'll shut them the hell up.

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you know, dotman, this thread really isn't about what somebody else thinks or what you should tell somebody. Back in the spring, when cycling sites get new members and everybody is all up for starting training and all, I wrote this thread and a couple others for beginning rec riders.

 

People are always curious about how fast a "fast rider" is, and this is just sharing some of what I learned over years of riding.

 

I was also trying to help Wheels get some cycling content, so I wrote some threads

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Gotcha.  

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I once hit 39mph on a town line sprint on flat ground, no wind. Massive tunnel vision, saw stars. Not sure how I did it, couldn't repeat it. I got close a few times, at 37, even 38, but never quite got it up there on subsequent tries. I quite literally think that it hurt so much on that one effort, I simply mentally could not push myself to get that extra giddy up again. I seriously never really bothered much with sprinting in the ensuing years after I did that. Not sure why, guess no need to really. Other times I've done all out sprints were at steeper angles or on downhilly-ish roads, so probably don't much count. I'm proud of that effort, but again, it hurt like nothing else. And I don't think I was even in terrific shape at the time, but I was sprinting a lot.

 

Regarding 'recreational fast'....I've noted amongst my peers in the clubs and such, that speeds of 18 or 19mph were the common 'recreational' fast up until GPS devices and social media started making it known exactly how fast people were riding. It was rare for us to average much more than 19+ on group rides, regardless of how flat or far the route was. Now? Some of the group rides are so fast, even for me, I don't bother to show up, because I'll get dropped on our way to a 22mph average. This can be some 35miles over 2,500 ft of climbing, and still average that. It's not just racers, but a lot of club riders. Things have simply gotten faster. It's made it rather hard in the last year or two to 'be' in shape enough to do some of these rides. The time commitment has also stepped up along with that. Used to be, you could get away with maybe riding 3 or 4 days a week, now, you have to be riding pretty much 5 or 6 days out of the week. It's INSANE.

 

And I cannot begin to tell you how much the above sucks for me this summer. I've just not had the time to get in the miles. Despite a lot of these rides being 'no-drop', you still find yourself lagging far behind, really struggling to keep the pace, and so I've declined invites on numerous occasions.

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Fast changes with age. I’m a slow rider overall but when compared to other riders over 70 I’m near the top.  Some of the climb segments I do have no other riders in my age group.

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I have never really been 'fast' and never tried to be. However, I've lost quite a bit of speed over the past few years because of health conditions. I noticed late this year that I am picking up a couple of easy mph's.

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10 minutes ago, donkpow said:

I have never really been 'fast' and never tried to be. However, I've lost quite a bit of speed over the past few years because of health conditions. I noticed late this year that I am picking up a couple of easy mph's.

Same here!  In fact the absolute pinnacle of bicycling magazine for me was an article titled "Long Slow Distance".  When I rode more that was my favorite type of ride. Now it is short slow distance. 

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On 10/11/2019 at 7:55 PM, Longjohn said:

Fast changes with age. I’m a slow rider overall but when compared to other riders over 70 I’m near the top.  Some of the climb segments I do have no other riders in my age group.

I think a lot of what we know about "fast" changed with the advent of Garmins and things like Strava. 

Guys who hit " 39mph on a town line sprint on flat ground, no wind. Massive tunnel vision, saw stars. Not sure how I did it, couldn't repeat it. I got close a few times, at 37, even 38, but never quite got it up there on subsequent tries." now had the "evidence" to show they hit 39mph on a sprint.  I know churning a 53/11 at 100+ cadence is super tough. I'd say it is downright rare. For me, that's over 1100 watts, and also a sustainable 1100 watts to get me from my "cruising speed" of somewhere in the mid/lower 20's up to the ultimate speed of 39!  

Spend some time thinking about the metrics that get captured on a Garmin/Wahoo and shown on Strava, etc..  Does it really back up most folks' claims or is it that "fast" is now a bit more accurate???

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6 hours ago, Razors Edge said:

Does it really back up most folks' claims or is it that "fast" is now a bit more accurate???

"Fast" is still only relative across the board.

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15 hours ago, donkpow said:

"Fast" is still only relative across the board.

Always been true.

In racing, fast is irrelevant until it isn't.  Usually, in almost all races except a TT, almost everyone has the exact same average speed, and really only a tiny fraction of time separates the winner from 50th place. And then, different horses for different courses comes into play.  So, "fast" and "speed" are very situational, but my point remains that, in 2019, it is a lot more quantifiable and demonstrable than in the "old" days when you only had the official race times & speeds, and then every other cyclist just had their unofficial (often hyperbolic) numbers they liked to bandy about.

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35 minutes ago, Razors Edge said:

So, "fast" and "speed" are very situational, but my point remains that, in 2019, it is a lot more quantifiable and demonstrable ...

One aspect of it is, certainly. The definition being, "speed is the distance traveled per unit of time." That is as it has always been, and it is as it has always been with guys sitting around the campfire displaying their pride. You'd like some way to measure your performance when held against others. The only way to accomplish that accurately is head to head competition where both or all are performing under the same conditions.

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In my experience I’m still faster than s speeding old lady. One exception might be an Amish lady I rode with most of one day on GOBA. She realized it was getting late and she had to meet up with her adult daughter, so she said goodbye and she was gone.

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I'm still pretty fast for a purely recreational rider nowadays. I ride a typically hilly course usually above 18mph for the total so that's pretty good, although I used to be able to do the same at 20 when I was much lighter. 

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