5 Shortcuts to Increase Your Cycling Speed

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Here five easy upgrades that will help any amateur rider shave time off their rides from Olympic road and track rider Ed Clancy

1. Make big efforts at the right time

During weekend sportives or time trials the smartest cyclists know exactly when to dig deep and when to save energy. Some riders consider any random bursts of effort to be heroic acts of bravery worthy of a slow-motion movie montage. But Clancy believes it is much more efficient to calculate the timing of your efforts with the cold precision of a lab scientist.

“Imagine a neat 10-mile time trial course with some flat sections and a perfect hill with the same length of uphill and downhill,” explains Clancy.

“If you maintain a power output of 400 watts every minute for the duration of that course you will finish in a good time. But if you instead apply bursts of power in exactly the right places, it is possible to average the same overall power output – or even a smaller power output – and finish the course in a quicker time.

“Why? Because wind resistance is proportional to speed squared. In other words, as your speed increases, the wind resistance grows (exponentially). It is therefore much better to invest more energy in slower or harder sections than when you are already going fast.”

So in what kind of terrain or situation should you hit full gas, and when should you hold back?

“The basic science suggests that you are best to work hard when you are battling up hills or facing into a headwind (if you’re alone and can’t work in a group), than when you are speeding along an easy flat section or a downhill part.

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