Author Topic: Improving Biking Fitness  (Read 10119 times)

mlipps

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Improving Biking Fitness
« on: October 30, 2014, 10:54:57 AM »
I'm woefully out of shape. I've been searching online for a good biking regimen to get up to speed but they all seem to assume that you start with some base level of fitness that is much higher than mine, and also that you have a super fancy bike computer that will count your RPM's. I have neither. Today, I rode 6 miles with an average speed of...wait for it...9MPH. Woot woot! Yesterday I did 8 miles in about the same. It's skewed a little by some red lights & a bit of walking to cross a scary bridge, but I can definitely say I'm nowhere close to averaging 15 or 20 mph like normal people seem to be able to do.

My goal is to be able to ride 20-30 miles comfortably, and take even longer rides from time to time on the weekends. I have a nice shiny new road bike (don't punch me, I got it on clearance from Nashbar!!) that I need to get some use out of! I'd also like to lose some weight, as my weight has now crept back up to 180 lbs., at least 30 or 40 lbs more than it should be.

So, any advice? I want a PLAN. Ideally a spreadsheet with mileage & speed goals that I can check off every day! Appreciate any advice!

deciduous

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2014, 11:14:22 AM »
Way to go! Don't sweat what you're not, in terms of riding or fitness. Just embrace what you can do and keep going outside your comfort zone, little by little--but you know all this.

As far as tracking advice, you kind of suggested your own solution to the problem with a spreadsheet, right? Google spreadsheets are perfect for this. I've been tracking my running on one. If you'd like, I could try to duplicate it (and remove all the other people who are using it, etc.) and send you the URL in a private message. It's probably not exactly what you want, but it's a good start.

Cost: $0, which is my favorite cost. Perfect for starting out.

kendallf

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2014, 11:18:58 AM »
The good thing about starting from scratch is that improvement is really, really simple. 

Ride more.  Ride more frequently.  When you've reached the limit of what you feel you can carve out of your schedule in this regard and you've been riding the same amount of time regularly for a month or two, then you can focus on improving speed, intensity, etc.

You will improve quickly at first.  If you are an adult under, say, age 50 without significant physiological handicaps, if you ramp up to riding at least 3-4 times a week for at least 30 minutes, you will be riding ~15 mph average speed within a few months.  You can ramp up cycling duration more quickly than running, for example, because you're less likely to injure yourself.


TrMama

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2014, 11:28:48 AM »
Normal people do not ride at 15-20mph. I'm a decently fast commuter in my town and I average 20 km/hr (aka 12.4mph) on a fancy pants road bike.

The best way to build biking fitness is to bike. The best way to bike faster is to "spin to win". This means putting the bike in an easier gear and spinning your legs faster. Pro cyclists spin at 80-100 rpm, which feels really fast when you're not used to it. Spinning at a higher RPM allows you to bike further with less effort, in the long run you'll burn more calories this way. Mashing away on the pedals in a hard gear (most newbies do this) is an excellent way to wear your quads out really fast while travelling slowly.

Another way to increase speed is to increase your riding skills. This basically comes down to figuring out what gear to be in at each moment and learning where you can rest without losing speed. For example, when you're going down a steep hill you don't need to pedal and can rest your legs a bit for the next uphill. If there's a flat section before an uphill stretch, pedal like mad to hit that hill with as much speed as possible so you don't have to work so hard to get to the top. Also, hills are fantastic for building biking strength and fitness. Learn to love hills.

Check out MyFitnessPal for help with losing weight. Weight loss has more to do with diet than exercise and this is a free tool that's pretty helpful. Losing weight also makes you bike faster since you don't have to haul all that extra weight up each hill. Ever notice how most pro cyclists are super skinny?

frugaliknowit

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2014, 11:32:59 AM »
I would suggest not riding daily (yet) to allow your muscles recovery time.  I would ride approximately every other day, then ratchet up the distance approximately weekly.  Before you know it, you will be at your 20-30 miles. 

Once you are there, then you can speed train by alternating "sprints" with your normal speed (or even below normal).

Before you know it, you'll be riding your desired distance much faster.  You can also ride daily if you wish.

mlipps

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2014, 11:48:16 AM »
My rough idea right now is to do two days of medium distance rides (currently 6-8 miles), one day of rest with a long walk with my dogs (3-4 miles), then a long ride (10-12 miles, I hope!), another long walk, repeat. I only feel the biking muscles when i'm actually biking so I think taking some nice walks on my rest days will be a good way to keep exercising on those days.

No hills in Chicago, but I did read the bit about keeping RPM's up being more efficient for burning calories than riding in a tough gear, so I've been trying to keep that in mind as I ride. I guess I got the 15-20 mph from the recent MMM blog where he said he was going 25mph!! That made me feel really slow!

Sparafusile

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2014, 11:48:49 AM »
Just to reiterate what was said above, "normal" people do not bike at 15-20mph. I'm in fairly good shape and have been riding for several years and the fastest sustained speed I've achieve was about 16mph over 2 hours. Normally, on my commute to and from work (~16 miles) I'll try and average 14mph. But if I'm just not up to it or still tired from an earlier ride, I go whatever speed I'm comfortable with. I don't ride my bike to show off.

I've noticed that, while riding long distance certainly is a physical feat, it's more a mental exercise. I'm constantly surprised how far I can ride if I just let myself try. I have no doubt that you could hop on your bike some weekend with beautiful weather and ride 30 miles without much problem. You may only average 10mph, but who cares? And once you've done 30 miles you'll be able to do 50, then 75, then a century. The more rides you take, the faster you'll be able to go. The faster you can go, the further you can ride. The important thing is to do it.

GuitarStv

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #7 on: October 30, 2014, 11:52:54 AM »
If you want to get good at something, you need to do it regularly.

I'd set up a schedule for bike days . . . something like M-W-F-Sat.


For your first week:

- Monday would be a relaxed 6 miles (your regular distance).

- Wednesday would be go as fast as you can over the hilliest 6 miles you can find nearby.

- Friday would be a relaxed 6 miles.

- Saturday would be a 60% extra distance (10 miles), at whatever pace you can maintain comfortably.


Then next week you add 20 - 30% more to your regular distance (7 - 8 miles).




Measuring/comparing average speed on a bike is kinda futile.  Hills, wind, temperature, traffic, stop lights . . . they all drastically effect your average speed.  That said, I commuted the 11 miles back from my work to house yesterday in 40 minutes flat . . . with regular traffic and plenty of stop lights . . . so there are normal people who cycle quickly.
« Last Edit: October 30, 2014, 11:56:07 AM by GuitarStv »

TrMama

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2014, 12:01:35 PM »
No hills in Chicago, but I did read the bit about keeping RPM's up being more efficient for burning calories than riding in a tough gear, so I've been trying to keep that in mind as I ride. I guess I got the 15-20 mph from the recent MMM blog where he said he was going 25mph!! That made me feel really slow!

25mph is not sustainable by normal human beings. As with most things on the internet, take MMM's claim with a grain of salt. MMM was probably going downhill. I'm pretty sure he doesn't average that speed.

Chicago has wind though, right? Ride into the wind on the way out and let it push you back home. It's super fun to feel like you're sailing :-)

frompa

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #9 on: October 30, 2014, 12:04:00 PM »
I agree with all those above who say the best way to increase your riding fitness is to ride more.  There's no magic formula -- so much depends on your specific circumstances of starting level of fitness (I know plenty of overweight people who are awesomely fit on a bike, believe it or not), how hilly your area is, how much stuff you carry and how you carry it, your weather and how you respond to it, your fundamental tolerance for the discomfort of getting in shape, and how much pleasure you take in biking.  My own experience is that by mentally making my car off limits, I ride much more, and those tiny little three miles here, five miles there, ten miles here rides, really add up in terms of raising my base level of fitness, so that I can keep up with friends on long (50+ miles) rides when we have the time and opportunity.  If you are motivated by facts and figures, bike as much as you can and keep track of it after the fact, and see how your numbers increase.  I also think you should not give a fuck how fast you go.  It just doesn't matter.  In fact, trying to go too fast, especially in urban riding, invites trouble.  Go however fast you feel comfortable with and you will see that as your fitness level increases, so will your day to day ability to go faster.  Enjoy!

Tetsuya Hondo

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #10 on: October 30, 2014, 12:15:46 PM »
C'mon, plenty of people average 25 mph on a bike. Plenty of people on the pro tour. In a peloton. On EPO and horse steroids.

Averaging 15 mph somewhere where you have to stop for stoplights and cross scary bridges sounds like a great way to break your neck.

You're doing fine. Enjoy the ride.
« Last Edit: October 30, 2014, 12:21:44 PM by Tetsuya Hondo »

kendallf

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #11 on: October 30, 2014, 12:34:17 PM »
My rough idea right now is to do two days of medium distance rides (currently 6-8 miles), one day of rest with a long walk with my dogs (3-4 miles), then a long ride (10-12 miles, I hope!), another long walk, repeat. I only feel the biking muscles when i'm actually biking so I think taking some nice walks on my rest days will be a good way to keep exercising on those days.

No hills in Chicago, but I did read the bit about keeping RPM's up being more efficient for burning calories than riding in a tough gear, so I've been trying to keep that in mind as I ride. I guess I got the 15-20 mph from the recent MMM blog where he said he was going 25mph!! That made me feel really slow!

Just to reiterate what was said above, "normal" people do not bike at 15-20mph.

25mph is not sustainable by normal human beings.

Alternating ride and rest days is a fine idea, and yes, you can probably walk on your rest days without affecting your cycling. 

I mentioned being able to go 15 mph within a few months as a reassurance that it's very achievable and I stand by that assertion.  Averaging 15 mph over an urban route may be hard, as stops and slow-downs will affect you.  To Sparafusile and TrMama, if you will allow "normal" in this context to include adults who ride significant mileage and/or time each week and do so for years, 15 mph is very easily achievable.

Veering off topic: 25 mph solo on flat terrain for short distances is achievable by non-elite athletes.  I won't say "regular Joes" at this point.  Five minutes?  Fairly easy.  An hour?  Not so much.  :-)  A common time trial distance is 40k, and a benchmark many cyclists shoot for is to ride it in an hour (24.8 mph average).  This is an hour in the pain cave, in an aero position, with aero clothing and bike gear.  In my state perhaps 50 cyclists go under an hour in the State TT each year.

Drafting makes sustained high speeds easier.  Our Tuesday Night World Championships (said only half jokingly) regularly averages over 25 mph for an hour or so, including stops and turns.


ohyonghao

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #12 on: October 30, 2014, 12:37:33 PM »
I'll relate briefly my experience this year.

In December I moved to within 3-4 miles of work.  Having been wanting to do a more Mustachian commute but never mustering up the 30mi ride I would have had before moving, I made a decision that from January 1st I would ride my bike to work every day.

January:
Week 1: I started biking to work, 3.5mi through residential neighborhoods and a small hill.  Total elevation gain is around 100 ft for the entire ride.  I noticed that when I got to work, I was tired, exhausted, I had what I called "zombie leg syndrome", which essentially means I walked like a zombie because my legs were so tired.  To make matters worse I work on the 2nd floor and had also committed to never using the elevator.

Week 2: I do have a speedometer on my bike, so on the hill I would notice where my speed dropped.  I started setting goals and trying to beat that spot.  Monday went very well, but by Wednesday I was tired and stayed tired through Friday.  Weekends were a blessing that I could just stay home and not ride.

Week 3: Monday is great again, legs are still suffering "zombie leg syndrome", but I feel a bit better.  I am able to make it up further on the hill than I could last week before dropping below 10mph.

Week 4: Just keep at it, 3.5mi each way.  Still have "zombie leg syndrome" when I get to work, but it's less than before.

February:
Week 1: Thursday was an awesome ride to work, blue skies above me, a bit chilly outside.  Blizzard.  Well, a Pacific Northwest Blizzard, which may just be a couple inches of snow, but half the office went home early, and by 4pm I've had multiple offers to take me home.  I politely decline and spend my time googling how to ride in snow.  I make it home safely, it was exhilirating.  The next day I shamed myself and drove to work with the excuse that my wife wanted to go to Costco, so I drove her there first.

Week 2: Even with snow still on the ground it was easy enough to navigate and ride to work.  Feeling better, speed hasn't improved much due to snow, but that is gone by Wednesday.  I decided to stop timing myself on riding.

Week 3: Legs are a little tired getting to work, but I'm not quite as exhausted as before

Week 4: Monday is still my fastest day, but I begin to notice that it's not as hard as before.  I think I was pushing too hard when timing myself and trying to race against myself every single day.

March:
Weather has gotten slightly better, not as cold.  Riding more and decide I hate that small hill and am riding the car route home instead.
Ran a 5k.

April:
Going well, getting to work feels normal, no sign of exhaustion.  Takes about 15 minutes.

June:
Ran another 5k, still no exhaustion from riding to work.  Also biking to the grocery store, and the home improvement store.

Let's fast forward to September:
I found a cycling group.  That hill I complained about before, I rode up it on the way to the meetup, did 17mph the whole way.  Now I wonder why I thought it so hard.  I generally hit 15-16mph average commuting 3.1mi (the car route is 0.4mi shorter), sometimes cruising down straight stretches at 22mph, maxing around 26mph on the one slight downhill section.

I started with a 17mi ride with the group, completely exhausted afterwards, the next day riding to work was slow.  Went back the next week, did another 19mi route.  For September I averaged around 80mi a week.  I also got a friend started on cycling.

October:
Started going on as many rides as I could, eventually working up to doing 56mi in one day this month.  Averaged 120mi/week.

I started at 220lbs, and am now 196lbs, at 5'10".  Diet will get you further on weight loss, but I feel more fit now than ever before.  My resting pulse has dropped, my blood pressure is almost back down to normal.

MDM

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #13 on: October 30, 2014, 01:08:10 PM »
Normal people do not ride at 15-20mph. I'm a decently fast commuter in my town and I average 20 km/hr (aka 12.4mph) on a fancy pants road bike.

The best way to build biking fitness is to bike. The best way to bike faster is to "spin to win". This means putting the bike in an easier gear and spinning your legs faster. Pro cyclists spin at 80-100 rpm, which feels really fast when you're not used to it. Spinning at a higher RPM allows you to bike further with less effort, in the long run you'll burn more calories this way. Mashing away on the pedals in a hard gear (most newbies do this) is an excellent way to wear your quads out really fast while travelling slowly.

Another way to increase speed is to increase your riding skills. This basically comes down to figuring out what gear to be in at each moment and learning where you can rest without losing speed. For example, when you're going down a steep hill you don't need to pedal and can rest your legs a bit for the next uphill. If there's a flat section before an uphill stretch, pedal like mad to hit that hill with as much speed as possible so you don't have to work so hard to get to the top. Also, hills are fantastic for building biking strength and fitness. Learn to love hills.

Check out MyFitnessPal for help with losing weight. Weight loss has more to do with diet than exercise and this is a free tool that's pretty helpful. Losing weight also makes you bike faster since you don't have to haul all that extra weight up each hill. Ever notice how most pro cyclists are super skinny?

+1

One potential problem with pedaling faster (vs. harder) is keeping your feet on the pedals.  See http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/are-'clipless'-bike-pedals-worth-the-expense for much discussion.

My personal preference (YMMV) is to use toe clips: something similar to this.

Good luck!

skunkfunk

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #14 on: October 30, 2014, 02:04:40 PM »
I have been commuting to work by bicycle since March. My fastest was 14 mph average. I don't lift weights, but I'm in pretty good shape (5'10" 148#) and that was my fastest. Average is probably more like 11 mph, I'm slow and lazy on the way in to work. Also usually have 10 mph or so wind in the face and a slight upward elevation in the morning. I can barely average 25 mph in a car for that commute, I don't think any bicycle is going to pull it off.

I just checked against my first times when I started, and you're faster than I was when I started. Keep at it.

sheepstache

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #15 on: October 30, 2014, 02:29:47 PM »
+1 to TrMama's technique advice.

For reference, the cycling club in my city lists rides by average cruising speed, so that you end up in a group suitable for you, and the range is from 10-24 miles an hour. Above 20 is the elite group. They suggest testing yourself by doing laps on a popular recreational path in the area, so they're not talking about your average speed in traffic. Big difference. People you hear bragging about high mph might be talking about fitness biking rather than getting-somewhere biking.

I wouldn't worry about it. Put in time in the saddle and you'll improve.

(ps. I notice the cycling club has an excel mileage tracker if you're interested: http://www.pankin.com/miles.htm)

mlipps

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #16 on: October 30, 2014, 03:11:06 PM »
Normal people do not ride at 15-20mph. I'm a decently fast commuter in my town and I average 20 km/hr (aka 12.4mph) on a fancy pants road bike.

The best way to build biking fitness is to bike. The best way to bike faster is to "spin to win". This means putting the bike in an easier gear and spinning your legs faster. Pro cyclists spin at 80-100 rpm, which feels really fast when you're not used to it. Spinning at a higher RPM allows you to bike further with less effort, in the long run you'll burn more calories this way. Mashing away on the pedals in a hard gear (most newbies do this) is an excellent way to wear your quads out really fast while travelling slowly.

Another way to increase speed is to increase your riding skills. This basically comes down to figuring out what gear to be in at each moment and learning where you can rest without losing speed. For example, when you're going down a steep hill you don't need to pedal and can rest your legs a bit for the next uphill. If there's a flat section before an uphill stretch, pedal like mad to hit that hill with as much speed as possible so you don't have to work so hard to get to the top. Also, hills are fantastic for building biking strength and fitness. Learn to love hills.

Check out MyFitnessPal for help with losing weight. Weight loss has more to do with diet than exercise and this is a free tool that's pretty helpful. Losing weight also makes you bike faster since you don't have to haul all that extra weight up each hill. Ever notice how most pro cyclists are super skinny?

+1

One potential problem with pedaling faster (vs. harder) is keeping your feet on the pedals.  See http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/are-'clipless'-bike-pedals-worth-the-expense for much discussion.

My personal preference (YMMV) is to use toe clips: something similar to this.

Good luck!

Oh jeez. Not to add to that argument, but my bike came with toe clips. I can't really tell any difference from regular pedals, but since they're there I'm learning to work with them. But I'm wearing Puma sneakers to ride that I've had since college instead of proper cycling shoes!

fireferrets

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #17 on: October 30, 2014, 07:28:05 PM »
Don't apologize for buying yourself a nice bike! If that's all the motivation you need to get on the saddle then it was a worthwhile investment in my book! That's what it took for me to get into biking - I bought my roommate's bike, it was just sitting on the porch gathering dust.

I have had the same biking-fitness-curve that you've been experiencing. At first, I would huff and puff to get to and fro the library (<1 mile from home -,-). Now I can ride for 1/2 hour with no trouble!! I still have a long way to go, fitness-wise, for my own goals. On top of that, I live in a 3rd floor apartment - so I have to carry my 40lb bike up and down two flights whenever I ride anywhere. At first, it was a horrible climb with leg and arm pain for a day afterwards. Now I can carry that bike with no trouble.

GuitarStv

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #18 on: October 31, 2014, 06:02:04 AM »
One potential problem with pedaling faster (vs. harder) is keeping your feet on the pedals.  See http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/are-'clipless'-bike-pedals-worth-the-expense for much discussion.

My personal preference (YMMV) is to use toe clips: something similar to this.

Good luck!

Most bikes come with really slippery plastic platform pedals.  If you stick a proper set of studded pedals your feet will not slip off on hills, bumps, or in rain/snow.  The studs are awesome.


poorboyrichman

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #19 on: October 31, 2014, 06:34:27 AM »
Just ride and you will see improvements naturally over time, if your weight is holding you back you need to cut back on the junk food and alcohol!

If you are not a pro athlete, you don't need to invest in heart rate monitors and power meters, bog standard interval training should be perfectly adequate. If you have a smartphone you might consider a couch 2 5/10k app, they are typically designed for runners but are great for interval training and the principle for high intensity interval training (HIIT) remains. Alternatively you could do this easily with any sports watch/cycle computer with interval timers.

Go at steady pace where you still feel able to have a conversation, then brief periods of sprinting. You would alternate between the states with time to recover before sprinting, at the beginning of a course you would expect to do 5 minutes at an steady pace and 30 seconds of sprinting, and as you progress you would drop the time in steady pace and increase the duration of sprinting pace. You will notice your recovery and stamina improve markedly during a 12 week course but it takes some serious motivation to stick to it.

I went from 14 stone to 12 doing the C210K programme. :)

All being said, I did recently splash out on a GPS cycling computer and I love it! Reviewing data on Garmin Connect is cool and helps with my motivation, yes its a facepunchy worthy consumer product and in no way essential, but its a tool that keeps me out of the car on on the bike every day and its super cool to see my fitness improve even 6 months on :)
« Last Edit: October 31, 2014, 06:36:48 AM by poorboyrichman »

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #20 on: October 31, 2014, 06:50:01 AM »
Pretend your car is broken and ride everywhere. The speed improvement will happen naturally. Unless you're race training you don't need a formal program. And even the formal training programs are pretty arbitrary, IMO.

I started out 6' and 240. The 20 mile RT commute to work made me feel like I was going to die. I've been doing it a year now, but as little as 5 months in I was down to 215 and actively looking forward to the ride because it ENERGIZED me.

FWIW, while I've given up on my Bike 365 days in a row challenge, that's when I really started to see improvement. I made it about 200 days in a row on my first attempt.

These days, I spend most of my time cruising below 10mph with my kids, but my typical average speed including traffic is 14-15mph.

FarmerPete

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #21 on: October 31, 2014, 06:56:32 AM »
I've been trying to bike more.  My bike has been sitting in the garage since basically I turned 16 (16-17 years ago!).  I pulled it out this last spring and got it tuned up and ready for action.  I've been riding more and more.  I work 15 miles away, so any chance I have to get to work will need a bit more endurance than I currently have.  I've been thinking about putting a cheap indoor trainer http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0094KIVQW/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=3EBZ2QGP35N3J&coliid=I2OZN407OE2MF6 on my wishlist for the holiday season.  Anyone recommend them?  I do live in Michigan, so going outside biking in winter is a bit more of an issue than other parts of the country.  My bike is a MTB with "Continental Travel Contact DuraSkin" tires, which are pretty much commuter tires.  Not much tread.

I didn't want to spend money on a bike computer, because the good ones are expensive, and I hate to leave a $50-100 device attached to my bike when it's locked in a public place.  Instead, I bought a $10 bag that has a place for a cell phone to go in.  I can use mapmyride or whatever other bike app you want to use and get MPH and GPS info that way.  It doesn't give me RPMs or heart rate levels, but it could with the correct sensors.  It also has enough room for my wallet and keys so that I don't need another bag for a leisure ride.  And it comes off with three quick velcro straps.  It does come from China, so be patient with the delivery.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00KTTR6RC/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

GuitarStv

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #22 on: October 31, 2014, 06:57:05 AM »
First come the miles.  Then comes the speed.  Then come the women (who you will ignore because riding is more important by this point).

mlipps

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #23 on: October 31, 2014, 09:13:34 AM »
Thanks to all for the advice & encouragement. I love this forum!

Special shoutout to ohyonghao for the super helpful month by month breakdown, it's really encouraging!

First come the miles.  Then comes the speed.  Then come the women (who you will ignore because riding is more important by this point).

Ha. I'm married and a woman so the ladies are not a primary goal for me. But I will keep an eye out for that effect in a few months.

I've been trying to bike more.  My bike has been sitting in the garage since basically I turned 16 (16-17 years ago!).  I pulled it out this last spring and got it tuned up and ready for action.  I've been riding more and more.  I work 15 miles away, so any chance I have to get to work will need a bit more endurance than I currently have.  I've been thinking about putting a cheap indoor trainer http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0094KIVQW/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=3EBZ2QGP35N3J&coliid=I2OZN407OE2MF6 on my wishlist for the holiday season.  Anyone recommend them?  I do live in Michigan, so going outside biking in winter is a bit more of an issue than other parts of the country.  My bike is a MTB with "Continental Travel Contact DuraSkin" tires, which are pretty much commuter tires.  Not much tread.

I didn't want to spend money on a bike computer, because the good ones are expensive, and I hate to leave a $50-100 device attached to my bike when it's locked in a public place.  Instead, I bought a $10 bag that has a place for a cell phone to go in.  I can use mapmyride or whatever other bike app you want to use and get MPH and GPS info that way.  It doesn't give me RPMs or heart rate levels, but it could with the correct sensors.  It also has enough room for my wallet and keys so that I don't need another bag for a leisure ride.  And it comes off with three quick velcro straps.  It does come from China, so be patient with the delivery.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00KTTR6RC/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I do this the cheap way and just tie a small reusable grocery bag to my handlebars. I think I'd just be distracted if I could see the app while I'm riding, plus it uses enough of my battery without the screen being on the whole time. But yes, I'm using Map My Ride currently on my phone. Free apps for the win. It's nice to be able to auto-magically track everything.

megaschnauzer

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #24 on: October 31, 2014, 12:10:09 PM »
it's good to have a goal to shoot for. maybe a charity ride several months away or some destination outside you current comfort range. maybe there's a restaurant across town that you want to hit. pick a nice saturday and cruise over and have a nice meal then cruise back. see the sights. it's also not necessary to pay attention to distance ridden but time ridden. shoot for an hour ride regardless of speed. the goal is to keep moving for an hour. then work up to an hour and a half. i used to carry 2 water bottles when i first started riding. i would ride until i finished the first bottle then turn around on the second bottle. i usually had to stop at the convenience store on the way home but it was a reward along with necessary re-hydration. enjoy yourself.

poorboyrichman

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #25 on: October 31, 2014, 12:55:19 PM »
... I hate to leave a $50-100 device attached to my bike when it's locked in a public place. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00KTTR6RC/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I have yet to find a cycle computer that isn't detachable, much like 99% of cycle lights.

Raay

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #26 on: October 31, 2014, 01:07:14 PM »
Speaking from experience, just biking more is inefficient.

Instead, do this set of exercises for 10 minutes every day:

http://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/Fulltext/2013/05000/HIGH_INTENSITY_CIRCUIT_TRAINING_USING_BODY_WEIGHT_.5.aspx

In the beginning the exercises should feel like torture (if only a short one). After some time (2-3 months?) they will feel like a piece of cake. Your overall condition and endurance will improve significantly. You will very much notice it when biking/swimming/running etc.

Raay

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #27 on: October 31, 2014, 01:39:07 PM »
Generally, it is foolish to think that you get better at X simply by repeating X. Persistence is only one piece of the puzzle, and usually not the most important one. (In particular, you will get nowhere if you repeat the same set of mistakes endlessly; a wall is not brought down by striking your head repeatedly against it.)

The key is always deliberate practice, which means analyzing and understanding the causal factors first. Figure out why one person is better at some activity than another, what are the differences and missing prerequisites? Then you shoot for directly establishing those missing prerequisites and eliminating the unwanted differences. They may in fact lie surprisingly far apart from the activity in question. In case of biking: better aerobic performance -> better biking experience. So the key is to use high-intensity exercises that improve aerobic performance. Maybe add some leg muscle exercises for strength as well.

While there is certainly a feedback loop, your muscle strength and aerobic performance are not great because you bike a lot. (Proof: plenty of non-bikers with toned muscles and aerobic performance.) The opposite direction of causality appears stronger: you will be able to bike a lot and effortlessly when your specific muscle groups are trained and your aerobic performance is up to par. OTOH, if they are not so good to start with, chances are that you will find biking just bothersome and give up disappointed.

GuitarStv

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #28 on: October 31, 2014, 01:43:05 PM »
Speaking from experience, just biking more is inefficient.

Instead, do this set of exercises for 10 minutes every day:

http://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/Fulltext/2013/05000/HIGH_INTENSITY_CIRCUIT_TRAINING_USING_BODY_WEIGHT_.5.aspx

In the beginning the exercises should feel like torture (if only a short one). After some time (2-3 months?) they will feel like a piece of cake. Your overall condition and endurance will improve significantly. You will very much notice it when biking/swimming/running etc.

Cycling is part strength/endurance but also a significant part technique (gearing, braking, cornering, developing and maintaining good cadence, knowing how to approach climbs, etc).

What you're suggesting eliminates the whole technique half of the equation right off the bat.  It also doesn't target the muscles used to cycle. . . the article you linked indicates that it's used to "promote strength development for all major muscle groups of the body".  This is a worthy goal, but by definition it will be generalist and thus less efficient for someone only interested in a single activity.  The pectorals for example, are a major muscle group in the body, but developing them serves no purpose if the goal is cycling.

Biking more is quite an efficient way to improve at cycling because it strengthens all the muscles that you use while performing the activity and develops the technique needed simultaneously.  Don't get me wrong, I like HIIT stuff and think GPP is important for most people . . . but your recommendation doesn't make sense in reference to the originally posted question.

Particularly for someone getting into exercise, they will improve across the board doing just about anything.  The key it to get them interested in something enough that they stick to it.  That's why if someone wants to cycle it's silly to tell them to do something else.
« Last Edit: October 31, 2014, 01:44:37 PM by GuitarStv »

Sid Hoffman

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #29 on: October 31, 2014, 05:21:40 PM »
Years ago I got a copy of The Complete Book of Long Distance Cycling because I had this crazy notion I was going to get in awesome shape and start riding centuries.  You know, 100+ mile bike rides.  Well all these years later I've still never done a bike ride that requires registration and the absolute longest ride I've done is only 50 miles.  Still, that book is fantastic for learning how to get in great shape quickly.

As was pointed out, it is not just a matter of ride hard every day, 6 days a week.  A big part of it is giving your body time to recover and also making sure you have some sprints, some hill climbs, and now & then, just a really long ride.  I can't sum up a whole book in a post on the internet though.  I would suggest investing in the book or seeing if your local library has it.  It's a cheap book and thankfully the human body doesn't change every couple years the way tech gadgets do.  The basic principles of athletic training are still about the same today as they were in 2000 when it was written.

dios.del.sol

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #30 on: October 31, 2014, 05:43:40 PM »
Presuming you don't want to race or otherwise be a bike specialist, just ride. Throw away anything that tells you distance and speed. Goblin Chief got it right. Pretend your car is broken. Go somewhere fun on your bike.  If your body starts feeling bad pain, then ride less. When it gets better, ride more. Keep it fun and enjoyable. In addition to riding, do some varied high intensity interval training to improve your overall fitness and avoid repetitive stresses.

Now, if you really do want to start being a "cyclist" as opposed to a person who is fit enough to ride a bike for a while... well forget everything I told you and get into the exercise programs others have suggested.

NoraLenderbee

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #31 on: October 31, 2014, 08:22:40 PM »
In the words of Eddy Merckx, the greatest professional cyclist, they way to get into shape is: "Ride lots."

Quote
do this set of exercises for 10 minutes every day:

http://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/Fulltext/2013/05000/HIGH_INTENSITY_CIRCUIT_TRAINING_USING_BODY_WEIGHT_.5.aspx

In the beginning the exercises should feel like torture (if only a short one).

Or you could just ride more, and enjoy yourself while getting fit "inefficiently".

mlipps

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #32 on: October 31, 2014, 08:32:36 PM »
Speaking from experience, just biking more is inefficient.

Instead, do this set of exercises for 10 minutes every day:

http://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/Fulltext/2013/05000/HIGH_INTENSITY_CIRCUIT_TRAINING_USING_BODY_WEIGHT_.5.aspx

In the beginning the exercises should feel like torture (if only a short one). After some time (2-3 months?) they will feel like a piece of cake. Your overall condition and endurance will improve significantly. You will very much notice it when biking/swimming/running etc.

Cycling is part strength/endurance but also a significant part technique (gearing, braking, cornering, developing and maintaining good cadence, knowing how to approach climbs, etc).

What you're suggesting eliminates the whole technique half of the equation right off the bat.  It also doesn't target the muscles used to cycle. . . the article you linked indicates that it's used to "promote strength development for all major muscle groups of the body".  This is a worthy goal, but by definition it will be generalist and thus less efficient for someone only interested in a single activity.  The pectorals for example, are a major muscle group in the body, but developing them serves no purpose if the goal is cycling.

Biking more is quite an efficient way to improve at cycling because it strengthens all the muscles that you use while performing the activity and develops the technique needed simultaneously.  Don't get me wrong, I like HIIT stuff and think GPP is important for most people . . . but your recommendation doesn't make sense in reference to the originally posted question.

Particularly for someone getting into exercise, they will improve across the board doing just about anything.  The key it to get them interested in something enough that they stick to it.  That's why if someone wants to cycle it's silly to tell them to do something else.

Raay, I appreciate you taking the time to give such detailed advice. However, for a person like me who has a very poor level of fitness to begin with & has never been athletic or good at sticking with working out, that kind of advice seems complicated & makes me want to not even bother. It just feels overwhelming to think that in order to bike I need to do strength training. Hmm, what do I need to eat to do strength training? I don't have any equipment for strength training! Etc. etc. etc. Just something to think about for the future.

But, I will keep riding! Assuming the horrible weather clears up, long ride tomorrow!!!

ohyonghao

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #33 on: November 01, 2014, 03:24:15 AM »
Speaking from experience, just biking more is inefficient.

Instead, do this set of exercises for 10 minutes every day:

http://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/Fulltext/2013/05000/HIGH_INTENSITY_CIRCUIT_TRAINING_USING_BODY_WEIGHT_.5.aspx

In the beginning the exercises should feel like torture (if only a short one). After some time (2-3 months?) they will feel like a piece of cake. Your overall condition and endurance will improve significantly. You will very much notice it when biking/swimming/running etc.

Cycling is part strength/endurance but also a significant part technique (gearing, braking, cornering, developing and maintaining good cadence, knowing how to approach climbs, etc).

What you're suggesting eliminates the whole technique half of the equation right off the bat.  It also doesn't target the muscles used to cycle. . . the article you linked indicates that it's used to "promote strength development for all major muscle groups of the body".  This is a worthy goal, but by definition it will be generalist and thus less efficient for someone only interested in a single activity.  The pectorals for example, are a major muscle group in the body, but developing them serves no purpose if the goal is cycling.

Biking more is quite an efficient way to improve at cycling because it strengthens all the muscles that you use while performing the activity and develops the technique needed simultaneously.  Don't get me wrong, I like HIIT stuff and think GPP is important for most people . . . but your recommendation doesn't make sense in reference to the originally posted question.

Particularly for someone getting into exercise, they will improve across the board doing just about anything.  The key it to get them interested in something enough that they stick to it.  That's why if someone wants to cycle it's silly to tell them to do something else.

Raay, I appreciate you taking the time to give such detailed advice. However, for a person like me who has a very poor level of fitness to begin with & has never been athletic or good at sticking with working out, that kind of advice seems complicated & makes me want to not even bother. It just feels overwhelming to think that in order to bike I need to do strength training. Hmm, what do I need to eat to do strength training? I don't have any equipment for strength training! Etc. etc. etc. Just something to think about for the future.

But, I will keep riding! Assuming the horrible weather clears up, long ride tomorrow!!!
Cross training is a nice way to get some improvement especially if you have hit a plateau.  A couple things my friends and I do is running and hiking.  They help build different muscles, but in the same general area so they compliment each other and can help with endurance and fatigue.  But as others have pointed out unless you are training for something, or already enjoy these other activities, just stick with riding.

As my post up above hopefully showed it took me 2-3 months to get through the beginner stage, and what I've found now is that a great way to improve is to ride with a group better than myself (but tolerant of different skill levels).  Luckily I found a cycling group who cruise at 19+mph, and get overall averages of 17-18mph.  I've gone from 13mph, giving the group plenty of rest as I tried to catch up at stop points, to 15.8mph average in the last month or two because I started riding with them and trying to keep up.  Also I got to see their technique, chat with them about ways to improve, and learn more of what to look for in a road bike when I decide to get one.

Lowerbills

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #34 on: November 01, 2014, 06:39:33 AM »
Congrats for getting on the bike!  Might seem basic, but have you been fitted  for your bike?  It's common for folks to ride around with seat post too low for example and don't get full leg extension.

You can read about aerobic vs. anaerobic training etc.... I echo what others have said about lower gears and higher spin rate.  You're body's aerobic system is going to learn how to become more efficient over time with increased riding. If and when you want, go hit some hills for some interval training!

But mostly just enjoy riding your bike and getting comfortable and gaining confidence.  Do you have a friend you can ride with?  Riding with faster better riders is always helpful, you'll learn a ton and push yourself.

Finally, you mentioned tracking results.. There are some free apps out there, and one that a lot of cyclists use (strava) that log your ride.  Distance, elevation gain, avg speed, calories burned etc..  I'd say it's similar to how tracking your expenses can motivate you to decrease them further.  Riding while logging can motivate you to ride a little harder, longer, or get out and ride even if you're feeling a little mopey.

But careful not to get bogged down in the training and tracking. Get that blood moving and have fun on the bike.  It shouldn't be torture or something you dread. 

Raay

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Re: Improving Biking Fitness
« Reply #35 on: November 15, 2014, 02:22:00 PM »
Speaking from experience, just biking more is inefficient.

Instead, do this set of exercises for 10 minutes every day:

http://journals.lww.com/acsm-healthfitness/Fulltext/2013/05000/HIGH_INTENSITY_CIRCUIT_TRAINING_USING_BODY_WEIGHT_.5.aspx

In the beginning the exercises should feel like torture (if only a short one). After some time (2-3 months?) they will feel like a piece of cake. Your overall condition and endurance will improve significantly. You will very much notice it when biking/swimming/running etc.

Cycling is part strength/endurance but also a significant part technique (gearing, braking, cornering, developing and maintaining good cadence, knowing how to approach climbs, etc).

What you're suggesting eliminates the whole technique half of the equation right off the bat.  It also doesn't target the muscles used to cycle. . . the article you linked indicates that it's used to "promote strength development for all major muscle groups of the body".  This is a worthy goal, but by definition it will be generalist and thus less efficient for someone only interested in a single activity.  The pectorals for example, are a major muscle group in the body, but developing them serves no purpose if the goal is cycling.

Biking more is quite an efficient way to improve at cycling because it strengthens all the muscles that you use while performing the activity and develops the technique needed simultaneously.  Don't get me wrong, I like HIIT stuff and think GPP is important for most people . . . but your recommendation doesn't make sense in reference to the originally posted question.

Particularly for someone getting into exercise, they will improve across the board doing just about anything.  The key it to get them interested in something enough that they stick to it.  That's why if someone wants to cycle it's silly to tell them to do something else.

That could very well be, especially judging by the OP's confused response!

My own experience is that I sort of plateaued just city biking. I suspect it's because it doesn't put enough cardio strain on me given the short distances. But when I took up HICT there was a very noticeable jump in performance in the two other sports (biking and swimming) - it actually made them more of a pleasure! So it was in fact a kind of "wonder pill" for me - and a counter-intuitive one at that. I wish someone would have told me earlier.

You're probably right about training of unnecessary muscles, but HICT apparently also improves one very "special" thing which plays a role in both biking and swimming - the aerobic performance.

To the OP: you don't need any equipment for the exercises I linked - they can be even done in a hotel room when traveling! In fact I quite dislike the hassle, expense and time waste of the "accessorized gym fitness" myself, so I prefer calisthenics. But the exercises are strenuous, so if you're overall just starting with fitness, maybe you should in fact take it easy...