Once they get the basics down, most cyclists start focusing on how to improve their overall speed. Speed is often the main goal of many cyclists because it's a great way to gauge your fitness and see improvements over time.
Whether you're just trying to keep up with your friends on a group ride or you're training for a race, this article is for you. I’m sharing 15 tips that can help you make small improvements that will add up to big results.
1.) Put more miles in on the bike
This first tip for improving your speed is probably pretty obvious, but it's worth saying right off the bat. You can't get faster if you don't put in the miles on your bike.
The more you ride, the more experience you'll have. This will lead to better pedaling technique, improved fitness, and just overall more cycling knowledge.
All things that will translate into more speed on the bike. So before you try anything else on this list, make sure you're putting in enough hours on the bike to really see results.
2.) Ride with others
A good tip to improve your speed is to start riding with others. Riding with others can help in a couple of ways.
First, there is something to be said about friendly competition. Whether you're unwilling to be left behind or you want to be the one to set the pace, most of us push ourselves harder when training with others.
When there is someone to actually see how long you're resting at the top of that hill, or how fast you're going on that flat section of road, it can be a great motivator to ride just a little bit harder.
Secondly, you can learn a lot from riding with more experienced or faster cyclists. They might have some great pointers on how to improve your speed or they might be able to help you work on other areas of your cycling.
Either way, it's always beneficial to ride with others when trying to improve your speed.
3.) Improve your pedaling technique
Another good tip for improving your cycling speed is to work on your pedaling technique. The goal when pedaling is to get as much force and power out of the motion for the least amount of effort. You want to make sure you're pedaling efficiently.
If you're not pedaling efficiently, you're wasting valuable energy and not going as fast as you could be.
When pedaling, make sure to apply power consistently through the whole pedaling motion, have a loose ankle, ride at a cadence between 70-90 rpm, and stabilize your upper body.
4.) Become more aerodynamic
An easy tip for improving your speed on a road bike is to make yourself as aerodynamic as possible. The less wind resistance you create while cycling, the faster you'll go.
Here are a few quick tips to make yourself more aerodynamic:
- Wear close-fitting clothing
- Ride in the drops
- Buy an aerodynamic bike
- Bend and tuck your elbows close to your body
5.) Get in the right gear
Another way to improve your average cycling speed is to make sure that you're using the right gear. The goal is to find the gear that lets you pedal at a high cadence while still being able to maintain a good level of power.
If you're pedaling too slowly, you won't be able to generate enough power to go fast. But if you're pedaling too quickly, you'll start to feel like you're running out of steam. It's all about finding that happy medium.
A good target to start with is 90 rpm. Pick a gear that allows you to maintain that cadence. The best way to find the right gear is to experiment while you're riding.
Try different gears and see how they feel. You'll quickly start to get a feel for which gear is best for different situations.
6.) Track your rides
Another great way to work on your average speed is by tracking your rides. You can use an app like Strava or Zwift.
Tracking your rides will give you valuable data that you can use to see where you're improving and what you need to work on. You can start to see patterns and make adjustments to your training accordingly.
It also serves as a great way to motivate yourself to ride faster. It's similar to the way group rides will motivate you to push a little harder to keep up with the group.
Tracking your rides and comparing them to your normal speed will make sure you're always trying to improve.
7.) Train intervals
The next tip I recommend for improving your speed is to make sure you're training plenty of intervals. Intervals are one of the best ways to improve your overall fitness. Which, of course, translates to more speed on the bike.
Intervals are short bursts of high-intensity efforts followed by a period of recovery. The goal is to ride as fast and hard as you can for the given interval and then continue riding at a slower pace as you recover.
Be sure to include regular intervals in the sweet spot, 90% of your FTP, and some hills. Both will help to improve your fitness, power, and speed.
8.) Don't skimp on the nutrition
Another tip for improving your speed that seems obvious but most cyclists overlook is nutrition. Make sure you are properly fueling yourself for your rides.
Cycling is a physically demanding sport. If you aren't getting enough food in before and during your rides, your muscles won't have enough energy to keep you going.
You'll struggle to train hard enough to see results and you'll leave yourself more susceptible to overtraining and injury.
Make sure to eat enough protein and complex carbohydrates to fuel your rides. For rides longer than two hours, you'll also need to start thinking about eating something during the ride to keep your energy levels up.
And don't forget to stay hydrated!
9.) Maintain your bike
Another good tip for getting faster while cycling is to maintain your bike. A well-tuned bike will perform better and be more aerodynamic than a bike that is in disrepair.
It's important to regularly clean and lube your chain, adjust your gears, and inflate your tires to the proper pressure. These small things can make a big difference in your speed.
Quality gear that's well-maintained will make you more comfortable and help you go faster.
10.) Focus on your pacing
Another good tip for improving your speed on a road bike is to pay attention to your pacing. This is one of those things that you'll improve with more miles on the bike as I mentioned in tip #1.
Different areas of your bike route require different levels of effort and different pacing. You’ll typically go faster on the flats and downhills and slower on the uphills.
If you find yourself going too hard when you should be going easy or vice versa, you'll find yourself getting worn out too quickly and struggling at the end of your ride. Overall, it will hurt your average speed.
This is where having a heart rate monitor or power meter can come in handy. These devices will help you to see if you're pushing too hard or not hard enough.
If you don't have a heart rate monitor or power meter, that's okay. Just pay attention to how you're feeling and try to maintain an even effort throughout your ride.
11.) Strength training
One of the keys to riding faster is creating more power as you pedal. If you're pedaling efficiently, as we talked about in tip #3, the more power you can produce, the faster you're going to go.
And making sure to cross-train with strength training and lifting is one of the best ways to create more power while cycling.
It's important to make sure you're training your entire body to help prevent muscle imbalances and injuries, but also be sure to focus on exercises that target the muscles you use most while cycling like your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core.
Stronger muscles will help you to pedal more powerfully and produce more speed.
12.) Manage your weight
Another way to help boost your speed while cycling is to make sure you're managing your weight. When you weigh less, you have less weight to move around, which makes it easier to pedal and generates less drag.
This doesn't mean you need to be as light as possible. You still want to make sure you're eating enough to fuel your rides and support your training.
You also don't want to skip out on strength training or building muscle because you might end up sacrificing power for a little bit of weight. But if you're carrying around a few extra pounds that you don't need, trimming those down can help give you a little speed boost.
13.) Vary your rides
When it comes to training, another good tip for improving your speed on a road bike is to vary your rides.
Doing the same thing over and over again will only get you so far. Your body will get used to doing the same thing and you'll end up in maintenance mode.
You need to mix things up to see continued improvement.
Try incorporating different types of rides into your training like tempo rides, interval workouts, hill repeats, and long endurance rides. You can also vary the routes.
These different types of workouts will help you to become a faster and more well-rounded cyclist.
14.) Brake less
As you become a more experienced rider, (see why tip #1 was so important??) another area to work on is braking less while riding.
This will help you to maintain your speed and momentum. It takes more energy to stop and start again than it does to just keep pedaling.
It can be tough to stop the habit of braking all the time, but try to only brake when you absolutely need to. Look ahead on the road and try to anticipate when you'll need to slow down or stop.
This will take some practice, but the more you can do it, the less energy you'll waste, and the faster you'll be able to ride.
15.) Pay attention to the wind
The last tip for improving your speed on a road bike is to pay attention to what direction the wind is blowing on your ride.
If you're riding into the wind, it's going to be tougher to pedal and you'll have to work harder. If the wind is at your back, it will give you a little boost.
You can take advantage of this by planning your route accordingly. If there's a section where you know you'll be riding into the wind, try to plan that for earlier in the ride when you're still fresh.
Then you can ride home in a tailwind when you're tired and could use the extra help.
Conclusion to 15 Tips to Improve Your Speed on a Road Bike
By following these tips, you can start to see improvements in your speed on a road bike. Remember to focus on pedaling efficiency, building power and strength, training intervals, and staying fueled up.
That plus taking care of your bike should have you seeing some pretty good results in no time. Just be patient and keep at it and soon you'll be flying down the road.
Do you have any other tips for improving your speed on a road bike? Share them with us in the comments below!