The Pro Techniques for Riding Faster on the Flat
No matter your level in cycling, it is fair to say you want to be able to ride faster. How fast you cycle, together with how far you can ride is how most of us chart progress. By using certain training techniques and equipment, you’ll become stronger and subsequently a faster rider on the flat. Let’s explore in more depth.
There is a world of difference between a pro-level bike and your average road bike aimed at the beginner market. The pro bike is built for the highest level of competition. Rider position is designed for speed rather than comfort. The pros spend hours in positions which demand a high level of condition to maintain.
Your average road bike is designed to give a less harsh, more comfortable ride.
If you do one thing to your bike to improve speed, invest in good quality wheels. The better quality ones have faster hubs, are lighter, and are more aerodynamic. It will feel like a different bike with better quality wheels.
Classic Rider vs. Climber
Pro riders give us clues to who is an excellent climber and who is excellent on the flat. The stronger, bulkier riders, are more suited to flat roads. Here, there power and endurance come into play to propel them along the road at speed. It is their physical presence and strength that sees this rider do well on the cobbles of Paris Roubaix.
Climbers, on the other hand, are lighter than their bulkier counterparts. They are able to put out the same power, and their lighter weight allows them to ascend faster. Here, kilos count. The fewer this rider has, the faster he or she will climb.
Training for Speed
Endurance and power are needed to perform well on flat roads. As such, consider these two cycling techniques to help you build your speed on the flat. They are:
- Lactic Threshold Riding – Here, you’ll ride at the fastest speed you can for 60 minutes. For professional riders, this is just under the red zone of their maximum heart rate.
- High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) – This training technique will increase your lung capacity which is needed for both flat riding and climbing. We have a whole post dedicated to HIIT training and is well worth a read if you want to ride at speed.
If you carry out HIIT on a turbo trainer use the correct resistance to emulate flat road riding.
In essence, if you spend most of your training, climbing, the pedalling technique will be geared towards climbs and not flat riding and vice versa. See our article on pedalling and cadence for valuable information on the subject.
To maintain speed you need to be as still as possible on the saddle, maintaining a fixed position, turning the pedals. It is important to ride in a gear that allows you to accelerate while maintaining a steady cadence. Too high and you’ll struggle, too low and you’ll lack effectiveness.
Flat roads are rarely completely flat. Most undulate, and the right approach is to keep a consistence cadence and power level to give the smoothest ride possible. You will naturally go a little faster on the descents and a little slower on the ascents.
One way to ride faster is to improve aerodynamics. You can use more aerodynamic bikes, but this can be an expensive way to stop wind resistance holding you back. More budget-friendly yet still effective options include:
- Ride lower on the bike – Riding lower enables the wind to pass over your body. So tuck in your elbows and make your back as flat as possible. See our sprinting article for more guidance. If you adjust your riding position, ensure it is suited to your anatomy.
- Gadgets – Try and ride as gadget free as possible. This adds unnecessary weight and may cause wind blocks. Don’t tie your jacket to the bike for the same reason. Make sure everything is tucked into pockets in places where it will not slow you down.
- Kit - Ensure your kit is not flapping or is wrinkled. A well fitted, positioned over your forehead and aerodynamic helmet will help improve your speed.
- Tyres - A lot of research has been done into rolling resistance of tyres. Independent lab tests have discovered significant power savings from different tyre brands. Although controversy has sprung up over the subject, as different brands make various claims about their tyres, the data seems to be solid in this regard.As such, you may want to invest in tyres that have a lower rolling resistance, especially if you plan to hit speeds of 40kph.
Bear in mind that tyre grip and puncture resistance are important factors to consider when making tyre buying choices. If you want to change your tyres do some research and use your own judgement. See this Velo News article for more information.
Peloton riding considerably increases your speed. For pelotons to work well there has to be good organisation with riders moving up and down the line taking their turns at the front.
When the peloton goes into a descent, it is a good idea to separate and then regroup once on the flat. A crash on a descent could see the whole group come off the road and the ride ending in disaster.
To get faster on the flat, it is important to train for speed. After a few months, you’ll be surprised at the results. The more disciplined you are when training the better you will be.