RAGBRAI XLIV Countdown – July 24-30, 2016
Friends of RAGBRAI

Training blog

RAGBRAI Training: How to Ride Faster



By Coach David Ertl

I have said more than once that RAGBRAI is not a race and the objective is not to see how fast you can get through it.  My emphasis has been on building endurance so that you can make it through the whole ride enjoyably, comfortably and feeling good about yourself. 

However, in the past couple of weeks I’ve been asked a couple times about how to get faster on the bike.  So I will address this, but keep in mind that your first priority is being able to put the miles in.  It doesn’t matter how fast you can ride if you can’t go the distance.  As a matter of fact, if you do ride too fast, you will burn out (we like the term ‘blow up’) before you get to the end of the day’s ride and you don’t want that to happen.   But once you do have a good set of base miles established and you can comfortably ride 50 or more miles, and if you want to now get faster, here are some pointers.

First, I want to be clear that I am talking about riding fast on level roads. I’ll save my hill climbing tips for another blog.  If you can ride along comfortably at, say, 14 mph, it is reasonable to think you should be able to increase your average speed by a couple of mph with some training.  The first tip is to continue to put in more miles on the bike.  By riding, even at your regular speed, you will build aerobic fitness and leg strength by continually increasing the length of time you can ride.  Think of this as your fitness foundation. 

The second tip is to start riding faster.  Seems logical, but if your goal is to be able to ride at a faster pace, do you actually train by riding faster?   Now you can’t just go out and do your next ride 2 mph faster than what you currently ride.  Instead you should push yourself a little faster for short periods of time to train your body to go at this new faster pace.  Then when you start to get tired, back off to your normal pace for a while.  Then do another short, faster effort.   If you do this throughout your rides, you will, gradually over time, build up the length of time you can ride at this faster pace and build the speed you can ride.   What I’ve just described here are intervals.   I hesitate to use that term because it may scare some people off.  But they don’t have to be gut-busting hard, blood and sweat efforts (well, maybe the sweat part).  All you have to do is ride  2-4 mph faster than you normally ride, for a minute or two at a time.  The only way to get fast is to ride fast, and this is a way to get there.

It doesn’t have to be complicated.  If you want to ride faster, then train by riding faster, but do it bit by bit in small chunks and over time your speed will increase.

 Coach David Ertl

 David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 (Elite) Coach. He coaches the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team and is a national head coach for the the JDRF Ride To Cure Diabetes and he coaches individual cyclists. 

2 Responses on “RAGBRAI Training: How to Ride Faster

Profile photo of tancanoe

tancanoe

May 23, 2014 at 5:23 pm

Yesterday I rode ( after 4 consecutive days of sort of pushing) and it was all I could to finish 20 miles. How do overcome this , I even drank accelerade and it didn’t help

Kevin

May 26, 2014 at 10:37 pm

Tan canoe, congratulations! You just laid down your first 20 miler! Yes it was tough, veritably killed you, but…you did it. And that’s the first step in building endurance. As Dave said above, the most important thing you can do is RIDE…a lot. Doesn’t have to be a long distance every day (but I’d say at least 10 miles a day, minimum) so that your body gets used to riding everyday and your legs are used to the everyday exercise of cycling. If you can’t ride every day, put time in walking fast, using an elliptical, or a trainer. At least once a week, preferably twice, do your challenge distance (20 miles, then 25, then 30). On weekends do your ultra challenge (40 to 50 miles). The idea is to go as far as you can. Remember, if you make it a loop, you only have to go halfway out (’cause you’ll ride it back). For some reason, that way of thinking has helped me: if I can ride 27 miles one way out, I can ride 27 miles back. There’s just no substitute for putting I. The hours though, especially with RAGBRAI so close.

But, bottom line, feel good about 20 miles! You did THAT, once, you can do it again.

Leave a Reply

Latest Blog Posts

  • 11 photos: Scenes from the gravel loop

    It was a rocky detour to the Irish capital of southwest Iowa, Imogene.

  • What to look for Monday on RAGBRAI

    Gird yourself for a 75-mile day with almost 4,000 feet of climb.

  • More on Tim Kaine's RAGBRAI blast with Team 'Nightwing'

    David Miles has the backstory on Virginia Sen. and presumptive Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s odyssey across Iowa in 1996. Kaine rode the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa ...

  • Sobering silence disrupts the "rolling party"

    TABOR, Ia. — An uncharacteristically somber tone punctuated day one of RAGBRAI. A Mile of Silence defined a stretch of road Sunday between Malvern and Tabor, where riders were asked to pause ...

  • In tense summer, Iowa C.O.P.S. ride to remember fallen officers

    MALVERN, Ia. — Away from RAGBRAI’s gaudy beauty and sweet, boisterous cacophony, eight police officers biked to the middle of a quiet cemetery just outside of town to pay respects to ...

  • Starting RAGBRAI with totaled RV

    MALVERN, Ia. — Team Red Dog started day one of RAGBRAI on a downer note with a totaled RV. A volunteer driver drove the rented vehicle beneath a train trestle with ...

  • RAGBRAI rider killed in crash identified

    The crash happened west of Glenwood, the starting town.

  • Tips on traversing the gravel loop

    For those who are looking for a more adventurous (and dusty) ride, the gravel loop at RAGBRAI provides a bumpy ride. At over 18 miles long with 1,000 feet of climbing, ...

  • What to look for on Sunday on RAGBRAI

    It's about 50 miles out of the chute (plus a gravel loop?)

  • 19 photos: Riders flock to Missouri River dip site

    Glenwood is a few miles from the river, and some cyclists took advantage of a chance to get in the real Missouri on Saturday.

Latest Videos

  • TJ Juskiewicz, director of RAGBRAI, spoke about Sunday's fatal accident that killed RAGBRAI rider and Jacksonville, Florida, resident Wayne Etzell.

  • The Des Moines Register asked RAGBRAI cyclists their thoughts on how cyclist safety could be improved.

  • RAGBRAI riders make a pit stop in Randolph to battle it out in bubble suits during the first day of the ride.

  • Winds will shift from the southwest to the north through the day. Temperatures will reach 90 degrees. More sunshine is on tap for Monday and Tuesday.

  • Police officers ride for the fallen on the first day of the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.

  • RAGBRAI riders hit the water slide in Tabor, the midpoint town on the first day from Glenwood to Shenandoah.

  • Ghost bike marks start of one mile of silence honoring and remembering those lives lost and affected by bicycle related deaths.

  • Deb Anderson talks about meeting her brother, Christian Parkes, at RAGBRAI. The two spent time together outside Vine Street Cellars in Glenwood on Saturday.

  • Keith Davis traveled from Scotland to ride his bike from Alaska to South America. He stopped through Iowa for one day of RAGBRAI.

  • Riders dip their back tires in tanks of Missouri River water before the start of RAGBRAI.

Find us socially

Email Signup

Sign up for the latest RAGBRAI news and notes (if there is no news in a day, you won’t get an e-mail).

© 2016 RAGBRAI | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy