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Beginer how good am I and I want to get MUCH better Help?!(13 posts)

Beginer how good am I and I want to get MUCH better Help?!Kvonnah
Dec 2, 2002 5:34 PM
I'm 35 years old and just purchased my first road bike (Trek 2300) about 3 months ago. Before that I was riding a MTB for about 9 months. I commute to work 10.36 miles each way 5 days a week. On my days off I stay off the bike one day and ride a 35-45 mile ride the other.

Almost all of these miles are on bike path (if you are familiar with Denver, it is mostly on the Platte) My best time on a commute was 30.1 minutes and on the 35-45 mile rides I usually average 18.5 miles an hour. I know this is slow but I am wondering where that would place me at a competitive level.

The other concern I have is that the commute rides range from 30 to 36 minutes (5 am is tough to ride with any speed) is this doing more harm then good? I have been throwing 8 to 10 miles extra on the return ride 3 times a week but have been working extra hours lately and haven't been doing so. I have purchased a trainer and have been trying to add some time that way. Help! Any tips encouraged!
re: Beginer how good am I and I want to get MUCH better Help?!LC
Dec 2, 2002 6:21 PM
I think your biggest limitation right now is that you have less than one year riding experience and it takes a couple of years to get your cycling legs. There is no real problem with your training plan except that I don't see any group rides. Your best bet is to find a local race team and join it right away before the cut off date which is right about now! Even if you don't race next year, the training rides will be extremely helpful for group riding skills and will push your fitness up to near racing level if you stick with them. I am sure someone from Denver will be able to tell you where to look for the local teams. Don't let the thought of riding with a race team intimidate you because the good teams will be riding slow right now and you should have no problem keeping the pace although they are probably starting to increase the distance.
Dec 2, 2002 10:33 PM
I agree with the post above. Join a local club that has more beggining racers and some vets also. Don't try to keep up with the cat 2's or 3's for now. You can easilly get discouraged if you get dropped time after time. What you schedule is lacking is intervolts, sprints, intense cardio training. Greg Lemond had a great cycling book for the begginer, don't know if it is still around, but it helped me a ton when I first decided to get into competitive cycling. For now though you should definately find a cycling club, and train with them for a while and learn group rides etc...good luck, good training, and remember to have fuuuunnnn.
re: Beginer how good am I and I want to get MUCH better Help?!RIAN
Dec 3, 2002 5:31 AM
If you are truly averaging 18.5 miles on your rides, then you are doing pretty well. It can take several years to develop all the aspects of physique to become a good bike rider, and it can't be rushed. The good news is that its never too late to start, and there are plenty who took up the sport at your age who have become formidable masters racers.

Before you get into riding long distances, you should firstly consider what kind of athlete you are. Think back to your schooldays. Were you good at sprints, or were you a natural stayer? The chances are that your fundamental make-up has not changed, and you will likely get more success and enjoyment from what comes naturally. In bike riding, its mostly about endurance, but riders with a natural sprinting ability can win all sorts of races. It's relatively easy for a misguided coach to blunt the speed of a good sprinter by overdoing the endurance work, but much harder to develop a sprint where the natural potential is missing.

In cycling, there is an abundance of long distance plodders, and a real shortage of sprinters. If you are one of the lucky ones, please don't throw it away.
Relax! Take it Easy!berni
Dec 3, 2002 9:03 AM
I see alot of similarities between you and me - I am 32 and I also have a 10 mile ride to work. I have a Trek 5200, substantially modified....

My average speed used to be about 30km/h, 18.5miles/h, but it is now more like 33kmh, best 37 (23mph).

I am no expert - indeed I asked a similar question about 10 topics below, but for what it's worth;

How did I improve my speed? I realised that for the last 5 years I was simply going too hard. Every time I got on the bike I went 100%, like a crazy thing. I thought that if I slowed down I was shirking and being lazy. So i refused to slow, even into headwinds, etc. So I was always tired and never really at my best. Sounds to me like you have a tendency to go too hard all the time too.

Over the last year I got a heart rate monitor and learnt to slow down - it wasn't easy I can assure you - going slow is tough! But it really reaps dividends. Now I am happy to have an average speed of 30kmh (or below) with heart rate between 125 and 145. Every now and then I throw in some strength stuff like going up 4 to 5% hills in a very high gear (cadence about 60rpm). Then sometimes some speed stuff - light gear on the flats, spin like crazy (cadence 120rpm +)

I am also doing some weights with a bar at home - just squats - does anyone know of anything else I can do with a bar (cycling specific?)

I have a 1upUSA trainer at home which is great and I use it now and then to do an hour or so of 125bpm stuff (endurance), which is too boring out on the road.

So all fairly spontaneous and unorganised, but seems to be working OK for now.
re: Beginer how good am I and I want to get MUCH better Help?!James OCLV
Dec 3, 2002 11:03 AM
You didn't mention your intensity level during the 35-45 mile rides, so just based on your average speed it's too hard to say how you would do competitively.

If you're anaerobic at that speed, to get faster you will need to slow down and develop your aerobic system. Going hard all of the time isn't going to make you faster, and will actually do more harm that good.

It's a good idea to invest in a Heart Rate Monitor, but it is also important to learn how to judge intensity by your Perceived Exertion level. A good reference (for racers) is Joe Friel's Cyclist's Training Bible.

It's a good idea to join a club because you will learn alot about riding in a group; Be careful, though. A lot of group rides turn into hammer fests, and if you're serious about racing next season now is not the time to focus your training on high-intensity workouts.
Friel and the sharkslonefrontranger
Dec 3, 2002 2:03 PM
Congrats for getting into it, and also for being a dedicated commuter. The commuter miles, particularly with the days you are doing add-ons, will definitely help to give you a good base. If you are truly riding easy on the commute days, and your psyche and family habits can stand it, I'd recommend trying to fit 2 longer rides in on the weekend, and adding a few "jumps" or form drills (spin-ups, leg speed work, small ring sprints, etc.) to one of them. It is never the wrong time of the season for small ring form drills, because they provide the leg speed and muscle memory to turn over bigger gears at speed as you grow stronger. For the rest, try varying the focus of your days so that you don't become a "one-speed" rider. As anyone here will tell you, racing has very little to do with average speed, and everything to do with max output, power, and quick recovery. I see tons of very strong triathletes who don't do well at road races because they can't take the constant speed surges. Thus, you'll want to start to vary your riding to develop both top-end AND recovery. This takes the form of intervals, "micro" and "meso" cycle volume planning, and various other methods of mixing up your intensity. A cycling training plan is not a linear progression; rather, it looks like a series of sine waves, with peak intensity increasing over a period of several months, then tapering off. When you've got a plan down and begin to really understand it, you'll see overlapping sets of sine waves representing the "micro", "meso", and "macro" cycles all nested together to help bring you into peak form at the right time for your most important focus event of the season. Enter Friel and his "Cyclist's Training Bible".

The challenge with Joe Friel is that his stuff is pretty advanced. His training methods will actually make better sense and be easier to tailor to your personal strengths / weaknesses once you have a season of racing already under your belt. However, you can't go wrong by getting his book, and it will help you to figure out "periodization" well enough to formulate a seasonal training plan. You are starting at the right time of the year to build a good annual plan. A training plan is a year-round affair; you are best to start now than try to throw something together in March.

Bad news first: the Front Range is probably the most competitive road racing region in the States. This is where many big-name pros, Olympic training camp athletes and collegiate national champions live, and where all the other regional cycling badasses move to when they decide they want to train and race with the big boys. This means ALL the fields (not just the Pro/1/2) are big, fast, and deep. Guys have told me that finishing fifty-somethingth in a Cat 4 field here is worth finishing top-5 in a Cat 2-3 race elsewhere. There are a high percentage of national- and world- calibre "crossover" aerobic athletes from sports such as distance running, cross-country skiing and MTB. If that weren't enough, the local racing association has no separate Cat 5 (firstimer cat) like USCF races often do elsewhere in the U.S. This means a rookie racer is thrown into a field of 120 adrenaline-crazed, sketchy, whacked-out Cat 4s, many of whom have several years' experience, and some of whom are easily strong enough to hang in with the 3s.

The good news: At the age of 35, you qualify for Masters. The Open 35+ fields out here are full of former (and active) pro racers, BUT this very fact warrants the addition of a separate 35+ Cat 4 category, which I'd seriously recommend you start out in. These fields are much smaller, and the riders are better bike handlers owing to their age and experience. More good news: if you have the fortitude and strength to keep at it and become a decent racer out here, you can go anywhere else in the country and be a badass.
I just wanted to throw this inMcAndrus
Dec 3, 2002 2:28 PM
Everyone has given very good advice. I just wanted to add that I used to commute along the Platte and Cherry Creek some twenty years ago. I lived in west Denver - almost Wheatridge, and worked in Glendale. If you can do 18.5 average on those trails I'd say you have potential. Good luck and I hope you enjoy the sport as much as I do.
re: Beginer how good am I and I want to get MUCH better Help?!Kvonnah
Dec 3, 2002 4:38 PM
Thanks for all your advice everyone. I do want to get into a group ride but my work schedule sucks for that (6am to 3 or 4pm and off on wednsday and thursday.) I agree I may need to relax a little and I do think I am in danger of being a one gear rider, I am almost always between 52 17-14 unless I'm climbing then I'll drop to 42 17-14 (I have yet to use my third ring) I have read that a 90 cadence was a good pace but I'm usually between 75-80. I ride 63 cm (I'm 6'5" 190lb) so I am also afraid I'm too damn big.

I guess a good beginner training book would be something else I hope you could recomend.

Thanks again everyone and yes I DO HAVE FUN when I ride!
Forget About Being Too Big!BigLeadOutGuy
Dec 4, 2002 9:18 AM
some good advice here...get joe friels book and a heart rate monitor and get out there!!!
And forget about being too much hoopla is made about being the typical 5`8`` and 140 pound "climber". Its all hogwash! Im 6`4`` and 245 pounds and climb as fast as anyone....granted Im not racing up the alpe du huez or anything of that nature...but your definatly not too big!
darn straightlonefrontranger
Dec 4, 2002 2:18 PM
I have two words for anyone who thinks they are either 1) "too big" or 2) "too old" to get serious about bike racing: Kirk Albers.

He's been a pro for Team Jelly Belly for the last few years. Not only did he not turn pro until the age of 31, he's 6'4" and no bean pole climber type. Despite his size, he hangs on like Velcro when things get hilly. In fact, the race that precipitated his turning pro was his podium at the '98 Road Nationals in Cincinnati, an epic hilly affair. His secret is power to burn and fitness out the wazoo. His favorite version of interval training back when he was a local Ohio Cat 2 was to go to the Tour of Ohio crits where all the regional fast guys would race. Kirk would sit out in the wind about 20 yards off the back of the Pro/1/2 field for a half-lap, then attack all the way off the front. He'd do this once every few laps for an entire 90-minute crit, just for funsies. It drove the field nuts.

Kirk got 13th in the NYC crit this year and was also one of the dudes you saw humping it up the climbs every last daggone lap at the SF Grand Prix.
You have a lot to learn.triple shot espresso
Dec 4, 2002 9:41 AM
I think everybody is giving you some solid advice about fitness and training but there is also alot you need to learn about racing and pack etiquette.

We are starting a new team for next year. We are trying to keep the team small and manageable and we prefer to only take people that we know. We don't want anybody that doesn't know that at our level we are only in it to have fun. However, we have a number of 35+ Cat 4s with some good experience that could probably help you out. We are having our first team meeting this weekend. You can email me at if you are interested.
Well there you go.....REPO42
Dec 4, 2002 6:35 PM
Not only have you been offered good advice, but now asked to be on a new team... I don't know if anyone told you this lately, but your an ANIMAL!!!!!! ;)