Initially, you just start riding. Perhaps you’re doing it for fitness, or to lose weight, or just for recreation. And then, at some point, you decide that you want to get a bit more serious, so you start riding a bit faster, riding a bit farther.
And then you plateau. You’re riding harder, but not getting any better.
The problem is that you’re riding “sorta hard”.
A bit of digression into training theory…
The purpose of training is to impose training stress on your body. The stress triggers your body to get better during recovery. But when you’re riding sorta hard, you aren’t riding hard enough to put a real training stress on your body. That’s why you plateau.
The way to get beyond this is to add specificity into your training. Rather than trying to work on all aspects of your riding – on all the energy systems that go into being fast – you work on them one at the time.
Or, in other words, your training is *specific* rather than being general. You might be doing:
Intervals, to stress your anaerobic system hard
Long steady rides to build up your aerobic system
Tempo work to push up your aerobic threshold
Muscle tension to improve your strength
And, you’ll be sure that you’re recovered so that you can get the full benefit from the hard workouts.
The disadvantage? Well, you have to have focus, and you have to work to fit the workout you want into group rides (if you go on group rides)
Speed Improvement: High
Coolness Factor: Low (this isn’t very sexy stuff)
Cost effectiveness: Epic. At most, you need a book, but you can get by with what you read on the internets.
Verdict: One of the best ways to improve your speed, if you can stick to it.