For reasons which may or may not become apparent (depending on whether I actually go through with a mad idea I’m cooking up at the moment), I’m trying to break the habit of a lifetime and actually work out how to cycle faster so that I can tackle longer distances without needing to get up at silly o’clock to do it.
Having asked various more speedy cycling friends about how to go about this, especially at a time when you’re helping organise three cycle campaigns and also vaguely work for a living, the advice seems to be: 1) get a faster bike (or at least take all the crap out of my panniers); 2) interval training*; and 3) ride as fast and hard as you can for an hour.
Now, even if I did want a faster bike, there are no bikes to be had for love nor money, so that’s not an option, although I might consider not taking along the weekend papers, a flask and sandwich boxes, or a pair of curtains if I do go for a proper sporting challenge. I’m also holding off on the intervals until I’m certain they’re unavoidable, so that leaves option 3, which is especially appealing as it theoretically should take me just under an hour to cycle to get the paper, thereby costing me no extra time, and making it more likely that I’ll actually do it.
After a few days of pedalling as flat out as I can manage (at least when I remember, and am not stopping to chat to an acquaintance, passing a horse, or actually in town) I’ve worked out that I can do the 11 miles to the garage and back home again in 55 minutes, including actually buying the paper, can hunting, and even today shooing a couple of lambs back into their field (it turns out that cycling past them at speed** shouting ‘get back in your field you woolly morons works surprisingly well). I’m not sure if this is going to do anything for my average speed over longer distances, but it certainly feels like I’m getting more of a workout than I normally do.
Anyway, in the course of this flirtation with actual sporting endeavour, I am learning some things about the difference between my normal slow cycling and actually putting some effort into it:
- It’s a heck of a lot warmer (I always thought my need for thicker gloves than anyone else was a circulation issue but it might just be a slowness issue). This is a good thing when it suddenly starts SNOWING IN APRIL, which, frankly, can get in the bin.
- You ingest a lot more insects.
- You don’t actually save any time. I may have shaved 10 minutes off my normal papershop run, but I then spend twice that time changing (the magic of merino only goes so far when you’ve just caned it up a hill wearing a raincoat, a jumper and a tweed cap) and sitting around getting my breath back.
- It’s just not as pleasant as cycling slowly, sorry sporty people! I’ve always found that thing about cycling being about suffering faintly baffling, and while I understand it a bit more now, it’s not something I actively embrace. I can get plenty of suffering just from sleeping funny these days, so I’m not really in the market for any more.
So I’m looking forward to going back to normal, but I will persevere, at least for a month or so until I’ve either got a bit faster or definitively proved it doesn’t work. Anything’s got to be better than intervals …
* It appears to be an iron law that the answer to any query involving sporting issues that isn’t ‘work on your core’ is ‘interval training’.
** or ‘speed’ anyway.