1. Group Riding
Lacking bike handling skills, top end speed, or a cycling community? Solution ... group rides. Group rides teach you to ride with others and often get pushed far outside your comfort zone. Want to know the quickest way to get faster? Ride with people who are faster than you; and ask some questions along the way. A fresh perspective on why cycling in groups is incredibly beneficial can be found here.
DC was recently voted one of the most bike friendly cities in the entire United States. Bike lanes continue to pop up on new roads in the city making it safer, quicker, and way more enjoyable to ride a bike in the city. You may be thinking ... well what about intensity? Intensity has a place, but it is built upon a foundation and series of base miles. What are base miles? "Base miles are the foundation upon which the rest of your training is built" which is described in much more detail at Bicycling.com here. Summary, slower and more consistent miles add up, build your foundation, and aid in your recovery from intense riding done elsewhere during the week.
As mentioned in the swimming article, intervals are a crucial part in every sport. If you're out on your bike and you find yourself wanting to improve your top speed/sprint, consider adding intervals to your routine. Start out with some basic intervals and progress from there. Some examples are:
a) 5 x 45 seconds at 25mph, 45 seconds at 15mph.
b) 10 x 15 seconds all out, 45 seconds recovery
c) 1 minute with a heart rate above 150bpm, 2 minutes easy
For those of you fortunate enough to own a power meter, aim for a particular wattage level and hold it for the predefined interval. Intervals push your body outside of your comfort zone which allows you build your pain tolerance, stamina, threshold levels, and overall endurance.
Now i'll be the first to admit ... my training does not regularly incorporate predefined intervals ... but if you're active at the front of your fast local training rides ... you're getting some of the mutual interval benefits (Caveat ... you will make people angry if you attack during groups rides all the time ... sometimes you need to have a causal ride and smell the roses ... use your common sense here).
4. Get a proper bike fit
You would be amazed at how much energy and efficiency you waste without a proper bike fit. If you've never been properly fit on a bike, head to your local shop and have someone who is experienced fitting people take your measurements and adjust your bike accordingly (most shops do this as a complimentary service for purchasing a bike there).
This is especially important for Triathlons as the seat position for tri's and regular cycling are completely different. General rule, Tri seats are more forward and up in order to use more of your quads, become more aerodynamic, and save your hamstrings for the run. Regular cycling positions will have your seat further back and down in order to have a more balanced use of your leg muscles.
Ever watch Chris Froome race up the mountains in the Tour de France? This year ... watch his cadence (speed of his legs) as he goes up the mountain. You'll notice his cadence is quicker than most other riders. There are plenty of articles breaking down the science of cadence but one formula to keep in mind is this:
Watts = Force (power) x Cadence (repetition)
You're going to go faster by adding more power and/or more repetition. A great article breaking down the science is here. Long story short, spinning a large gear on your bike requires extra energy and you will "burn matches" at a much higher rate compared to a lower gear and higher cadence . If you are in a tri, or even a long cycling race, learning how to spin at a higher and more efficient cadence is a crucial training tool that will help you stay energized longer throughout your race.