Increasing average speed

I recently conquered my Mt Sufferlandria and have been looking at areas for improvements. You know, a mountain hardly ever stands alone, there’s a whole ridge of 'm. Better get ready for the next.

Now looking at the estimated power distribution in Strava from this trip, it looks like this:

The bimodal distribution is pretty obvious. Most other riders that I found power distribution graphs for have single peaked distributions. Which makes me think there’s room for improvement. I’ve highlighted where my 4DP numbers sit.

The FTP sections is where the road went up for short steep climbs (5 - 10 minutes at a time). The majority of the cycling time was spent at around 55% of FTP - which seems to be my natural cruising speed.

At the end of it (about ten hours in total) I felt the tank was empty and that I could not have put more effort into it.

Now there’s two things that I’m curious about:

  1. How could I have distributed my efforts differently to obtain a higher average speed?
  2. Where should I focus future training to improve average speed?

I’m tagging in some of the coaches, hopefully help is on the way


While you’re waiting for an answer from someone who knows what they’re talking about (ie not me), you could read this thread
From the Coaches: Pacing for Performance


It’s hard to give any concrete answers here, because everyone is built differently and there is a lot of information not included there, but how did you fuel during the ride? It looks like a comfortably long ride by the durations in each power zone, so fueling strategy during the ride will have played a part on your feeling of being empty at the end.

Simplest guess would be, you see that trough between your two peaks? That’s probably where you wanted your actual singular peak to be…


Totally agree re the location of the peak - that would be my guess too. But how to get there?

Re fuelling - I ate insane amounts before and during the event and hydrated the bejeezus out of myself. The feeding posts were well stocked. Then again, I haven’t done anything near this sort of length before - surely there’s room for improvement too on that front.

That’s a good read, thanks for sharing!

It seems that me pacing up the short climbs at around FTP is the right thing to do for keeping average speeds up. Now the trick is to maintain a higher effort elsewhere I suppose?

Maybe. Keep in mind that speed-to-effort ratios vary by terrain. I recall a Knowledge podcast about this How to ride smarter not harder . Bi-modal could be optimal. Here are the take aways I remember:

  1. You get the most incremental speed for a given effort going uphill. That implies FTP for long climbs and higher surges for short ones and steep sections.

  2. Because power increases with the cube of speed on the flats (worse with a headwind), don’t waste power here. Payoff is poor. A more aero position helps a lot, but only if your body can tolerate it.

  3. Gravity does most of the work going down, but it helps to surge over the top so you start fast. Aero position helps, subject to safety.

  4. Pedaling efficiency matters. If you can convert near 30% of your body’s effort to drivetrain power, that’s a lot more than near 20%. So pedal circles. If you’re riding a lot and attending to form, there may not be much opportunity here. If there is, it will show up as higher FTP etc.


That’s a very good point. I hadn’t really appreciated that properly.

Climbing and Elements of Style it is then :+1:

When TT’ing, it was recommended to push the hardest when going the slowest, the idea being that you will lose more time with a headwind than gain from a tailwind, attached link is about TTing, but has some bits you might be interested in


You have the right idea. But don’t expect FTP to go up on it’s own. What is your VO2 compared to your gender and age group? Mine is in the top 20% but to improve my FTP/MAP I have to put that in the top 10%. So, the conundrum at this point is how to raise both VO2 and MAP. Also, what is your weakness from the 4DP test. Your training should be a mix of endurance rides to raise your VO2 and hard efforts over three to five minutes to raise your MAP. For longish rides unless they are REALLY lumpy, having an outstanding NM isn’t going to benefit. Maybe working on your AC as well will assist.

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I’m not sure if raising FTP is going to help much. There’s so much time spent at about half of FTP, that I wonder whether I need to focus on something else too.

4DP says I’m a time trialist with a sustained weakness… The numbers themselves are in the top 10% for my age group.

Surely if you raise your FTP, then 50% of FTP will also go up, so spending more time there will be relatively quicker than at a previously lower FTP?

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Yes, that’s a fair point and probably true - I was thinking that filling the gap between the two peaks would be potential low hanging fruit.

Increasing FTP is hard work…

(is that the sound of laser goats?)


One other thing that occurred to me (while riding Revolver!) was: you stated you wanted to increase your average speed but I haven’t seen a SMART goal in this thread.

So, put a line in the sand - what is your SMART goal?

Then you will be able to find a specific plan for that specific target.

Otherwise it’s all a bit hand-waving, IMO.

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Ooh, that’s a whole different story. For arguments sake, let’s set the goal as: do the same event again, same time next year and increase the average speed by 1km/h.

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Impressive duration of ride there! 10 hours of riding would have me on my knees :sweat_smile:. So spending your time at FTP on the climbs is sensible, you wouldn’t want to go higher than that while trying to do the ride as fast as possible. The thing to try and improve would be the sustainable percentage of FTP that you can cruise at. Generally it is possible to increase your lactate threshold (the turn point from primarily fat burning to more carbohydrate oxidation) to around 70-75% of FTP. This should make the ride a similar physiological stress but a faster speed. The way to increase that would ideally be some MAP focussed sessions and Z2 endurance riding, but also a bit of tempo work just to help deal with pedalling at a pace that requires more focus for extended periods of time. The tempo is more a mental training device but just as important!

Another way to boost the speed up a little bit more, is focus on your position on the bike. Over that duration of time, a small watt saving would add up to minutes, so some little tweaks to say clothing, equipment, or position on the bike while remaining comfortable and efficient would increase speed too.


Actually, yes, this, absolutely this…
I was riding a bike on 38mm Pathfinder Pro tyres, which have a slick central section and thought they were pretty fast, I had no problems keeping up on fast group road rides.
As I’m planning two wheelsets though, one “adventure” and one pure road I’ve recently installed 28mm GP5000TLs and for the same level of effort gained maybe as much as 4km/h consistently.
I also changed my saddle last week, primarily because the finishing of the old one was damaging my bibs, but then the new one I found allowed me to be more comfortable tucked lower, extending the time I was comfortable in a full tuck through the roof.

A simple change of tyres and saddle has gained me both more base speed and significantly longer periods of time I can hold “peak aero”.


Thank you Andy, much appreciated!

I can definitely work with that.

Training aspects all noted.

As for the position on the bike:

I am trying to ride more in the drops as it saves a lot of energy. For longer rides this starts to get uncomfortable in the lower back. More core-work required there!

Clothing etc are all pretty aero. (Stolen Goat stuff) Not going to shave the legs though :sweat_smile:


I hate to say that shaving your legs (depending on the wookieness of them) can save you quite a lot of time :joy:


Hmmm…Maybe lazing them would work better?

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I’ve debated it before…

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