The good news is that making your bike faster doesn’t need to cost money. Regular cleaning and maintenance can pay dividends, keeping you at top speeds while you pedal along. These are my best tips for achieving and maintaining top speed!
Check Your Tyre Pressure
Your tires are a vital part of your bike’s ability to achieve greatest speed. Spend time catering to their needs. Make sure your tires are free of punctures, but, if they have been punctured, make use of a puncture repair kit to restore them to good health.
Once you are sure the tire is free of any punctures, check its pressure. The pressure in your tire is likely to go down over time. Typical use over a sustained period could lead to less air in the tire.
Tires that have deflated and are too soft lead to a higher amount of rolling resistance. You’ll have to pedal harder to keep your average speed up, which will burn you out quicker.
Luckily checking your tire pressure and getting them to the right place couldn’t be easier. You can either use a tire pressure gauge or use the pinch test. Then use a simple bike pump to get the pressure to your desired location.
Somewhere around 100-120psi would be ideal, depending on the location you use your bike. A slightly lower tire pressure will mean you’ll be slower on smooth roads but it does lead to improved grip.
Your bike is a machine and machines need regular cleaning and maintenance to work properly. No doubt that as you use a bike dirt and grime will work its way everywhere. From the tires to the chassis, or the drivetrain and cables. Dirt will get everywhere and it can start to have an effect on the speed of your ride.
This can become even more problematic during the colder months of winter. The added risk of things becoming frozen can lead to accidental damage. By taking the time to care for your bike you can avoid spending big on replacements and repairs in the future.
Cleaning your bike may not sound glamorous but it is crucial. It doesn’t need to take a massive amount of time if you take a few minutes after every ride to wipe your bike down. It would then be wise to once a week schedule in a bugger clean to remove any stubborn dirt.
If you let the bike get dirty then it will take longer to clean. You’ll need to invest in better cleaning equipment and will run the risk of expensive replacements.
You’ll thank yourself in the long run if you take the time to maintain the cleanliness of your ride. Some soapy warm water will suffice after your daily ride. That should be enough to knock loose any dirt and keep the bike in a tip-top condition.
Lubricate the Chain
Your bike’s chain is a crucial part of the machine and it does a lot of the heavy lifting. It’ll benefit from the same love and care you give to the cleaning process. Try and get a clean, shiny, almost new looking drivetrain.
Once you’re pleased with the look of the drivetrain it’s time for a little more TLC. Making sure your chain is well lubricated will make the whole process more efficient. The chain will glide through the drivetrain helping you to achieve a faster speed.
By maintaining the lubrication on your chain, you can actually minimize how much dirt sticks to it. Making your next clean that little bit easier and you further eliminate risks of expensive replacements.
Don’t overdo it with the lube, it’s a delicate process and over lubrication. By adding too much lubricant to your chain you’re risking the chance of more dirt and small buts getting trapped in it. This will wear the chain out fair quicker than necessary.
Slow and steady, apply the lube to your chain while rotating the cranks. Try to achieve a thin, but even layer as the chain passes through. Once you’ve finished, wipe off any excess lubricant from the chain.
Suit Up for the Ride
What you wear has a dramatic effect on what speed you can achieve. By investing in a speed suit, you can increase your top speed while really looking the part. It’s a relatively cheap upgrade you can make for best results.
Bikes are aerodynamically designed, built with cutting through the wind in mind. People are not so much, accounting for as much as four-fifths of aerodynamic drag created while riding. So before spending money on bike upgrades, a skinsuit is a great investment.
There might be a small embarrassment curve to overcome, as these skinsuits are skin tight for most efficiency. There’s a reason you see professional racers wearing. By eliminating excess fabric, seams, zips and pockets, these suits allow for smooth airflow over the rider.
There are two types to consider, firstly the skinsuit, this is the top tier design that can help you shave serious time off your total. However, what’s becoming more common for the casual mark is known as a speed suit, slightly more relaxed in design, and can feature pockets.
Speedsuits will still get the job done, helping you achieve exciting new personal bests, and addressing the sometimes inelegant look of a skinsuit. Whatever design you go for, you’re bound to increase speed.
We’ve already spoken about the importance of tire pressure but what type of wheels you use is equally as important. If speed really is the name of the game then you might wish to consider investing in aerodynamic wheels.
Aerodynamic wheels are more expensive than normal bike wheels. They’re also more expensive than skinsuits. If your budget can stretch to both then brilliant, but if you had to pick just one the skinsuit will get you better results for less money.
Special aerodynamic wheels can help you cut through the wind. They do this through their narrower rim design and a lower spoke count which helps with your movement.
Adjust Your Posture
Aerodynamics isn’t a problem that can only be solved by throwing money at it. One incredible tip for improving your speed is by improving your posture. By riding in a more aerodynamic position you can achieve speeds hitherto unheard of in a normal seating position.
Once again, imagine a professional racer, their posture is low and tight. This helps to improve their aerodynamic capabilities and builds up their speed. One option is investing in a new aero bike, but this will be incredibly expensive.
Instead of spending big on a new bike, you can achieve a new aerodynamic posture by lowering the front end. To do this you need to remove the fork, remove some spacers, replace the stem, and then put the spacers back.
A word of warning, this is a process you want to do slowly over time to give your back and body time to adjust to the change in position. Make incremental changes over a length of time to help you improve your flexibility and avoid injuries.
Your saddle height could be another area of improvement. Correct saddle position varies between people and it’s so easy to get wrong and not know. However, this simple error could cost you big in speed.
Saddles aren’t really known for their comfort, but if it’s in the wrong position, not only is making you slower, it can lead to injury. Your pedal strokes won’t be as powerful as they could, thus leading to a decrease in speed.
The easiest way to figure out the correct saddle height is to take the length of the inside of your leg, then minus 10 cm. The distance between the top of your saddle and the bottom bracket should then equal this, giving you the most comfortable and speedy ride.
Lose Some Weight
This tip might not apply to everyone, but for anyone who is carrying around a few extra pounds consider losing some weight. I’m not talking about your weight per se, I mean unnecessary items weighing down your bike.
Accessories will add the total weight you are moving, this means your energy will be drained quickly and more effort will be required. Things like mudguards, pumps, baskets, lights, can all be removed.
You can also remove your water on short rides, freeing up even more energy. Water is an absolute must for longer rides, so you should consider that as needed where necessary.
Physically losing some weight will undoubtedly help as well. The physical act of riding your bike will of course help you shed some weight. So keep a little diary of your current weight and your current PB. See how it improves over time.
Adjust Your Pedal Tension
Your pedals are where you exert most of your energy, to keep the bicycle spinning. You can spend a little TLC here to make them more efficient, reserve your energy and sore to faster speeds.
Adjusting your pedal tension should be easy enough to do but different pedal systems will have different means for adjusting spring tension. It’s worth doing your own research here to make sure you get it right.
It might be worth considering clipless pedals, which have been enhancing the performances of professionals for decades now. The name is slightly misleading as clipless pedals do in fact clip on. There is a locking mechanism that goes over your bike pedals, which then attaches to your cycling shoes.
This will give cyclists the ability to use their energy much more efficiently. You can now pull the pedal up as well as pushing it up, you’re in much more control.
The overall aim is to give your pedals a small amount of float while holding your cleats steady when riding out the saddle. This helps you avoid injuries and achieve better energy performance.
Change the Frame
Some bicycle frames can be quite heaving, leading to more weight than is necessary. You will then spend more energy to push this weight along when there are alternatives.
A rather popular technique that’s been around for decades is drilling holes in the bike frame. This will reduce your frame’s overall weight, making it easier to ride. However, this is not without its risk.
An amateur attempting this runs the risk of frame failure due to stress concentration. An uneven road is all it would take to do irreversible damage to your bike, running up quite the bill in repairs.
If you wish to choose this route, it would be best to employ the services of a professional bike fitter. However, the absolute best way to remove weight from the frame is to invest in a super-lightweight carbon frame and have a professional fit this for you.
The super-lightweight frame will drastically reduce the overall weight of the bike. Which in turn reduces the overall energy required to maneuver the bike around.
There are a few final tips I’d like to share with you that can also help you achieve new speeds:
Overall, the best thing you can do to make your bike faster is to keep it, and yourself, in top conditions. With a regular cleaning and maintenance routine for your bike you can be sure of a top performance. Look after yourself as well, working on that posture and investing in appropriate clothing. Happy trails!