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A Beginner’s Guide to Cycling, Part 7: Five Ways to Make Your Easy Rides Easier and Your Hard Rides

We have been working on getting you on the bike, and now we are trying to have some fun and get you fit at the same time. There are a million plans and ways to go about getting fit, but we are going to take it simple and use our mantra: "make your easy rides easier and your hard rides harder." Here's some ways to do it right without any of that crazy data stuff getting in the way.

So, just to recap the last entry, in a typical "training" week, we might have five hours to ride in a week. Ideally we would get some easy mileage in during four of those hours and ride hard one of those hours. Easy means you can talk and hold a conversation during your ride and hard means you would have an uneasy time speaking for most of the ride.

Make your easy rides easier

1. The Coffee Shop Ride- This is what the pros do all the time on their rest and easy days. Find a coffee shop and a friend and plan an hour long ride with some coffee in the middle or at the end. Have a nice conversation and a nice cup of coffee. Have a cookie even if you want, but make sure you ride at least 30 minutes before you get to the coffee shop. You gotta earn it. Option- have ice cream, sushi, smoothie or something else you like if coffee is not your thing.

2. The No Sweat Commute- Ride to work or to your next family event. Your goal though is to make sure that you don't have to take a shower when you get there! Maybe you can allow yourself a wet wipe, but nothing more than that. This will force you to spin easy and light. Make sure you do not work up any kind of sweat when you ride. This is a great way to add in easy miles and build up your base.

Make your easy rides easier or your hard rides harder

3. The Slow Friend/The Fast Friend- We all have a riding friend or two that is either a little slower or a little faster than us. You can make your easy ride easier by going out with a slower friend and riding at their pace. Let them know you are comfortable with that so that they don't feel self conscious. Enjoy your time on the bike at "their" leisurely pace.

You can make your hard rides harder by going out with a friend who is faster. Ask when they are going to do an easy ride. Go along with them; it will be hard for you and you probably won't quit because you won't want to embarrass yourself. Let them know that if you start to die out there, you won't feel bad if they leave you and continue on. But, you are sure as hell gonna try to hang.

A variation of this is to jump on a faster friend's wheel when you come across them on a ride. Ride with them as long as you can at their pace. When you cannot hang anymore or if you sense that you are slowing them down, thank them for their service and part ways. I have come across many good racers on the road and had wonderful impromptu rides with them before jumping off. Warning- This is for friends or acquaintances ONLY! Do not jump on the wheel of some unknown faster rider and start hammering behind them. This is awkward and considered a "dick move" in my book.

Make your hard rides harder

4. The Group Ride- Group rides can be a great way to meet new people, acquire new skills, and to get fast. You can get some brisk miles in by joining up for a group at or above your riding ability level. Look for a ride that is targeting hills or speed. Look for one that won't drop you. The group will encourage you to ride hard, and you will push yourself so that you don't hold them back. It is a great way to ride hard and have fun. Lots of times these groups will wait at the top of a hill and cheer on the group until everyone gets up it. I remember doing a bunch of these group rides in hilly areas and having a blast!

5. Ride a Fondo (or Sign up for a Race)- There is no better way to make yourself ride hard than to sign up for a fondo or race. I know we aren't all at that highly competitive point yet, but there are many well organized road events that a true beginner can do and do safely. If you sign up for a ride that does 20 miles, 30 miles, or eventually a whopping 100 km (62 miles), you will get a well supported ride and you will push yourself to complete it. You will also have a group of folks who ride along with you and push you on to new levels of fun on the bike.

So there are five ways to pick the right situation to get you riding at the right effort with not a lot of thinking involved. These rides just sort of govern themselves, so try them out and see how they can improve your riding and fitness.

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