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I have a road/touring bike that I take on longer rides with other folks. Sometimes other folks are riders of similar ability, and sometimes not. When I ride with people who ride slower, rather than changing my touring configuration (more upright bike, getting rid of clipless shoes/pedals) I'd like to just add some resistance to slow myself down/make myself work harder on the bike: this would make me go same speed as other folks while training harder than I would otherwise. I can imagine attaching an old-style bottle generator, but are there other good ways of adding drag/resistance to an existing bike setup?

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    Buy the oldest, cheapest, heaviest, most badly maintained bike you can find off Craigslist and ride that on group rides – Argenti Apparatus May 9 at 19:33
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    If you want drag on your bike: farm9.static.flickr.com/8444/7955051946_b3527e168c_b.jpg – Daniel R Hicks May 10 at 2:43
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    There is actually a product that does this and is programmable to add extra resistance: terraindynamics.com.au/airhub You can actually train with slower ride buddies yet be working a lot harder than they are. – alexsimmons May 10 at 10:54
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    Of course the best way to play nice with others is to do just that, play nice and enjoy their company. Leave the harder training to sessions when you are not riding with them. – alexsimmons May 10 at 10:56
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    @alexsimmons... you are a diplomat; you could have said "just don't be a jerk". – Michael Harvey May 10 at 21:57

10 Answers 10

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  • Focussing on the "training harder" aspect of your question:

A simple way for training hard while keeping your speed comparatively low would be to increase your cadence.

The easiest approach: Try switching a gear or two lower than you normally feel comfortable with, meaning you will have to pedal faster to keep the same speed.

One of the advantages of high cadence cycling is less force on your legs, and therefore accumulated fatigue, leading to a faster recovery after a long ride.

There is actually a nice GCN YouTube video on this topic: GCN: Improve Your High Cadence Cycling.

  • Focussing on the "playing nice" aspect of your question:

You could offer to carry a bigger share of supplies and equipment. Collect those spare tubes, an emergency pump, patches, and maybe an extra water bottle, and the additional weight will make it certainly more challenging for you (and easier for your companions), especially if your tour includes some nice climbs.

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    Welcome! Carrying extra gear is a great idea. Plus you’re in charge of the snacks... – Swifty May 9 at 20:31
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    Especially water, carry people's water, become the domestique :) – Lamar Latrell May 10 at 22:38
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If you want to play nice, this ride is going to be quite gentle and sociable for you. That means it could be a good fit for a recovery ride. Read up on recovery riding, but you should find it’s recommended to have a nice steady ride where you keep your heart rate down low (like zone 2), and if you get it too elevated, even by a little bit you spoil the whole purpose of the recovery ride.

Naturally you’ll need something to recover from, so the day before you can treat yourself to a jolly good spanking and thrash your legs about a bit. Then when you ride slowly with the group you’ll be actively promoting recovery and end up even stronger! Don’t forget to stop for a nice slice of cake.

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    +1. I've done just this - led a 70km ride the day after a 200km. It didn't go perfectly to plan and I got some bonus interval training but it certainly achieved the OP's goal – Chris H May 9 at 20:36
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If possible, position yourself at the back of the group. You can even lead from there with a small group.

Staying at the back allows you to encourage those who are struggling or taking it easy, and means you're not always glancing over your shoulder to check whether you've left them behind. As a result going slowly feels much more natural than it does at the front. You can also keep an eye on the group and make sure everyone is OK, and you've got the speed to catch up if the group gets split. When I ride with the slower of my two clubs I often find myself back marking (with the faster club I'm often barely hanging on to the back).

If you're used to wearing a thin layer of lycra, wear a little more (as you'll be working less hard, but make it more casual - extra wind resistance plus it might fit in better with the rest of the group.

Riding to/from the group ride can be a chance to really go for it.

5

The best way to slow your ride down without ruining how your bike rides is to focus on rolling resistance. The heaviest duty tyres like a Schwalbe Marathon Plus will take a lot more effort to push at the same speed when compared to faster road tyres. Get the widest ones that you can fit on your bike to make the biggest difference. There are also heavy duty thornproof tubes which will have a similar effect. I've seen one from Tioga which is 600% thicker than a regular butyl tube and also has sealant inside it as well, which will also add a little more resistance and weight.

Depending on what you wear while riding, you might also be able to add significant aerodynamic drag simply by wearing baggier clothing. The efficiency losses here will be much smaller, but have the advantage of being non-linear (2×faster is 4×more aero drag). When you are going fastest is likely to be when your bike gives you the greatest advantage, so maximising aero drag where possible will help to minimise this.

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I'm surprised no-one has mentioned wearing weights on your ankles. Even a small weight per leg would noticeably increase the overall workload, and intervening near the force would be more efficient compared to increasing rolling resistance, bike & rider weight, or god forbid dragging something behind you as one person suggested. Since the added weight will increase the difficulty right at the moment arm, this could make a large difference to effort.

Balance can be an issue: consider trying on a stationary bike first. https://livehealthy.chron.com/cycle-ankle-weights-1393.html

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    Won’t they hit the crank arms? I also wonder how healthy it is. Personally I’ve had problems with my tibialis anterior from pulling upwards. Ankle weights would probably exacerbate the problem. – Michael May 10 at 9:19
  • Yes, I think health is a realistic concern. Any takers should probably try modifying their cadence, doing shorter trials, and monitoring sensations around their ankle. I have enough clearance on my road set-up from the crank arms; can't speak to other set-ups. – Cameron Brick May 10 at 10:23
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    It sounds like a nice idea however the weight moving down counters the weight moving up - IOW the weights cancel each other out. All it would do is make the overall bike (or bike rider) a bit heavier, and make accelerations a little harder. But accelerations on bicycles are pretty small and do not contribute all that much to the overall energy demand. – alexsimmons May 10 at 10:52
  • Interesting—could you say more about that? I would have guessed that when force is generated it would be at the tangent of the lever arm, and continuously changing that momentum in a circle would require more force the more mass is involved. But I'm no physicist. Are you suggesting that if the pedals weighed much more, say 10kg, after the bike was brought to speed pedaling would be equally easy as if that weight were carried on the frame? – Cameron Brick May 10 at 12:20
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    @CameronBrick It's basically equivalent to having heavier pedals. It makes it harder to spin up (or down), but once you are at your final cadence it makes no difference. It will basically work as a flywheel. – Sparhawk May 12 at 4:05
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When I'm riding with slower riders (who shall remain nameless) I force myself to ride in a gear that matches their pace. Staying in first or second gear is stressful but it keeps people happy. It is also a good light rep workout.
There are ways of adding resistance to your bike but I don't think they can be called "good".

It's interesting that Google does not have many suggestions for increasing drag on a bicycle.

Ways to add resistance (just brainstorming here, a grain of salt might be needed):

  • Tie a rope to a rock and drag it behind your bike. Probably tear up the road/trail and cause a hazard.
  • Reduce tire pressure. Probably won't provide enough drag.
  • Make a sail or parachute for your bike. Parachute might work.
  • Have the slowest rider hold on to your bike and pull them. Could be dangerous.
  • A single bottle generator will slow down the bike, but probably not enough. How many generators do you think you could get on your bike? Two on the fork, and maybe two more on the back? Four might be enough to slow you down.
  • Wear baggy clothes and sit as upright as possible.
  • Adjust your brakes so they always rub. I don't like this one. Can't stand to have my brakes rubbing.
  • Maybe leave the bike at home and run instead. This answer does meet question requirements. Just thinking outside the bike.
  • Buy a resistance trainer, remove the resistance device, and attach the resistance device to your bike. It would be like being on a trainer while riding the bike! (linked as an example, not a recommendation)

I was going to say "pulling a heavy trailer" but once you get it rolling it does not offer much drag. You need something continuous.

That's it, I'm brainstormed out. Hope this sparks some ideas from others!

  • +1 finally found the answer that mentions making your brakes rub – Lamar Latrell May 10 at 22:36
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The obvious: Position yourself at the very front of the group, and benefit from the wind resistance.

In addition, one could wear baggy clothes, but for aestetic reasons, a fluttering long sleeved windbreaker will do.

Also the obvious addition: Having said bye bye and see you next time, go for a round on your own, your pace. No one really needs to know.

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I don't do much road cycling myself, so this might not be the best advice. However, if you lower your saddle hight a couple of inches you will notice it harder to pedal and that should slow you down some. Not enough? Lower saddle a bit more. Just a thought! It's a cheap fix anyway! Best of luck.

  • That could actually work - riding with the saddle too low is a hassle – Swifty May 9 at 20:16
  • It worked for me once by accident. I set out on a ride with my seat at full hight got about half a mile into the ride and found it was getting harder and harder to pedal and suddenly couldn't pedal anymore in top gear. I switched down on to the middle cog at the front but it was still a lot tougher than it should be, so I pull over thinking I have a stuck brake or something seized up. The front and rear wheel spun freely no brake binding. I lifted the rear wheel and turned the cranks by hand it all seemed fine then I noticed. The seat post had gradually slid all the way down to the stop. – David May 9 at 20:21
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    While this solution might work it’s bad for your knees, bad training (works different muscle groups in the wrong way) and uncomfortable. – Michael May 10 at 7:02
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    A couple of inches is a huge difference in saddle height. I'm sure @Michael isn't claiming that it's literally all the way down; just that it's essentially as severe as moving it all the way down. – David Richerby May 11 at 10:12
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    Thanks for the comments. A big difference admittedly but not "basically all the way down" as the comment described also I wasn't being specific with the amount I was giving a example that was taken literally. You're all entitled to your opinions. I was giving mine. Adjusting seat position would add resistance and is a cheap fix. May not be a option the op likes or uses but it does remain a option. – David May 11 at 10:17
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You could get yourself a power meter.

When you ride at very low intensity it’s hard to judge how hard it is for others. This is especially the case in situations where speed is a bad indicator, for example on a windy day or a hilly ride. With a power meter you can try to maintain a certain power output. This way you can also help your fellow riders by slowing them down at the start of the ride. The result will be a more consistent speed and longer, happier rides for your fellows, since they won’t be exhausted halfway into the ride from starting too fast.

Of course a power meter is also great for your normal training.

Generally, riding slowly requires a certain mindset. Be relaxed, choose easy gears, don’t put pressure on the pedals. Just pedal along.

  • I wonder, from time to time, when it will become normal for rides to be described by the power, probably in x km at y W/kg, instead of x km at y km/h. Probably after a couple more Zwift winters at least. Recently I’ve tried limiting my heart rate zone when I’m on the front of a social ride and it’s effective at keeping the group together, plus I know I can take an extended turn. Which is like a cheaper equivalent to your suggestion – Swifty May 10 at 12:14
  • @Swifty: The problem is that power meters cost a lot. >500€ just for the meter and then >100€ for a bike computer which can connect to it. I think most ambitious cyclists have and use them by now but for your average weekend rider the cost/benefit is not in favor. A simple tachometer can be had for 20€ or so. – Michael May 10 at 14:02
  • @Michael I think that a GPS cycle computer is worth the money for navigation alone, for anyone who frequently rides more than, say, 50km. I couldn't live without mine, now. – David Richerby May 11 at 10:16
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a) Use a dedicated water bottle filled with heavy material. I have used thick, bulky metal chains in a standard ~750ml bottle, it weighs around 2kg. If filled up more efficiently, you could achieve up to 3-4kg. In case of an emergency, you can throw away the bottle to lose weight. I do not recommend using substances that could contaminate the bottle (e.g. aluminium, iron, lead, dirt).

b) Fill the inner tubes with water. You'll increase:

  • Rolling resistance
  • Rolling inertia
  • Weight
  • Chances of catastrophic tire failure
  • Chances of losing control

That said, I have experimented for over a month with water in the tube of a hooked 25mm front tire of a road bicycle. The water takes the velocity from the inner tube fairly quickly over around 10kph. In other words, at usual speeds of 15kph and above, rotational velocity of water seems to be equal to that of the inner tube. While the bicycle was around 0.5-1kg heavier, I did not notice any explicitly different behaviour. Ride comfort is non-existent on 25mm tires anyway, so I cannot comment on that either.

What I recommend to do if you have decided to fill the tires with water (at your own risk):

  • Do not fill 100% of the tire with water. First, it is difficult and could damage your pump. Second, having more air should provide more cushion and should stress the tire less.
  • Fill the rear tire. Front tire failure is more likely to end up badly. Rear tire failure can be controlled fairly easily when riding in a straight line. This will also set your centre of gravity to the rear, which should help a minuscule amount when braking.
  • Carry a spare inner tube, because patching up a wet inner tube could be impossible.
  • Not sure if this is a good advice) but can you add a bit more? I cant imagine how would I put water through the valve. The pump has to be under water? – k102 May 14 at 10:34
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    @k102 you can place the wheel with the pump in a bathtub. The pump might take some damage from the water, though. Another way to do it would be connecting the valve to a hose and attaching a bottle of water to the other end of the hose. This will only work for Presta valve, Shrader and Dunlop will need a pump. – chameleon-hider May 15 at 11:19

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