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I'm a 17 year old girl. I started riding in November, and I don't know how to keep improving—I'm a bit lost. So I will describe my journey up until now and maybe you can help me.

One day my friend invited me to ride to a park. It was 10km, and it was awful. After not even 3km, I wanted to throw away the bike and grab an Uber. When I got home, my dad explained me that I had flat tires, so I guess it was a combination of being extremely unfit and that my bike was not in proper condition.

After that, I kept doing 4km (at about 17 km per hour) 5 times a week. Those rides were tiring but not impossible. Eventually they crept up to 8km (by accident: I would ride while shopping). Then I got interested in trying that 10km to the park again. I did it with my dad, and it was surprisingly easy. (We were going about 15km per hour.)

So I started doing 10km, but on a route without cars, so I could see how fast I could go and if I could maintain the speed. I did that during all December (at about 18 km per hour). It felt great. Sometimes I ran out of breath, but I could maintain it. (I also have chronic sinusitis, so I figured that is mainly the problem.) On December 31, I decided to do 20km. I did them in a bit less than an hour. I was tired after, but I did not struggle that much. I was extremely happy after.

Yesterday on January 7th (a week later) my boyfriend asked me to do 30km with him. I agreed because if I could do the 20km going "fast," then I could do more if I kept my energy and went "slow."

Here's the problem: he and his friends are VERY fit. I could keep up for the first maybe 14km, but after a 30 meter hill I was kind of exhausted. Then we slowed down and I completed the trip but very slow. The last 16km took us 1 hour (when I had done 20km in less than an hour before). I'm proud that I could do it, but now I'm a bit sore, and won't recover or be able to ride again for about a week at least. So I think that maybe I wasn't ready to ride that much.

What do you think? What should I do now? I don't know how much and how often I should ride between 10km and 30km to reach my goal: riding the 30km faster on a stable speed.

Also, here's a picture of my bike. It's a Halley classic 4x4 and has 18 speeds. It's very cheap, and comparing it to my friend's (that are much more professional mountain bikes) it feels like crap. But I wanted to be more fit before buying one.

enter image description here

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    The saddle looks really low. Is it at the right height?
    – ojs
    Jan 8 at 7:43
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    Make sure the bike is in good shape (enough air in the tires, chain lubed, brakes working, shifting working). Make sure the saddle is high enough. You could lower the handlebars for less drag.
    – Michael
    Jan 8 at 7:47
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    less than one hour for 20 km ... on that bike! Be proud of yourself! As someone said, keep on riding, you will have a feeling about getting fitter. Do some swimming or some upper torso excerises, because cycling is not a complete sport it is important to train a bit your core-body as well. 2 comments: (A) are you 1.50m or shorter? if not, the saddle looks very low ( cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0011/7958/2517/files/… ) (B) miun.se/en/Research/research-centers/swsrc/news/2019-2/…
    – EarlGrey
    Jan 8 at 8:06
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    What a wonderful effort. Whoever is putting pressure on you to do better needs a talking to (You are allowed to talk to yourself :) ). One gem I have picked up in my 50+ years is "You don't get fit exercising, you get fit recovering from exercise" . Give yourself permission to take the time to recover fully. Read up on training - slow, long distance to build endurance and base fitness is essential, you are possibly doing too much to quickly. Focus on enjoying the rides, not keeping up, and sort it out with the group how it can work for you and them.
    – mattnz
    Jan 8 at 10:04
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    If you continue with similar effort (great job by the way, by the sound of it), this bike will need expensive maintenance at some point in the not too distant future. I suggest you wait until that point to buy a new one. Also the longer you ride before buying a new bike, the better you will know what kind of bike to get.
    – Nobody
    Jan 8 at 14:21
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Cycling Weekly has lots of great articles. This may sound strange, but make full blast sprinting a part of your training. Usually a person gets tired because they don’t have enough oxygen moving into their legs. Sprinting works the great muscles of your upper legs. It doesn’t have to be a 1k sprint or anything like that. Just go flat out for a couple hundred meters then take it easy, or coast and breathe very very deeply. A couple times each time you ride and... You’ll be happily surprised. Happy cycling!!

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    This is essentially a bike-based form of HIIT (high intensity interval training); my spinning coach has used this for years to great effect. The trick is to not make it a long sprint. Start out with 20-30s sprints and as you get fit, move up to 45s. A sprint is hard enough that you just barely can't sustain the effort to the end; your effort should be noticeably dropping off in the 29th second of a 30-second sprint.
    – DavidW
    Jan 9 at 3:47
  • @DavidW I didnt even know what sprints were, and i realized that´s what i´ve been doing on some on my rides to try and improve. Now i know that it actually works. This is eye opening haha.Thank you so much!! Also, should i try sprinting only on days that i have my energy at 100% or could i do it also on days when im pretty tired yet like now after a big effort?
    – julie
    Jan 9 at 9:21
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    @julie you can do them even when not at your max. It's not about the speed in that sprint, but doing your max possible then for 30 seconds. Jan 11 at 17:02
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You've got off to a great start, well done. Several answers tell you how to improve quickly, and they're not wrong. But you'll see plenty of improvement just by riding often, occasionally pushing yourself, and resting when you feel the need after a hard effort.

Riding daily to work/school/college if reasonable, with something for fun some weekends is hugely beneficial. It's how I got started, and now I do rides of hundreds of km, having never used a training program. Especially if it's winter where you are, don't feel guilty about not riding if the weather is bad. In the long run enjoying the ride is a good thing, while making yourself suffer is likely to put you off - the time for that may come in the future if you start thinking about specific goals of speed, distance, etc.

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    Thank you! your comment has given me motivation, i tend to push myself too much and im unable to recognize progress, so i´ll trust you! Right now in Argentina is summer, so i´ll try to enjoy more the rides.
    – julie
    Jan 9 at 8:44
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It never gets easier, you just go faster.

— Greg Lemond

It actually sounds like you are doing great, that 30km ride was 50% longer than your previous largest ride which is pretty significant.

Just sticking with it is a big part of the equation here but, there are lots of training plans out there like https://www.cyclingweekly.com/fitness/training/cycling-training-plan-beginner-153317 which might help you.

When you are riding, try to focus on time and perceived effort instead of speed and make sure you spend about 80% of your time with easy to medium efforts and 20% with hard efforts while slowly increasing the overall amount of time you spend cycling.

https://athletearchitecture.com/blog/explanation-of-training-zones-and-rate-of-perceived-exertion has a good explanation of the training zones used in cycling and how they relate to your perceived level of exertion.

The 20% of the time you put into hard efforts stress your muscles, lung, heart while the 80% of time spent in easy/medium efforts provide them time to rebuild themselves and to help build up your endurance.

You did say you were sore after that 30km ride which again isn't surprising given how much longer it was then your previous longest adventure. Even so I wouldn't wait for a week to recover. Instead, take today off and then tomorrow do an easy ride for 30 to 45 minutes, make sure you keep your cadence up and gearing easy and then on Sunday try for a harder ride for another 45 to 60 minutes and then take Monday off.

Looking back at the training schedule my coach has given me over the years an average schedule on a non-race week might look something like this:

  • Monday: Off
  • Tuesday: 30 to 60 minutes, easy effort
  • Wednesday: 60 to 90 minutes, hard or really hard efforts. These could be either longer sustained hard efforts or repeating several shorter but very hard efforts with a break of several minutes between each one.
  • Thursday: 60 to 90 minutes, sustained medium effort
  • Friday: off
  • Saturday: Long ride, mostly sustained medium effort with some hard efforts thrown.
  • Sunday: 50 to 60% the time spent on Saturday's ride, easy to medium effort.

With any training routine there are also times where you reach plateau so you'll also want to change things up over time.

Also note, as your rides get beyond about 75 minutes you need to start thinking about feeding so that you don't bonk. It is also worth getting into the habit of doing post ride stretches - your legs will feel much better the next day if you consistently do these, especially after harder rides.

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    The linked article does not correctly use the RPE scale. There are plenty of better examples out there like this one: indoorcyclingassociation.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/…
    – Andy P
    Jan 8 at 8:42
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    Your training schedule could be too much for a beginner.
    – Michael
    Jan 8 at 12:02
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    I don’t train at all but I’m not out to break speed records, set distance or chase KOMs.
    – Dan K
    Jan 8 at 13:07
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    @Glenn Stevens thank you very much! your answer has clarified much doubts. I dont think i can keep that schedule right now without reaching exhaustion but i´ll keep riding until i can get closer to that :) I had not thought that I needed to eat a snack, what would you consider appropriate?
    – julie
    Jan 9 at 8:51
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    @julie bananas are always good but really anything that will be easy for your body to digest and convert Into energy. Jan 9 at 12:08
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Fundamentally, you will see improvement by gradually increasing either the time or intensity of your riding.

Ideally, you should focus more on the time and intensity (perceived effort) of your rides and less on speed/distance. This is for two reasons; firstly, route choice and weather can make a big difference to your speed. Secondly, when you worry about your speed it makes it mentally more difficult to take your easy days easy.

To improve faster and further you will want to add variety to your rides.

For most riders, a key ride is a long weekend ride. Ideally this should be at an easy/endurance pace. You have now done a 30km ride - but probably at a pace that was too fast. The next step would be to repeat that 30km, but at a much slower pace. From there you would gradually increase the time you ride for. The speed and distance will increase over time as you get fitter.

On weekdays, some shorter high intensity rides are a good idea. You might ride for up to 60 minutes and within these rides include intervals of harder efforts including 30 mins riding hard or 15 mins riding very hard. Many people like to use hills for making their efforts.

Rest is important, this is when your body adapts and get stronger. The amount of rest you need is quite specific to you and everyone is different. However typically people need 2-3 rest days per week, and every 4th week as an easier week (less time riding and less intensity).

Overall, a typical week might include: 2-3 short rides with intensity, 1-2 short easy rides, 1 long easy ride, 2-3 rest days.

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For the bike, don’t worry about it as long as it at your size and properly adjusted, if you do mostly roads and parks. The most important is to enjoy doing it.

You mentioned riding with friends, then it might better to have a bike of a similar kind than your friends (road, gravel, MTB), but it's not a requirement.

The answer depends also on what you’d like to improve: is it more endurance or sprint performance? For pure performance, I'm not really qualified to answer, but for casual riding, just ride (by casual, I don't mean slow, rather on a pace such as you don't need too much time to recover after a ride).

Once you know your pace, the distance doesn’t really matter. So it’s somehow more effective do 15km/day at a relaxed pace than 60km tours on the weekend (as long as you eat and drink appropriately).

A good thing is to use your bike as a mean of transport, if it's possible: your body will get used to the bike, develop the muscles even if you don’t push yourself. I was personally using my bike for every transportation need for less than 13km (including commuting to school) — I could average after some practice 22km/h (on that kind of bike — for commuting, a bad bike is an advantage, less worries about the bike being stolen), so it was actually not much slower than using a car (because parking was not easy, to the car would loose time to find a parking spot and then walk to destination).

Note: I noticed that beginners usually have their saddle too low, the picture suggests me to check that it might be the case: for roads/parks, I set it up so that I only touch the ground with the and of the toes (so I’m not sitting on it at the stops). You’d be surprised to see the difference.

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    Hello! haha i have the saddle higher, it´s not like in the picture. But i dont have it as high as i should since im scared to fall at stoplights and when i ride around avenues. Im curious now, so i guess i´ll try to have it higher anyway in roads without cars. Thank you! i´ll try to worry less, but im anxious about a new bike since this one i got it when i was 12, so its not that comfy
    – julie
    Jan 9 at 9:14
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    @julie In case you don't know, the tip with high saddles is not sit on them when stopped. Then just after you stopped, you move one of the pedals horizontally and facing front. In one move, when standing on this pedal, you can reach your saddle and give an impulsion to start the bike. It also makes the start easier because you start the bike with your weight and not your muscles. If you bought the bike when 12 and it's not at your size anymore, it is a much better reason to change than having a better one. Confort is important for the pleasure of riding.
    – Renaud
    Jan 9 at 10:32
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First, don’t worry about being fit before getting a better bike, if you can afford one. Once you have a better bike you’ll wonder how you got along without it before.

Second, as far as your distance concern goes, don’t stress about it. Push yourself hard, but don’t overdo it and be sure to allow your body to recover between rides. The less conditioned you are, the more recovery time you’ll need. That’ll improve with time. If you feel like you’re not improving, you may need more recovery time OR you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.

Most importantly, just keep riding. You’ll get a feel for it over time.

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    I actually think it makes a lot of sense to get fitter before getting a new bike. No, it's not strictly required, but neither is it required to get a new bike at all, unless you have external pressures. Just for fitness, any bike will do.
    – Nobody
    Jan 8 at 14:18
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    It's not just about whether or not to get fitter before buying a new bike; more experience riding (on this bike) as well as more use of it in daily life (shopping, commuting, leisure riding, etc.) will help give a better idea what is important for OP to look for in a new bike.
    – DavidW
    Jan 8 at 15:36
  • @DavidW thank you for your help. Im thinking on buying a new one because the one i have is getting uncomfortable, it has lots of deffects. So i´ll buy one sooner than i expected, and i shouldnt wait till im super fit, but im dont think i should buy it right now because i wouldnt want to get an expensive bike and not be able to get the most out of it yet.
    – julie
    Jan 9 at 9:07
  • DavidW has a good point. The major counter argument is if you don’t have a solid bike to begin with, you may not get over “the hump” of not liking cycling that much. On the other hand, if you love bikes, you’ll probably ride on a rust bucket with two wheels attached.
    – daneb
    Jan 11 at 5:06
0

Very glad to hear that you want to give it more try rather than give up.

  1. Do not expect too much and don't compare yourself to "ones too far ahead". You say they are extremely fit so you suck. This is nonsens - You've just begun riding, they are probably riding for years! I liek riding bike, but my endurance is not high. Were I trying to ride with my former boss, who is amateur racer, I would throw my bike in the corner and hide it. The difference betwenn how she is moving light, how she disappear in the steep hill like it is straight is so humiliating...

  2. Make yourself comfortable on the bike. Really, you shall find something pleasing you when you sat on the bike and start to ride. Even if you return home exhausted to almost death there must be something that attracts you back to the bike. Plus, if you are comfortable, you won't get tired that fast. I've tried many different bikes in many different conditions (from brand new to total wreck). One of the wost rides were in San Francicso where I rened a bike that was completely wrong for me - saddle position, handlebars, all the alignments were slighty off for me. I tried to enjoy the Golden Gate sights but the ride was awful. And tiring. You can go to the store and ask them to align the bike to your needs. I dare to say that your seat is badly tilted and the handlebars are too high - It seems to me that you are in not comfortable position on the bike and that you are wasting energy on keeping yourself not falling from the seat.

  3. Pick correct bike for your needs and expectations. The one you showed is quite good in rougher terrains and for shorter rides. I was having simillar one for years and I had a lot of good rides with it. For tarmac/dust paths you can switch the tyres to get smoother ride and more efficient ride.

  4. Pick appropriate paths as well. If you are a beginner steep hills or difficult crossroads are tiring, dangerous or both for you.

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