Coming back into my neighborhood.

DIY 13-Mile Time Trial

As chronicled in my last post, I had the opportunity to join my friend Kate and her daughter Becca for a “race pace” effort ride. This experience made me ponder about the times I’ve truly pushed myself for speed on a bike. Indeed, after the 70-mile fast ride and a not-so-fast-but-tiring run, I found myself saying to Becca, “I’m glad your mom invited me out for this. I don’t think I’ve done a hard effort since we rode in Greece a year ago, so this was really good for me.”

While I’ve put in some solid endurance efforts over the years, it had been literally a decade since I last did a true time trial that was longer than 10 miles but shorter than 20. The last time was the 2014 Boulder Sunset triathlon, when I averaged 22.1 MPH over 17.3 miles. 

Inspired by the ride with Becca and Kate, I decided it was time to challenge myself again. No organized event was necessary; a “race of truth” of the do-it-yourself variety would suffice.

I chose a 13-mile course that started and ended at my home. The route was mostly flat, free of traffic lights, and featured only a few stop signs. I’d last ridden this route in November after making several modifications to my Cannondale R500 for her 30th anniversary, during which I averaged 20.4 miles per hour while staying in Zone 2 virtually the entire time. Knowing I could push harder, I set out with a goal in mind.

This time, I maintained my heart rate at 150 beats per minute (Zone 3) for the majority of the ride. For the last two miles, a gradual uphill, my heart rate climbed into the low 160s (Zone 4). The result? An average speed of 22.5 MPH.

That turned out to be one of my all-time best efforts. To put this in perspective, this performance exactly matched my average speed in a 10-mile time trial at the Great Western Bicycle Rally back in May 2005. Back then, I was 19 years younger and using aerobars. This recent ride was longer and slightly hillier, and I rode in the aero-hoods position the entire time, yet I managed to achieve the same average speed. Needless to say, I was thrilled with the result.

Reflecting on my previous records, the only time I’ve ever been faster was during a 9.75-mile Grass Roots time trial in Fort Collins, where I averaged 23.9 MPH in May 2006. That was an all-out effort with aerobars, zero turns (one U-turn, though), and no gradients exceeding 1%.

Could I have gone even faster this time? Given that my heart rate was in Zone 3 for most of the ride, I believe I could have pushed even harder. Additionally, some minor adjustments, like moving my seat 1 cm forward and ditching the reflective leg bands that distractingly and non-aerodynamically bunched up near my ankles, could have provided some marginal gains. 

Overall, the conditions were perfect—no wind and pleasant temperatures. The course wasn’t closed to cars, but the shoulders were wide and there was only one time when I felt a motor vehicle caused me to slow down a little for safety’s sake.

Following the ride, I went for a five-kilometer recovery run. It wasn’t at race pace, but it was very enjoyable, especially since I encountered a bunch of pretty deer along the way.

After the 13-mile time trial on the bike, I went for a sunset run and encountered deer about 1.5 miles from home.
After the 13-mile time trial on the bike, I went for a sunset run and encountered deer about 1.5 miles from home.

This ride was a fantastic reminder of the joy of pushing my limits and the satisfaction that comes with a well-executed effort.

Ride Data

Total distance: 13.0 miles (21.0 km)
Total time: 34:51
Average speed: 22.5 MPH

Coming back into my neighborhood.
Coming back into my neighborhood.