Speed tips?

I’ve always been one for cross country, distance and (when going for it) sustained briskness rather than all out speed.

However, I’m going through a bit of a “let’s see what it will do” phase at the moment, and I wonder what the fastest riders do when sprinting.

Do you ride with the balls of your feet on the pedals, or your insteps?

Do you Keep upright for better balance, or crouch for reduced wind resistance?

Do you hold the seat/handle for stability, or keep both hands free against the possibility of a sudden UPD?

Do you have your seat higher or lower than for more general riding?

Any tips?

You’re getting the right idea Mike: faster = better :slight_smile:

Balls - always, not just when going fast. It gives a better angle to push from.

It’s hard to get much of a crouch without a road handle like a T7 or GB4. It doesn’t make a big difference unless you have a headwind, but I do like to have a fairly low-shoulder position. Getting my top speeds down hills I often come back up slightly, as I feel more vulnerable tucked right down (in aerobars etc.) and have less control to correct for bumps. Sometimes I get a magic uphill feeling on rolling roads where it seems to be the perfect tiny gradient and I can spin up to 30kph (18.5mph) without any tuck (I usually straighten up uphill).

Both hands on the handle in a whiteknuckle deathgrip. Possibly with a finger or two on the brake level too. Holding a handle further out form the seat reduces a lot of the wriggle and helps me go in a smoother line at speed. I’d be scared to ride hands-free much above 25kph (15mph) - it’s too wobbly. Using a gentle drag on the brake can improve downhill speed as it helps take the pressure out of your legs and lets them spin rather than fight gravity.

I have the seat as high as possible to still have a comfortable nearly-straight extention of each leg down to the bottom of the stroke.

Lastly, I find it is good practice for my technique to ride with a heavyish, biggish backpack on. It wants to wave around more than a snug camelbak does and so it forces me to concentrate on minimising my back movement and encourages smoother (leading to faster) riding.

Hope that’s useful.


  1. Balls.
  2. On the track (24" racing), I used to keep upright for the longer races as filling your lungs was more important than any tiny advantage gained from a smaller frontal area. On the Coker I have a somewhat bent-over riding position, with my hands on the lowest/furthest forward part of my handlebar. You still need to be able to breathe well, but aerodynamics starts to play a role at those speeds.
  3. I hold with both hands normally. In a UPD those hands can still guide the handle safely between my legs. In theory.
  4. Generally you want it high for speed, but if it’s a road situation you need it low enough that you can deal with unexpected bumps.

Work your way up gradually. I think there’s a lot to be said for getting comfortable at higher speeds before striving for even higher ones. One of the scary parts about preparing for RTL was knowing the intent was to ride above running speed at all times, unless the road was too steep. That’s a lot of riding at “scary” speeds. Gradually I got comfortable at higher speeds (on the flat), though at those higher speeds I was hyper-sensitive to road camber, which I could mostly ignore at lower speeds. Comfort is confidence, and being confident makes you safer when going fast!

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When I hear “cross country” I usually think of offroad, but I guess you mean on the road.

I think my feet are between the balls and the instep when I’m trying to go fast; toward the balls but not quite on the balls like a clipless pedal would position my foot.

I usually crouch slightly. I ride with a stock KH saddle with plastic handle. So both hands are on the handle with my arms glued to my sides. I think crouching slightly helps absorb bumps in the road, whereas sitting straight up makes UPDs more likely.

Best crank size for a 36 non guni in a flat town ?

Sorta related I hope.:slight_smile: I can’t decide between 114 and 100. I’ve never tried anything smaller then 125.

I just have a +1 on balls, crouching, White Knuckle Deathgripping™, and a high seat… all four. Crouching, though, more likely than not, depends on how fast you’re actually going. May or may not want to crouch on a 24" racer, but on a geared 36, it’s a huge difference (maybe 2mph).

hey there, I’d do 100 if I were you… Unless you’re riding in a very hilly area, just skip 114 and hit 100 or 102 or thereabouts. (And you can still climb on 102s, just not as fast on the crazy steep stuff) It’ll feel really short in the beginning, and then you’ll fall in love with it and you’ll be able to ride that thing FAST! :slight_smile:

I can’t sprint for peanuts, but I can cruise at a good speed.

Always with the balls of my feet. It gives you ability to make small adjustments to correct your balance, as well as adjust foot position.

I always ride crouched, but it’s not for wind resistance. It’s to keep my centre of gravity low and it’s also more comfortable than sitting with your full weight on the seat. Kind of like riding a bike.

I never EVER take my hands off the handle for general riding. It’s like taking your hands off the handlebars on the bike. It’s good to show off to people that you can ride without your hands, but it’s not something you would do for proper riding.

My general riding position is my going fast position. It’s usually with my legs slightly bent at it’s lowest crank position. I run it very slightly lower off-road.

Main one is to be as relaxed as possible. You can’t go fast if you are too stiff and tense. You should just have enough pressure on the pedals to keep your feet from falling off…basically float your foot on the pedal.

You can tell someone has too much pressure or aren’t relaxed when riding…their wheel goes in a wiggly line. It should track straight.

Thanks for all the tips so far.

One thing I can say is that short cranks for short cranks’ sake is not the way to go. I can ride my 700c on 80s, but not as fast as on 114s.

For general riding, it is better to be able to spin longer cranks than to rely on shorter cranks for your speed. It gives you more versatility on mixed terrain.

And if your cranks are too short for you to feel 100% confident and in control, you will ride more slowly.

While I didn’t end up in RTL speed category, I’ve been working on my speed a lot lately, and am definitely able to ride faster, and faster/longer, then ever before.

  1. About halfway between balls and instep. Front edge of pedal under ball, back edge of pedal about mid instep.

  2. I’ve always been pretty upright, but lately have been experimenting with more of a forward lean, lowered shoulders. Nothing like Ken or Pete P position, but low for me. I thought it would help with wind, but it actually seems to be helping more with stroke and power. Not sure why yet.

  3. Handle, deathgrip. Generally I’ve always just held it with my right hand, but lately I’ve been using both hands while spinning, and dropping to one hand only for bumpy terrain or climbing.

  4. I try to always keep my seat as high as I can while still giving me room to stand up if I need to on a hill.

Biggest contributor to me for speed has been shorter cranks. Every time I shorten there’s an adjustment, but I’m now generally alternating between 110s and 130s on my 36". Almost all the terrain I used to do on 150s I can do now on 130s, and just need to practice more on the 110s to get to the same status there.

Going fast is fun!!!

For Florida? Go straight to the 100s. Take time to get used to them as it’s a big jump from 125. They’ll be more sluggish in general, but clearly faster than the 125s. And once you get used to them you’ll be fine going over South Florida’s mountains (overpasses). :slight_smile:

I always ride with both or one hand on the handle, on the balls of my feet with a little more than I slight bend in my knee so I have room to adjust for small unexpected bumps, I ride in a crouched position almost all the time even climbing hills although I’m more upright on hills. not really for speed but because it just feels more balanced at higher speeds and just in general is more comfortable for any long period of time in the saddle.

I run a fixed 36’er with 114’s I had 127’s but they got bent and I had the 114’s on another uni so I just borrowed those until i can afford new cranks and can sprint for a quarter mile (just short of half a kilometer) at 22.5mph(36.2kph).

My tip is the same as everyone else so far and that’s get comfortable, the more relaxed you are the easier it is to stay light on the pedals and just let you legs spin. The more comfortable you are the better.

Hi Mike,

Nice to see you’re getting some riding time again.
I’m not a quick rider on the road, but FWIW:

Balls - probably from my bicycling background, pedalling with the middle of my foot just feels really wrong.

Balls - is also what limits my top speed I think, rather than spinning speed/crank length. I can spin faster on the muni, but I chicken out on the coker before I get to maximum spin speed (about 16mph is as much as I can take before I feel unsafe). In fact I can ride faster on the coker with longer cranks because I feel more in control (I’ve had various attempts at getting used to 125s but always end up going back to 145s).

Saddle height: same as on a bike, leg almost straight at bottom of stroke but not quite. Slightly lower for xc.

Body position: I bend over a bit more if I’m riding into a headwind, and it does seem to make a difference. Otherwise, at the speed I go (usually cruise at about 13mph) it’s just slightly forward to absorb bumps.

Handle: Just a normal KH handle at the moment. On the road I tend to put one hand on the handle and the other on top of it. It’s possible to put almost all my weight on my arms occasinally to avoid numb goolies. I’m thinking of trying a longer handle an see if it makes me feel more confident at speed (I’ll probably make a clone of Tue’s bike forks handle with an old fork I’ve got in my stash of bike parts).

Downhill, what Sam said about dragging the brake really does work. I’m no good at it at the moment but I’ve been experimenting since I’ve had my nice new smooth rim and it is definitely faster to control speed with the brake (and keep pedalling forwards against it) than to apply back pressure with your legs.

I find a lower tyre pressure than many people use (I usually run between 25 and 30psi in my TA tyre, depending on how rough the route is) is much better even on the road - absorbs bumps better and is less affected by road camber.


Was going to start a new thread, and then I found this one.

I’ve worked a lot on having a better position and more regular riding - I rode “behind the wheel” for a long time, overusing back pressure on the up pedal to stay balanced. Now my pedalling is much smoother. But if I try to go faster, I have to put one hand (or two if I feel confident) and hold the saddle. Just can’t go smooth if I have my hands free.

Reading this thread reassured me. It’s clearly the way to go in order to achieve speed. And probably add handlebars to the equation for more speed. I feel also that grabbing the saddle allows to bend forward a bit more, which adds control if I encounter a bump - where the no-hands sent me UPDing almost instantly last ride, when I didn’t see an actual hole in the road. Probably because I’m much straighter if I don’t hold onto the saddle.

What’s your experience guys? Anyone out there goes fast no-hands?

Spot on.
The crouched position referred to in the posts above is less about wind resistance and more about putting more weight forwards which helps with going faster.

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