Leg strength and endurance are at the heart of cycling speed, says Oregon-based fitness coach Ben Cohn. Strong legs allow you to push the pedals harder, which makes the gears spin faster and allows you to maintain lower gears even as the pushing gets harder. Without endurance, you won't be able to maintain acceleration for long enough to make a difference over the course of a ride. Cohn recommends training for both with a combination of interval rides and committed distance routes.
Research your route ahead of time using maps, local advice and a drive- or walk-through. Become familiar with any obstacles or traffic hazards along the way. Interval training includes sprinting, so you'll want to know any areas where top speed cycling is dangerous.
Warm up with a 10-minute cycle at slow speed, the speed you'd ride while cycling for fun with your kids.
Cycle at a moderate pace for a specific interval, such as three minutes or 400 yards. This can be based on time or distance, whichever seems best for you.
Accelerate to a sprint speed for a distance or time equal to the previous interval.
Repeat steps three and four until you've nearly finished your route.
Cool down for 10 to 20 minutes after you finish. This can mean another slow period on the bike, or you can dismount and walk, stretch or conduct some other non-bike cool down.
Map out your route using a local map or online resource. You don't have to have it down to the centimeter, but you should have a general idea of how long you'll be biking.
Start your ride with a 10-minute warm-up at low speed.
Ride your route at a moderate pace. Triathlete Kelly Dodge defines this as going hard enough to breathe heavily but not so hard that you couldn't carry on a conversation. Discipline yourself to focus on your ride and keep your pace strong. This is not the time to stop and look at the sights or coast on the easy downhills.
Cool down just as you would for your interval workouts. Cohn recommends changing up how you cool down day by day to give attention to different muscle groups.