Most cyclists aim to increase their average speed over the course of time, and even those who don't particularly care about such things (yes, there are people who cycle solely for pleasure!) usually get satisfaction from knowing they have completed their route a bit faster than usual.
There are two ways to increase your average speed: (1) hard work, sweat and tears, usually with interval training, or (2) by not cycling slowly so often!
Below we take a look at the second of these, the 'lazy person's guide to getting faster', in the hope that we can find ways to increase our average speed without having to do all that hard work first...
All you need to do is identify the times during a cycle ride that you are definitely not making enough effort!
Think I'm joking? What about the following possibilities, do any apply to you?
1) "I stop making an effort just before the end of a hill climb and then take it easy for a minute or two whil I recover". That 'rest and recovery' at the end of a hill can easily lose you the hard won seconds from the climb itself. try and get used to continuing your effort to the top of the hill - and beyond!
2) "I brake well in advance of a junction or obstacle". Well, OK, safety is good and comes first, but get used to how quickly you can stop the bike, both on the flat and going downhill, preferably using only the front brake. If you start to brake too soon you will again be losing valuable seconds
3) "I brake before a corner and accelearate out of the corner". Exactly what every cyclist does, of course. But there are a lot of corners which don't need braking at all, and don't need you to stop pedalling right through the corner either. Get used to how fast you can go round the bend (so to speak!) and if possible avoid braking, if the corner isn't too fast or acute you could also keep gently pedalling.
4) "Sometimes I lose concentration and look at the countryside instead of focussing on cycling". Well, we can't criticise someone for looking around and enjoying themselves! Just be aware that when you do, you are losing time. Try and get used to seeing the countryside whizzing by...
There is even a cycling training method which involves cycling reasonably gently but at a constant effort (say, 75% of your maximum heart rate). So with a focus on not letting your effort drop, rather than on having periods of great effort.
OK so the above won't turn you into Contador but next time you are out and about, each time you stop pedalling, slow down or start braking, ask yourself if it was really necessary, or whether you could have carried on cycling at 'normal' speed.
Note: the one exception to all the above, don't think that the first few kilometres is a time when you could make more effort. That warm-up time is crucial to the whole ride that follows, so exhausting yourself in the first 10 minutes will NOT increase your overall performance.