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  1. #1
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    You long time riders, are you still improving?

    I started riding in late 1998 and have been pretty non stop since then. Started at 195 pounds and pretty slow. Lost a lot of weight first year (20 pounds) and have had slow weight loss to my current 160. As far as power, I remember that when I first moved to my neighborhood, I had to walk a steep hill on the way to my house, while using my MTB. Now I can big ring it on my RB.

    1998 I was 31, and now I'm 46. Started racing in 2003 and then plateaued in my early 40's; and then a coach got me to ride more, and it seems that I've improved every year since turning up the volume, earning a Cat 3 upgrade on the road and Cat 1 on the MTB (pack fodder in both though). Power meter numbers also shows improvements since age 40 (just slight though, but it seems to make a difference).

    So I've had 15 yrs of performance improvement, which seems unusual. Combo of weight loss, power improvement, and learning how to train (which came late). Has anyone else had this long of a streak? Or did some of you hit the typical 10 yr wall?
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  2. #2
    LMN
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    Good question.

    I have been riding and racing since 93, I am still making improvements. My fitness is definitely better then it has ever been. I don't train as hard as I use too but I ride a lot more consistently. I still feel that I could be a lot quicker; weight loss, a bit more volume, more intensity would make me quicker.

    Technically I am not really improving any more. I am smoother and make less mistakes but I definitely don't take the same risks. The funny thing is I am quite happy to not take the same risks, crashing sucks.
    "The best pace is suicide pace, and today is a good day to die." Steve Prefontaine

  3. #3
    It's the axle
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    I started mountain biking in 1984. I was 28 I roofed during the day, and rode in the afternoons. Then from 86-90 I went to college, and commuted every day, rain or shine, and then rode for fun in the afternoons. Then 3 years of commuting after that. Then I bought a serious piece of property, and didn't ride for four years. That was the worst thing I ever did. Then from 1998 until 2005 I rode about every other day. Then from 2005 until now I've lived adjacent to singletrack, and have ridden about 4000 miles per year (with pretty massive climbing).

    Now in the last four years I've put a lot of effort into core strength, and diet, with the intent being to improve my riding.

    All along I've been improving. But last summer I was better than this summer. But this summer isn't over yet, and it's hard to tell if I'm really not as strong.

    The one thing that I am seeing is that I'm just not improving like I expected. So without someone telling me that I'm riding too hard, or maybe a combination of that versus not enough base hours, I don't know whether or not I could improve more.

    I'll say this though, I was in a race where Leipheimer raced, and there was a 50 year old whose time was close enough to Levi's that it gave me real optimism. I keep thinking "It can be done".

    edit- I have to say that my biggest gains in performance have happened in the last 2 years. It would take a lot of explaining to describe why. But for the sake of this thread, these gains are happening as I get close to 60. I still can't believe it. I think of myself as a kid.
    Last edited by Gregg K; 08-09-2013 at 10:05 AM.
    Note to self: 85% of FTP for 20 min.

  4. #4
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    This is really interesting. I've been curious about how endurace performance improves year-over-year and how those year-over-year gains meet up against old age performance losses. I started riding and racing XC at age 36 after doing NOTHING for 18 yrs following my HS Soccer and Track career and have been improving steadily over the past 7 yrs on the cusp of CAT 1 MTB at age 43. I wonder how much longer I can expect to keep improving into my mid/late 40s. For those out there in their late 40s and early 50s would be really interested in your experiences. Hope this isn't hijacking the original thread but I think it's an interesting angle on the same question.

  5. #5
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    Remember Tinker Juarez and Ned Overend? These guys were born in '61 & '55 respectively. They are both still killing it! (Not to mention all of the 50+ year olds who consistently place well above the 20-40+ year olds)

    While peak performance in sports (for men) is achieved between 25 and 35 years of age, the athletic aging process can be slowed. Unfortunately, from the mid 40's onward, regardless of overall physical conditioning, the average athlete will experience about a 2% decline in performance year over year. Genetics are the single biggest factor involved in athletic longevity. The heart muscle will have decreased processes after the mid 40's and this is the biggest factor in diminished performance.

    The good news is we can still learn technique and grow intellectually as athletes. While youth may still have speed, older riders can still be very smart. If you know how to use it, smart beats speed very frequently. We have to remain teachable as we age!

  6. #6
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    Grew up in Wisconsin. And I started riding and racing when I was 15 for fun...probably about 5-10 hours a week, just around town. Always placed 1st or 2nd in beginner.

    1996- Beginner (age 15) always 1st or 2nd.
    1997-1998 usually mid pack, sometimes on the podium, but super inconsistent.
    1999 to 2005, went to college, drank a bunch, worked as a a design engineer for 3 years...rode about 30 minutes a week and crept from 155 lb up to 185 lb. Raced about once a year and couldn't figure out why I was slower and it hurt so much. (duh)

    MOVED TO UTAH.

    2006-Wife started forcing healthy food on me (thank you).

    2007, started racing again, sport, won a couple sport races.
    2008, Expert, podium contention every race.
    2009, Expert, won 5 of 7 races entered. (5th Cat1 at nationals)
    2010, Pro- mid pack.
    2011, Pro- mid pack to podium contention. (mid pack at nationals)
    2012, Pro- 1 win, podium each race. (mid pack at nationals, 19th at marathon nationals)
    2013, Pro- podium contention each race...much reduced schedule with 2nd baby.
    2014? Pro-hopefully more racing again, but won't sacrifice family or career to carry a full race schedule. (Possibly CAT if USAC can't get this thing worked out with that stupid new rule)

    The last few years, my improvement has slowed, but is still there. I'm spending about the same amount of time on the bike (5-10 hours/week), but I cannot be as focused and the hours haven gotten far less consistent given increased family and job demands.
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  7. #7
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    Did my first race in '93 and am faster now at 40 than I was back then. Improvements in how I train and nutrition have done it for me.
    Geologist by trade...bicycle mechanic (former) by the grace of God!

    2012 Specialized Stumpy EVO 29 HT

  8. #8
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    You probably need to factor in (somehow) the changes/improvements in your bikes.

  9. #9
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    I started 10 years ago and felt like I was plateauing. I have been working with a coach since January and have made significant improvments (significant enough that other people are noticing). I'm 52 now and I'm still improving. This is because I clearly wasn't near my peak potential, so even with the age-thing, there is room to improve. I imagine that I'm improving slower than if I were 20 years younger.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Surfdog93 View Post
    You probably need to factor in (somehow) the changes/improvements in your bikes.
    I don't think this matters much. What about my current bike allows me to ride faster/longer? Not much. Its the motor.
    Geologist by trade...bicycle mechanic (former) by the grace of God!

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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by TiGeo View Post
    I don't think this matters much. What about my current bike allows me to ride faster/longer? Not much. Its the motor.
    So current bikes are no faster/better than they were 5,10,20 years ago ? Interesting

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by TiGeo View Post
    I don't think this matters much. What about my current bike allows me to ride faster/longer? Not much. Its the motor.
    You can ride beyond the mechanical limits of a lesser bike and destroy it and/or yourself in the process.
    When the chicks at school see how gay we are, they're gonna be all over us.

  13. #13
    I Tried Them ALL... Moderator
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    In 2006 - I was a homeless meth addict, diagnosed with congestive heart failure(CHF), hypertension(160/sys; 190/dia) and Cardiomyopathy(enlarged heart)....from 22 years of non-stop tobacco smoking and operating at redline, 24/7. I was told my body was about to give up the Ghost. My cardiac Ejection Fraction(heart output efficiency) was 32 - barely able to keep a 175-pound body standing. I kept going to ER, whenever my breath got short and I had chest pains. Doctors told me I had about 10 years MAX before major health problems would eventually kill me.

    I was admitted into my 3rd and final rehab, in 11/2006. When I was released in 09/2007 - my body ballooned to 230 pounds(I'm only 5'6"). I had quit literally EVERYTHING: Tobacco, drugs, alcohol. My waist was 42 inches. I decided to take up MTB, since bikes was my primary source of transport, out on the streets of San Francisco. I always admired high-end MTBs. I began riding trails in 2007. At first - everything was difficult. I could barely complete a level, 4-mile foot trail without walking the bike halfway through it. I kept trying. I rode a heavy, 33-pound, 2006 Trek 4900 Disc HT every day to work, making Pizza. Before I knew it...40 pounds was gone. My personal goal was to complete ONE LAP of the 24hrs of Adrenalin endurance race course, at Hurkey Creek Park(Idyllwild, CA)....without breaks. In early 2008, I finally did that 6-mile loop, in 55 minutes(pros did it in -39min). I rode the bike every day. I got a 2009 Cannondale CAAD9 with Ultegra, and did my first Tour de Palm Springs road Century, in 2010. I started doing 20-mile+, five-hour trail epics, by 2011. My weight is now 165, with a 31-inch waist. For the first time...I realized I have abs!

    At 49 now...people all tell me I look like I'm 35. It's amazing how body fat make people look so much older. Today, my bloodwork now comes back perfect. My cardiac Ejection Fraction doubled to 68.....ALL thanks to cycling. Even though I have been actively riding for less than 8 years - I feel my fitness improved exponentially. Prior to rehab, I was barely able to circle a street block without furiously gasping for air. I can never race(heart still cannot handle the stresses)....but I can always look and feel like one!
    Last edited by Zachariah; 08-09-2013 at 10:48 AM.
    "The mind will quit....well before the body does"

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Surfdog93 View Post
    So current bikes are no faster/better than they were 5,10,20 years ago ? Interesting
    Ok, first race in 1993...I was 21 and weighed around 140 pounds. I had been riding for 2 years at that time. I was riding a steel GT Corrado. HT w/1.75" travel Manitou suspension fork. 26" wheels obviously. Top mount XT 7-speed shifters w/3x7 XT drivetrain. Canti brakes. Racing in the mid-Atlantic..not much topo here. Bike probably weighed in around 27 pounds.

    Today. I'm 40 and weigh 165 pounds. Bike has a 1x10 drivetrain, disc brakes, a 3" travel fork and weighs in at 23 pounds. Been riding for 20 years.

    I could ride that old bike today and it wouldn't be a game changer..sure...my current bike is great and I am sure I am faster on it (29" wheels, more travel, better brakes), but this wasn't my point...my point was that the main difference between how I ride now compared to then is that I understand my body much better, what to put in it to ride optimally, and am generally faster due to higher skill from riding for 20 years.
    Geologist by trade...bicycle mechanic (former) by the grace of God!

    2012 Specialized Stumpy EVO 29 HT

  15. #15
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    The bike's impact is more related to what the competition is riding that year. If you're racing a 30lb 26er today, you'll be at a disadvantage vs. a 23lb 29er. I saw a huge from one year to the next going from a 28lb FS 26er to a 24lb HT 29er, but that's just because my bike got more competitive relative to what the competition was riding.

    I agree with the "its the engine not the bike" argument to a point, but even in CAT 2, the difference between the podium and mid-pack pack could be 5% or less (3-4 min in a 1.5hr race), so getting a few lbs lighter and reducing rolling resistance has a big impact on placings even if it's only a few % of an improvement.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by LMN View Post
    Good question.

    I have been riding and racing since 93, I am still making improvements. My fitness is definitely better then it has ever been. I don't train as hard as I use too but I ride a lot more consistently. I still feel that I could be a lot quicker; weight loss, a bit more volume, more intensity would make me quicker.

    Technically I am not really improving any more. I am smoother and make less mistakes but I definitely don't take the same risks. The funny thing is I am quite happy to not take the same risks, crashing sucks.
    Exactly this (though I started in 96). I've peeled back on the technical risks for sure and I think I need a breakthrough point in that area, but crashing sucks. At the same time though, I bought myself one of those "enduro" style bikes and it's been crazy fun to just hammer downhills and let the bike soak it all up. It has actually really made a difference in my descending skills.
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  17. #17
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    You long time riders, are you still improving?

    Quote Originally Posted by Poncharelli View Post
    So I've had 15 yrs of performance improvement, which seems unusual. Combo of weight loss, power improvement, and learning how to train (which came late). Has anyone else had this long of a streak? Or did some of you hit the typical 10 yr wall?
    I started riding "seriously" with a cycling club in 1988, my first road race was as a juvenile at the age of 14 in 1990.

    Looking back I didn't have a linear improvement year on year. It was a pattern of sudden improvement, plateauing and then another sudden improvement. A lot of that would be down to an initial lack of knowledge and understanding about how to train, how to eat and how to race. It was putting a jigsaw together and learning through trial and error mostly. There are a lot of things that I'd go back and change if I could. This was before the internet so not as though you could just read a forum or online articles for advice.

    As a juvenile and junior I didn't really get anywhere racing, regular top ten placings and points but not winning. I was too light really, able to climb well but not up to pushing big gears on the flat or winning bunch sprints.

    In my first full year as a senior I was annihilated. The first E/1/2/3 road race of that year in North Wales (1995 I think) was a utter low point. It was a flat course and absolutely on the rivet straight from the gun, 30mph+ with no respite anywhere. I was hanging and hanging, pure suffering until eventually I was dropped from the bunch after a few hours. I collapsed by the road side unable to continue I was so exhausted and came close to quitting cycling altogether right there. Although it hurt that was an important lesson which had to be learnt - just how hard you have to push yourself in the extreme, and how hard you can push yourself.

    For me there were a couple of key things that I'd attribute to improving:

    The main turning point was actually a magazine article by Peter Keen, Chris Boardman's coach when he won the Olympic pursuit gold medal in 1992 and head of British Cycling. It was a basic training plan: 10 hours per week, 3 hour level 2 rides based on heart rate, intervals, rest periods, no messing around and no excuses. A clearly defined structure to follow. In the build up to the 1996 season I followed it religiously and saw a big jump in racing performance and results, finally winning races and moving up through the categories over the next few years.

    One of my favourite workouts that worked well for developing as a young rider was to put it on the 53x12 and then ride in that gear for 30 minutes or so over rolling terrain as strength work. Speed didn't matter, just keeping moving. It gives the confidence to know you can turn a big gear when needed. Moving to longer 180mm cranks helped me with pushing the big gears too.

    Training with elite riders was a good thing also. As well as the faster speed it was helpful psychologically to see that if I could keep up and not be dropped in training then I could do the same in races. An important step.

    Along with that change in training I started to eat a bit better with a significantly higher protein diet, resulting in better recovery and some extra muscle for higher power output. By 1999 at my best I was racing at 154lbs, 6ft tall.

    Unfortunately since then I've had a lot of health problems. Any long term performance improvements are long gone by now.

  18. #18
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    I'm not sure where the plateau will be, I'm sure it's coming, but I'm 46 and seeing significant physical improvements. I was a decent cat1 as a 22-25 year old way back when. I took about 20 years off, I'd ride a little in the summers, just getting where I'd feel like I could climb a hill, then fall would come and I'd stop riding until June again. As of almost exactly 2 years ago I had dropped from 220 to about 195 just by eating a little better, but I was in bad shape for any physical activity, I could mow the lawn etc, but I would have finished toward the back if not dead last in Beginner in any racing. I started riding 2x a week about an hour each time including a short trail loop with a couple of hard hills. I would hurt and have a headache after each ride, but it was fun to get out on the bike again, and I did 2 rides per week (including trainer) all through the winter and spring. After about 9 months I started riding a bit more, and did a cx race at the 1 year mark just to see what it was like again, I finished mid pack in Cat4, and cat4 cx racers are reasonably fit. I raced through the fall and just after last Christmas a friend of ours died at age 40 from a big heart attack (on his mtb while hunting), the motivation I took from that is that I want to live while I'm alive, so I stepped up my training to 3 or 4 rides per week, still 1-2 hours each. I downgraded to Cat2 for the winter/spring mtb series since I knew I was nowhere near Cat1, and the distance would kill me. I finished 3rd in the first race, -surprising the heck out of me! (30 guys, I think I was top 6 for all the Cat2s, I hoped for a 15th or better), and finished on the podium for 4 more races in Cat2 masters 40-50. I then moved up to Cat1 for the last race of the series, meeting my goal of "finishing and not in last place", and did one other longer / harder C1 race with the same result. I did some longer mileage for me (just a few longer road rides) in June and July, and now I've stepped up my intensity in preparation for fall, - I requested a USAC upgrade to C3 for cx and it was given. Yesterday was about my hardest workout within the past 2 years (other than those cat1 races) and I'm continuing to feel stronger, and quite good after the hardest workouts, and I think the intensity headaches are gone now too. The last few rides I've been repeating one short steep climb that I could not do without a max effort just a few months ago (couldn't do it at all a year ago), using that as a measuring stick seems pretty good. I also added situps/pushups/pullups to my post ride routine, that is going well too. I am really surprised at how much I've been able to improve in just 2 years at age 46 (now), and I stabilized at 175pounds about a year ago (at 6'3"). I'm still training about 6 hours a week, kind of along the lines of The Time Crunched Cyclist, I may try to incorporate that a bit more specifically. Cyclocross starts in about 3 weeks, my finishes in Cat3 should be a good indicator of where I'm at compared to last year. I suppose I'm proof that a 44 year old in bad shape can train to the Cat2 mtb podium in just 1.5 years, in less than 6 hours a week. I don't really think of myself as old, but I didn't expect gains anywhere near this fast at this age.

  19. #19
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    My whole point is that the body can make surprising physical improvements in the mid 40s. Even if a long time rider seems to be at a plateau, weak areas could be identified causing overall improvement.

  20. #20
    DLd
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    I'm still improving at 42. At least still setting PR's and still increasing my peak power outputs for all time intervals. I only started training and racing seriously again last year (got 9 months of serious training in the year before, then messed up my knee snowboarding right before the start of the season, and had to take a few months off of riding completely, then rode easy for a few months before deciding to get serious again) though after a ten-year hiatus that saw me riding anywhere from 5 days/week to weekend warrior with a few 2-3 month stretches of no biking due to various injuries. If I had been training consistently the past 10 years, perhaps I'd have plateaued by now, or would be seeing improvements only over the longer races, but as it stands I'm still improving everywhere. Which is cool

    I still have lots of room for improvement before I'm standing on top of the Cat 1 podium, so it's a good thing I'm still making gains!

    I will mention that I started using a coach last year, and I am far and away faster now than I was when I raced during college in the late 90's despite putting in about the same amount of time training. I put it down to more effective training, and much better nutrition to support recovery and keep my weight optimal. 158lbs at 6'1" is what I typically hit for races. Sitting at 162 right now. I never would have thought I'd have a six-pack in my 40's. I couldn't seem to get one in my 20's or 30's, but Joe Friel's Paleo Diet for Athletes got me there in time to turn 40 and has helped me maintain it since. I also enjoy recipes from Well Fed.
    "Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion."-Jack Kerouac

  21. #21
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    I've been riding mountain bikes since 1982 and started racing back in 1986. The answer to your question is "yes" my racing the last 2 years have been pretty awesome( I race cat.1 50+) my race times, as well as my closest competitor in my class have been slightly slower than the "local pro's" and have been some of the fastest time of all cat.1's
    I really can't say what I'm doing different now then what I did before...maybe experience? can't really say I put more time, probably the fact that I ride and rest smarter.

  22. #22
    mnoutain bkie rdier
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    Yes, still improving I think. My fitness is as solid as it has ever been. I think my 40 year old race-self would still beat my past 18 year old race-self.

    I am still working on descending and cornering better though..

    Oh..my first race was in 1991 I think.. On my Fisher HooKoo E Koo with Bio Pace cranks baby!!

  23. #23
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    I started racing @33 now I'm 49 my best years was around age 37-38 I didn't slow down much but in my late 40's around 47-49 I have lost power endurance I have data that shows my decrease my training hrs have been pretty close from year to year. I do believe you can increase later in life you just have to increase your training time If possible which isn't for me with kids in all sorts of sports but best advise I can give you is don't quite!

  24. #24
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    I am 51 and have been racing for 8 years now. I improved until 49 and then skipped 50 with a serious knee injury. I came back strong at 51 and I am a bit better than I was at 49, but largely because of dropping 10 lbs (from 155 to 145) and doing a huge base. But improvements are small and hard to maintain. Realistically I am just trying to maintain form year-to-year and avoid injury.
    My rides:
    Lynskey Ti Pro29 SL singlespeed
    GF Superfly 29er HT
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    Pake French 75 track

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