Ride Fast or Ride Far?
But my own experience stubbornly contradicted this piece of wisdom. I grew suspicious when, over the past two years, intentionally keeping my speed down only seemed to make me miserable on longer rides. So this summer I experimented. On some long rides I rode at whatever speed felt natural in the moment (whee!). On others I intentionally kept my speed in check. I felt better after the rides where I maintained a higher speed.
At first this discovery confused me. And then all at once, it made sense. The "fast or far" dichotomy fails to account for one crucial factor: time spent on the bike. Let's say you are doing a 100 mile ride. At an average rolling speed of 14mph, you will spend 7.14 hours on the bike. At an average rolling speed of 12mph, you will spend 8.33 hours on the bike. That's more than an hour of extra bike time! An entire extra hour of pedaling, of leaning forward, of gripping the handlebars, of chafing against the saddle. These things can wear you out just as much as the pedaling effort itself.
My point here is not that one should attempt a century ride with the zeal of a racer, but that it helps to look at a situation from multiple angles and to factor in your own strengths and weaknesses. As it turns out, I can ride faster than I've been giving myself credit. And as my body struggles to cope with longer times in the saddle, riding faster is getting me further. YMMV.