Welcome to Performance Corner a new category at OCA. Join us for a little geek out session, covering topics such as health & wellness, human performance, equipment and racing strategy. We hope to shed some light on the more scientific elements of the sport, provide some helpful tips and of course DATA that will help you improve cycling performance. Thanks for tuning in!
GETTING FASTER CYCLING – PART I
By Steve Auchterlonie
Who doesn’t want to get faster? This does not apply to racers only. Just about everyone wants to raise their level of performance. From the charity rider who doesn’t want to finish last, to the weekend warrior tired of getting dropped by his/her buddies on that hill. And of course to the racer wanting to hang on a little longer at Tuesday Night Worlds…win that state championship jersey or stand on the podium at nationals. It’s human nature to want to improve.
OCA asked Jon Johnson and I to draft a series of articles on improving cycling performance. Why us? There are many riders faster than us. Simply, cycling performance is our obsession. We love to go fast, and we devote far too much time in pursuit of going faster. Just ask our wives. I’ve been riding and racing for years, and Jon, while a relative newbie to racing, has become fascinated by the strategy and tactics of the sport.
This is the first article of what we hope to be an informative and useful series of posts to help everyone improve his/her cycling performance. Why would we not keep these secrets to ourselves? First, this information is already out there if you have the time to find it—they’re not our secrets. More importantly to us, if your performance improves you are more likely to ride more. We want to see the NWA cycling community continue to grow and flourish.
Enough already…where is the good stuff…how do we get faster? Improving performance can be reduced to two main categories: 1) Rider and 2) Equipment. Within each of these categories are several subcategories:
- Riding/Racing Strategies
- Bike skills (Road, MTB and Cyclocross)
- Pedaling Efficiency
I (Steve) will focus on fitness and training, efficiency, and skills, while Jon (being the strategy professor that he is) will concentrate on riding and racing strategies. We will both weigh in on motivation and equipment.
OCA asked the first article to focus on winter training for obvious reasons since it is February. Winter training requires serious motivation – it’s dark when we get off work, freezing temps in the morning, cold north winds, and the races and grand fondos are months away. Plenty of time, right? Wrong. Now is the time to be training for performance. With that in mind, I offer the following 7 tips:
1 – Just remind yourself that your competition is sitting on the couch watching TV and eating potato chips while you are training.
2 – Riding in groups (as small as two) helps tremendously…rotating on the front to block the cold wind… you can’t rollover in bed because they are waiting for you (accountability)…someone has fresh legs so the pace will be higher than by yourself…and so on. If you don’t know of a group, then form one.
3 – Embrace the indoor trainer. Seriously! Yes, it’s very boring. It doesn’t feel like riding outside. Stop with the excuses. Fitness improves with hours in the saddle…QUALITY HOURS IN THE SADDLE. This is not spinning easily for an hour while watching TV.
4 – Create a workout plan for the indoor session. Include a warm up which gets the legs ready to do some work. Include intervals/sets which the mind can handle. 20 minute lactate threshold sets are impossible mentally. Replace with 4 x 5 minutes with 1 or 2 minute recoveries. Get 60 minutes of quality training time.
5 – Mix it up on the indoor trainer. For example, simulate hill climbing on Tuesday, VO2 max intervals on Thursday, get outside on Saturday and Sunday, change to high cadence lactate intervals and anaerobic efforts the next week. KEEP THE MIND INTERESTED AND THE BODY CHALLENGED.
6 – Work on improving your pedal stroke by doing single leg drills. Keep the cadence high, 90 rpm. Unweight the backstroke. Drive the knee toward the handlebar at the top of stroke. “Scrape gum off the cleat” from 3 to 6 o’clock. Start with 30 seconds for each leg and build to a full minute. Do at least 5 efforts for both legs.
7- Finally environmental factors are very important on the trainer. Place a good fan on you, keep the temperature almost cold (ride in the garage) – it will not feel cold when you are working hard, get some good tunes playing, and keep a towel handy because you will be sweating.
I lied. I have one more tip. Ride indoors with others, if possible. It’s just like riding outside…you will be more consistent and work harder. Don’t know of a group indoor session? Make it happen.
I have attached a sample indoor session. 90 minutes of training to get faster. If you have a question about the workout below feel free to email me (Steve) at auchterlonie
Climbing Speed Workout #12
Make sure your bike is secure on the trainer (comfortable climbing position on hoods or top of bars). Arms slightly bent, don’t lock them out! Head up, shoulders down, relax the hands. Keep a steady rhythm. Push yourself…no one is going to do it for you. “Today I will do what others won’t…so tomorrow I can do what others can’t.”
- 5 minutes just turning circles.
- 3×30 sec. w/ 30 easy recovery; spin at higher (100+rpm) than normal cadence, easy gear…fast and light.
- 4 min. straight going one or two gears harder each minute and standing the last minute, B23 at C100+, B21/19 at C90s, B19\15 at C80s, B12-15 standing.
- 30 sec. soft pedal.
- 6 minutes…one legged drills, alternate legs each minute…45 sec. with 15 sec. of soft pedal (put both feet back in the pedals). Easiest gear you can pedal smoothly around 90+ cadence. This is not a strength building drill but a technique drill. Go right into 5 min. build.
- 5 min. hard, building to 85-90% heart rate for the last minute to open the legs and get a good lactate flush.
- 2 min soft pedal.
NOW YOU ARE READY TO DO SOME WORK!
- 6 min. one legged drills, 50 seconds with 10 sec. soft pedal. Put both feet back in pedals during 10 sec. soft pedal. Switch legs…repeat for 6 min. WORK ON PEDAL STROKE!
- 1 minute soft pedal.
- 2×1 min. build – ramp up to TIME TRIAL effort by 30 seconds and hold to the minute mark, with one min rest.
- 2 minute soft pedal.
- 2×8 min. under/over w/3min. rest: This is a hard set if done correctly!
- 8 min effort; 1 min. under time trial effort then 1 min. over…repeat for 8 minutes. Cadence 70-75 on the UNDER and 80-85 on the OVER. Keep the same gear just change your cadence to get to the OVER. Power will be 5-10 watts OVER and UNDER your time trial. If using speed 0.5 mph UNDER and OVER your time trial speed. Rest for 3 min. then repeat 8 min. effort again…I found I would increase my cadence around 5-7 rpm to get to the OVER. Cadence will depend on what gear you choose. If you find you can’t hold the lower cadence in this set then go to an easy gear and higher cadence.
- 3 min soft pedal.
- Get off the bike and do butt burners, 20 x single step left, then right while in squat position…STAY LOW!
- 2×8 min. descending power intervals w/3 min rest. You should be 1 or 2 gears harder than the previous set. This is your maximum REPEATABLE effort you can hold for each interval. Your pace for each set will be approx .5-1mph over your time trial speed. You should build on each rep…the first 15 seconds to get up to your desired speed then we’ll increase the cadence the last 15 seconds for a max effort! Remember you are doing this set twice so don’t blow your legs out on the first 2 min. effort! You’ll be able to go with a little more power/speed when we get down to the 1 min. effort.
- 8 min. set: First…2 min. repeatable max effort with 2 min. soft pedal for recovery; Second…1 min. 30 max (same speed/power as first 2 min. effort) with1 min. 30 sec soft pedal; Third…1 min. max effort, then…
- 3 min. soft pedal
- Do it again!
- 3 min. 100+ rpm, or 10 rpm higher than normal cadence. Light and fast. Flush those legs out.
- Now, do some stretches and get a recovery drink. WELL DONE!
Power to weight ratio is a key factor to climbing. The lighter you are the better you climb. To break the 10 minute mark on the Joe Martin TT climb, one must average just above 5w/kg: 154lb rider must produce at least 350w average. 11 minutes = 4.6w/kg. 12 minutes = 4.15w/kg. The Pro that wins at about 8 minutes flat averages 6w/kg.
Every pound of extra weight robs you of 1.5 watts on a 5% climb (typical big hill around here). Every watt equals 0.5 sec. per half mile on that 5%. Do the math…10 extra lbs equals 10 x 1.5 x 0.5 = almost 8 seconds lost for a half mile climb. 8 seconds is huge! It’s the difference in staying with the group and getting dropped.
Weight is not the enemy…unproductive weight is…body fat. Typical Pro body fat composition is 4 to 7%…WOW! Skeleton-like! Very good body fat levels for men are 7-10% and 15% for women. Your minimum goal should be to achieve less than 20% for sure. My typical question is “what did you weigh in high school?” That is the goal, typically.
Don’t lose muscle! Lose at most 1-1.5 lbs per week, while training. This equates to about 500-750 calories per day drop. 1 hour of hard exercise is at least 500 calories, typically. Don’t starve yourself! All this does is cause your body to go into protection mode and shut down your metabolism, and weaken your immune system. Eat a minimum of 1000 calories per day…plus the calories you burn doing exercise that day…1 hour workout burns 500 calories, so you need at least 1500 calories that day.