Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Fastest way to Increase your Speed.

I rank cyclists right up there with golfers when it comes to thinking that it is the bike or clubs that are slowing you down. If I only had a new carbon fiber handlebar, I would have won the sprint… Not the case at all. A good set of aerodynamic wheels (aero is better than lightweight in all cases except uphill time trials) will bump up your speed a bit with the only strain being on your wallet. I’m going to talk about a few other ways to get faster and save a few dollars along the way.

Positioning – Remember the aero trumps lightweight comment, even when you are not in the aerobars on a time trial, the vast majority of your cycling effort is overcoming the wind. Developing an aerodynamic position that allows you to remain comfortable and put down some power will add lots of speed. Narrow and low is the direction you want to head, making sure you are still comfortable to maintain your power output. If you only ride on the tops and then switch to the drops during a fast ride or race, you are headed for trouble. Practice your aero position often and get some easy speed.

Body weight – Nobody ever takes into account the complete bike, rider and gear weight. How many times have you seen someone with the new super XLSSL featherweight bike loaded down with 3-4 waterbottles, laptop computer, seat bag with the entire Park tool catalog and 6-7 spare tubes, etc. roll up on a ride? I’m not even mentioning the fact that most of us can stand to lose a few pounds on our bodies. Saving 30 grams on your new seat is about one swallow of water. Think about this the next time you blame your lack of speed on the bike. If you are getting dropped on hills, your power/weight ratio is the key factor. This is the power/weight of the entire package, not your watts/naked bodyweight and advertised bike weight with no pedals. Load up for a ride and before you get on the bike, grab it and get your entire getup on the scale. Now chuck everything you don’t really need and see the difference. Free speed!

Power – The first two were easy, now we have to work a bit. This too is free unless you hire a coach who will help you get the maximum return for your training time investment. We have seen clients add 2-3 mph in less than a year to the average speed they are able to maintain by focusing their training time. The majority of our clients are regular people who have families and jobs and work hard to carve out 8-10 hours a week to train. This is plenty to get some good speed in and be faster than your friends, which is really all that matters.
In summary, if you have to buy something, get some aero wheels. I am a huge fan of the Zipp 404 with Powertap and use these as training and racing wheels. Drop weight from your gear and your body to help with your climbing. Focus your training and get a coach to help you if you are unsure, the investment will pay handsomely in a short period of time.

Good riding – Coach Kevin

Monday, March 17, 2008

Trek 2300 FOR SALE!

TREK 2300 Full Ultegra - $1100.00

The perfect bike for somebody looking to get started cycling or even racing. This Trek 2300 is a few years old and hasn't been ridden in over a year (since I got my new bike). I've kept it around thinking I'd race it, or ride it in the rain, or set it up for my wife or... well, you know how it goes!
Anyway, it's just been hanging in my garage, so now I need some cash and it's for sale.
~2000 miles
Full ultegra
Upgraded carbon bars and stem (ITM with internal cable housings)
New drive train at 1500 miles

Paid $2000 new. Added $500 in upgrades. Asking $1100.
Email me for more photos or questions.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Bicycle Awareness

As spring rolls in, watch out for the cyclists on the road!

This commercial is great...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ultracycling – training for long distance riding

Ultracycling is the extreme end of the distance bicycle racing world with the RAAM (Race Across America) the ultimate challenge. 12 & 24 hour events as well as set distances of 200-500 miles are more common and manageable even for us mere mortals.

With so much information available about training, how to sort the wheat from the chaff to help you ride long distances fast? The Ultracycling world is dominated by riders 40 years of age and up. Go to an event and I guarantee you’ll see some gray hair leaving you in the dust. The speed that these animals can maintain seemingly forever is unbelievable. Just take a look at the results from the recent 24 hours of Sebring: http://www.altavistasports.com/results/2008results/bikesebring24hour021708.html

There is a lot more to training for this type of event than simply piling on the miles. If your goal is to simply stay on the bike for 12 or 24 hours, slap on a gel seat pad and some training wheels and try to stay awake. If you want to ride 200, 300, 400 or more, you need to have some speed along with your endurance. I’m going to share some of my own training for these events over the coming year as well as power data from specific workouts and races.

Winter Training – Averaging 8-9 hours/week does not seem like enough to be able to ride hundreds of miles in February but I managed to get in 309.9 at the Sebring 24 (17:15 in actual ride time, read the race report to hear about my nap) This averaged out to 18MPH in avg. riding speed, better than I had managed at any 12 hr race last year. I was hoping to have an average NP of 140 watts and was just above that.

Duration: 16:07:41 (18:13:02)
Work: 7199 kJ
TSS: 747.5 (intensity factor 0.684)
Norm Power: 144
VI: 1.15
Pw:HR: 6.44%
Pa:HR: -2.77%
Distance: 291.227 mi
Min Max Avg
Power: 0 637 125 watts
Heart Rate: 83 248 133 bpm
Cadence: 29 141 90 rpm
Speed: 0 29.5 18.0 mph
Pace 2:02 0:00 3:20 min/mi
Hub Torque: 0 277 46 lb-in
Crank Torque: 0 951 121 lb-in

You have to ride fast for short distances if you want to ride fast for longer periods of time. Think about that for just a second, If you find it hard to hold 20 mph for a while on a training ride, riding a century in under 5 hours is going to require one heck of a tailwind. Knowing this I spent most of the winter working on quality intervals from 20 sec max sprints to 10 min FTP range work (TT pace). Not making to time to ride lots of “base miles” as everyone would think, the last few years of steady riding were my base. 2-3 interval workouts a week with the vast majority of these teaching indoor cycling classes to my advanced disciples. This was a huge benefit in keeping my intensity higher than I would have with solo training.

In summary, I have been able to increase my FTP over the late summer high even though I am still only hovering around 220 watts. Aero positioning and pedaling efficiency cannot be overlooked at these longer distances as I am sure lots of people reading this are not averaging 18mph with 140 watts. Increasing my Spinscan #’s on the computrainer to around 80 has given me some free speed and allows me to stay fresh when I have to push on a climb.

If you are not doing any interval work, start today and you will get faster. Next post I will share a few of my favorite workouts as I get ready for Calvin’s Challenge 12 hour ride in May.

Good riding – Coach Kevin

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Race Report - Sebring

24 hours is quite a long time to do the same task. 3 normal workdays, 48 episodes of Family Guy, the list can go on. 24 hours on a bicycle is something most sane people cannot even begin to comprehend. As an early season challenge, I went down to sunny Sebring, FL to try my legs at a 24hr road race along with a few of our coached athletes. This is my (short) story…

Saturday, February 16th, 2008, 5:00 AM – Wake up in the RV to get ready for the race. I asked to be woken up at 6 since we were literally on the start line but Mike was simply too anxious. About 200 riders were going through their own race prep rituals to get ready for a long day in the saddle. Bottles being filled, lights being checked (sunrise was around 7:00 AM), tires being pumped, you know the drill.

6:30 AM – 3, 2, 1. GO! No sprinting from the gun but a strong pace was being set behind the pace car by the supermen of the Ultracycling world. I was in the drafting 24hr category since it was my first attempt at this distance and didn’t think I was ready to join the non-drafting, RAAM (Race Across America) Qualifiers. Three laps of the famous Sebring road course got us all moving and I managed to stay near the front group of riders as we left the track to head out into the countryside for our first 100 miles of the day.

8:41 AM – My little group which grew in size then shrank whenever we hit a hill reaches the turnaround point at 48 miles. Fill bottles and get going easy waiting for some help to catch. Feeling strong and trying to conserve, 22 hours to go.

10:29 AM – My new group of 6 riders hits the next rest stop where Lois from the Rotary club had the best tasting oranges on the planet! Fill bottles again and head into the wind for the last stretch on the big loop. Two of the guys in the group are pushing the pace on all of the climbs and I want to hang on even though it means 600+ watts for short bursts.

11:22 AM – 100 miles in the bank in under 5 hours, not a bad start. The top solo guys were already finishing some 13 mile afternoon loops riding like they were being chased. Another quick stop and ease into the slightly rolling loops, picking up a few riders here and there, trying to keep the speed in the 18+ mph range. Here is where I rode with Frank from Sarasota, a 20 something racing the 12 hour and heading for a new age group record. This was also Frank’s first century and he ended up with 180+ for 12 hrs!

6:04 PM – Finished my 8th loop giving me 205 miles in just over 11 hours. Time to put the lights on and head to the track. Sebring International raceway has a 3.7 mile pancake flat road course which would get us through the next 12 hours of riding. The RAAM guys were whipping around the track at unbelievable speeds, racking up huge miles. We gathered up a few riders and put together a small paceline cranking laps in the 11-12 minute range. Miguel and Maurizio had plenty of strength left and we would grab another rider or two every so often to share the work.

10:30 PM – Reality is starting to set in for lots of riders. People are of the bike in the pit area taking a nap, getting in some real food, contemplating whether they want to get back on the bike. I am still feeling good and have around 270 in. Mike had a spoke break which took some time to find the spare wheel and swap and he decided to grab a nap to come back out later and get the miles he needed to hit 300.

12:15 AM – The dream of 400 miles fading rapidly as fatigue caught up with me in rapid fashion and I started to have a hard time focusing on the turns. 290 in the bank and lying down for a bit is too good to pass up. At the RV, Mike is getting up to head out and I crash within a minute or so, failing to ask to be woken up. Mike has worked out that if he manages a steady pace of 15 min a lap or better he will have enough time to make up for a bad start and hit 300 miles. Miguel and Maurizio keep turning laps and both get 300+.

5:00 AM – The alarm goes off from the morning before and I wake in a panic. I just slept almost 5 hours of the race! I gingerly jump on the bike, take about half a lap to warmup and hit TT pace (about 17-18mph at this point) to get in as many laps as possible before 6:30. My legs still feel good and I am passing riders keeping my lap times in the 12-14 min range. I catch up to Mike with enough time to squeeze in 2 more laps and we ride together jumping on the wheel of a tandem. The sun is starting to break through as we finish up the last official lap at 6:24AM.

The final tally – 309.9 for me, 305.9 for Mike Abney who rode most of the night by himself. The other Two Wheels representative was Wendell Hyink who stopped after 10 hours with severe back and neck pain. Wendell’s legs were strong and he managed 167 in the non-drafting class, winning his age group of 60-64! Look for more huge numbers from Wendell and Mike in the future.

Just in case you want to know what it take to actually win an event like this, the top rider hit 503 miles! There were quite a few riders over 450 and the official results will be posted on http://www.bikesebring.org/. We are trying to put together a larger group to head down next year so mark your calendars for Valentines Day 2009!

A special thanks to the Rotary Club for putting on a great event. Miguel nearly ripped my legs off during the wee hours of the morning while Maurizio helped keep him in check and allow us to all get in big miles. Lonnie was our driver, support crew and all around do everything guy. A thankless task that helped us all reach our goals.

Get out there and challenge yourself this year, you just might be surprised by what you can accomplish. I'll have more info on the training and power data from the race later this week.
Good riding - Coach Kevin

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Hour of Power and Strength

In the book Racing and Training with a Powermeter, Andy Coggan and Hunter Allen reference a workout called the “Hour of Power”. If you have not read the book, this is essentially a steady ride for one hour where you gradually ratchet up the effort/wattage steadily through the hour so you are spending most of the time around your FTP (Functional Threshold Power), finishing above this number. This is a tough workout but great for stimulating a strong response to the training and getting you ready for hard efforts during races and fast group rides.

To help build this hour speed/wattage, I have an indoor workout that mixes in strength training and bike/trainer riding to maximize your power and build more speed on the high end (anaerobic) while also increasing your FTP wattage. If you are not currently doing strength training in the gym, build into this workout over a few weeks by starting with light weights and lower reps. If you minimize your rest breaks, this will take about 60 min and get you home in time for dinner with the family. As with all strenuous activity, listen to your body and stop if you feel dizzy, nausea, etc.

10 min progressive warmup on the bike (make sure you bring the HR/effort at the end of the 10 min to your FTP level.
3x30 sec work at 8-9 effort on 10 scale, 125-150% of FTP watts, 30 sec recovery. 2 min easy spin transition before Leg Press.
Leg Press superset with squat jumps – Leg press 20 reps with enough weight that 20 is failure. This means you can do 19 or 20 but not 21. This should not be easy to do, if it is, add some weight. Immediately do a set of 10 squats exploding to a jump at the finish. Use a medicine ball or similar weigh to increase the difficulty.
2 min easy spin on the bike followed by another set of 3x30 as above. 2 min easy spin before repeating Leg Press/squat jump superset.
You guessed it, repeat the 3x30 on the bike with 2 min easy spin to get ready for the next set. Keep it up, you are past the halfway mark!
Lunges with dumbbells or on a smith machine. 10 reps on each leg with a weight that takes you to failure. (for added difficulty, bring the opposite knee up at the finish of each lunge) Superset these with stiff-legged deadlifts. Keeping your knee soft and your back flat, lift a bar or dumbbell by hinging at your hip joint. 20 reps to failure, start a bit light and focus on the hamstrings.
2 min easy spin followed by 3x1 min at your FTP with 1 min recoveries (8 on a 10 scale) with 2 min easy before repeating the lunge/deadlift superset.
One more time with the 3x1 min at FTP (this should be really tough to do now, if not, add more weight and bump the wattages a bit) followed by a 5 min cooldown with some stretching and core work to fill up the 60 min.

Do this 2X/week and I guarantee you’ll be riding faster. After just four weeks of this, I was able to increase my FTP by over 10% and drop 45 seconds off my previous Computrainer 10K test time!

Good Riding – Coach Kevin

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Static Stretching and Active Stretching

After finishing an indoor cycling class this week I noticed a rather fit looking gentleman in the club getting ready for a run on the treadmill. After lacing up his sneaks, he proceeded to do some old school runner's stretches COLD! It made my legs hurt just looking at him.
There is plenty of evidence out there showing the benefits of static stretching AFTER your muscles are warm. Stretching with cold muscles is not only potentially dangerous but has also been shown to reduce the ability of your muscles to contract (less power).
Active stretching is something that many of us do during our warmup without even thinking about it. As cyclists, we tend to start pedaling easy with a bit of a lower cadence, gradually bringing up the effort as the blood starts to flow. If you add in some out of the saddle work along with some exaggerated pedaling action, you have just accomplished some simple active stretching of the muscles you will be using. Runners simply need to add some strides, skipping, knee raises and heel kicks to actively stretch the muscles. When strength training, doing an easier set with a lighter weight will take care of the stretch, just make sure you focus on a full range of motion with your active warmup.
These active stretches will make you feel stronger, allow you to get up to speed faster and help prevent injury all at the same time. Static stretching post workout is still a must to increase flexibility, just make sure the muscles are plenty warm first.