Due to the tremendous popularity of cycling these days I see a lot of riders who are in their late 30′s and over. Many of these cyclists have the same history. They used to go on massive weekend rides and put in 15-20 training hours during the week. Then they got a career, had kids, got a mortgage and real life took over. Cycling is still a major passion but the list of priorities have been re-adjusted. The endless hours to train just aren’t available anymore. Cycling is a sport that can rule a person’s life if you let it and a line needs to be drawn somewhere.
Ten hours of training per week is a good amount for most serious recreational riders. There will be a natural limit to what you can achieve with this amount of training but ten hours will put to use much of your genetic potential. You’ll have room in this training schedule for some quality workouts and also some easy social rides. Anything more and you’ll be experiencing the Law of Diminishing Returns. 90% more effort for 10% gain. It’s up to you to decide if that extra commitment is worth it.
What I’ve outlined below is a basic training program that will provide some consistency and structure to your riding. Many times those ingredients are all that’s needed to get on track. Training for more serious cycling and racing usually entails a number of training blocks that focus on different aspects of fitness that build up to an event (called periodization). This doesn’t take that into consideration. Only triathletes are disciplined enough to periodize their training anyway 😉
Intensity is the key to improvement when time is limited. If you’re going to skip any of these workouts, don’t skip the ones that require intensity. Intensity is HARD. If you want to improve you need to do something that will cause a physiological adaptation in your body. Riding easy will not do this, but making room in your schedule to promote recovery is still important.
Monday: Rest day. Stay off the bike at least 1 day a week to help recovery. You might want to keep active with some light upper-body weight training or an easy walk with the wife. (Pilates is my personal favorite recovery activity. More on this in a later post).
Tuesday : Ride 60-90 minutes. After a warm up, do 5 to 10 sprints, or a short training time trial, or 6 short intervals (about 1-2 minutes long) at a heart rate around 90% of your max. Get some intensity into this workout. Group rides are a great way to get this intensity. However, if you try to go on a group ride that is above your ability when up at the front, you’ll quickly be relegated to sitting back in the bunch and won’t get anything out of this. If this is the case, it’s better to get 2 or 3 of your mates together and do a hard ride swapping turns (1-2 mins each).
Wednesday : Ride 2 hours with the emphasis on endurance. Heart rate shouldn’t go above 85% of max. If you’re pressed for time, split 2 hours of training into a couple of rides. For instance, go fairly hard for an hour in the morning, maybe on the trainer or on the commute to work. Then pedal easily after work or in the evening to promote recovery.
Thursday: Ride 60-90 minutes. Ideally this can be a group ride or a few mates getting together to really push each other. If there’s a Thurs evening race, even better. Get some intensity in.
Friday : One hour coffee ride with friends. Finish up with a short upper body weight training session, swim, pilates or yoga. Commuting to work is also a great way to get in this recovery ride.
Saturday : Two hours with some hills in it. This should be a good quality ride to build the strength in the legs. Hit the hills hard but you don’t need to smash the whole ride. If you have a race tomorrow then make it an easier ride. A short two hour ride leaves lots of time for chores and family responsibilities
Sunday : Ride 2 hours. Race, do an endurance ride, or go out with a good bunch of mates. This is the day to reap the benefits of your improved fitness. Go ahead and smash your mates!
When I say intensity, it does not mean going balls out right off the gun. If you are doing a hard interval you should be able to sustain that intensity for the whole period of time. A 30 second sprint interval will be as hard as you can go for 30 seconds. A 2 minute interval will not feel so hard at first, but will make you hurt by the time it’s over. You shouldn’t even be able to hold a brief conversation with your mates while in these intervals.
Also, when I say recovery, this means you should be able to talk to your mates at all times without huffing and puffing. Use the “talking” guideline to gauge your effort.
Next week I’ll talk about the different fitness systems that make up a cyclist, how to train each on of them individually, and which order to work on them.
When I started this post I originally intended on doing a write-up for a full bike fit. It didn’t take long before I started to comprehend how massive of a topic this is. Even the basics would take thousands of words and dozens of photos to explain. Therefore I decided to break this topic down to the individual elements of the bike fit.
When doing a bike fit the place to start is at the feet. This is the first point of contact on the bike and proper cleat setup is one of the most important elements of proper fit.
Many PhD’s have been written about cleat positioning and there are various theories out there. Unless you’re bio mechanically sensitive or have some individual needs these basic steps should get you going with a good and neutral cleat position that will minimize injuries and be comfortable.
1. On most cleats there is a center of cleat marking. You can see this vertical line on the side and center of the cleat below.
2. Attach the cleat onto the shoe so that the middle of cleat marker is in approximately 5mm back from the widest part of your foot (usually around the ball of your foot). It sometimes helps to tape a washer onto the side of the widest part of your bare foot so you can press on the shoe when the foot is inserted and feel underneath the shoe.
3. Once both cleats are attached in the proper position lay the shoes on a ledge with the cleats pressed up against it. Check to make sure the toes are even (thus making sure the cleats are positioned equally).
4. With the shoe attached to the pedal, check again to make sure that the wide part of the foot is slightly (about 5mm) ahead of the pedal axle. The other dimension to cleat positioning is sometimes referred as the lateral position or the “Q-factor” (the distance the cleat can be adjusted towards or away from the crank arm). This is highly individual based on your body type. A rule of thumb is that when the cleats are mounted there should be about 2cm between the heels of the shoes when they pass the crankarm on the way through the pedal stroke. Your feet should be close to the crankarm without letting your ankle hit it on it’s way through the stroke. Riders with wider hips may benefit from moving the cleats to the center or even as far as the inside of their shoes to push their feet further out.
Angling the cleat: In many cases riders don’t pedal with perfectly straight feet. To compensate for this most pedals have some degree of float so you get that neutral feel in sync with your natural toe-in or toe-out tendency. This is the most important setting to keep your knees happy and is highly individual. I would try to set the cleats dead straight and let the pedal float take care of any abnormal leg movements. I notice that some people have this odd knee jerk during their pedal stroke when they’re muscles are tight, but after they loosen up it goes away.
When I started getting knee problems I switched over to Speedplay pedals. They were very difficult to get used to because of their high degree of float. However, after I got accustomed to this I loved them and will never use anything else.
Once the cleats have been set using this basic technique, the cleat position should be neutral. There should be absolutely no twisting sensation through ankles, knees, or hips.
There’s been some interesting research done on moving the cleat position very far back towards the middle of the foot. This apparently produces more power by recruiting more of the larger muscles – the quads and glutes. I’m going to research this with a number of experts and I’ll write about it in a later post.
Thanks to Cycling Edge for letting me use their fit studio for taking these photos and helping me with this post.
Bikes should be pushing the limits of innovation more often. If you ask any motorcyclist they’d tell you that cycling is light years behind in technology. There’s hydraulic brakes integrated into the frame and a Shimano Di2 electronic shifting. The frame is also packed with load sensors, wiring, batteries and control cables that help the bike to collect up to 100 separate bits of ergonometric data—from skin temperature to respiration rate and humidity to individual leg power output. The rider can later download these for analysis. Will set you back about $46k. Website.
Here is a photo of their carbon fiber weaving mechanism they like to call “The Stargate”. Basically, that orange robot arm feeds this silicon sleeve into the Stargate. All of the carbon strands are then weaved around the silicon sleeve in a pattern dependent on the tube being made. It’s fascinating to watch. The whole process from start to finish is a completely new way of frame building, however the first part of the process shown below is similar to that of another manufacturer (as seen in the first 30 seconds of this video)
Earlier this week a student from Christchurch named Johannes Bay sent me this documentary he made for his drama/media class. It describes the intensity and commitment that a young cyclist must have to be competitive in our sport. It’s an inspiring 5 minutes starring Jacob Junghanns. I hope you find the time to watch it.