At the end of each month, I rest for 2-3 days, and then re-test myself. When the gyms were open, I’d complete an FTP test on a spinning bike. These days, I time myself up the steepest, most challenging, local hills. I’m fortunate to have 4 right out my back door. They are not long (1.5 km), but have grades ranging from 5-13%. These are my new monthly test.
Yesterday I climbed them all in succession. My objective was to set a PR on each, and claim the #1 ranking for my age group if possible. Surprisingly, I did both 😃
I have been climbing more this past month, and have been feeling stronger, but I didn’t really expect to claim all of the top rankings.
I was first introduced to them 2 years ago when I was considering a bespoke all-road bike from Mariposa Bicycles. They recommended the Compass 700 x 35 tires for the bike. I have been riding with them for 2 years, and have been pleased with their performance and comfort compared to the 25mm and 28mm tires I had been used to.
After 2 years, and a lot of hard riding, I needed new tires. Mariposa suggested I try the 700×38 version of the tire, saying they are more comfortable, particularly on the torn up city streets. A few days ago I took delivery, and immediately put them on the bike.
I didn’t expect much of a difference. A little more comfort, and possibly slower because of the the lower pressure and greater weight.
Well, was I surprised.
They are certainly no slower. On the first ride I recorded several Strava PRs. They are substantially more comfortable. I inflated them to 50 psi in the back and 35 psi in the front. They weren’t cushy feeling but rolled over the bumps smoothly as if I had shock absorbers on the bike. The most notable difference, however, was on the descents. I felt more confident, tucked lower, and cornered at speed.
Now, I’m a bigger fan than ever, and enthusiastically advocate the use of wider tires on raid bikes.
With gyms closed, I make due with a couple of 15 pound dumb bells, and a series of body weight exercises. Once or twice a week I do 3-4 sets of 15 full-body exercises, gradually increasing the # of repetitions. The 1st set is a warm up doing ~ 10 reps. The 2nd I do 15-20 reps. And the final set I continue until I fail. Until I can’t do another rep. That might be 40-50 reps for some of the exercises. The entire workout takes ~ 90 minutes, and I’m left fully spent.
This week I came across the above video that outlines the use of strength training to failure. It can help to break through plateaus, and build strength. Even with light weights.
I suppose I could purchase heavier dumb bells. I might still. But I realize heavy weight is not the only method to improve strength, and endurance. High reps with pauses, and slower reps increase the time muscles are under tension, which has a similar effect as high weight and low rep workouts. It may even be better. There is less of a chance for injury.
During the summer months when I cycle more, I intend to continue with this approach. In the fall when I’m inside more, I may consider purchasing more weights.
I have 4 pair of cycling shoes – 2 for Shimano road pedals, and 2 for SPD (Shimano Pedalling Dynamics) pedals used on the gravel and mountain bikes. The road shoes are 8-10 years old, but still in excellent condition. My newest shoes are for the gravel bike, and are only 2 years old. New by comparison.
I’ve had many bike fits, some professionally done, others completed with the help of friends. Every time the fitter recommends (and sells) new insoles. I was always sceptical but must admit they have lengthened the use of the shoes. They stretch over time and the insoles compensate for the extra space.
Last week I found a new pair of insoles stuffed in a box with old, unused cycling gear. I don’t need them in my road shoes but decided to put them in my new(er) gravel shoes. I didn’t think they were needed. The original insoles seemed fine.
Well I was wrong.
Not only do the Superfeet insoles take up any slack, they provide better arch support, which in turn distributes the forces on the feet more evenly. This results in more power.
But I feel like I’m pedalling more efficiently, with more power and less effort.
I’m spending too much time on YouTube, but it has its benefits 😂
Phil Gaimon was a professional cyclist. He retired in 2016 to find a real job (he wasn’t that good apparently), and developed a YouTube channel called The Worst Retirement Ever, where he travels the world trying to earn KOMs on the worlds toughest climbs. A formidable task, and the worst ever retirement.
Or is it?
I learned of Phil when he visited my hometown to attempt the Triple Crown. We have 3 local mountains, and each year there is a race up each of them in succession. Phil attempted to KOM each of them. I don’t know if he was successful or not. I haven’t found the video yet but it got me thinking.
I identify with Phil.
I’m retired, and all I really want to do is train, and cycle. I’m nowhere as fit, or fast, but then again, I’m also a lot older. By a long shot. And, I never raced professionally. No, I’m a recreational cyclist with an obsession. Instead of chasing KOMs around the world, I chase local PRs. It’s encouraging to see that even at my age, I can improve.
So maybe my blog needs to be renamed from PedalWORKS to The Worst Retirement. Certainly most people my age are not interested in pushing themselves physically the way I do. But I look at it differently.
What is more important than your health? My health?
Cycling gets me out the door, challenging myself, and engaged. What more could I ask for?
There is something.
Warm weather all year round. When we are done with COVID-19, I hope to spend the summer months at Camp PedalWORKS, and the winters in Arizona 😃
The K-EDGE. I just installed this puppy on my gravel bike.
Strava has transformed my training methods. And the Wahoo Bolt makes it easier, and better.
Over the years I have tried many cycling computers. Wired. Wireless. Those with heart rate monitors. Those with cadence sensors. Some that report grade as well as speeds and distances. But none with the features included with the Wahoo, or with seamless Strava integration.
I began using Strava years ago, but didn’t stay with it. I didn’t like how it turned every ride into a race. Rather than vary the intensity of my workouts, every ride I was chasing PRs. Never KOMs. They were always out of reach 😂
A few years ago, I began using the app again, particularly while at Camp PEDALworks. I liked how I could find new routes, and other cyclists in the area. This social aspect of the app, is one of its strengths. The community I have developed keeps me motivated. Evan after years of use, I continue to find new routes, and new cycling buddies.
The Wahoo Bolt has numerous features. I won’t list them all here. Rather, I’ll explain the one I like most. It allows me to customize the display, and to have multiple displays. I’m sure other computers can do something similar, but I like that I can easily, and quickly do this on my iPhone, not on the unit itself. I can chose from a wide variety of metrics, and arrange them in any order.
Why do I have multiple displays?
Well, I do multiple types of workouts. Sometimes, I’m most interested in the duration of the ride. Other times, it’s heart rate zone. I train by HR and subscribe to polarized training, so it’s important to know how hard I’m working. On unfamiliar routes, I’m interested in knowing the grade. And, on some rides, I flip amongst the displays depending on the terrain, my work effort, or specific goals.
When I first began cycling I was not interested in numbers. I just rode to have fun and test myself. As my training methods, and bikes, improved I became a numbers nerd. How else can you measure progress. Some never progress to this level. They simply ride for the fun of it. And that’s fine. But, if you get serious about your fitness, you want to begin measuring speed, distance, and relative effort. And even if you never win the TDF, you become a numbers nerd 😂
Strava and the Wahoo Bolt are the perfect training tools for cyclists. How did I ever manage without them 😂 They give me the edge I need to cycle faster and further with less effort, even at my age.
I live atop a mountain. A little mountain. A big hill really. It’s a 3 km climb home from all directions.
Recently, I’ve challenged myself further. There is a short, steep climb near home. I don’t need to climb it to get home, but in the past few weeks, I’ve added this climb to the finish of every ride. I’m usually tired. Never feel like doing it. But always seem to post a good time, and glad I did it.
Today was no different. Well, there was a difference. As I was labouring up the steep section, I passed a young man and woman pushing their bikes up the hill. As I passed them, I overheard the man say to his partner “by the end of the summer, we’ll be riding up here”.
This got me thinking about goals.
We need goals to stay focused, and give us hope. Otherwise, what is the point? Without hope, life has no value. That’s what makes us human – finding hope, even in times of adversity.
Goals are relative. What’s easy for some, is a big challenge for others. What’s important to one race, has no value to another. But it doesn’t matter how well someone else does. It’s only important that we have a goal, work at it, and slowly progress toward it.
Goals are both personal, and collective. Groups of all sorts have common goals. Cyclists want to ride faster, and longer distances. Golfers want to lower their scores. Bakers want to make that perfect sourdough loaf, and knitters that beautiful sweater. Individually, we simply want to get better.
It doesn’t matter that the KOM for the hill near my home is twice as fast as my personal best. I’ll never beat it. But it doesn’t matter. As long as I progress, and record more PR’s on the hill, I’ll remain focused, and have hope that I can get better.
Well, that depends on a lot of things. Your fitness for sure. The terrain. Is it hilly, or flat? And, the weather. Is it hot, cold, windy, or wet?
This week I watched a GCN video. The presenter built a “velodrome” in his yard by banking the corners with dirt, and raced around it on his gravel bike for an hour. I thought it was silly, but it got me thinking.
What route in these COVID-19 times when I can’t venture too far, tests both my fitness and cycling skills?
In these parts, we are encouraged to get outside, provided we maintain physical distancing of 6+ feet, and not to venture too far from our neighbourhood. The city parks are closed to vehicle traffic, and I have one just a few blocks from the house. And, it’s an excellent test of cycling skills. It’s a short course (2.64 km) that includes a steep climb (10-12% grade), and a fast decent. Half of the course is a straight climb, and the rest a windy, fast descent.
I got to thinking. If I did repeat laps of the park, how far could I travel in an hour. The goal is to travel as far as possible.
Well, I posted 21.38 km. I climbed at 12-15 kph, and descended in parts at 50+. It’s a good test with a variety of terrain.
Can I travel farther?
I think so. Today, I rode my heavier gravel bike. Next time, I’ll use the carbon steed. It was also windy, particularly on parts of the descent. So, I think I can do better.
This is a good test. It doesn’t take long, so can be scheduled easily, either as a stand-alone workout, or as a 2nd one when I want to increase daily intensity. It’s a good way to tract my fitness, and bike skills. I would expect to ride further over the course of the summer, and plan to complete this workout every week or two.
What do you think? Do you have a suitable course in your neighbourhood?
One of the goals I had for April was to better my Personal Record (PR) for one of my local climbs. Well, I did it, but just barely by 1 second 😂
Actually, I was pleased with the effort. It wasn’t planned, and was completed at the end of a 90 minute high intensity ride. I’ll do it again when I’m fresh, and suspect I can improve my time by as much as 10%.
The climb is short, but steep – a 12-13% grade. Despite being pleased with my time, I’m far from the KOM time. Some fellow has done it in 20 seconds apparently. I’m a little sceptical. Was he on an e-bike 😂
Stay tuned. I’ll wait for a warm, dry day when I’m fully rested and do a few repeats 😂