LARGE or small chainring … 🤔

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I have been pedalling on the small chainring. I idea is to pedal faster with less effort, with an average cadence between 90-100 rpm.

This past week, maybe longer, I have noticed an annoying chatter when I’m pedalling in some gears. So annoying that I would change into a larger or smaller one just to quiet it down. It kept getting worse despite my attempts to adjust the cable tensions, or the position of the front changer.

Today I had had enough. I rode on the large chainring. There is no chatter there.

I was once told that pedalling on the large ring develops strength. I was climbing up one of the local mountains, when I came along side a young rider turning a big gear. He said he did this climb once every week or two pedalling in the largest gear he could. It developed power he said.

Well today was supposed to be a slow day. A recovery day. A Zone 1 day. I did 48 km on the large chainring averaging 25 kph but with a slower cadence. Eighty-one. So, I was turning a larger gear but spinning about 10 rpm slower on average. Did I feel more tired? No. It was all in Zone 1, at a lower heart rate. Did I travel faster faster? No. The same as I do in a lower gear but at a faster cadence. Did I develop more power by doing this? I don’t know. But it certainly felt comfortable, and easy. Maybe I am getting stronger.

I’ll stay on the large chainring until I can figure out the cause of the chatter. At first, I thought it was the BB but I have now isolated the problem to the small chainring. Maybe it is loose.

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Compact or Race … 🤔

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Several years ago, I holidayed on Maui with my kids. I call them kids, but they are really young adults. We all cycle, and wanted to do the West Maui Loop together – an epic, breathtaking, 100 km ride around the base of the smaller volcano. They are good enough to still want to cycle with me.

We didn’t take our bikes on this trip. We were only there for 10 days, and there were many other things we wanted to see, and do. So, we visited one of the local bike shops looking to rent road bikes. They had them. Carbon bikes all equipped with Ultegra compact cranksets (50-34). I was worried about the ride, and had been advised there were several short, but difficult climbs. I asked if they had a triple for rent. The owner smirked at me and said, “We find the compact is all most people usually need here.”.

A few days later, we returned with our pedals and shoes, rented the road bikes equipped with the compact cranksets, and off we went. This was my first experience with this setup. I had always ridden with race cranksets (54-39), even on the west coast. I thought that’s what good cyclists did. Push big gears. Thought that was how you got stronger, and faster. And when I had difficulty climbing, I just needed to train harder.

To my surprise, I enjoyed the West Maui Loop. The climbs weren’t as difficult as I imagined. The compact setup was more than adequate. I never felt like I needed a lower, or higher gear. I pedalled more easily, and for longer periods without tiring.

I’m not going to debate the relative benefits of the compact or race cranksets. Plenty has been written about them already. I will tell you that after I returned home, I installed compact setups on both of my road bikes. I climb more easily. I maintain a higher cadence with less effort. Travel as fast, if not faster than before. And, I ride longer without tiring. I completed a 40 km ride yesterday averaging 25-30 kph with little effort, all in Zone 1 (if you are familiar with heart rate training). The only time I may feel I need a higher gear is on long descents, and in those instances, I remind myself that 60 kph is fast enough.

It is the perfect setup for me. I live in a hilly, mountainous region. And, I like to ride most every day.

I’m just say’n 😉

I’m a slave to numbers … 🤓

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I’m a slave to numbers.

It’s my formal training. I’m a computer engineer where concise algorithms, and tight logic that lower costs and reduce staffing are rewarded. And, how do we know we’ve done it right? By the numbers. We measure before the new procedure, and then measure again after it’s implemented. We know by the numbers.

Well today I planned on a 75-80 km ride I completed once last year. A beautiful ride that passes by several recreational lakes on smooth roads (mostly) peppered with frequent short, steep hills, and long flat sections that includes Victoria Road. This ride would be a good test of my fitness, I thought. I was anxious to see what speed I could maintain spinning at 90-100 rpm.

You see, I track a lot of numbers. Average speed. Distance. Average cadence. Heart rate. Time spent in each of the training zones. Elevation gained. Average slope. Maximum slope. Every ride, I record these statistics. I’m a slave to these numbers. I subscribe to the theory that if it isn’t measured, it isn’t managed. And, I want to manage my training. I want to improve. Get faster, and stronger.

Imagine my horror when I saddled up only to discover my cycling computer was dead. Dead. Nothing worked. No heart rate. No cadence. I stopped. Check my HR belt. It was fine. Checked the cadence sensor. It was fine too. And the speed sensor. It seems all the batteries expired at the same time. What else could it be?

I continued without my numbers.

I was lost at first. Then I began to judge my speed, HR, and cadence by feel. After all, I have ridden long enough to know what 30 kph and a 95 cadence feels like. I could tell a lot by my breathing. When it became laboured, I knew I was working above Zone 1. The longer, steeper climbs my heart was pound, and I was out of breath submitting. I was in Zone 4. I had a 20-25 kph hurting wind on the way out, and a helping wind on the way back. Slow on the way out. Fast coming back in. 15-20 kph out, and 30-35 kph back. And, because I maintained a high cadence most of the time, I was not really tired when I finished. Not like I was last year.

Maybe I don’t need that cycling computer after all.

I can’t compare the numbers from one ride to the next. The wind and terrain is different every ride. Maybe cycling by feel is all that is needed.

What do you think?

As the sun sets on another week … 🤔

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As the sun sets on another week, I have things to celebrate, this the second week at Camp PedalWORKS.

I purchased a vacuum to clean the pine floors at the cottage. The floors had never seen a vacuum before. They were accustomed to frequent sweeping and Murphy Oil baths. I was amazed, really amazed, at how much dirt and dust was captured by the upright. For years, dirt had accumulated unnoticed between the cracks in the boards. It took a week of daily vacuuming to remove it all.

I also cleaned the oven for the first time in at least 25 years. I am a vegetarian, stove top cooker, and never really wandered into the oven. Now that it sparkles, I’m tempted to start baking again. And here I thought I needed to replace the stove.

More importantly, well maybe more importantly, I began cycling regularly. Apart from 2 days of rain, I have been cycling every day. It was my goal to average 200-250 km a week by the end of June. Last week I cycled 241 km, and I’m certain as the warmer, drier weather takes hold, I will be cycling much farther. So, from that standpoint, I am ahead of schedule.

I have started a polarized training schedule, meaning that I spend 80% of my cycling time in heart rate Zone 1 and 20% in Zone 4. Well, I did spend 81% in Zone 1 but 0% in Zone 4. Zero! That’s because there are no hills in this area. None. Well, there is a .5 km hill nearby with a 5% grade but it doesn’t really tax me or get my heart rate up even when I push. I need longer hills. Once a week, beginning next week, I’m going to head over to the the Niagara Escarpment where there are 5-6 km climbs where I can do meaningful hill repeats, the holy grail of the road cyclist.

I also spent the week on the small chainring. The goal is to maintain a 90-100 rpm cadence. Well, I almost did. I averaged 86 rpm over the 241 km. I’m happy with this. On these cold, wet mornings, it takes me 5-10 km to warm up. Once I am, I found I could easily maintain 90-100 rpm except when heading into a strong hurting wind.

One last thing, one other goal I have while at Camp PedalWORKS is to lose 7-8 pounds to get back to my optimum cycling weight. In the last 2 weeks, I have lost ~ 4 pounds largely because of a simpler, more natural diet of fresh fruits and vegetables. If this continues, I will be at my optimum weight in 2-3 weeks.

Reasons to celebrate with a 🍺 tonight.

Cadence Kit … 😂

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I have written about my new cycling computer before. The VDO M6. It has functions I never had previously. Heart rate. Gradient. Elevation gain. Time spent in each of 4 pre-defined training zones. Temperature. Stopwatch. And, with the optional Cadence Kit, current, average, and maximum cadence.

Well, this week I purchased the Cadence Kit. It’s optional, and I wasn’t sure I needed it. Then, while training on the spinning bike, I noticed how much attention I pay to the cadence display. A lot. I have learned that by increasing my cadence while in a lower gear, I actually increase my wattage output. This is a lot easier than pushing a higher gear. I’m using my cardiovascular system to generate the power, rather than my leg muscles which tires more quickly.

For the most part, the higher the intensity, the higher your cadence should be. The reason for this higher cadence is that it stresses the aerobic component more. A higher cadence engages slow twitch (Type I) muscle fibers, which are the oxidative fibers, thus saving your powerful and fast twitch (Type II) muscle fibers for when you need them – sprinting, attacking, climbing, surging. Pedaling with a higher cadence also generates decreased muscle tension and blood vessel compression. This allows blood to flow to the muscles with O2 and carry waste products away easier.

On the spinning bike, I average 90-110 rpm, sometimes higher, during my workouts. Can I do the same on the road? I have no idea, but I’m about to find out.

Most social cyclists sit on a cadence between 75-85rpm. They’ll plod along at one tempo for hours, regardless of changing terrain. What we suggest you learn is increase your cadence to between 90-100rpm regardless how flat or hilly the route is. – BikeRoar

Well, I’ll try.

I installed the kit on the Roberts frame for now. I’ll be training on this bike mostly for the next 2 months while I’m back at the cottage, cycling the quiet, rural roads. By the time I return, I will have a better understanding of what cadence I maintain on the flats, and while climbing.

How will I train differently, you ask.

I’ll try riding at 90-100rpm most of the time, and increase my cadence on small grades, remembering to control my cadence through gear choice, and not by increasing my physical effort. Once I have this down pat, I’ll increase my physical effort and pedal a faster cadence in a higher gear, which means I’ll go faster uphill 😂

Sounds easy enough. Right?

Stay tuned 😀