The tops, hoods, and drops … 🤔

P1060717

I have never appreciated the design of road bike handlebars as much as I have in recent years. I have ridden with them for years, but never fully understood how to use them properly. Never understood when to be on the tops, hoods, and drops. Never understood I needed to be equally comfortable in all positions.

A lot has to do with the type of cycling you do. If you are always riding at a relaxed pace on flat terrain, and without wind, you can position your hands however you like. Ride where you are the most comfortable. However, if you do a lot of climbing, battle a headwind frequently, or enjoy a faster pace, you had better become comfortable on the tops, hoods, and drops.

My weekly rides are usually 2 hours in length. During that time, I use all three positions. Some more than others depending wind, terrain, and pace. When battling a hurting wind, maintaining a fast pace, or descending, I am on the drops. This is the most aerodynamic, stable, and powerful position where you catch less wind, and deliver maximum power to the pedals. When climbing, I am on the top of the bars. This position opens the chest making it easier to breath deeply, fuelling the straining muscles more easily. And, this position also engages the gluts, the largest, most powerful muscles in the body. And finally, I am on the hoods when I am pedalling at a more relaxed pace, or benefiting for a draft or tailwind.

I am comfortable in all three positions. And, on long rides, I change positions regularly to help relax the hand, shoulder, and back muscles. However, there was a time when I wasn’t comfortable on the drops. Perhaps I wasn’t flexible enough, or maybe my stomach was to big. You can’t get down there if you have a bulging waistline. But the more I rode there, and the lighter I became, the more I liked it. It lowers the centre of gravity so the bike hugs the road, particularly when cornering. So, if you are not comfortable on the drops, lose some weight (if need be), and practice in that position. Similarly, if you don’t climb with your hands on the tops of the bar, try it. You’ll be surprised. You’ll be more efficient, and climb more easily.

One last thing, make certain your bars fit you. They come in a variety of widths, and depths. You want bars that position your hands shoulder width apart. By that I mean the width between your arm pits. And, the depth will depend on your arm length, and reach setup. Ideally, you want your elbows slightly bent when on the drops, and to have a straight, neutral back. You may need a bike fit to get it right.

And who thought handlebars were simple.

Advertisements

Cadence Kit … 😂

IMG_6975

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 😀

Tick Tock … 🤔

IMG_6926

This clock now hangs proudly in my den.

It was a birthday gift from my son several years ago. We hung it in the bike shop. That was appropriate. Right? Well, I don’t spend that much time there, particularly this time of year. What a shame. So, I moved it into the house, and hung it on the wall I face mostly while relaxing in the den.

I love this clock. You see, my son made it using chainrings – Suntour 52/42 – from one of my first road bikes. Back in the 80’s, Suntour was a popular brand used on mid-priced bikes. The company no longer exists, but in it’s prime produced quality derailleurs, and chainrings 😂at a reasonable price.

The clock got me thinking … 🤔

I have a lot of left over bike parts. Handlebars. Chains. Derailleurs. Wheels. Inner tubes. Tires. Cranks. What do I do with it all? Apparently, I can recycle the tires. That’s a good idea. I’ve seen sculptures made from chains, coat hangers from handlebars, and chairs from inner tubes. And, I see all of these components listed on eBay being offered up for someone else to enjoy.

At the moment, I have 3 SLK stems and Dura-Ace cranks with racing chainrings sitting on my TV stand. I’m trying to decide what to do with them. What better way than to have them in constant view. A constant reminder to do something with them. The stems are too long, and I no longer use them. And the Dura-Ace chainrings are too large for these parts. I have converted my road bikes to compact setups.

I could hang them on the wall as art. I love looking at them. Or, I could sell them. They are worth a lot of money. Then again, I could build another bike … 😂

Do you have other suggestions?

Polarized training … 🤔

IMG_6867

I have been pleased with my indoor training regimen this winter. I got stronger, more flexible, and improved my VO2 Max. But training in the gym is not the same as cycling outside. Now that Spring has finally arrived, and the weather is improving, I’m switching things up. I’m going to get outside whenever possible, switch to a Polarized Training programme, and body-weight strengthening exercises so that I can train anywhere, even when a gym is not available.

Like at the cottage 😂

What is Polarized Training?

Training at an easy pace for 80% of the sessions, and essentially flat out for 20% of them is known as polarized training. It is how elite athletes train.

I’m not new to this technique. Just never knew it had a name. The key is to go slow most of the time, but work hard 1-2 times each week.

What is slow, and what is hard? 🤔

I don’t have a power meter on my bikes but I do wear a heart rate monitor integrated with my cycling computer, the VDO M6 pictured above. This particular display (there are several) highlights the percentage of ride time spent in each of 4 pre-defined heart rate zones, expressed as a % of MHR. The default zones, and the ones I use, are:

  • Zone 1 – 60-70%
  • Zone 2 – 70-80%
  • Zone 3 – 80-90%
  • Zone 4 – 90-100%

For the ride pictured above, I spent 12% in Zone 1, 59% in Zone 2, 34% in Zone 3, and 1% in Zone 4. This was a relatively hard 4 hour ride. With Polarized Training, I want to see weekly averages that look like this:

  • Zone 1 – 80%
  • Zone 2 – ∅
  • Zone 3 – 10%
  • Zone 4 – 10%

Once or twice a week, I will find a hill and do high-effort repeated climbs getting my heart rate up to 80-100% of my MHR.

Without the hard days you will only make minor gains, if any.
4 x 8 minute intervals ridden at 90% of VO2 max appear to generate the most gains. These hard days need to be done once or twice per week.

For me, that would be 4 climbs up a 3 km climb with an average grade of 5-6%.

The other days of the week, I will ride in Zone 1. That is easier said than done. That’s slower than I normally ride, and is best done alone. It means not challenging the hills, and staying off the wheel ahead.

I’ll try this for a month.

Six weeks of a polarized training-intensity distribution leads to greater physiological and performance adaptations than a threshold model in trained cyclists.

The key benefit of this training method is that despite putting in a lot of time and accumulating high mileage, there is sufficient time to recover.

It is not possible to do all of this training at a high pace.
The majority of the time, around 75-85%, is spent in zone 1. The remainder of the time is in the other zones, with emphasis on high intensity. It appears that this low intensity training provides many of the adaptions required for endurance performance without over stressing the athlete.

If you are not convinced, I suggest you read Pieter Van Pietersen’s article entitled “Polarized training for cyclists“.

Well, I finished the 2017 Pacific Populaire👏👏👏

IMG_6853

Well, I finished safely 👏👏👏 This was the first group event I have completed since crashing last fall.

And, I posted the fastest time ever, despite batting a 15-20 kph headwind 50% of the time 👏👏👏

I have completed the Pacific Populaire 4 times now, and proudly display my event pins in my den. The Pacific Populaire is the first local century ride of the season, and I look forward to it each year because it keeps me motivated during the coldest, wettest months of the year in these parts. It is the same route each year, so riders learn where to safely attack, and where its better to hold back. The route is 100 km long with 17 km of climbing with grades averaging  3%, up to a maximum of 9%.

For most of the route, I rode with two other cyclists, each of us taking turns pulling, and averaging 25 kph for the entire course. It seemed faster than that. We were often travelling 30-40 kph, but had to battle a strong headwind half of the time, and because we cycle through the city, we must obey all traffic lights. You wouldn’t believe how much they can slow you down. There are ~ 25 km of the course where we were affected. We seemed to catch all the red lights 😠 So, a 25 kph average is not bad considering.

However, I feel I could have gone harder, and faster. I averaged ~ 80% of my maximum heart rate over the 4 hours, and yet had “gas left in the tank” at the end. I could have worked harder. Also, my cycling comrades pushed a more relaxed pace for 20 km, and then took a shortcut back to the finish with 20 km remaining. They tired.

In general, I was pleased with my result. I prepared differently this season, and it payed off. I felt strong, and confident on the bike, despite not having many hours in the saddle beforehand.

This is what I did differently.

  1. For 3 months, I trained 6 days a week including a modified cardio program, strength training, particularly for the cycling muscles, the legs and core.
  2. Most of the cardio workouts were completed on a Keiser spinning bike. It was too cold, icy, and wet from January – March to train regularly outside on the road bikes.
  3. I used the built in power meter on the Keiser to regulate the workouts instead of my heart rate monitor. It is a more accurate measure of effort.
  4. The cardio workouts were varied, including endurance, lactate threshold, VO2 max, and recovery rides lasting 45-60 minutes.
  5. I had specific FPT and strength goals, and retested at the beginning of each month so that I could revise my training zones (both heart rate and watts) accordingly, gradually increasing my training load.
  6. Leg workouts included leg press, hamstring curls, and leg extension exercises twice weekly. And, I lifted differently than I have in the past, lifting one-legged, and until failure, for 6-8 sets. I have lifted “heavy” for several years but this time I made an effort to balance my leg strength by doing each of the exercised one leg at a time.
  7. Core workouts included crunches, planks, pallof presses, core twists using the cable machine, and leg raises three times a week. Again, I workout “heavy”, and the pallof press was new to me.
  8. Using the Garmin activity tracker, I tracked and recorded my resting heart rate, and sleep quality every day. I had never done this consistently before and was surprised to learn that my RHR on average is in the mid forties, and that I average 9+ hours of sleep a night, including ~ 5 hours of “deep” sleep.
  9. I maintained a detailed daily log tracking every workout. I did this so that I have a guide for the next 3 months, and for next year when I plan to start the process over again.
  10. I tapered for 3 weeks prior to the event, maintaining training intensity while reducing the duration of the workouts – 30% the first week, 20% the following week, and an additional 10% the final week. I had never tapered “gradually” before, and never for 3 weeks. It worked. I felt refreshed, and eager to race by the end of it.
  11. I only managed to complete 5 road rides before the event because of the weather, gradually increasing the distance over a 2 week period, never riding more than 65 km. This was a concern but I learned you can train effectively inside.
  12. I stretched regularly, particularly on rest days. I seldom does this in the warmer months when I’m on the bikes more. I need to change this up. Stretching aids with recovery, particularly when training hard.
  13. I rested 1 day each week, and 2 days at the end of each month. This was difficult. I’m not accustomed to rest days.
  14. I paid better attention to my diet and nutrition, adding more protein, and making certain I ate within 60 minutes of every workout.

This schedule and training technique seemed to agree with me. I improved my strength, VO2 max, flexibility, and endurance.

So, what is next … 🤔

Well, I have things to work on.

For starters, I didn’t lose as much weight as I hoped. A reduction of 5-10 pounds will improve both my speed and climbing ability. Once I am at the cottage, cycling longer distances, and eating my own cooking for a few months, I will shed 10 pounds quickly.

Also, I need to cycle on the roads more frequently. Now that the weather is improving, I can switch from the spinning bike to the road bikes. I plan to ride 250-300 km every week while I’m at the cottage.

And, I had better hydrate better. I left with two full bottles, one with electrolytes, and the other plain water. I returned 4 hours later with only half a bottle gone.  I didn’t seem thirsty at the time but quickly downed 2 beer when I settled in to watch the back nine finish at the Masters. I need to do a better job of this.

Oh yeah. I need to cycle with a team of 3-4 other cyclists prepared to work as hard, and long as me. I’m going to call it Team PedalWORKS 😂

Interested … 🤔

I have registered for another century ride (MEC (Toronto) – Horseshoe Valley Century Ride) on July 15 while I’m at the cottage. That gives me another 3 months to lose the weight, accumulate more road miles, and learn to hydrate better.

I’m also going to experiment with a more polarized training schedule, but let’s leave that for a subsequent post.

Are you planning to complete a century ride soon?

I have a new helmet … 😂

IMG_6710

I have a new helmet. And beard.

Did you notice they match 😂

I smashed the back of my previous helmet during a high-speed crash last year, and needed to replace it. I have two other helmets but they are 3 and 5 years old respectively. Manufacturers recommended not wearing a helmet longer than 3-5 years. Apparently they disintegrate over time, and gradually become ineffective.

So, I began looking for a new helmet. I frequented all of the local cycling shops to try on every model I could find looking for the safest, and best fit. In the past, I was more concerned with the look and price of a helmet, careful to chose one that matched both my bikes and kits. This time, I was less concerned about these things. Safety, and fit were foremost in my mind.

I tried on everything ranging in price from $65 – $400 CAD. Not once. Several times over the span of a month or more. I would even take selfies of myself with the helmets on and share them with others who I thought could help me make a decision. That was a mistake. Everyone had a different opinion, and they were subjective having nothing to do with my priorities. So, I turned to the internet, carefully reading consumer reviews, and manufacturers’ specifications.

In the end, I selected the MET Rivale helmet. Without question, it is the most comfortable helmet I found. It is rounder than most other models, and seems to fit my head better. It also has high safety ratings, is well vented, and considered aerodynamic. You may even see it on TDF riders, including Mark Cavendish.

This is what MET themselves say about the helmet.

The specific shape of the Rivale enables a rider to save up to 3 watts at 50km/h: this translates to a 1 second time advantage compared to other similar road helmets.

The Venturi effect allows the maximum air intake with the lowest drag possible. Through air channels inside the helmet hot air is pulled to the rear exhausting vents producing a great cooling effect.

The Rivale is the new standard of aero.

Interesting 🤔 And I have been training to improve my power. All I needed was this helmet 😂

BikeRadar have a more impartial view. I selected the helmet because of the fit, and they seem to agree.

The Rivale’s shape is more rounded than most aero helmets, which met with approval from most of our testers. The internal padding is minimal yet well placed, and the retention system is impressive, combining lightweight soft-touch straps and a new version of MET’s Safe-T retention system. The micro-adjust dial offers plenty of circumference tensioning, and we loved the 4cm vertical adjustment on offer, which enables you to sit the cradle in just the right spot. The straps can occasionally tangle and twist due to their thin material, but that’s the slightest of niggles. – BikeRadar May 21, 2016

The helmet doesn’t move on my head. It tightens snuggly, and sits a little lower on my head where a helmet is supposed to sit. I didn’t know that. Did you?

The fact that it is more aerodynamic, cooler, and matches my beard  😂 had little to do with the purchase. It’s a good fit, and safe. That’s all that mattered this time around.

Oh yeah, it looks good, and does match my bikes and kits 😂