This is what I mean about STRAVA … 🤣

Yesterday I mentioned how the social aspect of STRAVA has opened doors for me.

I outlined how I strategically follow men and woman of all ages that live in my neighbourhood (loosely speaking), and cycle regularly (3,500+ km year-to-date) – road cyclists like me that love to train, and race (sometimes).

Yesterday I had an interesting experience. I headed out in the morning to ride a familiar route with a few climbs, and a long gradual descent. 35-40 km in total. I was stopped at a traffic light. When it turned green, a young woman passed me in the intersection. She was keeping a good pace, and I could see she was experienced. She had a smooths, efficient pedalling stroke, and used hand signals regularly. I could tell she was an experienced road cyclist accustomed to riding in groups. I got on her wheel 😃

We kept a good pace for the first 10 km, averaging 25-30 kph to the base of the first long climb. I’m a good climber and thought I would pull alongside her to chat a little. Well, she put me in my place. She dropped me almost immediately. She was strong. She powered up the hill, and I never saw her again ☹️

Later, while going through my STRAVA feed, I realized we followed one another. I messaged her and we had an interesting exchange. We may never share a ride – I fear she is much stronger than me – but I hope to have more cycling discussions with her. I have a lot to learn from her.

This is the strength of STRAVA.

Thoughts on STRAVA … 🚴🏻

Unexpectedly, STRAVA has opened new doors for me.

I never appreciated the social features of STRAVA as much as I have since the start of the COVID lockdowns.

I have a new set of cycling mates 😂 I actively follow local cyclists that get out regularly to learn new routes, and share “kudos” and messages of encouragement. Since all of the cycling events have been cancelled, and group rides discouraged, I look forward to sharing rides with my new friends.

I follow men and women of all ages that live in the area, that have cycled 3,000+ km to-date this year. I’m surprised how many serious cyclists live nearby. And, I’m surprised how strong, and fast some of them are. Stronger, and faster than me ☹️ Some are a real inspiration. One woman gets out EVERY morning at dawn for a walk and coffee posting beautiful pictures of the sun rise. Another young woman, who just returned from Europe after completing her PhD, completes all of the local routes in record times. One fellow, a local cycling coach, climbs all of the local mountain regularly.

My new mates are an inspiration. They get out regularly, and encourage me to do the same. I actually feel I’m letting them down if I don’t ride 🤷‍♂️ And, they don’t just post rides. They also record swims, walks, SWIFT sessions, and Peleton workouts.

I walk a lot these days, taking every opportunity to get outside, and have begun to record these as well. A walk is a workout, right?

If you aren’t already using STRAVA’s social aspect, I encourage you to check it out.

The Wahoo KickR Core … 😃

During the cold, wet winter months, I usually train at a public gym making regular use of the spinning bikes. I would use all of the equipment – free weights, cable systems, the landmine, and squat rack – but mostly I enjoyed the social aspect. I like meeting people, and learning from them. But because of COVID, I’m not anxious to return. They are open, with limitations, but I’ve decided not to go back for at least another year, maybe never.

Instead, I purchased a smart trainer, a Wahoo KickR Core, and setup a corner of my room for it, and one of the bikes.

I’m a big Wahoo fan. I train with the Wahoo Bolt computer and can’t say enough about it. It provides all the stats I need, and then some. It has a long battery life. The setup is on my iPhone which makes it much easier and more convenient. And, it integrates seamlessly with STRAVA. So, when I was considering a smart trainer, the KickR line had to be a consideration.

I spoke with a lot of people, and even reached to STRAVA followers using SWIFT regularly to ask what setups they preferred. Three trainers were mentioned most often – the Tacx Neo, CycleOps H3 (Solaris), and Wahoo KickR Core.

I would have been happy with any one of them. But supply was an issue. They are a hot commodity as the winter months approach. Only one shop in town had any, and fortunately it was the KickR Core. Because of my experience with the Bolt, it was the one I preferred. Within a few days I had it setup, and paired with the Bolt.

I’m working my way through all of the options – Bolt workouts, FTP tests, GCN YouTube spinning classes, virtual rides, and lastly SWIFT. Like the BOLT, I can’t say enough. It’s quiet, feels like a real outdoor ride, and feature rich.

In posts to come, I’ll share the experiences.

Where have I been 🤷‍♂️

I have been remiss.

I haven’t been on this platform for 3 months. I don’t have a good explanation, other than COVID has rearranged my priorities.

And, a few bad habits have appeared ☹️

I didn’t get to Camp PedalWORKS this year, the 1st time in over a decade that I haven’t spent at least part of the summer there. Each year I look forward to the solitude, and less travelled, rural roads. It’s a time to refocus, train, and simplify. It didn’t happen this year.

During COVID I stopped reading and began watching more TV. Every morning I’d get up, make coffee, and watch the morning news, anxious to follow COVID developments, and the government’s economic responses.

What I miss most about Camp PedalWORKS is the simplicity. There’s no TV, and no internet. Instead, it’s a place where a lot of books are read, and many cycling miles are accumulated.

I still train. Harder in some ways. Fewer kilometres, but more climbing. I’m stronger and fitter than this time last year. It’s inevitable in these mountainous parts. But there’s something missing.

I’m going to hit the reset button, and stop some of the COVIDian habits. Less TV. And more reading.

Instead of watching the morning news, I plan to read, or write. It’s what I do when at Camp PedalWORKS. I make a cup of coffee and get back under the covers until I’m ready for a ride, or workout.

That doesn’t sound difficult. Does it?

Reset.

Done 😂

☕️ ✍️📚 🚴🏻

New Strava PRs & #1 rankings 👏

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’m ready for the local mountain climbs next 😂

“The Worst Retirement Ever” … 😂

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?

Nothing.

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 tops, hoods, and drops … 🤔

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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.

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 😀