Virtual descents …

The thing about indoor training is you needn’t worry about traffic, the weather, or crashing.

Several years back, I crashed in a Fondo event doing 65 kph down a long descent. I was knocked unconscious, waking just as the ambulance reach the hospital. I suffered a “mild” concussion, lost part of a tooth, had several stitches in my lower lip, and scraped the skin off my knees and shoulder, but was otherwise OK. No broken bones. I wasn’t even kept in the hospital overnight for observation. I was fine, but it took me awhile to feel comfortable descending at speed again. But that’s a whole other story.

With FulGaz, and a smart trainer, descending is a whole different experience. There is nothing to worry about. Someone else picks the line. You needn’t worry about on coming traffic, slowing for the switchbacks, or flying off the side of the road. No. You simply put your head down. change into the highest gear you can mange, and power down the mountainside as fast as you can.

It’s exhilarating?

But reckless.

I’m a little worried about getting back outside again on the bike. I may be adopting some bad habits.

Trainer Feel (Uphill) …

I completed two more rides in Spain this morning. They are the best. Great weather. Great road surfaces. Terrific scenery. Challenging climbs. Exhilarating descents. And, other cyclists on the road to share the experience.

Yesterday, I spoke of how I was humbled by two monster climbs. Climbs at 15-20%. I battled up these mountains wishing I had a lower gear. A much lower gear. Well, I do.

FulGaz has a Trainer Setting they call Trainer Feel (Uphill). The way it works, is simple. The setting is expressed as a percentage. By default, it is set to 100%, which represents how the climb would actually feel given the weight of you and your bike. The climbs today were ~ 8%. I set the Trainer Feel to 75%. The climb felt much easier. I didn’t need my lowest gears. It felt more like a 6% grade, or 75% of the actual grade. So, if I want to make those 20% climbs feel like a 10% grade, I would set Trainer Feel to 50%.

I think that’s how it works. Correct me if you know differently. It makes sense.

I expect all of the cycling smart trainer apps have a similar feature. It may be implemented differently, but has the same effect of providing lower gearing. This is clever. I only wish I had this on the road. My bikes are set up for the local terrain where there are no 20% grades. Nothing even close. But, when I travel with a bike, I’m never certain what to expect.

One of the biggest mistakes a cyclist can make is to spin in too high a gear. I learned the hard way. I thought the bigger the gear, the better the cyclist, without understanding the damage it can do to the knees and lower back. Over the years, I learned my lesson, gradually adopting compact chainrings, and larger cogs on the cassettes. Today, with the Trainer Feel set to 75%, I generated similar power but with less effort by spinning faster. The Trainer Feel setting will not only help me get up those steep climbs, it will also help to determine the most efficient gearing I need on my road bikes.

The more I use FulGaz, the better I like it. Today there is snow on the ground in these parts, and yet I was able to cycle under blue skies and the summer sun on some of the best cycling roads in the world.

The tops, hoods, and drops … đź¤”

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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.