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Tips for making it to the top of that climb

One of my most popular clinics is my climbing clinic. Even if you’re not a climber by heart, or it’s not your strength, it’s a skill worth mastering

We have all felt burning feeling not long into a hard climb. It’s plainly and simply your legs telling you, no, no, no this isn’t working. Sure, you can go all “shut up legs” but, they’re probably going to win that argument.

Everyone I take on a climbing clinic I tell them, the biggest mistake you can make on climbs is going into the red too early because they feel fresh and their heart rate is still low. But when you amp up your intensity, it doesn’t take long to generate far more lactate than you can clear and use. And once you’ve pushed past your threshold, it’s very difficult to recover while you’re still fighting the forces of gravity. Then you slow that painful crawl

Here are some tips!

Switch gears. Sounds obvious. Yet many riders roll onto a hill pushing a big gear because of that fleeting fresh feeling (or Strava feeling I call it). When you mash a monster gear your legs need to call in the fast twitch fibers, Rear is king and you should find that torque well before you hit that climb from the rear Find a gear you can spin at least 70 rpm and keep shifting to keep your cadence in that range.

Engage your core. You’ll get to the top faster and stave off fatigue longer if you climb hills with more than just your legs. Bend your elbows, flatten your back, lower your torso, this puts more power in your pedal stroke without bathing going in lactate.

Stay seated. Standing to stretch your legs BUT STAY SEATED. You use over 10% more energy jumping off saddle

Switch positions. Keep your climbing muscles fresher by shifting positions in the saddle. When you feel the burn creeping push back further on the saddle. This will recruit and leverage more force from your glutes.

You want to aim to climb right at the threshold, which is your sustainable upper limit. The best way to know you’re there is opening your mouth and saying something. If you can speak in short phrases, but not long soliloquies, you’re there. If you’re gasping for air, you’re going too hard. Save that for the end.

So, keep an eye out on our Facebook page and Strava for our PBFC short climbing clinics and our all day climbing clinic up at Skyline Drive which is an all day, all-inclusive intense skills clinic.

Why both Preventative and Corrective Massage is a must  

Back in my day when pre and post race, I was getting a preventative and corrective message, I never really thought much more other than “this is the routine”. Move forward to present time, and even a little before, one of my biggest faults is forgetting that massage is such a critical part of not just cycling but of any sport.

I went to a handful of places, but never really felt like I was getting what I needed. Then, I come across Ladan Spa, and with a hint serendipity, they are only 4 doors away from ProBike FC. I was introduced to SRT.

Spinal Reflex Therapy (SRT) is not your average massage. This soft tissue, pressure point technique is a new strategy in pain reduction and improved muscle function allowing you to perform better and enjoy your ride, pain-free.  SRT is a safe, fast, profoundly effective way to eliminate muscle and joint pain, increase freedom and ease of movement and maximize physical performance in both athletics and everyday life.

When repetitive, habituated movement patterns and compromised posture (like cycling), along with trauma and stress are introduced to the body, the nervous system perceives it as dangerous and activates a reflexive reaction called an axial spinal reflex. Axial spinal reflexes are hardwired into our nervous system at our very core. These reflexes originate as a defense mechanism, contracting specific patterns of muscle fibers instantaneously to move our bodies out of danger and into a position to defend ourselves. When an axial reflex is activated, it routinely gets “stuck on” resulting in reduced performance and increased pain and dysfunction. This chronic contraction
of muscles not only results in inflammation where the muscles attach and misalignment of joints leading to joint pain, it also uses up valuable energy and causes metabolic muscle fatigue.

SRT goes directly to the source, locating and targeting the specific axial spinal reflexes which are stuck on, reducing or eliminating these reflex reactions and providing a profound reduction
in symptoms, quickly and safely. Because SRT focuses on the neurology
that is creating the problem rather than the local symptoms such
as the ache in the knee or a headache, the relief you feel can be global
and instantaneous. Immediately move with greater ease, improved muscle function to maximize energy usage and restored strength and agility which will lead to improved athletic performance.

After one visit, I hit the bike the next day on plus 50 mile and my muscles and joints, in particular, my shoulder (which I’ve always had a problem with), was amazing relaxed.

I’ve always been a big advocate of massage, but only if you find the right place. I would completely recommend that you head in there and let Tabitha work her SRT on you, and most importantly, whether you are racing, commuting or simply want to sustain your riding momentum, then the preventative and corrective message is a 100% must. Mention you read my blog from PBFC and you might get squared away with a discount?

 

Spinning is much more than just a simple detail

The capacity to turn your legs on your bicycle is a guarantee for an efficient athletic gesture, and it can’t be improvised. It should be worked on. One of my favorite Former professional cyclist, Jean-Claude Bagot, explains why. Jean-Claude was not known for winning a lot of races, but he was one of the most in-demand cyclists of his time, only because he was a powerful all-around workhorse, that could sprint, climb and sustain ultra distances without giving up. I admired him heaps, quite simply because he could push himself in all the grand races solo and for his GC all day every day. Despite the un-gratifying character of the exercises, their benefits are huge, and it’s what made him a great rider.

“The art of cycling lies in the cadence of pedaling,” confides Jean-Claude Bagot. “Once one knows how to spin well, one knows everything!”  “Turning one’s legs well is a quality that is lost over the years. It’s important to work on it constantly.” 

Spinning? What are we talking about exactly? “Velocity, 110 RPM, is the base. It’s the cadence chosen by Fabian Cancellara, one of the best cyclists in activity, for races against the clock.”

Jean-Claude Bagot warns, “It’s a whole lot easier to add some gears and force oneself like a mule, rather than riding loosely.  Ideally though, one should learn how to spin, without becoming disorganized and blocking one’s ankles. Former pros, during the time of Bernard Hinault for example, made themselves ride their first 1,500km of the season on a fixed-gear bicycle. They were working on obtaining a harmonious, supple, and round pedaling.”

To work on velocity, the former pro advises working on flat terrain and hills. “If you climb a hill at 18km/h, force yourself to keep the same speed, using a lower gear. This will make you increase the speed of your leg rotation. You should know that your heart rate increases in general with the rotation.” So you can kill two birds with one stone, pedaling technique and cardiovascular work at the same time! 

Jean-Claude Bagot adds, “On flat terrain, these spinning sequences can be very tiring. Thus, one should alternate periods between large and small plateaus, and stay concentrated on pedaling technique. It’s really important to remain coordinated. Start with a series lasting 5 minutes, and increase progressively. In the cycling jargon, we call it ‘turning legs around the heart.’ ” He offers a statement in conclusion, “80% of cyclists work on force and forget velocity. When they have a hard time keeping up, on flat terrain or hills, they add some gears. However, this is a waste of energy. A cyclist that knows how to spin saves energy. So he is the one who always has the last word. I cant continue to stress how important it is to understand how to pedal right. 

I see so many cyclist’s “Rambo” themselves, on the bike probably feeling great about their proficiency to cycle, but mark my words, and that of Great (Cancellara, Claude Bagot, and the Hinault), the cyclist that spins efficiently, will always achieve better standards of cycling that of the cyclists, that ride like Rambo. See us at PBFC and hit up our pedal proficiency class, and see how much you will improve!

Training Correctly during the off-season

For the road off-season, mountain biking is often the go-to place for roadies who want to maintain their conditioning in the fall and winter months. This can work if there are decent trails nearby. However Cycle-cross is another alternative, but I would caution on that one and decide if you want to train and compete CX or if you want to do that as a roadie. The trap allot of competitive road cyclist fall into is that they become equally competitive in the CX group, and bonk as the season for road gets started, or they just don’t last the season. If CX isn’t your primary discipline, and you still want to race, then go out there not to win, but to maintain condition simply.
However, for certain individuals, it may work out, but my experience and that of all the top European and international teams and the coaches that coach those riders, has led me to recommend as well as those coaches (without question) indoor cycle training mixed with indoor strength and conditioning is the way to go.
I recommend diversity in training that still includes the road bike – year round. It is important to have a break from competition after the road race season. The “off-season” program should consist of simple rides without breaking your body (or chasing those Strava KOM’s). Work on cadence and of course my area of skill, pedal smoothness. Start to work yourself or with a coach on your periodization plan, and start to consider what races or what goals (if your not racing) you want to meet on the bike. Maybe its just a matter of completing 3 BIG fondos for the year, or merely being able to hang with stronger riders on your weekend rides, OR simply just feeling stronger as a riding enthusiast.
So, Instead of mountain biking, cycle-cross, your off-season workouts could include various short indoor cycle trainer workouts, strength and core conditioning and light running. Naturally, I’m biased to the specific performance center for your indoor needs, but you can do your work at home. The benefit of coming to a performance center like Pro Bike FC is that you are working on your bike and being coached on riding skills, which means that not only are you going to stay conditioned, but your riding skills will continue to improve. I am a HUGE advocate to continued performance testing no matter what level rider you are. Get regular FTP tests as they are the best guide to understanding how you are improving and what zones you should be in.
Now, for all those spin cycles officious out there, don’t get mad, I’m not bagging on spin, but for the cyclist that wants to improve their cycling specific skill, then spin is not the way to go. It gives you great aerobic conditioning, but as we all know, you can have a very high aerobic capacity, but be a terrible rider. Riding is not just about being fit, it’s about learning to do it properly.
Roll on, Pedal Right and as usual, give us a calls at PBFC to chat about your cycling needs, no matter if your a cat 1 or a super keen cyclist, we love to hear, help and work with all skill levels.

SRM Ergometer

At ProBike FC, our resident Pro and Certified Coach Nick can calculate and test your functional threshold to absolute accuracy using the SRM Ergometer. Nick is one of a hand full of SRM Power Based Trainers, as well as USA Cycling and TP. PBFC is the only performance center that has this unique ergometer. SRM is without question, the pinnacle of cycling statistic management, but for most, it is super expensive. Now, you can hop on the SRM Ergometer and have Nick download and review your FTP and full riding stats for your hour and give you the most accurate FT, pedal rotation, CAD, WATTS and critical power chart. The unit is fully adjustable to your ride style, all you need to bring is your kit and your shoes, we have SPD and Look pedals in store.

SRM is the specialist for Ergometer and on-bike performance measurement. Book your session with Nick now and remember, this isn’t just for the seasoned racer, knowing you FT and your critical stats allows you to ride more efficiently and effectively and makes you stronger all-around. Contact us at info@probikefc.com or (703) 854-1427

 

Why use a Computrainer?

I’m a big advocate for riding all seasons the reason being is that it refines your body to adapt to all seasons and conditions, BUT riding in the winter sucks at times, and I certainly don’t advocate riding in sub 40’s, with terrible weather. Regardless of perfect or in perfect conditions, computrainer provide statistical information and improves riding, without thinking of the strategy of riding while on the road.

The CompuTrainer is like most other trainers, except for a few key important twists.  First, it generates load (wattage) via a computerized interface.  This is done via the control panel (your computer is not required which is also cool).  Secondly, it connects to a computer in live time, while competing with fellow riders to take advantage of significant features like tracking of HR/pace/speed…and power (watts).  So in some ways, it’s like combining a power meter with a trainer, while riding preloaded courses, while a coach is assessing statistics in real time and adjusting your ride.

It’s often said that from a cycling standpoint the CompuTrainer is the best training device you can be on.  The list of pros who use one is long, but would it make a difference for an age-grouper?  After more than 4 years of using it…, I’m sure I have the answer and its yes. I have come out of many winter seasons and into the regular season, strong, fit and as if I have not lost any form. In comparison, I have also used computrainer during the season to gauge an ongoing assessment of my periodized training and my FT (functional threshold)

If your not a competitive cyclist, don’t be put of computrainer. It is as equally effective to simply improving your cycling ability, make your fitter and stronger on the road

Without a doubt, it is the most effective cycling training tool you can use.  If used correctly and combined with coaching in real time, you can develop very focused and specific workouts to address cycling weaknesses.  It ensures that you are not just ‘spinning away mindlessly’ on a trainer – but rather getting a solid workout with live stats.  The thing that makes trainers so effective is there are no breaks.  The computrainer is the same way.  If you do a multi-hour Zone 2 (Z2) heart rate session you don’t get a downhill break. A Z2 pace may not sound hard, but maintaining a perfect cadence without a single second of a break for one sometimes two hours is rather tiring, but achieved on a computrainer, will exceed your expectations on the road.

Give us a shout out and have a chat about your training needs. Bring in your bike, let’s hook it up and get you going. Once you start, you will get hooked and the results will be exceptional.

 

For more information see Computrainer in the services section.

There’s a lot of talk on triathletes and time trialists switching to shorter cranks: 170, 165, even 160mm. What do we recommend?

It is true that many top athletes are switching to shorter cranks for timed racing such as triathlon and TT. This is a relatively new trend because longer cranks were traditionally thought to provide better leverage. However, crank length is just one lever in a drive train composed of a system that transmits your foot’s force on the pedal to your tire’s thrust on the ground. The other levers in this system are the chainring radius, cog radius, and wheel radius. We vary two of these (chainring and cog) at will whenever we shift gears. So a small difference in crank length doesn’t affect leverage.

Believe it or not, top industry tests showed no statistical difference in maximum power among the three middle crank lengths (145, 170 and 195mm). For years crank-length tests had been inconclusive, and the general working knowledge came more from experience and intuition than science. I remember when I first hit the Elite seen before Pro, at 5ft6 I was riding a 172.5 on my TT bike which looking back was crazy. Now athletes can choose the crank length they like without worrying about affecting power.

With maximum power essentially unaffected by a wide range of reasonable crank lengths, athletes are now free to choose crank length based on other criteria. Convenience (you might already have a serviceable crank on your bike); comfort; pedal clearance (from the ground); toe overlap — all of these are affected by crank length. However, what is now understood is that, especially in an aero riding position, shorter cranks can sometimes alleviate a common fit problem: If the hip angle is too tight at the top of the pedal stroke, the athlete can be uncomfortable or is unable to produce maximum power at the top of the pedal stroke. Even in athletes with no existing fit problem, some choose shorter cranks to drop the torso still further by lowering the arm pads.

Some athletes keep their long cranks and still perform well. Some try short cranks, aren’t happy with the results, and switch back again. So, at the end of all of this, it now becomes the desire of the athlete more than anything else. Correct fits, correct technique and understanding your power/stats are the keys to your riding success.

These days, if you don’t know that, you are at a disadvantage. Now, after all of that, there is a different answer to that question for the road cyclist, stage racer or endurance rider. Give us a call if you ever want to talk power and crank lengths and don’t forget to pop in and check us out. The pedal smoothness 3-day course is a must at a starting level to understand how to control torque without fatiguing.

Nick is a Pro Cyclist certified and endorsed by USA Cycling and Training Peaks as a coach and power based trainer. You can catch him at probikefc.com