Train . . . don’t just ride

8d0c339d17a61bfcaf3adf21bda95d67This is perfect time of year, when a rider is mostly alone, to work on things. One of the worst habits a cyclists can get into is just putting in miles . . . worsening bad habits. Slow down and think about what you are doing. If getting better is the goal, a cyclist must train to be that way. How? Observation is one of the cheapest ways. The Tour de France is still on most of our DVRs. Watch a sprint. Watch a climb. Put it in slow motion and watch body position, head position, bike position, hand position, try to make out the gearing, and keep a close eye on pedal stroke.

Here’s something of what I am attempting to make better: climbing. Just the word will cause some people to hyperventilate. The Secondrate Cyclist was one of those people, but it is this “off season” where I have decided to do what I hate the most and NOT just climb hills . . . but learn how to do efficiently and with more confidence. As I train, there are five things on which I am focusing:

  1. Cadence: I am very aware that gradient will cause a fluctuation, but I am staying within 80-90 rpm. Seated vs. Standing will cause a small variance, but that’s the numbers for now.
  2. Seated Power: For a longer and more steady climbing endurance over a longer period of time, I plan on climbing with my butt on the saddle. Yes, I will stand to bring my cadence back up or hit different muscles for a moment or to provide power in a quick pitch in gradient.
  3. Standing: Speaking of which, I will make sure to keep my hip bones over my pedals and not lunge out into a sprinter’s stance when climbing. Chest up. Head up.
  4. Full and Rounded Pedal Stroke: Moving away from stomping the down stroke on a climb, I want to focus on pulling through and over the top of the stroke. I catch myself stomping down and pulling up, but not swiping through the bottom and pushing over the top.
  5. Breathing: Many cyclists fail in this cause for two reasons . . . blowing like a fat man in a 5k or, in the heat of a hard pull in a steep pitch, holding their breath for a second or two. Watching my threshold and adjusting my cadence (higher cadence will lower heart rate a bit) and shifting properly will allow me to have a steady breathing rhythm.

There are many other areas that will come, as the climbing work goes on and on. The point is that I must train and recognize bad habits. When a person gets extremely tired, muscle memory will revert to bad habits; that is why a cyclist must re-train the body to think differently. No, I am not making something that I love into a job. I am making something that is an aggravating part of my love into something I do better and enjoy.

Bon Velo!

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6 thoughts on “Train . . . don’t just ride

  1. can not wait to do sufferfest videos soon

    I be doing an indoor FTP test soon to see how it stands to my outdoor one.. and i see how much I improved from last year at this time.

    happy riding

  2. Hit the wrong spot on my phone….. Interesting take on hills. As you know from my writing, I’m not a speedster/racer. I LOVE hills. The flats drive me crazy. Pulling Beast has also made me a strong climber. I never thought of him as a training partner, but I suppose he is. I’ve discouraged a few people on group rides when I pass them as we’re climbing and I’m pulling the BOB.

  3. This is a good post. I am struggling with this same challenge of focusing on technique to improve rather than mashing on the pedals. It is too easy to just churn out the miles on a lazy pace in the wrong effort zone. There is no way you will improve with this mindset. As you said, sometimes you have to train instead of just ride.

    1. Thanks, man! I’ve been asked so many times about how to improve in climbing or speed, when riding in groups. It’s not just about how many miles you do but what you do in the miles. Bon Velo, my friend!

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