WE’RE HIRING!

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GC Coaching is looking for an experienced cycling coach!

TITLE: Associate Cycling Coach

REPORTS TO: Head Coach (Shayne Gaffney)

FLSA STATUS: Commission Only (paid monthly per athlete you coach)

MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS:

  • USA Cycling Level 2 certified coach, or higher
  • Category 3 racer, or higher
  • Bachelors degree, or higher, in exercise physiology, biology, or equivalent
  • Current background check and Safe Sport certification through USA Cycling

PREFERRED EXPERIENCE / SKILLS:

  • Experience using Training Peaks
  • 1-2 athletes proven to have prospered under your coaching supervision, with accompanying data files, race results, and letter of recommendation / testimony
  • the ability to motivate others
  • excellent communication skills.
  • the ability to give tactful, positive advice and constructive criticism
  • organisational and planning skills

ABOUT US:

Based in Woburn, Massachusetts, we offer cycling coaching services to many disciplines including  road, track, cylcocross,  mountain biking, BMX, and triathlon. Through personalized training programs, we work together with our athletes to customize the right program for them to reach their goals.

What separates GC Coaching from other coaching organizations is the level of personal communication our athletes receive. By combining our coaches personal passion for cycling with their background in health and fitness, we provide consistent feedback and ongoing coaching updates so our athletes always confident and know what to reach for next.

Our philosophy is fitness equals consistency, over time.

APPLYING:

All interested candidates should send a letter of introduction and their work/education and athletic resumes to: info@gaffneycyclingcoaching.com

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Zwift Workout: The Baffling Beau 😘

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This is one of my favorite classic anaerobic workouts to help develop that top end power.  This workout is best done towards the end of your Base Phase and during your Build Phase after you have a solid aerobic platform to work with.  This workout is 1 hour long.

WARM-UP:

10 minutes gradually increasing your power and cadence, then 3x 30 seconds @110+ RPM @115% FTP with 30 seconds @Active Recovery to ready the legs, and finally 2 minutes free ride to ready the mind.

MAIN SET:

Set 1: 10x (40 seconds @Anaerobic @110+ RPM w/ 20 seconds @Active Recovery Zone @comfy cadence)

-Rest for 5 minutes

Set 2: 10x (30 seconds @Anaerobic @110+ RPM w/ 30 seconds @Active Recovery Zone @comfy cadence)

-Rest for 5 minutes

Set 3: 10x (20 seconds @FULL GAS @110+ RPM w/ 40 seconds @Active Recovery Zone @comfy cadence)

-Cool-down then stretch!

-Happy Valentine’s Day! 😘😘😘

HOW TO DO THE WORKOUT:

To use this custom workout file, click the link below and save the .zwo file to your computer’s /Documents/Zwift/Workouts directory. Now when you start up Zwift you will see this workout (called “Inverse Sweet Spot w/ Bursts”) under the Custom Workouts category in the workout picker.

Download Here

Zwift Workout: Inverse Sweet Spot w/ Bursts

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This workout involves A LOT of time spent at Sweet Spot (SST), so be ready to sweat!  Workout time is 1 hour, 6 minutes, and 10 seconds with a TSS of 76.

WARM-UP:

10 minutes gradually increasing your power and cadence, then 3x 30 seconds @110+ RPM @115% FTP with 30 seconds @Active Recovery to ready the legs, and finally 2 minutes free ride to ready the mind.

MAIN-SET:

This workout consists of decreasing interval lengths @SST with a burst @VO2 Max at the end of each one.  So, this will start off moderate, become difficult, and finish down-right nasty by the end!

COOL-DOWN:

Gradual decrease in power and cadence, then stretch!

HOW TO DO THE WORKOUT:

To use this custom workout file, click the link below and save the .zwo file to your computer’s /Documents/Zwift/Workouts directory. Now when you start up Zwift you will see this workout (called “Inverse Sweet Spot w/ Bursts”) under the Custom Workouts category in the workout picker.

Download Here

Why Does Riding the Trainer Feel More Difficult Than Riding Outside?

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This is a common question I field from the athletes I work with, and especially those who are committing to a Winter training plan in the pain-cave for the first time.  Riding the trainer can feel more difficult for 3 reasons mainly: the human body becomes less efficient at cooling itself, your motivation dwindles due to not having the wind in your hair and the road moving underneath you, and overcoming the resistance of a trainer is very different compared to overcoming the resistance of the wind/road outdoors.

Problem 1: Inefficient Cooling

This is, in my opinion, the main reason why riding the trainer can feel harder compared to riding outdoors.  The human body has an extremely finite temperature range it can operate efficiently at.  We know that 98.6 degrees F is what’s considered “normal” body temperature, however push that up just 1.4 degrees F and you feel feverish, have chills, and cold sweats, this is called hyperthermia.  The opposite can also occur in cold and/or wet temperatures when your body temperature dips below 95 degrees F, this is considered hypothermia.  For the sake of this article, we will focus on heat dissipation and avoiding hyperthermia, especially while riding the trainer.

While riding the trainer, the human body is stationary.  However, it is still creating vast amounts of body heat primarily via the metabolic needs of the leg muscles.  As the human body is only ~25% efficient at producing energy (the rest is lost as heat) the core temperature can increase rapidly after the onset of exercise.  If the core temperature increase is not stopped or at least slowed down, hyperthermia occurs which leads to:

  • An increased pulse rate.
  • Blood being diverted away from the working muscles and towards the skin in an attempt to dissipate heat.  This leads to the muscles not receiving as much oxygen and other crucial metabolic needs which lowers the muscles force production.
  • The brain literally “cooking” which leads to decreased motivation, concentration, and overall pain tolerance.
  • Significantly increased sweat rate in another attempt to dissipate heat which can lead to dehydration and the cascade of accompanying exercise inefficiencies that go along with it.
  • As this goes on, exercise eventually becomes impossible and you are forced to stop.

So, from the above, we learned the body cools itself in 2 ways mainly: sweating, and diverting blood flow to the skin.  So, in order to combat hyperthermia, we need to figure out how to make these processes more effective.

External Regulation – Sweating:

Sweating (or perspiration if you are a sophisticated lady 🙂 ) is the process of your body creating fluid on the skin via its sweat glands. The purpose of sweating is for thermoregulation (cooling) by way of convection and evaporation.  Unbelievably, the body can sweat up to 2 liters per hour during intense exercise in hot environments!  So, we need to embrace the sweat (ew!) and get rid of it as quickly as we can to keep our bodies cool.  When riding outdoors, this happens naturally due to wind created by your forward movement, you MUST create this artificially indoors through the use of a fan (and in a perfect world, more than one).air-2260_1920

Ideally, the fan’s wind should blow over as much of your body as possible.  Also, make sure you are replacing all of the sweat you are losing and maintaining your body’s hydration level.

Internal Regulation – The Blood:

As previously stated, as the body heats up it diverts blood towards the skin and away from the working muscles which decreases the muscles ability to produce force (watts).  Decreasing watt production spells disaster for any race situation, or key workout, so how can we keep our body cooler from the inside out?

1. Pre-Cool Yourself:

I am sure you have seen the pros at the large races warming up for a time-trial while wearing what looks like a bullet-proof vest:

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Image Credit: icevests.com

This isn’t for safety, this is a vest filled with ice, or placed in the freezer so the gel in the vest becomes ice-cold.  The theory is if you can pre-cool the body before the race, you delay the onset of hyperthermia which improves race performance.

2. Use Ice-Cold Fluids

This is similar to pre-cooling your body, but this can work during the event or workout.  If you can ingest chilly fluids, you will cool your body from the inside out.  Another way to cool yourself efficiently is to spray the cold water on your head as well as on the tops of your hands since there are many capillaries near the skin surface in these areas.  I do not recommend doing this indoors though, unless your significant other is a hard-core cyclist like you are!

3. Put the Trainer in Cool Environments

Exercising in the basement (cooler than the main house usually) or in an air conditioned room makes your body’s thermoregulation attempts more effective since the air temperature will be further from your core temperature.  So, do yourself a favor and put the trainer there!

Problem 2: Motivation

The trainer has also been called “the drainer” by many athletes due to its innate ability to suck the life out of the most motivated of athletes.  This is due to some athletes not utilizing the trainer efficiently, some coaches over-utilizing it, and not having the right tools to make it a bearable and even enjoyable experience.

When I prescribe workouts that the athlete will perform on the trainer, I limit them to 90 minutes and ensure they are not just steady state spinning for the entire time (think intervals).  The trainer is there to get in, do the work, and get out.  If you are spending 2+ hours spinning at Zone 2, you are not only wasting your time, but also mentally draining yourself!  Sometimes the long workouts on the trainer are necessary to do, but these workouts should ideally be few and far between.  Do your long endurance/tempo steady state rides outdoors.

With the advent of Zwift, things have changed for the better and now the trainer is actually becoming enjoyable at times.  I try to have all of the athletes I work with use Zwift for their structured training over the Winter since it is so much more engaging than a video, or staring at the basement wall for hours on end.  If you haven’t used the service before, I highly recommend it!

Problem 3: Resistance

This problem is becoming less and less of an issue with the invention of the smart trainer and especially the direct-drive versions.  With the majority of the “dumb” trainers, or the trainers where you leave your rear wheel on, the trainer is exerting resistance via the drum onto the wheel throughout the entire 360 degree wheel revolution.  The spin-down also tends to be very short as compared to riding outside which decreases your rest breaks and makes it harder to get the drum spinning up again.  These factors alone and combined force you to work harder than if you were cruising down a road and only having to overcome the minuscule rolling resistance of the tires (obviously wind-drag is a much larger factor).

Here, Hunter Allen gives an excellent explanation of what I am referring to above:

So, there you have it.  Riding the trainer really can be harder than riding outside, and it isn’t all in your head!  However, if you take some steps and are more proactive/prepared when riding the trainer, the differences between the two don’t feel as bad.

6 Simple and Effective Core Exercises for Cyclists and Triathletes

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Having a strong core is essential to going faster on the bike.  You can make your legs as strong as you like, but if you can’t maintain stability in your torso and apply all that force and power you are generating to the pedals, are you really maximizing your return on time invested and going as fast as you can?  Heck no!  I have seen the difference having a strong and stable core can make in an athlete (including myself) and the following exercises are some of my favorites and the movements I recommend to my athletes.

The Rules:

  • Core work should ideally be done 1-3 times per week.  I like to have my athletes do a lot more during the preparation phase and gradually reduce to 1 time a week by their build phase for maintenance sake.  Some athletes need more core work though, so always do what works best for you!
  • WARNING: These exercises can make you REALLY sore the first time you do them.  I would not increase the number of reps and / or time holding a position until you can perform them without soreness.
  • Try and do these in front of a mirror the first few times so you can spot any breakdown in form / weakness in a certain muscle group.  Always try to maintain good form throughout the exercises and if you do notice a breakdown, stop.

#1 Planks:

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Make it easier – Bend your knees:

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Make it harder – Tripod – Lift one leg up:

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  • Start on your stomach.  Keep your feet hip width apart, on your toes or knees, and elbows directly under your shoulders.  When ready, lift your butt until there is a straight line from your shoulders down to your ankles or knees and hold.
  • The most common breakdown in form is dropping of the hips towards the ground, once you see this, stop.
  • A good goal for planks is to be able to hold one for 3 minutes, after this, progress to the tripod position.

#2 Side Planks:

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Make it easier – Bend your knees:

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Make it harder – Extend the elbow:

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  • Start on your side with your elbow directly under your shoulder.  When ready, lift your hip off the ground until you form a straight line from your shoulders down to your ankles and hold.  Repeat on both sides.
  • The most common breakdown in form is dropping of the hips towards the ground, once you see this, stop.
  • A good goal for planks is to be able to hold one for 3 minutes, after this, progress to the elbow extended position.

#3 Bird Dogs:

  • Start on all fours with hands directly under shoulders and knees directly under hips.  When ready, lift and extend the right arm and left leg, hold steady for a few seconds, and repeat on same side.
  • Make sure you don’t rotate from your hips or shoulders here!
  • A good goal is to be able to perform 2 sets of 30 repetitions total.

#4 Superman:

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Make it easier – Hands by sides, legs on ground:

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  • Start on your stomach, when ready lift up both arms and both legs off the ground and hold.
  • Once your shoulders / legs start to fall towards the ground, stop.
  • I like to start by doing repetitions of these first.  Once I can do 30 repetitions straight through, then I will start doing static holds with a goal of 3 minutes.

#5 Dead Bugs

  • From the position on the left, slowly lower and extend your left leg and right arm to the floor, repeat on same side.
  • Your focus here should be on keeping your lower back in contact with the ground throughout the movement and maintaining a neutral pelvis.
  • A good goal is to be able to perform 2 sets of 30 repetitions total.

Make it harder – Both arms and legs

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  • Same as above, but this time lower and extend both arms and legs at the same time.

Make it easier – Lumbar spine press (90/90 position)

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  • Lift your legs to a 90/90 position (hips flexed to 90 degrees and knees bent to 90 degrees).  Press your back into the floor, draw your belly button in towards your spine, and hold.
  • A good goal is to be able to hold this position for 3 minutes before progressing to the Dead Bugs.

#6 Bridges

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Make it harder – Single leg bridge

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  • Start on your back, feet flat and hip width apart, arms extended with palms resting on floor.  When ready, squeeze your butt and lift your hips up until a straight line is formed from your knees to your shoulders, hold for a few seconds and slowly lower back to ground again, repeat.
  • A good goal is to be able to perform 2 sets of 15 repetitions.

Enjoy your washboard abs!

 

7 Stretches you Should do After Riding the Trainer

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Riding the trainer keeps your body in a fixed position even more so than riding outdoors.  This can wreak havoc on the neck, middle back, hip, and lower extremity muscles causing them to become shortened, painful, and lose their ability to produce power.  This, of course, is unacceptable and the exact opposite effect we want after spending time in the pain cave.  So, do yourself a favor and spend a few minutes stretching your legs out after you beat them up, your body will thank you.

The Rules

  • Ideal best time to stretch statically is POST WORKOUT.
  • Stretches should be held for 30 seconds minimum.  Physiologically, it takes your muscle fibers ~30 seconds to relax enough to make static stretching beneficial and allow the muscle fibers to lengthen.  If you have the time to hold them for longer, go for it!
  • Stretches should be performed in a comfortable range of motion, so no crying because it hurts so much, but you also want to feel like you are doing something too.
  • Alternate each side with each consecutive stretch, so as 1 side is resting, the other side is being stretched.
  • Perform the stretches 2-3 times each.

Post-Trainer Stretching Exercises

1. Calf + Cat

Come up to a standing position with your hands rested comfortably on the hoods.  Keep your weight equal on hands/feet.  Drop your head, roll your mid-back/shoulders, and lengthen your lower back.  Then, drop your heels down to stretch out your calves too.  I suggest switching your feet after each rep.img_0679

2. Calf + Camel

Same as above, but this time lift your head up, arch your mid back and try to bring your hips up to mobilize the joints of your spine.  Keep your heels down to keep stretching out those calves.  I suggest switching your feet after each rep.

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3. Hip Flexor

Hop off the bike.  Hold onto your bars with 1 hand for balance.  Take a big step forward, keep your back leg straight, bend your front knee, and move your body forward until you feel a stretch at the front of the hip on the back leg.  For a little more stretch, raise your arm up on the same side and lean back.

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4. Quads

Hold onto your bars for balance.  Grab your foot and pull your heel towards your bum until a stretch is felt in front of the thigh.  For more of a stretch, pull and extend your leg backwards.

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5. Hamstrings

Hold onto your bars for balance.  Extend a leg out in front of you, keep your knee straight, flex your heel up, and run your hand down your leg until a stretch is felt at the back of the thigh.

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6. Glutes

Pick a comfortable surface to lay flat on.  Bring your leg up, bend your knee, and pull your knee towards your chest until a stretch is felt in the glutes.

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7. Piriformis

Same position as above, but this time put your ankle on your opposite knee.  Reach between your legs for your thigh, and pull your knee towards your chest until a stretch is felt deep in the glutes.

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Get Faster on Flat Roads! Watts/CdA

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We always hear a lot about watts per kilogram when it comes to cycling, but what if I told you that isn’t the most important thing sometimes, dare I say even most of the time.  You see, watts per kilogram is crucial for the ultra mountainous events since the lighter and stronger a rider is, the faster they can scurry up a climb, but for the majority of cycling events, how much power you can produce in relation to how aerodynamic you can get is what really matters, aka Watts/CdA.  The weight of the rider is important here too of course as more muscle usually = more power, but more fat never = more speed! Before we delve into the sciencey stuff though, how can we define Watts/CdA?

Watts = Power being produced by a rider.  Cd = The coefficient of drag (wind).  A = How much frontal area a rider projects.  Watts/CdA = Power being produced by a rider divided by the coefficient of drag multiplied by the frontal area of said rider.  In essence, how good you are at turning your hard work into forward speed!  The lower the CdA the better.

Measuring CdA

You have really 2 options of measuring CdA: 1) Purchase time at a wind tunnel 2) Use software like Golden Cheetah, or an online calculator like this one from Cycling Power Lab’s website.  You will need a power meter for the most accurate CdA value.  You can also check out this great article from our friend, Dean Phillips of FitWerx, on field testing and figuring out CdA using the “Chung Method”.

Decreasing and Optimizing CdA

So now that you understand how to find out what your CdA is, how can you lower it?  Well, the greatest return on your investment is achieving a more aerodynamic position on your bike while being able to maintain your wattage output.  The latter half is crucial because you can get as aerodynamic and reduce your frontal area all you like, but if you can’t produce the power necessary to have it be advantageous, why do it?  This is why frequent field testing is important.  Figure out what worked well, what didn’t do much, and learn to optimize your position accordingly.  Then once you have that figured out you can play around with other aspects of your cycling garb like your helmet, shoes, kit, etc.  Just don’t be THAT guy at your next event that shows up on a $10,000 bike and can’t stay in his aero tuck for more than 2 minutes 😉

To give you a little better idea of where to spend your hard earned dough:

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Credit: Lindsey Underwood
Capture
Credit: Lindsey Underwood

Typical CdA Values

By Position:

  • Riding on tops = >.4 CdA
  • Riding on hoods = .32 CdA
  • Riding on drops = .30 CdA
  • Riding on aero bars (clip on) = .29 CdA
  • Riding on aero bars (optimized) = .26 CdA

By Gear:

  • Road Bike, Road Helmet, Drops = .30 CdA
  • TT Bike, Road helmet, Aerobars = .24 CdA
  • Road Bike, TT Helmet, Aerobars = .25 CdA
  • TT Bike, TT Helmet, Aerobars = .23 CdA

Ridiculous Values for the Hour Record:

  • Merckx = .26 CdA @380w
  • Moser = .25 CdA @400w
  • Obree = .17 CdA @359w
  • Indurain = .24 CdA @510w (holy cow!)
  • Rominger = .19 CdA @456w
  • Boardman = .18 CdA @462w

Imagine if Big Mig could get just a little more aero?  He would probably still have the record with that monster wattage!

So, what are watts/CdA?  A measure of how effective you are at transferring the power you create into forward motion.  You can decrease this value by optimizing your position and purchasing more aero kit, but be sure to perform frequent field testing to ensure you aren’t sacrificing overall speed for drag reduction.

Further Reading:

What is Aero?

Lindsey Underwood’s thesis regarding Aerodynamics of Track Cycling

Scientific approach to the 1-h cycling world record: a case study

References:
(1) High Performance Cycling (Jeukendrup, 2002)
(2) Scientific approach to the 1-h cycling world record: a case study (Padilla et al, 2000)
(3) “How Aero Is Aero” (2008)

 

 

101: Indoor Bicycle Trainers

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Over the past few years, indoor bicycle trainers have really evolved and come into their own.  Even more importantly, riding a bike indoors has become almost fun and enjoyable (notice how I said almost) with the creation of the smart trainer and accompanying applications like Zwift.  However, with all of this evolution comes even more confusion for the uninitiated who just want to ride their bikes over the Winter.  This article will serve to help those looking to buy their first trainer by providing a brief description, giving some opinions, and pros/cons of each type.

Wind Trainer: $

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Image Credit: Kurt Kinetic

The wind trainer is the bottom of the barrel here.  The resistance comes from a fan with the resistance increasing as the fan spins faster, and vice-versa.  If you are looking for a lightweight and cheap option to bring with you to warmup at races, this will work out well, otherwise keep saving your money and invest in a more quality trainer.

Pros – Cheap, portable, resilient, cheap.

Cons – Cheap, loud, no-resistance adjustment.

Magnetic Trainer: $$

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Image Credit: Kurt Kinetic

The magnetic trainer (mag) uses, you guessed it!, magnets to create resistance.  As the magnet gets closer to the spinning drum the resistance will increase, and vice-versa.  A mag trainer is a great option for your first trainer, but if you have a few seasons under your belt or you are looking for a “real” road feel, mag trainers will leave you wanting more.

Pros – Quieter than wind, they offer variable resistance (but usually the resistance levels are far between), still portable yet heavier than wind, still relatively cheap.

Cons – Resistance is adjustable but the levels are usually far between.

Fluid Trainer: $$$

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Image Credit: Kurt Kinetic

The fluid trainer creates its resistance similar to the wind trainer whereby an internal impeller spins in fluid that becomes harder to pedal as the speed of the impeller increases.  The fluid trainer is the best of the original 3 and has been used by cyclists for years with little to no complaints.  However, they do not offer “smart” adjustability.

Pros – Road-like feel, accurate spin-ups and spin-downs similar to being on the road, resistance increases along a predictable curve.

Cons – We are getting expensive now, tend to be heavy, sometimes the fluid can leak from the barrel (but is VERY rare).

Smart Trainer: $$$$

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Image Credit: CycleOps

Smart trainers are the new kid on the block, but are responsible for transforming the indoor experience from monotonous to somewhat enjoyable.  Smart trainers are the best of the best right now and are geared towards those looking to use integrative applications, who need to spend a lot of time riding indoors, or for anyone who becomes bored rather easily indoors.

Pros – The most amount of resistance variance, ability to use Zwift and other integrated applications, and just really cool!

Cons – Very expensive, can be confusing to use initially.

Other Options: Rollers and Indoor Bikes

R0llers: Varied $

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Image Credit: Kurt Kinetic

Rollers are great for those looking to improve their pedal stroke, maintaining a straight line, keeping balanced, and improve their cadence to name a few.  The rear wheel sits between the back 2 drums, the front wheel just behind the front drum.  As the rear wheel spins, a piece of plastic tubing (connected to both front and rear drums) turns the front wheel simultaneously.

Pros – Ability to really hone-in on pedal stroke, balance, and overall on-bike stability.  Portable.  You look like you know what you are doing when you learn to use them 😉

Cons – Little to no resistance variance on the less expensive models, super steep learning curve, not good for high intensity rest intervals since you always need to keep spinning to stay upright.

Indoor Bike: $$$$

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Image Credit: CycleOps

Indoor bikes have been around for decades and are a favorite among those in health-clubs.  Indoor bikes are cool if you have expendable income, or are looking to just ride a bike for a workout, but purchasing an actual trainer and using the bike and geometry you are used to is far more beneficial.

Other Other Options:

Direct Drive Trainer

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Image Credit: CycleOps

Direct drive refers to the bike being mounted directly to the trainer versus the rear wheel.  This is great for sprint intervals or other high intensity work as there is no wheel slippage.

Rim Drive Trainer

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Image Credit: Minoura

Rim drive trainers are best for mountain bikes, cyclocross bikes, or other bikes that have treaded tires since the resistance is placed on the rim of the wheel versus the tire.

Hybrid Trainer

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These are a favorite for track riders and/or fixed gear racers.  They are lightweight and ultra-portable.

So, what trainer is right for you?  This depends on what your budget is, what you plan on using it for, will you travel with it, and if you need all the extra bells and whistles to keep your focus on training over a long winter.  Most of the athletes I work with use a fluid trainer, an ANT+ powermeter, and Zwift to get their indoor workouts done.  However, as smart trainers are becoming more affordable, I have seen them being used far more.

Whatever you decide on, JUST RIDE YOUR BIKE!

What is Cyclocross and how can I beat my friends at the next race?

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Cyclocross, or ‘cross if you are initiated, is the fastest growing aspect of cycling.  Cross races usually take place in the Autumn and Winter with the racecourse featuring mixed terrain and surfaces (pavement, grass, sand, dirt, mud), technical challenges that vary in difficulty from course to course and are weather dependent (slippery tree roots versus dry tree roots), barriers that require the rider to either bunny-hop or carry their bike over, and the most intense race start you will ever see!  Cross is gaining in popularity, I think, due to spectator access to all course areas and race view-ability which fosters a welcoming atmosphere for everyone, the potential to see and cheer for the best professional/elite racers in the world as well as see and compare them to the amateur racers (which is always awesome!), potentially heckle (in a nice way, please!) your friends and favorite racers, and the number 1 reason is increased safety and decreased injury risk compared to other cycling disciplines.  So, how the heck can you beat your friends to the line next time?  I am glad you asked…

Cross = Bike Handling

If road racing and mountain bike racing went on a date and had a few glasses of wine over dinner, got a little too intoxicated and perhaps went home together, 9 months later cyclocross racing would be born!  Strange analogy, I know, but you get the idea that cyclocross takes some aspects of road racing as well as mountain bike racing and puts them together.  Since cross racing is held on varying surfaces that can change over the course of the race itself, it is crucial to possess good technical skills and bike handling abilities.  If you can get around a corner 1 second quicker than someone else, and there are >60 corners in a cross race, guess what?  You just gained >1 minute per lap, essentially for free!

Improve your bike-handling skills:

Cornering Drill

  • After you are thoroughly warmed-up…
  • Ride to a safe place where you can practice taking a corner (hitting the apex) and accelerating out of it.
  • Enter the corner at a high speed (but a speed that you feel safe at!), practice hitting the apex (inside) and accelerate out of it HARD!  Repeat this going both left and right picking up the entry speed as you feel more confident in your ability.
  • Pick varying surfaces and be sure to practice when it is both wet and dry.

Bike Driving Drill

  • Ride around a mock cyclocross course 1-handed taking both right and left turns and switching hands each lap.
    • Doing this will train you to guide and drive the bike with your hips versus actually turning the handlebars.  This will result in faster cornering and greater traction.

Cross = Finding Your Pedals

Some of the more distinctive aspects of cyclocross is the mass start, “run-up” (1st image), and “barriers” (2nd image) feature…

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Credit: Steve-z.com
Powers opted to always stay on his bike, while Trebon ran the barriers and stairs. © Amy Dykema
Credit: cxmagazine.com

Obviously, every time you unclip from the pedals you need to clip back into them again.  This is a huge area that most new to the sport miss out on which costs them A TON of time and is also responsible for poor starts.  Just like anything else though, if you practice, practice, practice, you will improve upon it and be beating your friends off the start line and over the barriers!

Improve Your Clipping-in:

Race Start Drill

  • Ride to a grassy area that gives you at least 500 feet of distance to safely ride.
  • Start in your “sprint gear” and have your dominant foot on the ground with both pedals being horizontal to the ground.
  • Imagine being surrounded by people to your side and behind you (i.e. sprint in a straight line!).
  • When you are ready, EXPLODE off the line and quickly clip your opposite foot back in again.  Ride ALL OUT until the end of your imaginary start tunnel and then easy spin back again.

Barrier Drill

  • Start with imaginary barriers at first and just practice rolling up to the barrier, unclipping, lifting the bike up by the top tube and over both barriers, then clipping in again.
  • Once you get that down, then place some planks in front of you and practice the same as above, but this time jumping over the barriers.
  • Do this again and again working on unclipping and lifting the bike as close to the barriers as possible, taking as few steps between the barriers, and remounting/clipping in again as quick as possible.

Shouldering Drill

  • Sometimes the run-up is very long or there is a portion of the course that is just un-rideable.  This means you are pushing forward on foot!
  • Follow the same steps as the barrier drills, but this time you are going to grab the bike by the down tube, shoulder the top tube, then reach through and around to grab the opposite handlebar.  This will give you the most stability as well as allow you to run unimpeded.
  • Confused?  Check out the below image of Rider 1…
early-lead-group-on-the-steep-run-up-from-the-riverfront
Credit: Velonews.com

Cross = Accelerating (ALOT!)

Similar to criterium racing, cross racing features many accelerations, but this time over various and usually slippery/loose terrain.  So, when you do these drills, be sure to STAY SEATED and perhaps drop the cadence a bit to maintain traction.  Be prepared to really feel your glutes and hamstrings work too.

Improve your acceleration ability: Microbursts

  • After you are thoroughly warmed-up…
  • Perform 4-10 minutes (depending on fitness level) of 15 seconds FULL GAS, 15 seconds recovery.
  • When I say FULL GAS, I mean it.  You should be grabbing the bars, and exploding up to speed!  Be sure to STAY SEATED.
  • Rest for 5-10 minutes between and perform 2-4 sets.

Cross = Having Fun!

Cross can be very competitive for some, but the majority of athletes are there just to enjoy themselves, ring some cowbells, yell and heckle at their friends, and perhaps eat some bad food and imbibe.  So, no matter how many times you miss the barriers, can’t find your pedals, even fall over, don’t fret and just enjoy the experience!  Unfortunately cross season is super short (besides for the pros) and taking it too seriously just ain’t cool man.

GIRAFFE ON WHEELS
Credit: bppa.net

I mean, in what other sport can you ride a bike dressed as a giraffe?!

Enjoy the mud.