Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Winter Bike Training

If you live where you get real winter you may have to make some changes to your bike training for the winter season. One option is to keep riding. The picture above is of Cervelo sales Manager Rodney Merchant's RS Road bike on a mid winter ride near Toronto. Few are as hardy as Rodney, but a great attitude and the right apparel can go a long way to riding outdoors in less then ideal conditions. However, let's be realistic - most triathletes will be doing their bike training indoors if that's what they are going to be facing outdoors.

So what to do on the indoor trainer? Personally, I have never been a fan of spending a huge amount of time on the indoor trainer. I know that there are people that grind out, 3, 4 and even 5 hour indoor rides. I would suggest shorter more focused and more intense efforts. Done right these workouts can be very effective.

If you have been off the bike for a while it might be good to put in some time just working up to being able to ride at a good pace for 45 minutes to an hour. Once you can do this, then there are three different kinds of workouts I suggest. They revolve around 1, 2 and 5 minute blocks of time. I set my timer on my watch to the count-down-and-return function so that if I set it at 2 minutes, it will run for 2 minutes and then beep and keep repeating the beep every 2 minutes and so on.

I would start with 2 minutes and after a 10 -15 min. warm-up, start to do 2 minutes at hard effort and then 2 minutes easy spinning. Do 4 - 6 of these and see how you feel. Next time play around with things, Maybe do four minutes hard with 4 minutes rest etc . . . One of the best workouts that you can do with these 2 minute units of time is 4 minutes hard with 2 minutes recovery. If you can do 6 of these at close to max effort and fully recover in the 2 minute easy period - you are doing well. Spin down for 10 - 15 minutes and you are done.

The one minute time period is good for working on your power and your sprint. Set the timer for one minute and then go as hard as you can for one minute - really max out. Then rest of 1, 2 or even 3 minutes and repeat the one hard minute. Repeat this cycle until you can't go all out for the one minute hard. This set can be worked in at the end of the previous 2 minute workout, or on it's own in the middle of an easy recovery ride.

Finally the 5 minute time period is good for building up your longer Time-Trial fitness and learning to work and sustain a moderately hard effort right at the edge, without going over - this is key for triathlon cycling. Start off going for 10 minutes at a moderately hard pace. Then take 5 minutes to recover, then go hard again for another 10 minutes. This should be the type of effort that feels easy at first but by the time you reach the last few minutes of the ten minute hard portion, you feel like you are really working hard. The gold standard of what you want to build up to here is 20 minutes hard with 5 - 10 minute rest and then repeat the 20 minutes hard. If you are doing this right, you should be surfing along right at the edge of your Lactate Threshold and not blowing up and going over it.

The other option for indoor riding is rollers. Many triathletes shy away from rollers, but they are one of the best training tools for developing a smooth and efficient pedal stroke. Typically they don't offer much in the way of resistance, so this is usually not as hard as a workout on the indoor trainer.

I have noticed from observing thousands of triathletes, that many don't have very smooth and efficient pedal strokes. Riding rollers really helps smooth things out. They also make you very confidant on your bike by teaching you what the keys to great bike balance are. You know you have a good aero-postion, are well set up on your bike, and have a smooth and efficient pedal stroke, when you can ride in your aero position on the rollers. Many can't do this - but it is worth striving for. If you look at the best triathletes and bike Time-Trialers they have one thing in common - they are all very quiet, still, smooth and efficient on the bike.

If you do have rollers, what I like to do is alternate roller sessions, with sessions on the trainer - so two rollers sessions a week and two trainer sessions a week. None of these sessions need last longer than 45 minutes to an hour. If you do that through the 3 - 4 months of winter, you will definitely maintain your bike fitness, you may even elevate it!

Hope this helps.


sean said...

Please take a look at the realryder an alternative to rollers



Fleck said...


Thanks for checking out my blog

Thanks also for the info and the links to Real Ryder. I had not heard of this company. Are you associated with them?


JB said...

Just glad I live in the deep south!