Monday, November 30, 2009

Which Muscles do the Work?

I posted a blog in December of last year entitled "The Perfect Stroke" that you may want to read (see archive on the left side of the blog page). This IS the time of the year (training season) to work on perfecting your pedal stroke. (It's also not a bad time to check your bike fit. Yeah, I hear already got fitted to your bike years ago when you bought it. But, that's the got fitted years ago..and your body DOES change. Can't hurt to re-check your fit at your LBS.)

This colored graphic (above) highlights/illustrates the muscles that do the work- in each position of the pedal stroke. You'll see the Quads engage from 12 to 5 o'clock, the Glutes from 1 to 6 o'clock, Calves 1:30 to 6:30, etc. But, check out the position in which the Hamstrings do the work (6 to 10) or more importantly the Hip Flexors (9-11). Also, check out the thicknesses of each colored plot- which shows the relative amount of useful power that each muscle produces. Now you know why you read all those cycling articles about how you should be scraping mud off your shoes, pulling on the upstroke, pedaling with eggshells under your feet (that you don't want to crush), etc. when you pedal. All of these articles are intended to help teach you how to pedal in a more balanced complete circle while developing the lessor used Hamstrings and Hip Flexors.

Now I know why my Hip Flexors were hurting on my Sunday ride. It's from all of the Isolated Leg Training/Drills (ILT) I've been doing the past couple weeks- in addition to the high cadence riding. I supposed my Hip Flexors really are underdeveloped/out-of-shape and need some strengthening. I bet you yours are too (underdeveloped), unless of course you consciously pedal in full-circles when you ride. I know I don't. I'm probably like the masses where each leg mashes on the downstroke (12-6) and recovers on the upstroke. Isn't that how you pedal? C'mon admit it. The real advantage, in my opinion, of developing the lessor-used Hammies and Hip Flexors is that it will give your Quads and Calves a break (while you're racing or suffering in that tough group ride) while still maintaining a high intensity/power output. And, that little break may be all that your over-worked Quads need to flush out some lactic acid and continue working at such a high level.
In case you didn't know, that's the whole idea with Power Cranks. For more info. on Power Cranks, click here: I'm not a Power Crank user, nor do I know anyone that trains with them. But, I'm sure they can't hurt. I'm just not a fan of shelling-out $1000+ for them when I can work on the same concept with my home ergometer using ILT.
Power ON! Coach Rob

Saturday, November 28, 2009

No Laughing Matter

I was going to include this photo in my last blog but figured I'd keep it to a blog of its own. Just as much as the last blog's photo was funny..this one isn't. As much as we'd all like to lose weight and be "lean & mean"..we don't want to go this far. Does anyone know who this man (in the photo) is? I believe it's Michael Rasmussen the Danish Professional Bike Rider that ALMOST won the 2007 Tour de France. Notice I said "ALMOST". Why almost? Because Michael lied about his whereabouts to avoid taking a blood test, and eventually dropped out of the 2007 TDF (before he was thrown out) just after he had won Stage 16- and leading the race. Why quit when you're leading a race? Because Michael was blood-doping and he knew he'd get caught- thus he dropped out. Why did he have to blood dope? Because when you weigh a buck twenty, like it looks in this photo, how on earth can your body endure the rigors of the TDF without an extra boost? There is just no way your body is going to perform at that level/intensity for that duration, during the TDF without some OUTSIDE assistance...ala blood-doping and God only knows what other drug he may have been taking.

So, in addition to not ending up looking like the fat man (previous blog) for obvious reasons, we don't want to look like Michael either. At least I don't. If I didn't know this was Michael (in the photo) I'd say this photo would be a good poster child pic for the Bilimia and/or Anorexia Nervosa Foundation. I'm sure Michael's fear of gaining weight, which would ultimately slow him down on the steep hill climbs, led to what looks like an eating disorder. Hey, maybe Michael NEVER had an eating disorder and he looked like this (photo) his entire life. Perhaps. Remember, if you want to be a better climber it's all about Power to Weight Ratio. You either increase Power, lower your Weight or do both. In Michael's case, it looks like he opted to lower his Weight. Obviously, it worked for him..up until the point (Stage 16 of the TDF) he needed to blood-dope to maintain his standing...and later withdrew.

Anyway, after looking at both the fat-man pic (previous blog) and skinny-man Mike pic, I think we'd all like to be somewhere in the middle. Personally, I'd like to be on the skinny side because it's a helluva lot easier to gain weight than it is to lose it. At least it is for me. But, that could be an ignorant statement since I never suffered from Bilimia or Anorexia Nervosa. There is an optimum cycling weight for all of us..and I hate to say it..but my experience is, if you want to be competitive you better be on the lean side..or you just aren't going to be able to hang in the hills. Just be careful you don't get too lean..or you'll end up looking like Michael...or worse, needing an extra (illegal) lift to compete. I know we're ONLY amateurs but I wouldn't doubt that some competitive amateur cyclists/triathletes are blood-doping during longer endurance events, using EPO, or whatever the drug of choice is these days. It's sad, but probably true.

If you do look like the fat or skinny man, please get help. Just like obesity, Bilimia and/or Anorexia Nervosa are serious diseases that kill. I saw a woman in my gym this morning, on the elliptical trainer, that was skinnier than Mike. I felt like saying something to "as long as you find the need to workout, when you ONLY weigh 90 lbs, please eat something". MY wife was there too..she saw..and she agreed that the woman was too thin. Perhaps the next time I see her at the gym (and I have for the last 2 weeks), I'll enquire at the front-desk about her. Maybe it's not as bad as it looks.

Power ON! Coach Rob

Tis the Season...for Weight Gain

I always write a blog in the November/December timeframe re: Weight Gain. Why? Because that's about the time I start taking action myself to shed a few (more like a bunch) pounds. Yeah, I gained a few. Hey, it's not just me..the average Joe will gain anywhere from 5-10 lbs. during the Holiday Season alone. Me, I actually gained it (10 lbs) prior to the Holiday Season (during my vacation in the Florida Keys)..but I'm sure this recent Thanksgiving only helped tack a pound or two on to that total. And, for all you slim Jim's out there that can eat/drink all they want without gaining a pound (by the way I hate you guys), there is nothing wrong with packing on a few extra pounds in the off-season. One article I read on actually said that the added weight gain helps repair the body at the cellular level. (Yeah, right, probably some fat guy in the office that wrote that one..haha).

But, after thinking more about it, why feel guilty? Why not enjoy yourself in the off-season? Go ahead...drink some beers with the boys, get drunk, eat pizza/chili/burgers/fries/etc. After all, don't you deserve it for being so good during the training season? Enjoy that Holiday feast and top it off with a big-ass piece of apple pie and throw on a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream (my fav) for the road.

However, when the Holidays are over, here are 5 tips I have to get rid of those excess saddle bags around your waist/gut/ass that you won't need (or want) on your training ride:

#1- Write it down. Start tracking EVERYTHING you put in your mouth from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. Remember, calories in=calories burned in order to maintain your current weight. If you ingest more than you burn, guess're gonna gain weight. You'll be amazed at how much JUNK you sneak into your daily diet when you write it down. You'll also be more aware of what you do put in your mouth when you write it down...and you'll think twice about it next time. Go online, there are plenty of free calorie counters to help you track your calories. I just downloaded a freebie calorie counter onto my Crackberry called- Calorie Counter by FatSecret.

#2- Time it. Lets face it, the last thing you want to do is eat a BIG dinner and sit on your ass and watch TV until you fall asleep. Or worse, snack AFTER that BIG dinner. And, do NOT skip's the most important meal of the day..even if it's only a bowl of cereal. Ever hear the expression "Eat Breakfast like a King, Lunch like a Prince, and Dinner like a Pauper." Live by it. Or, better yet, eat small portions spreadout throughout the day. As far as exercising, I find it better to get your workouts done in the morning or IMMEDIATELY after work. Morning workouts are good because your body is glycogen depleted from 8 hrs. of sleep and your body is just craving carbs to burn. You starve your body of carbs during your morning workout and it will grab the next best thing..FAT. Be careful, however, not to go too hard or too long in the morning on an empty stomach or your body will start burning protein..i.e. muscle mass. Keep your workout to no more than 45 minutes at Tempo/Threshold pace. If you're not a morning person, make sure you do your workouts IMMEDIATELY after work. Why? I'll bet you anything you want that if you go home and eat dinner first..9 out of 10 times you'll find an excuse not to go the gym (or even in your basement) for a workout. Add a glass of wine (or beer) to your dinner and I'm almost certain the last place you'll end up is in a gym. Been there done that! If you do eat dinner first, before working out, keep it small..make sure there are plenty of carbs in your meal and keep the fat portions down. Wait at least an hour before you workout or you'll end up in the me. Again, been there done that!

#3- ON days and OFF days. On the ON days (when you are working out) make sure you are properly fueled (with Carbs) and on the OFF days lighten up. If you're not fueled properly for a tough workout, you're going to cut your workout short or do it half-assed. Remember, when we're working out (the ON days), we're basically tearing our muscles down during exercise so that they repair bigger/stronger on our OFF days. So, we want to do as much work as some cases hi-intensity work. The OFF days are also good days to lighten up on the food intake particularly the carbs. The OFF days, are also good days to relax and catch-up on much needed sleep/rest..especially if you're training hard during the ON days. Remember, it's the OFF days where your body repairs itself STRONGER than before. No rest, no repair.

#4- Moderation. I am NOT a fan of diets or weight loss companies like Weight Watchers, etc. Why? Because for the most part, diets don't work and weight loss companies charge you too much to do what you can do on your own. Plus, their meals look like crap. Lets face it...if you eat/drink whatever you want in moderation you're not going to have a problem with weight gain. What's more important..I think..and I never see anything written on the subject of "self-control" and "discipline". Hey, make no bones about it..when I get my morning coffee at Dunkin Donuts don't you think I'd like to add a couple Bavarian Creme Donuts to that order? Hell yeah! But I don't, I resist..I just look at the fatties standing in line with me and think, if I eat those donuts I'll be looking like them in no time. BTW, speaking of Dunkin Donuts..I just saw on my Calorie Counter that 1 Dunkin Donut Bavarian Creme Donut has 260 calories compared to their Banana Walnut Muffin that has 540 calories (and twice the fat). See, good to have that Calorie Counter with you.

#5- Educate Yourself. There are a bazillion articles written on the internet about Weight Loss. You don't even have to spend a dime at your local Barnes & Noble. Read! Specifically, read articles about athletes such as they they train...when they train, etc. There's no excuse not to. It aint rocket science. As I said earlier, it's just Calories IN vs. Calories BURNED. When Calories IN exceed Calories gain weight..and vice versa. It takes a deficit of 3500 calories in a week to drop 1 lb. That's 500 calories a day which can easily be burned while spinning on your home trainer for 45 minutes to 60 minutes each morning. So, if you do NOTHING differently re: eating and exercising, the way you've done in the past, and you increase your calorie burn by 500 calories a day, you'll lose 10 lbs. by the end of January.
Power ON! Coach Rob

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Physics 101

One of Einstein's greatest insights, or accomplishments in life, was the discovery of the equation: E=mc**2. Where energy equals mass times the square of the speed of light. What does this short and simple looking equation tell us? In a nutshell, without getting too technical, it says that matter and energy are really different forms of the same thing. Thus, matter can be turned into Energy and Energy into matter. What is/was more impressive (to me anyway) was that Einstein had an understanding what this rather simple looking formula would lead to- Nuclear Fission and Nuclear Fusion. Nuclear Fusion is what powers a modern Nuclear Warhead and Nuclear Fission is what happens in an Atomic Bomb.

Another simple equation, and probably much more relevant to you and cycling is the equation: Power=Force*Velocity. I've already talked about 3 ways to increase Power in prior blogs: eg. Increase pedal force, increase pedal velocity(rpm) or both. This simple equation is not as impressive as Einstein's but to you (the cyclist) it could lead to an even GREATER discovery- more power which translates to a faster/stronger you on the bike.

Sounds easy huh? Just work on increasing my Force and/or Velocity on the bike (over the Winter) and I should be good to go in the Spring- right? Well, it's NOT that easy because there are a lot of different ways to do this. Do I/we:
a. Work on Force independent of Velocity?
b. Work on Velocity independent of Force?
c. Work on both Force and Velocity concurrently?
d. Work on a wide range of Forces and Velocities?
And, there are other questions we need to ask ourselves: Do we know which velocities are most effective? i.e. do I train spinning at 120 rpm? Do we know which Forces or loads are appropriate? i.e. do I train with heavy weights, steep hill climbs, etc?

I read an interesting article by Steve Swanson, Chief Science and Technology Director, Athletic Republic that will answer most of these questions. Steve says, "Our muscles and tendons have “sensors” in them that monitor both force and contraction velocity. The output from the sensors is monitored by the central nervous system, and the electrical signals sent to our muscles are based in part on what these sensors find. If the force is too great, the output signal is reduced and the muscle will be shut down (this occurs conceptually at the left end of the force velocity curve—near the left asterisk- see graph). If the stretch or shortening velocity increases, the signal will be increased to resist the stretch (to the point of too much force) or attempt to contract the muscle at a higher velocity. These mechanisms help the body protect itself from injury. A key aspect of these mechanisms is that your body has a “threshold” of what forces and velocities it thinks are acceptable to keep you from hurting yourself. In most people, this threshold is lower than what it needs to be—kind of a safety factor. If you attempt loads and velocities that are at this threshold or even slightly above it and no injury occurs, the body raises the threshold. This is the reason that strength and power quickly increase at the beginning of an appropriate training program."

Steve summarizes: "The key to effective training to improve power is to take your body just beyond what you normally can do—SAFELY. Your body then learns it is okay to send stronger signals to the muscles, which then result in more force at higher velocities. If you can create a safe and effective training environment that requires you to produce force at a wide range of appropriate movement velocities, you give yourself the best chance for success. "

Make sense to you? It does to me. Now all you need to do is put this information into an Annual Training Plan (ATP), via workouts , which will maximize Power Output. Power On! Coach Rob

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Blinded by Science

I just finished reading an article in the Nov/Dec ROAD magazine, written by Scott Saifer of Wenzel Coaching, entitled, "Blinded by Science", and I have to say (based on his article) I'd never hire him or one of his coaches. Here's a snippet of the article in which I totally disagree with his assertions. He writes:

"If we consider bike races to be the ultimate experimental tests of hypothesis about training, it appears that the best training plans have a large "non-scientific" component. Professionals are the best of the best-trained cyclists. Whatever they are doing must be "right". They often talk about riding (I'm assuming training) how they feel: pushing hard when they feel good and, going easier when they don't feel so good and adjusting the training plan moment by moment rather than sticking to a pre-determined agenda. This "non-scientific" training is scientifically proven by the success of its practioners to be most effective among the training methods currently employed".

So, what do I disagree or take exception with in Scott's article? The first is, I don't believe professional cyclists are the "best of the best-trained" cyclists. I believe they are the "best of the best conditioned" cyclists. Yes, I know these professionals train hard and long but they don't train harder than some amateurs (or elite athletes) I know that aren't half as strong/fast. A lot of these pros are as strong/fast as they are because they are genetically gifted ala Lance Armstrong, Taylor Phinney, etc. Secondly, Scott says that whatever they are doing must be "right". I don't agree with that either. I think for the most part what they are doing is "right" but I would bet that there are a lot of athletes on pro teams that aren't doing it right because the coaches don't have the time (and until recently knowledge) to decide what really is right for EACH rider. Because what is right for one athlete may not necessarily be right for the next. It's not wrong what they are doing, but I'm sure it could be better. Lets face it, before Heart Rate Monitors and Power Meters, a lot of teams trained together and did the same workouts at the same distance/duration and intensity. I'm sure members of the team benefitted from the workout..but I'm just as sure a bunch didn't- as much as they could have. I think the workouts were the "right" workout for the team (as a whole) but not necessarily for each team member. Lastly, Scott says that the "non-scientific training" (I'm assuming he means training by RPE) is scientifically proven by the success of its practioners to be the most effective among the training methods current employed. I ask Scott, "Currently employed by whom? He and the rest of Wenzel Coaches?".

I can assure everyone, that if I design a training plan for you..that it will NOT be a canned program for the masses but one that is designed specifically around your strengths/weaknesses and goals. It will be scientifically monitored (HR monitor or Power Meter) and scientifically tested/proven (via races or CP tests). And, the plan will be adjusted throughout the year to maximize results. And it will definitely NOT be a training plan/program based on how you feel. i.e. RPE. We have much better tools these days for assisting us (coaches) in training correctly. So, why not use them? Problem is, a lot of people (and coaches like Scott) still don't know how to use them effectively. If they did, they wouldn't be saying (or writing) what they are. Power On! Coach Rob

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cycling Efficiency

I just got done reading Dr. Allen Lim's article on Saris' website, "5 Tips for improving cycling efficiency". Great article. You can read it here:,guid,5272bd75-5f51-437d-a1ad-0f275aa7b2f4.aspx I'm a big proponent of EVERYTHING he suggests, except for the part about riding on rollers and doing Isolated Leg Training (ILT) drills...ESPECIALLY with no hands. Unless of course you'd like to spend your Holidays in the hospital with a broken neck.

If you're not doing the cycling efficiency drills that Dr. Lim suggests..start doing them NOW. As Allen says...SPIN...SPIN..SPIN! Tis the season to Spin at a high cadence.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Power On!

I've had this photo posted on the Frontpage of my photography website for a couple months: and just noticed that the leaderes of this professional bike race (Criterium in Doylestown) ALL have power meters on their bikes. The first two have Power Taps (yellow head-unit computer) and the third has an SRM power meter (made in Germany). I like seeing this, not just because I'm a Power Based Training Coach but because you get some of your best power data from races. I'm sure their coaches agree. Are you racing with a Power Meter? Training and Racing with a Power Meter...gotta love it. Power On! Coach Rob

Friday, November 13, 2009

Derby Ride- is ON!

(Route shown taken on 11/15/09)

We'll be leaving from the Deli/Food Store in Stockton NJ (on the towpath) at 0900 this Sunday, Nov 15th and riding to the top of Baldpate Mtn and back. Bring your hybrid, cyclo-cross bike or Mtn bike for this leisure paced ride. The total trip is approx. 30 miles round trip, with a nice climb mid-ride 450 ft. in 1.5 miles (avg. 6% grade, with max. grades of 10%). The plan is to be back to Stockton by noon. Yes, I know that's 3 hrs. but I'm leaving an extra hour in there for those that might want to explore the trails at Baldpate with a Mtn bike or a stop at Pure Energy Cycle on the way back for a latte. I'd like to continue with this ride through the Winter, weather permitting, whether I'm on the ride or not.

I do know that on 22 November there is a Specialized Mtn bike Riders Club ride that will be meeting at Washingtons Crossing to do something similar. Perhaps we could combine with their ride and make it a weekly thing...although the Specialized ride is a B+ ride and I'm more like a D+ Mtn. bike rider.

For more details on this ride, see my previous blog below...or email me: You can also post comments/questions below this blog.

2008 Cycleops Pro 300PT Trainer For Sale

I'm selling my Cycleops Pro 300PT Indoor Trainer. The trainer is 2 yrs. old with low mileage/hrs. and is in brand new condition. The trainer was never sweated on because I always used a towel draped over it during workouts. The trainer utilizes a wired Power Tap so you don't have to worry about interference from cordless phones, etc. The HR monitor strap is, however, wireless. It's been waxed/cleaned and everything works and looks like brand new. It even comes with add-on aero pads/foream pads (not shown in photo). The trainer MSRPs for $2000 but I'm selling mine for $1200. Why am I selling? Because I'm purchasing two new Computrainers that I'm going to be networking with other Computrainers for group indoor workouts and could use the cash to help defray the costs of these.

For more details on this very accurate, quiet, stable indoor trainer (built like a tank) go to this link: Here's an unbiased review by Pez Cycling too: Email me, for more info: My preference is to sell it locally, Doylestown PA, because I really don't want to have to pack this baby up and ship it because the flywheel alone weighs 40+ lbs.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Season Starts When?

When does the Season Start? For some, it never ends..we go from road bike racing to cyclo-cross racing or mountain bike racing right into indoor interval workouts through the Winter. For most of us however, the road bike racing season ends in September and we take the month of October and November off and start training again in December. But, does the season really end or is it just a continuation of training with less volume? For me, it's definitely less time on the road bike and more time on the mountain bike and a return to the gym (for resistance training). Therefore, volume/duration (as well as intensity) is at an annual low..due to the shorter days and colder/rainy weather. In addition to volume & intensity of training being at an annual low I must admit my weight is at an annual high. For me it's hard NOT to gain weight because I'm spending less time outside and more time inside drinking beer, eating junk and watching football. No, I don't get FAT but I do gain anywhere from 5-10 lbs. in the off-season. I can tell you from past experience that you do NOT want to put on more than 5-10 lbs of weight in the off-season because it's hard as hell to lose in the Spring/Summer when your rides are longer (and higher intensity) where you'll be relying on a high Carb high calorie diet to keep from bonking.
Start your season now! Drop that Jelly Donut and get out on your Mountain/Cross bike or get in the gym and spin and/or lift weights. (Notice I didn't say drop the beer or pizza? You'd have to pry the beer out of my dead hand this time of year) Yeah, I know it sucks to do indoor interval trainer workouts which is why I DO NOT do them until the weather really gets nasty and cold in January/February. And, when I do them, I try to do them in a group because it's too easy to quit on them if/when you do them on your own. Until then, I find every excuse to ride my Mountain Bike, join an indoor spin class (where you spin at high cadence and low intensity), go to the gym to lift, x-train, etc. If you start an indoor interval workout NOW I guarantee you that you will be burned-out (mentally and possibly physically) BEFORE the start of the road racing season in April. If you do engage in an indoor workout on the on speed drills, endurance, cardio, etc. (see prior blog).
In a nutshell..this is what you should be doing now and in the future:
Nov/Dec- base endurance training, hypertrophy resistance training, and x-training
Dec/Jan- build training for strength, strength resistance training and x-training
Jan/Feb- power training, power resistance training
Feb/Mar- muscular endurance training, muscular endurance resistance training
Mar/Apr- race prep training, maintenance resistance training
Apr-Sept- race season, maintenance resistance training
Oct/Nov- off-season?, maintenance resistance training
For more detailed workouts, email me:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Derby Ride

Many of you may remember the Derby Ride on Sunday mornings at 0900 from Cold Spring Elementary School the past couple of Summers. It was a (hard) group ride that was led by some of the strongest riders in the area which started at a relatively moderate pace (avg. 20 mph) on the PA side of the Delaware River that accelerated into fast paced ride (avg. 24 mph) on the NJ side of the Delaware River. It was a great ride for everyone..even riders like me that were dropped along the way- because I got an awesome workout. In keeping with that tradition, I was thinking of doing the same in the off-season, albeit at a more relaxed/fun/social pace (since it's indeed the off-season) AND with anything other than a road bike. Why no road bike? Because the terrain/route we'll be following will be more appropriate for hybrids, cyclocross or mountain bikes. And, unlike the Summer Derby Ride this will be a "no-drop ride" provided you can keep up with the 12 mph average which includes: hills, stops, flats, etc. (I hope I can..haha)

Here's the route: start in Stockton, NJ and follow the canal tow path from Stockton to Hopewell, NJ. In Hopewell, cross over a canal bridge onto Rt. 29 Northbound for approx 1/4 mile to Fiddler's Creek Rd. Follow Fiddler's Creek Rd. to the entrance to Baldpate Mtn. Ride up the gravel road to the grass paths which lead to doubletrack and singletrack trails. Follow the Ridge Trail (white) to the Upper Parking Lot. Turn around and follow the route back to Stockton. Total mileage 24 miles, approx. ride time 2+ hrs. We'll stick to the Ridge Trail (white) which can be ridden with either a Cyclocross, Hybrid or Mountain bike. Here's a link so you can see the terrain: If some of you Mtn bike riders want to explore the Mountain trail descents you can meet back up with the group.

In addition to the Sunday ride (preferred over Saturday because there is no hunting on Sundays) I was thinking of doing a weekly night ride as well. Let me know if you're interested in either. This would be an all-weather ride: cold, snow, sleet, rain, etc. Unless of course there is heavy snow/sleet/rain. Lastly, I said it would be a more relaxed/social/fun ride but that doesn't mean you're not going to get a great workout. Baldpate Mtn. rises 300-400 ft. above the Delaware River so you'll be climbing at an average 8% grade for one mile to the top. Once on the top there are rolling you can count on half the ride being dead flat (canal path) and the other half being hills.

Do It Yourself (DIY) Bike Repairs

As a kid I had a higher than normal mechanical appitude. I was also good at building things and fixing things that broke. If I wasn't fixing things, I was destroying them by setting them on fire or blowing them up just to see what happens. I'm serious! This interest in how things work led to a lot of science and math classes in HS and later more advanced classes as a Mechanical Engineering student in College and later Grad School. To this date, I'm continually intrigued with new technology, new science and how things work. What particulary appeals to me in the biking industry are: bike computers, power meters, bike suspension systems, shifting systems and basically how bikes work.

So, what does this have to do with DIY bike repairs? You would think with my higher than normal mechanical aptitude, being good with my hands and fascination/interest in how things work that I perform my own bike repairs. Well, I don't. It's not because I'm not interested in working on my own bikes (I have four: hybrid bike, 2 road bikes and a Mtn. bike) or that I don't have the know-how to work on them, it's because I either don't have the time or I'm really not sure how to fix-it. (Actually, I think it's the latter reason) Instead of fixing things myself, I take them to the LBS and have them make the repairs for me. I've been happy with the Service I've received at my LBS in the past until recently. Therefore, instead of getting mad at them I've decided to start doing my own repairs...after all, working on a bike is not rocket science. (Hey, don't tell your LBS mechanic I said'll hurt his/her feelings). And, working on your bike will give you a lot of self-satisfaction in addition to saving some money. Besides, I'm willing to bet that I can do a more thorough job than any LBS mechanic can- provided I know how to do the job correctly.
Now that's the $64k question (in my opinion)- how do you ensure you do the job correctly? There are 3 ways: 1) buy a book like Lennard Zinn's, "Zinn & the Art of Mountain/Road/Triathlon bike Maintenance 2) go online and Google whatever you want to do, for example, Google- "bleed hydraulic brakes", or 3) take a mechanics course at either a LBS or better yet one of the Nationally Certified Bike Mechanics Schools like UBI, Barnett, Park Tools, etc.

Why do it yourself? Here are a few reasons why I'm going to start doing it myself:
a. a lot cheaper to do it yourself
b. you get your bike back faster if you do it yourself
c. learn how your bike works/operates. It will come in handy if you ever breakdown on the road or trail
d. you'll do a more thorough job than a LBS mechanic
e. it's fun and self-satisfying
f. as I said previously, it's really pretty easy (definitely not rocket science)
g. you'll have more confidence in your equipment..especially at high speeds or during steep descents

If anyone is interested in joining me (email me), I'm going to sign-up for a Bicycle Assembly and Maintenance (BAM) course at the Barnett Bicycle Institute in Colorado Springs in July of 2010. It's a 5-day course (8 hrs. per day). I figure July would be an awesome time to head out to COS and do some Mtn Biking in the hills (cooler air) after a day of class. Here's a link to their website:

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mountain Biking Baldpate Mountain

Funny, but I had a choice to go Mountain Biking or ride my Road Bike (on a beautiful day)yesterday- and I didn't even think about it, I chose the Mountain Bike. For you Roadies out there, that exclusively ride a road bike, you really ought to try out Mountain Biking in the off-season. Why? Because it's FUN. Here are some other reasons why I love Mountain Biking:

a. It gets you off the roads AWAY from traffic, cars, trucks, etc.
b. It's slower..and allows you to see, smell, hear (and taste if you do an occasional header like I do..haha) more.
c. It gets you "back to nature". I can't tell you how many animals I've seen Mountain Biking.
d. It takes more skill and hand-eye coordination on a Mtn bike which will only improve your road skills.
e. It's a different kind of workout...more full ON/OFF than road biking and great exercise.
f. It's a good excuse to throw the bike on the back of the car and travel and discover new routes, etc.
g. It's a lot more friendlier. Mtn. bikers actually acknowledge your presence on the trails unlike roadies on the road.
h. It's quieter and more peaceful than riding on the road. It's calming...stress relief for sure.
i. It's a lot safer than riding on the road. Nobody said you MUST do extreme Mountain Biking. There are plenty of smooth, flat, open trails to ride.
j. Did I say- IT IS FUN!

Here is a pic of Baldpate Mtn. no more than 1/2 hr. drive from my home. I've been spending quite a bit of time here lately on my Mountain Bike and having fun exploring new trails. It's a beautiful area in Hopewell, NJ across the Delaware River from Washington's Crossing. The picture was taken on the Ridgeline 400-500 ft. above the Delaware River. I'll be sending a link in a future blog to a site with photos of where to park, different trails, etc.

Anyway, if you're contemplating buying a Mountain Bike for off-season training and fun..DO won't regret it. Power On! Coach Rob

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Indoor Trainer Workouts

Not all indoor trainer workouts are "interval" workouts...nor should they be. I think there are a lot of cyclists out there that ALWAYS seem to be doing not only indoor "interval" workouts when they put their bikes on the trainer but hi-intensity interval workouts. Why? Because that's all I think they know how to do. At least that's what I see/witness when I join a group indoor training session...ESPECIALLY this time of year. Sure, it's ok to do an occasional hi-intensity "interval" workout to help maintain your cardio fitness and try to maintain some semblance of your peak Functional Threshold Power (FTP) (if that's important to you). But, this is NOT the time of the year to be going hard on the indoor trainer...or outside for that matter. In fact, when I ride outdoors this time of the year I keep the chain in the small chain ring and pedal at an average of 90+ rpm for the entire ride..including hills. And, NO COASTING. This is the only time of the year where I can honestly say I pay particular attention to cadence and ignore my power output. And, for all you "paralysis by analysis" Power Meter owners, this is a great time of year to ditch the Power Meter. I'm serious!

According to the classic Annual Training Plan (ATP) or Periodization Schedule (which I follow and recommend the athletes I coach to follow- for the most part), this is the "Preparation" period/phase...a period where you focus on general adaptation with weights, crosstraining, and on-bike drills. I already wrote a blog or two about crosstraining and weight training so I'm not going to get into that here. So, what kind of on-bike drills am I talking about? I'm talking about: Isolated Leg Training (ILT) drills, Spin-ups and Form-Sprints (and/or a combination of the three). Here's how to do a workout for each:

Isolated Leg Training (ILT)
Use a light resistance on the indoor trainer (Level 1/2). Put one foot in the pedal and the other on a chair (or hold out to the side for the ride). Spin with a higher than normal cadence. Change legs when fatigue begins to set in. Repeat for several sets switching from left to right leg. Focus on eliminating dead spots at the top/bottom of the pedal stroke. (I usually include ILT as part of another workout, such as a fat-burn/endurance workout, instead of doing them as a single workout)

Use a light resistance on the indoor trainer (Level 1/2). For one minute gradually increase your cadence to the maximum (a cadence you can maintain WITHOUT BOUNCING). Hold your maximum cadence for as long as you can. Recover for at least 3 minutes and repeat several times. Continually monitor cadence during workout. (I usually include spin-ups as part of another workout, such as a fat-burn/endurance workout, instead of doing them as a single workout)

Form Sprints
Warm-up at Level 2/3 for at least 20 minutes. Sprint for 15 seconds while standing for the first 10 seconds then sit for the remaining 5s while maintaining a HIGH cadence. Power should be no more than Level 5. These are NOT all-out sprints. Concentrate on building leg speed. Repeat 6-10 times...making sure to rest 5 minutes between each one. (It is best NOT to combine this workout with any other.)

BTW, you can do all of these workouts outside on the road as well as on a trainer. For the ILT, instead of clipping in/out, concentrate on using one leg to do all the work while the other one is along for the ride. Also, perform the ILT (as well as the other drills) on a flat section of road. And remember, SMALL RING only.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Balanced Off-Season Cycling Program

A "balanced" off-season cycling program SHOULD include: resistance (weight) training, time on the indoor trainer and x-training. The key here is "balance". If your off-season cycling program does NOT include "balance" at this time of year- it should, if you want to maximize your performance for the 2010 season. What do I mean by "balance"? Here's a good example:

Monday- Weight Training
Tuesday- Indoor Interval Workout
Wednesday- Weight Training
Thursday- Indoor Bike Workout
Friday- OFF
Saturday- Mountain Biking
Sunday- Mountain Biking/Roller Blading/X-Country Skiing/etc.

If you're not sure what kind/type of weight training or bike workout you should be doing this time of year, email me and I'll get you started.

What are the benefits of a "balanced" off-season program:
a. psychological break
b. builds muscle strength
c. improves hand/eye coordination
d. improves cycling skills
e. helps maintain sense of balance
f. cardiovascular benefits