Thursday, June 28, 2007

Travel and book revisions

You may have noticed that I haven't posted much this month. I was only in my office 5 days all month. I have been to Singapore; Thailand; the Colorado Rockies; Sarasota, Florida and tomorrow I'm off to Portland, Oregon. Then Sunday I head to Boulder, CO where I will be hanging out until September to escape the heat of Scottsdale, AZ.

My next talk will be at the Timberman Triathlon on August 18 in New Hampshire. And the weekend after I'll be in Chicago for the triathlon there. That's all of my appearances until Interbike in Las Vegas the end of September and Kona for the Ironman in October. In November I'll be speaking at a wind tunnel camp for coaches at Texas A&M which should be a lot of fun. John Cobb is pulling this together (ask John, not me for details). And then the end of November I'm off to England to speak at a seminar there.

And so it doesn't look like I'm just sitting around doing nothing, here's what I'm working on. I'm revising The Triathlete's Training Bible, The Cyclist's Training Bible, and, along with my co-author Gordo Byrn, Going Long. I'm doing something different with the Training Bible revisions this time. When I revised them last time I was overwhelmed with athletes asking if they would find much in the way of changes from their first edition and was it worth the money to buy the newest one. There were a lot of changes. And I still get emails from athletes asking about stuff in the first edition that was corrected in the second. People, people...:)

So what I'm doing this time is creating a "companion" to go along with each Training Bible that will only be changes to the second edition. It will be a small, stand-alone book that is just updates to the second edition. You can pick it up in the book store and see if the changes are great enough for you to buy it. There will be changes to every chapter and it will be far less expensive than buying the entire third edition which will have all of the original stuff I kept from the first two editions and the latest changes and additions in one place. This is not expected to be on the shelves until the fall of 2008 but I'll be talking about a lot of the new stuff here in my blog. In fact, I've already discussed some of it here. Let me know what you think about this companion book idea.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Bike Economy

It's easy to tell who they are. In any group ride just look around. They'll be the ones pedalling with a motionless upper body and legs spinning effortlessly. They don't waste energy with swaying, mashing or square pedaling. They are elegant and economical. How did these economical riders get that way? Part of it may well be genetic. They were the lucky ones whose parents gave them a neuromuscular system meant to pedal a bike without effort. But there is also a nurturing or learning-and-perfecting component. This is the best part.

We can all learn to become more efficient at pedaling. By doing so you'll have more power in reserve at the finish for the sprint, you'll climb without trashing your legs and you'll have more physiological "gears" when the pace changes suddenly. At the core of this learning portion is the ability to spin comfortably at high cadences. If you learn to pedal at 120 rpm without any stress or strain then it's nearly certain that you're more efficient. So how do you develop a higher cadence? It all starts with understanding pedaling basics.

The most basic skill in pedaling with a high, efficient stroke is learning to pedal horizontally. I'll explain. For this purpose, let's think about the pedal stroke as having four sides--the downstroke (2-4 o'clock), the bottom (5-7 o'clock), the upstroke (8-10 o'clock) and the top (11-1 o'clock). The least critical of these for becoming more efficient is the downstroke. Anyone can do this. Put a cadaver on a bike and it could also make this movement. To become more efficient you need to get good at the top of the stroke. This is the hard one. Try pedaling with only one foot clipped in and this will soon become apparent. Drills which emphasize this region are what you want to work on.

The best drill is the one already mentioned--one-legged pedaling. This best done on an indoor trainer. One of the best teaching tools for this, although an expensive one, is the Power Crank. I'd recommend putting these on a second bike set up just like your racing bike to save the hassle of putting them on and off frequently. One legged pedaling will produce good results if done two or more times a week for several weeks. More weekly sessions will shorten the skill development time. This emphasis on becoming more skilled at the top of the stroke is why I suggest to the athletes I coach who need to become more efficient that they mount Q Rings on their bikes and ride them all the time. They are not a teaching tool. You use them not to learn to become a more efficient pedaler, but rather to pedal more efficiently--right from the start of their use. (And to set the record straight, I am not paid anything to promote Q-Rings or power cranks.)

Improving pedaling economy is one sure way for a rider to become more competitive. I have the athletes I coach work on this weekly throughout the Base period with periodic "refreshers" during the rest of the season. One of them has gone from a time trial cadence in the low-80s to the high 90s. But he needs to refresh his skill frequently to maintain this ability which isn't natural for him.