You've done the weekend ride (yes, okay and maybe the Monday morning one too) - now it's time to ask some questions, and we've got Dave Smith back to answer them.
If you would like to ask Dave a question about your cycling fitness, training or health you can drop him a line at fitness [at] road.cc or you can email us at info [at] road.cc putting Fitness Q&A in the subject line
Can you suggest a training session to help prepare me for long climbs in September? I’ll be riding in the Alps but live in Lincolnshire.
Dave Smith: Headwinds are your friend. Or at least they should be. I suggest you ride with a tailwind for an hour or so, then turn round and ride home into a headwind. It’s as close as we can get to an Alpine climb challenge in most parts of the UK. You could also do some raids into the Peak District or North Yorkshire and ride some hill repeats on long climbs.
Another option is to set up a turbo trainer with a higher block under the front wheel to put the bike at 6 degrees or so, then grind out some threshold sessions at a lower cadence than would be normally recommended – 75-85rpm in a gear/resistance that feels uncomfortable. Use your imagination to picture yourself in the Alps, or use a laptop and the internet to provide a rolling road view.
Finally, some strength training such as squats can help add some power for steeper hairpins and the occasional ramp.
I recently signed up for a gran fondo, but haven’t left myself enough time to train. It just came up and I was signed up. The fondo is on 19th July and my longest ride to date has been 120km (the fondo is 160k). Prior to that I’d done lots of short rides, but only four rides over 60km. I know I’m in trouble, but how much trouble am I in? A world of hurt? Is there anything I can do short of just suffer through it? Undertrained is me!
Dave Smith: The outcome depends on the nature of the event and where you’ve done your training. If you live in Norfolk and the fondo is in the Dolomites, you may be screwed. However, if you can ride 120km in terrain similar to the fondo, you can ride 160k on the day. The key factors are nutrition/hydration and comfort on the bike rather than ‘fitness’ as such. There’s a great old French proverb, ‘you can travel far when you’re already tired’. Less so if your arse is a blistered mess.
So focus on getting your contact points – pedals, handlebar and saddle – well dialled and comfy, and on eating and drinking enough as you ride. Good shoes, comfy shorts, chamois cream, food that you’ll want to eat, drink that tastes good enough to drink. They’re the key factors.
You also have some time to get a couple of long training rides in before the event; you’ll gain some benefit but no need to go over 120km.
I’ve done a few 10-mile time trials and I’d like to have a go at 25s. Any advice regarding changing training? I’m doing low 24s.
Dave Smith: In terms of fitness there is little difference between a 10 and a 25 – the key is pacing. So, go off a few notches lower on the power/pain scale and allow a little longer to settle before you go full gas.
In training I’d suggest a few longer threshold sessions, such as 3 x 15 mins, and 2 x 20 mins. Holding the aero tuck for longer may cause you discomfort, so do some extra flexibility work.
Take your time for a 10, multiply by 2.5, add a micro-smidgeon and give it a decent bash.
I saw you (Dave Smith) tweet something about a slipped seatpost making you underperform in a road race. Would it really make that much difference or were you being a bit pathetic? Sorry.
Dave Smith: Hmmm, I’ll try to be civil! Since I had a bike fit I think I’ve ridden around 35,000 miles with the same saddle height and position. That’s a lot of pedal revs and a lot of time for the neural pathways to ‘learn’ the application of forces at very specific angles. Think of it as riding the same route to work as fast as you can for years, then one morning the corners all have their apex in a different place and the scenery is unfamiliar.
In this particular experience, I was fresh for the race, but felt I had a lack of power compared to normal. The dropped post (almost 3cm) was discovered the next morning after an evening of being in a ridiculously childish huff. Bear in mind most pro riders’ positions are adjusted gradually by the mm rather than cm.
As for the cause, I think packing the bike for a flight caused the comfy seatpost position to lose its ‘precise stuckiness’. These are highly technical terms, use them with care.
Just enjoying the chill
This isn’t a fitness question as such, but I don’t know where else to ask it. I’m new to cycling, I have a decent bike and enjoy 10 to 15-mile rides in my local area. I know a few people in a cycling club and now all I get is pressure to do club rides, race, buy this or that kit. They’re nice people but rather pushy and evangelical. Do I need to go further and faster and such? Are there clubs for people who just like cycling?
Dave Smith: You can do whatever you like. Train for races, ride to the pub, ride to Thailand. My guess is that these people, like you, like cycling and want you to like cycling even more and want to be there when you do so. But I can see how it could be annoying. It would be a shame to be put off a great activity by their over-enthusiastic attitude, so stand your ground, enjoy riding as far and fast/slow as you wish, and maybe in time you’ll find riding buddies or a more leisure orientated club on the same wavelength.
Lovely set of pins
A guy I ride with in our club has legs that look like a pro’s. Lean, visible veins, big muscles, shaved, tanned. But he is no better than the rest of us. How is this possible? Surely he has a more effective fitness system than me? It’s odd, and I can’t work out why he isn’t killing us all on every ride.
Dave Smith: The attributes of his legs only suggest that he has low body fat and a well-developed cardio system. This is no guarantee of exceptional performance as a cyclist. He might have been a runner or footballer for years, so while he has the veins, his neural system may not be developed well enough to make his muscle efficient at cycling movements. He may have strength but lack resistance to fatigue through endurance training. He might not have a great mental tolerance to pain. He could even have a dodgy low back that stops him giving it serious welly. Or it could be that he may have no interest in ‘smashing it’ on group rides.
Dave Smith has been involved in coaching cyclists in all disciplines for more than 25 years. A former GB national and Olympic road coach, Dave has trained Tour stage winners and Olympic medallists, world champions and numerous national champions. In addition he has applied his quirky and counter intuitive thinking to help dozens of regular cyclists, polo players and F1 drivers. He rides 250 miles a week on and off-road in all weathers.
Once a month Dave will answer your questions on health, fitness, training and nutrition – email him at fitness [at] road.cc
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