ALP Cycles Coaching Climbing Challenge

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ALP Cycles Coaching Climbing Challenge

Fall is around the corner and that means one thing; the Climbing Challenge is coming. As the race season winds down, many of us are stuck looking for something to do. We have great fitness and no event to use it in. Not any more. September 28th- October 1st will be year 3 of the ALP Cycles Coaching Climbing Challenge. You will have 4 days and 9-11hrs max (depending on age) to climb as much as possible (the contest will be keep track on Strava). We will have prizes and fun activities to do and to participate in.

The 4-day challenge is highlighted by our ALP Climbing Ride on Saturday September 30th. We start in Boulder, climb up 4-mile to Logan Mill, up and down Arkansas Mtn to Sugarloaf, up to the Peak to Peak, and finish with the shelf road to Eldora Ski area- a 26mile ride with almost 5,000ft of climbing and sections up to 17% on dirt roads. It will test everyone's fitness, bike handling, and comfort zone. i.e.- a chance to make yourself a better and more complete bike rider. Th Arkansas Mountain Climbing Day will be mandatory for any local riders doing the Challenge. This ride is open to ALP and non-ALP athletes (so invite your friends, family, and teammates).  We provide coaches, a van stop with snacks, and NBS drink mix and water. 

Here is a link to the route on Strava-https://www.strava.com/segments/10356632?filter=overall&gender=F

The road up Arkansas Mountain 

The road up Arkansas Mountain 

The finish line

The finish line

The details- If are you under the age of 30, you have 10 hrs in 4 days to climb as much as you can. If you are 31-49, you have 10.5hrs in 4 days to climb as much as you can. If you are 50+, you have 11hrs in 4 days to climb as much as you can. You must have a Garmin or an on-bike computer that has GPS and can be uploaded to Strava. You must create a basic Strava account (it's free). All rides must start and end in the same place- with the exception of the Arkansas Mountain ALP ride. You do not have to live in Colorado. That's the cool thing, no matter where you live you can participate (as long as there is something you can climb on your bike). You do not have to do the challenge in order to come on the Saturday ALP ride. This challenge and the ALP ride are open to everyone. So invite your friends, family, teammates, etc. The more the merrier! This is our way of motivating people to train for a fun/hard event and giving non-ALP athletes a chance to ride with us and see how cool our little ALP community is.

Prizes- We will have prizes for the 4-day challenge. These prizes include- A free month of coaching ($225 value), a one hour skills/clinic with your ALP coach of choice ($85 value) and ALP Schwag (hats, T-shirt, Pactimo Jersey).

If you are interested in joining us and/or would like more info- please email alison at Alpcyclescoaching dot com

Pictures from last year's ALP ride up Arkansas Mountain

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The Colorado Classic- ALP Cycles Racing Race Recap

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The Colorado Classic- ALP Cycles Racing Race Recap

By ALP Coach Alison Powers and photos by SnowyMountain Photography

Our new race team, ALP Cycles Racing, was lucky enough to race in the Colorado Classic- a 2 day event that raced through the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs on Thursday and up Moonstone Climb, a 1km climb that has sections of 15% grade, on Friday in Breckenridge.

We had a team of 6 riders; Lynne Anderson, Kristie Arend, Rachel Plessing, Tracey Jacobs, Kristina Vrouwenvelder, and Cory Popovich.  Chris Bondus, from team sponsor Tin Shed Sports, join us to help us as team mechanic and second staff member. 

Things got going on Wednesday with team travel to Colorado Springs, rider check in, meetings, and the team presentation. 

Thursday morning started early with coffee and breakfast at the house in Colorado Springs. The team rode their bikes to team parking where Chris and I had set up the team "compound"- Tin Shed tent, trainers, van, etc. 

We had a team meeting to talk about the day's race, team tactics and strategy, what to expect and what and how to execute for a great race. Most importantly was positioning going into the hard right on Ridge Road that started the QOM climb. The team warmed up, signed in, and bikes were checked for motors. Start time was 10am and the team, along with 75 other racers, were on course and racing. 

Though Thursday's race was a short 37miles it was hard both physically and mentally and each rider knew what she had to improve on for the second day of racing in Breckenridge. 

Post race, we had a meeting, coffee, lunch, and drove to Frisco. Chris cleaned and fixed up everyone's bikes and we ate a great Italian dinner thanks to team sponsor RiverBound Blue Grass Band. 

We were treated to blue sky's and good weather for Friday's race in Breckenridge. The team rode the 11 miles from Frisco to Breckenridge for warm-up. Then it was time for team meeting, course pre ride, sign in and an 11am start. 

The Breckenridge course and Moonstone climb proved to be quite difficult with only 29 women finishing within the time limit (10% of the winners time). We knew the course, we were prepared, and the team rode their hearts out. It was hard and it was rewarding. 

These 2 days of racing at a very high level were great for the team. All six riders finished the 2 days of racing with new respect for the sport and the kind of mental and physical preparation needed to compete at the next level. They bonded as a team, made new friends and fans, and experienced a life changing event.  It was really cool and rewarding to be part of. 

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Rebuilding Confidence

ALP Athlete Andy Bennett started coaching with Jennifer Sharp in November 2016. Together, they identified Andy’s strengths and weaknesses and came up with a game plan to increase his confidence on the road. Andy is a hard worker and also holds a full time job at USA Cycling. He continues to push himself, even when he’s uncomfortable. Even this late in the season, Andy demonstrates that every race is an opportunity to get better at the process. Below are his thoughts and observations about the Longmont Crit. 

 

 

Andy Bennett at the Colorado Springs Community Crits. Photo courtesy of RBails Jeffrey Photography. 

Andy Bennett at the Colorado Springs Community Crits. Photo courtesy of RBails Jeffrey Photography. 

Coming into my 2017 road season, I definitely had some demons. However, I walked away from Colorado’s State Championship Criterium in Longmont this July with an enormous amount of confidence.  I didn’t win a State title or medal but the confidence I gained from this event will allow me to progress in seasons to come.  

My demons started back in 2016 when I crashed out of three different road races. I grew up riding BMX, where crashing is a part of the sport. And so the first two crashes didn’t affect me much.  But for some reason, the third crash wrecked my confidence. I wasn’t critically injured but I was starting to think about the “what if’s” while racing. I found myself riding toward the back of the group, leaving gaps going into corners, and even straightaways just because “what if” something happened. I wanted to give myself more time to react.

Throughout my whole 2017 season we (Jen and I) focused on regaining my confidence, so I could ride near the front of the race instead of at the back. We talked about the safer places to ride in the pack, how to leave space for cornering and rebuilding trust within the group. Before the Longmont race, Jen and I pre-road the course. She took me through the lines she used during her race and talked about where the race could lull due to the features on the course and where I could move up. I was then able to visualize entering and exiting the corners and figured out which ones I could pedal through. The finish straight was slightly up hill, and Jen explained there would be a lot of bulging of the field, which provides a great opportunity to move up within the field.

Being the rock star she is, she stayed four plus hours after her race to watch mine. Throughout the race I was able to stay in the top third of the field. I was maintaining my speed through the corners, allowing me to pass riders on the exiting straightaways without burning my matches. With three laps to go I found myself in great position, and with one lap to go there were only two riders ahead of me. The lead rider dropped off, leaving me second wheel coming into the last corner. Unfortunately, the rider in front of me hopped his rear wheel around the precarious manhole cover in the last turn. I tapped my brakes, swinging wide around him. This caused me to lose enough momentum a few riders were able me to pass me on the inside going to the finishing straight.

Even though the race didn’t end as well as I hope, I gained a lot of confidence in regards to riding in the pack, cornering, and trusting my overall fitness. All of these factors allowed me walk away with a smile and I look forward to the next race.

Congrats Andy!

More action at the Colorado Springs Community Crits head at the Pikes Peak International Speedway. Photo courtesy of RBails Jeffrey Photography.

More action at the Colorado Springs Community Crits head at the Pikes Peak International Speedway. Photo courtesy of RBails Jeffrey Photography.

 

 

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How To Deal With The Heat

Written by ALP Cycles Coach, Jennifer Sharp

It’s summer in the Northern Hemisphere and temperatures are hotting up. While each person responds differently to heat (some thrive, others wilt) there are a few things you can do to beat the heat and ensure you have a good performance.  Below are several tips that you can start using immediately that may benefit your performance.

When should I ride? Keep in mind the time of day it’s the hottest. In Colorado, that means from 11am - 6pm is HOT. We highly recommend getting up early (at daybreak, if possible) and getting in those big miles early before the heat of the day. 

ALP Cycles Racing athletes beat the heat with cold water and Breakthrough Nutrition's NBS.

ALP Cycles Racing athletes beat the heat with cold water and Breakthrough Nutrition's NBS.

What should I drink? While water is the obvious choice, athletes also benefit from a sports drink of some sort. As you exercise, you lose water and electrolytes through sweat. Hydrating before you head out on a ride is one way to combat this loss of valuable fluids. I’ve personally had great success by drinking a preload hydration mix (that has an increased amount of sodium) 60 minutes before an intense effort like a crit or short track race, or even a long, intense training ride followed by a bottle of cold water (we like Breakthrough Nutrition's NBS line of hydration, pre load, and recovery mixes). 

How do I stay cool? Two words: ice socks. Yes, it might seem a little weird when you by a box of knee high panty hose at your local pharmacy but filling it with several handfuls of ice and tying it up and putting it on your back between your shoulder blades will give you instant relief from the heat. Why panty hose? Because when the ice melts, you’ll have a small, discrete carrying case that you can reuse. In really hot conditions (85 degrees and hotter) Alison said she’s also emerged her jersey in a cooler full of ice water and then puts it on just before she raced. I also recommend carrying an extra water bottle full of ice and dumping it on your head throughout the effort to stay cool. Or get someone out on course to douse you with some water. 

Benjamin Sharp (Jennifer's husband) douses her with cold water at the top of the Snake Alley climb. Photo by Erika Fulk.

Benjamin Sharp (Jennifer's husband) douses her with cold water at the top of the Snake Alley climb. Photo by Erika Fulk.

How can I acclimate? If you really suffer in hot conditions, the best way to acclimate to them is to ride in them. Unfortunately there’s not an easy way around this. You can take it slow by starting your rides in the morning and working toward riding during the heat of the day. Start off exercising easy and slowly increase your intensity. Heat acclimation happens within 4-9 days of training and full acclimation occurs in about 14 days. Here’s a link to University of Connecticut’s Heat Acclimization recommendations: http://ksi.uconn.edu/prevention/heat-acclimatization/

When should I stop exercising? Cycling is earmarked with pain and suffering. We push our bodies to exhaustion and beyond normal warning signs. However, heat exhaustion and exertional heat stroke should not be taken lightly. If your body has a difficult time with heat and you feel like you may pass out - then stop. Using the tips above should help dealing with the heat. 

Have some tips to share? Please leave them in the comments below - we’d love to learn what works for you! 

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Don't forget about our Winter Park Mountain Bike Capital USA with an  All Star line up of mountain bike coaches, you'll learn, ride, and improve your mountain bike skills and confidence in a town known for it's singletrack. 

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Kids - don't try this at home. Jennifer is tossing a bottle back to Alison in the follow car at last year's Pro Challenge. (She caught it!)

Kids - don't try this at home. Jennifer is tossing a bottle back to Alison in the follow car at last year's Pro Challenge. (She caught it!)

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Mountain Bike Capital USA

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Mountain Bike Capital USA

The dream scenario. A chance to ride mountain bikes and learn from a World Champion, multiple Olympians, several National Champions, and highly skilled coaches in a place renowned for it's miles of great single track, and amazing views. 

Welcome to the dream; the Rendezvous Mountain Bike Capital USA Weekend, in Winter Park Colorado. A chance to learn from and ride with Alison Dunlap- 2001 World Mountain Bike Champion and 2 x Olympian, Ann Trombley- 2000 Olympian, Alison Powers- 5 x National Champion, Ruth Winder- 2016 Olympian, and Patricia Schwager- 6 x Swiss National Champion. These 5 former and current professional riders are joined by the dream team of coaches; Chris Bondus, Sarka Ruzickova Swenson, Steph Surch, and Jennifer Sharp.  

Sarka and Alison demonstrating Ready Position

Sarka and Alison demonstrating Ready Position

Over the course of the weekend, we'll spend ~5hrs working on mountain bike skills through various skill stations and trails. We'll dial in; body position, cornering, climbing, descending, and wheelies. 

After the skills have been taught, practiced, and mastered, it's time to ride. Breaking up into smaller groups, we'll aim for 10-25miles and enjoy all the trails that Winter Park as to offer. 

To make the dream even better- this entire event is only $20. A once in a lifetime opportunity to ride and learn from the highest level coaches, and athletes in a town that has over 300 miles of single track. To register and learn more, click here. 

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A Mid Season Review

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A Mid Season Review

It's hard to believe, but it's already July and that means we are more than half way through the spring/summer race season.

Every summer we watch riders and racers just going through the motions. Without giving much thought to their training and racing, they enter race after race, get the same result, and do the same training each week. Come July, they are burned out, don't want to ride their bikes, and personal goals have not been achieved. All of the time, money, and training have been a waste (super unfortunate).

To avoid this pattern, take a step back and evaluate the first half of your race season. How has your racing been? Have you accomplished your goals? What do you need to do to become better, faster, stronger?

Every year we ask our ALP athletes to fill out a Mid Season Review. Once filled out they send it back to their coach and schedule a phone call. After a phone call to discuss the review, the coach and the athlete make a plan of attack to ensure the second half of the season is strong, enjoyable, motivating, and goal achieving. 

Goal setting, evaluating, planning, and executing is a continuous process. To ensure you get the most out of yourself, and your training, do a mid season review. Check in on your feelings and energy levels (both mentally and physically), look over your training and race data, set new attainable goals, and make a plan to have a great finish to the year. 

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6 Tips to Becoming a Better Climber

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6 Tips to Becoming a Better Climber

By Coach Alison Powers

Climbing. People think it’s this magical thing that only lucky or skinny people can do.  This is a misnomer. Anyone can climb. Anyone who likes to ride a bike, can ride up a hill.

            Yes, riding up a hill is harder than riding on the flats due to fighting gravity. Fighting gravity requires more effort, more leg strength, more fitness, and more stamina- both mental and physical. However, there are a few things you can do and techniques you can learn to make climbing feel easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable. 

1) Climb- as silly as it sounds, it’s true- the more you climb, the better you get at it. You’ll learn to relax when climbing, your legs will get stronger, and your fitness will improve.

2) Learn to climb out of the saddle- being able to climb both seated and standing gives you a chance to change positions, use different muscles, and it’s breaks the climb up. Often times, people stay seated for the duration of the climb. They think that if they stand it will make them more tired. This is true if you accelerate when you stand. Any time you accelerate, you will make yourself more tired. The secret to standing and pedaling is shifting into 1 (or 2) harder gear(s) before standing. This way, once standing, you maintain constant speed and are able to use your body weight to push down the pedals.

3) Change positions- This idea not only applies to climbing in and out of the saddle, but also to hand positions. Our road bikes have three different hand locations (hoods, tops, drops), use them. You don’t have to stay still when climbing.

4) Change cadence- just like standing when climbing, being able to push both a big gear and spin a small gear helps climbs go by more quickly. The idea is to change up what you are doing to recruit different muscles and/or energy systems throughout the duration of the climb.

5) Pacing- the longer the climb, the more aware of your pacing you will need to be. The goal when tackling a climb should be to start a little conservatively, so you can continue to climb strongly and finish strong. Avoid starting too hard, and then slowing down and becoming more and more tired as the climb goes on.

6) Be Ok with being uncomfortable- climbing is harder than riding on the flats due to fighting gravity. Fighting gravity requires more effort, more leg strength, more fitness, and more stamina- both mental and physical. This means it’s going to be hard, and it’s going to be uncomfortable and that’s ok. It’s OK for your legs to hurt a little bit and it’s OK to be breathing hard.

Good luck, work hard, and climb away!

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Swimming In the Current

Written by ALP Cycles Coach, Jennifer Sharp.

As a coach, I'm always looking for ways to improve my coaching game. I read anything sport psychology I can get my hands on, study race tactics, share information with other coaches and I also get to apply self-coaching to see if what I'm sharing actually works.  I'm also blessed to be married to a coach and we frequently bounce ideas off of one another. When I found myself floundering in the national level crits this season, struggling with how to surf the front of the field verses tail gunning the back, Benjamin had some suggestions. But it was ultimately up to me to figure out how to apply those skills and execute them within the field. Below are the tactics I applied to my game this year that made a significant difference. No matter what level of racing you're competing at - these tips will come in hand to elevate you to higher levels. 

Have confidence. At this point in the season, you should have a pretty good idea of how your fitness compares to others. And if you raced as often as I did (55 races this season and counting...), make no mistake - you should be fit. Start the race with the confidence of knowing you can finish. You belong here. Own it.

Mindset is everything. The moment you pin your race number on your jersey, claim that time for yourself. Don't let anything penetrate your bubble. Turn your phone off. This is your time. Don't let distractions get in your way of performing at your best. Warmup to your favorite music, feel into the effort and get mentally ready to go to battle. These women you're about to race are not here to just ride around with friends - they are here to beat you. Get ready to turn it on and show up to the line prepared, sweaty and ferocious. 

The Pro 1/2 Women lined up at the start of Lake Bluff Criterium at Intelligensia Cup in Chicago, IL. ALP Cycles Coaching athlete Daphne Karagianis of Chicago Women's Elite finished third in the omnium.

The Pro 1/2 Women lined up at the start of Lake Bluff Criterium at Intelligensia Cup in Chicago, IL. ALP Cycles Coaching athlete Daphne Karagianis of Chicago Women's Elite finished third in the omnium.

Establish your spot. Regardless of the size of your peloton, you need to establish your spot. Instead of backing off and out of a spot because someone else wanted it more, make yourself big by getting in and out of the saddle, broadening your shoulders and anticipate accelerations. Find the flow in the course. Stick to the faster routes- on the outside of corners, sheltered out of the wind, and get ready for the surges. Focus on leg speed - distribute the workload through high rpms instead of clunky accelerations, which can also translate into burning matches. 

Be patient. After about 20 minutes of racing around and feeling like your head is going to explode, things will ease up. Don't waste any unnecessary energy in the first part of the race. Remember - everyone feels good in the beginning. The trick is to manage your energy so you have enough left in the tank for when it matters most - the finish. (Note to self - ahem, Jen!)

Practice positive self-talk. This one can apply to any time you're on the bike (or off of it, for that matter). Tell yourself good job! during the race. Celebrate small victories. We often beat ourselves up by criticizing our every move - instead, be your own cheerleader. Focus on process goals during the race such as cornering and passing 2-3 people per section verses outcome goals. 

Keep at it. Cycling is full of failure. The only way to get better is to keep at it and continue to work. That means throwing yourself back into a race even when you come in dead last. Learn from your mistakes, apply them to the future and keep challenging yourself to continue the journey.

Have some tips that work for you that you'd like to share? We'd love to hear what works best for you. Please leave a comment below! 

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How to stay Motivated for Racing in the Summer Months 

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How to stay Motivated for Racing in the Summer Months 

By Alison Powers

It’s finally summer time.  The weather is nice and the days are long. However, for many bike racers, June is a tough month, motivation wise.  Early season races have come and gone, goals have either been met or not quite achieved, you pretty much know how your season is going to turn out, and the motivation to train and race is weaning.   Just as bike riding is at its best, people are tiring of riding and training.

The question becomes how to stay motivated to train and race through the entire race season which can last until September.

For most of us, having a goal is the #1 motivation to ride our bike.  This goal can be as simple as finishing a charity ride or Grand Fondo to something more intense such as winning a national caliber stage race or Master’s Nationals.  However, if your cycling goal is in the spring or in the beginning of the summer, once your goal ride or race is finished, it’s easy to lose the motivation to keep training.  This is why it’s important to have another goal in mind for later in the season. This way you keep your bike riding and racing motivation going strong. 

Before training for goal #2, it’s really important to take a mid season break. After 6 months of solid training and racing, our bodies and our minds are tired. This mid season break usually comes in June (depending on race goals) and lasts in duration from 5-14 days. My “recipe” for a mid season break is 4-5 days off the bike (no hiking or running either), 1 free day to ride as much as you want to, then 2 more days off the bike. By the end of this mid season break, the athlete is fresh, motivated, and most importantly, excited to ride their bike (see Ruth Winder's blog about  the importance of a mid-season break). 
 

While training for goal #2, it’s important to keep it fun.  By this time in the season, most of us are tired of doing intervals, and are tired of riding the same roads over and over.  The best ways to beat these “midseason blues” are to find ways to mix up your riding.  Try riding new routes with new people or riding at different times of the day.  Mix up your interval sessions by doing them up a hill or change the length of each interval and rest period. 

My favorite way to keep training fun is to ride different bikes.  If you are a roadie, summer is a great time to hone in your bike handling skills (not to mention build great seated power) with mountain biking a couple times a week.   You can even throw in a short track race here and there to take place of your VO2 intervals.  If you are a mountain biker, spend some time on your road bike and add in a road race or two to test out your fitness and race tactics.   


Cyclocross racing is a great goal #2 or goal #3 to have.  Cyclocross mixes both road racing and mtn bike racing and is a fun way to stay in race shape and work on your skills in the fall and winter months.  Come July, if you are tired of racing and training, it’s the perfect time to take a break from racing, spend some fun time on your bike and aim to ramp up for the Cyclocross season that starts in late September.

Here are a few workouts to keep training and motivation fresh-

-Bottom to top intervals- using the terrain available; ride hard from the bottom of a climb to the top of the climb. Really push it all the way to the top. Recover on the back side.
             
- Hour of Power- put that power meter away and just go out and ride hard. Sprint to speed limit signs and push the pace after the sprints.

-Friendly attacking or group rides- Ride with a friend and take turns “attacking” each other as you would in a race or join a spirited group ride that challenges you with city limit sprints or climbing out of your comfort zone.


             Happy training and remember to enjoy each bike ride.

 

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What is the Ideal Cadence?

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What is the Ideal Cadence?

  Riding a bike is different from other endurance sports. When we ride a bike, we have the ability to change gears and to choose a cadence to pedal with. However, one of the most confusing aspects of cycling is to understand what the ideal cadence is.

Note: Higher cadences imply an easier gear, with less torque applied. In turn, a harder gear implies slower cadences with more torque applied.

           For the most part, the higher the intensity and/or speed, the higher your cadence should be. The big reason for this higher cadence is that it stresses the aerobic component more. A higher cadence engages slow twitch (Type I) muscle fibers, which are the oxidative fibers, thus saving your powerful and fast twitch (Type II) muscle fibers for when you need them- sprinting, attacking, climbing, surging. Pedaling with a higher cadence also generates decreased muscle tension and blood vessel compression. This allows blood to flow to the muscles with O2 and carry waste products away easier.

          However, a high cadence also puts more stress on your cardiovascular system, thus raising your heart rate- more so, if you are not trained to pedal with a high cadence. It’s important to understand that being able to pedal with a higher cadence needs to be learned and adapted over time. It can take the body months of training to learn to pedal effectively at a higher cadence.

            One way to understand cadence and generating power is to think of pedaling like weight lifting. Let’s pretend you are given 1 minute to squat 2000 lbs. You are allowed to pick any weight to do so. If you choose 1000lb, you must do two repetitions in one minute. If you choose 20lbs, then you must do 100 repetitions. The weight you squat is equal to the gear on the bike and the squat reps are equal to cadence. The answer is somewhere in between 20 pounds and 1000 pounds and will be different for each person. If you choose too heavy of a gear (weight) it will result in excess muscle fatigue while choosing too easy of a gear (weight) may not get you to where you need to go. 

      There is no one cadence that is optimal all the time. Different situations will dictate different cadences. Wind, fatigue, climbing, descending, sprinting, etc., can alter what would be our optimal cadence.

       When given the opportunity, changing your cadence slightly to engage different muscle fiber types is a good thing. For example, if you are climbing a long sustained hill and you have determined that riding up the hill at 80 rpms is most beneficial. However, standing and pushing a heavier gear at 70 rpms for a minute or so can be quite helpful in recruiting different muscles, using body weight to push down the pedals, slowing down your breathing, etc.

        Each person must experiment and try to understand what cadence is best and at what times. Sometimes, just going with a free choosing approach will be best, other times, doing a specific cadence drill will benefit you more. Understanding how cadence works is the first step in helping you understand what cadence might be best for you and in what situations. 

 

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