Those of a certain age will remember He-Man (of Master of the Universe fame) issuing forth this cry when he metamorphosed from a normal cartoon geezer into to muscle bound man of bronze whilst his slightly crap pet cat changed in to a ridable ferocious battle beast.
‘All good’ I hear you say ‘but what the hell has this got to do with cycling?’ Fair question. Bear with me for a minute and I’ll contrive a link somewhere...
I’ll spare you too much of the history, but I first came across power meters in what is still one of my favourite cycling books, Chris Boardman’s Complete Book of Cycling back in 2000. Back then, an SRM power measurement unit would cost you £2500 and would only be of any use if you could fit, calibrate and maintain it whilst continuing your studies in particle physics to enable you to interpret the data. It worked pretty well for Chris and his influential coach Peter Keen though. He once knocked out a 10 mile TT on the Wrexham by-pass in 17.58 before even the best riders in this country were breaking 20 minutes.
Now, we all produce power when we ride. We push the pedals and, all being well, the bike moves forward but without a system of measurement we don’t know how much power we are generating. If we race, it’s important to understand how much power we produce so we can work on generating more of it to go faster. Power measurement has recently become more accessible to amateur riders although up until even a few years ago it was still very costly. More recently, more manufacturers entered the market and power measurement stopped being hard to access because of cost and became hard to access because it didn’t work. Well not accurately or reliably anyway.
Whilst it’s still not perfect, there are a number of real world workable and affordable power measurement solutions out there now. Stages, Garmin Vectors, SRM, Power Tap, Quark, the list goes on and continues to expand. I took the plunge at the beginning of last season and bought Stages cranks for my time trial and road race bike.
Why did I invest in power? Two reasons. First, as a rider I wanted to be sure I was using my limited time as effectively as possible. It is a (brutally) honest measurement of how strong you are. It removes the guess work from training and regular benchmark tests show if your hard work is paying off and you are getting faster.
Secondly, I needed to learn more using power measurement with the riders I coach. You can read about it (and the physics behind it) until you go blue in the face but personally I need to ‘feel’ it so I know what I’m asking my riders to do. Having said that, I did attend the British Cycling ‘Power: Understanding Cycling Performance’ course back in September. It was useful and gave me good theoretical knowledge to back up the practical application. They even gave me a certificate.
I’ll go in to some detail on the good, the bad and the indifferent on power and power measurement in future blogs (hey, it’s a long winter, right?) but as you put your Christmas lists together (it’s never too early) I would advise you start dropping ‘power meter’ related hints to the other half/parents/grandparents/guardians/Father Christmas/Bike shop as soon as possible.
Fundamentally – and I'm conscious you were promised a tenuous He-Man link – the rider who ‘has the power’ will be faster and training with power measurement is the most effective way to achieve this. Ouch, told you it was tenuous.
If you want to know more about training with power, how to go about getting it, what might suit you and, most importantly, how using it in conjunction with a coach can make you faster, drop me a line.
Thank you and, by the power of Greyskull, until next time, stay safe…
It’s around this time of year that coaches start banging on about the importance of goal setting for next season so I thought a (brief) ‘beginners guide’ might help explain why this is important and how to go about it.
I had a really good day last Sunday (25th October). I really like really good days…
I ran the first ‘Introduction to circuit racing’ session at Stourport for those riders aspiring to give the Mamil Cycling ‘Woolly Mamil’ winter series in January and February 2016 a bash. Of course, it’s useful for any rider who needs to improve their technical skills, not those just entering the series.
We cut down the Stourport circuit for coaching purposes. It means I can keep everybody in sight and give them feedback on their group riding skills. We used the ‘top’ 180 degree corner nearest the club house to practice and improve cornering technique. Honestly, if you can get around that at race speed you can apply the same principles to pretty much any corner you need to tackle.
We had a mixed group of men and women, including a youth rider and a National Vets road race champion. It’s skills focused so physiological differences don’t matter – in fact it makes it more fun and a better learning experience. Similarly, there was a split between riders who focus on time trials and road/circuit races. Fair play to the testers – it something I enjoy as a discipline and I’m constantly surprised that riders will happily pay two grand on a disc wheel to go faster but won’t invest an hour of their time learning how to go around a corner, which would, of course, make them faster. Personally, I’d do both!
We had a great bunch who felt free to share their experience and feedback. Without fail, every rider progressed with the common theme of technique improving confidence which supported better technique we gave them more confidence... you get the picture. We were also blessed with a warm dry day which doesn't always reflect the reality of racing, but put a smile on everybody’s face.
The class of October 2015 are below. If you’d like to join us for the next session on 15th November, please drop me a line here or take a look at the Coaching page on the Mamil Cycling website here and use the contact form. Group size is limited to 16 – that way I’m able to give you some proper individual attention – so spaces are limited.
Like I said, a really good day…
Everybody knows what a football coach does, right? Shouting at players from the touchline, sheepskin coat, red face, impending heart attack, retaining the full confidence of the Board then immediately being sacked etc. Tennis coach is pretty easy too. If you’re really successful, it’s your Mum doing mini fist pumps when you win…
Cycling coach. That’s a bit more complicated. If you’re a student of the sport you might see grizzly tracked suited people pacing up and down around a velodrome or guys shouting out the window of a car during the Tour de France. They might be coaches, they might not be. Who knows?
Simply, what I (and many other British Cycling qualified coaches) do is either help groups of riders on a circuit or track to improve their cycling technique, commonly group riding, cornering, attacking, counter attacking etc. and/or provide a program to individual riders that includes technique but majors on how hard, how long and how often you need to ride to achieve your goals. This will vary depending on the time of year and the facilities you have available.
It may include riding on the road and track together with indoor static trainer/rollers work and even, dare I say it, off the bike training on occasion. Equally importantly it will prescribe rest and active recovery – you get fitter when you’re resting, not training. It all depends on what you, the rider, want to get out of your cycling and what spare time you have to dedicate to achieving those goals.
The prescription is pretty detailed stuff – you’ll know every day precisely what you should be doing on and off the bike and when you need to put your feet up. I use a software program called Training Peaks to prescribe training to the riders I coach. It’s a diary system that allows a rider to upload data from their training sessions and events so I can adjust the training as we move along.
A good cycling coach will also be able to advise you on tactics when racing and, to a great or lesser extent, look after your head. To remain motivated and focused whilst training and racing is a really important psychological aspect and, of course, different people respond to different things.
If you want to know more, get in touch.
PS. I’d look awful in a sheepskin coat.