Phew – its been a while hasn’t it? Damn and blast that pesky job that gets in the way…
Well I thought its about time for me to put down some of the thoughts that have been running through my mind whilst I’ve been out on the trails over the past few weeks. I thought I’d start with what I think is quite an interesting (and even controversial) one… Stay tuned for the controversy!
I’ve used various apps whilst cycling over the last few years: they can help you to know how far you’ve travelled, your time and, thereafter, how you’re improving (or not). However, I found it had one unexpected benefit in that I realised how I think I might perform. And that, my friends, is summed up in one word: cadence.
In its simplest terms it’s the speed that your legs turn the pedals and whilst this might seem easy to regulate, you’d be surprised at how the slightest of up-slope will slow your cadence or a slight downslope might find your legs going crazy mental. So the challenge is to keep your legs going at the same rate regardless of the terrain. And that’s where all those cogs at the front and back come in useful – learning how to select the gear you want takes time and practice.
The front gear gives a big jump up or down for when you need easier pedalling or when you can cope with giving it more effort. Or when you need a dramatic change in a hurry. The back gears give smaller adjustments that can finesse your efforts.
Now for the controversy…
As with any exercise there are two methods of performance: muscle-based and cardiovascular. (Any students of sports science, please forgive me if I’m using the wrong terminology!) I’ve never been one for going down the muscle-building route and find that my fitness level is probably determined more by my cardio fitness. And that ‘s where the cadence approach works for me.
But there is one other person who really demonstrated how the cardio approach worked: Lance Armstrong. (boo! hiss!)
Armstrong lost a huge amount of muscle during his cancer treatment and would never have been able to get back to a professional level (even though he wasn’t a great cyclist) but with the aid of Michele Ferrari, he embarked on using cardiovascular strength instead. Ferrari’s input was the doping that allowed his system to outperform to a far higher degree but the starting point was the fact that he relied more on one part of his body than the other.
If you’re interested, Seven Deadly Sins by David Walsh is a fascinating read and also gives you the full background to the deception that went on.
(In case the lawyers are watching, I’m basing all of the above on Walsh’s book so if I’m wrong, it’s his fault!)
But I digress. The point at the outset was to highlight that there’s more than one way to improve your performance: I’ve found mine in terms of finding the right cadence and trying to keep to that when I’m riding. It seems to work….
Now its tune time! You’ve missed this I’m sure…. O-way o-way!!!!