Tag Archives: Optimal Pedaling Cadence

It’s Show Time

Like my three-year-old nephew said at a college football game, “It’s game day, baby!”. Relax, enjoy the race. There’s nothing more you can do other than execute your race plan. All the training is behind you.

This is from the author of Distance Cycling. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics


“All your hard work in training and preparation is done. Now relax, take it all in, and have fun. For a successful ride pay attention to these key things:

Pace yourself When the gun goes off, some riders go out fast. Unless you’re going for a personal best, avoid getting caught up with them. Choose your groups wisely and pace yourself. In the excitement of the start, you may go faster than you should, so take it easy for the first 30 minutes. Remember that the group riding your pace is often behind you! If you are using a heart rate monitor, keep in mind that your heart rate may be elevated compared with what you experience on training rides, so you may be better off using perceived exertion as a guide. With a power meter current wattage fluctuates a lot. Try to keep it in the same range as you do during your long training rides.

Check your cue sheet Put one copy of the cue sheet in a map holder on your handlebar, carry it in your jersey pocket, or tuck it up one leg of your shorts for quick reference. Stow the other copy in another location. Some organizers paint arrows on the pavement to show the turns, but if other rides have been routed through the same area, determining which arrows to follow can be difficult. Don’t assume that other riders are following the course correctly; double-check each turn yourself.

Ride with a group Riding with a group increases the fun; however, pay attention to your ride even during a fun conversation. Even if you aren’t the first rider, look down the road for potential problems and point them out to your group. Ride smoothly in a straight line and signal or call out before you move or change speed. Don’t overlap front and rear wheels.

Ride in a pace line If it’s windy or the pace is above 15 miles per hour (24 km/h), you can save a lot of energy by riding in an organized pace line. Remember the protocol: Ride at a pace everyone can sustain, take short pulls, look carefully for traffic before you drop to the back, drop to the traffic side of the line if a crosswind isn’t blowing, and drop to the windward side if it is. Be cautious when riding in a pace line with unfamiliar riders who may not know the protocol.

Eat and drink The first hour goes by quickly. Start eating in the first hour. Depending on your body size we recommend consuming a mix of carbohydrate totaling 60 to 90 grams, or 240 to 360 calories, plus a little protein and fat, during each hour of riding and drinking to satisfy your thirst. Nibbling on a variety of carbohydrate during each hour will work better than eating one thing on the hour. Use your experience from the weekly long rides to guide you;what worked on them will work on the century. If you might forget to eat or drink, set your watch to remind you.

Take advantage of rest stops Rolling into an aid station during your ride feels great. Take advantage of what they offer but use them wisely. View them not as places to rest but as resupply stations. If you have tight muscles, stretches using your bike will loosen you up (see figures 7.2 through 7.4).

When you arrive at a rest stop, park your bike carefully to avoid thorns and other potentially hazardous debris. Before leaving do a quick bike check: Are your tires hard? Are they clean? Are your brakes working?

Enjoy the company of others but avoid lingering so long that you get stiff. Use the restroom, fill your bottles and pockets, and get back on the road. Before you leave, thank the volunteers because without them rides like this could not exist. When reentering the road watch for cars and other bikes and ease back into your pace as you did at the start.

Mentally manage the ride During your century, problems may occur. Don’t panic—almost anything can be solved. Take a deep breath, relax, and diagnose the problem. Is the problem with the bike? Riding with a soft tire or a rubbing brake can be a drag—literally. Are you getting repeated flats? Make sure that nothing is embedded in the tire or protruding from the rim strip. If you are down mentally, have you forgotten to eat or drink? If your legs are tired, did you go out too hard? Mentally review your three basic scenarios. If you have forgotten to eat, don’t try to make up the calories immediately because doing so may give you digestive problems. Instead, just get back on schedule. If you have gone out too fast and your legs are trashed, slow down for a while, regroup, and adjust your expectations. Your energy level and emotions will fluctuate during the ride. You may find that after slowing down for a while your energy will return. Above all, whatever happens, remember that this is your ride. You still can have fun and finish.

Enjoy the experience Whether this is your first or hundredth century, enjoy it. Get your head away from your electronics and look around you. Discover the beautiful scenery right in front of you. Chat with other riders who come and go. You may find new riding partners who become lifelong friends. Carry a small camera in your seat pack or jersey pocket, take lots of photos, and offer to share them with others. By relaxing and putting the fun factor ahead of your performance, you’ll have fond memories for years to come.”

Training with a power meter

This is an excerpt from Cycling Fast. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics.

“Training with a power meter is the current gold standard for measuring improvement in performance and setting standardized goals for workouts. A well-calibrated power meter provides an absolute measurement (in watts) of the power generated by the cyclist.

For comparison purposes, wattage is paired with body weight, normally taken in kilograms. For example, a 140-pound (64 kg) rider who produces 300 watts can be said to produce 4.69 watts per kilogram (W/kg; that is, 300 W divided by 64 kg). Similarly, a 170-pound (77 kg) rider who wants to achieve the same 4.69 watts per kilogram needs to produce 361 watts. Table 4.6 provides a list of the target wattage needed for each category of racing.

When you first start training and racing, owning a power meter may not be necessary. During the early stages of learning to race, you can perform workouts with a heart rate monitor and cadence sensor, or you can just ride by feel. These methods may be sufficient to help you show large gains in fitness. As time passes, gains in fitness may diminish without the use of outside methods for workout management, such as a power meter. Incremental improvements in cycling are known as “dialing it in.” Power meters are an excellent tool for helping athletes dial in their fitness as they mature in the sport. To see what a power meter looks like, refer to figure 4.3

Purchasing a power meter is an economic investment. You may find power meters that cost around US$400, but some may cost as much as US$2,500. Only a few companies develop power meters. Some power meters use the bottom bracket as the source for extrapolating power, others use the rear wheel hub to extrapolate power, while still others use wind velocity and rider drag to extrapolate power. Higher price does not necessarily mean a better power meter. Explore the available options by talking with other riders who own power meters, local bike shops, and your coach. This will help you find out which system works for you.



Power Training Zones
Knowing your sustained power (wattage) at a select time interval will give you guidelines for specific workouts. Standard time periods include 5 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes, and 20 minutes. Using a 20-minute sustained power test is the most common way to determine training zones. The five zones identified in table 4.7 will provide an effective platform for structured training.

The test described in this section will estimate your 20-minute sustained power (SP). Your 20-minute SP number may increase throughout the season as your fitness increases, or the way you achieve your 20-minute SP may change throughout the season (e.g., at 95 rpm instead of 85 rpm). Although not covered in this book, if you want to fine-tune your fitness, you can perform 5-second, 1-minute, and 5-minute SP tests. With this information, you can choose workouts that target and cover these time periods. For example, you can use sprint workouts to improve 5-second SP or intense on-the-bike strength workouts to improve 1-minute SP.

You must be fully rested before performing the 20-minute test. Make sure you read the instruction manual for your power meter to determine how to mark each interval; you can then review and record the data and wattages later. The best conditions for performing the test are on a flat road (or a road with a slight rise) with steady wind and limited traffic, traffic lights, and stop signs. A closed park road with few pedestrians is ideal. The test can also be performed on a stationary trainer (if the trainer provides even resistance throughout the duration of testing).

Before performing any maximum efforts, you need to be in good physical health as confirmed by a medical professional.

Test for 20-Minute Sustained Power

Warm-Up: 20 Minutes

Ride steady and easy in the warm-up with heart rates at less than 75 percent of maximum for 30 minutes. Near the end of the warm-up, perform one 5-minute (1 × 5 min) effort at 95 percent of what you estimate to be your time trial heart rate. Then perform active recovery—rolling at cadences between 70-85 rpm at <75 % of maximum heart rate (MHR)—for 5 minutes. (A discussion of MHR follows in the next section.) Next, perform three 1-minute (3 × 1 min) high-cadence (>100 rpm) efforts in the easiest gear. Perform active recovery for 1 minute between the 1-minute intervals. After the three 1-minute efforts are complete, perform active recovery for 4 minutes.

Actual Test: 20 Minutes

Mark interval and start a 20-minute all-out time trial effort with cadence at 85 to 95 rpm. For the first 3 minutes, ease into a time trial pace.

Record all test conditions, including the course, weather, wind, and temperature. Also record your diet for the day before and the morning of the test. During the test, you need to remain mentally focused. Pacing during testing is crucial—meaning building by increasing power throughout, as you would in intervals. Attempt to maintain the highest average watts for the test period.

Review your test using your power meter software. Label the test interval for the appropriate time period. The average wattage for the 20-minute time period is your SP for that time period.”

Cycling expert explains strategies for getting faster

This is an excerpt from Cycling Fast. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics.

“Climbs and descents make or break cycling races, according to cycling coach Robert Panzera. In his upcoming book, Cycling Fast (Human Kinetics, May 2010), Panzera covers hills and all elements that can make a cyclist faster, from conditioning to nutrition and key skills.

Panzera says even small climbs make a difference the closer a cyclist gets to the finish line. ‘Climbs are additive, meaning a 200-foot gain in elevation may not seem like much in the first few miles, but near the finish, it can seem like a mountain.’ He advises cyclists to take special note of hills toward the end of the race because these hills split the race into two groups—the leading group going for the win and the chasers trying to pick up the remaining places. In Cycling Fast, Panzera offers 10 tactics for managing hills and staying in the lead:

  • 1. Be near the front for corners that are followed immediately by hills. ‘This helps you prevent being gapped,’ explains Panzera.

  • 2. Shift to easier gears before approaching hills. ‘This prevents dropping the chain off the front chainrings when shifting from the big front ring to the small front ring,’ he notes. “Quickly go around riders who drop their chains.”
  • 3. Close gaps on hills immediately, but with an even, steady pace. ‘Once the group starts riding away on a hill, it is nearly impossible to bring them back,’ Panzera warns.
  • 4. Keep the pace high over the crest of the hill, because the leaders will increase speed faster than the riders at the tail of the group.
  • 5. Relax and breathe deeply to control heart rate on climbs.
  • 6. Dig deep to stay in contact on shorter climbs. ‘Once a group clears the top, it is difficult to catch up on the descent,’ says Panzera.
  • 7. On longer climbs, ride at a consistent pace that prevents overexertion.
  • 8. Always start climbs near the front. If the pace becomes too fast, cyclists will be able to drop through the pack and still recover without losing contact with the pack.
  • 9. Hills are a good place to attack. ‘Know the hill’s distance and location in the course before setting out on an attack or covering an attack by a competitor,’ advises Panzera.
  • 10. Try to descend near the front, but not on the front. Being near the front, as opposed to the back, gives cyclists a greater probability of avoiding crashes.

Panzera also advises noting all the descents before a race begins. ‘Long, straight descents may require work to stay in the draft, and twisty or narrow descents may require technical skills,’ Panzera says. ‘If the descent seems technical in review, it will definitely be technical at race speeds.’

Cycling Fast covers the latest information on new high-tech racing frames, training with a power meter and heart rate monitor, and coordinating tactics as part of a team. Readers can learn how to periodize training and use the numerous tips, charts, and checklists to maximize effort.”

Author shares his swimming secrets (podcast)

Swimming anatomy is quickly becoming a top seller for those wanting to learn more in depth about their swimming. Here’s a podcast by the author of from Swimming Anatomy. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics.

“Ian McLeod, is the author of Swimming Anatomy. Recommended by USA Swimming, McLeod has extensive experience working with world-class athletes, particularly swimmers. A certified athletic trainer and certified massage therapist, he was a member of the U.S. team’s medical staff at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. He has also worked extensively as an athletic trainer with the sports programs at the University of Virginia and Arizona State University.”


A strong core is essential for powerful swimming

Here’s a terrific excerpt from “Swimming Anatomy” published with permission of Human Kinetics.

“To move your body efficiently through the water, a coordinated movement of the arms and legs must occur. The key to this coordinated movement is a strong core, of which the muscles of the abdominal wall are a primary component. Besides helping to link the movement of the upper and lower body, the abdominal muscles assist with the body-rolling movements that take place during freestyle and backstroke and are responsible for the undulating movements of the torso that take place during butterfly, breaststroke, and underwater dolphin kicking.



The abdominal wall is composed of four paired muscles that extend from the rib cage to the pelvis. The muscles can be divided into two groups—a single anterior group and two lateral groups that mirror each other. The anterior group contains only one paired muscle, the rectus abdominis, which is divided into a right and left half by the midline of the body. The two lateral groups each contain a side of the remaining three paired muscles—the external oblique, internal oblique, and transversus abdominis (figure 5.1). In human motion and athletics, the abdominal muscles serve two primary functions: (1) movement, specifically forward trunk flexion (curling the trunk forward), lateral trunk flexion (bending to the side), and trunk rotation; and (2) stabilization of the low back and trunk. The motions mentioned earlier result from the coordinated activation of multiple muscle groups or the activation of a single muscle group.

The rectus abdominis, popularly known as the six pack, attaches superiorly to the sternum and the surrounding cartilage of ribs 5 through 7. The fibers then run vertically to attach to the middle of the pelvis at the pubic symphysis and pubic crest. The six-pack appearance results because the muscle is divided by and encased in a sheath of tissue called a fascia. The visible line running along the midline of the body dividing the muscle in two halves is known as the linea alba. Contraction of the upper fibers of the rectus abdominis curls the upper trunk downward, whereas contraction of the lower fibers pulls the pelvis upward toward the chest. Combined contraction of both the upper and lower fibers rolls the trunk into a ball.

The muscles of the two lateral groups are arranged into three layers. The external oblique forms the most superficial layer. From its attachment on the external surface of ribs 5 through 12, the fibers run obliquely (diagonally) to attach at the midline of the body along the linea alba and pelvis. If you were to think of your fingers as the fibers of this muscle, the fibers would run in the same direction as your fingers do when you put your hand into the front pocket of a pair of pants. Unilateral (single-sided) contraction of the muscle results in trunk rotation to the opposite side, meaning that contraction of the right external oblique rotates the trunk to the left. Bilateral contraction results in trunk flexion.

The next layer is formed by the internal oblique. The orientation of its fibers is perpendicular to those of the external oblique. This muscle originates from the upper part of the pelvis and from a structure known as the thoracolumbar fascia, which is a broad band of dense connective tissue that attaches to the spine in the upper- and lower-back region. From its posterior attachment, the internal oblique wraps around to the front of the abdomen, inserting at the linea alba and pubis. Unilateral contraction rotates the trunk to the same side, and bilateral contraction leads to trunk flexion. The deepest of the three layers is formed by the transversus abdominis, so named because the muscle fibers run transversely (horizontally) across the abdomen. The transversus abdominis arises from the internal surface of the cartilage of ribs 5 through 12, the upper part of pelvis, and the thoracolumbar fascia. The muscle joins with the internal oblique to attach along the midline of the body at the linea alba and pubis. Contraction of the transversus abdominis does not result in significant trunk motion, but it does join the other muscles of the lateral group to function as a core stabilizer. An analogy that often helps people grasp the core-stabilizing function of the muscles of the lateral group is to think of them as a corset that, when tightened, holds the core in a stabilized position.”