The worst interval session

Early in the hill climb season, I did well in some Swindon R.C. short hill climbs. After doing well on a 1 minute and 2 minute climb, I was gaining confidence in my ability for short-distance hill climbs.

Dover’s hill – photo Cycling Weekly 1978

That week, I was training at Britwell Hill, near Watlington. I think the course record was about 2 and a half minutes.

Britwell hill

  • 0.6 miles
  • Average gradient – 9%
  • 85 metre of height gain
  • 18% max

It makes a good climb for doing intervals (the only drawback is that the road is quite narrow, you don’t want to meet a lorry coming down mid-interval). The climb starts with a gentle gradient, and gets steeper and steeper as you get nearer the top. By the end of the climb it is 18%. It is dead straight – almost  like a Ski jump and is a good place if you want to get a top max speed coming down

On this particular occasion there was a headwind, but I went full pelt right from the start. For the first minute I was averaging over 500 watts and flying up the hill. After a minute, the pain really kicked in. After 90 seconds, I was absolutely blown up and the climb just got steeper and steeper. It was torture to keep fighting up the steep climb, when you’re muscles are shot.  It took over two minutes and a half. My recent pride at doing well in short hill climbs took a battering.

Read more

Pyramid intervals cycling

oxnop scar

‘The interval method from hell’ – that is how Stuart Dangerfield described a particular set of pyramid interval training sessions, designed by Gordon Wright. However, although very intense, it helped Stuart Dangerfield to a string of successes at domestic short distance time trialling. His achievements included lowering the competition record for 10 mile TT to 18.19, plus several national championships from 5 hill climb championship to the 10 mile and 25 mile TT champs.

The aim of this pyramid interval session is to train all three muscle types from the fast twitch to the slow twitch. The pyramid interval session I read in a paper by Gordon Wright involved:

Phase 1

  • 8-10 flat out sprints for 15 sec. At least 3 mins recovery between each.
  • At least 10 mins easy recovery

Phase 2

  • Between 6-10 flat out 1 minute intervals. 5-6 mins of recovery between each.
  • 15 mins easy recovery

Phase 3

  • 3-4 2.5 mile endurance intervals (around 5 mins) at 10 mile TT pace or higher if poss.
  • 15 mins recovery ride home

Additional notes

  • All intervals must be done at highest possible intensity – treat each like a mini time trial
  • All intervals should be done whilst maintaining a high cadence 120rpm for sprints 100 + rpm for longer intervals
  • Stay well-hydrated and use energy drink.
  • The whole session will take 2.5 to 3 hours.
  • The idea is to go fast. Ride with wind behind on endurance intervals – get used to riding at race pace.
  • Obviously, this high level of intensity training requires a very good base of fitness to start off with. An untrained athlete trying to do this would probably do more harm than good.

Science of Interval session

Gordon Wright said he based his intervals on work by Malcolm Firth during the 1970s. However, the traditional pyramid is to start off with long intervals and work down to shorter ones. Gordon tried reversing the pyramid, so you start off with short intervals and move onto longer efforts.

  • In the 15 second sprints, you recruit the Fast twitch type 11b – these fibres can generate a lot of power, but are quick to fatigue.
  • In the 1 minute intervals, you recruit the fast twitch type 11a – these generate a lot of power and have some resistance to fatigue
  • In the 5 minute endurance interval you recruit the slow twitch – these have a lower power generation, but are highly resistant to fatigue

By having good recovery time between intervals, the aim is to be fresher and do the intervals with less acidosis in the blood (e.g. lactic acid). This enables higher efforts and puts less strain on muscles from working in a more acidic environment.

By working different groups, you enable more training effort in a particular session.

Empirical evidence suggests that these fast twitch muscle fibres are used during short distance endurance events. Stuart reported a swelling of thighs when making the effort (akin to the pumping iron effect).

My experience of Pyramid intervals


I’ve looked at pyramid intervals before. But, never really fully completed a set, and only done it as a one-off. But, a chance meeting with Gordon Wright at a recent 10 mile TT, made me think (we didn’t actually discuss interval training). I printed off an old paper and decided to have a go. I’m well trained and fit, but, I thought as it was my first one, I’d do a conservative number of repetitions and concentrate on maximum effort. I did:

  • 6 *15 sec sprint
  • 6*1 minute intervals up a hill (Clare hill near Watlington)
  • 6* 5 minute intervals up Aston Hill (A40)

The whole ride was 105 km, 3.40 hours, average speed 29.4, 1,000 metres of climbing. I sometimes took longer recovery than stipulated.

After a 15 minute warm up, I started the sprints. I’m unused to sprinting, and they felt relatively feeble. I’m only riding on feel, but I don’t think I would have been breaking any power meter records. It was also hard work to maintain discipline of maintaining high cadence. Instinctively, I tend to want to mash a big gear when doing any kind of sprint.

At the end of this 6*15 second sprint, I was still pretty fresh. There wasn’t much accumulated fatigue. I wouldn’t say it was easy, but it’s only 90 seconds of work. I found it hard sprinting on time trial bike and getting up to max effort.

Then I moved on to the one minute intervals, I chose a shortish hill. Rather than do one minute, it’s better to have  a physical distance to aim at. The first interval was 55 seconds, the sixth was 61 second. You can time yourself and see how you are fatiguing. The end of the interval on Clare hill even has a white line, used as a prime in a local road race circuit. This makes it nearly ideal, though at the end it gets steeper, requiring a gear change to keep high cadence.

After the 4th interval of going up Clare hill, I couldn’t believe who I saw slowly cycling up the hill – Gordon Wright – resplendent in his High Wycombe CC cycling top! That was quite a co-incidence. I did one more interval and then waited at the top to have a short chat to Gordon. It was too much of a co-incidence not to share the fact I was doing the interval session inspired by him. Perhaps if I had seen him on the last endurance hill, I wouldn’t have been so grateful for his interval session! Gordon was doing a long ride in preparation for his first 50 mile TT in 20 years. After a good excuse for a extra long recovery, I went back down hill for the last 2 one minute intervals.

The sixth one minute interval was particularly hard, and the time started to drop off. Again, it required a discipline to keep high cadence and make big effort.

The biggest challenge in these interval sessions, is to keep motivation to really do all out time trial efforts. It’s easy to back off slightly and not go as fast as you can. The funny thing is that when I saw Gordon Wright on the hill, that interval was really hard and fast. Having someone on the hill to show off to, gives you an added motivation for an extra second.  But, when no-one is watching it can be easier to subtly back off.

After phase two, I was starting to feel the accumulated effort in the legs, but it was time to cycle off to Aston Hill for phase three. I chose Aston Hill because I knew he physical distance and often timed my efforts up there for many season. My best up the hill is 4.52 – that is at full hill climb pace and obviously when fresh, so I would be able to have a rough estimate of how I was doing compared to my maximum effort.

The first interval was hard but, I did 5.25, which isn’t too far off my pb. The second and third were reasonable times. By the fourth interval, my time was down to 6.00 and it felt well below 10 mile TT effort. But, that brought an end to the interval session. I could have done more, but the quality would have really started to drop off. I thought that was a pretty good start for these interval sessions.

An interesting thing about doing the five minute endurance intervals at the end, is you feel the ‘spark’ the ‘anearobic’ capacity has been exhausted by the earlier shorter efforts. In that regard you are really relying on and training the aerobic capacity.

The other thing is that maintaining a high cadence, you really feel extends  your capacity to do high intensity intervals. The temptation is to push a big gear, but then your muscles get tired. Training in high cadence, hopefully enables a more sustained power capacity – it puts more effort on heart and blood supply than relying on muscles.

I had a 17 mile ride home, which I took very steady in a high cadence.

The day after, Gordon recommends an hour recovery ride at the most. But, to be honest, you don’t really need to be told that. My legs haven’t felt this tired since doing the Buxton Mountain time trial and then riding over to Peaslows hill.

I enjoyed the experience. My legs felt more fatigued than usual. The problem is that it will now be mainly recovery rides before National 50 mile TT on Sunday.

Measuring Intervals with Heart Rate / Power Meter

For very short intervals, using a heart rate is a poor guide to your effort levels. It can be a guide to how you are doing, but bear in mind there will be a time delay and your heart rate can vary due to other factors.

A power meter is the best way measuring performance. Some like power meters because it gives them some power to target and helps increase their effort.

If you don’t have a power meter, these intervals can still be done on ‘feel’ If you’re going all out for 15, 30 seconds, you won’t have too much time to be looking at a power meter anyway. The main thing is being able to look at data after a ride. In particular it is useful for gauging whether you are over-trained – e.g. can’t hit peak power after heavy weak of training

Some of Stuart Dangerfield’s experiences

For the power meter fans

  • During sprint intervals, SD hit a maximum power of 950 to 1000 watts
  • In one minute intervals, he hit 650-700 watts
  • For 5 minute intervals, he hit 500 watts.
  • During competition 10 record, he held around 460 watts average.

In 6 week period leading up to 2001 National 25 mile TT, Stuart did 15 interval sessions of varying length, that’ 2.5 per week.

Stuart did a lot of endurance (level 2 training) during the winter months. And would often train 300-350 miles a week. But, from this interval session, it definitely wasn’t just churning out the miles!

If you want to have a go, you definitely have to be realistic about state of fitness. It’s really hard. You could start off with half the number 4*15 secs. 4*1 minutes 2*5 mins. Or you could miss out sprint intervals.


Britwell hill

Britwell hill is a short 0.6 miles hill, averaging 9% and having 85 metre of height gain. It is 15% at the steepest, near the top. It has been used in local club hill climbs for quite a long time.  It is a simple hill – going straight up the Chiltern ridge with no attempt at devising any kind of hairpin – it provides an imposing view as you approach from the village of Britwell. It is similar in length to hills like The Rake and Streatley (though not quite as steep as these hills) It is a good test for a short two and half minute kind of climb. It gets steeper as you go up the hill. The 100 Climbs version includes a section of false flat at the top, where the gradient becomes very gentle, you have to aim for just after the house and garden at the top of the hill on the left.

Britwell hill – High Wycombe Club hill Climb

    • Distance: 0.63 miles
    • Average gradient: 8%
    • Maximum gradient: 15.0%
    • Elevation gain: 83 m

The road surface is good and traffic is light. Though a big drawback is that the road is quite narrow at the bottom, in places it can be hard for a bike and car to squeeze past. I was able to do several intervals without any problems, but you might be unlucky.

A windmill near Britwell hill was apparently featured in the film ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ Maybe the car starts flying when making the descent of the hill. You can certainly get a good speed going down, though watch out for approaching cars on the narrow bit.

I rode out Tuesday to have a go at a few intervals. Irritatingly I got the theme tune to ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ in my head. As much as I admire any film with the lead character of Dick Van Dyke and a person called ‘Truly Scrumptious’, it’s not a theme song you particularly want going around in your head when you’re trying to do all-out 2 minute intervals.

Fortunately, when you do an intense effort, everything gets blocked from the mind – even the most catchy song lyrics. That’s another bonus of hill climbs I’d never thought of before.

Read more

Cycling in the heat and avoiding dehydration

Cycling in the heat can be challenging, especially if you are not used to it. When cycling in the heat you have to be careful to remain hydrated, plus taking on enough water and salts. In the UK, we rarely get the opportunity to ride in really hot conditions, which is probably why we struggle a bit more than continentals who are more used to it. Even when it goes above 25 degrees is can feel hard work. But, if we go to Europe or US, it can be even more challenging with temperatures of 35 degrees plus.

The good news is that cycling is one of the better sports to do in the heat. At least you get a cooling effect from the wind – something you don’t get so much when running.

Heat in the Tour de France

On the BBC, there’s a good article by Geraint Thomas on riding in the Tour de France with temperatures nudging 35 degrees +

Thomas writes that:

“I had been drinking around three bottles of fluid every hour – 1.5 litres – to keep myself hydrated and to ride at that threshold. (BBC link)


For a six hour stages, that’s 18 bottles or 9 litres. That’s tough for whoever is on water bottle carrying duty that day.

Even with all that water, Thomas says his head felt as if it was going to explode. It’s one thing to ride in the heat, it’s another thing to ride at threshold in the heat. Thomas says he got used to the heat a bit, riding in the Tour down Under. But, even a professional with the best possible backup and experience, still finds it really tough; that’s an element of riding in the heat – it is always going to be a bit harder.

Tips for riding in the heat


  • The need for water can increase dramatically. Once the temperature goes above a certain level, you can need much more than usual. It’s not necessarily a linear progression The danger is that you just take the usual amount, plus a bit more. Thomas writes that he was getting three bottles an hour. Just to emphasise – that is really a lot. But, the amount you need is quite an individual thing. To put it bluntly some people sweat more than others.
  • Consider increasing your water carrying capacity. In winter, you can get away with one or two bottle cages, but if you need to be drinking 2 bottles an hour, it can become a real pain, having to keep stopping. For a pro, like Thomas it’s much easier when you have a team car and people to pass you water. For a lone, unsupported rider, it’s a bit more of a pain to keep stopping. If you’re going to be riding a lot in the heat, consider 1000ml bottles (I use this 1L SIS water bottle – good on down tube, but gets in way on the seat tube) or an additional rear mounted bottle cage, so you don’t have to stop so much.
  • Electrolytes. When you’re drinking extra quantities of water, you need to take water with electrolytes in. If you just take plain water, you can deplete your salt levels and this can create real problems. A litre of sweat can contain up to about 800 mg of sodium (depending on person) – that’s 50% of recommended intake of sodium (link). I like to take some small packets of electrolytes in back pocket, to put in bottles when I fill up.
  • Reduce concentration of energy drinks. When it’s really hot, your stomach will not appreciate highly concentrated energy drinks. As you will be drinking more you can afford to reduce the concentration of energy powder and you will still get enough carbohydrate.
  • Getting the right quantity of water and electrolytes is not so easy. It’s hard to give precise quantities because everyone will be different depending on their weight, effort levels, propensity to sweat e.t.c. One  very rough rule of thumb is to check quantity / colour of urine. You will notice on very hot days, you need to work harder drinking extra water to keep urine normal colour.
  • It is also useful to weigh yourself before and after a ride, you can easily lose a couple of kilos during a ride. However, don’t feel you have to keep the same weight after the ride, it is inevitable your weight goes down a little after a ride (even when it’s freezing), but if it is more than normal, it is a sign of excess water loss.
  • One thing about riding in the heat is that it requires a certain discipline and focus to keep drinking and taking on energy. If you’re not careful, you can just suffer and not take on enough. Often it is only when you stop, that you realise how thirsty you are.
  • Just because it’s hot in the valley, doesn’t mean it is hot everywhere. If you’re climbing mountains or even big hills it can still be a lot cooler high up. A good rain jacket can help protect should the weather change.
  • With riding in the heat, there is an element of acclimatisation. If you go from a cold British winter to 35 degrees in Australia, it’s quite a shock to the system. The longer you spend riding in the heat, the better you will get. The body can change the way it sweats and it becomes more tolerable over time. Therefore, if possible give yourself time to adjust to the heat.
  • There is a psychological element to riding in the heat. I’ve heard many British people say quite strongly “I hate the heat” – “I’m useless in the heat”. I do think this makes it even more difficult. Certainly some people will find it harder in the heat, but try and avoid being too pessimistic. Even if you’ve had a bad experience riding in the heat, there is probably quite a lot you can do to make it better next time – acclimatisation, drinking more, and gaining more confidence to riding in the heat. Don’t write off you ability to ride in the heat. See it as a challenge – something to get used to, like you train to get faster, you need to train to get used to the heat.
  • It is possible to drink too much. It can cause a condition known as hyponatremia – when you take so much water, cells become depleted in sodium. The phenomena has been observed most in slow marathon runners, who took a long time, and drank too much at every water station. There is an element of common sense. You don’t have to down litres of water before starting – this will just make you want to stop.
  • Caffeine. There seems to be conflicting research, some studies suggest caffeine can act as a diuretic and increase chance of dehydration. Others negate this. But, I avoid anyway.

Read more

Training for 12 hour time trial

At the moment I can’t decide between training for a 12 hour time trial and training to be fast up hill climbs. My training is often a mix of racing up hills, then trying to do 80 miles of endurance. Getting the best of both worlds (or perhaps failing to maximise either). Anyway, the rides are a lot of fun which is the main thing.chilterns-aldwich

The Chiltern ridge makes an excellent training area. You can go up and down the hills of the Chiltern ridge until you get tired of hill intervals, then you can take the flat roads back to Oxford. I’ve learnt not to overdo the hills. Every training ride doesn’t have to take you to the max. If you leave something in the tank, it makes the next training sessions more productive. If you really go for it, you can spend the next 7 days recovering.

Clearly defined goals are important

In cycle training the first thing is to have a clear goal of what you want to achieve. Later in the year that will be easy – peak for the end of October for a 3 and a half minute effort. But, at this time of the year, the goals are not quite as prominent. I hope to do my first 12 hour time trial this year at the end of July. But as it’s my first 12 hour, I don’t have any major expectations; I can just turn up and see what I do.

The event will be the National Championship 12 hour TT on a pan flat course in Yorkshire. In the run up to that, I will have quite a few 10s, 50s and 100s. Racing 50s and 100s is an excellent preparation for a 12 hour time trial.

Though the idea of racing 3 consecutive 100s (3* 4 hours), does put the 12 hour into context. The record for a 12 hour time trial is 317.9 miles set by Andy Wilkinson (Port Sunlight Wheelers) in 2012. (26.48 mph average)

These are a few thoughts about training for a 12 hour time trial, though I haven’t done a 12 hour yet. I may revise this post, when I’ve actually done one!

Getting the miles in

At the risk of stating the obvious, if you want to do a 12 hour time trial, you need quite a few miles in your legs, and be comfortable with riding for 5-7 hours. If you can manage 6 hours, the logic is that if you pace yourself correctly and manage food / hydration, you should be able to keep going for 12 hours.

Fortunately, I had a reasonably good winter; despite a few weeks off, I had a few 6 hour rides which provides a good winter base. In early spring, my rides were a bit shorter as I got over an injury and concentrated on short hilly time trials. But, now the exams are coming to an end, I have more time for training. The hope will be to do a 5-6 hour ride once a week.

If you don’t have such a good basis, it is good to start off with a 3-4 hour ride every 7-10 days – in addition to shorter rides during the week. A couple of months before the event, if you can make this long ride 5-6 hours it will get help you get used to the duration of the event.

Target for training

In terms of 12 hour training, I will be hoping for a couple of 300 mile weeks, possibly the odd 400 miles. It would be nice to have chance to do a really long ride, like 150 miles, that would give a lot of confidence for a 12 hour and give an idea of what it is like to ride for 7 hours.

But, you don’t need to do 300 miles every week, it could be counter productive. Recovery is still as important for 12 hour training. Like all aspects of cycle training, you also have to listen to your body and know when you are fatigued. My training schedule has built up over several years. When I started cycling, I couldn’t manage what I do now. This is why it’s hard to give concrete training plans.

Training on a time trial bike

I would say it is essential to train on the bike that you are going to be racing on. There’s no point doing long training rides on a road bike, only to find after 3 hours of the race that the TT bike is too uncomfortable.

Last year, I was in a lot of pain for a 100 mile TT so I felt to do a 12 hour, I’d have to do something radically different.

  • Firstly, I got a new saddle (Adamo Saddle review) – which is super-excellent for a long time in the TT position.
  • I also did a bit of upper body core strength – in particular the plank – for strengthening the back.

These two factors have made a big difference. I can now ride on TT bike for 6 hours without too much discomfort. It would be a shame to be in good cycling shape, but to have to give up because your back or neck can’t take it.

Read more

Hill climb intervals

Hill climb intervals are probably my favourite type of training. I generally do some kind of hill climb intervals from February to the end of the hill climb season in October. At this time of the year (spring), my 5 minute power is well down because I spend most of the winter focusing on endurance. Even I feel like a break from hill climb intervals in Nov, Dec and Jan. Because I’m starting from a relatively low base, it means that even a few hill climb intervals can see a big improvement in power output.


See also: Techniques of riding uphill

Early Hill Climb sessions

During the early part of the hill climb season, I’m getting used to riding at or above race pace. A typical session might involve:

  • Warm up for 15 minutes
  • 3 * 1 minute intervals at 95% – this is about 400 watts. They are not completely ‘eyeballs out’ I like to break myself in a bit more gently.
  • 7 * 4 – 5 minutes. To make it more interesting, I do intervals up real hills. The hill climb may last between 3 and a half minutes and 5 minutes, depending on where I’m training. I do the first one really hard, but not 100% as if I was doing a hill climb.

I’m most interested in maintaining high power towards the end of interval and towards the end of the interval session. A good indicator of form is how I go during the 6th or 7th interval. In that sense the intervals get harder as you progress towards the end because the muscles are tired and you are carrying around more lactic acid.

If my FTP is 290, I might be doing these intervals at 350 watts. – Or 20% harder than an effort during an hour’s constant time trial.

In between these intervals I ride at a recovery pace. Gently spinning to try and get rid of the lactic acid.

In a typical interval session, it might take 2 and half hours and take 50 miles.

At this time of the year, I might just do one a week. In peak hill climb training season, perhaps two. Generally, I need an easy day before and after to get the most from them. To be honest, if I really do a proper hill climb interval session,  you don’t feel like doing anything other than a recovery ride the next day.

After the interval session, I recommend some stretching especially of hamstrings.

Aim of hill climb intervals

  • Increase climbing ability
  • By racing above your normal race pace, you hope to stress the muscles and heart to pull up your capacity. The main aim for time trialling is to increase your Functional Threshold power (FTP) – roughly the effort / power you can maintain for an effort of an hour. Intervals can do this
  • One way to train for an hour time trial is to train for an hour and see how fast you can do it. Intervals are deliberately training for a shorter time so you can ride at a level higher than what you can maintain for a long time.
  • Train different muscle fibres. In road races and even short distance time trials (25 miles), you will be using all three muscle fibres – slow twitch, fast twitch and super-fast twitch. Hill climb intervals are a way to train all three. You don’t get this training effect, just by riding hard for an hour.
  • Get used to dealing with lactic acid.
  • My main early season target is several hilly time trials. These interval sessions replicate hilly time trials quite well. The only difference is that I’m not racing in between hills – only when going up the hills.

Riding the hill climb intervals


Now I have a power meter I do spend a bit of time looking at the power meter to try and gauge effort and smooth over the effort during a climb. This generally involves, holding back a little at the bottom, but then making an even bigger effort towards the end of the interval to maintain the power. I think a power meter is useful in the sense it shows what you are actually putting out. I didn’t realise how easy it is for power to peter out, when the slope eases off at the top.

Read more

Record breaking year

2014 is already turning out to be a record breaking year.


  • Britain’s best ever medal haul in the Winter Olympics since 1924 – 1 gold medal
  • Record levels of flooding in Oxfordshire and the South of England- 1.4 goggleplex cubic metres of water
  • Guinness world record for the longest distance of continuous underwater unicycling- 1.3 miles (Ashrita Furman, Portugal, video)
  • Record number of  visits to a gym in a year by Tejvan – 2
  • Record percentage of training rides done on indoor rollers by Tejvan –  65%

On a less promising note, I’ve managed to dns 50% of entered rides.

For the past seven years, I’ve been wanting to do the early season North Road Hardriders  25 around the lanes of North London. It’s an early season hilly classic, but despite entering three times, I’ve never made it to the start line. It seems to come at a time in the season when I’m prone to knee injuries. This year, it was a bout of flu – which kept me not just from riding the North Road hardriders, but also picking up the Oxonian CC 10 mile and 25 mile TT at the Oxonian annual dinner. A nice free three course meal – replaced by an evening of soup, rice cakes and fit for nothing more than watching repeats of the Tour of Oman. Well, I suppose you can’t eat caviar every day of the year. I consoled myself by reminding me there are worse times of the year to come down with a bug. I also consoled myself by saying although Oman might not be subject to floods and rain, there is a distinct lack of any scenery which isn’t resolutely grey, sandy. (or where’s the grass?)

Last Wednesday was one of those rare forays into the outer world of tarmac, puddles and real roads (well, some were roads, but are increasingly starting to resemble lumpy farmyard tracks). The weather forecast at BBC and Metcheck, both promised 0.0mm of rain for that day. The weather looked so good, I cancelled an economics lesson (easy in half-term week) and planned a good long five hour ride in the hills of the Chilterns. With the good weather forecast, I took my time trial bike. When you get used to spinning away on the rollers or flying on your TT bike, it’s a bit of comedown to go back to winter training hack. I did 40 miles on Monday, in a record low average speed of about 13.8mph. I didn’t want to repeat that.

Alas, the weather forecast proved to be misleading. Almost as soon as I had got spitting distance from Oxford, the weather gods began having a laugh, and started spitting at me. It was never heavy rain, just that fine drizzle that soaks you through. I think fine drizzle is better English phrase than ‘it’s spitting’ – but I heard it a lot when growing up in Yorkshire and Lancashire.

I persisted for a good four hours, and was quite pleased to get some hard miles in. It was made more difficult because I tilted my tribars upwards – this is more aerodynamic, but much more awkward and painful, I’m being to question whether the aero gains suggested by the wind tunnel are worth the extra effort and pain in the arms and shoulders. Not for a 12 hour, that’s for sure.

I did several hill efforts. A five minute power effort suggested I’d gained 20 watts in two weeks Yah!. From a very low base, but at least at this time of the year, you can see easy gains for relatively little effort. It’s like the first season you take up cycling and make huge gains. Only to find it gets increasingly difficult to keep increasing power as time progresses.

It was quite a good two weeks training, so five days off is not the end of the world. But, it would be nice to starting breaking records which don’t involve cycling under a deluge of rain and water.

By the way, Ashrita Furman of cycling underwater fame, has one of the few Sri Chinmoy Cycling Team records, that I don’t have. He did a very credible 405 miles for 24 hours back in the 1970s. It’s one record I won’t be attempting for quite a while. And as for the long distance underwater unicycling…..


Spontaneous training plans

I spent most of Saturday morning trying to weigh up the relative options of going outside and facing the stormy weather – or staying inside and dealing with the challenges of staying on rollers for two hours.

Where I would like to have been – cycling in the Hebrides in summer.

It was a pretty close call, but in the end I choose to avoid the relentless gales of this crazy winter and spent two hours on the rollers.

One reason for staying indoors was to avoid corrosion to the TT bike. My speedplay pedals are vulnerable to water, and seem to need greasing every ride, unless you want to be spending £230 for a new pair of X1 every month. Ironically, the sun was out and my conservatory got pretty hot – up to 26 degrees, and when you’re cycling indoors that’s pretty warm – there was a steady flow of sweat to corrode the bike in a different way. It did later chuck it down which at least made me feel vindicated in being a southern softie and choosing to stay indoors.

If you’re going to spend two hours on the rollers, you might as well make it a hard session, and hope the effort takes away from the tedium. The initial idea was to ride for two hours close to threshold because I have a 50 mile race in April (Circuit of the Dales) that I want to do well in. My training can be very spontaneous – I never really know what I’m going to do until I start cycling. I perhaps try and have a idea, it would be good to do intervals tomorrow, then steady, then rest, then sweet spot or some kind of plan like that. But, it can change and depends on what else is going on in life.

Anyway, today was about preparing for longer time trials at threshold pace. I did 280 watts for first hour, and decided I couldn’t keep that going for two hours. So I went down a gear and did 260 watts for the next half an hour. After 90 minutes I though that was more than enough threshold training for mid February. It was still a pretty big effort for this time of the year.

Sunday was a day off the bike, down in Bristol. Bizarrely the weather was so good, we were sitting outside on a cafe terrace admiring Clifton Suspension Bridge. It was ironic that the only good day of weather in 2014, was a day with no bicycle in sight. Not that I was complaining, I’ve forgotten what it was like to sit in the sun.

The only downside of having a complete day off after a really hard day, is that your legs can suffer the following day. They are a bit stiff today; they would be in better shape if I had done even 30 minutes easy riding or perhaps some stretching.

But, overall, it was a good week – nearly 300 miles (if you include the artificially fast miles on the rollers) 2 hours in 56*15 on the rollers, I give myself 50 miles. Why not? no one is counting my miles, and I do get some joy from filling in virtual mileage charts. I may have a power meter, but I still am enamoured of the old school ‘get the miles’ in approach.


5 minute max power output

I’ve enjoyed writing a few recent posts, – the joys of the turbo, old school cycling e.t.c.. But, I promise this post will be really quite boring. It’s the inevitable post-power-meter-purchase-data-examination-and-speculation. – Something many power meter owners are prone to do, but I’m fairly hopeful I will tire of it all pretty soon. If power meter zones and watt/kg numbers are not quite your thing, I have to warn there may be a more profitable way to spend the next 3 minutes. But, then I guess if you’re already on the internet, you’re not planning on doing anything too productive anyway.


So, if you’ve run out of cuddly cat videos and with suitable apologies in advance, here are some power meter readings, which may be of marginal interest.

  • In September 2013 (when my power meter was first working) I did a few 5 minute all out tests up a hill near Stokenchurch (A40) On one climb, I averaged 445 watts for 5 minutes, and did the climb in 4.54. (19.2mph) – watt/kg 7.3
  • In February, four months later,  I could only average 345 watts, doing the climb in 5.43 (16mph) watt/kg 5.6

In November, Dec and Jan, I’ve done quite a lot of miles. Despite injury in Jan, I still did more miles in Jan than the peak of the hill climb season in  October

So after 3 months of endurance training / rest / bit of sweet spot/  Nov – Jan, my 5 minute peak power has fallen 100 watts.

Because I don’t know much about power meters, that seems an awful lot of top end power to loose. But, on the other hand, I do this test every year, and tend to always take just under 6 minutes for the first test of the season. So compared to previous early season efforts, it’s bang on track.

What does this show?

  • I guess power outputs in February are fairly unimportant in the bigger scheme of things (unless, of course you plant to tackle track hour records)
  • If you just do base endurance, you will become good at base endurance – but, no surprise, your top end racing power, will decline.
  • Stay tuned, who knows when I will next dig in to the power meter archives!

Falling in love with the turbo

When I began my season of proper racing back in 2005, I bought a turbo trainer. It was a bit like a rite of passage, akin to shaving the legs. Only proper cyclists would buy a turbo trainer, you have to be pretty serious to spend a lot of money on something which involves getting very sweaty cycling to nowhere – driving you as crazy as the proverbial hamster on a hamster wheel.

The road to nowhere
The road to nowhere

I felt like I’d done the right thing to spend £100  on a turbo trainer. The only problem is I could never bring myself to ride it. Of course, after buying, I did try 30 minutes on the turbo, but I then did one of those turbo interval sessions, where the interval of rest is about 12 months. If the weather was bad, I simply didn’t ride or I’d prefer to go out and get wet. The great Emil Zatopek said training in the rain is good character building. I took this as a noble excuse to avoid the turbo. It’s probably character building to spend 2 hours on a turbo, but I didn’t particularly want that character.

Even when warming up for races, I never bothered taking a turbo. I’d rather risk puncturing before a start of a race rather than get ridiculously sweaty and bored 5 minutes before the race started.

The thing with a turbo is that as soon as you get on it, time seems to exist in a different dimension. 5 minutes becomes an hour, and one hour becomes a life sentence. You start clock watching as the seconds tick interminably slowly. Over the years, I did make the odd perfunctory attempt to master the art of the turbo. I’d make bold intentions of a good one hour session, but invariably, after 20 minutes, I’d reduce it to just half an hour, and that would be my turbo session done for the month.

Last year I threw away my turbo session. Not because it had worn away from overuse. I threw it away because it was hopelessly rusty. It was an embarrassment and a reminder of how little my £100 had been used. In fact when I calculate the cost per hour of that turbo – it wasn’t just incredibly boring, but also very expensive for those minutes of torture.

Read more