Thursday, November 3, 2011

Let’s talk biking

The first word that comes to my mind: freaking hard (ok, two words)

Don’t get me wrong, I love biking but it has been kind of a struggle in last 2-3 weeks. Apart from some saddle issues that might be solved now (I played with Adamo position and although I cannot say that it is like sitting on a couch, it is decent. The true test will come on Sat when I will do my weekly long ride. Sitting and pedaling on a trainer without rest and position shifting for 3 hours sucks in this respect. Also, I am kind of stupid in this because who buys a new bike or saddle and immediately rides it for 3 hours without getting into it more gradually…), there is other issues that make biking hard for me these days.

Recently I have started to pay more attention to my pedal stroke and I have realized that I am totally inefficient. I jerk on the top of the pedals and just plainly push down hard with minimal push/pull on top and bottom. Although I cannot really feel that I am doing it (unless I am doing one-leg drills when I can also feel it), I can hear it while biking on a trainer. One small plus for trainer riding from me.

Thus I have been trying to be smoother and it is hard work! I have to really concentrate and I think that because my leg muscles are just not used to this new movement it makes it extra hard. It will take a while to get this new movement into my muscle memory. It is like learning a new skills that you suck at at first: it is hard and your motivation is low.
Honestly, I do not like doing it one bit. It is so much easier to just continue what I have been doing so far. But it needs to be done. There are no short cuts. It is similar to swimming. 4-5 weeks ago I realized that I need to stop going like a windmill because it is inefficient. It was hard at first to keep longer strokes and going like a windmill just felt so much easier because that’s what I was used to doing. But now my swim muscles have memorized how to do longer nicer more efficient strokes and I do not have to work that hard to be efficient anymore. Or when you are learning playing a musical instrument or typewriting. You can use different fingers that recommended because it just comes more naturally to you and you are used to doing that but if you work hard and do it the right way, then you will eventually get the hang of it and it will make your playing/typing more efficient. (Which reminds me that I should probably learn the right way to type with 10 fingers)

So also with biking, I am sure that after some time efficient smoother pedal strokes will come more naturally to me and I will not have to think about it more and also muscles adapt. Until then I will just curse under my breath about how stupid and hard it is but constantly reminding myself that it needs to be done.
Then there are other issues. You might know that I have bought PowerTap ~3 weeks ago. I would say that it has been useful so far. Not really in a sense that I am cracking up intervals by power that will make me a stronger cyclist, but in a sense that it helped me to realize other inefficiencies: low cadence and unsteady power output.

I knew that my cadence was probably little too low but I did not know how bad it was. Basically I have been biking at mid-70s cadence. I know that optimal cadence is kind of individual but such a low cadence means that I was pushing little too hard and thus trashing my running legs little too much. When I first saw the numbers powertap was showing I was sure that it is underestimating the cadence. But then on several occasions I counted my pedal strokes for the whole minute and the powertap number was always around that number. So now I am working on keeping my cadence higher. I am shooting for high 80s and when I am doing some harder intervals I can get to low 90s. And it is hard work as well. I think that it has also something to do with me being 6 foot tall, my running stride is long with low frequency because it is harder to move longer limbs faster. So I am just not used to moving my legs fast (although I have no problem with moving my arms like windmill).

The last issue is not going steady. I understand than nobody can go at completely steady output but ranging from 140-180W is little too much. So I have been working on trying to keep the power in narrower range. Not perfect yet but getting better. Also keeping the cadence higher helps with this. I did 40min at 160-170 range yesterday. At first I was little all over the place high140s-mid170s. But after few minutes I was able to keep it steadier and the last 10min were almost perfect, right in the range. I have also learnt a little bit to be able to “feel” my output. There is a few seconds lag (~3-4sec) between my pedaling and when numbers show on screen. And I was able to tell when I decreased my power and sure enough few seconds later the numbers went down. To get this right will take a loooong time, but hey, I have couple months on a trainer do “learn, learn and learn” as Lenin used to :)
Then when I go outside I will probably have to practice some more because biking outside will be totally different. But it should not be that bad if I have a basic feel for cadence and steady output from trainer.

Also, big gear biking irritates my ITB big time. I did some big gear work on Tuesday and ITB did not feel that hot afterwards and yesterday. So, I am not doing those for a while. Grrr.

So I am thinking that if I am able to run again, maybe I should have a critical look on my running form as well. But I so do not want to do that…

And, my arm biceps hurt like hell. I did pull ups and dips on Monday after few weeks hiatus and I still cannot stretch my arms without excruciating muscle pain in biceps. Which I guess means that I need to do them more often.

My mom sent me few pictures today. It is the lake where my parents have their cottage. She is probably trying to use it to make me come home. Not happening, although I am sure that IM training in Slovakia would be more efficient than training here.

I sound kind of grumpy recently, don't I? It must be because I have not had a chance to eat any Halloween candy:(


  1. Beautiful picture and biking sounds so complicated!!

  2. I never knew that biking was that complicated! I always thought that it is just push your pedals as hard as you can and as fast as you can:)