Training Stress, Training Stimulus

by Colin Gibson

I’m going to give away the secret to getting fast right up front: quit your day job, ride your bike a ton, and recover even more.  The basic idea is simple: professional cyclists who can take that advice have the liberty of increasing their training stimulus and decreasing the  physical and mental stresses that keep them from responding to that stimulus.  The rest of us may not be able to dedicate ourselves to training to the same degree, but fortunately we can apply the same rule at any level of time commitment: maximize stimulus, minimize stress.

The most common limiter that we encounter in athletes we work with is time.  Demanding jobs, family, and travel all carve out their space, leaving four, six, eight hours a week available for training.  So the question is: what should you fill those few hours with? Two four-hour group rides? Seven hour-long maximal efforts?  The answer lies in what our body responds to when we ride hard.  I’ll use two power files from very different rides to explain.  The first is from a road race:

Tour de Delta Road Race

This is pretty typical of road race power files viewed overall: they’re spiky. What if we look at a 20-minute segment?  Computer: enhance!

Tour de Delta Road Race

The close-up is similar: periods of coasting followed by short, intense accelerations. Continue for three hours.  The training benefit of a ride like this is to make us stronger at this style of riding: relatively high speeds, many short bursts of power.  Burning thousands of calories over several hours also trains our bodies to store more fuel in the future.  So that’s one end of the spectrum: racing as training for racing.  The downside of this approach is that, while it is as event-specific as you can get, it also has a high ratio of stress to stimulus.  It would be hard to perform a ride like this more than twice a week because of the combination of duration, intensity, and high average power.

That brings us to the other end of our spectrum.  This is a segment of a power file from a workout performed on the Wahoo KICKR earlier this month.


VO2 micro intervals

Rides like this are sometimes easier to perform on the trainer than outdoors because of the lack of traffic, intersections, and extra warm-up and cool-down time.  The KICKR also has a power control mode, which holds the rider to a target power, minimizing fluctuations.

As you can see, this is very different from our first example.  This workout features a series of short high-intensity intervals with shorter ‘rest’ intervals at moderate pace.  The purpose of a workout like this is to train the body to spend prolonged periods of time at full aerobic capacity while responding to frequent changes in intensity. Those objectives are relevant because they are very common demands, both in racing and in many group rides.  This workout had a clear goal and didn’t beat around the bush:  short warm-up, blast of training stimulus, cool down.   Because all of the ‘fat’ has been trimmed off of this ride, the whole workout lasted only 40 minutes.

To step back for a moment, I’m not arguing that 40-minute workouts are ideal preparation for long road races.  Ideal preparation would combine interval workouts like this with rides that more closely resemble target events in duration and energy expenditure.  However, when time is your limiting factor, this kind of training can often be the most effective approach–lots of signal, very little noise.  That means more frequency, which can be just as important as intensity and total ride time in making you stronger.

The takeaway for riders trying to make the most of limited training time is to  begin each ride with a target in mind.  Just as football players don’t spend every practice scrimmaging, neither should cyclists aim for every power file to look like the event they’re preparing for.  Interval training like this targets the relevant physiological limiters as directly as possible with minimum fatigue.  So don’t worry if you can’t log 25 hours a week in the saddle.  If you can’t ride long, ride hard!



Power Up Promo: KICKR + Wattage Training

Wahoo KICKR Trainer

We recently got a pair of Wahoo KICKR power trainers in at the shop and we’ve been putting them through the paces to see how they stack up next to our old standard, the CompuTrainer.  So far, so good.  The quick rundown is that the KICKR combines the power meter and remote resistance control of the CompuTrainer with Bluetooth, which means that rather than being controlled by a PC, the KICKR can be controlled from an iPhone, Android phone, tablet, or computer with Bluetooth.  In addition to making it more modern and future-proof, this also opens up all kinds of data-tracking options and competitive settings, including virtual racing, simulated Strava segments, and integration with TrainingPeaks, Garmin Connect, and many other pieces of training software.

I’ll be posting a longer review soon. In the mean time, if you’re interested in reading more about the KICKR, I would recommend DC Rainmaker’s in-depth review.

We are also pretty excited to be offering a pretty killer deal on a KICKR + Training bundle.  Buy a KICKR, get a 3-month wattage-based training plan including workout files, and a 3-month TrainerRoad subscription for free.  Price for this package is $1099, which is what the KICKR itself normally retails for.

If you’re interested in our KICKR + training bundle, or in trying the KICKR for yourself, email colin@cycleu.com


Goal Setting seminar with coach Craig Undem

AFM your Goals for 2015!  

Advanced Focus and Motivation, get your year started right with an hour of power.

Establishing clear goals and creating a solid plan to execute, these are crucial steps to your success on the bike. We are here to help you get those plans laid out and ready to execute. Start developing your game plan for the year with the help of Cycle University’s head coach, Craig Undem.

Coach Undem is an expert in helping others pinpoint, plan and ultimately reach their competitive and personal potentials on the bike. With decades of experience, as a multi-disciplinary competitive bike racer and as a coach, Coach Undem brings with him a wealth of knowledge and insight into training both physically and mentally.

Let us help you make this your best year yet, no matter what your cycling goals. Whether you are planning on trying your first race, making this your best race season yet, or are even just trying to figure out what you want to achieve with your riding, then let this night be one of inspiration and direction for you.

Advanced Focus and Motivation 

January 3rd, 2015 5pm-6pm

Sand Point Cycle University

$25.00 registration

Sign up online at: http://clients.mindbodyonline.com/classic/ws?studioid=3476&stype=-7&sView=day&sDate=1/3/2015

or call either Cycle University location for assistance:

West Seattle (206) 439-9982
Sand Point (206) 523-1122



Steve Fisher’s Body Geometry Fit Review

by Steve Fisher – Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis Professional Cycling

top cap

Do you know the feeling of “sitting in” your bike rather than “sitting on” your bike? When my bike fits well and I’m having a good day on the bike I really feel like I’m sitting in my bike, as if it is a part of me.  I hadn’t been having very many days of sitting in my bike lately and that led me to seek out a Body Geometry Fit with Colin Gibson at Cycle University in Seattle.  I wasn’t necessarily uncomfortable or experiencing pain, but I knew I had something to gain from a better fit.  I’ve known Colin for several years and we’ve been teammates in the past, but there is no bias when I say that he’s an expert when it comes to bike fitting.

foot beds
As we started the fit process Colin asked me several questions about my past cycling experiences and my upcoming goals. I didn’t have many specific pre-fit complaints, but these questions were helpful in establishing my history as a rider and identifying any previous injuries. After these initial questions we went through some movements to assess my flexibility, stability and the natural positions of various joints.

hip flex

Once I was on the bike Colin observed my pedaling and we stopped to take several measurements. We experimented with a few different cleat positions that also required corresponding saddle adjustments. Colin pointed out that a change to one contact point usually has repercussions throughout the rest of the body that should be accounted for. His knowledge of how theses changes may affect other areas of the body was crucial in the fit process being both smooth and efficient. I was very curious and maybe a bit resistant to some of these changes, as I’ve been riding in the same position for many years.  The way that Colin was able to explain how each of these changes would affect my body and riding position was excellent. He was able to explain the reason for each change along with the potential benefits from that change.

knee angle

At the end of our fitting session I already felt like I was sitting in my bike again. It usually takes me some time to adjust to even minor changes in position, but I think that my new position is so natural that I was fitting in with bike right away. Colin still gave me some homework in the form of mental cues to think about while I’m riding in my new position. The ability to follow up with Colin in a few weeks will be great to assess if the changes that we made are perfect or could use more refinement. Colin emailed me my full Body Geometry Fit Report that includes all of his observations, my measurements and my bike measurements. This will be an incredibly helpful reference tool for me as I set up other bikes to replicate this position. That statistics as well as the included photos will allow me to keep sitting in my bike all year long. Thanks to Colin and the entire Cycle University team for making me more comfortable, powerful and efficient.


Do More With ICE


ICE classes are now in full throttle for this winter, and we are excited as always to work with such a dedicated group of cyclists. Looking towards the coming months, you might be wondering how to get the most out of ICE in preparation for spring. Here are some simple ideas to supplement your training at Cycle University and get the most out of Indoor Cycling Elite

Short Weekday, Long Weekend  

If you have the opportunity, try to get out on the weekends. Invest in some winter riding gear and enjoy the season. On your rides, lay off the interval training and instead focus on getting in some solid miles. Going for longer spins will boost the benefit of your higher intensity sessions during the week. Ultimately, it will be a combination of time and intensity that will make the biggest difference in your riding.

If you like riding with a group, Cascade Bicycle Club offers numerous well organized group ride opportunities. You can check them out here.

Hit the Gym

It’s fun to shake things up, plus hitting the gym will make you a stronger cyclist. Want a bigger FTP? Strength training will make a difference.
Make sure you don’t just focus on building up your legs; a strong core, back and upper body are all necessary components to riding. You can read USA Cycling’s exercise guide here

Stretch and Roll

Roll out the kinks and stay limber! Stretching helps prevent injury and will help you perform better. Stretch every day if possible, even if you aren’t riding. It takes only a few minutes and could save you pulled muscle or tear in the future. You can find some sample stretches from Bikeradar here

For those wanting a little extra, foam rollers are a useful stretching tool for any cyclist. These do wonders on tired legs, working out even the worst of knots. Adding a foam roller to your stretching regimen will leave your legs ready for the next workout. Check out tips and techniques from Bicycling Magazine’s foam roller guide

As always, please feel free to pull aside a coach and ask any questions you have regarding training and fitness.

Have a blast spinning into shape!

Coach Vanessa