Blog, Training, Uncategorized

The Art of Climbing – Unlock your best

I have dedicated the last 15 years of my life to help people improve their cycling, and climbing is almost always at the top of their lists of challenges.  Every rider I work with needs to improve their Climbing, from Century rides, Gravel Grinders, Cyclocross to RAMROD to STP, it is the focus for most riders.  I was lucky to learn to climb early when I moved to Colorado and began racing road in the mountains, everyone who races there is a great climber.  My 2nd race was the Mt. Evans hillclimb (highest paved road in US over 14,000ft) and when I was a pro mountain biker I won a WorldCup medal for 3rd place with the best in the world racing up Mammoth Mountain, so climbing has been my cycling “thesis” and major area of study since 1987.

Climbing requires more than just fitness, I have coached some of the fittest riders around and often is is more subtle techniques like mental “fueling”, pedal stroke or fueling correctly that makes the biggest difference.  Climbing will test you and *can* bring out the best in you, it can also allow you to find ways to give up early.  

If you are trying to unlock your best climber, start with where you are with your fitness now and accept your ability and limitations as starting points.  You have a pattern of how you climb, and if you want to improve there are a number of things you can look at BESIDES your training/fitness level to be sure you are climbing as well as you can:

1.  Pedal stroke optimization

2.  Breathing techniques for steady and hard climbing

3.  Posture and hand position

4.  Bike fit to allow full power

5.  Pacing tools to fit terrain

6.  Shifting smooth transitions and cadence

7.  Standing skills, recovery and full-gas

8.  Fueling precision 

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This weeks free clinics and rides at Cycle U

This Saturday May 2nd we do our Fix a Flat, lube your chain and basic maintenance clinic at West Seattle store 11-11:45am.  We then lead a free shop ride at noon of about 20 miles with Head Coach Craig Undem.  Learn to paceline and ride correctly along with finding a new route!

Sand Point shop there is a free ride at 11am, going to Seward Park and back from the shop.  This is a classic “bread and butter” route that everyone needs to know, from here you can launch to Mercer Island, South end of Lake Washington or anything on the East Side.  We don’t want to see anyone riding up through the Arboretum (down or North is OK if you are going fast) because there is no shoulder.  Learn the right way to navigate through the North end to South Lake Washington by bicycle.

Our 11th anniversary sale also continues with everything in both stores on sale 20-60% through this weekend. 

Ride with Cycle U


Other upcomming free events in May:

How to Fix a Flat and Lube your Chain, basic maintenance. 
-Saturday May 2nd 11-11:30am West Seattle shop. 

Try Road Racing!  Clinic at Pacific Raceways.  info at Budu Racing the race promoter website
-Tuesday May 5th 5:55pm AT Pacific Raceways 

How to Commute by Bicycle or use it as basic transportation.
-Wednesday May 6th 6:30-7:15pm West Seattle shop.

Get Ready to Ride! safety, mechanical and fitting check on your bicycle
-Saturday May 9th 11-11:30am West Seattle AND Sand Point shops, same times at each.

Winning Cyclocross, the secrets to a winning season by Head Coach Craig Undem
-Tuesday May 12th 7:30-8:30pm Sand Point shop.   Link to sign up, limited seating

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Push the pedals down…ALL the way down

The thing that most new cyclists don’t know, is that they won’t die.  They can push harder than they can imagine, and when I started racing I remember it was my biggest hurtle, learning how to suffer more, because that is where all the big gains are.  The more I pushed myself, the more I was able to push myself, the stronger I got, the more I enjoyed riding.  It helps if you get a little angry or remember when someone was mean to you, fuel for the effort.  Your not going to fall off the bike even if you are near exhaustion, your already sitting down! 

 The focus and willingness to work hard…

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Power Testing – How to Prepare for the 20-minute FTP Test


With a new ICE session comes the return of power testing.  If you have never power tested before, this quick guide will give you an idea of what to expect.  Even if you are a returning rider, a refresher on mental preparation always helps.  We will be testing during all classes on Saturday 2/1, Sunday 2/2, Wednesday 2/5, and Thursday 2/6.

Our classes are successful partly because we use only the most advanced hardware and software available, but when it comes to power training, workouts are only as accurate as each rider’s baseline intensity.  Cycle U uses a fairly simple testing protocol for ICE — the twenty minute max power test. What that means is that you warm up, go as hard as you can for twenty minutes, and cool down. Simple! The power that you can produce for the duration is a good indicator of aerobic fitness, which is tightly linked to cycling performance.  We use 95% of your testing wattage as your FTP, on which all subsequent workouts are based.

If you have not tested before, here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your power test:

– Eat a good meal about three hours before the test. If you haven’t eaten recently, haven’t eaten well, or are still digesting, your body will have a hard time performing at its potential. If you are testing first thing in the morning, skip the meal, just do liquid electrolyte drink or water during if needed.

– Pace yourself. When a ride is “on the record” the way power tests are, you get an adrenal response at the start. This makes it easy to go out at an unsustainable pace, which you will pay for later. Keep yourself riding at a hard but sustainable pace for the first two minutes, and then start lifting the intensity. Two minutes is enough time for the adrenaline to diffuse, so the sensations you get from your legs will be more reliable.

– Get motivated for the test. When we say that it is a maximal effort, we mean it! While blowing up fifteen minutes into the test hurts, you will be kicking yourself if you finish the test with some juice left in the tank. The test will be hard, so take a few minutes in the days before the test to recall hard exertions you have done before–races, long climbs, hard group rides, anything that left you feeling completely spent at the end. That is the feeling you are hoping to achieve by the end of the test. Mental preparation will help you get the most out of yourself on testing day.

– Get a good warm up. We have an extended, power test-specific warm up that takes 20-25 minutes. Avoid the temptation to go easy on the warm up to “save it” for the test–this usually results in not being warmed up enough, using too much anaerobic energy in the opening minutes of the test, and not being able to recover. The suggested warm up consists of a fifteen minute build from easy spinning (Z1) to tempo (Z3); three minutes rest; 3×1:00 at the intensity you intend to target for the test with 3:00 rest between efforts; and 2×0:10 high cadence, low resistance sprints to bring the heart rate up. After a few minutes to recover, we begin the test!

– Don’t be intimidated. Really, all it is is you and your bike. No one else is judging you by the numbers you produce. They are simply a measure of your aerobic fitness, and there is no such thing as “failing” the test, so don’t write yourself off. Just come in prepared, give it a full gas effort, and see where you’re at.

Hopefully this gives you an idea of what to expect. Good luck to everyone testing!


Indoor TT Series 2013

Indoor TT Series press release, January 5, 2013

Our Sand Point training studio currently features 16 CompuTrainer units, and is host to 21 training sessions per week, counting our ICE program and sessions for sponsored teams and groups.  But as a premier Northwest training facility, we are always looking for MORE.  This is why we are happy to announce a 12-race indoor time trial series in partnership with the Peak Centre for Human Performance in Vancouver, BC.


Here’s the deal:  Cycle U will hold one indoor TT per week starting in mid-January, continuing for 12 weeks through the end of March.  The courses vary from week to week–flat, hilly, and everywhere in between.  What they share in common is that they take most riders between 35 and 45 minutes, depending on strength.  That means one killer threshold workout!  Why pay to ride indoors when you could just go and train on your own?  A few reasons.

First, indoor racing creates conditions that are tough to replicate until race season rolls around:  continuous effort uninterrupted by weather, stop signs, traffic, etc.  This type of effort is challenging when your legs are used to taking 10 seconds rest here and there during a steady tempo ride.  Prepare yourself for longer rides and races with longer efforts!

Second, the atmosphere in a training studio packed with other racers is motivating.  Riding rollers in your garage can sometimes be less than inspiring; racing alongside other riders will get the adrenaline going and help you push yourself.  Plus, your results are measured against the more than 200 racers at more than twenty training studios in Canada and the US who participate in the program, so racing is fulfilling your patriotic duty to represent your country.  USA #1!

Third, prizes.  Your $10 race fee will help Cycle U provide an uncommonly high prize purse for this type of event. Cash, Joule 2.0 Computers, coaching consultations, bike fits–these, and more, are all on the list, and up for grabs.

IJM CompuTrainers

Farestart riders feeling the pain! Photo credit Gabe Templeton

Interested? Full details, including dates, times, and a more detailed prize purse will be out within the week, and the first race will be held some time between January 9th and 15th.  If you want some input, then head over to our Facebook poll to help us decide which day/time to hold the races, then get ready to giv’er!

Happy Riding,

Colin Gibson