Friday, October 07, 2011

Training - Spin Ups

I realized the other day that my season, as I defined it in the WKO+ training program (where I log my power files), ends at the end of September. That means that October 1 is the beginning of my 2012 season.

Of course by the time I realized this little tidbit October 1 had already passed me by. Nonetheless I decided that I should start thinking about the 2012 season.

First off, I contacted the town of Bethel. I've been speaking to the same lady there for something like 18 years, and she remembers me when I call each fall. I asked for permission to use the course for six weeks in 2012, the idea being that the Bethel Spring Series will happen on those days. I sent her a letter, noting the dates, the arrangements, everything that the town asked for a long time ago. It wasn't much but without the town's permission there is no race.

Of course there's a lot of work going forward but that's the first step.

Second, I decided I had to ride more. I wanted to do a few things this winter, stuff I mentioned before. I also wanted to get some more track bike fluency, since I'm pretty much a novice on the thing. I want to ride the track bike on the rollers, to learn form, and on the trainer, to gain strength.

I even want to have a welder friend modify my trainer so that I can rock on it, tilt the bike left/right. I thought of this a couple years ago but didn't have a welder who could do the work (although someone offered me use of their welder). Now I know someone who may be able to run a plasma cutter down a few lines, then a torch to weld them into new things.

That's all in the unplanned future though.

Since my track bike was in pieces, I figured I could ride my spin bike tonight.

And this is where my training started for 2012.

Whenever I get the itch to ride the spin bike during the season, I force myself to back off. See, every time I ride the thing, I like to do spin ups (pedal as fast as possible, ideally for 15 seconds, usually for more like 6-8 seconds). There isn't much else to do on a bike where the saddle height isn't quite right, the cranks are really wide, and the bars are U shaped bend 7/8" chrome steel. So all I do are spin ups.

Sounds easy, right?

Well, yes, they're kind of easy to do.

It's the four days afterwards that feel painful. My inner thighs, my hamstrings, my thighs, my calves even, they all feel like someone smashed them gently with a sledgehammer. I struggle to walk. I walk stiff-legged down stairs. And on a bike I struggle with the most minor efforts, my legs screaming in protest when I try to make them pedal.

Knowing this it's only natural that when I get that urge to rip out a few 240 rpm spin ups in the middle of the season, I resist. The problem is that if I get so sore from doing 20 or 30 seconds of effort, it means that those muscles aren't conditioned, they aren't trained.

It means there's untapped potential in my legs.

This potential is really untapped - the muscles are barely developed, they're weak, they can't contribute a lot, and they get absolutely demolished in 30 seconds.

That's pretty serious.

If I have this untapped potential in my legs, and I'm suffering like a dog in the races, then I should try and tap this potential.

Since my first race won't be for months, I have plenty of time to recover from some spin ups. Therefore I kitted up, slipped on my track Sidis (they're my old shoes with my old cleats on them - my track bike, and my spin bike, wear my old SPD-R pedals), and hopped on the spin bike.

Oh, I forgot. First, on the spin bike, I mounted a Bontrager cyclocomputer I bought through Manchester Cycle, sponsor of Expo Wheelmen. It displays cadence, the only metric of value on the spin bike. Well that and time, but the cadence is key. Since I'm just turning over a flywheel the speed doesn't matter, just cadence.

I warmed up, the spin bike making the reassuring noisy drivetrain noises, a very unsophisticated 1/8" chain (BMX) pulled by an unsophisticated steel plate chainring and tugging on an equally unsophisticated 20 pound or so flywheel.

After warming up a bit I gripped the bottom bar (no dropped bars - that's on the "welder to do" list), gritted my teeth, and wound up the gear.

When I hit about 230 rpm I realized that I hadn't done this in a while and please don't let my legs get uncoordinated and lock up and throw me off the bike across the room.

With the flywheel buzzing I fought to bring down the rpms. Once I dropped below about 180 rpm I mentally relaxed, knowing that I wouldn't rip apart my knees on the bike, nor go head first into the TV screen in front of me.

I thought about track riding, the powerful acceleration needed to start the single speed bike, the jumps in the match sprint from low speeds, all these things that ought to play in my favor. You'd think, right, me, with the jump. Well, when I watch track vids, I realize that in the world of track sprinting, I'm not one of the good ones, and in fact I'd be hard pressed to stay with pretty much anyone I see sprinting on tape.

I decided that once I got drop bars on the spin bike that I'd work on doing high friction, high inertia accelerations, mimicking the effort needed to get going from a dead stop. I suppose I could do them on the track bike on the trainer, but the initial jolt, that initial punch you need to get the bike going, that would just slip the tire on the trainer, and the itty bitty aluminum flywheel is nothing compared to the massive flywheel on the spin bike.


Maybe I need to add 10 or 20 pounds of weight to the track wheel. Maybe another welder-to-do thing.

While I thought about all this stuff I sat on the spin bike, spinning. I watched the cyclocomputer's cadence numbers slowly dwindle down. It started at 110 rpm, comfy, spinning, no biggie. Then I noticed some 98 rpm stuff. Then, after watching bits of the 2006 Tour, I was in the 80 rpm range.

Time to crank it up, time to punch it.

Bam. I nail it, accelerating as hard as I can. I learn new muscles, react instantly to new inputs, my body twisting and turning and adapting as my legs blew through 150 rpm, 200 rpm, and up into the 230 rpm range, each range a different harmonic for my body, a different style of pedaling.

232 rpm, like last time.

I overspun this time, the resistance a bit too low, and frantically cranked the knob down to help slow down the flywheel, all while my legs whirred furiously at over 200 rpms.

Note to self: too much resistance is better than too little.

After some cooling down I climbed off the bike. My two sprints had bathed me in sweat; the easy spinning between was good, but I could feel my muscles protesting already.

I grabbed my pjs off the floor. I usually sat in front of the computer while I cool down, then shower, then climb into bed.

Bella came over, her tail bent at the tip, her "tell" that she was excited. Her tail trembled a bit, revealing her joy, and she started purring loudly.

I checked BikeForums. My email. Bike news, for the bazillionth time. Thought about doing a post. Belle rubbed up against my calves the whole time, arching up on her hind legs so she could rub her head against my legs.

It's hard typing and such when you're petting a cat.

Finally Bella curled up in a big cat bed sitting on the floor next to me, content, purring.

Tiger showed up, put his front paws on my legs, then jumped up in my lap.

I pushed the chair back to give him room. He curled up on my lap, purring. When I started scritching his neck, his tongue came out, an automatic reaction of his. Then, after a bit, he slowly dropped down to the floor and sauntered away.

I thought about the cyclocomputer and the spin bike. The computer has no max cadence but it has max speed. Regardless of the "speed" of the bike, I could hook up the speed to the cranks. I could get a relative reading for a given rpm, i.e. 100 rpm is 20 mph. Then I could check max speed after each spin up, which in turn would give me max rpm.

Then I wouldn't have to spin up while staring at the cyclocomputer.


I'll have to fix that up next time, figure out a wheel circumference that works. I can't pick up off the flywheel because the cable doesn't reach that way, so I'll have to pick up off the cranks.

Cooled off, and with this cyclocomputer puzzle figured out, I got up. Bella stayed put in her cat bed, although she'd be upstairs in a few minutes. Tiger bounded ahead of me, running to his stick (with a string on it), wanting to play. The other cats romped around, each wanting something. Water from a faucet, a scritch, a treat, attention.

It was dark and quiet. I drank water because I never drink enough. I showered briefly, rinsing the spin bike efforts away. Fresh, clean, pleasantly fatigued, I walked slowly to the next upstairs, to the bedrooms. I climbed into bed, the Missus long asleep.

I lay down, my legs already protesting, my eyes heavy with fatigue. Thoughts swirled through my head.

I have a lot of work to do for this next year.


Loren said...

230 leg RPM? I feel out of control at 120 to 130. I have a long way to go.

Aki said...

I read some stuff on Indy cars (before they were two leagues I think). A driver was talking about how the car would get real shaky at 150 mph or something, then smooth out once he hit 180 mph.

High cadence stuff is like that. I bounce around at 130-150 or so, but when I get closer to 200 everything seems to calm down a bit. I think a big part of it is that it's impossible to bounce 400+ times a minute (200 rpm means two downstrokes per revolution).

On a trainer it's hard to break 200 by much, 205-210 is about what I can hit (low resistance, low gear - I keep the chain straight so any bounciness won't eat spokes, so 39x17 or 19). Rollers I struggle over 160 rpm.

Also try low gear 120 rpm rides. Leave computer on avg cadence (if you have it) and try and keep it at 120. You'll rarely get out of your lowest gears but 110 rpm will feel sooo slow after that.

Break on through to the other side :)