Monday, March 19, 2007

How To - Increasing maximum RPMs

So it's snowing. Again.

I don't remember the last time we canceled a race, but Gene P was the co-promoter so it was after 2001. Probably 2002. Because it seemed do-able at 6 AM, we only canceled after we got to the course and we found the light rain at home was icy sleet at the Bethel course. Since the course appears to be in its own weather world, it makes sense. Anyway, we stood around for a couple hours as racers kept coming up to the course. What was interesting was all the overall GC contenders showed up (or called). I guess we could have used that info to mark racers for the upcoming weeks.

Yesterday's cancellation meant I had a free day. I used it to visit a new niece (fiance's brother's daughter so technically not my neice, it's her neice). And I visited with my family the night before (normally we're in bed by 8 or so, but Saturday we stayed up).

I didn't ride though.

I haven't ridden my bike since I leaned it on the van after a couple laps of the Ris Van Bethel P/1/2/3 race. I'm dying to do a ride so will probably do a short spin tonight and some slightly longer ride tomorrow morning (on the trainer).

I found that I am severely lacking snap. I don't know how to describe snap, I just know it when I have it. It is the massive power application which instantly propels me to my sprinting speed. Fifteen years ago (I just did the math - and it really was 15 years ago), I did a great series of criteriums in Michigan called the Tour of Michigan. It consisted of eight 25 mile crits in ten days. I think three were night crits. Held in September it was an excellent series of races, highly regarded, and one of the best racing experiences I have ever had.

Anyway, one of the courses had a 15 mph hairpin turn about 300 meters before the finish. I think it was the transmission town Muncie. I figured my lightest wheels would be ideal for this repeating sprint interval so fitted them on the bike. During the race I counted how many revolutions it took the racers around me to reach cruising speed (about 25-30 mph). Most took 6 or 8 and it was agonizing watching them. I took about 3 and could soft pedal while the guys around me struggled to get their gear turning over.

That is having snap.

I've rarely felt so fit in my life as I did then. I had been doing sprint workouts weekly for a couple hours at a time. I raced a midweek race and typically twice or three times on the weekends. And I was flying.

Now things are a bit different. I'm about 35 lbs heavier (I have to admit my bike is about 2 lighter). I can't race midweek. The big sprint workouts at SUNY Purchase are gone. And it takes me a year to do 15 races, not three weeks.

All this is very telling when it comes to my snap. Snap should be crisp and sharp. Razor edge. Honed.

Mine is dull and bloated.

There is a glimmer of hope though.

I have a secret training tool - an Schwinn DX-900, circa 1989. I bought it a few years ago off some woman who didn't like the seat and never rode it. It's the predecessor to today's spin bikes - a 40 lbs flywheel, a fixed gear, some felt-lined resistance pads, and, critically, a thing that tells you your cadence.

I put my own seat on it but haven't replaced the cranks (so I can put on clipless pedals) nor have I replaced the bar/stem (so I can put drops on it). But it works.

My workout is pretty simple. After a nice warm-up, you get yourself all psyched up. You put the computer to cadence. Give yourself a little countdown. And spin like mad. I don't count it if I have to bail (and pull my feet out of the pedals). I have to slow with my feet still on them.

The idea is to increase your maximum RPM. Set the resistance pretty low, just enough so the wheel stops on its own. You're not trying to get a resistance workout. You're trying to accelerate a 40 lbs wheel as fast as you can. Do repeats and try and spin faster.

My all time record is 286 rpms. My current (over the last winter) is something like 240 rpms. And my goal is to raise it to 250+, ideally to 275+.

When you can spin at 275 rpms, cruising at 110 rpms suddenly seems sedentary. And sprinting at 100 or 110 rpms seems like pedaling through molasses. And your legs can spin up instantly.

Here's to some snap!

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