Among cyclists, there is a commonly known and feared character who is not our friend. He is the “Man with the Hammer” [N.B. He has to be a man because no woman would be so unkind ;-)]. He is a real bugger! He is omnipresent on every road, route, and trail. And pretty much when you are at your limit – BAM! – he comes out to hit you with that damn hammer.
His name is not Thor (God of Thunder – that guy is a Norwegian pro-cyclist, not a comic book hero).
[SIDENOTE - notice how bad@ss Thor Hushovd looks riding in the snow, respect]
He is probably a bit more like Lord Voldemort (I know, no reference to Harry Potter should be in a cycling themed post), a name that should not be repeated. And this is his propaganda poster, cue link to Stalinist Communism.
He visited me on my 90km ride a few weeks back, and properly whacked me. I was smashed at the 60km mark, completely bonked (forgot to eat – SLAMMED with the hammer). The ride was fun, but I definitely marked it as a visit by this fiendish of cycling villains.
My winter training has brought about an important discovery…
I Now Know where The Man with the Hammer Lives
Since early this year my riding buddy AC started training at a specialist cycling gym at the Velofix bike store in Rozelle, Sydney. I have watched him steadily improve and leave me in his wake. His response to me has been every time, “You have got to get to Velofix!”. Velofix have a pretty good reputation in the local area of being a bicycle repair store with a solid reputation for good service, and they sell both Specialized steeds and their own brand of Titanium custom steeds by the marquee of ‘Rivet’ [SIDENOTE: many of the gym goers, including myself, routinely lust over the Rivets]. With all of that they have invested in 20 Wattbikes, and set up a specialist cycling gym – and it is definitely not a spin class.
The Wattbikes, as the name suggest are stationary indoor trainers which measure your power output while you ride. They are heavy, solid beasts, that were developed in conjunction with the British Cycling team. Apparently they can take up to 2000W of power output, and Sir Chris Hoy has come close to pumping that. They replicate the geometry of a road bike perfectly, though I am not keen on the forearm pads on the cross bar (personal preference). And you can clip in as well. The best thing about the trainers is that they measure your stroke efficiency through a live updated “polar view” of your pedal stroke, highlighting your dead spots. One of the things I am beginning to understand is that only 50% of the power in the stroke comes from your quads, with your hammies and glutes are the missing piece to the puzzle – i.e. you never stop applying the power.
So for the last two months I have been winter training with AC at Velofix. It has been a very humbling experience. Each session is an interval session (not spin) measured at my power rating. Everybody trains to their own power rating. At first I started out at 275W – 100%, very humbling when you listen to what the pros churn out (cue The Panzerwagen – Tony Martin sitting at 450-500W for the last hour of a 5 hour stage in the Tour de France). My stroke was incredibly inefficient, where the “polar view” basically said that I was mashing with my quads. After six weeks into it my power rating was revised to 347W. I was well chuffed with the jump for about half a day, when I realised that the interval training was going to get a whole lot tougher. I am now struggling to get my body around a session at these numbers. My stroke is only now reasonably inefficient. I am getting stronger, and when I make the next jump in power it will hurt again.
Here is the catch, it is guaranteed that at EVERY session the Man with the Hammer comes out and smacks me.
It then dawned on me, “He must live at Velofix!” Or any other place where a Wattbikes live.
On a daily basis, like lambs to the slaughter, us Wattbike interval trainers make it easy for him to come out and smack us. We go to him, and he doesn’t have to leave the creature comforts of his house to have a swing.
And I am addicted to it!
I have been feeling the Winter a lot this year, and with picking up a couple of bugs I have not been keen to ride in the cool air. Instead I have replaced mid-week training sessions with a hammering 2-3 times a week. And I have noticed that I am building a very solid power base. Most semi-serious cyclists have now got their heads around the fact the interval training works, but interval training with power is a real revelation for me. Interval training with stroke efficiency was almost unheard of for amateurs not too long ago. I hope is that when Spring and Summer kick in, all the hard work will pay off and maybe keep the Hammer Man at bay.
But of course, as the great Greg LeMond once said “It doesn’t get any easier, you just go faster.”