At least that is what the American cycling legend Greg Lemond said. I have spent most of the Winter power training on a Wattbike at Velofix in Rozelle. It has been… systematic torture. But in 3 1/2 months, I have noticed a massive jump in strength and power. Funnily enough, I have not lost any weight. But I have shifted my body around a bit. My quads have bulked up, my waist is smaller, I don’t feel like I am carrying as much fat – but I haven’t lost weight.

But the test of your mettle is always the dreaded power test.

Dreaded, because the 3 minute aerobic power test is probably the worst 3 minutes that I have ever spent on a saddle turning over pedals. It is 3 minutes, flat out, holding on right until the end.

This morning was only the second time I had done it, and it was no better than the first time. To be honest, it sucked! My heart rate went through the roof, my legs were burning, my inner voice was saying “WTF – give up!”. To top all of that off, I had been pushing away a bug that my wife and two kids had as did four of my colleagues in the office – waking up every day this week so far has been draining. The power test sucked!

But you don’t get stronger or faster by watching reruns of Jens Voigt breaking the hour record in a velodrome (though that was what was on the TVs in the gym the morning after he did break the record, while we were crunching out our intervals). So with this morning’s effort, the desired result was achieved. My 100% power rating jumped 17W this morning, and since I started it has gone up 89W (or 32% – I will let you guys do the math to work out what I am pushing). This last weekend just gone, I rode 75 clicks on the road with my riding buddy, and fellow Wattbike torture victim, AC. We rode strong. The following day, I backed it up with a 45 click ride, and while I felt sore I rode strong.

Another riding buddy JB asked me a very valid question, “What are you working towards?” I had asked and answered that question to myself a couple of months ago. I am now in my fourth decade, and I want to see how hard I can go before the inevitable decline. When I am much older, I want to be able to say to myself and my kids, “I could push it like that, and this is what I have been able to achieve. No regrets.”

I think that there are a few more power tests to come, they will still suck.

Velofix_Wattbikes

Spring has truly come on in earnest in Sydney, and it is wonderful to see in all its glory. I think that quite often this is the best time of the year. Warm weather, but not too humid. Days are not too short, but the sun is not rising at stupid times in the morning. And the Gardens are in bloom.

The Sydney Botanic Gardens are very accessible from the Sydney CBD, and it is about now that people flock to the grounds to enjoy lunch on the grass or go for a run. Unlike European gardens, you can walk on the grass and sit down to enjoy nature. So with camera phone in hand, I took a short visit at lunchtime to the gardens and snapped the flora in bloom. These didn’t turn out too bad being taken with a camera phone, but I suppose the light was at its brightest. As usual, the images link through to the larger photos on my Flickr account.

Enjoy!

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Nothing to say, just the photo.

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Our boy, AKA ‘The Pok’, has started to say some really funny things with the reasoning of a 4-year-old behind his musings. Some of it is hilarious, or just bizarre.

The Pok has become quite adept at many mechanical and battery powered devices. His journey of discovery is amazing, and always eventful.

One morning, as we were kidding ourselves that we would get a lie in, The Pok did his usual entry burst into our bedroom with whatever bizarre things were going through his head. He started by playing with his toys at the foot of our bed and somehow ended up in our bathroom. We thought that he might have been going about his “business”, until…

CLUNK, CLUNK!

That got us up.

CLANG, CLUNK!

Now we were very curious…

BANG, CLANG!

That time it required a response. My wife asked him, “[Pok], what are you doing in there that is making so much noise?”
She walked over into the bathroom to see him lifting up the bathroom scales on its edge, about to release (drop) them back on the stone tiles.

“Mummy, the thing that measures feet isn’t working.”

Sure enough, the batteries had gone dead, no matter how many times he tried to tare out the scales.

Needless to say we sourced some batteries so that feet measurement could resume.

Pok_scales

Nothing to say, just the photo.

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So my Brother was up from Melbourne for the weekend for a mate’s birthday party, and with that was some good news – we were going for a ride!

My bro has not been in too good a shape with a nasty hip injury that has kept him out of the saddle for quite a while now. But he is edging close to fitness, but he has a lot of work to do to get his base back. For me, it was good to see him keen for a ride.

But the best news was when he said that he was dragging out one of his mates along as a newbie rider. The newbie was looking to cycling as an opportunity to get fit in a sport that doesn’t put stress on his knees. He and I both share a common injury history in that we have both had ACL knee reconstructions.

Now newbie was lucky in that he was starting with a pretty good setup. My brother’s wife tried riding and… didn’t take to it (she now keeps fit with other things such as pilates). So her bike went to the newbie, lucky guy. I have posted before about my own adventures on this bike, when I was working down in Melbourne. Here is the steed, a pretty much brand new Giant Defy:

Riding Melbourne - #2

So for a newbie, a pretty good starting point. For sure it is not a carbon beast with a top end gruppo, but having ridden this one myself I like how solid it is. The plan was to drive out to his place and kick off from there.

The Induction Begins

I never realised how much a newbie has to pick up when starting from scratch, particular when he is going to jump on a road bike. My fellow blogger Jim over at Fit Recovery has written a lot about his own personal journey of going from a newbie to a speed demon. But I forgot my own personal experiences of learning to ride a road steed.

Our mate fortunately had acquired some padded bike pants, but not realising the effect of wind at speed he only had a short sleeve shirt general fitness shirt. The weather was grim, and we were lucky that it was holding off for our ride. I thought this might have been the case for him, so I had my first wind proof long sleeve jacket on hand (which is now too loose on me). Clothing sorted. My bro had brought up my sis-in-law’s helmet, so that was the lid sorted. I was thinking of posting a picture of him but this was his journey as a newbie, not mine.

Then we had to fit him to the bike. The last person that rode it was me, and it was one size too small. The seat post was quite high for our mate, and we spent a good 20 minutes lowering it gradually until he had good position of his legs and feet over the pedals (at the bottom of the stroke, leg slightly cocked, knee vertical to his toes). Once adjusted properly, I told him to go for a quick spin down the road.

He grab the cross bars, then the drops, but not the hoods – new to the game. But for a newbie he had two things; i) balance, particularly with his head and upper body, and ii) poise in the saddle when he pedalled – i.e. his back and butt were shaking around all over the place when he turned the pedals. Fortunately for him the bike fit perfectly.

Now when I say newbie, he is not new to sports. He has played football ever since he was a kid. So our mate had a base level of sporting prowess which would put him in good stead for the ride.

30 Clicks for a New Guy

My bro and I didn’t really have a plan, other than to see how far he would last on his first ride. Our mate lives close to one of the best cycling routes in Sydney, the M7 Motorway cycle path. Along its full journey, it is 80km of uninterrupted riding with over 650m of climbing and plenty of deviation to keep you on your toes. It is a great bit of tarmac and I wish there was more of it in Sydney.

From where we started, the first 7-8km of the route are flat. This was good for us all to get our legs. Our mate was holding his own, feeling out the gears, and like I said before he held his line because of his balance.

We both took turns to ride alongside of him and give him a few pointers, but not school him. And we told him the golden rule, we stay together on the flat and hold our own place on the climbs – always regrouping.

On the flat, the newbie was tapping out 20-25km/hr. Pretty impressive really!

I warned him of the climbs ahead, and my bro dropped back to keep pace with him. I was given the go ahead to ride hard up the main climb of the day which is a long one peaking at 6.5%. I am not fond of the climb because of its constantly changing gradient, so I knew that this was going to be a challenge for our mate. But we all rode it and checked in on how he was going when we reached the summit. He was enjoying it, but respected the journey he had just begun. We decided to push on to the 15km mark to see if we could make it a 30km round trip.

Checking in with him again, the call was now his for when to turn around. He called it, but not before both him and my bro gave me a gift.

They told me I could ride on and put down another 10+km while they turn back. I was off the leash, and  hammered! All the power training at Velofix had been paying off, and I put in my fastest times along most of the segments as I rode to put down a very quick 45km in total.

The ride out from the Southern end of the M7 is mostly climbing, but that means Chesire Cat grin inducing descending on the return leg. We all regrouped and I was greeted with a big smile on the newbie’s face. He was hiding the fact that it was challenging on the main climbs, but was hooked when he was rewarded with some awesome downhill bombing.

We returned to his place to give his wife the lowdown on the ride and have a cuppa before returning home. Good times! And for the record, I beat my bro in the sprint.

The Verdict?

I think he is hooked, and with such an awesome route on his doorstep it will be easy for him to go for a spin and build a base. While it wasn’t the fastest of runs, it was an awesome ride with a mate who discovered the joy of two wheels.

Looking forward to the next ride with him :-)

 

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).

Thor Hushovd

[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.

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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.

Wattbike_Pro

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.

Position_to_get_Hammered

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.”

Nothing to say, just the photo (albeit noisy).

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Our boy, AKA ‘The Pok’, has started to say some really funny things with the reasoning of a 3-year-old behind his musings. Some of it is hilarious, or just bizarre.

The house of late has been rather busy, with a baby being awake in the wrong timezone (right now I think our daughter’s timezone is somewhere between GMT +3 or +4 – though she is not responsible for any social or political unrest in these parts of the world, for those who know their geography) getting ‘The Pok’ bathed and into bed has become a challenge.

So the other night, in between baby wailing,  nappies getting changed, and our threenager boy getting toweled down, we as parents got caught out.

The TV was on in the bedroom, when the magic “Adult Time” kicked. What we thought was ‘Masterchef’ (not my choice) continuing to play on the tube, turned out to be ‘Offspring’. I looked up in my horror to see the lead character (who, as informed by my female colleagues in my office, can be a bit of a floosie) getting excitedly undressed by her male de jour on top of the kitchen bench. [For the record, she was undressing him just as rapidly].

‘The Pok’ was standing bolt upright with his eyes GLUED to the tube.

I scrambled, asking my wife urgently “Where’s the remote?”

My wife, on the other side of the bed, responded with a wet wipe in one hand and a nappy in the other, “I don’t know, I have my hands full!” She had seen what was going on too by that stage.

The characters were just about butt naked with the male character on top of the female character who was fully on top of the kitchen bench by that stage.

‘The Pok’ was stunned into silence.

I finally found the remote in the middle of the bed under a pillow and a swaddling cloth. Off went the TV, finally.

I went calmly over to my boy to try to explain, “[Pok], we don’t like that show. We shouldn’t be watching that. Time to get ready to read a book and go to bed.”

His response…

“Good, because he was squashing her.”

My wife was in tears trying to hold back her laughter.

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P.S. Life and work has caught up with me of late, and my blog has been suffering as a result. But I am back :-)

Nothing to say, just the photo.

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