Lee is a road cyclist who has worked hard to improve his results this season. He talks to Sundried about tough races and overcoming setbacks.
Have you always been into sport?
What made you decide to enter the world of cycling?
I decided to take up road cycling after injuring my knees at work. It is a low impact sport but is a very high intense cardio and strength workout which keeps you fit, strong and healthy while reducing risk of further injury.
What’s been your favourite race to date and why?
Having just finished my first season racing in Crits, my favourite was the last one I did where I found myself leading most of the race.
And your proudest achievement?
Starting and finishing last early in the season to finishing with the lead pack at the end of the season and looking to build on this ready for next season.
Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?
Luckily enough I haven't had any disasters as yet (touching wood), but my toughest race was where I found myself just behind a huge crash which I had to avoid by going off track but managed to stay on the bike. I had to work hard to catch the pack but using everything I had I made it in under a lap.
How do you overcome setbacks?
I use setbacks as lessons learned, but get straight back to work and be the best I can be.
What is the best bit of advice you wish someone had told you before you started competing?
Make sure you have recovery days.
What are your goals for 2018
Maintain a good level of fitness before winter training starts early 2019.
Who do you take your inspiration from?
Nobody, we all have different stories which make us who we are and I want to do it my way.
What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit?
Are you a peanut or a sausage? Analysing your pedal stroke can be an invaluable tool for improving your cycling technique, and knowing whether you're a 'peanut' or a 'sausage' can help. Read on to learn how to pedal better using the Wattbike to improve your efficiency and power output in order to improve overall performance on the bike.
Analysing pedal stroke using Polar View
The Polar View is a technique analysis tool by Wattbike which makes the invisible, visible. It displays an easily understood real-time graph which shows exactly where you are losing force through your pedal stroke, how much power you’re producing from each leg, and the angle of your peak force.
The Polar View Shapes
There are 3 main stages of pedal technique viewable in the Polar View: the figure of eight, the peanut, and the sausage.
The Figure of Eight - Beginner
The beginner cyclist is a stomper. At points one and two they lose momentum as they transition from leg to leg. This cyclist is quad dominant, meaning they’re pushing solely with the front of their leg without pulling up with the hamstrings.
Tip: Being properly secured in the toe cages or using cleats will help keep your power throughout the pedal stroke.
The Peanut - Intermediate
This cyclist has had a bit of practice, they maintain some pedal momentum between each leg drive, however, there is still a noticeable loss of momentum at point 1 and 2.
Tip: To improve your stride transition, imagine scraping mud off the ball of your foot, which helps engage the hamstrings fully.
The Sausage - Elite
This cyclist knows their stuff and probably isn’t short of practise. The sausage or cloud shape depicts a consistent leg balance and momentum. This is the typical shape of a cyclist with a strong drive and balanced recovery and can be achieved with practise. By achieving this level of technique, you will be able to improve your power output and by extension your speed and overall performance on the bike.
Leg Force %
Beneath these graphs, your Wattbike will display the percentage split of your power production between each leg. Your aim should be to stay as close to 50-50 as possible, but a fluctuation between 48-52% is still within the ideal range.
How to improve your cycling technique
- Check your cycling position - an incorrect cycling position can affect both the downstroke and upstroke phases.
- Try to ensure you apply force evenly with each leg - the left/right leg balance should be as close to 50/50 as possible, it will fluctuate however the ideal range is between 48%-52%.
- Invest in a good pair of cycling shoes - without cycling shoes you will find it difficult to implement the full power and recovery phases effectively.
- Try not to stand up - standing up in the pedals can compromise your pedalling technique, making it very difficult to maintain power through the top and bottom of each pedal turn. Only stand up if required by a specific session within your training plan.
- Get the right resistance setting - a ‘figure of eight’ shape may indicate your resistance is too high forcing you to concentrate solely on the downstroke. Lower the resistance level and concentrate on ‘scraping mud off the sole of your foot’ at the bottom of the revolution.
- Ensure Polar View is displayed on the Wattbike Performance Monitor - this will constantly remind you to focus on effective pedalling.
- Analyse your data in the powerhub - if you have a Bluetooth enabled monitor and Bluetooth smartphone you can analyse your Polar View data in the powerhub. You will be able to analyse your Polar View graph, angle of peak force and left/right leg balance throughout your entire session.
- Try a specific cycling effectiveness workout - during these sessions you should concentrate on smoothing out your Polar View shape. To start with this will require a lot of concentration, so focus on it for short periods of time and then relax. It is easier to hold a good shape on the harder gears, so begin with the lightest gear available and then only when you have mastered that move up to the next gear ie.:
- 1 minute focus on shape / 2 minutes easy pedalling x 6-10
- 2 minutes focus on shape / 2 minutes easy pedalling x 5-8
- 3 minutes focus on shape / 2 minutes easy pedalling x 4-6
If you've followed any type of marathon or half marathon training plan, you will no doubt have seen that you should be doing 'cross training' throughout the week as well as running. But what exactly is it? Which type is best? And how is it beneficial for runners? We answer all these questions and more.
What is cross training?
When most people hear the phrase 'cross training', they immediately think of the cross trainer (or elliptical) at the gym, but this isn't quite the case. Cross training for runners is simply any other type of training that can supplement and benefit your running training. A triathlete naturally does cross training by swimming, cycling, and running all together as part of their training, but runners can get stuck in a rut of just running. It's hugely important to do cross-training, read on to find out why.
Read more: 10 Tips To Survive Your First Marathon
Cross training benefits
So why should runners be doing cross training? Research has found that runners who do cross training such as strength training at a gym are less likely to get running injuries, are more likely to have a higher VO2 max, and are able to perform better. Of course it's perfectly logical that having stronger muscles would mean you are stronger in your running and will be able to get more power out of your training session.
Depending on the training plan you are following, you may find that cross training replaces some rest days. An intermediate marathon or half marathon training plan will often have you training 6 days a week, with 5 of those for running, 2 or 3 for cross training, and one for rest.
Read more: Cross Training Workout For Runners
Is yoga cross training?
Yoga is certainly a type of cross training, although it may not hold all of the benefits of other sports such as swimming, cycling, and strength training. Yoga has many benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, increasing flexibility, and improving posture and balance. All of these are things that would be beneficial to runners, and therefore doing yoga once a week as part of your training should help you to improve your running performance.
Read more: Yoga For Runners
Is cycling good cross training for running?
Cycling is possibly one of the best types of cross-training for running as it targets the legs and core and therefore will strengthen the key muscle groups used when running. Not only this, as it is an aerobic exercise, you will be improving your fitness but it is a low impact activity so will give your joints a chance to rest.
A great way to train for the last part of a half marathon or marathon when you are running on empty and struggling to keep going is to do a brick workout. This is a type of workout employed by triathletes and duathletes whereby you go for a run straight after a bike ride. It gets your legs used to running when tired and is a great way for runners to practice keeping going when fatigued and running low on energy.
What is the best type of cross training?
Swimming is a great way to cross-train as it is zero impact and so will give your joints a chance to recover from pounding the pavements while working your muscles hard. Not only this, it works your muscles in a completely different way to activities like gym workouts and cycling and so will give you a great full-body workout. On top of this, the breath control needed for swimming could help to put you in good habits with your running.
This is usually the most popular choice for runners as it is proven to be hugely beneficial to performance, physiology, and fitness. Lifting weights and working on your main muscle groups like core, back, and legs will have a significant impact on your running and will also help to improve the way you look.
Skipping is an activity you may not have thought about for cross-training, but it can be hugely beneficial. Skipping works your calf muscles as well as testing the flexibility in your ankle joint, and this translates well to running as they can be areas that are neglected in other parts of training.
Cycling can get a little scary at times, especially on busy roads or technical race courses. If you find that your training and racing is being hindered by a lack of bike handling skills and nervousness on the roads, we're here to help.
Practice your bike handling skills
This is something that all cyclists should be doing in order to improve their training and racing. If you lack proper bike handling skills, you will find that technical courses are a nightmare and that unforeseen circumstances like bad weather could mean a premature end to your race.
Skills such as riding on loose gravel, on wet roads, down steep descents, and round sharp bends are things that come with practice. Start off slow and somewhere you know well and build yourself up; the more you practice, the more your confidence will grow. Other skills such as single-leg riding can be practised indoor on a Wattbike, turbo trainer, or even just a stationary gym bike.
Ride in a group
They say there's safety in numbers, and this can certainly be true when cycling. When cycling in a fairly large group, you'll find that hazards become less scary as you can watch those up ahead tackle them first and motorists should give you more space.
Of course, that's not to say that cycling in a group is always safer and that you're guaranteed not to have run-ins with cars. However, working together as a team to overcome tough conditions can really help with your confidence.
Other skills to practice when riding in a group include making contact with other cyclists and riding very close to others. Your instinctive reaction when touched by another cyclist will be to look around at the person you've touched, but it's important to stay looking ahead at where you're going. Practice making quick contact with a friend or fellow group rider and then move on to practising keeping your hand on their shoulder as you ride. Skills such as this can improve your confidence in mass start events and will mean you know what to expect.
Get comfortable in the saddle
Receiving a proper bike fit from an accredited bike store can make a huge difference to your cycling, and it doesn't have to be expensive. Unless you're looking to really maximise your power output and aero position for serious racing, a basic bike fit can be inexpensive or even free of charge.
If you're comfortable in the saddle and your position over the handlebars feels good, you will feel much safer on the bike. If you constantly feel like you're over-reaching for the handlebars and brakes or that your legs are overstretched and you can't reach the ground comfortably, you might feel more nervous on your bike. Once you feel secure and like the bike is an extension of yourself, you will be able to handle it much more confidently and co-operate better together. Make sure you're in control of the bike and not the other way round!
Do a sportive
If you're nervous to ride on busy roads or in places you don't know well, it's a good idea to ride an organised race or sportive. These will always be well sign-posted so that you can't go the wrong way and you will be forced to face any challenging conditions that you'd usually avoid on your own.
This will be a great way of getting out of your comfort zone by riding somewhere unknown and having to face challenges head-on.
A cycling helmet is often obligatory if you're going to be road biking and cycling in organised sportives and multi-sport races. It's important that you have a helmet that is perfect for you, so follow our guide to find out everything you need to know before buying a bicycle helmet.
Many thanks to Cycles UK for their collaboration on this guide.
Safety is always paramount, and this is the primary reason you will be wearing a helmet for cycling. Thankfully, all cycling helmets sold in the UK have to pass the same safety standards and so this is not something you need to worry about when buying a cycling helmet.
Aerodynamics have been one of the main areas of innovation in cycling in the last couple of years. Aero helmets used to be reserved for specialist track racing and time trials but they are now also a common sight at road races, triathlons, and club rides. Modern aero road helmets can save you as much as 40 seconds over a 40km ride compared to a standard cycling helmet, while a dedicated time trial helmet could save you almost double that. The major difference between the two is the amount of ventilation they have.
On a short sprint triathlon, a full aero time trial helmet could save you 30 to 40 seconds on the bike leg. The downside of this is that to achieve good aero performance, the helmets have very little ventilation and you need to keep your head relatively still. If you are on a closed road where you are not going to have to look up and around a lot, and it’s not a particularly hot day, this could be a good option.
Sundried pro triathlete ambassador Alice Hector wearing an aero helmet while competing at the Sundried Southend Triathlon
If you are doing a longer triathlon, or it’s going to be hot, you will probably be better of with an aero road helmet like the Specialized Evade. One of these helmets will save you 40 to 50 seconds on a standard triathlon bike leg but will still have enough ventilation to keep your head cool on all but the hottest and hilliest days.
Not everyone gets on with aero helmets and some people will want more ventilation on their training rides. You’ll also be looking at spending well over £100 to get a time trail or aero road helmet so it may not be an option for you if you are just starting out. In this case, go for a standard road helmet like a Kask Mojito or Specialized Echellon. These helmets still have some basic aero performance but will keep your head cool and your wallet relatively intact!
The hardest part about buying a helmet is the fit. Most manufacturers will give the size of the helmet in centimetres so you can roughly match them to your head. The helmet will then normally have adjustable systems inside so you can get the fit exactly right.
However, not all helmets are the same shape. Some manufacturers make their helmets long and thing oblong shapes, others make them rounder. Many cyclists find that certain brands' helmets simply don’t fit their head. If it’s your first time buying a cycling helmet, it’s well worth visiting a few bike shops and trying on as many different brands of helmet as you can until you find the one that works for your head shape.