Training Tips

Riding and Weather

As we come to the end of the British summer I am sure you won’t need reminding that one of the things we always have to factor into our cycling is the weather.  Something that is out of our control but something that can quite clearly impact on our performance and overall enjoyment on the bike.  Coming from the UK the focus on the weather is usually around the wet/cold conditions that we all have to deal with.  However Viva Velo is a travel company and the direction of travel is usually towards the sun when the issue of heat can become an issue too.  Though we do experience a certain number of days in the year at home when the heat becomes a factor, this is most likely to be a bigger factor when traveling to warmer climates.  But, of course, along with the scenery and roads ridden, it is this warmer weather that is one of the biggest reasons for going elsewhere to ride.

Having competed all over the world in America, the Emirates, the Caribbean and Asia as well as Europe, I personally love the heat.  From the heat and humidity of North Carolina to the dry desert heat of Abu Dhabi I can honestly say the hotter the better for me.  Clearly the heat is not to everyone’s liking however, but there are ways to cope with it.

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Planning is a big factor and being prepared in advance for the temperatures you’re going to experience is half the battle.  Clothing choices will play a big role in ensuring you do not overheat.  There is a wide range of kit out there these days that is lighter and more breathable for the warmer temperatures.  Of course, unnecessary layers can be discarded when it comes to riding in the heat and when climbing, unzipping jerseys will allow more air flow and a cooling effect on the core body temperature so ensure you buy fully zipped jerseys not half or three quarter. Sunglasses are clearly an essential and vented lenses may be advisable to again allow greater air flow.  Likewise when climbing removing glasses completely may be preferred to prevent overheating – or sweat dripping onto the lenses!

Usually the destinations we travel to for riding offer natural cooling aids.  Whether this is along the coast or by the rivers, lakes and fresh waterfalls and pools found in the mountains.  Taking a moment or two to cool the body off can help greatly and soaking clothing before setting off again can help extend the cooling effect.  Of course, staying hydrated will play a big part on these hot days, before, during and after your ride.  Stopping along the way to re-hydrate and fill bidons should be factored into a ride.  Replenishing fluids and likewise electrolytes will ensure maximum performance and enjoyment in the sun.  Likewise remember to use sun cream and, of course, if it’s a long day out don’t forget to reapply during the ride particularly to the back of the neck (unless you have long hair) and tops of your legs.

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At the other end of the spectrum we have cold and/or wet weather and the obvious complications these have on our riding.  Coming from the UK this weather is to be expected, especially during the winter months.  But also don’t forget the weather can catch us out whenever and wherever we are.  Once again clothing choices are critical here and once again there are a lot of choices.  Layers will help and most importantly the right layers for the weather you are dealing with.  If you have the luxury of a support vehicle – which on most point-point tours with Viva Velo is the case – on such days you will have the possibility to change into fresh clothes along the way.  But this is not always the case so taking any extra items with you such as gloves, etc, will make a big difference when changing during the ride. Regardless of all of the above,  simply knowing the weather you’re riding in and dressing appropriately will make a big difference from the start.  Don’t forget that although the weather may be warm, consider where you’re riding that day.  Mountains can sometimes catch us out, with the weather conditions being very different at the top compared to the bottom, or likewise between mountains.  Also don’t forget that as hot as you may get climbing the mountain, it can certainly be the opposite on the way down so layering up with a gilet or jacket (or even just arm warmers) and any other items of clothing should certainly be planned for.  A small space blanket which will easily fit in a jersey pocket can also be used to keep the cold wind out on long descents.

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The body will use a lot of energy to try and stay warm in cold conditions so be sure to keep on top of energy levels.  Hydration is again important and though sometimes in these conditions you may not feel like drinking, keeping on top of it is clearly important.  Warm tea in a bidon is a good idea on those particular cold days to help cope with the temperatures and hopefully keep you drinking a little more.  Finally, if the weather is so bad then once again don’t disregard the alternative of jumping on the home trainer and training inside, its something I make use of a lot. . . or maybe book a trip to warmer climes with Viva Velo for you early season riding!  For 2018 they will be offering a Tenerife camp in late January and early February as well as their usual Mallorca camps in March and April.  Prices and early bird discount offers will be announced soon – so watch this space.

Before that hopefully you’ll enjoy the last of the British summer!  Until next time!

Dan

Climbing

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Whether training, racing, commuting, riding a sportive or going on a cycling holiday, much of what we do in cycling involves a hill or two. From the shorter, sharper (and sometimes cobbled) hills that you will find in Belgium to the long mountain passes and everything in between, in one form or another climbing is a big part of cycling. I am fortunate enough to have ridden some of the most famous climbs in the world from the Koppenberg in Belgium, the Tourmalet in France and the Stelvio in Italy to Mount Lemmon in the USA – to name but a few – and with the opportunities available to you now with Viva Velo, it’s something that you can also do.

Whether you relish the hills or detest them there are always ways to improve this area of your cycling, which is the aim of this months blog piece. Gearing is unquestionably important, right from having appropriate gearing on your bike to start with, to the gear you start the climb on and the gearing you use on the climb. Finding the optimum cadence for you is important, as is an optimum intensity. Though going “full gas” to get over the shorter sharper climbs may be appropriate, going into “the red” too early on the longer mountain passes may indeed make the rest of the climb slightly less pleasurable. Therefore also knowing a little about the climb in terms of length and gradient and gaging your effort and gearing accordingly is important. There is always debate whether in the saddle or out the saddle is best, but in my opinion it’s a personal thing. Look at some of the worlds best climbers and you’ll see a mixture of styles, yet all effectively propelling the rider up the climb, find what works best for you!

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Something that also becomes a factor to some when climbing is the heat, especially on the longer climbs. This of course can be intensified depending on time of year and exactly where in the world you are climbing. The effort of climbing coupled by the naturally slower speeds and therefore less of a cooling effect from the air can see people heating up on the climbs pretty quickly. Staying hydrated is important, of course, as is using water as a cooling effect on the body. Unzipping your jersey provides a useful way to reduce your core temperature and help you feel a little cooler, as can removing sunglasses on the way up.

The good thing with climbing as all aspects of our cycling, is it is highly trainable. Like anything, practice makes perfect (or almost) and though it sounds obvious if you want to improve your climbing ability, then spending time on the hills will help.  I know from my experience if I do this my climbing ability improves greatly. Of course if we go and spend 2 weeks in the mountains you will see a marked difference, but just riding any hill(s) more and more whether out training or competing or commuting will always help i.e. don’t avoid them! Like anything the more we do it the better we get and this certainly applies to climbing where factors like muscle memory come into play. The fitter and stronger we are will always help, so spend time climbing and it will naturally become more pleasurable through a training cycle or as we accumulate more and more hours on the bike. Likewise a core stability program will ensure a stable base, generating power and using this power in the most efficient way on the climb.

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As someone that comes from Essex improvising when it comes to the home trainer can also see you improve your climbing. Rise the front end of your bike up, for example by putting some books/bricks/wooden blocks under the front wheel to simulate climbing. Position and the way power is put out can change when climbing so spend more time in this position putting out the power in this way and again muscle memory will see your climbing improve. As it goes for any aspect of cycling, looking at your bike position and fitting it appropriately can help greatly. Yet again it’s often a personal thing but even little tweaks to your position can certainly make a difference when it comes to your climbing performance.

Finally when it comes to climbing a lot of people will naturally become focused on the weight of the bike and its parts. Basic laws of physics dictate that this obviously effects how fast you go up hill, so there are always equipment choices to be made. However at the same time the fitter we become then weight savings can also be made through us as individuals, rather than having to own the very lightest bike out there. As with everything it’s finding a little bit of balance, but ultimately the fitter you are and the more time you spend on the hills trying to improve your climbing, then the more your climbing performance will improve.

Viva Velo run hill-climbing sessions with their charity partners Beating Bowel Cancer in the build up to the Ride London event.  They also run regular monthly Club Viva Velo rides.  Why not join them and learn from experienced ride leaders how to improve your climbing – as well as group riding skills?  Check the Club page on the Viva Velo website for details.

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Any questions whatsoever, please feel free to get in contact. Until next time, happy climbing! – Dan