Cycling Center Dallas Blog
Cycling Center Dallas Blog
Here we talk about all things cycling - training, wattage, group rides, bike rallies, triathlons, weather, coaching, coaches, nutrition, ponderings, musings, and equipment! If you have a topic or a question, send us a note and we'll try to answer for you!
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Coach Wharton

Information Overload? TMI? Are You Kidding?

Watts, Cadence, Heart Rate, Muscle Oxygen, Iron Count, Anaerobic Work Capacity, KiloJoules. ALL of it matters!

I've been accused of a lot of things, but when it comes to the collection, assessment, and conversion of data in to knowledge and coaching for cyclists, DON'T YOU DARE ACCUSE ME OF INFORMATION OVERLOAD!!! IT IS MY JOB, IT IS MY PASSION, IT IS MY EQUIPMENT, AND YOU GET THE BENEFIT OF USING AND LEARNING FROM IT IN YOUR EFFORTS TO BECOME A BETTER, STRONGER, MORE COMPETENT AND CONFIDENT CYCLIST. You don't have to be a PRO to get PROFESSIONAL TREATMENT and ATTENTION. I think a lot of the comments are masked envy, but everyone is welcome at my studios. You have to bring a beginner's mind (I certainly do, I'm not that smug), but for $25-30 per session, and 60-90 minutes per session, NO ONE can give you a better workout with more specific acute goals designed to help you accomplish a long-term goal. It boggles my mind that more people don't take advantage of it - YOU DO NOT NEED TO KNOW ANY OF THIS, OTHER THAN THE FACT THAT IT WILL HELP YOU BE A BETTER CYCLIST OR TRIATHLETE!!!!!!! AS THE ATHLETE, YOUR JOB IS TO PERCEIVE, THE COACH'S JOB IS TO ANALYZE AND PROVIDE POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT, AND ADJUST THE EFFORT TO PROVIDE A PROPER TRAINING DOSE. 

The result is looking back at where you have been, what you've accomplished, acutely and long-term, and realizing that anythings is possible. 

You doubt me? You hate me? You doubt yourself? I care. I give my life to caring about others. So comment, challenge, sound off, but unless you ENGAGE, you are NOT GROWING.

Coach Wharton

A LOOONG ESSAY About Pedal Stroke, SpinScan, and Rotor Q and QXL Rings...

QXL Crank Position 3 170mm Rotor Crank

Those of you who know me, know that at heart, I'm a Geek. A total, unapologetic, Cycling Geek. I remember when I ran my last Cross-Country race as a runner, way back in 1992. After it was over, I remember thinking "This far, and no faster. I will never be any stronger than this as a runner." And that next week, I emptied out my locker at Davidson College, completed my transfer to Montana State, and dedicated myself to becoming the best Cycling and Mountain Biking Coach I could possibly be. 

The difference between cycling and running, for me, is that there will ALWAYS be some new challenge, some new effort, some new move or equipment or style, or strategy, and it will perpetually keep me interested in learning its' mastery. When I ran, well, I ran. I ran intervals, and I cycle intervals, but it's just not the same. New shoes won't make me faster, and they won't prevent shin splints. However - new tires and tubes on a bike can make a difference, albeit subtle. Running singlets wick sweat and repel UVA rays, but Cycling Kit can make or break a day, depending on how it's stitched, what fabrics are used, how thick the chamois is, and how much necessary stuff you can place in a back pocket. Runners get excited about shoelaces. Cyclists get excited about BOA cables and sole stiffness. Basically, there's only so much that a runner can do to get faster, and the strategy for running is to basically run at a pace that's sustainable, while training at paces that are unsustainable, while cyclists have an endless number of variables that they can put to use to get better and improve. Cadence, kit, fit, gear, slope, speed, wattage, even air density is more important for a cyclist! There's just SO MUCH MORE to TRAIN!

So with that bit of historical perspective, I'll give some more anecdotes and then we'll get in to the meat of the discussion today. 

I move to Montana, start racing mountain bikes, and quickly realize that I'm not going to get any faster if I don't train in the winter. So, in 1995, I bought my first CompuTrainer. I still have it, somewhere, in my collection. But it's not the fact that I bought it - it's the fact that I actually USED it, in it's Nintendo-esque sort of way, from November through Easter of that winter, that made the difference. The programming was just pitiful, but what I ended up doing was the following.... 

I set up my mountain bike in a barn, next to a pellet stove, and I would work out in there, staring at these colored bars, which represented the Torque I was putting in to the pedals. RacerMate called it "SpinScan", and to this day, it's still a source of debate in the cycling community. The SpinScan graphically reveals the "Net Torque", or the amount of positive and negative drag placed on a pedal as it goes forward through a revolution. There will always be positive torque, and there will always be negative torque. When they're equal, the pedal and crank are stationary. But the argument that RacerMate made was the following - by studying a rider's SpinScan, they could make position adjustments, and also neuro-muscular adjustments, to sort of turn what was usually considered a 'Piston'-like stroke, with more power in the down stroke, and a definite lack of power in the up-stroke, to something more like a 'Turbine', where net torque was more uniform throughout each revolution of the cranks. 

Now, before I go further, I have ONE BIG CAVEAT ----- There is NO, ZERO, NONE, Scientific or Empirical Evidence that what I'm about to say has any validity whatsoever. We DO have anecdote, but to this day, RacerMate has NEVER commissioned a study with an objective 3rd-party laboratory, that PROVES that a 'Round' Pedal Stroke is 'BETTER' in any way, than a traditional pedal stroke. In Fact, the ONE STUDY that was done to determine which was better, lent itself towards the more traditional piston-style pedal stroke, being more powerful overall, and yielding a higher average power output. But that was one study, done over 20 years ago, and it did NOT measure much more than power output over a time/distance. BUT ANECDOTALLY, riders have claimed for two decades now that when they pedal circles, they 'feel' more economical, don't move around as much, feel like they can raise their cadence a bit, and 'spare' muscles, especially among triathletes, for later stages. I don't know, and I don't have the ability to tell. But in my own humble experience, well... let's get back to the story. 

I spent that winter training, not really knowing what Threshold Power was, or anything, really, but I did end up getting a SpinScan Count up in to the 90's. What's that? Well, if a ZERO is a perfectly Terrible Pedal stroke, in other words, not a pedal stroke at all, and a 100 was a Perfectly Even Pedal Stroke, then having a Pedal Stroke Count in the 70's to 90's SEEMED to be pretty good. I trained myself, hour after hour, to change the way my pedal stroke looked and felt. The sound of the CompuTrainer changed from a 'Whom Whom Whom Whom" sound to a 'Whommmmmmmmmmmmmmm" type sound. And my average power output grew. I added slope, slowed down my cadence to mimic the real world, and kept working on training my brain to generate those 'better' values all the way around the pedal stroke. After about 15 weeks, here's what happened...

I got to several early-season mountain bike events, and like always, my bike handling skills were just mediocre at best. But it was the CLIMBS where I really ended up excelling! I'm convinced that my circular pedal stroke helped me climb faster and more efficiently, and helped me HOLD TRACTION on slopes where I might otherwise have slipped, and forced a dismount. The trend at the time was to create mountain bike tires that were 'Semi-Slick', and while it made you faster, it also increased your chances to slip if traction wasn't JUST RIGHT. But, with my brain trained, I really became a FAST climber, and while I didn't win anything, I was consistently in the Top 5 in my category, and enjoyed the racing. 

Fast forward to the New Millenium, and SpinScan gets an Update. Now, instead of looking like this.... (no, this is not a joke...)
TV Color Bars - Anyone Remember These after "The Late Show"?

It ended up looking like this....
Comp CS 1.6 Image Coaching Software CompuTrainer RacerMate

Now, this made a LITTLE more sense, graphically. The light-colored bubble represented the "Net Torque", and the graph behind basically meant that the right side was a composite of 1 o'clock on the right pedal, as well as 7 o'clock on the left pedal. 2 o'clock also had the negative torque effect of 8 o'clock, etc. There was also a little red thingy called an "ATA", or "Average Torque Angle", which basically showed where on a crank pedal stroke, a rider was putting out the best torque, and since torque is related to power, you could further train your brain so that your pedal power was not only 'rounder', it also was aimed closer to 90 degrees, which makes sense in a crowbar-sort of way. Try pushing down on a crank when it's at 12 or 6 o'clock, and... nothing happens. Pedal between 2 and 4 o'clock, and the wheel moves. Furthermore, try pedaling with just the trailing part of the leg, when the crank is between 8 and 10 'clock, and while the crank will move, it's just never going to have the power that you get when you're using your glutes and quads to force that bike crank down at the opposite position. It's muscle mechanics and bicycle positioning. It's not easy to explain, and honestly, I'm about to make it a little bit MORE difficult. BUT HANG ON. 


From 1995 until roughly 2002, I trained with SpinScan in my off-season, and learned how to train my brain to fire my muscles so that I had a GREAT-LOOKING SpinScan, and Average Torque Angle (ATA). But honestly, not too many, in fact, NONE, of my clients, had the time available, the energy to commit, or access to the equipment, that was necessary to even attempt to train for this. And again - WE DID NOT AND STILL DO NOT KNOW WHETHER A CIRCULAR PEDAL STROKE IS TRULY "BETTER" than a Traditional Pedal Stroke. BUT, with SpinScan, we CAN get an idea (finally), of what a Pedal Stroke "Looks" like, to some degree. So, with that in mind, I began to notice - MOST of my clients had what I would consider to be pretty ugly pedal strokes! They tended to have these 'morphing orbs' that resembled peanuts at best, and insect bodies at worst. They had Average Torque Angles that were 10 to 20 degrees below 3 o'clock. It looked like the majority of them were just PURE mashers, with no real regard to the nuances of what makes a smooth pedal stroke. And unless they were willing to completely relearn how to pedal, and spend HOURS with a professional bike fitter to help them get the right angles of leg extension and crank length, torso posture, etc. it was just TOO hard to even attempt it. 


Q Ring Animation Rotor Q Ring Well, nuts. It won't animate. 

Rotor was different. It was a company, founded by two passionate cycling geniuses, who realized that there WERE ways to make cyclists more efficient AND powerful. They were Spanish, they were specialists in metals, they were engineers, and they looked at things differently. 

Their first foray was an entire bike and crank gearing system that had the trailing crank on each revolution, move more quickly than the crank on the down-stroke, so that the 'Dead Spot' was minimized. IT WORKED.... But it was EXORBITANTLY EXPENSIVE, and it required AN ENTIRE NEW BIKE!

The Original Rotor Crank System, Complete with Accompanying Frame!

So.... in the spirit of innovation, they developed and entire crank system that fit inside a modern bottom bracket! This was less expensive, and it's where I jumped in to the game, buying several sets and trying them out. I still have the blog post about it somewhere, but suffice it to say that I was impressed with the idea, but not with the production execution, which was still bulky, heavy, and required a penalty in watts from internal drag. I called Spain, I tried my best to speak my broken Spanish with Pablo, the CEO, and together we came up with ideas to lessen drag and weight, but eventually, I backed out as crank-based power meters gained popularity. 

But Rotor re-acquired my attention when they released the perfect solution, Q-Rings. Q-rings were oval-shaped chainrings that focused not on producing a more circular pedal stroke, but instead focused on giving the cyclist MORE POWER at the point in their pedal stroke that already HAD the most power! Again - instead of trying to make a circle out of an oval, they basically EXTENDED OUT the oval! Furthermore, if you were optimal at 100 degrees on a pedal stroke with your Torque, you could change the angle of the chainring so that it actually hit closer to your power pedal position! 

I was instantly hooked, and began buying and installing these on my bikes. I can't really credit the rings for any wins, or anything, but they definitely showed an increase in my power output at certain positions on the power stroke. I did read up on one study (which I cannot find any longer), that showed how riding at Position 4 out of the 5 possible positions available could increase the RATE at which a rider could accelerate in a sprint, to Maximal Power, but honestly, most of the focus was on the ability to give my clients and myself a bit more power on the down-stroke, and when climbing. The rings weren't overly popular, and there were some shifting problems, but still - it was a small improvement that was felt more so than actually witnessed through a power meter. 

But I kept using them, and tinkering with them, and staying in touch with the developers and their American Counterparts in Colorado Springs. Rotor as a company grew, began offering many other high-quality products, and they obviously continued to innovate on their core items, which were Ovoid Chainrings. They abandoned the RSX4, introduced their own power meter, then another, and then ANOTHER, created an extraordinarily stiff and light crank in numerous lengths, and just kept at it. Finally, in 2013, they released an updated Q ring, called the QXL, which took all the evidence and testimonial from the previous DECADE, and put it to good use. It's more oval-shaped, in a unique way, and I just HAD to try it out.


I'm going to display a number of images and videos, and I'll let you decide, but I'm pretty happy with my small results, and I have an offer for anyone who wants to try it at the end of this, what is probably my longest post in YEARS. 
Coach Wharton with QXL's in Position 4
Okay - This first image is me, riding my QXL rings in Position 4, at a 0% slope. I'm using one of my latest CompuTrainers, with a Hockey Puck Cadence Sensor mounted directly at the 6 o'clock position on the crank. I have no idea if this matters or not, but I wanted to stick with consistency, and there is a lot of debate about SpinScan in regards to mounting the cadence sensor on a rear chainstay that is not directly at the 9 o'clock position. So with that in mind, we'll go with the left crank at 6 o'clock and stick with it. The graph tells you one thing, but really, just look mostly at the darker box on the right. My SpinScan is pretty good at a 78 and 80, making an average of 79, and my 'ATA', or 'Average Torque Angle' is at 97 degrees on the left, and 95 degrees on the right. Again, this is at Position FOUR on my QXL's, which are the most radical of the ring offerings in Rotor's range. This was what was on my bike before I messed with anything.

Now, Let's see what it looks like when I go to round rings....
Richard Wharton Round Rings 0 percent slope
The watts and cadence of this image are not completely the same, and Christie O'Hara, the chief researcher at Rotor, urges me to make sure that things are more consistent, but I was one-man-banding it when I did this, and it's hard to run "SnagIt" while using RM1 software, as it is. However, what you can see is that my 'ATA' trended closer to 90 degrees, and my SpinScan values were a few points higher. What does this mean? Well, it means that my overall pedal stroke on round rings was 'Roundier', and my peak power occurred closer to the area where I would have the strongest 'Lever' on my crank, which again, is 90 degrees. I do still have a dimple on my SpinScan Curve on the left and right legs between 1 and 2 o'clock, telling me that I need to work on my pedal stroke if I want that extra smoothness as I transition over the top of each revolution. 
Rotor QXL Rings at Position 1 Richard Wharton 0 Percent Slope

Now, the next thing I did was a little radical. I wanted to see just how different the pedal stroke looked when I rode my QXL rings in Position 1. So I unhooked the bolts, adjusted the rings accordingly, and cinched them back down. WHAM! Check THAT out! I have a MORE ovalized pedal stroke, my ATA rises ABOVE 90 degrees, and the 'Roundiness' of my SpinScan drops significantly. Honestly, the oval shape is something that is more indicative of most of my clients in the studio, but it's canted more along the 100 degree line, and not 70 degrees! ATA at 84 vs 95. Yikes!

QXL Position 2 Richard Wharton 0 Percent Slope
So, once again, I dismount, remove the chainring bolts, and slide down to Position 2 for the QXL's, reset the bolts, and then get back on the bike and..... Have a look at that. My oval, honestly, looks a lot like the QXL chainring itself. My SpinScan value is the lowest yet, but my ATA, especially on my right leg, is about as close to 90 degrees as you can get. I'm not sure what's going on with the ATA on my left leg, but I suspect it has something to do with cleat position, or where I was sitting on the saddle, etc. But again - take a look at the shape of the Torque Curve, and take a look at where the red ATA line sits in conjunction with the bulge. I THINK this is the purpose and location for the claim that Q Rings and QXL Rings can make a difference in a pedal stroke. I THINK that holding this position out on a flat road, MIGHT, just MIGHT give me a power advantage, that I can quantify. I'm going to leave them there for a month or two, and then try them at another position, but again, think about it - you want the MOST power at the point of GREATEST LEVERAGE, and on a bicycle crank, that occurs at 90 degrees. You want the LEAST resistance at some point where your leg strength is weakest, and for most of us, that coincides with the 6 o'clock and 12 o'clock positions on the crank. So, with a LOT of work, and study, I THINK I've found the Optimal Crank Position, or as Rotor calls it, the OCP, for my legs at this time. 

Just to make sure, I actually put both rings on Position 2, and ramped the slope up to 7%. Mind you - I did NOT raise the nose of my bike up accordingly, but I WILL TRY IT, with an ANCIENT piece of equipment that I have stored away in a shed somewhere. Long story short - here's the graph, and I'm pretty happy with it. 
QXL Rotor Rings at 7 percent Slope Position 2 Richard Wharton

SO.... What have we learned? Well, here's my summary...

  • A pedal stroke that shows net torque to be more uniform throughout the crank revolution MIGHT be a more efficient way to pedal.
  • You can TRAIN YOUR BRAIN, adjust your fit, do other things to try and achieve this 'Roundier' pedal stroke.
  • This takes a LOT of TIME, TIME most of us DON'T HAVE.
  • If you have access to a CompuTrainer, you can 'See' whether your pedal stroke is round, or oblong, and where you apply the most pressure on each pedal stroke.
  • If you want to focus on more POWER per PEDAL stroke, then Rotor Q and QXL rings JUST MIGHT be the product for you!
  • Using SpinScan at Cycling Center Dallas, we can check pedal stroke and where this power is placed, and then confirm that with our extra cranks that have Q and QXL rings already on them. 
  • Position of a Q or QXL chainring can be altered and it can affect the location of your Average Torque Angle, and the shape of your Net Torque Curve. 
  • You can test, alter, and test again, all at CCD.

Here's our "Q" Corner at the Cycling Center Dallas location, next to Richardson Bike Mart's main location.

Rotor Cranks and Q Rings QXL rings Q Corner Cycling Center Dallas Rotor Power
Needless to say, it's not easy, it's kind of hard to understand, and it might not make a difference anyway, but as a coach for 22 years now, I really do believe that there's something "There", there, and I intend to continue testing myself and willing clients, to determine optimal location and effect. 

Special thanks to Kervin at Rotor, and yes, I am going to sell these, along with the Rotor Power Meters, to customers who value our unique attention to details like this. 

Coach Wharton

Using PerfPro Analyzer and Studio to Acquire Critical Power and Anaerobic Work Capacity/W Prime, and then USE IT in PerfPro Studio

Cycling Center Dallas is proud to be among the first users IN THE WORLD to employ on-site Anaerobic Work Capacity/W Prime in real-time. What is AWC/W'? It's your BANK ACCOUNT of ENERGY ABOVE Critical Power. It's HOW MUCH ENERGY YOU HAVE AVAILABLE WHEN YOU ARE WORKING HARD. It's NEW, it's ACCURATE, and it will HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER AND SMARTER CYCLIST. Come by the studios for a free class, or if you're outside the D/FW area, purchase a copy of PerfPro and let Online Bike Coach help you improve your Stamina, Speed, Strength, and Skill this pre-season!

Coach Wharton

Who Cares About Long, Steady Distance Training?! We Don't have TIME for it!

Let's face it, neither you, nor I, nor anyone that we may know, is going to quit their day job, hit the lottery, and ride their bikes for the rest of their lives. We are not professional cyclists. We are instead parents, siblings, students, accountants, small business owners, realtors, just anything but our Walter Mitty dreams of getting paid to ride our bikes over this small, yet still beautiful planet. Traditionally, volume in the sense of a season of easy, steady rides, has always been the precursor to a strong cycling season. But who has time to ride their bike at wattage levels that do not create that great a training response? Who has the 15 or more hours per week, plus the income, to go out and ride, feed that ride, recover from that ride, and then be ready for a strong set of intervals, or a fast group ride, between those already mentioned?
Cycling Center Dallas really focuses on training with intensity. I learned a long time ago that focusing on intervals in the threshold, maximal aerobic power, and anaerobic areas yielded the biggest bang for the buck, and tended to pull a rider's Functional Threshold Power (FTP) up, like a pair of suspenders on a skinny kid's pants. And now, science really DOES back it up. 

At Cycling Center Dallas, we'll be using Critical Power Testing to basically reduce our training zones from the now-fifteen-year-old 7 zones, to just about FOUR:

  • Aerobic/Recovery (<80% of Critical Power)
  • Threshold (80-100% of Critical Power)
  • Vo2Max (100-150% of Critical Power)
  • Anaerobia (150% of Critical Power and above). 

The goal will be to help improve your fitness through the development of more, better, mitochondria. Here's another GREAT article that explains it much better than I can.

The bottom line is this. If you want to get the most bang-per-buck-per-minute, improve your Stamina, Speed, and Strength for better bicycling, then Cycling Center Dallas offers the perfect location, coaching, and programming, for you. How do we do it? Through Intensity Intervals. We're so lucky to have such a long season of cycling in North Texas. Get ready for it by training at either studio, and see what we can do for you. 

Coach Wharton

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency! Do the Work, Reap the Rewards.

Dr. Alison Elmquist is one of our most CONSISTENT Clients at Cycling Center Dallas!

One of the most important themes in any training program is the commitment to consistency. As a coach, I see it every day. The cyclist that shows up, warms up, comes prepared to work, and perseveres through good days and bad, is the one who sees the benefits and improvements over time. 

Think about it - As much as I want people to show heart and display spirit when they come to the studios, it's the simple act of a routine that best determines outcomes. Too often we see people show up with great intentions, but over time, work, family, stress, fear of failure, and other mental blocks conspire to have them drop out over time. But those who are willing to sacrifice just 60-90 minutes at a time, and go through the routine, ideally at the same time and same location each week, begin to 'get it', mentally and physically. The body responds better when it begins a routine. Now, as you all know - plateaus DO happen. But it's honestly better to get to a plateau through a routine of work, than it is to plateau at lower level of performance, and WISH you were a stronger, faster, cyclist. 

The studios exist because they offer a venue that is Consistent in location, Consistent in the quality of coaching and expertise, and Consistent in the time schedule that can offer something to everyone. If you are a cyclist and you CANNOT make one of our scheduled time slots, then give us a call or send us a note. We're here to help you improve, be it your schedule or ours (as long as it's reasonable... Remember, we're up at 4am most mornings, so asking for a custom class at 10pm one night a week, while feasible, may not be reasonable, just sayin'.). Studies show that a cyclist training just six hours a week in a program of gently increasing intensity and duration of intervals, can lead to improvements in power output and Critical Power of 10% or more. 10% more power can mean up to 1mph for a recreational cyclist, or an extra hour of stamina out on the road. So think about consistency in your training plan, your venue for training, weather, time, atmosphere and the environment. Then think Cycling Center Dallas, and come visit.

Coach Wharton

What a Difference 9 Hours Can Make...

Couple of quick questions...

How many of you remember Driver's Ed?

How many of you remember how many hours it took until you were able to drive without an instructor?

Are any of you Commercial drivers? How many hours did it take in a Driver's Ed course to become competent enough to take the exam, which I hear is more difficult...?

Are any of you PILOTS?! What's the average time a pilot in training needs to take his or her first solo? How many hours does it take until you're ready for the review?

In all of these questions, looking through the internet, it seems like the answers are anywhere from 10 to 30 hours.

Now - how many have ever taken a Bicycle Driver's Ed Class?

Well, if you haven't... you should. It's NOT boring, it's NOT redundant, and it's NOT filled with dogma about how you should do this and shouldn't do that.

Think about the first time you ever rode a bike. Think about the anxiety, but also the rush, the freedom. You were wobbly. Maybe you rode on the grass. But you had your friends or family or someone else there to help you stay upright, keep pedaling, and brake to a safe stop. As a kid, you probably rode on the sidewalk. But somewhere, after those first few hours of supervision, the planning stopped, the expectation of traveling and responsibility grew, and you either just DID it, and learned along the way, or, you may have had a bad experience as a novice cyclist in traffic, decided it was just TOO RISKY, and quit, only to return years later.

CyclingSavvy changes all of that. As an instructor, I really don't care whether you ride 12 hours a year, or 12,000. I don't care how much experience you have. Just like my previous post, we ALL have something to learn, and a great part of learning, is teaching. Furthermore, ALL of us have had moments on a bike where we felt anxious or threatened for our safety. ALL of us have been conditioned to do things and act in ways that we think MAY help us ride more safely, but they aren't always the best method available. Finally, we ALL need to be respectful of our "Beginner's Mind". Learning new ways to handle a bike, learning new ways to conduct yourself in traffic, learning new ways to handle yourselves (plural) in a pack, is a GREAT way to improve your skills, improve your confidence, improve your COMPETENCE, and then translate that in to better rides, more often.

Here's a paragraph outlining their mission...

Teaching traffic cycling is primarily a battle against cultural myths. Myth-busting requires more than mere “information” or “facts.” It is a social phenomenon that requires a social approach. To that end, five key underlying principles guide the course:

Reframing – bicycling must be reframed from a dangerous activity to an essentially safe one. How crash data is presented is as important than the data itself.

Engagement – students are guided to discover for themselves why cycling is safe. When students themselves identify an essential fact it carries far more weight.

First Things First – essential skills must be second nature before cyclists can comfortably interact with complex traffic conditions. Even “experienced” cyclists are lacking in some of these skills. Some of the parking lots drills were developed by Keri Caffrey and Lisa Blount for the “BOBbies” women’s bicycle club. Others are found in TS 101, as well as in other cycling curriculums. The sequencing of these skills is critical.

Progression – each step must be reasonably achievable to the novice cyclist. We cannot “throw them into the deep end of the pool.” Success can only be built upon success.

Enactment – students put their new skills and knowledge into practice individually through road sections and intersections of increasing complexity. After each section they naturally reinforce for one another the positive and successful experience. This final public “enacting” of the new approach is the nail in the coffin of the old “cycling is dangerous” myth for them.

Cycling Center Dallas shares this mission. I hope you'll think about some event in your past, perhaps an altercation with a motorist, or a confusing moment out on a road, solo or in a group ride, where you didn't know what to do, where to place yourself in the road, or how to navigate so that you and everyone else could just get to where you were going, without conflict. Maybe you got a ticket or a warning. Maybe you were driving in a car, and saw a cyclist act a certain way. CyclingSavvy is there to help you find the answers to those questions, find the optimal way to handle certain situations, and make every ride a better ride. It's the Fourth "S" in our Wheel of Progression - "Stamina, Strength, Speed... and SKILL". Don't you WANT to be a better cyclist? Don't you WANT to understand what works and what doesn't? Wouldn't you RATHER do this in a controlled setting, instead of trial-by-fire, which is the way most cyclists learn? Think about all your friends who don't ride, and ask them 'why'. A LOT of it comes from anxiety and a lack of education about the fundamentals. Even experienced cyclists can, and do, DO IT WRONG.

So sign up today, and let us help you become an even better cyclist, by improving your Skill and using your studio-improved Stamina, Speed, and Strength. Think about conflict-free cycling. Think about planning more rides, to more locations, without worrying about the anxiety of obstacles, physical and mental. And think about what others will say and think when they learn that you've completed this course, and then practice it. Roads were built to transport people and goods. We want you to be a better cyclist, and we can think of no better way than to start with a review of some fundamentals in a setting that is enlightening, fun, and relaxing. I'll be teaching, so come join us!!

Coach Wharton

The Beginner's Mind

One of my favorite books, which is now completely out of print, but may be available as an "Ebook" somewhere, is a Coaching and Philosophy book titled "Thinking Body, Dancing Mind". It's a Taoist approach to Sports and Business. If you think about it, the title really says a lot. Our bodies are almost analytical in nature. They mostly move in a linear fashion, automoton-like. The heart beats, the lungs inhale and exhale, hair and nails grow, and bone and muscle are incredibly efficient and passive, ready to go at an impulse from the brain. But it's the MIND that is always dancing - playing 'what if', 'why not', and 'how?' It's a great read, and I recommend it to anyone. In fact, here's a link to some summaries and comments...

Anyway, the reason I bring it up is that there's a chapter in the book titled, "The Beginner's Mind". To summarize, when we work to become adept at something, to learn all of the aspects of a sport, a calling, a line of work, the best approach is to ALWAYS try and hold on to "The Beginner's Mind". Keep an open mind. Be willing to learn more, to listen, to read, and more than anything, to teach and instruct yourself, because often it is in the questions of others that you'll be able to understand where knowledge gaps come from, where you may need to do more research, and maybe learn that there are different ways to approach a challenge, either for you, your colleagues, or your own students. 

Tracy and I did just that this weekend, when we attended the USA Cycling Coaching Summit, held in Colorado Springs, at USA Cycling's headquarters. We heard from over a dozen speakers on myriad topics, some of which were repeats, but many of which were new. The most important aspect of the whole weekend was that we were there, she as a Level 2 Coach, me as a Level 1, not to teach or present, but to LEARN. So even with 22 years of experience as a coach for me, and 12+ years of experience for her, once again, we were students. We were beginners. Beginner's minds are open, they are self-critical, they are filled with wonder. Tracy and I sat as close to the front as possible, listening to these masters of their fields, watching their expressions, taking notes, asking critical questions, listening to the questions of others, and forming our own conclusions. Sometimes these were in agreement with the lecturers, sometimes not. The final review of each topic came between programs, when we met with coaches whom I've met and dined with over the years, as we reviewed the programs, the speakers, and the different ways those lectures and themes could possibly help us, help others. 

My favorite character when I was growing up was "The Professor", in Gilligan's Island. In reality, Russell Johnson, the actor, was SO MUCH MORE than just a character on a 3-season television show. The was a War Hero, a Disabled Veteran, a film star, a producer, an author, and an extremely successful AIDS activist. But he never stopped LEARNING. I remember when I read his autobiography, he remarked that Gilligan's Island was just a short part of his career, but it defined him, and he embraced it. He and Alan Hale, who was better known as "Skipper", would travel to Children's Hospitals dressed in character, to help brighten the days of kids who were incredibly sick, and their families. His ambassadorship brought him incredible joy, and hope. In later years, when he was a well-known AIDS activist and fundraiser, his speeches were always well-received, and he became, basically, his character, as he learned the in's and out's of that horrible disease, its' spread, and prevention and possibilities for a cure or vaccine. So the actor became, alternately, a chemist, a biologist, a spokesperson, and, honestly, a Professor. But he did it not just by preaching or professing. He did it... by learning. 

We at Cycling Center Dallas are proud of our accomplishments and publications in the field of coaching for cyclists. That said, we are, and will always be, students of the sport, first and foremost. It's why I earned first my League Cycling Instructor Certification, and later, my Cycling Savvy certification. It's why I wrote my first book. It's why I continued to write manuals and booklets , and despite having that Level 1 Cert way back in 1997, I continued to attend the Coaching Summits, bought the books from other coaches, highlighted them and dog-eared them, and practiced their modalities myself. It's why I continue to practice, try NOT to be too preachy, and work to explain things as simply as I can. In many ways, I like to think that I'm the "Professor". No, I don't have all the credentials and academic background to claim a PhD, but I DO believe that wisdom comes from listening, thinking critically, keeping an open mind, and then taking a position based on what one knows or understands as best-practice. I'm sorry that the Professor never learned how to build a raft to get the Castaways off the island, but I'm satisfied that while stranded, he learned as much as he could about the island, his fellow islanders, and the surrounding ocean, to give them the best shot for survival and evacuation as possible. Hopefully, this weekend's Summit will lead to greater understanding, and an ability by Tracy and myself to help you achieve more on the bike and in your lives, in a safe, convenient, effective, and clear way. 

Coach Wharton

2014 "No Country for Old Men - Ed Tom Bell 208" Ultra-Marathon Cycling Association Bike Race. Alpine, TX to Lajitas, TX and back!!

No Country for Old Men, Alpine to Lajitas and Back, October 2014

I’m writing this from the road, as we return from this weekend’s 3rd Annual “No Country For Old Men” Ultra-Cycling event. Tracy and I took the weekend to head out to Alpine, Texas, and participate in the 192 miler, hosted by one of the nation’s most prolific Ultra-Cyclists – Dex Tooke. Dex and his wife Joni live in Presidio, which is even FARTHER from anywhere, and as this is hard, hard, hard country, they’ve thrived with their talents and determination.

I’ve mentioned before that I got in to Ultra-Cycling events through my friend and client, Michelle Beckley. This time, Michelle offered her services to her friend Jose, as a Crew Chief on a 1000 mile effort, which traveled all over the Big Bend Country. Tracy and I rode the 192 as a team, but as I write, Michelle’s client is still out there, riding in the cold, the heat, the terrain, and the wind of the desert surrounding the Rio Grande drainage.

9 hours west and south of Dallas, a whole lot of NOTHING in between.

We went in to this event more for the opportunity to just get away for the weekend before the winter rush, and to also get the unforgettable experience of riding in this absolutely gorgeous part of the country. I’m certainly not as fit as I could be, and Tracy’s season ended a while ago, and she’s enjoying the odd Cyclo-Cross event, as well as a good mountain bike ride here and there, while I remain focused on the studios. Basically, we weren’t expecting anything other than our current levels of fitness and competitive natures, to get us through the day.

An early start in Alpine, TX

The start in Alpine was right at 7:00am, and we rode a parade lap through the small town of 6000, in a pre-dawn cruise, pretty much before most of the people woke up. But once we were clear of the population, Dex pulled ahead, and waved a barely-visible green flag, signaling that the Race was on!!!!

Just before sunrise on the road to Terlingua

Tracy and I agreed that the majority of the ride would be my responsibility, and we had the fortune to borrow from my folks a late-model Ford Excursion, with plenty of room for bikes, coolers, food, and Satellite radio. In the pre-dawn effort, when temps were about 50 degrees or so, Tracy drove ahead with several other follow vehicles, and prepared to hand up water and food at different locations. This was a crucial part of the race, as we focused completely on getting as far down the road, from Alpine to Lajitas, as quickly as possible, given the lack of wind, the general downhill slope of the terrain, and the warming-but-modest temps. I was able to stay on a roughly 300Kcal/hr menu of Bonk Breakers, and I went through about a bottle an hour of OSMO. Honestly, in the desert, we should have probably consumed more, but I think the schedule was pretty good, especially in the cooler AM temps.

Efficiency is CRITICAL to these long-duration events!!

Since it was a mass start, there were people in the front with me who were racing different events, be they solo or team, and again, since the light was still poor for the first two hours or so, keeping track of everyone was not easy. That said, I was quickly passed by Cat 1 USAC racer Andrew Willis, who was racing the entire 192 as an individual. Just out of sight, but still ahead, I was able to identify the 2-person 192 team who would be our competition for the entire day. I was certainly slower on the climbs, thanks to a lack of Vo2 intervals, a bike that is specifically designed for high-speed flat straightaways, and the altitude, which of course was dropping the entire way out, but still left it’s bite on my lung capacity. Andrew went on to just KILL the individual effort, averaging over 21mph THE ENTIRE DURATION, while this team from Alpine traded the 2-person team lead with us the entire way.
 Watts and Aerodynamics, Then EAT and DRINK!

A deconditioned state and an ultra-cycling event are no excuse for not applying the concepts that we practice and preach every single day at Cycling Center Dallas. At the Texas Time Trials last month, I made a conscious effort to try and hold 205 Normalized Watts, and to try to keep a pace-per-lap that would help me set a record, and, secondly, to win the race. My big problem there was being able to stay on top of my calorie consumption. The road, literally, forced me to keep my hands on my bars, and the intensity required a heavy respiratory rate, and that interfered with my ability to chew and eat without choking. Here, however, we were on really straight roads, for hours. I found that my full-fingered gloves were superior in holding a naked Bonk Breaker, and I was able to eat while still in the full aero position. Given the altitude, I told myself to be conservative, and ride at a normalized 195w, a few percent below the 205 I had set a month earlier, but the length of the climbs, the cooler temps, and lack of wind in the AM, led me to basically hold 215 Normalized watts for almost 4 hours!!! Ironically, we were still behind Andrew, who again, was riding solo, and yet we were still ahead of the other 2-man team, who were exchanging behind me, and were able to keep maybe 2-4 minutes back. We think they must have performed maybe 5 exchanges, while I rode solo for the majority of the same period of time. Unfortunately, the P3 Aluminum was absolutely the wrong bike for the rolling, rolling, rolling terrain between Terlingua and Lajitas, and I asked Tracy to take over at 3:50, wherein she was promptly hit with a large, steep hill, which was, to say the least, a real shock to her unprepared legs.

Tracy Christenson climbing over a hill on the road from Terlingua to Lajitas.

I got in the car and leapfrogged with Tracy, while the 2-man team passed us and gained time out to Lajitas and back. But she rode REALLY well, and kept us in the race, all the way back to Terlingua, on what was arguably the hottest, hardest part of the course. I took the time to drink at least 9 cups of OSMO, and eat about 900 calories of protein, carbs, and fat, including more bars, but eventually, I got full, and held off. Tracy drank at least four bottles of OSMO in 90 minutes, and while she’d been dreading the ride, arguing that she had dead-legs syndrome, she actually perked up and got stronger as the ride progressed. In Terlingua, we decided to exchange and get me back on the bike.

Tracy Christenson making her way back to Terlingua on some of the toughest terrain of the entire ride.

Here, however, is where we made a time-sucking mistake.

Do I look Fat in This Picture?!

I made the choice of getting back on the P3. The climbs out of Terlingua are numerous and steep, while still sort of short, and my legs were squidlike to the point that I actually ended up pulling over after just half an hour. Feeling that the race for us was lost, Tracy got back on the bike and rode us back to the flat and straight part of the course, for almost another hour, while I continued to drink and try to eat. Once we got back to a part of the route that was as straight as a Roman Road, we looked ahead, looked behind, realized that we may as well have been the last two people on the planet, and I got back on the P3 to try and get as many miles in as possible.

LONG stretches of desert at 180-185 watts.
For the next two hours, I held about 180-185 Normalized watts, kept my head down and out of the way, drank about a bottle every 45 minutes, pulled over to refuel and rehydrate, and basically went in to a “Zen” state, staring at the solid white line on the right, and the dashed yellow line on the left, and watching my speed as I attempted to stay over 20mph.

"The Road Goes On Forever, and the Party Never Ends"!
What goes through your mind when you’re basically pedaling uphill with a slight tailwind and there’s no one else in sight, except for your wife, who is behind you, just out of range of discussion or sight or hearing…?
  • Well, one time I got passed by a 4-wheeler, out in the MIDDLE of NOWHERE. He pulled up alongside me on my right, and we looked at each other. He looked like the typical character from that part of the world. Map of the world on his face, smiling, sort of showing off, not aware that he was interfering, but still friendly. He kicked up some gravel and dust by accident as he waved and passed, and I lost track of him.
  • There was very little roadkill.
  • I realized that, regardless of the satellite tracking, that I probably had screwed up my wheel diameter when I put on a new tire, going from a tubular 700x22mm tire to a MONSTER 700x27mm tire. I made a WAG out there on the course, and modified the diameter on the fly from 2089mm to 2100mm. I still don’t know if that’s accurate, but it seemed to make holding over 20mph a lot easier.
  • The whole time I was on the bike, I was thanking Jack Mott and Tom Anhalt, friends in the world of wattage and cycling aerodynamics. I’m convinced that my choice of tire for the rear definitely helped me ride that much faster. Unfortunately, Jack was correct. My installation of a 700x27mm front tire on an Aeolus 9 was TOO DAMNED BIG for the fork on my TT bike to handle. I reverted back to my Stinger 6 with the Continental Competitions, and lived with it.
  • The chip seal honestly was NOT that bad. Especially with my tires at roughly 101-102 psi.
  • Aerodynamics really DID make a difference in this event. Sadly, power trumps aero, as Andrew Willis did the entire ride on a road bike with aerobars, and used a standard, ventilated helmet. He did have aero wheels, but he just rode stronger than everybody else, and I doubt his solo record will ever be broken!

Tracy rolled ahead and stayed behind, taking photos with our phones, and watching the terrain. Finally, about four miles outside of the Border Patrol Station at mile 177, I was climbing on the P3, I was exhausted, and I was falling behind on my hydration and calorie consumption, when I had to pull over, and hand the reins over to Tracy. But she was ready, her legs were fresh, and she’d popped a BeetElite earlier, so she got on the bike to take us to the finish.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting….

The final 10 miles of the route finish on a downhill run in to Alpine. Tracy and I made it through the Border Patrol station, and she rode the climb really well. Well enough, I will say, that on the FINAL SECTION OF THE CLIMB, I looked across the road, about a mile away…. And saw our competitors, crawling and clawing their way to the top of the pass. My mind went electric, and I immediately pulled up next to Tracy, rolled down the window, and yelled out at her “TRACY! THAT’S THEM!!! YOU CAN CATCH THEM!!!!” She lit up like a Roman Candle, picked up her pace, and within 5 minutes, we were roughly 400 meters behind them as they had pulled over to perform their final exchange.

I raced ahead and threw my bike out of the car, strapped on my helmet, and waited for Tracy to roll up. The team ahead had noticed us, and the younger rider, Bowie, took off like a bolt of lightning. I mounted the P3, quickly accelerated, and took off down the same piece of road. The winds had actually picked up, and there were several sections of the hairpin descents where my front wheel began to wobble, and my rear disc blew me around a bit, but I persisted and with just four miles to go, Bowie looked over his shoulder and slumped in perceived defeat as I rolled up next to him.

Over the Last Pass, and In to Alpine, "The Catch"!

The following may not be the exact discussion, but it’s the gist of it, and if you’ve read any of my previous posts dating back to 2011, you know how I feel about racing, participation, and sport, as well as the pursuit of excellence.
“Hey, How you feeling?”
“We are both destroyed, and my ride partner got a flat, and that took us a while.”
“You know, we’ve been trading the lead together all day. You want to just declare a truce and roll in together?”
“Dude, you earned it. You could take me by a few minutes right now. I got nothing.”
“Nah, both teams had a great day out there. Let’s finish this together.”
“I may try to pip you at the line!”
“Well, I won’t contest it. You’re on a road bike, and I’m on a TT bike. Besides, have you seen the potholes at the finish line?”(laughing),
“Yeah. Ok. I may throw you across for the win.”
“Why? We can’t figure out the last two miles of roads on the map. My one comment is that Dex should’ve had some arrows for us in town so we could navigate. You’re the local. Take us in.”
“Okay. Thanks.”
“No, dude, we had an absolutely spectacular day out here. Thanks for sharing this part of the world!”
After 190 miles, Riding In Together Seemed Like the Appropriate Thing to Do. 
And that was it. We rolled in together, and at the finish, Joni Lou Tooke, let out a laugh of exasperation as she proclaimed “You can’t do that to me! I have to paint more awards now!” So we congratulated each other as the follow cars rolled in to park.

I do have to give one more perspective from Tracy’s point of view, in the follow vehicle.
“….before Richard had pulled over, I could tell that he was exhausted. He wanted to ride to the Border Check, but I wanted to ride, and felt good. I felt really good, and was having fun, and my numbers were up again, when Richard rolled up beside me, pointed out the follow vehicle up around the bend, and said, “That’s Them!”“So I figured it was possible, but I picked up my pace, and closed the gap. Then he passed me and pulled over, and started getting his TT bike out, and I knew the game was ON!”“As soon as I got to you, I got the bike in to the car, and then didn’t catch up to you until we were almost done with the steep part of the descent, with maybe 6 miles to go. I watched you close the gap, and catch him. You had your energy back, he was flailing on the shoulder. I did get blocked by their vehicle, but I knew what you were going to do.”“It was so exciting watching you catch him! I was cheering and bouncing in the seat and telling you to DROP him! Put the hammer down and DROP HIM! I never figured that an Ultra-endurance event would be as fun and exciting as it was.”

Both Teams got CUSTOM Plaques, Hand Made by Joni Lou Tooke, the Promoter!

I know it’s been a long post, but sometimes stories take a while to tell. This was a TRUE team effort. Tracy conquered those hills and passes with aplomb. We rode through some of the most beautiful, remote, rugged country in the world. We made friends out on the course, passed people, got passed, got to push ourselves and each other, witnessed incredible feats of fortitude, saw a lot of opportunities out there to help people improve their performance through training and nutrition and hydration, and honestly, I got to ride and race my bike with the one woman on earth that I would ever ask to be with. Tracy and I have been through so much in such a short time, that this weekend, while officially a competition, was really more of a chance to be together, without the dogs, without clients, to try something new for each of us, and spend time away from the computers, the phones (ZERO reception, the drama, and the daily rigor of our struggle to create something so unique – a coaching and studio practice for cyclists and triathletes. Instead, we were a married couple riding our bikes near Big Bend, pushing ourselves, supporting each other, and growing stronger. The win was much less important than the adventure, and that’s what I hope for each of you who read this – that your cycling and improved fitness lead to more adventures on this planet. As my favorite RUSH song says… “The point of a Journey – is NOT to arrive.” May your cycling journey bring you endless happiness, but not without a little struggle or challenge, to keep you on your toes, and honest. 

A Post-Race Celebratory Dinner at "Reata"!

Coach Wharton

Thoughts and Ponderings While Driving to Mineral Wells for the Crazy Kicker

Whenever I travel to a bike rally, it's usually done before sunrise, and I end up having the privilege of driving into these small towns as the day begins. When you live in Dallas, and spend a lot of your time either indoors, or commuting between home, work, lunch, and other intra-city destinations, you kind of lose a piece of your soul and your spirit because of the fact that you're just engaging in a routine. You may notice the new house, the new paint job, the new roof... you may get frustrated that there is construction on one of your major roads, but by and large we tend to overlook too many details.

When I get up early, and usually when I am driving to my destinations alone, North Texas takes on a different look. This morning, as I drove through Dallas and over to Mineral Wells for the Kiwanis Crazy Kicker bike rally, I was reminded of just how lucky I am to live here. Many of you know that I enjoy traveling all over the state, and riding my bike. Recently, I have been engaging in these Ultra cycling events, more for fun than anything else, and just the mere fact that we are riding our bikes in this expansive land, through these small, smaller, and downright tiny towns, villages, and even just crossroads, takes me back to my childhood home on Sunday afternoon's watching a sort of world history/anthropological review of Texas Country Reporter.

There really is something extremely unique about the bike rally system in North Texas. Think about it, from late January through mid November, we have almost 30 weekend opportunities to ride in the suburbs and exurbs of the Dallas and Fort Worth area, on roads that are rich with history, are actually maintained pretty well when compared to other parts of the country and the world, and raise funds for great local causes. Driving into a sunrise, and watching the world of nature sort of wake up around me, even from behind the windshield of the car, is sort of spiritual. I think about migration, I think about how rugged these landowners are, I look at the ruins and abandoned homes and businesses, and wonder with some regret how and where these people went, and it only increases the joy of anticipation that I get for the day's ride.

Mineral Wells will always be special in my mind, because it was in the summer of 2010 that I first met Tracy, at a time trial in Graford, which is a small crossroads located about 11 miles outside of Mineral Wells. It is our first destination for rally-goers who are riding certain distances.

Texas is a rugged part of the world, with most of its resources lying below its surface. It is the people, attitude, that really make it tick. We all have different opinions about what is the best way forward, but that's just it, Texans always go forward. They are restless. They have attitude, and a type of confidence/braggadocio that is unmistakable. They swing clubs on crappy little par three golf courses until they develop adeptness that will make them scratch golfers. They handle the extreme Texas heat, humidity and arid ground with resourcefulness. It's not that they're doing anything different, it's just that they do it more. It's this and innate pride. It's this liberty. It is this non-fear of failure, and this expectation that one will not fail. I'm sure that it makes for a bit of a hard family life, and of course if one is born without access to resources, that just makes it that much more difficult, but from my point of view behind the wheel, and then behind the handlebars, I find myself looking at the road ahead, with a solid line on the right and a striped line on the left, and feeling like just about anything is possible.

God bless Texas, God bless America, God bless small towns, small, greasy-spoon coffee shops, chip-sealed county roads, and big attitudes.

Coach Wharton

A Weekend in Oklahoma!!!

I have a framed quote in the Studio in Richardson, that was pulled from a magazine a long, long time ago. It comes from Gary Klein, who was one of the pioneers of Mountain Biking. It reads like this... :

"Mountain Biking is about adventure and the rediscovery of your childhood freedom. It removes you from the daily grind and puts you in an environment with endless possibilities. Wildlife, Epic Views, a personal epiphany about what really matters, and tasting your own endorphines after a long, hard climb. The reward is looking back at obstacles, that are now behind you, and realizing that anything is possible."

I think this very theme should be applied to road cycling on hilly or even mountainous terrain, and on the weekend of September 27th, that's EXACTLY what I did, with clients Brian Terrell and Kyle Keeter.

The morning began with a 2-hour trip North, to Ardmore, Oklahoma. It's interesting - when we live and spend most of our days in North Texas, getting outside of that bubble is revealing and refreshing. I've noticed before that the moment I cross in to Oklahoma, traffic on 35N just begins to space itself out, until there are moments when you feel that you're the only vehicle out on the road. Furthermore, the lack of traffic tends to lead to a better highway ride, and I certainly felt that. Second, the terrain becomes noticeably more rolling, and you find that your Cruise Control sometimes has to shift down to help you hold speed. It's times like this, when I know that I'm in the type of cycling terrain that I love the most!

I got to Ardmore early enough to eat breakfast right off the highway, and it brought back a vague memory of a time when I traveled to Kansas City with my grandparents by car. Both of them are gone, but I remember they used to stop at Ponders, which was a great place to eat breakfast. Well, Ponders has been sold to a chain, but I did get to have a good healthy breakfast, and I'm glad I did, because we ended up riding over 80 miles that day, on some GREAT terrain!

I met up with Brian and Kyle in a city park, and after prepping our bikes and ensuring that we had enough food and water, about 12 or 13 of us rolled out. It was about 10 degrees cooler than D/FW, and we rolled DUE NORTH on US77, for about five miles, before the challenging terrain began to present itself. Now, I was with a number of cyclists with whom I was not familiar, other than my clients, but we remained friendly and comfortable, until around mile 12, when the first true incline presented itself. This actually ended up being our longest climb of the day, but it was deceptive.

I'm going to provide a link to the ride through I think it's public, but you may have to register. I prefer Ride With GPS to the other guys because I helped them early in their development, the owners are friends, and they don't have nearly as much gobbledy-gook junk and advertising as the other map-based trip sites. The image is the link, so click on it to follow along. While we're here, lets' have a quick lesson in wattage, slope, pacing, heart rate, and how to use a power meter effectively. 

Climbing North of Ardmore, Oklahoma.

Once you're in to Ride With GPS, use the zooming feature to look at roughly miles 11.75 through 13.25. Click on Watts, HR, Cadence, and elevation, and then look in the upper right area, and make sure you're on the 'Metrics' tab. Everyone's results will vary here and there, but here's the gist of it.

First Hill in Ardmore Loop

Now, look at the timeline image on your browser, and then look again at the image above. We've got moment-by-moment, and then summaries of the block. Now, let's get my description of what happened and why...

I was concerned in the morning rollout, upon seeing just how calm things were and how far we could see, that the climbs, when they arrived, would prove challenging, and honestly, I was right. These rides usually end up becoming ego-fests, and since I was unfamiliar with the territory, I did my utmost to let others lead. That said, I knew it when I felt it, that this hill was going to be a long, gradual effort to a peak that would be unseen and gradual. There just aren't any real immediate conversions from climb to descent in these mid-continent hills. So the mental plan I made for myself was to marshall my watts, let the natural leaders do the work, and then, when they'd punished themselves, to ride at a pace that was sustainable for me in my current condition. 

That said - it didn't quite go to plan. 

Terrain and company tend to dictate effort, and as slope rises, you have to respond with more raw power to the pedals. Right now, I calculate my Critical Power, which is the highest average power I can sustain for an extended period of time, right around an hour or so (similar to Functional Threshold Power) to be about 270 normalized watts, and if you follow my training programs, I believe I have about 22,000 Joules of energy available to me above that Critical Power. At 11.78 miles, I crest 269 watts, and I don't dip below that number again until 12.63 miles. I burned at least 100 KiloJoules, averaged 314 watts, though it FELT LIKE 325 watts (on this chart, it's called "WR" Power, but we usually refer to it as "Normalized" Power... it's a better way to measure power because it takes in to account what's going on inside your body on a metabolic basis, and what energy systems you're burning through), and my heart rate went from an active 147 beats per minute, to a near-max value of 193 BPM. I THINK my max is about a 196 or 7, but honestly, when a rider gets there, he or she kind of knows that there's not much left in the legs, and the lungs are going to take a while to recover. I burned almost 13,363 Joules above Critical Power, which was about 60% of my reserves, so while I probably could have soldiered on, the HR, the high Normalized Power, and my relative lack of training at or above Critical Power, had me actually backing off and settling down to a more stately sub-CP wattage of 250, then 230 watts, for the next 2 minutes, as my HR dropped, my breathing became a bit more normal, and as the slope lessened, my cadence went back up. 

For the record, I was NOT the strongest rider on the day. In fact, there were at least 3 other cyclists who were stronger on the climbs - some younger, some older. But the point is that I rode that hill, and others that I'll describe next in this post, with a pacing strategy that worked for me, and allowed me to improve over the course of the day, while also teaching my clients some of the same concepts. 

Here's an image of the 'Meat' part of that first climb. 

Not surprisingly, once I dropped my wattage BELOW Critical Power, HR dropped, cadence rose, and my Critical Power began to reconstitute itself, so that I could hopefully be better prepared for the next set of climbs. 

Now that the first real "Hill" was out of the way, and I knew my limits, I spoke with my clients, Brian and Kyle, and asked them how they'd paced themselves. Though I don't have their files with me at this time, I did learn that they, too, had basically pushed themselves to a point where they couldn't sustain their effort, all in an attempt to 'keep up' with other cyclists, and they'd taken themselves to a point where their HR and cadence just could not be sustained. In other words, they "Blew Up", and were unable to sustain even modest wattage below Critical Power, for a period of time. We then decided that on the NEXT hill, which was several minutes away, when we'd be more fully recovered, we would attempt to roll up the hill at a rolling 30-second average of 120% of FTP. How did that work? Well, here - have a look. 

The next hill was roughly 8/10ths of a mile, at a noticeable 6.2% average gradient. If my FTP/CP is roughly 270 watts, then 120% of that is ~325 watts.

So, with a goal in mind, I didn't quite average 325 watts, but I DID average ~315 watts for 4 minutes, which comes out to about 115% of that Threshold FTP/CP value, and THIS time, I was SLIGHTLY stronger, and kept myself a bit closer to the leaders. HR didn't go through the ceiling, Cadence was modest, around 84 rpm, 

With an FTP of 270 watts entered, the predicted cadence, riding in the easiest gear on my bike, which is a 39 tooth chainring up front, and a 25 tooth chainring in the back, while weighing in at 82 kilos, riding 170mm cranks (I like them short for my hips and for aerodynamic positioning), yields a predicted cadence of 86 rpm. What did I actually average? .... 84. That's ~2.5% off. NOT BAD! NOT BAD AT ALL!!! Interestingly, when we look at my predicted speed of 16.87 kph, vs the actual speed of 11mph, which is 17.70kph, the delta there is about 4% above the prediction. Again - you know, I will take that any day, and the reality is that there were probably some efficiencies in my setup or aerodynamics that may have affected those numbers. I was riding tubular tires on aero wheels, for example, and I was wearing an aero skinsuit. Stuff like that. ALL of it matters!

But back to the hills of Ardmore.

We rode like that for the rest of the day. Climbing at or near 120% of FTP for the longer climbs, not worrying too much about what our rolling 30sec and per-lap Normalized Power numbers were for the shorter hills. The day ended up being just about perfect in terms of temps and wind, but this leads me to a final thought to share.... When it all matters, at the end of a ride, it's how you managed all of your energy in the hours and minutes before, that count the most.

The 10 miles back to the car were a straight shot south, along the route upon which we had traveled outbound, and the return home, in the early afternoon, ended up just hitting that period of time in the day when the WIND picks up. And if you live in North Texas, or in this case, Southern Oklahoma, most of the time, in late September, that wind comes STRAIGHT OUT OF THE SOUTH or SOUTHWEST. So we were in for a LONG, HAUL, HOME.

Now - Hop back on to the RideWithGPS tab, and look at the final ten miles or so. Specifically, take a look at the wattage profile... Here's a glimpse.

Kyle and I both had to get back to Dallas for early evening appointments, so we left the bunch and did our best to paceline ourselves back to the cars. However, with the winds only growing, and the fact that Kyle is roughly 8" taller than me, and just less experienced with wattage pacing, we turned it in to another teachable hour. 

We started off agreeing to NOT go above our respective thresholds, and to attempt to alternate pulls for about one minute before dropping back. We also agreed to communicate if one of us was just simply pulling too strongly and dropping the other cyclist. When that proved too much, I took longer pulls, and made sure that when we both pulled in our turn, that we did so further and further below FTP. Finally, when Kyle was just hammered, I took over and pulled us both in. It was TEAMWORK that led to the grand finale, but it was also the fact that these were the final miles of a HUMONGOUS effort, for which we were only mildly prepared. 

Any chance you get to head out to new scenery or location or elevation, please, go do it. Trap that data on your power meter. Analyze it. Use the tools I've mentioned above so that NEXT TIME, you get out there, you'll remember what you're capable of, what your limitations may be, and how you can optimize your ride, in the moment, as well as before and after. Wattage and Science and Training really CAN serve to make it more fun. You just have to know how to look at that hill, at that course, at that day, and both prepare for it beforehand, and make the most of it while you're there!

Ride on! - I'll try to get a post of the Glen Rose Rally up shortly. Thanks for reading!!!