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
16:59

Power First, THEN Cadence -- Training for Climbs at Cycling Center Dallas

You know - in Texas, we're pretty lucky. We have endless miles of roads, most of them flat or rolling, and our idea of 'Hills" or "Hilly Terrain", usually means no more than about 2 or 3 minutes of suffering, max. Sure, if you head out to Ft. Davis, there's a couple of good, steep climbs that will certainly challenge you, but let's face it - we don't live in the Rockies or the Appalachian Range. I WISH we did, but hey. We still have great rides in all the Cardinal Directions, and favorable weather most of the time, to boot. 

However - the course we've selected for next month's "Ride With Richard" Rally, the Paluxy Pedal, has - what could be called in North Texas - Hills. Here's the Vertical Profile.

Paluxy Pedal Vertical Profile

Now, I'm not too concerned with the part in the middle - that LOOONG climb up toward the steep stuff. I'm more concerned with helping you train for all of those LITTLE, SMALL, SHORT, SHARP bumps that are all over the first part of this map, and near the end. Those are the hills that will eat in to you, rob you of precious energy, slow you down, and make you anxious. They're especially mean if they occur early and late in a a ride, like this one. 

Well, let's look at a few things together, shall we?

FIRST - If you've been training with us at Cycling Center Dallas for the last few weeks or longer, you know that YOU ARE GOING TO BE PREPARED! 

SECOND - We are training to help raise your power output, i.e. - your wattage. More POWER means that you'll climb faster, which means that you'll be done quicker. 

THIRD - Remember when we use "COURSE MODE" in our workouts?! Well, we are training for SLOPE as well as POWER. SLOPE, however, requires a new trick, and that is CHANGING GEARS and CADENCE. 

Remember our most fundamental metric - "FTP" or "Functional Threshold Power". That's the AVERAGE POWER that you can generate over 60 minutes. It's on your dashboard. You look at it every time you ride at Cycling Center. When we spend time ABOVE it, we're working on ways to RAISE it. When we spend time BELOW it, we're riding efficiently. MOST of the time, we're working on intervals at higher cadences, and I still believe in cadence work with wattage. BUT, we also need to work with cadence and SLOPE when we're climbing, and fortunately, there's this little web page that can help us understand just what's required, in terms of cadence and power. 

Rob Kitching at www.cyclingpowerlab.com has created a TON of great work for cyclists, so much so that we've actually hired him to build our updated Rider Results Page! We've got a lot of plans for projects together that we won't worry about here, but for now, head on over to this page, and have your bike handy...

When you get there, you'll see some great script explaining what the page does and how it works, and you'll have about 7 different blank boxes that allow you to modify the results at the bottom of the page. 

When you're ready, enter the numbers like this...
  1. Enter your FTP in the box for "Sustainable Watts".
  2. CdA stands for 'Coefficient of Aerodynamic Drag" - basically, it tells you how much air you're displacing when you're moving. Use the drop down and switch to 'Hoods", which will move the box next to it over to '.350'. 
  3. Now, this part is metric, but if you'll take your body weight, add twenty pounds to get an estimate of your bike's weight with bottles and such, and then divide that number by 2.2, you'll get your weight in Kilograms. Round up or down, and enter that value. 
  4. For Chainring, take a look at your bike first. Look at the INNER chainring. It's usually either a '39' or a '36' or a '34'. MOST of the bikes these days come with 39-tooth chainrings up front on the inside, but shine a light on your bike and look for a number stamped in the metal. Enter that value in the next box.
  5. For Tyre radius, most of the world uses 700x23, but you can look on the side of your tire to get specifics. 
  6. Crank length is critical, so look REALLY HARD at the bottom of the crank, near where the pedal attaches, for a number, like 165, 170, 172.5, or 175. Place that number in the Crank Length box.
  7. Finally, show output in "Cadence". 
  8. Then, click "Calculate"!
What you'll get is a VERY detailed analysis of your SPEED (in Km/Hr) and CADENCE, based on SLOPE. You'll also notice that it starts at 5%, and this is because that's the incline where gravity really starts to take over for speed and inertia, and you end up spending more energy fighting the hill, instead of fighting air resistance. The steeper it is, the slower you'll go, and the more energy is spend on slope.

Here's one that I did, just to get us started on an example. 



Notice that at 6% slope, depending on where my chain is on the rear cassette, I'm pedaling at between 68 and 87 rpm. If the slope goes up to 8%, then my cadence drops to between 54 and 69 rpm. Now, think about the intervals that we do when we are in what I'll call 'Fixed Gear' mode. We're usually at about 80-100 rpm. The intensity is the same, but the cadence is MUCH higher. However, when we hit slopes, which are 'real world', well, cadence comes down. 

Let's take this even further, shall we? 

Let's play with the Sustainable Watts. We'll be climbing at 120% of FTP or more, so let's add some real intensity to the climb. Let's also use a more realistic crank length for me, which is 170mm, and see what that does for us. 

Notice how my cadence at 6 and 8% went up? Notice how my speed rose as well? Now - remember how long those INTERVALS AT 120% were, the last time you attempted them? You KNOW you can do the INTENSITY, now, let's use our GEARS, to get the best CADENCE, so you can climb it at the smartest VELOCITY!

You can also use this page to play a LOT of 'What If's', like figuring out what can happen when you increase your power, change crank lengths, lose weight, change tires, move positions... all of it. Me? Well, yeah - like everyone, I want to lose a little weight. Let's say 6 pounds, which is about 3 Kilos. Let's see what that does...

Cadence goes up, as does speed, although you're a lot more likely to feel the cadence than the velocity. But yeah - it does matter. 

Go ahead and play with the gears, chain rings (it just occurred to me that maybe some of our lower FTP riders may have a prevalence of 34's...), and write down the cadence values or print the screen and bring them to class. We'll then come up with plans for the rolling hills of the Paluxy Pedal, further helping you roll your way over hill and dale, with greater Stamina, Strength, Speed, Skill, Confidence and Competence. All courtesy of your coaches at Cycling Center Dallas!!!

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