Dangerous – maybe. Stoopid – no thanks

Stoopid ice

Picture the scene. Person standing at the top of a hill among scattered cars, waving a ski pole (the person not the cars). “It’s totally iced over up there” he says. “But you can look if you want”.

I look at my fattish tyres and am tempted. “MTFU” as they say.

Don’t be stoopid. Training plans are great and motivating (like this blog). But if we are smart they should be adaptable. A bit of “danger” comes with the sport (most sports in fact); but when we get to the borderline with stoopid, it’s OK to pull back. After all, this is supposed to be healthy fun, right?

So:

  • if you come across an icy morass where injury is a more likely outcome than fitness – go round it! (If going up remember that you’ll need to come back down…)
  • if you are sick – don’t make yourself more sick!
  • if you are injured – get better first!
  • if you feel like overtaking cars – slow down and have a drink!

cyclefucius is a tough but contemplative type of guy. Is he being too adaptable… or just doing the proper cost-benefit analysis?

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Cycling strength training – functional or not?

A while ago, cyclefucius came across Matt Brindle’s Functional Strength Training for Cyclists. I’m always interested in specific off-bike training as a complement to riding. See the explanation here (it’s bit long):

Matt Brindle's Functional Strength Training for Cyclists
Matt Brindle’s Functional Strength Training for Cyclists

It’s not cheap and seems very scientific.

But there is one thing that has bugged me for a while – the thing about cycling requiring training over “all three planes” (transverse, frontal and saggital – in cyclefucius’s less scientific world: rotation, up-down, and front-back). Matt Brindle, the functional strength coach, says for example that when out of the saddle there is movement in the transverse plane (twisting).

Can this be correct? Surely if ever there was a sport where movement takes place in one or possibly two planes (legs going up-down / front-back) then cycling is it? If our torso or hips are really rotating, then are we doing it right? Perhaps we do have to stiffen to body to counteract the tendency to twist – but that’s not what it feels like. In this video he demonstrates what I would call twisting dumbell squats / deadlifts, which look quite well conceived – but I’m still not convinced why they would be better for cycling than regular ones:

Matt Brindle Beginner Program One Sample
Matt Brindle Beginner Program One Sample

If the emphasis were on general training to balance out the one or two planar movements to avoid injuries / freakishness then this could make more sense. But this is supposed to be functional training – training which specifically trains the functions we need on the bike, right? For an impressive (but, for cyclefucius’s taste at least, really quite unappealing) full work-out (give me a bike anytime) see here:

Matt Brindle Faster Program 1
Matt Brindle Faster Program 1

Have I missed something? Perhaps the YouTube snippets are not very representative? Have you tried this and seen the benefits? cyclefucius is intrigued…

In praise of smog

As a young (non-cycling) person, cyclefucius used to irritate the Lycra out of proper cyclists in London by uttering phrases amusing only to myself such as “if the drivers don’t get you, the pollution will!” Ho ho. Hilarious.

Times have changed. I have changed. I am now the guy receiving the cycling jokes and full of respect for those that move and train anywhere, and especially around London. Cycling is more popular. And I have moved to a place which is more of a cycling heartland.

So these days, I am lucky enough to look down from my house onto a beautiful city on a beautiful plain. But like London or any other large populated area, the beautiful city is dusty and smoggy; and the beautiful plain is surrounded by beautiful mountains, which tend to keep the not so beautiful smog on top of the beautiful city.

But sometimes you look down of a morning and there is no smog to be seen. The beautiful city gleams. Non-cyclists rub their hands and think how healthy it must be. Cyclists realise that there can only be one reason for the absence of smog: gale force winds. At this time of year that means gale force wind-chill.

Don’t get me wrong, I hate smog. But round here more smog equals less weather. And less weather equals happier cyclefucius.

Mud 2: the revenge of mud

It’s testing times here. I almost preferred the minus 6 December outings than the drizzly fog of January. Everything is wet. Stuff doesn’t even dry from the day before so you go out damp and the yesterday’s raindrops have rain sex with today’s and create lots of little rain offspring on your back. Then you break into a sweat which stays warm just long enough to meet the chilling onslaught of osmosis from outside. Reach for bidon – about as refreshing as a freezing headwind (talk of the devil…)

Another cyclefucius paradox: body temperature is at absolute zero but outside temperature is just high enough to ensure that snow turns to slush and mud as thick as wallpaper paste (like cycling through a world of gel).

However, unlike ‘hill work‘, ‘slogging through gel work’ does give time for reflection. At one stage, slogging through uphill gel, I pass some downhillers with full face helmets and Super Bowl style armour bouncing happily down and hup … and down a nearby ravine. I’ve got this all wrong, I think. Moments later I pass the Land Rover they came up in. I’ve definitely got this wrong.

Come Summer, though, who’ll be laughing then, huh? Probably still them. But cyclefucius will be tougher! Though throwing yourself down ravines is pretty tough. Dammit, they probably even write good cycling haikus…

If this is yours, don’t come near me

Chair
You cannot be serious

Seen today on the trail. Seriously, I have seen some refuse around (amunition boxes, beer bottles, towels, single shoes?, um … sexy stuff) but this is probably the record. You would think it probably took more effort to put it here than to dispose of correctly. It hardly blends in either. Dudes, this stuff does not biodegrade.

I – and I’m sure all reading share this – just don’t get how anyone can think this is OK. cyclefucius knows that punching other people is not a good way of resolving anything, but is getting to feel that there might be some exceptions… (off to meditate for a while now).

A nasty case of hill work

Hill work

Feeling great – like having a tailwind! Get up, potter around doing everyday Fucius household stuff. Check the training programme. Two words to take the tailwind out of those sails: “hill work”.

Actually what is says is: “45 mins warm-up; hills 2 x 15 mins (10 mins seated at 80/85 rpm cadence, last 5 mins standing); total recovery between the two climbs; 45 mins confortable speed warm down.”

Kind of quirky and all I have to do is:

  • go out and find 15 minute hill;
  • go up;
  • go up again;
  • go merrily home.

Now round here, hill work is fairly relative – actually I think I did exactly the above yesterday without meaning to. So what to do? I decided to go for a particularly nasty one nearby with some 20%s in there and which I normally save for much later in the year when feeling at the top of my game.

So what did I learn?

  • it is a Good Thing to do something that you think is maybe too hard. Actually you may find you can do it.
  • standing up for five minutes (in cyclefucius’s currently electronics-free world about 300 Mississippi) is something that needs training. This is worth doing even if you wouldn’t actually “in real  life” (see next points).
  • unless you are Sr. Contador or Chris Horner standing up is not very efficient – you will lose form and cadence and, if not on the road, then traction as well.
  • however, there is such thing as “standing up for a rest” i.e. to bring in other muscle groups.
  • warming down gradually helps (i.e. continuing to pedal rather than stopping suddenly) – not just for your legs but maybe even more for your heart.
  • unless you are really a pro or have chosen your hill very carefully, you will forget about cadences and heart rates – it may just be about survival (a sensible bit of “pushing it” seems to me OK and inevitable) [legal says this is where you tell them you are not a doctor etc. – Ed.]
  • while doing hill work it is almost impossible to enjoy the view, think sweet thoughts, compose blog posts etc. You are definitely training not riding. The only thoughts you are likely to have are how your body feels right now and how ‘future you’ will be grateful. This kind of takes away some of the point of getting out on the bike. It’s only a little Zen – living simultaneously in the present and the future.

So “hill work” done. A necessary evil? Hope so. Motto of the day: easier than yesterday and not as easy as tomorrow.

Breaking! Cyclist attacked by mud

Muddy cycling shoes

I have to admit I am not the sort who goes out actively looking for mud. Maybe I am more of a tourist than a hardcore mountain biker. Cross? Great to watch with a beer.

I am also not the person in the Fucius household who does most of the washing.

But cyclefucius would not be cyclefucius if he did not ponder the fact that there are some necessary skills to be learned here.

Snow is melting right now giving a perfect blancmange of slush, ice and mud to challenge the cyclefucius bike-handling abilities. One day I may do a “cornering” post – something that doesn’t seem to come naturally, but which we are working on. (Be water, my friend…)

But actually – go figure – mountain bikes and tyres are actually designed to keep you upright in this type of situation. It was kind of fun.

For a while. After a few seconds, we discover that mountain bikes and tyres are also designed to spray fluid of varying degrees of opacity and viscosity up into the air, face, boots, backside, saddle, moving bike parts, cars, joggers, hikers and any other mountain flora and fauna.

cyclefucius has a particular issue with glasses at the moment – at the first sign of cyclefucius industrial strength perspiration, they steam up; at the second sign, the perspiration transfers itself onto the inside of the lenses. Couple this internal attack with the external attack launched from the tyres and the problem was not navigating the corners, but seeing the corners.

Yes it was fun. Kind of. But if any evidence were needed that cyclefucius does not have any Belgian ancestry, this is it. Roll on Spring.