Category Archives: Single Speed

Gears: a love/hate relationship

So there I am yesterday, cruising along and feeling the gear love all the way.  Testing out the conditions for Camp Lynda day 1 things start to get a bit mucky.  Then it happened, that crunchy grinding sound every geary fears.  I stop, look at my rear derailleur, cuss, then laugh and pull out the camera.  Oh the irony.

25 or 30 miles from home this was not a pretty sight.  No phone, long walk.  Or make it a SS?  It took some field service that'd make the boyz at Desert Cyclery cringe, but I got her running again.

In any case, I was so unimpressed with them gears at this point.  Is this how it all begins?  The unavoidable fall into retro-grouchiness?  Not quite yet, but if I had to walk it'd be all over.

How about a roll call for Camp Lynda?  Me first - I'll be there ;)  What to ride is the question.  SS days 1 and 2, gears day 3 is the likely call.  Small gears like 32.18 on the 26er may get the nod, we'll see.  For sure on day 1.  Day 2 may see the 17.  If I was gonna SS day 3 I'd prolly go with the 16 and plan on doing a bit of walking on the steep Smithsonian climb.  It's all downhill except that climb ;)

The weather forecast last time I looked is mid 50s and sunny for the extended weekend.  Can you handle that?

Here's a descent we'll hit day 1.  This is about as close as we'll get to snow.  Snow is pretty when miles away. 

LOL I just realized this is my first post of '08.  A fitting title to frame the season methinks. 

SS adaptations in QA

A few weeks back I posted a this QA scatter plot.  I'd been riding the SS about 2-3 weeks at this point.


Here's the latest.  Both rides were on the 2:1.  The "Blakes" data is from a ~ 2500' climb with sustained grades well over 10% while the other ride was just rippin around faster singletrack with a grin.



See any differences?  The legs are changing.  Here's what I see in QA:


- the left "edge" of the data points in the first file is at a cadence of about 50 while it's upper 30's in the second.
- there are no cadence/force "holes" in the data.
- power is up despite no structured training.  Free power?  Yea baby!
- somewhat hidden in the second file...but there are several points popping up above the max AEPF/CPV line established by the standing start testing - this means max force at low cadence is increasing.


Note to Ed:  see how the points on that left edge start to go straight up?  That's where it's getting really tough to maintain that minimal cadence and I'll go as hard as I have to to maintain it.  To hold a given power, force has to rise rapidly at low cadences, and that's the physics part I was tallking about in the comments.  It's power that gets us up a hill,  not force.  Dangit.


I promise at some point there will be non-technical backway meanderings again...there would be today if I'd have had a camera yesterday!!!  Big rain event and mountain snowfall, flash floods rising 30 feet over bridges in slot canyons...just picture that in the most scenic spot on earth and you'd have the picture :)


 


 

Path to enlightenment: manic or nibbling away?

Ah, holiday time.  I always get a bit retrospective this time of year...


Using all sorts of resources I've been trying to piece together that optimal picture of the perfect training and racing year.  No matter how many studies, theories, or blogs I read, it always comes back to my own training data.  There just isn't anything more convincing, powerful, enlightening that my own store of power file data over 3 years of ultra endurance training and racing.


Hopefully I can say CTL without causing too much forehead wrinkling amongst y'all (got that, Rick?).  CTL = chronic training load, an analytical measure based on the daily TSS (training stress scores) calculated from power meter data.  I've actually got 7 years of the stuff, but the last 3 have been the enduro focus.  Here's how they've progressed.  Click for the big'n.


It's hard to make sense of this picture for a few reasons, but there are some things that jump right out.  Such as:



  • a CTL of 120-130 seems to be the comfy zone for racing and training.
  • coupled with power meter data I know that the fastest power gains occurred with the slowest CTL ramp rate - early '05
  • in the fall of '06 I apparently developed the ability to dig enormous holes from a training stress standpoint
  • the only 2 major cycling injuries in this lifetime have both come on the heels of PB CTL peaks, both in terms of absolute volume and ramp rates.

The observations above that are most affecting my thoughts for '08 are the 2nd and 4th...


There's been some talk on wattage about what sort of programs lead to better power gains - and would you know it?  The Cog presented a lot of data showing similar stuff as above for his wife who is a national champ pursuitist.  I've come to realize I have the ability to do massive training and get away with it most of the time (except when I don't) but that doesn't lead to power gains per se...it does lead to enormous endurance.  It was perfect for Grand Loop.  For anything shorter and more technical though, not the optimal plan by any standard.  So this year the plan is to "nibble away" and avoid huge training stress spikes for the most part, and spend more time doing quality work.  That pic above is proof positive of a massive 3 year base that is pretty much unshakable - no need for more.


The corollary to the above point is what I refer to as "headroom."  You only have so much capacity for training adaptation, and if your CTL is too high there just isn't any room to do the quality work that increases power and improve from it.  To put the above values in perspective, it's been estimated that Le Tour cyclists hit a CTL in the 150s by the end of the race.  My peak this year was 173.  That's friggin manic!


That 4th point...yep, no question, long deep builds are expensive.  They are now so alluring because I can get stronger as they progress, seemingly adapting just fine.  At some point the bottom drops out - but not until I rest.  I never know during the build how much is too much cause the body (or ma head?) says "more please." 


What does it all mean?  Slower ramp rates (or even flat ramp rates) for '08.  More quality.  More SS.  More power.  More fun.  Save the big manic builds for the end of the season - which in StG means June and Nov.  It's all coming together.

Goat trail exorcised!

If you've done any amount of technical mountain biking you've experienced the goat trail.  No, not that winding skinny high mountain trail that heads up to where the air is rare.  Those trails are for goats, yes... but I'm talking about the trail that *gets* your goat.  You know, the one that forces you to push beyond some mental or physical barrier or subject you to the dreaded walk of shame.  Or worse.

There's this short loop near StG that has provided more than enough challenge since first putting tread to it.  LW was telling me about a trail that was smooth and buff so I had to check it out.  When I got there...geez I thought, this is no place like home.  Smooth in spots, sure - for 20 feet.  Other than that, plenty of rocky terrain and a few spots that required some scouting to find rideable lines (well for me anyway).

I'm not a great technical rider.  Too much time with a NORBA license and not enough time with an EPIC license.  I'm working on it...and add to that the hesitancy that comes from not being able to clip out on demand cause of the July injury, and well I'm a trainwreck when it gets tech these days.  I'm far from Ed's consumate bike handling abilities...

This trail has been my benchmark for a few months now, and it has had a strangehold on my goat for the duration.  Sept:  spd crash (which I've begun to call "tipovers", an important semantic difference), left side a mess and a quarter sized hematoma - volcanic rock is sharp.  Then the next round:  right in the same spot I get a flat.  Rythm gone, walking ensues.  And so it went.  I hadn't cleaned this trail yet as of 2 days ago.

Then comes the magic.  Yesterday, for the first time since July 6, I clipped out intinctively, unplanned, with that left foot.  Pain free.  Unfettered.  Confidence soars.  With 3.5 hours and 5k' already done, I hit that goat trail up for a rematch.  Just as we got to "the spot", LWs chain comes off both the front and rear rings.  What is it with this trail?  Well, I just said I had a score to settle and kept on going.  Maybe it was the confidence of a working foot, the 3.5  hour warmup, the damp ground...but the trail seemed *easy*.  Those tech pitches just cruised under my wheels like butter.  There was hooting like those folks I used to guide down rivers in another life...embarrasing but no regrets :)

Yesterday's goat trail becomes today's best friend, just like that, and on the 32.17 no less.

Wanna ride it?  It'll be on the menu at camp Lynda, only I don't think she's gonna make you do that forever Blakes climb beforehand.  But I gotta warn you:  this trail is a lot like chocolate chip cookies.  one is never enough.

SS adaptations in QA

A few weeks back I posted a this QA scatter plot.  I'd been riding the SS about 2-3 weeks at this point.

Here's the latest.  Both rides were on the 2:1.  The "Blakes" data is from a ~ 2500' climb with sustained grades well over 10% while the other ride was just rippin around faster singletrack with a grin.

See any differences?  The legs are changing.  Here's what I see in QA:

- the left "edge" of the data points in the first file is at a cadence of about 50 while it's upper 30's in the second.
- there are no cadence/force "holes" in the data.
- power is up despite no structured training.  Free power?  Yea baby!
- somewhat hidden in the second file...but there are several points popping up above the max AEPF/CPV line established by the standing start testing - this means max force at low cadence is increasing.

Note to Ed:  see how the points on that left edge start to go straight up?  That's where it's getting really tough to maintain that minimal cadence and I'll go as hard as I have to to maintain it.  To hold a given power, force has to rise rapidly at low cadences, and that's the physics part I was tallking about in the comments.  It's power that gets us up a hill,  not force.  Dangit.

I promise at some point there will be non-technical backway meanderings again...there would be today if I'd have had a camera yesterday!!!  Big rain event and mountain snowfall, flash floods rising 30 feet over bridges in slot canyons...just picture that in the most scenic spot on earth and you'd have the picture :)

SS training plan

This SS thing is darn fun and it's tough to contain my excitement for it.  Not that I'm trying ;)  I promised I'd share my thoughts on actually training to be a better SS rider and that's the meat of this post...but some other interesting & related things are worthy of mention first.

It's taken about a month to adapt to the SS.  I have limited gearing options (too lazy to buy more?) which are 32x (18/17/16).  For a long time I futzed around on the 18.  First time on the 16 I thought "holy crap this is hard."  Last weekend I did (among other things) a 25 mile singetrack loop twice on the SS, first lap on the 18, then a lap with the 16 and gave it some gas (not that there was any choice!).  To my huge surprise, I loved it on the 16 - and biggest shock to me - that was the fastest I'd ever done that loop and I've hit it hard on gears before.

Must be a fluke.  As part of the new training plan I did 1.5 hour climb yesterday on the 32.16 - a climb I recently got spanked on in the 18.  Pure folly, right?  Well, I didn't think I was drilling it but another PR fell by the wayside.

Yet another observation:  I don't seem to get tired on a SS like I'd expect to.  It actually feels like I'm super energized like when in a power lifting program - weird!  Hormones are fired up or somesuch...

Yet another:  bike handling is getting better by necessity.

Yet another:  my favorite of all, it's so stressful to the lower leg that it has forced my crappy foot to step up it's healing.  I can run on it!

Yet another:  SS for a few rides has been much more efficient than a geared bike.  For the same routes - one a rolling singletrack loop, the other a long climb - the SS was faster and average power and hence energy requirements lower (normalized powers spot on identical).  Higher variability index (normalized power/average power), less energy used, and less time pedalling by far.  Hard when you're pedalling with lots of rest.  The gist of this?  Get your gearing right for a given course and maybe - just maybe - it's a better choice for endurance racing than a geared bike (OK I still don't know if I can climb all day on the SS).  Did I just put that in black and white???

SS a disadvantage?  Right...I'm beginning to get a clearer picture of Travis Brown's secret.

This whole experience rounds out my thinking on the demands of MTB racing.  You see, I've used quadrant analysis in the past to determine demands of MTB racing and adjust training accordingly.  The problem with this method, tho, is it tells you what you actually *did*, not what would have been best to *do*.  The bottom line is I think the metabolic demands must be balanced with the neuromuscular demands when devising a good plan.  The past few years I've been focusing a lot more on the metabolic demands.  This is great for the long haul - but sure made the first 2 weeks of SS riding painful ;) 

In a nutshell, the neuromuscular demands IMO don't get enough "attention" in most MTB training plans - at least the way I've tackled it.  So whether training for 2 hour XC or 15 day races, a certain amount of on the bike strength work is called for in the right proportion at the right time.  I don't think weights make the cut - not specific enough.  Trail running, low cadence/big gear work, standing starts - these all make the cut.  Of course you gotta be good at high cadence too so a little higher cadence work (at power otherwise it's wasted time) just before the racing begins is in the plan.

My first early season race goal is Vision Quest in Orange County.  Whether SS or geared I haven't yet decided, but SS will play a large role in my training for the event since it's all uphill anyway.  It falls on March 1...so without further ado here's the plan overview.  If I get a lot of questions I'll do a follow up post explaining what the nutty professor is thinking.  Click for the big pic.

SS analysis: strength or power?

Pure single speeders are a passionate bunch.  After doing a bit of  lurking on the mtbr SS forum and observing the SS related comments here it's obvious the top reasons SSers do what they do come from the heart.  As it should be.
Perhaps I will find that happy SS nirvana in time, but right now I'm a geared rider having fun on a SS.  It's my analytical nature that has me analyzing the demands of SS right now so that I can make a better plan to train for a SS event or two (or three or...  ;).  Nirvana is directly proportional to speed, 'tis a proven fact - so this quest is worthwhile.
There are two obvious paths to go when considering how to train for SS:  target specific aspects of SSing (on the road or MTB), or just go ride your SS.  On the geary, my long-standing paradox has been that to really improve, I have to do specific work - intervals and the like - usually on the road but not always.  So, I'm going to choose the former cause it's worked best for me in the past.  SSing 6 days/week might not be sustainable for me, it's hard stuff!
So then, what are the aspects of SSing that need special attention?  Power Tap to the rescue....the first step is to install the PT on the SS, go ride, then take a look at the ride data through the various tools available.  The most valuable of these has been Quadrant Analysis developed by Andrew Coggan.  Chances are that if you train with power you know the good Doc.
QA simplified:  every data point in a file represents a power output and cadence.  Knowing this in addition to the crank length the data is further broken down to the constituents of power - pedal speed (CPV) and average effective pedal force (AEPF).  In lay terms, how hard you are pushing on the pedals and how fast your feet are moving.  Crosshairs are then drawn with the intersection at the pedal force and cadence that represent what is  normally done at threshold power.  This divides the plot into 4 quadrants with these relative characteristics.

  • I:  high power, high cadence
  • II:  high power, low cadence
  • III: low power, low cadence
  • IV: low power, high cadence

Obviously, SS requires one to push darn hard at low cadences and really fast when spun out.  But where are the limits?  And are they trainable??  Key questions in my quest.  I'll be sharing my random thoughts along the way of this process.  They evolve daily ;)  But first, let's look at that QA plot again and see what it can tell us.  Note:  57 is not my preferred cadence so the QA crosshairs are misaligned in this plot...preferred cadence is about 96 so just about all points are in QII in reality.

There is a lot going on here.  Yea, it'd make a nice tattoo M but I'm not sure I have the bicep to pull it off so I'll stick to the geeky stuff ;)  The points here are from two different rides, one on a 32x18, the other on a 32x16.  The route is rolling, some steep short climbs, some fast descents.  Overgeared and undergeard, like every SS ride I've done.  The pace was moderate (not hard), but where it tilt's up I went hard enough so as not to walk.  IOW, L6 power levels. 
There is also some test data from 2 types of efforts:  maximal standing starts, one set is done seated, the other done standing.  It turns out the maximal AEPF-CPV relationship is linear, so getting some good points along this line allows one to extrapolate the maximal curve out to max force and max pedal speed.  That's what the 2 straight lines represent.  Those lines are the highest pedal forces I can achieve for any given pedal speed - I wanted to establish these lines to see how close SS low cadence stuff came to maximal. 
That's enough background.  Here are some things I see:

  • normal cadence range for SSing is 45-130.
  • typical pedal forces go up 550 N.  In geared riding they rarely go over 275 N (I'll post a comparison geared QA at some point) and for the most part are below 225!
  • pedal forces occasionally bump right up against that maximal force/cadence line 
  • pedal forces routinely go to (and above) 75% of max AEPF in a moderately paced SS ride.  This is in comparison to ~ 25-30% in a geared ride.
  • the ability to put out power at low and high cadences are equally important (but have very different demands!)

Finally, note the 3 iso-power curves - red, yellow, and orange.  In particular, note how they tilt rapidly upward on the left side.  Where they are  horizontal on the right, small changes in pedal force have big effects on power output.  But on the left, it takes huge changes in pedal force to alter power output, or from another angle, at very low cadences it takes huge AEPF to put out any sort of power.  In theory, at a cadence of 20ish I can do no better than threshold power no matter how hard I try.  So for anyone, no matter how "strong" you are, being overgeared beyond some point is going to reduce your power on the climbs.  Physics in action.
Did I miss anything?  Requirements of the soul perhaps??  They don't show up in QA ;)
This weekend I'll be doing some longer rides with the SS.  I'm curious to see what those data sets will say about sustainability of these higher pedal forces over the long haul.
Happy Thanksgiving!  Stuff yourself silly as is our custom...gives cyclists a reason to ride more.

Binge Over

My four day single speed binge is over and it was splendid fun. Ride times were 4:44, 4:24, 4:37 and err 1:35. I got distracted the last day with an invite to go goof around on Gooseberry Mesa. We spent half the day up there but ride time only tallied up to 1:35...

Not so much pedaling goes on up at the Goose but lots of playing about on bikes.

Nice one Lucas.

not so many folks make this wee steep one

Eddie the dog made the Goose loop smiling the whole way.

After the ride we went down into Hurricane to visit Quentin and DJ Morissette's new bike shop. Set to open next month and called Over The Edge Sports. Yep just like the Fruita one. Here is Quentin on the deck of the new shop. It is on the right just before heading out of Hurricane up the big hill to Gooseberry and Little Creek. 76E 100S, Hurricane. They are good folks and I wish them luck with their new business.

Now Thanksgiving is over we can start the yuletide fever. Is it really still only November?