Reassessing my cycling

GreenLake
GreenLake Posts: 80
I’m reassessing my cycling and would appreciate your thoughts. What kind of cyclist am I? What should I aim for?

I rode the Dragon Ride on Sunday in 7:38. It did not go as planned; I’m a bit down about it. I don’t really care about the time; I didn’t have any goals in that regard. What I did want to do is feel strong, hold wheels and do my bit. I’m not happy with the fact that the ride was more survival than a cycling performance. Basically, it was suffering without the feel good achievement factor. I’ve done the ‘I survived’ thing before. That’s not what I’m looking for.

I try to go to Richmond Park once a month or so, in May I rode 3 laps in 59.21. In April, while on holiday in Majorca with the family, I rode climbs on hired carbon frame for a week – about two hours each morning. And daily, I ride the 18km each way Ealing – the City. I did a 100km audax ride in April. That’s the sum total of my training.

I’m no lightweight. I’m 88kg/ 194lbs. I’m 38 and come from a competitive rowing background. I ride a Condor Fratello – very comfortable, and can go fast. However, it is a steel frame not made for racing. It can go fast but acceleration is sluggish compared to the carbon bike I rode in Majorca and what I experienced during the Dragon Ride.

At the Dragon I started near the front. About 200 started before me 2,500 or so behind me. For the first two climbs I felt strong. Then, through the valley, I was alone and struggling. It was a long day from then on. Strangely I felt best, comfortable even, during the climbs. But between them I was just suffering. Skinny shaved legs and carbon fibre trains went whizzing past. I couldn’t jump on to wheels. Perhaps if I started later I could have hooked up with some good groups going my speed.

I figure if I’m going to events like this and feel good about it I need to 1) do a proper training program and get the long rides in, 2) change my body type; I don’t have a lot of fat to lose but I somehow need to shift some bulk/muscle and 3) get a proper bike. I experienced why my beloved fratello is not the right bike for this event; I just couldn’t jump on to wheels.

Thinking of those three things, each of them is a bit much. Changing body type would take dedication and motivation. More long rides would come at a cost to my young family and the titanium bike I want is not cheap - not so much the money, I’m not going to buy it unless I’m committed to riding it properly.

So what do I do? Become one of those bearded, sandal wearing, rack on the back guys? Just cycle to work and think ‘what if’? Soldier on, do these events, adjust my expectations to embrace the suffering? Do the three things mentioned above and absolutely go for it?

I’m not ready to give up on cycling, but I’m not sure where I’m going with this sport. Your thoughts are appreciated.

Comments

  • Tom Butcher
    Tom Butcher Posts: 3,830
    Do you train solo or with others ? I think it's very hard to reach a good standard of cycling if you don't train regularly with other good cyclists. Club runs, chain gangs - those kind of things. A lot of the guys flying by will be race fit - they'll be putting in big mileages over sustained periods of time and topping that off with chain gangs or racing.

    it's a hard life if you don't weaken.
  • sheffsimon
    sheffsimon Posts: 1,282
    TBH that isnt a lot of training - both intensity and mileage. Wouldnt worry too much about the bike at this stage, its mainly about the legs and lungs.

    Plenty of advice on this forum regarding training and resting particularly intervals.

    Myself, training wise, I do Tuesday rides with 2 x20min intervals, Tuesday rides with sprint intervals, and then Sunday early start 2-3hr hard hilly rides in peak district (where I live) with resting days between. Also road race on Thursday evening to leave most of Sunday free for family stuff (or occasional sportive!). Monday, Wednesday, Friday easy commute, Saturday nothing.

    Its made me competitive in racing, and gold standard in sportives, but Ive been riding/racing on and off since I was a schoolboy (now 39!) so I had a decent base to start with.

    My interval rides are on the back of commute home, so doesnt seem such a big deal, and doesnt take too much extra time.
  • GreenLake
    GreenLake Posts: 80
    Thanks. That is a good point. I haven't trained with others.
  • Anonymous
    Anonymous Posts: 79,667
    Join a club and do the chain gangs. Brilliant training!
  • andyp
    andyp Posts: 10,300
    Could you spare a couple of hours every Thursday evening to get out to the Hillingdon circuit to do their regular training session? It'll be a good workout and give you the skills and confidence to ride in a fast moving group. It also won't take a huge chunk of time out of your week and thus mess up your other commitments.
  • BMCCbry
    BMCCbry Posts: 153
    I'm no expert but wanted to reply as thought you sounded a bit down.

    Although it does sound like you ride your bike a lot, you haven't actually done a lot in the way of long rides. I'm not saying that you need to do LOADS of long rides in order to get through/enjoy sportives, but to have a few more under your belt would give you confidence and would also help get a feel for pacing. You probably just set off a bit fast in the Dragon and then blew up a bit. You're much more likely to ride further and faster with others, so I think the suggestions above to find people to ride with are very sensible.

    Riding with others is much more motivating and sociable. I can't imagine doing all my training on my own! I believe that it's really important to enjoy what you're doing on the bike and only then can you really fulfill your potential. And mix up what you do - not the same thing every day and every week.

    Good luck!
    Bry
  • BMCCbry
    BMCCbry Posts: 153
    I'm no expert but wanted to reply as thought you sounded a bit down.

    Although it does sound like you ride your bike a lot, you haven't actually done a lot in the way of long rides. I'm not saying that you need to do LOADS of long rides in order to get through/enjoy sportives, but to have a few more under your belt would give you confidence and would also help get a feel for pacing. You probably just set off a bit fast in the Dragon and then blew up a bit. You're much more likely to ride further and faster with others, so I think the suggestions above to find people to ride with are very sensible.

    Riding with others is much more motivating and sociable. I can't imagine doing all my training on my own! I believe that it's really important to enjoy what you're doing on the bike and only then can you really fulfill your potential. And mix up what you do - not the same thing every day and every week.

    Good luck!
    Bry
  • GreenLake
    GreenLake Posts: 80
    Thanks all. There is a theme here - riding with others and proper training. I think you are spot on. I appreciate it.
  • knedlicky
    knedlicky Posts: 3,097
    I’d also say that your training is insufficient, in particular that you need to improve your endurance, so should be doing more of the longer rides. Try to do a hilly 60-80 miles sometime each weekend, close to the speed you’d like to do a sportive. Supplement this with a flatter 1½ to 2 hours one midweek evening, including high intensity intervals in it.
    GreenLake wrote:
    Then, through the valley, I was alone and struggling. It was a long day from then on. Strangely I felt best, comfortable even, during the climbs. But between them I was just suffering.
    Training with others is good for motivation, and technique, but I wouldn’t give up completely on riding alone. Long rides alone are also valuable in learning how to physically and psychologically cope with the times when you are dropped and have no other incentive, like a climb to conquer.
    More frequently riding longer distances will also make it seem that the ‘empty’ stretches, where you struggle, are shorter.
  • ded
    ded Posts: 120
    My 2p worth...

    (Almost) Everyone above has mentioned doing "more long rides". Whilst I know that these are important I think people put too much emphasis on this for sportives, and ignore the reality that many of us have lives/wife/children/girlfriend/boyfriend that require attention too, and doing 100miles every Sunday is not an option! Endurance is great, but you don't always have to go out for 6 hours to get it...

    I did the Cairngorm Classic last week and, in contrast to you, was pretty happy with how it went. My training, whilst packing in a few more hilly miles than you, has only included 2 rides over 100km before the Cairngorm one at 160km. BUT I have put quite a lot of effort into "speeding up" and raising my anaerobic threshold. This (I think, somebody prove me wrong) helped me to jump on fast groups' wheels and meant that I zoomed round lots of the flatter bits of the course (and yes before somebody says it I DID contribute at the front (sometimes)).

    Is this a scientific approach to training? Probably not. But I have read quite a lot on this subject and what I have been doing seems to have worked to some extent. Yes there are lots of people stronger/faster than me but that's not the point is it? It's about maximising what you realistically CAN do so that you don't feel disappointed when you get out there on a sportive...

    Sorry for the long ramble :shock:
  • richa
    richa Posts: 1,632
    I am going to add to the more long rides theme. Reading you OP sounds like you have done just 1 ride of >2-3Hrs and that you started to struggle on the Dragon after Rhigos/2 hours.

    I would suggest that you would have wanted to have bagged several 100k+ rides before doing the 190k (with 3,000m climbing) Dragon.

    Your sub hour Richmond Park pace is good so I guess it is endurance where you struggled (I too am c59 mins for RP and did Dragon in 6:42).

    Joining a Club is a great way to incorporate regular longer rides into your cycling schedule. And they needn't impinge too much on your social/family life [I get up early, go on the club ride and am back for family Sunday lunch].
    Rich
  • markos1963
    markos1963 Posts: 3,724
    My riding really came on after joining a club, the ability to read a ride and to hold a wheel has greatly improved. As for endurance, yes longer rides do help but are not the be all, a guy on a recent 100 miler who had never gone past 60miles but had done lots of hard fast rides finished very strongly with no problems.
  • knedlicky
    knedlicky Posts: 3,097
    ded wrote:
    (Almost) Everyone above has mentioned doing "more long rides". Whilst I know that these are important I think people put too much emphasis on this for sportives, and ignore the reality that many of us have lives/wife/children/girlfriend/boyfriend that require attention too, and doing 100miles every Sunday is not an option!
    You don’t have to ride 100 miles every Sunday to be able to manage an 80 mile sportive, but you do need to have done a few 50 mile rides to comfortably manage an 80 miler sportive.
    50 miles every second weekend is no more time away from wife/children/girlfriend/boyfriend than the time needed by someone going to their football team’s home matches (unless they just happen to live next to the stadium).

    I say 50 miles because I think GreenLake must have done the shorter 80 mile Dragon Ride distance to be disappointed with 7-38 (that time would be fine for all but the better riders over the 120 mile route) and he seems to have just done one ride of any length, in April, and nothing since.

    PS. I don't just mean one 50 miler every fortnight. you need at least another 100 miles total every fortnight too, but they can be from a few shorter distances.
  • ugo.santalucia
    ugo.santalucia Posts: 28,301
    GreenLake wrote:
    I’m reassessing my cycling and would appreciate your thoughts. What kind of cyclist am I? What should I aim for?

    I rode the Dragon Ride on Sunday in 7:38. It did not go as planned; I’m a bit down about it. I don’t really care about the time; I didn’t have any goals in that regard. What I did want to do is feel strong, hold wheels and do my bit. I’m not happy with the fact that the ride was more survival than a cycling performance. Basically, it was suffering without the feel good achievement factor. I’ve done the ‘I survived’ thing before. That’s not what I’m looking for.

    I try to go to Richmond Park once a month or so, in May I rode 3 laps in 59.21. In April, while on holiday in Majorca with the family, I rode climbs on hired carbon frame for a week – about two hours each morning. And daily, I ride the 18km each way Ealing – the City. I did a 100km audax ride in April. That’s the sum total of my training.

    I’m no lightweight. I’m 88kg/ 194lbs. I’m 38 and come from a competitive rowing background. I ride a Condor Fratello – very comfortable, and can go fast. However, it is a steel frame not made for racing. It can go fast but acceleration is sluggish compared to the carbon bike I rode in Majorca and what I experienced during the Dragon Ride.

    At the Dragon I started near the front. About 200 started before me 2,500 or so behind me. For the first two climbs I felt strong. Then, through the valley, I was alone and struggling. It was a long day from then on. Strangely I felt best, comfortable even, during the climbs. But between them I was just suffering. Skinny shaved legs and carbon fibre trains went whizzing past. I couldn’t jump on to wheels. Perhaps if I started later I could have hooked up with some good groups going my speed.

    I figure if I’m going to events like this and feel good about it I need to 1) do a proper training program and get the long rides in, 2) change my body type; I don’t have a lot of fat to lose but I somehow need to shift some bulk/muscle and 3) get a proper bike. I experienced why my beloved fratello is not the right bike for this event; I just couldn’t jump on to wheels.

    Thinking of those three things, each of them is a bit much. Changing body type would take dedication and motivation. More long rides would come at a cost to my young family and the titanium bike I want is not cheap - not so much the money, I’m not going to buy it unless I’m committed to riding it properly.

    So what do I do? Become one of those bearded, sandal wearing, rack on the back guys? Just cycle to work and think ‘what if’? Soldier on, do these events, adjust my expectations to embrace the suffering? Do the three things mentioned above and absolutely go for it?

    I’m not ready to give up on cycling, but I’m not sure where I’m going with this sport. Your thoughts are appreciated.

    Given the small amount of training you put in, your body weight etc... I would be pretty pleased of a finish like yours.
    left the forum March 2023
  • daviesee
    daviesee Posts: 6,386
    Hi,

    No one has mentioned it yet so let me be first :lol:

    What were you doing for nutrition and re-hydration during the Dragon?

    Just a thought :wink:
    None of the above should be taken seriously, and certainly not personally.
  • GreenLake
    GreenLake Posts: 80
    Thanks again all.

    RichA, I looked at your blog/training. It's clear I haven't done enough training. My round trip commute is 40kms x 5 days a week. And I do intervals/commuter racing at a few key spots. It's enought to get me around RP 3 laps in under an hour. But not enough to perform for 7 hours.

    Let me clarify - I did the long route in 7:38, not the short route! I was suffering, but to my credit I forced myself to keep up a bit of pace.

    I think the one thing I really did well was nutrition. I ate and drank a lot, and on schedule. My secret weapon is peanut butter and jam on oatmeal bread.

    Thanks all. I think I have a clear idea of what I need to do - train more. Get a proper plan. And how to do it - join a club, ride with others.

    Now I just need to decide whether and/or when. I might go all out for the Dragon again or a Euro sportive in 2010...or I might not.
  • LittleB0b
    LittleB0b Posts: 416
    GreenLake wrote:
    At the Dragon I started near the front. About 200 started before me 2,500 or so behind me. ... ...But between them I was just suffering. Skinny shaved legs and carbon fibre trains went whizzing past. I couldn’t jump on to wheels. Perhaps if I started later I could have hooked up with some good groups going my speed.

    It seems you probably know this already - but if you start in the first 10% - unless you are top 10% good then a lot of people will overtake you.

    I once heard a marathon runner telling me that in races when ever you pass people you steal a little bit of thier energy - but conversley when people pass you they steal a bit of yours.

    It seems maybe by starting early you were the little fish in the big pond - rather than the big fish in the little pond that starting later might have been.

    and a final point - it's just one day we all have bad ones - maybe give it another chance before deciding
  • there's a very simple solution. you need to do more training and build your endurance.

    still i think your time on the dragon ride is very impressive given what little training you did do, so i think you have the natural talent there to make good progress if you are prepared to put in the time.
  • kingstongraham
    kingstongraham Posts: 27,341
    Take the positives from it as well - I am a 60 minute 3 RP 3 lapper, and did 8:15 in the Dragon (took it easy at the feed stops).

    I had a low point between 110km and 140km, for the same reasons - I don't train with anyone else, so din't know whether to push it to stay with the people who passed me or to slow down to stay with groups I was catching.

    But... it was my longest ride by about 60km, I made it up all the climbs without stopping, and was passing people on the Bwlch second time around. I think this was because I only had a 39x23, so couldn't go any slower.

    Why not do another sportive this year, now you have a long ride under your belt?
  • ded
    ded Posts: 120
    LittleB0b wrote:
    I once heard a marathon runner telling me that in races when ever you pass people you steal a little bit of thier energy - but conversley when people pass you they steal a bit of yours.
    I like that! AND I think it's true!
    knedlicky wrote:
    You don't have to ride 100 miles every Sunday to be able to manage an 80 mile sportive, but you do need to have done a few 50 mile rides to comfortably manage an 80 miler sportive
    Fair point - I have done quite a few of those - but that is a 3hr ride as opposed to a 6hr one - much easier to fit into a life.
    GreenLake wrote:
    My round trip commute is 40kms x 5 days a week. And I do intervals/commuter racing at a few key spots.
    So 200km a week just in commuting? Any training you manage on top of that should get you "up to speed". But you may need to make more of an effort with the quality as well as the quantity of the training.
    I think the one thing I really did well was nutrition. I ate and drank a lot, and on schedule. My secret weapon is peanut butter and jam on oatmeal bread.
    But if you are working hard can you actually digest that? I have been trying the yucky energy gels and despite the fact I would rather have a sandwich, I think they are actually better at delivering energy to my muscles when I want it, not 2hrs later...

    But more importantly, I don't think it is time to don the beard and sandals yet. I lost most of last year due to annoying injuries (pesky car drivers) and the only sportive I managed was the Cumberland Challenge, when I had the Bealach Beag, the Marmotte etc. lined up. As someone above said, take the positives too - you felt strong on the hills and you got round!
  • BMCCbry
    BMCCbry Posts: 153
    So, to summarise, there is a lot to be pleased about already, and a lot to look forward to.

    You did a good time for the Dragon, especially given your lack of long rides. Once you've joined a club and got into the groove of some regular longer rides, you'll be getting great times in sportives. Riding with a club will also get you really used to sitting on people's wheels and jumping onto wheels.

    Cycling Weekly has had various articles in the last few months on the issue of sportive training, and how it's very possible to prepare successfully for them without riding numerous centuries beforehand (if you focus your training very carefully, and get the right quality in shorter sessions). But it did point out that you need to have a few rides of close to the full distance so that, as much as anything, you have the psychological advantage of knowing you can do it and stay strong.

    On the nutrition front, I personally wouldn't want to rely solely on gels. I always have them with me, but they are for short bursts, emergencies, or for the last few miles if I want to step on it. If your peanut butter/jam/oatmeal bread combo is working, that sounds good. I think it's helpful in a very long event to get a little bit of protein in as well as carbs.
  • dombo6
    dombo6 Posts: 582
    GreenLake, that was a good time. Slightly quicker than me and I am 65kg (145lbs) 46yrs old and this is my 3rd Dragon having done Etape last year. I go on regular club runs, hilly 60-70 mile rides around Surrey, etc.
    All that training and I now feel utterly dejected :(
    I can only second the advice posted above re joining a club to get used to riding in a bunch, drafting, riding with faster people etc. Get more "quality" miles in eg ride outside your comfort zone, do intervals.