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Chaingang structured training

secretsqizzsecretsqizz Posts: 424
edited August 2010 in Training, fitness and health
What are the basics/1st principles of chaingang?
How does it cope with 'mixed ability/mixed fitness levels?
How does it stop becoming elitist - first person goes as hard as possible from onset to drop others off asap - is that self defeating?
To counteract that is it good to have a fitness aware person to impose a fitness discipline?

Despite the shortcomings, I do believe in chaingang efficacy.
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  • softladsoftlad Posts: 3,587
    How does it stop becoming elitist - first person goes as hard as possible from onset to drop others off asap - is that self defeating?

    that's not a 'chaingang'...

    specifically, a chaingang is a ride where every rider moves up to the front before pulling over and dropping back as the next one comes through. Effectively the ride is in two columns - one moving up, the other moving back. In practice, you spend no time 'on the front' because as soon as you hit clean air, you move over.

    the idea being to develop bunch riding skills and controlled-pace riding - the speed of the chaingang can be anything from fast to slow...although fast is better .. ;)
  • secretsqizzsecretsqizz Posts: 424
    Good .... so a constant rotation movement.
    I am thinking that belongs high on the list of 1st principles?
    My pen won't write on the screen
  • joeyhalloranjoeyhalloran Posts: 572
    I think it depends on the strength of the riders in the group, the stronger ones should spend longer on the front (if there is a big difference). Communication is vital, and if people are gonna "sit out" and miss a round at the front they should say so.
  • rozzer32rozzer32 Posts: 3,410
    At my club we do our chaingang on a circuit of about 10 miles and we do 3 laps. Each lap is faster then the one before.

    We all take turns and when you start feeling tired then you can sit on the back and miss a few turns to try and recover. If you'e totally blown then you can sit up and recover and wait until the chaingang catches you on the next lap and join in again.

    The whole point of our chaingang is to get fit for our racing and for new people to learn how to ride in a group.

    If we have new people turn up who have not done much group riding before we take the first lap easily (20 mph avg). On the second lap we will go just a bit less than race pace and if they get dropped then they get dropped. But after a few chaingangs when there fitness is improved then they will less likely to be dropped.
    ***** Pro Tour Pundit Champion 2020, 2018, 2017 & 2011 *****
  • BronzieBronzie Posts: 4,927
    It will teach you how to ride on a wheel and improve your bunch skills.
    It will teach you how to ride smoothly when coming through.
    It will teach you how to dig deep when you are suffering.

    Depending on the mix of other riders, it may benefit your own fitness. But if they are too fast or slow for you, then training alone may be more efficient.
  • oldwelshmanoldwelshman Posts: 4,733
    A chain gang is much more efficient if the riders are similar level and it will not work if there are big differences as the idea as stated is for riding through and off smoothly at high pace.
    If a rider is particularly struggling it is best they dont go through and slow the chain but better to sit on the back and let the riders back infront so the stronger riders keep going.
    Doin longer stints at the front is not a chain gang and will lsow it up.
  • BronzieBronzie Posts: 4,927
    Good .... so a constant rotation movement.
    I am thinking that belongs high on the list of 1st principles?
    It depends how many are riding. If there are less than 4 of you, riding "bit and bit" (ie rider stays on front for a minute or so and drops to the back) is probably more practical than "through and off".

    The main thing is to be as smooth as possible when moving up, no sudden burst of speed as you come through. Once your back wheel is past the front wheel of the rider you are following through, your work is done, pull left (if rotating anti-clockwise) and ease back on the pedals (but don't stop pedalling). It's a common mistake for inexperienced riders to come blasting through which just disrupts the rythym and means the person you followed through has to sprint back on to your wheel.

    The 2nd principle is that you move up on the side most sheltered from the wind, so this may mean you change the way you rotate as you or the wind changes direction.
  • Tom ButcherTom Butcher Posts: 7,137
    All this is in theory of course - the reality is often a bit different. Ours is pretty good through and off - doesn't work on the long hill in the middle and that tends to be the stronger climbers going to the front and others trying to survive - on the homeward stretch you'll get a few people having a breather and there's a tendency for some to sit in in the last mile or so for the sprint !

    Changing direction can stuff things up a bit too - seems to work a lot better going anti-clockwise.

    it's a hard life if you don't weaken.

  • Changing direction can stuff things up a bit too - seems to work a lot better going anti-clockwise.

    Of people coming through? Depends on the wind surely?
    "A cyclist has nothing to lose but his chain"

    PTP Runner Up 2015
  • Tom ButcherTom Butcher Posts: 7,137
    I agree it should work either way equally well - just doesn't seem as smooth on that ride when people move up the inside - think it's just that more often than not it's the other way.

    it's a hard life if you don't weaken.
  • andrewgturnbullandrewgturnbull Posts: 3,861
    Hi there.

    Chaingang riding is something that is much better demonstrated than described... Find your local ride and join in - the old hands will soon point out the right - and the wrong way of doing things.

    Re: mixed ability - if you've got enough riders then split into groups and ride it as an APR. Groups of 6 to 10 riders work best, setting the slowest guys/girls off first and leaving 1 to 2 minute gaps (depending on length of ride) until you get to the last (scratch) group. Any more than 10 riders and you get too many hangers on, any less and there isn't enough fire power if more than 1 rider takes a rest at the same time.

    The legendary Falkirk BC (my club) Thursday night APR will see 60+ riders on a good summers night, with abilities ranging from novice right up to pro rides. The most fun training session of the week!

    Cheers, Andy
  • andrewgturnbullandrewgturnbull Posts: 3,861
    Hey ho.

    And here's a random video a friend of a friend took at a chaingang.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPU2-qZuOnY

    I have to admit I haven't watched it all the way through - but you can see the basic through and off operation. You'll also notice the riders looking left before the pull off at the front of the line to make sure they don't overlap wheels with the rider who is about to be behind them. You can also see some signals such as when there's a parked car coming up.

    It looks a little ragged, but its probably representative of how most chaingangs actually are, as opposed to how they are supposed to be. Note also there is a lot of sitting on at the back after the group is caught by a faster group from behind.

    Cheers, Andy
  • sheffsimonsheffsimon Posts: 1,282
    Nowt worse than somebody coming through and not backing off when they are at the front, just breaks up the rhythm.
  • secretsqizzsecretsqizz Posts: 424
    The 'agm' yesterday decreed that no rotation necessary and strongest riders always at the front to force the pace throughout the 90 minute session.
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  • softladsoftlad Posts: 3,587
    The 'agm' yesterday decreed that no rotation necessary and strongest riders always at the front to force the pace throughout the 90 minute session.

    so a total fudge then. which club is that..? (just so I know not to join it..)
  • secretsqizzsecretsqizz Posts: 424
    In all fairness it seems to work for them and they are doing well in races as a result.
    If I was younger and fitter, it would be opportunity to challenge oneself but unfortunately it ends up beng a tad dispiriting.

    Its an amalgamation of various club members due to varying consistancies in any single club that fails to cater for more specific training such as this in the local area.
    That not the fault of individual clubs who have to cater for quite a wide spectrum if they are to thrive.
    I just like the idea of a bit more structure as per the very good suggestions made here- seems a bit more 'inclusive' thats all.
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  • dennisndennisn Posts: 10,496
    softlad wrote:
    The 'agm' yesterday decreed that no rotation necessary and strongest riders always at the front to force the pace throughout the 90 minute session.

    so a total fudge then. which club is that..? (just so I know not to join it..)


    There is a certain difficulty in getting a group or riders to work together during a "training ride". These things, more than not, often turn into impromptu races or simply macho
    hammer fests in which the main goal is to be at the front when the group hits the convenience store stop. Very important, this winning the RACE to and from the water stop(or whatever).
  • dennisndennisn Posts: 10,496
    I might add that I do believe that there is something to be said for structured training
    on your own as opposed to constantly out with your buddies and hammering away
    on a daily basis.
  • LJARLJAR Posts: 128
  • andrewgturnbullandrewgturnbull Posts: 3,861
    Hi there.

    Yeah good example. One of the key to smoothness is that the line coming back the way is not too much slower than the line going forwards. If there is a large difference in speeds, then the acceleration when you are the last man and you have to switch to the line going forwards is too much. If you are constantly having to jump to get on the wheel then it starts to hurt - quickly.

    Cheers, Andy
  • HibbsHibbs Posts: 291
    dennisn wrote:
    I might add that I do believe that there is something to be said for structured training
    on your own as opposed to constantly out with your buddies and hammering away
    on a daily basis.

    If you have a structured power-training programme would you be missing anything by not going on a chaingang? (physiologically, not skills). Conversely, with power is the old adage that a chaingang is the best training you can get a fallacy, and would a chaingang actually be detrimental to a proper structured programme?

    Need to find myself a coach instead of relying on Coggan's precedents, really.
  • jibberjimjibberjim Posts: 2,810
    dennisn wrote:
    softlad wrote:
    The 'agm' yesterday decreed that no rotation necessary and strongest riders always at the front to force the pace throughout the 90 minute session.

    so a total fudge then. which club is that..? (just so I know not to join it..)


    There is a certain difficulty in getting a group or riders to work together during a "training ride".

    But that's because a chaingang is forced to the intensity of the slowest riders, so in a mixed ability group it's inevitable the stronger ones are going to have to attack the group otherwise they're not getting any training benefit.

    For me the chaingang has essentially no value as training in a mixed ability club ride, it can be used to practice the skills of riding one, and it can be used to get somewhere quickly without tiring anyone out, but for training, it's not good enough as it's not specific enough to individuals.
    Jibbering Sports Stuff: http://jibbering.com/sports/
  • PokerfacePokerface Posts: 8,640
    My club has two chaingangs (one on Monday, one on Thursday). The Monday one goes at a slower pace to accommodate all riders and will usually slow down if someone is struggling.


    The Thursday one drops the hammer and waits for no man. Half the riders just sit on the back and hold on for dear life! If you get dropped - you ride home alone. But the training benefit to the Thursday one (if you can hang on) is far superior to the Monday one.
  • Murr XMurr X Posts: 258
    Hibbs wrote:

    If you have a structured power-training programme would you be missing anything by not going on a chaingang? (physiologically, not skills).
    Hi Hibbs,

    In terms of FTP in my experience absolutely not - it takes a while for some to realize this and most never do.
    Hibbs wrote:
    Conversely, with power is the old adage that a chaingang is the best training you can get a fallacy, and would a chaingang actually be detrimental to a proper structured programme?

    Need to find myself a coach instead of relying on Coggan's precedents, really.
    Rarely is a chaingang the best way to train, however benefits can be had in terms of bike handling if you feel you need it. Do not believe for one second that group rides are physiologically needed. Although some will not agree with this slow group rides are a disaster for FTP training.

    Andy Coggan is a smart guy who knows his stuff and if you can understand what he is trying to tell you then you will certainly benefit from it, just about everything he ever stated made sense to me :D . Most cyclists still do not have a clue when it comes to training and many coaches are the same and don't even know it so be very careful when choosing a coach. Choose one that embraces power training and run a mile from ones that do not understand or want to understand training with power.


    Murr X
  • Tom ButcherTom Butcher Posts: 7,137
    I think you are ignoring the psychological factors - most people can put more effort in if they are on a chain gang than if they are riding solo. It's also more enjoyable for many people to go out on a chain gang than to do some solo structured intervals - which means those people are more likely to complete the session rather than can it and go down the pub instead.

    Yes of course physiologically how hard you press on the pedals is the deciding factor - but more people can press on them harder if it means their clubmates are going to disappear up the road if they don't. There will be exceptions but for the majority I reckon that's the case.

    Isn't this one of the reasons top pros generally need racing miles in their legs to find form - just training doesn't do it.

    it's a hard life if you don't weaken.
  • sheffsimonsheffsimon Posts: 1,282
    jibberjim wrote:
    dennisn wrote:
    softlad wrote:
    The 'agm' yesterday decreed that no rotation necessary and strongest riders always at the front to force the pace throughout the 90 minute session.

    so a total fudge then. which club is that..? (just so I know not to join it..)


    There is a certain difficulty in getting a group or riders to work together during a "training ride".

    But that's because a chaingang is forced to the intensity of the slowest riders, so in a mixed ability group it's inevitable the stronger ones are going to have to attack the group otherwise they're not getting any training benefit.

    For me the chaingang has essentially no value as training in a mixed ability club ride, it can be used to practice the skills of riding one, and it can be used to get somewhere quickly without tiring anyone out, but for training, it's not good enough as it's not specific enough to individuals.

    Have to disagree, slower riders just get blown out the back and ride home by themselves. Stronger riders keep at it until theres only 3 or 4 left. Certainly on the ones I have been on round Sheff we dont wait for slower riders or make allowances for them.

    It certainly feels like there is a training benefit, some of the hardest times I have had on a bike have been on chaingangs round Peak District :) Harder than a lot of races I've ridden.
  • PokerfacePokerface Posts: 8,640
    ^
    Different clubs handle their chaingangs differently. Some wait for slower riders, some don't.
  • jibberjimjibberjim Posts: 2,810
    edited August 2010
    sheffsimon wrote:
    jibberjim wrote:
    But that's because a chaingang is forced to the intensity of the slowest riders,

    Have to disagree, slower riders just get blown out the back and ride home by themselves. Stronger riders keep at it until theres only 3 or 4 left. Certainly on the ones I have been on round Sheff we dont wait for slower riders or make allowances for them.

    Then it's unlikely to be a chaingang... Since you can't have a chain with people blowing in the middle of it regularly, and there's a lot of people who'll be fine sitting on but will not be able to do turns. Think about the strongest person in the group, for him to be in the chain with anyone, he has to go less than all out, otherwise the rotation won't be able to keep going.

    A group ride with a number of people regularly changing leading and other people hanging on the back at all out pace is very good training, but a specific chain gang with rigid 2 lines is not.
    Jibbering Sports Stuff: http://jibbering.com/sports/
  • sheffsimonsheffsimon Posts: 1,282
    jibberjim wrote:
    sheffsimon wrote:
    jibberjim wrote:
    But that's because a chaingang is forced to the intensity of the slowest riders,

    Have to disagree, slower riders just get blown out the back and ride home by themselves. Stronger riders keep at it until theres only 3 or 4 left. Certainly on the ones I have been on round Sheff we dont wait for slower riders or make allowances for them.

    Then it's unlikely to be a chaingang... Since you can't have a chain with people blowing in the middle of it regularly, and there's a lot of people who'll be fine sitting on but will not be able to do turns. Think about the strongest person in the group, for him to be in the chain with anyone, he has to go less than all out, otherwise the rotation won't be able to keep going.

    A group ride with a number of people regularly changing leading and other people hanging on the back at all out pace is very good training, but a specific chain gang with rigid 2 lines is not.


    It certainly feels like there is a training benefit, some of the hardest times I have had on a bike have been on chaingangs round Peak District :) Harder than a lot of races I've ridden.
    [/quote]

    For sure its a chaingang Jim, you keep going through until you can take no more, then grovel on the back for a bit then either stay there, start going through again or get dropped on one of the many many nasty little climbs we have round here.

    Maybe for the strongest person in the group its not at his limit, but I am not the strongest, certainly not the weakest, so for me its good training. Generally start off with maybe 20 riders, some 1st cats etc. People dont just sit up in the middle of either line, just dont go back thru when they reach the back. And its hard for most of us.
  • Slow1972Slow1972 Posts: 362
    +1 for how the chaingangs I go on are run Sheffsimon.

    May not cater for the very strongest rider, but definitely not determined by the weakest rider either, they just get shelled out early. The weaker riders then get stronger week by week as they stay on longer and longer.

    If a chaingang isn't hard enough you're either head and shoulders above the other people and need to try a stronger one or everyone else is glass cranking too (we run slower chaingangs in winter which don't go at full belt). For RR training I still reckon it has it's place as it gets you used to hanging on and then grabbing recovery where you can. Different to a more controlled set of intervals as you dont always get the recovery you hoped for (i.e when you hit a rise in the backward line you'll barely get a rest) so closer to (and often harder than) what you experience RRing.

    Personally it still has its place even if you do "structured" training, I know I usually manage to make myself suffer more on a chaingang that I'd necessarily manage doing intervals on my own.
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