Note: Gerry wrote this post for us a couple weeks ago and, as luck (and training) would have it, he went on to win the overall Singlespeed class of the 2010 NUE Series this past weekend. Congratulations Gerry! -Kid
There are many methods and ideas about how to train for bicycle racing. Most require the use of some type of data to track the progress of the rider and require either the use of a heart rate monitor or power meter. Personally, I do not use either of these devices. The only thing electronic I have on my bike is a GPS computer to record my routes, speed, distance and time; however, GPS was only added to my bike this year. I have raced without the use of a specific training regimen for over 30 years and have done pretty well by using this method, so I figure why change? Additionally, riding a bike is an escape for me and constantly being concerned about my riding data would take the enjoyment of the ride away.
For the past few years, the National Ultra Endurance (NUE) Series has been my primary focus during MTB season. Since each race of the series is a 100-mile off-road mountain bike race, with finishing times of between 7-10 hours, good endurance is important. Due to the races being pretty long, a lot of people think that it is necessary to ride a ton of miles throughout the year. I do ride a lot of miles leading up to the beginning of the season, but once the season starts I only ride on average about two hours a day on week days. During the months of August and July, I find this to be especially helpful because there is a NUE-series race just about every other weekend and doing this amount of mileage helps my body recovery from the hard race efforts. On weekends when there is not a NUE-series race, I will do a 3-5 hour ride on both Saturday and Sunday, or will find a local race to do on one of the days during the weekend in combination with a long ride on the other day. I think doing more mileage than this would not allow my body enough time to recovery properly.
Using my singlespeed bike as my main training bike is another aspect of my training that is a bit different than what other racers do. I usually ride it with a bigger gear ratio than I would use when racing to make it a little faster on the roads I use, but everything else on the bike including the use of big knobby tires is kept constant. I do like to add the use of heavier wheels to my singlespeed while training because this seems to make my race bike more responsive when I switch over to my lighter racing wheels. I feel my body becomes more efficient by training on the bike I use for racing. I think this is especially true for singlespeed racing because there is no “easy button” to push to make the ride hurt less when riding without gears. Riding a singlespeed all the time forces me to go hard on the climbs and to also spin fast on the flats, both of which are of course essential to being a good singlespeed racer.
Even with only training about two hours a day, bicycle racing takes a lot of time away from life’s other activities and responsibilities. I find that anything I can do to create more riding time during the week without being too disruptive to the rest of life is a good thing. For this reason, I usually ride out of home rather than driving someplace to ride and also use my bike to commute to work many days during the week instead of driving to work. This way I can either do my training ride going into work or by riding home after work instead of wasting time in a car. And, I must say there is no better way to get a good speed workout completed on my bike than by racing to work early in the morning to ensure that I arrive on time. I also find that riding home from work on my bike is one of the best stress relief therapies available. Many times my ride home will almost completely erases any problems I have on my mind.
So, that’s pretty much the gist of my training in a nut shell. There really is nothing special about it. I basically ride my bike everyday and enjoy doing it. Training is certainly not a chore for me. As a matter of fact, most days I cannot wait to get on my bike. I think this is why racing has been such a constant in my life for so long. But, everyone has their own way to train, so find something that works for you and stick with it because the most important thing about training is being consistent with getting out on the bike.