Wattbike’s Eddie Fletcher on balancing power, upping cadence, climbing, nutrition and self-testing on the bike
Sports scientist Eddie Fletcher of Wattbike answers your questions on how to get the most out of your cycling sessions. Read his initial blog here or catch up with TriRadar editor Elizabeth Hufton’s Wattbike Winter here.
HOW TO MAINTAIN A GOOD PEDAL STROKE WHILE CLIMBING
Q: I’ve noticed that my pedal stroke is decent when sitting but horrible whilst standing. Do you have any training techniques to help improve pedal stroke whilst standing?
A: It’s far more effective to stay in the saddle and use your gears and cadence (rpm). Sure, it is necessary sometimes to get out of the saddle but for very short periods – then sit down. Not only do you get better application of force around the pedal turn but physiologically it’s a lot easier. When you think about the Polar View on the Wattbike, the shape you see when standing up is logical – all of your weight is coming down on the pedal (gravity and momentum takes the pedal down), your angle of peak force is at the bottom of the stroke and you are unable to scrape the foot through to maintain pedal momentum.
Have a look at a blog we wrote earlier this year for a more detailed explanation.
HOW TO BALANCE LEFT AND RIGHT LEG POWER OVER TIME
Q: I currently use a Wattbike and find the Polar View a useful way of trying to even out my pedal stroke. However, I can’t really get to grips with how to use this data over time to track my progress. How do you go about this, please?
A: You’re looking to smooth it out over time, so getting the balance right and close to 50/50 distribution of leg power with an angle of peak force as close to the same on each leg. You’re also trying to get that ‘perfect’ shape which I describe as a ‘peanut with aspirations to be a sausage’. I say ‘close’ because even in the smoothest of riders it will oscillate around an average point. Don’t forget the Wattbike is very precise, tracking the force you are applying 100 times per second, and cadence to five decimal places.
The perfect pedalling technique shape can be seen at the Wattbike website.
HOW TO INTERPRET MAX POWER ANGLE ON A WATTBIKE
Q: I’ve just started using a Wattbike and need some help to interpret the data. On Polar View my max power is at around 135 degrees – this seems a long way around. Should this be nearer to 90 degrees?
A: It depends on the session you’re doing – if a light recovery session on a low resistance/reasonable cadence (I like 90 rpm as a minimum) then angle will be steep (i.e. move towards 180), the angle (shape) will re-orientate depending on how light a resistance (gear) it is for you – the steeper and the heavier the resistance (gear) the more it will move back towards 90).
It also depends on rpm – a low high rpm moves it steeper (gravity and momentum helping), the lower the rpm the more moves back towards 90 – one of the reasons I like to get resistance (gear) and rpm optimised is that it gives you the best combination of shape and angle of peak force. There’s a bit more on the angle of peak force here.
HOW TO FUEL WHILE ON AN INDOOR BIKE TRAINER
Q: What post race/ride/training nutrition do you use/recommend, branded retail or home-made?
A: I think you do need to be careful of some of the branded nutritional aids, claims made by the manufacturers do need to be looked into carefully – I’m a scientist after all. I do prefer home-made stuff but it really depends on the event you’re doing. Hydration is probably the most important – water is good but a mixed carbo/protein drink won’t hurt. For very long rides it’s very important to keep electrolytes/sodium levels up. And for your indoor training sessions we have an Advanced Hydration Guide which is well worth a look at.
WHAT IS THE BEST TYPE OF POWER METER?
Q: I am considering a power meter. Which type is best, hub, crank, or pedal?
A: As you’d expect, I’d highly recommend a Wattbike. Training outdoors with power can be problematic due to factors out of your control. It’s something I wrote about on the Triathlon Plus blog and is well worth a read for you.
HOW TO INCREASE POWER AND CADENCE OVER WINTER
Q: What is the best way to increase my power and cadence when training this winter?
A: My first bit of advice to any triathlete wanting to improve is to follow a structured training plan and one that concentrates on building your base endurance (the engine) and cadence levels. Easier to do on a Wattbike as you can test yourself, set your training zones and then ensure you train in the appropriate zones at the right resistance (gearing), rpm, HR zone and so on.
HOW TO TRAIN YOURSELF AS AN ALL-ROUND CYCLIST
Q: To what extent should training be goal specific, i.e. should sportive riders concentrate on riding an hour at threshold, should racers concentrate on intervals, or is it best to mix it up?
A: Follow a structure that develops the physiological adaptations that allow you to both complete the Sportive and do an hour at threshold. Riding an hour at threshold and intervals have a place for both Sportive riders and racers. For Sportives you do need to build some resilience for a number of hours in the saddle. You cannot improve your hour threshold if you don’t do the base work that is necessary.
HOW TO START USING A WATTBIKE
Q: Wattbike arriving on Monday, apart from the build, sizing, what should I do first?
A: Test yourself to get your correct training zones, resistance (gear) and rpm levels – if you are an inexperienced cyclist do a sub-maximal test rather than a maximal test – if you have the latest Wattbike Performance Computer the test is set up for you and when you complete it, it will give you the power and heart rate training zones that apply to you. And then it’s onto a training plan! A good starting point is to take a look at our Triathlon Training Plan at http://bit.ly/vM5ni