Sunday, May 13, 2007

The cycling tripod

There's so much information available about how to best train your body to ride a bike faster, it can get overwhelming fast - even for someone who likes soaking up the numbers. To simplify the situation and look a the big picture, I often view training like a tripod having legs of 1. skills, 2. oxygen delivery, and 3. strength.

Skills includes the stuff you do with your brain and nervous system. Skills are the driver of the car. I use the term skills to describe a whole bunch of unrelated things like racing strategy, bike handling, bike fit, positive thinking, level of aggression, desire to win, pedaling efficiency, quick thinking, knowing when to grind in the saddle and when to stand, and knowing when to push a big gear and when to spin.

Oxygen delivery
Oxygen delivery is your carburetor. It's measured as how much oxygen (fuel) you can deliver to the motor (muscles). Your maximum oxygen delivery is measured by VO2max (which I've already covered in detail in a prior post), but other oxygen delivery benchmarks can more important than VO2max. Your aerobic threshold AeT (lower oxygen burning limit) and anaerobic threshold (AT), which is also known as lactate threshold (LT) or functional threshold (FT), your upper oxygen burning limit, together establish the effort range at which you can ride for a long time. The bigger the range between your AeT and AT, the better off you are.

After your brain has selected a cadence and riding position and has decided to attack or sit in, and your carburetor has supplied as much oxygen to your muscles as possible, it's all over but the crying. Your maximum performance then depends on how much force your legs are able to put into the pedals. Your cadence and pedal force together will dictate wattage output and speed.