This month’s topic is on taking your biking to the next level. Mental strength, gadgets, workouts, maintenance and more! Take tips from pros Rachel McBride and Brent McMahon and give yourself some tools to pedal to the next gear.
3 x 70.3 IRONMAN Champion
2 x IRONMAN Bike Course Record Holder
You’re an animal when it comes to bike riding. What is it about the bike you love so much?
Well honestly, my initial love of the bike came from being a good cyclist off the bat!
Now I love it because of the giant distances I can go and amazing places I can travel on two wheels. And I’ve fallen in love with gravel racing which is SO HARD but such a lovely community and there's always beer at the finish.
Pic above is Rachel competing in the 2019 Cascade Gravel Grinder in Central Oregon. And she won the whole thing!
What are your must-have bike gadgets? Power meter? Or is it a given that everyone has all the bike gadgets?
Not all. My husband, also my cycling coach, doesn’t even use a bike computer, so I feel pretty gadget-heavy compared to him.
I’m pretty smitten with my Pioneer power meter. I feel like using power has really changed the way I train. It is important to have a sense of perceived effort in case gadgets fail, but I’ve found using power can help push the boundaries of comfort in training by having a target wattage for intervals.
How important is hill training on the bike? Do you have any go-to hill workouts in your training?
I think hills are super important both on the bike and running for building strength. Hills also allow you to push some big power more easily.
A go-to hill workout for me is to go hard on a 2-4 minute steep hill. Once at the top continue to go hard for another 4-6 minutes - so in total about an 8 minute interval.
I have set sign posts I’m trying to get to, so the goal is to get there as fast as I can! I’ll do anywhere from 3-5 repeats of that for a short, hard smashfest. And we have no shortage of hills in Vancouver!
112 miles is quite a bit of time to think...Any mantras for thoughts you focus on while on the bike portion of a race or a tough training day?
I think having mantras is super important, especially in a long competition like Ironman distance racing. It helps you stay focused on the task at hand, especially as mental fatigue sets in.
One of my new favorite mantras I use for focus is from my run coach Lisa Bentley: “The faster you go, the sooner you’ll get to that finish line and the pain can stop!”
4 x IRONMAN Champion
3rd Fastest IRONMAN Finish Time
Share one of your favorite bike workouts to improve power.
A fun short, but challenging way to increase power is doing max watt starts. This is where you pick the biggest gear you can start from almost at a standstill and then pedal as hard and fast as you can till you spin out. It's best to do this on a flat or slight incline.
The sprint should take you 20-30 seconds to max out. As you get stronger, you will start in a harder gear and also be able to hold a higher cadence towards the end and increase the length of the sprint.
To add more challenge, you can do it on a hill. Start with five 1-minute or more rest in between sprints.
Be sure to ease and build into the sprints as the torque and strain on muscles can take some time to adjust to and build ligament and attachment strength.
What about any drills or workouts to improve your pedal stroke/cadence?
Riding the indoor trainer is a great time to do pedal drills. If you ever have the opportunity, try using rollers, they are a great way to increase your pedal efficiency. The rollers teach you to pedal in full circles efficiently. If you don’t have rollers, doing single pedaling on the trainer is a great way to achieve the same thing.
Start by alternating 10 pedal strokes on each side in a medium gear at a medium cadence. As you get smoother go to a lighter gear at a higher cadence with more revolutions. The faster you can go with little to no upper body movement and smooth pedal strokes the stronger you will be when you hit the road. Also, this should improve your ability to maintain power through undulating terrain.
You gotta check out Brent's sweet tricks on the roller trainer
What’s a tip you can share on actual bike maintenance? Do you take your bike to the shop regularly?
I like to regularly maintain my bike so I know it is always in good shape and won't break down during a workout. It’s important to not miss a key workout so I’m not going to let a mechanical happen in the middle of one.
I grew up working in a bike shop so I’ve always maintained and even built all my bikes. However, with the advancement of technology and using Shimano electronic shifting and disc brakes, I have my bikes built for me now. I don’t have all the correct tools for proper installation and someone that does it daily will do it perfectly.
The most important bike maintenance is keeping your chain and brakes clean and properly adjusted. People usually use too much chain lube, they keep adding more and more thinking that’s helping. In reality, less oil is better. You should not be able to run your finger on the chain and then have a pool of oil or grime on your finger. You should always apply a liberal amount of oil to a clean chain and then essentially wipe it all off with a soft towel. As you wipe it off you are actually pressing it into the joints of the chain where it is needed. I lube and clean my chain after any ride over two hours and certainly after a wet ride.