This article shares a training method I use with road and XC cyclists to add specific strength/muscular endurance to their training. These sessions are also designed to help when time is a limiting factor, as whenever dealing with ultra-distance cyclists, “Time Availability” is always a reoccurring theme.
Be it stage racing, a non-stop 24hr race or bike packing adventure, we simply cannot replicate the time in saddle training. 7 days in the mountains like Transalp or Trans Rockies, the famous Cape Epic, Transcontinental or Tour Divide, all require so much endurance and strength to reach to the finish line.
So how do I help athletes win Multiple World 24hr titles, step on podiums at Cape Epic, BeMc, Transalp and so many crazy bike pack adventures completed?
In 2009 I started playing with over geared bike sessions, even now writing out over geared sounds so obvious, so simple and believe it or not simple is normally the best way to train. Yes, harder gears can make a ride harder, it will create more muscular fatigue, it will also help build strength, wow not complicated. This is the simple basics; the key now is how this gets built into a training structure.
I had a pair of athletes heading to the Cape Epic in 2010, which gave me the perfect chance to build these sessions, progressively into their training plans. To start we aimed short, going too big/hard from the off is always the biggest mistake and instead we wanted to see adaptation and then progression.
1hr bike ride with a couple of short climbs on the route, when the rider reaches the foot of the climb they slow the bike down select a harder gear (chosen by rider, depending on fitness, current strength and gradient of hill) and then start to grind their way up the climb.
With the rolling momentum removed the climb becomes more muscular focused less cardio focused. If you find yourself accelerating up the climb, slow down and increase gear again. You will soon find these climbs give you a whole-body workout and will help highlight weaknesses else where (lower back, arms etc).
Once the climb is done, it is super important to focus on recovery, this means muscular recovery, so easy spinning (high cadence, to help flush the muscles) to prepare you for the next muscular effort.
Just like weights in the gym, we have control of the resistance. Length of climb, choice of gear, gradient of climb, how much recovery between climbs and total duration of session.
With all these variables you can see just how much you can play and develop your strength.
By gradually adding and building the sessions, you are building greater specific strength, while gaining muscular endurance. This approach is just going a little further than the old “winter bike” method and being much more specific and progressive than using a fixed gear all winter approach.
To recap –
Advantages: It’s specific to your sport, It’s cheap, Its time efficient, no gym needed and gives you a full body workout.
Extra Tips –
If you are an MTB rider, then train this on a road bike for even bike strength gains.
Seated and standing climbs to work muscle group specificity.
If you lack climbs/hills, then try, Over Geared starts. As with the climbing method slow your bike down and select a harder than normal to pull away, as speed increase slow a little and again increase gear.
You can add this pull away method to all junctions, stops etc on your ride or set a time period on your ride where you will perform a series of them.
Building 2 of these sessions into a week during off season will be plenty, make sure they are spaced out with recovery between them, you can then develop the sessions as mentioned previously.
Check out Youtube link on overgrazed riding to help you understand how to train it – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkvV-VrjMEc&t=225s
For anymore information on coaching/training for any endurance or adventure events –
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