This week I posted on a number of local (Christchurch, New Zealand) cycling community facebook pages asking for feedback on the location of a Harry Watson (the first New Zealander to ride the Tour de France (1928)) memorial, proposed by Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan. This task gave me the chance to reflect on the story of the pioneers of the cycling sport, and ultimately compare with what we are use to now.
To give you a bit more background on Watson’s achievements:
“In 1928, a team from Down Under including Watson and 3 Australians became the first English speaking team to compete in the Tour de France. Britain didn’t take part until the 1950s and the U.S. didn’t enter until 1980. Training at sea during their 6 week journey to Europe, these courageous Australasian underdogs took on the world’s best. Racing as a team of 4 against teams of 10, the Australasian’s entry was considered, by many, a joke. One French journalist called their attempt “nothing short of murder” with some days taking longer than 20 hours.
With the scars of World War 1 fresh on the minds of the French people, Watson and his team won the hearts of the French media. Echo des Sports said their efforts were, “Homeric and Sensational” and another publication called it “ superhuman”. A crowd of 70,000 gave the team a standing ovation at the finish.”
Wow! Training at sea for 6 weeks - you wonder what type of trainer they would have had to simulate cycling - not a Revbox erg! In those days is was so much more about determination and guts than today’s performance environment of number crunching, ‘skinny’ diets and training principles.
It’s a marvel to reflect also on the evolution of our sport. Cycling has often been criticized for it’s euro-centric conservatism stymying technological, social and cultural development. However, there have been elements of moving forward to be proud of.
Back in 1996 Chris Boardman using the cutting edge technology to set the hour record before the International Cycling federation (U.C.I.) banned and invalidated attempts at this record on nothing but the bicycles used in the Merckx era of the 70’s.
I think of the latest attempts at the hour record now that production aero bikes can be used, as an example of how the U.C.I. is slowly allowing for development in cycling. Certainly while they have prevented rapid innovation to take effect in the mainstream cycling industry, this hasn’t stopped a lot of progression in training principles and techniques in the last decade (think of what Team Sky Pro Cycling’s ‘marginal gains’ has done to the pro peloton!)
Closer to the reach of the average weekend warrior - what admittedly has been around for a couple of decades (low inertia wind braked indoor trainers) - I see the emergence of the Revbox erg as on the cusp of being heavily involved in future development in training techniques, for all level of cyclists. The growth in market share and continued education of cyclists and coaches, in the benefits of using the Revbox erg, will be what defines it’s success in cycle training. Watch this space!
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I am now a retired competitive cyclist; at least that’s how I regard myself at BMX training nights (with shaved skinny legs and the stereotypical tan lines wrapped around my appendages), while chasing my kids around the track. I know there’s a void to fill and that competitive bone I’ve been lugging around for the last half of life doesn’t just magically transpose to someone else, but it’s time for a change in direction in life.
However, I still love burying myself in the physical ecstasy elicited from physical exercise. So despite the lack of need to train using the Revbox Erg (now that I won’t be time trial training anymore) I know that once this super awesome summer comes to an end I’ll be returning to the hurtbox, I mean Revbox. In the meanwhile, as recently as last night, I felt like I was back riding it while doing 1 minute max hill intervals.
For me these are fun when doing them in a group as everyone starts their work interval (W.I.), and finishes each recovery interval (R.I.) in the same place - at the bottom of a hill before the start of the next minute of joy. So there’s motivation right there in the company of others; but there’s also added mojo when riding at 150% of FTP (functional threshold power) with a crumbling cadence due to an ever increasing gradient, when it feels oh so familiar - much like those killer sessions on a Revbox!
As a coach I preach specificity, specificity of competition, in other words experiencing the same sensations of racing. And this is where the Revbox is like no other trainer in subjecting you to similar sensations you experience when, in particular, riding uphill.
If you want to try these intervals, which are target a mixture of anaerobic and V02max, here’s the format:
4 - 6 W.I. (depending on your fitness level and terrain/trainer - the flatter/easier the trainer the more W.I. shoulde be completed).
W.I. = 1 minute ‘maximum’ - at 130-160% of FTP for power users/for those without then you should evenly pace yourself through the minute and finish feeling like you can’t ride more than 5 seconds past the 1 minute. Cadence of 100-130rpm.
R.I. between each interval = 2 minutes at 90rpm and 50-60% of FTP/ maximal exertion/maximum heart rate (at the beginning of the RI it tends to be a lot lower than this!)
R.I. between each set ~ 8 minutes at 90rpm and 50-60%.
So it’s summer and you want to get outside - well do these on the flat or hill - the harder (steeper) the terrain the less WI you can expect to complete (and at a lower rpm). Likewise when I do these on the Revbox I go from 6 in a set to 5. Hence you’ll find a low inertia trainer like the Revbox similar to the toughness of the hills, compared to a conventional trainer - even if you feel you’re trying just as hard! So go find a steep hill to prepare yourself to do these indoors during the winter months - is the take home message here.
Intervals on a hill - what's around the corner?
On a final note, being a retired competitive cyclist is not so bad after all - at least there’s always Strava!
Thanks for reading.
I’m on the final countdown to the Elite Nationals Time trial (and road race!). So the Revbox has become my closest friend (next to my wife of course). I do a few, not loads, of time trials though out the year - local Tuesday night 16 kilometre jaunts on the outskirts of Christchurch; the opening prologue of the Cycle Classic (Tour of Manawatu); and the final day’s time trial of the Tour of Southland, but none bear the weight of importance as the 40 kilometres of pure bliss at the New Zealand Elite Nationals for me.
It’s because I’ve won it once, it’s close to home so my family comes out, and of course it gains the most recognition (let alone having a New Zealand national champion speed suit for a year!).
I’ve soon learnt that the best (but not the only form of) training for time trials is long (around 20 minutes) intervals at varying cadences - from 45 to 95 rpm, on a LOW INERTIA TRAINER! My switch from the BT erg to the Revbox in my build up for this all important time trial has not been seamless, but I won’t be going back (to the BT). When I’ve got back on it, it feels like my pedals are being ‘pushed over.’
There are a lot of factors that contribute to peak performance, physical factors may only account for around 50%, but time will soon tell how the Revbox has helped me, as (in particular the Christchurch (Lincoln University) course) lends itself to the time trialist who can sustain a big gear over long wind-affected monotonous straights - perfect for those that train using the Revbox.
On my way to winning the 2012 Elite Nationals Time Trial
Two training tips I must point out - tips I am always being reminded of (the hard way!) - are that strength endurance training (low rpm) must be used with caution as it’s a sure way to burning out (overtraining)! And not all intervals can be done indoors on the trainer. When I do my workouts I have a cadence I keep to, which generally varies no more than 1 rpm either side. On the road, cadence and therefore power vary wildly! This variation is important to train to.
Finally, it was great to receive feedback from a client I train who has recently purchased a Revbox erg, who also sees the same value as I do in this trainer. Likewise it’s nice when I see the posts on the Revbox facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/revbox?ref=hl) of the users, recreational to elite, finding the benefits of this great training tool.
Thanks for reading.
This month’s blog provides further education and advocacy of the Revbox Erg’s place in making you a better cyclist, some suggestions on how to use the Revbox Erg in training and an update on my recent racing - 2014 Tour of Southland done and dusted!
Firstly onto how to use the Revbox Erg, which you can use like any other indoor trainer for targeted interval and skill sessions. The great thing about using it over any other trainer that is not low inertia and wind braked, is that it will make you stronger through the whole pedal stroke. This means you engage and fatigue more muscle mass, and consequently makes you stronger. You’re also therefore taxing your heart and lungs more - burning more calories!
As for specifics on interval and skill sessions, the sessions I use are much like I would already be doing on a turbo trainer, but they are harder! I’m big on doing short intervals as a current (scientific) literature suggests these benefit not only anaerobic capacity (sprinting ability) but also your aerobic endurance. Since the Revbox Erg has low inertia and is windbraked, on finishing a sprint there isn’t any momentum in a fly-wheel. You can therefore start your next sprint from scratch (zero power) after as little as a 2-second recovery interval.
An example of a session I use:
Warm up: anywhere between 5 - 20 minutes
6x 5 second sprints: 30 second recovery
6x 5 second sprints: 15 second recovery
6x 5 second sprints: 5 second recovery
5 minute recovery
3x 10 second sprints: 60 second recovery
3x 10 second sprints: 30 second recovery
3x 10 second sprints: 10 second recovery
5 minute recovery
2x 15 second sprints: 1:30 minute recovery
2x 15 second sprints: 45 second recovery
2x 15 second sprints: 15 second recovery
5 minute recovery
2x 20 second sprints: 2 minute recovery
2x 20 second sprints: 1 minute recovery
2x 20 second sprints: 20 second recovery
5-10 minute warm down
Last week I visited BikeCycle to trial the latest version of the Revbox Erg. It was nice to hear Philipp Schact’s (part of the Revbox Erg management team) positive feedback that the sound my pedal stroke made was very smooth. We can put this down to me having spent a lot of time training on the Revbox Erg over the last 3 months and developing a knack for engaging more muscle mass! Philipp has developed an ‘ear’ for the distinctive sounds of the Revbox - call him the Revbox Erg-whisperer!
It was also cool to hear that a German world tour rider is now using the Revbox Erg, who previously had no experience with low inertia wind braked trainers. He has only had positive things to say about it!
Finally, I recently finished my 11th SBS Tour of Southland (tourofsouthland.com). I was a little more anonymous this year in the bunch, as I planned to show my hand when it was really windy and for the individual time trial (I.T.T.) on the last day. Unfortunately (for me), for the second year running the weather was remarkably tame for Southland. I’m at the front when it’s blowing a gale due to my size; otherwise I’m mid pack and watching the hill climbers from behind set sail as soon the road goes up if it’s nice calm sunny day.
On the final day I did manage 5th in the I.T.T., and made the break which lasted until the last kilometre of the final stage into Invercargill. I found all week I didn’t have the top end that the likes of Joe Cooper (I.T.T. winner), (eventual winner) Mitchell Lovelock Fay or Mike Northey (2012 winner) seemed to have. I did however have a great aerobic base and recovered really well between stages due to a good build up, which the Revbox Erg played a big part in.
Now I’m looking forward to doing more higher end intense and strength training intervals on the Revbox Erg to bring me up to speed for the Elite Nationals Time Trial, held on January 9th in Christchurch.
Thanks for reading
Firstly an introduction: my name is Paul Odlin; husband, father of two, committed competitive cyclist and a professional cycle coach.
I have been fortunate enough to own a wind-braked, low-inertia, direct-drive trainer for the last 3 years. But only last month I bought a Revbox erg, also a wind-braked, non-inertia, direct drive trainer to supplement the existing machine I have. I have the need for multiple trainers as I have been taking indoor training sessions at Chain Reaction Cycles Specialized Concept Store in Christchurch.
As winter has dissipated so has my personal fear of doing too much (training) too soon, which I do most winters when I’m at my quietest with work. So into the training I have; and into the Revbox training proper.
The last few weeks I’ve been at it 4-5x weekly, and crucially solo - previous to that I was only using it during the indoor sessions. This means rather than focussing on barking instructions and what my class participants are doing, I can focus on the intricate feel you get from a low-inertia trainer. I’ve also done a lot of the ‘boring’ miles for building aerobic endurance, on the Revbox which gives ample time to ponder over its feel/characteristics!
I have however limited my time on it each session, generally only up to 40 minutes, preferably at the start of a ride which ends with the majority on the road. This is in contrast to my past training regimes, when I have broken up a ride by doing part outdoor and finishing with ‘erg’ time. The later provided an opportunity for quality at the end (especially when training outdoors is hindered by cold or wind).
However, with conditions ok atm, using the Revbox first is preferable as I’m using it to stimulate/facilitate improved pedalling. Quite simply, the Revbox is an excellent way of making you pedal in complete circles rather than stomping down because there is little momentum to ‘push your pedals over’.
After an initial 40 minutes on the Rev the road not only feels easier, I also feel stronger and more efficient. The immediate feedback seems like a winner to me but it doesn’t just stop there. My hypothesis is that I will see long-term performance improvements from frequent use of the Rev; something I will be testing out in my next few competitive outings.
First up was the Benchmark Home Elite Series round #6 - the hell of the South, held on the first weekend of October. I was riding for series leader Brad Evans, while a tactical error prevented him from keeping the jersey I was really satisfied with how strong I felt! I used this as prep for the Tour of Southland during the first week of November. I am targeting the individual time trial on the last day and a stage victory for this race. And the big kahuna for me is the elite men’s individual time trial at the Nationals in January, held again out at Lincoln University.
Training on the Revbox erg at Chain Reaction Cycles Specialized concept store
I’ll be keeping you posted with how my training and ultimately performances go for these events. Also I’m going to share some tips on how I use the Revbox (specific details regarding the use of power and cadence), handy for those just beginning with it.
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Bicycling Australia Magazine have done a small review on our very own Revbox!