WOW!!! Part I of this post just blew up the number of views on my Blog and spawned countless comments, direct emails and phone calls. Hey, that’s a GOOD thing. As I mentioned in Part I, I can tell a great deal about ‘how’ you ride, just by looking at your saddle. Probably one most common question from last week was what can cyclists to now, so that they don’t have to ride for 1,000’s of miles in order to see if there is a wear pattern forming. Valid question and I totally agree. The last thing I would want to do is ride 5,000 miles or so, only to learn that I have no apparent wear pattern; I would feel like I just wasted all that time…wouldn’t you?
The two group rides I have done since last week’s post, both times I had several cyclists ask me if their riding position was correct to cause the right wear pattern. With a quick tip ‘on the fly’, they made the adjustment. As I mentioned last week, the biggest thing you can do is to make sure your center of gravity is back as far as possible (when riding out of the saddle), so that you feel the tongue of the saddle grazing the back of your thighs. You have to remember that I am limited to how much I can help you through posts like this; a personal evaluation and one-on-one interaction is the best way. Oh, that also includes video for anyone not local to Atlanta.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE LOCAL—
Just to give anyone (not in Atlanta) some ‘real’ hope, I was contacted by a triathlete in Wisconsin about coaching for her upcoming Ironman Melbourne, Australia. She already had her own training plan, but remember in my last post, I can do those but that is not my expertise; we focused on technique. Anyway, over the next 3 months, she sent video of her rides on her indoor trainer and then we talked through what and how to change. The results was that her watts went from 129 to 160, while her cadence went from 71 to 86. Yes, you read that correctly. Her cadence increased, which you would think her watts would decrease, but the opposite occurred. In Melbourne, not only did she drop 37 minutes off her ride time, setting her absolute best PR, but she also qualified for Ironman Kona, Hawaii.
OUT OF THE SADDLE BENEFITS—
I wanted to continue in this post, more of the thought process of why you want to ride more out of the saddle, which in turn will allow you to increase the wear pattern on the tongue of your saddle. During every Evaluation Ride with a client, I also ask about the percentage of time they spend riding out of the saddle. The answer is relatively the same every time; they typically only get out of the saddle after exhausting their legs while riding ‘in’ the saddle, and to help them towards the final part of a climb. In other words, this is their last resort. You don’t want to be that type of cyclist. Why? First, you have to stop and realize what is at the very basis and foundation for what you are able to do physically. It’s your core muscles. They are the gate keeper, so to speak, to the level at which you can perform. You may have incredible leg strength but if your core is weak, guess what….you have a huge limitation. Perfect example are those who are overweight. Obviously, they will have incredible leg strength because their legs are supporting all that extra weight…all the time. But, typically their core is very weak. That creates a barrier for their performance on the bike. Second, flexibility is another key component. As I have heard professional racers say all the time, “Flexibility is power”. If either one of these are weak then so will your performance.
Just about every time after I have asked a client about their time out of the saddle, they ask me how much time I spend out of the saddle. I love to see their facial expressions with my answer. Trust me, this has NOTHING to do with trying to impress anyone; it has everything to do with where I want to personally be and at what level I want to ride. Personally, my goal is that by the 1st of April each year, that I am able to ride out of the saddle a minimum of 25 miles…100% of the time. In metro Atlanta, that means very few flat stretches. Why in the heck do I do this? Because I know the longer I can ride out of the saddle, the stronger my core will be, the better my flexibility will be and therefore my overall performance will increase. Think of it this way. If you go to the gym and work out, as well as riding your bike, then your gym time is good ‘cross training’. You are using the same muscles in a different fashion, which will in the long term, allow you to become stronger. Just using your muscles all the time in the exact same way, will begin to limit your true ability. Get out of the saddle!!!
Now, I already know what many cyclists are thinking…only because I’ve talked and coached countless. Way too many a cyclist is apprehensive and gun-shy of riding out of the saddle and in my experience, it comes back to them not having a high enough comfort level or the correct knowledge of how to be in
control of the bike and not loose their balance, etc. It’s true. When clients go through my Climbing Session, I teach them specific drills that build their confidence of being out of the saddle, staying in control of the bike and being in perfect balance 100% of the time. Knowing what to do and why really is the key to unlocking your true potential. No, you don’t have to be a hardcore racer hammerhead to enjoy the incredible benefits of riding out of the saddle. You just have to be open to the fact that you don’t know everything and that you are open to learning. It won’t disappoint you….and neither will your new found performance.
HOW I RIDE OUT OF THE SADDLE—
There is, however, a major caveat to me riding out of the saddle for so long, or at any time, for that matter. Riding out of the saddle and doing so in a very inefficient was is NOT what you want. It’s sort of the same as not wanting to ride for 1,000’s of miles, only to learn you have been doing it incorrectly. There are several keys to this specific workout that must happen for it to be fruitful: 1. you must isolate your core and entire torso, so that there is zero movement. This means no swaying your torso either vertically (like bobbing for apples or a bird dipping it’s head in a bird feeder) or horizontally (like shifting your weight from side to side with every pedal stroke). You literally have to shut your torso down. When you do so, you will immediately feel the increase of leverage in your body and the great thing is there now is only one outlet for all the power you just created; it’s through your legs, to your feet, through the pedals, the crank arms, through the chain, cassette and ultimately the rear wheel. If you have ANY torso movement, you loose power. It’s that simple. 2. you have to keep your torso as low as possible. Think of how the pros sprint for the finish line in the Tour de France. Their bodies are not high in the air (which is really bad aerodynamically), they are super low to the handlebar. There’s a bio-mechanical reason for this but that’s a whole other post in itself. 3. you have to be riding in a much higher gear than normal. During this drill, I am typically in my 53/11 and only shift down to an easier gear (e.g. 12, 13, 15) if the climbs are really steep. Bottom line, you need to be turning as high a gear as possible. In doing so, you are isolating your core and strengthening it because of the continually turing that high gear. 4. since you need to lock out your torso, that means its your bike that needs to move laterally….NOT you!!! The vast majority of cyclists rarely get this right. Their tendency is to sway the bike very little while their bodies are doing most of the movement; this is exactly the opposite and why I say all the time that a spin bike (in your typical gym) sets up a road cyclist for very bad form. If you notice all the images I included in this post of me, then you will see the bike leaning to the side quite a bit. My body stays spot on to the invisible straight vertical line; it’s my bike that is way off to the side.
While riding group rides, I am asked all the time why am I riding out of the saddle so much. Now you know. What’s even more crazy, especially for those who have ridden the 6 GAP Century in N GA every September, is hearing comments from cyclists, as I pass them riding out of the saddle for so long on those climbs. Think about it. Visualize those world class sprinters and their body positions racing for the finish line; they are in the exact position I am describing (yet some do move their torso’s a bit). They are in their MAX POWER position, right? Well, the only difference with my riding out of the saddle for so long, is that I am doing so for much longer periods of time than a typical 200-500 meter sprint. They are going all out at 100%, while I am rinding at a much lower intensity but for much longer periods of time.
Obviously, if you adopt this concept of riding out of the saddle more, AND if your center of gravity is where it should be, then you will create a definite wear pattern on the tongue of your saddle, too. Not only that, but you will become so much stronger. The premise of getting stronger and faster is to just ride more and more miles, does have ‘some’ truth to it, but my perspective is if you ride the miles that you DO ride in a bio-mechanical correct position and fashion, you will reach your potential much faster (time wise) than just riding miles and miles and miles and miles.
Stay tuned for Part III of Why Your Saddle SHOULD Look Like This. I’ll peel back the onion, so to speak, regarding the wear patterns on the sides of your saddle. Boy, it that gonna be a good one!!!