I am probably the most knowledgable person about training for bicycle fitness on my street, and quite possibly in the town of Alpine, UT (population 10,181).
Or at least the Northwest quadrant of Alpine.
Regardless, I know an awful lot about the correct way to train to be an incredibly fit cyclist. Which, when contraposed with the 15-30 pounds I constantly lose, then gain, then lose, then gain (I’m currently at what I hope is the top of a “gain” cycle, for what it’s worth) I do not find even a little bit ironic.
Because of my astonishing breadth and depth of bike-training expertise, I frequently get email from people hoping they can get training advice, without having to pay for it. Like I’m some kind of Chris-Carmichael-on-the-cheap or something.
For example, I recently received the following:
I am trying to become the fastest guy in my cycling group. For some reason, however, I just can’t seem to do it. I ride and I ride and I ride, but I just can’t seem to beat the fastest guys in the big climbs or in the designated signpost sprints in the weekly group rides.
I eat well, so I know that’s not the problem. I have a very expensive bike which I keep clean and well-lubricated, so that can’t be it. And I ride up to fourteen hours per day, each and every day, always at maximum effort, so I think I’m doing OK there, too.
I just don’t know what I’m doing wrong! Please help me.
Oh Duane. You’re missing the key ingredient in cycling training. All those 14-hour days in the saddle aren’t going to do you any good at all if you never take the time to rest up. The most important thing a cyclist can do to become stronger and faster is to do recovery rides.
But you’re not alone in your confusion. As it turns out, very few cyclists know when they should do a recovery ride, nor how they should do a recovery ride.
Luckily for all of you, I have studied the science and art (yes, art!) of recovery rides extensively, and am happy to — at no cost to you. Although would be nice if you bought a copy of my book (available now in paper and Kindle versions at a discounted price! Buy three today!!!).
Many top experts are very strong proponents of recovery rides, including Joe Friel, probably, because he seems to be in favor of pretty much everything.
The real question is when should you do a recovery ride?
While some recognized experts say you should do a recovery ride the day following a periodized interval session — whatever that is — the fact is the determining factor of when you should do a recovery ride is very simple indeed.
Scenario 1: Suppose you’re out riding. You’ve planned to do a big climb, followed by another big climb, followed by a long flat into a headwind, followed by a big climb.
The problem is, you’re not having fun. And the near future doesn’t look promising, fun-wise, either.
The solution? declare a recovery ride, perhaps to a nearby store where one can purchase a recovery beverage and perhaps a recovery burrito.
Scenario 2: You’re out riding, feeling good. Feeling strong. Feeling like you’ve got good power and that perhaps you are the strongest cyclist in the Northwest quadrant of Alpine, UT.
And then you get passed.
This, my friend, is because — although perhaps you did not realize it until just this moment — you are on a recovery ride. And it’s probably a really good idea to let the guy who just passed you know this fact, so they don’t have the misperception that they passed you because they’re faster than you.
I recommend, saying loudly (due to the doppler effect and wind and stuff), “Don’t you just hate recovery rides?”
Scenario 3: You go out to the garage, and your bike has a flat. You fix it, only to find that you didn’t do a very good job, because the new tube also goes flat. You go back inside.
Congratulations. You just did a recovery ride.
Except the “ride” part, of course.
How To Do A Recovery Ride
As important as when you do a recovery ride is how. Simply follow these steps:
- Start out the ride nice and easy, with the intention of never getting your heart rate above 120. If your resting heart rate is above 120, you may need to modify this number.
- As you ride, your legs will feel better and you’ll start enjoying yourself, and you’ll want to go faster. Resist this urge. You’re not riding your bike for fun, darn it! Bikes are for training and racing and crushing the opposition.
- At some point, you’ll see another cyclist up ahead. You’ll be tempted to step up your pace and catch this other cyclist, especially since your legs are feeling good and fresh. Resist this urge!
- Ah, screw it. Go ahead and chase that other cyclist down.
Oh, and when you catch that other cyclist, be sure to let him or her know that you’re on a recovery ride.
The Fat Cyclist