Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Comfort on the Bike

After talking to my friend AK about Wind Tunnel Testing the other day, it made me think about what I call the "Speed" Triangle. He was telling me a few of my new race team members spent some time in a low speed wind tunnel this past Fall/Winter. It made me wonder if these guys REALLY got their money's worth. Why? Because to do it right (zero in on your best AERO position)..you'd probably have to spend a full day in the tunnel yourself..NOT splitting valuable time up with your buds trying to save a buck on Tunnel Time. And, I'm guessing a full day in a wind tunnel would probably run a couple thousand dollars. When I say do it right..you need (trial and error) time to ensure that your NEW found AERO position is also comfortable and optimizes/maximizes power output. A stealthy AERO position does not always afford that. That optimization requires repeated trials in the wind tunnel to ensure that COMFORT and POWER are not compromised with each AERO position change.

Many of you have seen this "Speed Triangle" before. The equilateral triangle (shown above) has equal sides because generally when you Ride or Race you want to consider each side equally (well- not really but we'll get to that in a bit). After all, what good is AERODYNAMICS if you're not COMFORTABLE in the position or POWERFUL. Likewise, what good is a COMFORTABLE position if it's not AERO or POWERFUL?

There are races, however, where you're not going to consider each side of the triangle equally. For example, say I have a 5 mile Time Trial coming up. I can tell you for a fact, that my top consideration for that particular race will be POWER. Who cares if my POWER position is not COMFORTABLE. It's such a short race..I'll deal with an UNCOMFORTABLE position. Of secondary importance will be AERODYNAMICS. After all, I don't want to be throwing away watts because I'm sitting up too high collecting wind. Conversely, you could see that a 40km Time Trial..things would be different. In this case, I want AERODYNAMICS to be top priority followed by COMFORT then POWER. Don't get me wrong..they are ALL important..but in a longer race I believe you can save (or buy) watts if you're more AERODYNAMIC. Naturally, that AERODYNAMIC position should be COMFORTABLE- since you're going to be in it for just over an hour (under an hour if you're an animal). If you're not COMFORTABLE you're going to sit-up, move around, and ruin that stealthy AERO position you paid handsomely (in the wind tunnel) to discover.

In this particular blog, I'd like to talk specifically about COMFORT. We'll discuss AERO and POWER in future blogs. In most master cyclists (like me), COMFORT is usually compromised by a past injury or a flexibility issue which inhibits performance. Therefore, it's imperative that you/we work on flexibility and strengthening exercises NOW so that when racing season comes we can exert more force/power to the pedals and go faster. That's the whole idea behind what's called- functional flexibility. Functional flexibility is not only important for us old guys but VERY important for you young guys for injury prevention. Functional flexibility includes: core strengthening, stability exercises, leg strengthening, etc. Here are some good exercises that Harvey Newton, cycling strength specialist, recommends: abdominal crunches, stability ball crunches, pillar bridge, pillar side touches, squats, lunges, hops, etc. Power ON! Coach Rob

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