Why I train off cadence with cycling

CADENCE! It’s the favourite thing for my husband to say to me when on the bike, mainly because I train to cadence and my sweet spot, that I’m used to, is always a lower than it should be. He says it makes for more efficient riding and to help make me a more consistent cyclist.  I know this and what he is saying,  but as I said it is my sweet spot and where I feel most comfortable when riding but this doesn’t stop him shouting this at me with a smile on his face.

I push a big gear – always have and I know it’s not the most efficient but I find spinning leaves me with lower power and speed. But pushing a tough gear leaves me fatigued quicker.  Think of it as a barbell on your shoulders and you have to hold this and do squats for 10 minutes straight, you wouldn’t go for your max weight, you’d choose a weight which is still a challenge but you can complete for the whole time.  However, I also find on hills (which is the area I struggle most on the bike) that I get up them just slower than others, even on the recent Zwift race series I completed, I found I could hold my own until I hit a hill and at these points I would gradually see people pass me. I should probably concentrate on that cadence a little more and better gear selection as this will enable me to be more consistent on them hills, which I love so much.

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So what is cadence?  In the basic form cadence is the number of revolutions (complete turns) of the crank per minute and the rate which you are turning the pedals as you ride (revolutions per minute, RPM).  The theory behind training using cadence is to improve efficiency when cycling.  If you ride a bike you will have cadence and if you have a bike computer you will be able to see what your cadence is as you ride by using a cadence sensor.

Some people train off heart rate, some off power, some off cadence and some off feel.  There are pros and cons to each and my advice would always be for people to do what works for them, but give them all a go and see what works for you and hopefully you’ll see an improvement  We are all different and what works for one may not be right for someone else.  I don’t have a power meter on my road bike though I do use power when using my indoor turbo trainer as it has the ability measure it.

If you find you are bouncing about on your saddle as you cycle then you are probably in a gear with very little resistance and this results in a very high cadence. If you are struggling turning the pedals then you are probably in a gear with a very high resistance resulting in a very low cadence.  The idea of using cadence will see you cycling for optimum efficiency to your own ability.  I choose to cycle off cadence as my main rides for this year, and recent years, are endurance events and I want to ensure that I will complete those in the most efficient way possible.  No one wants to finish an event feeling absolutely ruined and for me I have found cadence really helps me.

When cycling to a higher cadence of between 80-90 its very important to find the gear that you can just keep spinning in.  This gear will be one that you can still feel a resistance in but isn’t high enough that you cant manage for most of your ride and you tire very quickly in.  The theory behind this is that if you can spin at 85 RPM you should be able to do this on any gradient as long as you choose the correct gear selection.  Obviously if you are going up a hill and in your easiest gear, small ring at the front and big at the back, and can’t hit your rate (this is the area I need work in) there’s nothing you can do other than your best.  The only time you can afford to push a big gear and low cadence is going downhill, as you have gravity working for you.  If you are exhausted at the top of the hill its very important to pedal on the way down to aid recovery as well.

That is not to say sessions with low cadence and high cadence do not have their place in a training schedule either as they certainly do.  Some sessions, often referred to as high gear, will see low cadence and  high resistance, and this can help develop both core and leg strength.  Equally a session using lower gears will see high cadence and can help with cardiovascular fitness and smooth pedal stroke.

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You may have heard of the saying ‘spin to win’ and this is something I say going up hills!  But this is said with cadence in mind – spin up in a gear that is manageable in order to preserve energy.

Although research into this area will largely see numerous stats that focus on optimal cadence being between 80 to 90 RPM, I have not included a breakdown of figures because this will differ for various reasons but some of which are:

  • type of riding
  • level of ability
  • training or event
  • performance
  • fatigue

And, of course, as always when riding outside the conditions you ride in dictate performance – there are so many variable factors with weather and traffic to name a couple that will always affect performance results but above all enjoy riding.

Happy spinning!

Top 5 Cycling Essentials

It’s as simple as riding a bike!  And it is but, for most, your cycling experience will naturally evolve.  When I first started cycling I maintained I would not be one of those cyclists head to toe in lycra (I am now), and that I would never clip in to my pedals (I now don’t cycle without cleats).

There are many different types of cycling, including (but not limited to) mountain biking, cyclo cross, track, racing, and road.  My preference is road riding and below is a list of my top 5 essential equipment for when I ride, particularly for longer rides:

  1. Bike – kind of obvious but without it you won’t be getting very far and as I mentioned above depending on the type of ride you are doing the right bike is key, as is set up.  For endurance events you want to ensure you are comfortable and in the correct position on the bike and a bike fit, in my opinion, is worth every penny.  I have a blog post on the importance of a bike fit that you can read here.
  2. Helmet – whilst this is not a legal requirement, I personally would not cycle without one.  Ensure it fits properly, is positioned as intended on your head and straps at the correct length.  I have a blog post on helmets that can be read here.
  3. Saddle bag – some people opt to carry items, some use a canister that sits in the bottle cage and some a saddle bag, which is what I do.  When cycling I would advise a minimum list of kit that may be useful when out and about including spare inner tube, tyre levers, gas canister and adaptor, and multi tool so that you are covered for most eventualities that may occur.  I have a blog post on what I carry in my saddle bag that can be read here.
  4. Nutrition – event day is not the time to try new things and so nutrition I plan to use on event day is used during training also.  Longer rides will have rest stops with food and drink also but for my main nutrition I stick with what I know works for me.  I also always ride with my wahoo bike computer and have an alarm that makes a noise every 20 minutes to remind me to drink and eat.  Little and often is a plan I stick with and I have found that if I get hungry on the bike it is too late.  I carry some in jersey pockets and also have a bag that is easily accessible on my down tube that I put bite sized pieces into so I can dip in and out as I ride.  Avoid the bonk and fuel properly.
  5. Kit – longer rides can see early starts, late finishes and often through the night so kit being carried may need to cater for different temperatures and visibility.  Layering up is important when riding and some items are easy to put on/take off and carry such as arm warmers, leg warmers, buff, gillet, waterproof jacket.  These items are generally smaller and pack away for easy storage in jersey pockets.  You may also choose for these to be reflective to ensure you are safe and seen and charged lights if night riding!

One last thing which is not technically kit but an absolute essential is knowledge.  If you are going out on the road to cycle you should be aware of the road rules and follow them.  Be courteous to other road users, ensure you signal so other road users are aware of your intentions and always be safe.

ShowersPass Kit Review

They say there’s no such thing as bad weather, just wrong clothing choices and that can be very true!

The lovely people at ShowersPass kindly sent me some of their kit to try out and as we’ve recently been having rain, and cooler weather I have had all the opportunities to utilise these items.  So heading out on my road bike on a very grey day, with moisture in the air and puddles on the road was perfect conditions for this kit.

I always find it hard to go out if it is raining but if I am out and get wet then I just think well I am wet anyway so enjoy it!  And so it was quite fun to go out and splash through the puddles in the new kit – I mean if you are going to test out waterproof items you have to get wet right?

Showerspass kit
Showerspass top and socks

First up was the socks – waterproof socks.  I didn’t know that was even a thing and although I had heard of water resistant socks I was dubious as to whether or not they really would be waterproof.  I needn’t have been worried as these socks are amazing – literally no water got in.  I have done Ride London four times and the first was the year of Hurricane Bertha where they closed Box Hill and Leith Hill due to flooding for safety, but other parts of the route were so wet that all riders were pretty much soaked from head to toe and for me when my feet are wet the rest of me feels cold.  These socks are amazing for training during the winter months that is for sure!  I also wore these when I was hiking in the Peak District in snow and my feet were not cold or wet once, so there may even be some additional pairs added to my kit wardrobe.

Now the socks retail at £31 and whilst I originally thought this to be expensive I also wore during a night obstacle run that was extremely muddy and extremely wet and never have I been so pleased for these socks.  The photo below does not do it justice but I was surprised how well they held up (and I should note they are not designed for obstacle running) and not only that but they washed up amazingly too.

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Next up was a shirt.  This could be used as a base layer in colder months or as a stand alone top (I have done both).  When moving to winter kit it can always feel slightly odd as you may have had months since you had a need to wear either arm warmers or long sleeves and getting layering correct is key so you don’t overheat as I do tend to get hot pretty quickly but again it was pretty much perfect.  Super soft and comfortable and although longer sleeved it was lightweight, or as ShowersPass describe ‘summer weight’, and also provides UPF 40 protection from the sun.  Although no back pockets like a regular cycling jersey there is a cleverly concealed pocket on the side, which was perfect for me to take my phone along on the ride.  I have also worn this under my cycling jacket for commuting and again no complaints at all.

Showerspass Top
Showerspass Top

The shirt retails at £73 and I will admit I have other base layers equally as good that come in at a much lower price point and are just as good.

When I transition from summer to winter riding there is generally a period where additional layers are added ie moving to thicker socks, arm warmers, gillets, long sleeved jerseys, full fingered gloves, jackets and then bib tights and so these socks and top have been ideal in recent months and as the weather has cooled. They have also been a god send for my winter commuting when the weather is always considerably lower in the earlier hours of the morning especially.

I was really impressed by both items and I am sure I will be getting more than good use of both over the coming months and through the year too.

Thanks 2019 – A Little Round Up

I said 2019 was going to be all about the bike and it most certainly was!  I am sure on Instagram I have used the quote before ‘find what you love and do that’ and I feel like that is precisely what I did this year so really no complaints from me!

Cycling shots
Cycling pics from activities in 2019

I have suffered again with my knee, I think I said last year I didn’t realise how long it would linger and I certainly was hoping I wouldn’t see a recurrence this year but sadly that was not the case.  It didn’t stop me just made me change course slightly and try some of that old practice what you preach mentality.

I spent a lot of time in Sweden and I truly love that country, with more planned for 2020.

My favourite events must be those from the Vatternrundan series and this year I completed:

And I can’t not include:

  • Ironman Jonkoping 70.3 – bike leg of the relay (56 miles), with my friend Gemma doing the swim and run, and our team ‘Don’t Be Shit’ came third in the relay!
Ironman 70.3 Jonkoping Relay Award
Medal and award from the Ironman 70.3 Jonkoping relay

There were many other events and I set myself a goal of completing 5,000 miles this year and I am not quite there yet with about 100 miles to go and I will get it – so close!

I also made it to the shortlist for finalists for both the Sundried and UK Blog Awards for Sport and Fitness, and whilst I did not win it was amazing to make the shortlist.

I have enjoyed supporting friends as they achieve big goals and also my husband who completed Half Marathon de Sables this year despite having primary lymphedema in his left leg.

We have finished 2019 with a new camper van and with that comes so much opportunity for travels and adventure so definitely watch this space!

Van life
T5 VW Camper Van

2020 will almost certainly have more bike involved and I am pleased to start another year as a Foher ambassador.

Whatever you have done and achieved in 2019 well done and best of luck for the coming year also.

 

What’s In My Saddle Bag When Cycling

How do you carry those essentials for cycling?  Do you put them in your jersey pockets?  Do you have a tool holder that looks like a bottle and sits in one of your bottle cages?  Or do you use a saddle bag?

My choice is a saddle bag.  I do have a tool holder but for longer rides I would prefer to use the bottle cages to carry two bottles and I would rather not have everything stuffed in my jersey pockets though so admit to putting food in my pockets because well snacks!

So my bike set up for a normal ride would/could include the following depending on distance:

  • 1 or 2 bottles in the cages
  • saddle bag
  • top tube bag for longer rides for easy access to nutrition for fuelling

I used to use an Ortlieb saddle bag but have since moved that to my winter/commute bike and my summer bike now has a Lezyne saddle bag as below:

  • Ortleib Micro – fastens with a roll top end and stretchy cords, waterproof and not too big but definitely not the smallest either, can fit a spare inner tube, levers, tool, canister and adaptor and more (can find this bag for £23.99 here)
  • Lezyne M – fastens with a zip, waterproof and pouch on the outside to fit the Lezyne multi tool, very compact though fits a spare inner tube, levers, tool, canister and adaptor, this bag also has a small reflective strip on the bag too (can find this bag for £19.49 here)

Both of the above bags fit by a mounting system that attaches to the saddle rails with an attachment on the bag to slide and secure on the fitting as below:

 

So what do I put in my saddle bag?  Knowing many cyclists I see the different things people take with them on rides – sometimes not enough and sometimes way more than necessary (in my opinion).  Here is what I carry in mine:

  • Spare inner tube – if I can fit it in the bag in the box I do, so that if I am unlucky and have an issue with my tyre (especially the side wall as I have seen this happen to others before) I can use some of the cardboard to line the tyre to get me to the end of my ride, some people take a small piece from an old tyre.  Also remember if you have different bikes to ensure you have the correct inner tube as they come in different sizes with different valve lengths, for example I have a winter bike with normal rims and a summer bike with deep rims and so I couldn’t use the same inner tubes for both.  I ended up having separate saddle bags for each bike for ease and not having to swap items out or try and remember to do so, which is too easy to forget.
  • CO2 gas canister – not a must for everyone as some people carry a small hand pump but I don’t, and for ease always opt for the gas, just be careful when you use it or keep your gloves on as they get super cold!  Again if you have different bikes (more road versus MTB then make sure you pack the right ones – I use 16 gram for my road bike).  Just remember if you do use a gas canister that when you get home to deflate your tyre and pump up again with a track pump as the gas will lose pretty quickly with at least half the inflated PSI overnight!
  • CO2 gas canister adaptor/inflator – I have a small adaptor that screws on to the top of the canister. I know others that have a CO2 inflator and the benefit of this is not getting frozen fingers and also being able to release as much or as little has you want/need.
  • Tyre levers – I have always opted for plastic rather than metal so I don’t damage my wheels.
  • Multi tool – just in case as you never know when you might need it.  Some people carry more like a chain breaker though I admit I don’t.
  • Depending on the length of the ride I may also add a spare individual sachet of chamois cream .
  • Disposable gloves – I often forget to replace these but if I remember I have a pair also just in case so I am not covered in lube/grease/wax if I have a mechanical or chain slip.
  • Pre-glued patches – I don’t personally carry these in my saddle bag but do know others that do and you can use these if you puncture more than once and for minor tyre repairs too.
Saddle Bag Contents
What I keep inside my saddle bag when cycling

I have not yet tried my hand at bike packing so the bags and use I reference are based on the sort of road riding I do and there are a whole other range of bags for other types of riding!

Happy cycling!

What’s on your Christmas wish list?

It is now coming to the end of November and the shops are already stocking full aisles with their Christmas goodies.

Now is a good time to start thinking about gifts with Black Friday round the corner and bargains to be had.  So what is on your list?  Here is some of what is on mine:

Big Bobble Hat – I’m a huge fan of these hats and come winter I am always wearing one and no you can never have enough of them.  Use code FATGIRLFIT10 for 10% off your purchases.

Stance Socks – everyone gets socks for Christmas right?  I have a growing selection of socks from Stance including socks for cycling, running, hiking and everyday wear.

Nudge Jewellery – I have some of these bands and have also bought them as gifts for others.  For Black Friday you can use code BLACK30 for 30% discount. You can customise with whatever you want on them too – what would you put on yours?

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Foher – oh where to start?  Love it all, want it all! My ambassador singlet, cycling kits and tanks are my staple items worn through my training and I have my eye on many more! foherpinkbikeposse

Stomp The Pedal – just got myself the new signature hoodie, perfect for winter months, £45, which I have been living in lately but loads of other great items including the flowy tanks and trucker caps.

Strong Girls Club – I am in love with some of the items in this range and literally want all the tees and jumpers but particularly like this jumper, £45.

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Yoga Wheel – I am making a conscious effort to include stretching in my training and especially focus on back strength in relation to my cycling.  There are many wheels on the market but I found this one that got great reviews, £21.99.

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CJ Skincare – I have gone from the girl who uses whatever is in the shower to using these two products daily, £35.90.

Cycling Wallet – the cycling wallets at Rapha have become one of my cycling essentials with enough room for my phone, bank card, money, and keys.  Mine is a little well worn so its probably time for an upgrade, £25.

Buff – I saw this buff on instagram and really want it but the postage costs just don’t make sense for what the item is though I am still looking into it!  It is from Michelle Vesterby’s Keep Smiling range.

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Spoke and Solace – I really like some of the clothing from this website, all 100% organic, and in particular like the #goneriding and #bloodycyclist (slightly tongue in cheek) tshirts, both £24.

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Proviz – not one for me but instead for my April dog – a little coat for her in the winter for our walks, £35.99.

What is on your list?  Anything else I should add to mine?

Layering Up For Winter Cycling

Despite the fact that we are now entering the cooler months that doesn’t need to be a reason to put your bike away.  They say there is no such thing as bad weather but more bad clothing choices and this is very true.

I have previously published a post about winter cycling kit that you can read here.  But I thought I would update that with the following:

Over the past two weeks the temperature has definitely dropped and this has called for additional layers as well as commuting into the office in the dark again.  Here are my top kit picks for winter:

Gillet – I have a gilet from BioRacer and it is one of my most favourite pieces of my cycling kit.  Great as an extra layer especially when it is not cold enough for a winter jacket but as an addition to a jersey.  My gilet is custom through my cycling club kit orders but are available on the BioRacer website also and priced at £90 here.

Base layer – I am a fan of the Craft FuseKnit top, which I reviewed for Healthy Living London and you can read here.  I was gifted the top but have since purchased a second one.  Really versatile item not just specific to cycling and I have used for running and hiking also.  Currently on sale at Wiggle right now at £23.50.

Craft Baselayer
Craft Baselayer for cycling

Arm Warmers – again mine are custom through my cycling club kit orders but are available on the BioRacer website also.  Another great piece for layering that are easy to put on and remove.  The technology from BioRacer means that water beads off these. They are priced at £25 per pair and can be found here.

Gloves – these tend to be very personal preference but I like the Endura Nemo glove though do wear glove liners as you can get sweaty and if I am honest sweaty hands can be stinky!  But they do stay warm, which is the biggest thing – nothing worse than not feeling your fingertips when on the bike.  They are £30 and can be found here.

Headband – my ears are always the first thing to feel cold and so when the chill sets in I make sure my ears are covered.  I wear a cycling cap usually and tend to move first to a headband and like the Endura thermal headband which is priced at £20 and can be found here.  I also have some from Decathlon who have a huge range starting from £1.99 that can be found here.

Cycling Layers
Cycling headband, buff and jacket for cooler weather

Hat – going back to cold ears, if I find a headband doesn’t cut it then a warm cycling hat it is and although not cheap at £60, I have a Rapha ‘deep winter’ hat that is just amazing and can be found here!  Another new item in my kit list is the new BioRacer hat that is £25 and can be found here.

Buff – can get these everywhere now and can be worn so many ways!  I tend to use as a neck warmer though have used as a head band also and pulled over to cover my head and neck when really cold.

Overshoes – again mine are custom through my cycling club kit orders but are available on the BioRacer website also.  Much like the arm warmers the technology from BioRacer means that water beads off these. There are many types of overshoes and I have toe covers from Castelli and have previously tried the more rubber type covers though found these easy to rip and tear.

Jacket – another item that is custom through my cycling club kit orders but are available on the BioRacer website also.  I was recently gifted an updated version of a BioRacer jacket that costs £150 and can be found here.  These jackets are fine during winter months with just a base layer underneath.  They also have some reflective parts which are a really nice touch.

 

I also have a rain jacket from BioRacer that is very lightweight, packs down small and I can attach above my saddle bag so it is there if I get caught out whilst I am cycling.  It is £49 and can be found here.

Hi-vis – I am a firm believer in staying safe and staying seen.  I was recently gifted a jacket from Pro Viz who are known for their super reflective fabrics.  When the light shines on the material it literally lights up.  The jacket I have is £85 and can be found here.  I also have a bag cover in this too, which is £30 and can be found here.  For commuting especially these are brilliant as an extra safety measure so I am visible on the road and cycle paths.  If you use code BBFGF2015 you can make any purchases from their website and get a 15% discount.

 

Lights – it is surprising how dark it is early in the morning and how quickly it gets dark in the evenings so good lights are key.  There are many lights on the market though I recently got this light from Bontrager and although the price tag is £85 (currently in the sale) it is really bright and the battery is fab.  As I commute and take part in events that go through the night a good light for me is a wise investment.

Glasses – don’t forget the glasses as well.  You may find some of the lenses in your glasses used during summer can be changed to yellow or clear lenses.  The yellow lens is great for low light or overcast conditions and clear are perfect for night riding .

Tyres – there will be a million different opinions on this but it stands to reason to choose appropriate for the weather.  The fact is that the wet washes more flint, stones and everything else on the road and this causes punctures.  I ride Continental 4 Seasons all year round and find them great.  My new bike came with S-Works tyres and whilst I have put in some decent mileage they need replacing and I am trying the Continental 5000 right now as recommended by a friend and had a very positive review on Cycling Weekly here.

Bike – if you are fortunate enough to have different summer and winter bikes you will find this time of year is when you check the forecast and make a judgement as to which bike you want to be using and over coming months it is more than likely the summer bike will be hung up for a while.

Happy winter cycling!

Some of the items noted in this post were gifted but all opinions are my own.