Hacking my bike fitness

Mr Capdriver

My love for cycling started in the spring of 2013. I’d been playing basketball since I was 6 years old, but in the last years of my career I started struggling with my knee, my ankle, ... whatever you could think of. Actually, every joint in my body that could suffer from jumping was pretty damaged. After another injury I decided to stop. Although I had owned a racing bike for many years, this time it was going to get real. I had to use it, so I pushed myself to get on this dusty bike to stay in shape.

But soon this personal obligation turned into a love for my new sport. No other sport succeeds better in combining fresh air with the feeling of freedom. Every ride is a new challenge and every ride you discover new nature spots, even if you take the same routes. But that's not the real reason why I got addicted. As a busy entrepreneur it is the perfect tool to empty my head while exercising and pushing my own limits. The simplicity of the sport, is its beauty. Pushing the pedals while reloading yourself...

Recently I became a father and suddenly there was little time left to spend on the saddle. Add that to my position as managing partner at Bundl, an innovation agency, and my free time has become more and more precious. Meanwhile, my cycling ambitions for 2017 went up. This year I have put the Ronde Van Vlaanderen, Les 3 Ballons and the Cinglé on my bucket list.

This left me with only one question: how can I maximise my bike fitness while minimising training time?

The one and only solution

The first thing that popped into my mind was indoor cycling. "No shit, Sherlock", is probably what you're thinking. To be honest, I was quite critical in the beginning myself. Why would I start cycling indoors? It must be so tedious if you can’t enjoy the outdoors while cycling. But I felt that I didn't have a lot of other options, so I didn't give up and I started doing some research. I started by asking some friends for their opinion, but they all confirmed that they had left their indoor trainers practically unused after some time. A little discouraged, I concluded it would be a useless investment. Force of habit, however, made me continue my quest. I couldn't believe that this well-known problem 'indoor cycling is boring' wasn't inspiring others to create innovative concepts. It turns out people have taken this opportunity and have done their best to solve the problem. Let me share some of the options I spotted: Soulcycle, Peloton and Zwift. I subscribed to the last one and I haven't regretted it since.

I decided to run some experiments and the plan is to use my own body as a laboratory.

Zwift merges indoor cycling with multiplayer online gaming. As a result, I’ve been virtually climbing Box Hill near London with a huge amount of other Zwift cyclists from all over the world every Saturday morning for the last few months. So, on the one hand it brings in a social aspect, while on the other hand the gamification keeps you motivated because of the segments and real time rankings while riding. All this for only 10 dollars a month!

In contrast to Peloton, you use your own stationary trainer for Zwift. As I didn't have one yet, I had more fun diving into this topic as well. I quickly fell in love with the Tacx Neo Smart. An impressive product manufactured in The Netherlands. I listed some of my highlights below.

  • Hill climb simulations feel realistic because of the direct drive system
  • It’s stylishly and elegantly designed with no surprises while unboxing in real life
  • A dummy proof product, installing the cassette was the only challenge for me
  • Don’t worry about waking up sleeping babies (unless you go for a 1000W sprint)

Adopting a get on, get off attitude

Finding the right gear is only the first step, it’s much more important what you do with it! Here is one big lesson I already experienced during this experiment. Never 'just ride'. A lot of people waste time pedalling at low efforts. As they say on the Zwift blog, many cyclists have heard of the benefits of traditional base building (those long endurance sessions racers perform in the winter months to prepare for racing in Spring and Summer). But, what many don't know is, that – unless you've got the kind of hours to dedicate to training that racers do –, you won't reap the benefits of traditional base building.

For time-crunched amateur racers and enthusiasts, traditional base training is a waste of time, says Jim Ruthberg, Carmichael Training Systems Coach.

Currently I'm testing the following three rules of thumb that I came across while reading about how to train the right way indoors. It's maybe a bit too early to come to a conclusion already, but so far, so good. It's fun, it pays off and my time on the saddle stays limited.

  1. Go hard, not long: training sessions of 60 to 90 minutes should be enough.
  2. Be consistent: 3 to 4 training sessions a week is perfect, my minimum is 2 sessions.
  3. Then go harder: if you want more bang for your buck, a key session in your training programme should be Sweet Spot Training (SST).

Triggered? Keep following my Instagram to stay updated on my bike fitness hacking-experiment!