Preparing the 2011 Cycling Season

Happy New Year! After my December rest period, it’s time to start training for the 2011 cycling season. Whether you race and prepare for a specific event, whether you plan to ride your first double century or brevet series, or whether you want to be in shape for a week-long tour, having a goal gives the season a nice focus.

It’s like being a farmer: You sow your crops, you tend them as they grow, and it all culminates in the harvest. Similar to the seasonal cycle that allows the soil to replenish itself, a seasonal training cycle allows you to “peak” and reach a top form that is far higher than the form you can maintain throughout the year. For me, this keeps cycling interesting, and prevents burn-out and boredom.

My goal for 2011 is Paris-Brest-Paris (PBP), the 765-mile ride in France. PBP is in August, so I have outlined my training roughly as follows:

  • January through mid-March: base miles
  • Mid-March through early June: endurance (qualifying brevets) and speed training
  • Mid-June through late July: speed training
  • Early August: rest
  • Mid-August: Paris-Brest-Paris

To stay with the farming analogy, it’s time to sow right now, to work on my basic form. Having a good base provides a sound foundation for working on speed and endurance later in the season. Training hard without a base often causes injuries or excessive fatigue.

My base miles consist of a weekly ride of 80-120 miles with a friend or two, at a moderate pace, with a stop at a café along the way. For now, we stay on relatively flat roads. Bike trails are great for this sort of training. It’s nice to revisit lowland roads and trails that we haven’t ridden since last January. (We don’t miss much doing this, as the mountains aren’t accessible right now anyhow… see the photo above taken near Paradise, Mount Rainier, in May.)

This also is the time to think about changes to your equipment. Are your handlebars comfortable? Do your feet get numb? Do you have the right gearing? Are you thinking about adjustments to your position (longer/shorter/higher/lower stem, etc.). Do you plan to get a new bike? Making changes now enables you to fine-tune them during the base miles, rather than when the events of the season start in the spring. You also can try out new nutrition on these rides. My goal is to have well-honed equipment and strategies when the season starts.

Most of all, I enjoy these casual rides with friends. Spending a day on the bike really does keep the winter blues at bay. What are your goals for the season?

About Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

I love cycling and bicycles, especially those that take us off the beaten path. I edit Bicycle Quarterly magazine, and occasionally write for other publications. One of our companies, Bicycle Quarterly Press publishes cycling books, while Compass Bicycles Ltd. makes and distributes high-quality bicycle components for real-world riders.
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16 Responses to Preparing the 2011 Cycling Season

  1. Vlad says:

    This year’s goals: PR in Solvang Spring Double, Devil Mountain Double and Terrible Two. ENJOY

  2. John Speare says:

    Doing an 80 mile ride every week sound glorious right now. Too much snow here in Spokane to do more than a 20 mile slog, which can be fun in its own way, but 80 miles of non-snow riding sounds great right now.

  3. That’s some great scenery in the first picture!

    Temperatures in the Boston area are in the 20-30F range throughout the winter, and there is snow everywhere. I cycle every day for transportation, but I find road cycling more difficult. Last winter I wasn’t able to do it at all, but this winter I am managing an occasional ride. Hopefully I will be in decent shape when Spring arrives.

  4. milly says:

    I have yet to crack a double century. So, my goal for 2011 is to ride and complete a double by June. In the meantime, I’m taking spinning classes and have a 200k and an ultra century in Death Valley lined up for February.

    In terms of equipment change, I’m thinking about switching my double crank for a triple. In fact, I’m switching out my 9 speed Ultegra for a 10 speed gruppo. The question is, STI or bar end shifters? I’m no longer interested in racing my bike. Instead, randonneuring has captured my heart! Any opinion on shifter choice?

    • Shifter choice is very personal. I like handlebar bags, which do not work very well with either STI or bar-end shifters. I prefer downtube shift levers, because they force me to move my hands and shoulders every time I shift. This prevents hand pain and backaches.

      Good luck with your double century! With good preparation, that goal should be attainable.

    • AllanInPortland says:

      First concerning the upgrade from 9 to 10, I don’t think it makes a lot of financial sense. 10 speeds are way more expensive both in the initial investment and the on-going costs of replacement chains. It is also a lot more difficult to get set-up and keep working smoothly. There are far better places to spend money on your bike. Plus going to a triple is going to give you far wider gearing than adding 10 in back. Relative to what you get from the triple it’s gilding the lily.

      As to bar-end shifters, I really like them though with a 9 speed drive-train I find them a little too sensitive. 10 speeds I would think would be near impossible to make work. So, that might answer your question. If you have your heart set on 10 speeds, you’ll probably all but have to go with STI.

      Good luck.

      • 10-speeds work fantastically with bar-end shifters, as long as they index. Don’t bother with friction, that’s for sure, as the cogs are too close together to line up the derailleur perfectly. But the Shimano Dura-Ace 10-speed bar-ends shift my 10-speed set-up beautifully.

      • AllanInPortland says:

        Thanks Chris. I hadn’t realized bar-ends came indexed for 10 spds.

    • Jimmy Livengood says:

      Milly, the thing I would take most into account is the shape of the shifter (or brake lever if going to bar-end shifters).

      10 and 9-speed indexed bar-end and down-tube shifters work just fine (I assume Allan is talking about shifting 9 friction?).

      Why the move to 10? Depending on reasons and finances, in your situation perhaps a wide-range double crankset is worth considering? I’ve been very happy with my 30-44 double, which is the same small chainring as on many “road” triples, and also a high enough ratio for how I ride.

  5. Tim Potter says:

    With all that wonderful snow there why not mix up your training with some XC skiing Jan? Here in the Great White North (well, midwest) of Michigan our state’s only national and world-class bicyclists have ALL been competitive XC ski racers as well. Their coach (Mike Walden, RIP, of the Detroit-based Wolverines) insisted that they cross train and compete in 3 sports; bicycling, XC skiing and speed skating. It was an excellent combination that produced the best results our state has ever seen. Unfortunately, this sense of multi-sport training and competing has been lost on the last 2 generations of athletes in our state and it appears to be the case elsewhere in this country where snow and ice is within practical reach.

    • The photo is taken on Mount Rainier, about 100 miles from here… In Seattle, we rarely have snow. I love cross-country skiing, but around here, it involves driving 120 miles round-trip, so it’s worth it only if you go for a whole day and take some friends. It’s a lot of effort (and gasoline burnt), when I can just ride from my door. Now if I lived in Michigan…

  6. Bruce Hodson says:

    I have also rested (forced to by an early onset winter) in December. Got a trainer (not rollers as I was going for mindless spinning whilst watching streaming movies) and am racking up the saddle time. As soon as the road shoulders clear of snow I’ll be out there.

    As for goals…riding Crush the Commonwealth in April, and loads of other extended road adventures without injuring my knees.

  7. Kurt says:

    I love working in different sorts of workouts during winter. In the last couple of years, I’ve done roller skiing, inline skating, cyclocross, and even hiking and a little trail running.

    In my racing years, I did cyclocross and xc ski racing, like Tim talks about above. I think non-bike exercise is really good, especially to fight off the effects of cycling+sitting in chairs.

    Sitting ain’t good: http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=can-sitting-too-much-kill-you-2011-01-06

  8. Darrell Goodwin says:

    Did my first double century last year, so this year I’m targeting the California Triple Crown — Solvang Spring Double, Hemet Double, and Grand Tour Double. Got a nice new custom Ti rando-type frame I’ll be using, so I’m anxious to convert my long distance commuting base miles into better form the spring and early summer events.

  9. Willem says:

    There is still too much salt on the roads here to risk riding a nice bike (I have only continued commuting on an old bike). However, I just want to report a recent experience with special winter tyres for added safety. This year I fitted the new and unfortunately expensive (2011 model) Continental Topcontact Winter II tyres on a few of my family’s bikes. These are not studded tyres, but they use car winter tyre technology instead, with a low temperature rubber compound and a special tread pattern. They were a revelation on frozen compacted snow: I failed to make the bike slide at all. Rolling resisistance was comparable to medium tread touring tyres, so higher than on fast rando tyres, but much lower than on studded or mtb tyres. They are not the tyre you would want to use in heavy snow and really bad conditions, but when things are not so bad, these can stay on your bike through the entire cold part of the year. Thus far, they are available in 50-559 and 37-622.
    As for skating: this was and is the traditional winter training for Dutch cyclists, just as cycling is the summer training for our speed skaters.
    Willem

  10. Leaf S. says:

    This will be my fourth year randonneuring and hopefully I’ll complete my third SR series. My first year I didn’t do a 400k so missed out on an SR. My main priorities for this year are completing an SR series and doing a week long tour in Aug. I’m also intending to do a few S24Os and lots of solo centuries. My work schedule is difficult and in a constant state of flux but I’m hoping thing will work out so that I can complete a fleche and maybe a 1000k. I’m not too hopeful for the 1000k. I had been planning on completing a CM challenge but I’ll be back East when my friends attempt their challenge in July. As for training… for the next couple of weeks I’ll do at least one 100k ride a week with shorter hillier rides in-between as build up for the ORR brevet series. This has worked fine in years past and I don’t feel I need to tweak it.

    –Leaf

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