Sit Down Already!

Another big-ish ride last weekend which, as the numbers tell it, was pretty close to the one the week before in terms of total effort and intensity, but very different in how things played out.


You'll notice that although the distance is about the same, we put in an additional 2k ft of climbing. Another difference, not apparent from the Strava numbers is that this was a no-drop ride. We'd hit the climbs pretty hard and regroup at the top while last week, it was an every-man-for-himself situation for most of the ride.

So a continuous, but not all-out effort over a long period of time versus shorter, but more intense applications of power with recovery in between.

There were two factors this week that found me draining my tank sooner than I would have otherwise:

1) As is my all to frequent habit, the first 1/3 to 1/2 of the ride, I went at the climbs way too hard. Hey, I felt great, my bike felt fast, I wasn't cold to the core – it's hard for me to hold back that enthusiasm for longer rides. Gotta work on reigning in the horses.

2) I spent way too much time out of the saddle. I know, I know, I know.

Then I ran across this blog post over at Wattbike.com: Power behind the Tour: Climbing.
So what happens when a rider gets out of the saddle, well, I jumped on my Wattbike this morning and did some out of the saddle efforts.  First thing to notice is that it is very difficult to maintain a smooth application of power, which inevitably results in an increased heart rate (my heart rate jumped by 20bpm whilst my speed only rose by 2kph - we can safely say that it was not worth the effort!).  A lot of force needs to be put down the front end of the pedal stroke to maintain momentum and the consistently good pedal technique is all but lost, this is true for the majority of the riders. The physiological cost of this is an increased heart rate which subsequently leads to an increase in the production of lactate and ultimately the rider having to slow to recover.
I think the two following images do a pretty good job of demonstrating this physiological cost:

Power through the pedal stroke while seated. (Wattbike.com image)

Power through the pedal stroke while standing (Wattbike.com image)
What I have to remember is that if I stand on a climb, just because it feels like I am working harder (and I am working harder), that does not translate into increased climbing speed of any significance.

It also means that I am burning matches that I could have used elsewhere in the ride. It's also silly for me not to take advantage of the trainer work I've been doing all winter spinning a higher cadence (100-105 instead of 95-100 rpm) while applying more power: it's made to order for climbing.

This is not to say that I won't EVER stand while climbing – there may be a breakaway forming that I need to catch or the climb is so long that I need to use other muscles for a while – I just need to do it less than I do now.

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