Ask a Pro — Diane Stibbard
– Coach, Personal Trainer, and Two-Time Canadian Duathlete of the Year
A: I get asked this question a lot, especially from cyclists who are new to the sport. Spinning inside, even though it can be quite monotonous, has many benefits. When you’re inside, you do not have to deal with the wind, extreme temperatures, humidity levels, rough roads, hills, cars, dogs, traffic lights and other obstacles such as road construction or wet, snowy or slippery road surfaces.
Riding inside also allows you to maintain a steady pace in a particular gear for a specific length of time, which you can’t easily do outside. If you’re new to cycling, and have not had much experience clipping in and out of pedals with cleated bike shoes, then you can practise doing that while on a stationary bike trainer or on a spinning bike. The more confident you are unclipping, the less chance you’ll have of falling off the bike.
Unique Spring Cycling Conditions
Once you feel ready to go outside on your bike, you should be aware of the unique spring cycling conditions. Due to the constant mixture of warm and cold air being generated from the jet stream, spring is usually the windiest time of the year. Also, the air mass is denser due to the lakes and oceans warming up. When a body of water warms up, it releases water into the air, increasing humidity levels and air density. Don’t get upset if you’re not as fast in the spring as you are in the middle of the summer or the early fall. On a cold, windy spring day you’d have to work much harder to maintain the same speed because the air density is higher than it would be on a warm summer day. Humidity levels higher than 60% and winds at 25 – 35km/h (15 – 21 mph) will slow you down.
The Right Gear
Choosing the right clothing will make spring riding more enjoyable. Your hands, feet and head release most of your body heat. So first make a trip to your local bike store and invest in a few pairs of cycling gloves suited to specific temperatures. Also consider purchasing booties (that cover your cycling shoes), toe covers to protect your feet, and a beanie to wear under your helmet. A good windproof riding jacket and vest are musts for this time of year.
Cool Weather Training Effect
Riders who do not have much body fat may experience a decrease in leg strength because of cold muscles. A 1% decline in the local muscle temperature can reduce muscle force generation to the pedal by as much as 10%. If it’s cold and your leg muscles aren’t operating at full muscular capacity, then you will generate less power, causing your speed to be lower as well. Cool weather rides are tougher, but provide a “training effect” by simulating a strength workout, adding to your riding power. So don’t get discouraged by your slower bike speeds at this time of the year. Instead, use the cool, windy riding conditions to get accustomed to being on your bike and building leg strength for the rest of the season.
Although we’ve had an extremely slow start to spring this year, there are still days that are warm enough to get outside on the bike. Before heading out, check the temperature, the wind and the humidity. Dress accordingly, and go out there and jump start your outdoor cycling season. Ride strong, and ride safe.
Diane provides training programs for recreational and competitive cyclists, duathletes and triathletes, including nutritional counseling and personal training. Does your company need a fitness consultant? Get in touch with Diane to discuss fitness seminars for corporations
Check out Diane’s e-programs: Keeping Fit in the Off-Season and Training For a Two-Day Charity Event For the Time-Starved Cyclist.