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Trainer vs. Rollers – How to Decide – Maghalie Rochette

Feedback Sports offers a variety of performance products to support your training and racing. We know every cyclist is different with varying needs and wants. Folks often reach out to ask us for our expertise and suggestions based on their individual situation. But why take our word for it when you can take that of an accomplished professional bike racer?

This blog comes from one of our supported athletes and Canadian Cyclocross National Champion, Maghalie Rochette. She addresses two age-old dilemmas: “outdoor elements vs. indoor training” and “trainer vs. rollers” and she does it with a clever 90’s rock reference.

Photo: Courtesy of Ten Speed Hero

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It’s no coincidence that Guns N’ Roses decided to name a song ‘November Rain’. November seems to bring a lot of rain, and more often than not it brings cold temperatures too.

As a cyclocross racer, weather is an element we have to take into consideration when planning the season’s training. It presents its own physical challenges and can certainly raise mental doubt too. Should I use that opportunity to go outside and practice my skills in the mud? Am I risking getting sick?  Can I do quality intensity work in sloppy and cold conditions or should I do that inside?

My experience is that there is no 100% right or wrong answers to those questions. Riding in the rain from time to time is essential to work on your skills for muddy cyclocross races and it can certainly boost your mental preparedness.

Some will say that riding in the rain builds character. But if you’re sick, no matter how much character you’ve got, how much good are you doing?

Riding outside in those conditions requires much more energy than doing the same training ride in good conditions, and that is not to be neglected…even Axel Rose said it: “It’s hard to hold a candle, in the cold November rain.” I’m pretty certain that when he wrote those lyrics, he meant it’s hard to keep the fire alive when riding in the cold November rain. All said, long rides in the wet and cold aren’t necessarily ideal.


It can be tempting to ride indoors when it’s cold and wet, but maintaining cyclocross skills for off-camber, loose terrain requires getting outside and practicing race scenarios. 
How do you keep your training effective without getting sick, without sacrificing your skills and without draining all your motivation?

Balance is the key! Personally, indoor cycling suits my interval training and short easy spins, and I save the outdoor riding for skills training and running workouts.  Intervals keep you engaged, which makes time pass quickly, even when riding inside. And for easy rides I like to watch a cyclocross race to “study” the racing – time well spent, no doubt.

When indoor training calls, trainer or rollers?  They both have their advantages and I use both in my cyclocross training. Below is a summary of my experience training and racing – I hope it helps you make the decision on which device fits your needs the best.


How to improve running for cyclocross? Run… When the weather turns sour, use that time to get outside and do the running that’s required come race day – it’s gonna happen, so be prepared.
Why I choose the Omnium Over-Drive Trainer

  • Small and compact: The foldable and compact design of the Omnium makes it very easy to travel with and carry around. (I usually travel with it as my carry-on item in the plane!)
  • Stability: The Omnium trainer is super stable. That allows me to easily pedal without hands and do high-intensity intervals without concentrating on balance.
  • Standing on the bike: Intervals can be done at maximum effort, even while standing, with full confidence that I’m supported and I don’t have to focus on anything but doing the work.
  • Progressive resistance: The harder I work, the more the trainer works against me, simple. If I go easy, it won’t put up a fight. That’s an awesome feature that allows me to do all-out intervals without running out of gears, but also allows me to spin easy when I need to recover. Having that progressive resistance is ideal for warm-up and cool-down efforts at the races.
  • Smooth and natural: The feeling of pedaling on the Omnium is smoother and more realistic than any other trainer I’ve ridden, but not quite as natural as when riding the rollers.

Why I choose the Zero-Drive Rollers

  • Natural, smooth feeling: As much as I enjoy the Omnium, rollers allow my bike to move like it does when I’m riding outside and there’s something nice about that. You can spin the legs quickly and easily and, in my opinion, time seems to pass a little quicker on rollers.
  • Balance/Skills: The natural movement on the rollers opens up opportunities to work on skills and balance even when riding inside. (For example: one leg pedaling, working on cadence, one hand, no hands, etc.)
  • Standing: You can stand up on the rollers, but you have to be careful. All-out standing sprints on rollers is a bit precarious. I’m typically standing only to change position for comfort.

*When riding rollers, having a bench or wall nearby can make getting on and off a lot easier and something you’ll appreciate if you’re                 new to the free-floating design.


Training is for building fitness and visualizing success – the opportunity to ride indoors on a trainer means your attention is free to explore pain, breathing techniques, and creating mental images of the win. 
At the end of the day, it’s all about finding what works best to maintain happiness, motivation, fitness and skills.

It also helps to have an outside opinion when making those decisions – someone who will be more rational and less emotional. I rely on my coach, David Gagnon, because I know he has the big picture in mind and that he’ll make the most educated decisions.

When it’s all set and done, crank out some Guns N Roses on your speakers and get pumped for those intervals – bring on the November Rain! I promise, you’ll have a good time 😉

 

Note: The Omnium trainer is also available as a resistance-free Zero-Drive Omnium complete trainer, or Zero-Drive sled add-on for your existing Omnium Overdrive – ideal for track cyclists, BMX, or an easier warm-up/cool-down at the races. 

 

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Three Tips to Enjoy and Leverage the Offseason – Chris Mayhew

~Originally posted Jan 24, 2017 – via Cyclocross Magazine /Chris Mayhew

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Coach Chris Mayhew heeded his own advice and took a brief break from cyclocross season’s efforts, but the author, racer and coach is back. Whether you raced 2017 Nationals, have road or mountain bike goals or just hope to improve on this past cyclocross season, coach Mayhew of JBV Coaching has some helpful tips to make the most of the offseason…

What should I be doing? It’s a question I’ve been getting almost every day from new clients, friends, and clients just coming off cyclocross season. Most of us are pretty driven and like to feel like we’re doing work every day so this time of year can feel discomforting. It’s a long way from next cyclocross season but sitting around isn’t something most of us are good at. I have three suggestions that will get you through the next couple of months till the weather breaks.

If you went to Nationals this year, congratulations. That was one for the books, no matter how your individual race went. If you did go, chill out for a month and don’t feel obligated to do anything but eat and relearn the names of your loved ones. Come back to this column in a month or so. It’ll be here.

Conditions varied in Hartford, but if you raced there, coach Mayhew says a break from training is unconditionally mandatory. photo: Snowy conditions greeted racers to start today's racing. 2017 Cyclocross National Championships, Masters Men 30-34. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

Conditions varied in Hartford, but if you raced there, coach Mayhew says a break from training is unconditionally mandatory. photo: Snowy conditions greeted racers to start today’s racing. 2017 Cyclocross National Championships, Masters Men 30-34. © A. Yee / Cyclocross Magazine

If you didn’t go to Nationals then you probably ended your season sometime in mid-December. What’s your next goal? Many people race only cyclocross, so they’re not competing until August or so. Some people race mountain bikes or road during the offseason and will be racing around April in colder climates, or sooner if you live in areas like California, Texas or Florida. If you’re planning on the latter, my first suggestion is to get on some sort of organized plan (created by you or a coach).

Plan out your offseason training and workouts to slowly build back fitness. photo: Justin See

Plan out your offseason training and workouts to slowly build back fitness. photo: Justin See

The journey from offseason to race shape takes three to four months and you’d do well to get started on that now. That’s particularly important if you plan to race on the road, which is not a lot of fun if you aren’t in razor sharp form, unlike mountain bike racing and cyclocross. Keep in mind the words “journey” and “fitness,” I want to circle back to those in a bit.

“If you did go, chill out for a month and don’t feel obligated to do anything but eat and relearn the names of your loved ones. Come back to this column in a month or so.”

If your main goals for the summer are simply to ride, have fun or do Jeremy Powers’ Grand FUNdo, you have a bit more time on your hands, which is nice. That means there’s less pressure on you to get into shape now when riding often means riding indoors or outside in less-than-desirable conditions. What should you be doing with that time? I’d encourage you to do two things:

One is to do things you haven’t done at all, or want to get back to. Cycling takes place all in one plane of movement and involves relatively few muscles. Anything you can do to develop strength in muscles long ignored (or never developed) is great. Plus, your training load is low right now and shouldn’t be focused on cycling, so you can do things that would normally leave you too tired for cycling. Start lifting weights, do CrossFit, go running, go swimming.

The offseason is a great time to try something new, like Crossfit, says coach Mayhew. photo: Artic Warrior / Justin Connaher

The offseason is a great time to try something new, like Crossfit, says coach Mayhew. photo: Artic Warrior / Justin Connaher

Get started on a yoga program or increase your practice by a few days a week. All of those things encourage strengthening and involve movements you’d never do in cycling, which are good things. Moreover, they let you check that box of “doing work” every day which is good for any athlete’s head while developing a sense of self outside of cycling. A lot of us can get depressed around this time because we’re not riding and that can be related to not getting your endorphin fix from exercise. So get moving in some form that’s not cycling.

Second, I realize that we do like to ride our bikes, and so if you are going to ride your bike, there’s one workout I’d encourage you to incorporate at least once a week: threshold training. The classic version of this workout is two efforts of twenty minutes each at lactate threshold, functional threshold power, or however you choose to anchor your intensity level schema or want to define fitness. If you don’t have an anchor, think about doing a steady time trial for 20-30 minutes and riding at that pace in that manner. (Pro tip: start the effort easier than you think you should and try to increase the effort a small bit every five minutes) I think 2×20 minutes is something to work up to. Start with smaller blocks, but no shorter than 8 minutes. Do 2×8 and add a few minutes to each block every week. When you get to 2×20 then you can think about adding intensity to the workout rather than minutes.

Trainer work isn't fun for many of us, but doing threshold work now will pay off later in the form of fitness, speed and results. © Cyclocross Magazine

Trainer work isn’t fun for many of us, but doing threshold work now will pay off later in the form of fitness, speed and results. © Cyclocross Magazine

This work is not that exciting and can be somewhat laborious. But it’s the flour to build your cake in the analogy for which I am so fond of using (see Hiring a Coach and Training for Gravel, Embracing Offseason Training and Turning Down Volume and Upping the Power for key steps to that recipe). It takes a long time to build threshold power, on the order of several months, so you’ll need to do a lot of these, which means you should get started now. This is a workout I think you should do 40 weeks out of the year, give or take.

The hard part about riding your bike right now is that you’re at the beginning of your journey back to regaining fitness you once enjoyed. And for weeks or months of doing threshold workouts, or any ride, you’re not going to be where you were. A lot of people tend to get really down about how fat or out of shape they feel during this time. What they’re doing is comparing where they are or “should be” to where they are right now. I would really encourage you to avoid that mindset. Focus on where you are now and embrace it. Spend your mental energy on figuring out what you can do today, to work towards your goal. No single workout will make or break your season. It’s a large body of work, over weeks and months, that matter.

Think about what you can do today and be happy with yourself when you do that thing. Do you get mad at yourself because you’re not on vacation right now and think poorly of yourself? Or do you figure out a plan of where and when you can go on vacation, look forward to that, and make sure you pack everything you want for that vacation? Look forward to the journey and doing the work. If you’re just looking for results, you won’t last long in this sport because those are far and few between. If you can learn to love the journey and take pleasure in it, you’ll ride your bike for as much of your life as you want to.

“Spend your mental energy on figuring out what you can do today, to work towards your goal. No single workout will make or break your season.”

I think actor/DJ Idris Elba has some good words here in that regard:

Lastly I’d tell you that even if you could get into August form tomorrow, somehow you’d spend all of February thinking you should be fitter or leaner. Learn to be happy where you are and learn to love making small steps to another place, day in and day out.

Have your best cyclocross season ever with all of our Training and Technique Tuesday pieces here from coaches Mayhew, Adam Myerson and Kenneth Lundgren and others. Can’t get enough? See our Cyclocross Academy and Cyclocross 101 articles here. Mayhew expects to contribute Training Tuesday installments every two weeks in the offseason.