Roll With the Seasons Fall Bike Training Tips
Avoidbeing confined to riding the trainer in the basement for the next seven to eight months. The fall is actually a great time to get out and ride and enjoy a different training stimulus.
The focus of your fall riding season should be about variety both physiological and psychological. As triathletes the summer is spent focusing on race specific work, which means mainly steady state efforts. The fall, however, is a great time to work on sharpening adaptability by shaking up your training regime. The goal of fall riding is to maintain a good fitness base while staying fresh mentally.
There are lots of ways to do this, just joining up with your local roadie group ride is a great way to have a more social ride combined with some good intensity and to work on your bike handling skills. Triathletes are notoriously poor bike handlers which isn’t helped by spending upwards of seven months inside on the trainer in a fixed position, so getting out during the off- season is a great way to improve your skills.
My personal fall favourite is cyclocross. A cyclocross bike is a combination of road bike and mountain bike. It has a road geometry and road handlebars, but a larger frame clearance so that you can run larger knobby tires. A cyclocross bike opens up a wide selection of riding options including dirt/gravel roads and trails, city bike paths, even some single track mountain bike trails. It also works just fine on the road as well. Cyclocross riding is not as technical in general as mountain biking, but will definitely help you work on your bike handling and have you far more comfortable out on the road on your tri bike. For a triathlete looking to invest in a second bike, a cyclocross bike is a great option because it can act as a two in one. All it takes is a quick change of tires to go from being a cross bike to road bike.
One thing you will notice is that riding off road and on park paths and trails is much warmer than being out on open roads in cooler weather. Many athletes are afraid of the fall weather, but with cross riding you are able to ride comfortably in much cooler temperatures. Being protected in the trees, as well as the slower speeds, means an off-road ride can feel 10– 15+ C warmer than one on the road. Having to get off and walk around obstacles is a great way to warm up your feet. This can also easily be done on an old mountain bike or even hybrid bike. Exercise caution, however, in the amount of off road you do on a hybrid bike as it might not take the abuse as well. But the whole idea of this is to open up different roads and areas from where you ride in the summer so help keep things fresh mentally. From a
physiological standpoint it also offers built in variety, the terrain will dictate a lot about your intensity, but in a good way you will go super hard to get up a tough little climb, but you are so focused on making it the top you don’t think about the effort until it’s done. Then, on a technical section, you might not pedal almost at all for a couple of minutes, but you get a great upper body workout manoeuvring your bike around.
Cross riding becomes more focused on exploring the trails and paths and you aren’t worried about the distance or intensity, so it’s a great way to get in a solid workout without worrying about a specific structure.
For those who want to do some different kinds of racing in the fall there are lots of options as well. On the road there are a growing number of Grand Fondo/Centurion/Charity rides popping up across the country. These are great rides that can give you a good introduction to bike racing. Those riding towards the front will find these to be a proper bike race, but as you move farther back in the pack it becomes less competitive and more completion- oriented so there are options for everyone. Cyclocross races are also on the rise; they tend to be about 60minutes in length and offer a variety of terrain, but are in general quite short and very intense, with the added bonus for triathletes of almost always having a number of dismount and remount obstacles and some running.
Fall riding really should be about variety and trying to ride outside as long as you can; many of my athletes have gotten cross bikes over the last few years and are now riding through the winter. This lets them come into summer race season both fitter and fresher.
Long, Uninterrupted Runs For a long base or endurance run, nothing beats trails. No traffic lights, no intersections and long stretches of trail create a continuous aerobic session. Without the distractions of road running, you can really get into a groove in the woods, paying attention to your body, your breath and how efficiently you’re running.