A question regarding racing .

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  • A question regarding racing .
  • How far are you able to go in road or XC MTB racing without using a Turbo Trainer , Zwift , Power Meters etc ? Is it impossible to be competitive without these aids these days ?

    Premier Icon wonny j
    Subscriber

    I think with some natural ability and a lot of hard work and a coach you could get pretty good, but maybe not properly competitive.

    munrobiker
    Member

    I have raced quite a bit, usually endurance stuff (6-24hr) but some normal xc too. I did have a turbo but hardly ever used it- it was excellent for pushing my threshold but I found it dull. I’ve never had a power meter. I just spent £20 on a fit bit type thing that gives me rough indications of heart rate so I know what training zone I’m in.

    When I train I’m rarely outside the top 10. I’ve had plenty of podium places. But, these aren’t national series races and a lot of people are faster than me.

    The trade of for not using that kit is I have to go out in minging weather and I have to ride hard a lot. That means a lot of early starts, longer rides than if I were on the turbo (both distance and time wise) and I will, ultimately, get beaten by the guys with serious training plans on Zwift etc. But I will have had more fun training, and riding my bike is supposed to be fun.

    Premier Icon Kryton57
    Subscriber

    I think with some basic knowledge of types of training, periodisation & tapering and lots of hard work* you’d be competitive.

    *Hard work is the same whether you have all that kit or not.

    Even so, don’t think that having all that swag means you’ll suddenly be threatening Nino.  Natural ability, day to day core strength** and a lengthy cycling pedigree contributes a lot.

    ** Ever notice how a lot of tradesman seem strangely fit vs those of us that sit in a desk/car?

    Edit: munrobiker describes it perfectly

    Premier Icon weeksy
    Subscriber

    I have all the kit and I’m rubbish, god only knows how bad I’d be without it?!?

    crikey
    Member

    Of course you can be competitive without all that shit!

    Look at riders from the past, you’re not even quick enough to go training with them, yet they didn’t have any of these things.

    but maybe not properly competitive.

    Please…

    whitestone
    Member

    As above you don’t need it but used correctly it can make your training more efficient and effective.

    Advantages are that you aren’t affected by the weather or traffic conditions or that hill appearing one minute into the recovery period before your next effort.

    Disadvantages are that it’s pretty dull no matter how you dress it up – Zwift, Trainerroad, etc.

    As to how far you’d get, that will depend on your natural ability and how much work you are prepared to put in to it. Once you get to a certain level then you won’t just be racing against individuals but teams who can give you the runaround. If you are at that level then it’s possible you’d get picked up by one of said teams and be using structured training anyway.

    mtbtomo
    Member

    If you understand the principles of training then sure you can be competitive without turbos and power meters and all the kit.

    Modern devices just make it more time efficient to train or just help to maintain a bit of interest.

    But devices or not, if you don’t understand what proper training is….then just riding your bike lots will only get you so far; and if you’re not talented then it might not be very far at all. 😉

    Premier Icon chakaping
    Subscriber

    As to how far you’d get, that will depend on your natural ability

    This is the crux of it.

    I heard a podcast interview with Ned “The Shred” Overend – and I believe he said that he has always trained on perceived effort, not using a HRM or power meter etc.

    But then he must be an exceptionally gifted athlete anyway.

    mtbtomo
    Member

    In answer to your “how far”, more specifically, I have friends who have been competitive enough to get up to 2nd cat road without using power meters and turbos.

    And I bet the higher category and elite riders of 10,20, 30 years ago would still be elite riders today even without the use of modern tech.

    dovebiker
    Member

    Ultimately it comes down to having a plan, going out, periodically thrashing yourself at the right intensity and making sure you recover / don’t get injured. Some gizmo strapped to your bike/wrist isn’t going to do that for you. There are plenty of people racing 4th cat with all the gear and zero points. The people who want you to believe you need the gear are the people who flog the shit. One of the reasons I got bored with racing was the complete bore-fest of people droning on about their FTPs, latest kit etc.

    crikey
    Member

    You’ll get lots of ‘back in the day’ stories, and you can discount them if you want to. But the only way to get fast enough to race and then good enough to win at racing is to work hard.

    You can spend lots of money on the latest greatest training aid but it’s all just furniture unless you put the effort in.

    ‘Oooh, I don’t have the time so I need to train at home’. Bollocks. Get up early, get out, get going.

    ‘Ooh I’ve got young children’ Bollocks. Get up early or go out late, get going.

    If you want it, do it. If you can’t be arsed, don’t bother.

    Up to you.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    All you need is a bike, knowledge and the right trails/roads to enable you to do the workouts you need. The turbo just makes this easier.

    Power meters are extremely useful but only if you know your training zones. You need to train in a particular zone to get the right effect without fatiguing yourself too much.

    mtbtomo
    Member

    The excuses Crikey mentions are easier to dismiss if you have a turbo because it allows maximum training benefit in minimum time. You still need to understand what you’re doing, but you can still get a decent session in on a turbo in 45minutes.

    TiRed
    Member

    If I am honest, I found that the fitness part wasn’t the issue (I was a 2nd cat road racer until a week ago). To be competitive it’s skills that will get you to the top 10. Fitness will be a given at that level, and of course a PM and Zwift will help improve yours, but bashing out intervals on your nearest hill will get you the same for the short intense efforts needed in mtb racing. What you won’t get is the skills. I realised to improve further, what I really needed was time on the trails. Time I didn’t want to commit.

    And not just fun riding with your mates, either. Training is the riding the same trail analysing how you can improve lines and carry speed, how to ride a drop confidently etc.

    It’s the same with road racing. Everyone focuses on the engine tuning, and forgets about the suspension. Bike handling needs practice as much as fitness. Cornering will see you out the back very quickly if you can’t. Same for mtb riding, when the pointy end disappear at the sign of the first table and berm!

    Our club national level mtb rider rose to an elite road racer in a season. Talent off road and fitness in abundance.

    trail_rat
    Member

    Look at riders from the past, you’re not even quick enough to go training with them, yet they didn’t have any of these things.

    A fairer comparison would be to look at top tier of today and of yesteryear

    kcr
    Member

    Is it impossible to be competitive without these aids these days ?

    It’s perfectly possible to be competitive without those aids, if you understand how to train methodically, and know yourself well enough to understand what level you are riding at, and when you need to rest and recover (or have some coaching guidance to help you do that).

    A turbo trainer is a useful way of doing focused interval sessions when time is limited and it is dark outside. A power meter allows you to measure the intensity of your training much more accurately than an HRM or by using “feel”, so you can target your training more effectively.
    So the training aids are not absolutely necessary, but they will help you cut to the chase and optimise your training to make the most of your ability and the best use of the training time you have available, if you know how to use them.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    If you smash a 2 or 3 hour ride, you’ll take a lot out of your body, but you’ll be doing all sorts of different riding zones. This means that you’ll be training some metabolic pathways that you don’t need to, and not focusing on the ones that you do – but you’ll still get tired, and if you ride again the next day you won’t be able to ride at the same intensity because of fuelling and fatigue. Keep this up a week and you’ll be knackered, keep it up for 4 weeks and you’ll have overtrained or inevitably have slowed down, which means you’ll be missing high intensity training.

    Cyclists train at lower intensities off-season because you can keep it up for much longer – and lower intensity training needs more time to have an effect. Then during race season you do shorter higher intensity work. Higher intensity training produces effects that are shorter lived, which is why you need to do it during your race season. But you do shorter workouts because you need less time to get a training benefit – and it’s harder, so you need to keep a lid on the overall accumulated fatigue. Of course, riding lots will get you fitter, and you’ll do even better if you ride long slow in winter and smash it in summer, but how well this work depends on a fair few factors not least genetics, age and how much time you have.

    The most important part IMO is knowing where your training zones are, and without a power meter you are not much more than guessing, especially when it comes to higher intensity workouts. Turbos also help – for example if you need to do 1 minute sprint intervals outdoors, you ideally need a hill up which you can sprint for 1 minute and be assured of being able to turn round and get back to the bottom in 30 seconds or whatever your training calls for – and ideally be able to pedal lightly down to the bottom. The best option is a really long relatively shallow hill so you can just turn around and spin further back down it and start back up again when you want, without having to get all the way to the bottom. But there aren’t many of those in most parts of the country.

    You could do the same with lots of flat open road, but there’s something different about smashing along the flat compared to riding up a hill. Don’t ask me what, but it’s different.

    With a turbo all this goes away – set it to high resistance, it’s like hill climbing, and you can do whatever combination of intervals you want (but lift up the front wheel so you feel like you are climbing). You also can warm up for your 5 mins or whatever and then hit the intervals, you don’t need to spend 20 mins riding out to your carefully chosen hill and 20 mins home or whatever.

    trail_rat
    Member

    NEVER EVER say that to a sufferfest kool aid drinker molgrips.

    as for crikey advocating the leaving of young children at home alone while i selfishly go out cycling because its THAT simple well no lets not even go there

    philjunior
    Member

    If you’re honest with yourself, you can get far without either of them. Riding a bike is more fun, you just have to avoid making the excuses and if you want a specific benefit ride the right way.
    RPE is just as informative as a power meter – if you’re honest.

    whitestone
    Member

    As @TiRed notes, it’s not just fitness that wins races but also skills and race craft – knowing how to read the race and to react to the right moves. You need all three to be in the right place at the right time.

    Power meters help because there are different levels of effort that have quite specific physiological effects and just a few percent up or down from a given level will have you “training” something different which may not be intended.

    Turbo trainers are very time efficient especially for higher power efforts, you want to do 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off VO2Max intervals for five minutes then two minutes recovery then repeat? Go ahead, no need to worry about anything else.

    Whenever the topic of training comes up on here I bang the drum about recovery – the day to day difference between top athletes and the rest of us isn’t that they have time to train but they have the time to recover. It’s the recovery that brings out the benefits of the training.

    Some of us on here use Trainerroad which is one of the turbo based training programs. They have three volume levels of plans: low, medium and high. There are lots of threads on their forums about which level plan is best, invariably people think they should be doing the high volume because more is better, right? Well no! It’s no good doing six days of training if you can’t recover from each workout. Typically you’ll then see comments like: “I’m doing high level base but I’m having to skip or abort workouts or maybe lower my FTP” and that’s because they can’t recover from one workout to the next.

    I do the low volume plans so I’ve plenty of recovery time. It also means I have time to go for outdoor rides for whatever reason without compromising the training plan.

    Edit: Another reason is lack of time. 24hrs in a day, you sleep for 8hrs, work for 8hrs with 1hr commuting each way, 1hr in the morning getting ready, 1hr in the evening for meal. That leaves just 4hrs for all your training including preparation and having a shower afterwards.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    ‘Oooh, I don’t have the time so I need to train at home’. Bollocks. Get up early, get out, get going.

    ‘Ooh I’ve got young children’ Bollocks. Get up early or go out late, get going.

    Pretty obvious that certain issues will make it harder for some people than others. I’m not sure what your point is. If you’re trying to motivate people then you’re doing a terrible job. Glad you’re not my coach 🙂

    RPE is just as informative as a power meter – if you’re honest.

    Not really, I bet you can’t realistically tell the difference between zones 2 and 3 at the beginning of a ride, or at the end, unless you’ve already done time with a power meter.

    fasthaggis
    Member

    The trade of for not using that kit is I have to go out in minging weather and I have to ride hard a lot. That means a lot of early starts, longer rides than if I were on the turbo (both distance and time wise) and I will, ultimately, get beaten by the guys with serious training plans on Zwift etc. But I will have had more fun training, and riding my bike is supposed to be fun.

    For me ..This^^

    A fairer comparison would be to look at top tier of today and of yesteryear

    and this^^

    Back in the day (XC) I got away with some skills I brought from MX (being able to spot the good lines) ,a good dose of grit,determination and getting my head in the right place,that and the fact that I have only ever DNFed a couple of times meant I was always there at the end(top 10 UK in my Cat).
    I would have a heart attack if I tried XC at front of race pace now,still glad I had my time in the sun though,racing is awesome 🙂

    Premier Icon Kryton57
    Subscriber

    work for 8hrs

    Yeah right, I wish….

    mtbtomo
    Member

    I bet most people could find between 5-10 hours in their week to train if it’s that important.

    Some people think nothing of working more than their contracted 37 or 40 hours a week.

    It really does depend on your priorities.

    If you want to find out OP Ramsey, then enter a few races or events. Then train. Then do some more races. And repeat.

    You should train and race because you enjoy the methodical process of training and racing. If you set off with a mindset or the focus that you need to be successful and therefore to be successful you need to buy some kit then it will likely be quite an unfulfilling endeavour. Buy yourself some kit if you want to, or if it will remove barriers to training but don’t buy kit assuming its needed for success.

    Do you already train and race?? Do you feel like you’re struggling and trying to understand if some kit will help you progress??

    mtbtomo
    Member

    When I started road racing about 5 years ago, having ridden quite a bit but not having trained, it was brutal. Getting dropped race on race and it seems everyone else is a level above. But the reality is, people in cat 3 and 4 are mostly mortal with day jobs and families but who know how to train to race, have some race craft, know how to recover and might eat vaguely sensibly.

    Wind forward the years and I’ve gone through self-coaching (well what I thought was “training”), generic training plans and also coached.

    I’ve got up to 3rd cat, had a few top tens across Crits and open road and can do a reasonable 10mile TT.

    I’m still trying to improve, still get dropped on a bad day, still crash and still wondering what it takes to be a bit more competitive but that’s part of the challenge.

    steve_b77
    Member

    I bet most people could find between 5-10 hours in their week to train if it’s that important.

    This is very true, most of the time. When I was “training” for 24hr racing I took the opportunity of a long yet steady commute too and from work 2 or 3 times per week, so that was 8 to 12 hours just commuting in Z2, coupled with 30 minute interval smash ‘fests on the turbo it worked rather well, I got in as much recovery / rest as I could and made sure I ate properly and slept as much as I could – all of this is very, very hard with a young family and a full time job of a reasonable level.

    Really all I’m doing is echoing the above, if you can train and recover properly then you can do it without all the modern tech. But things have changed, in yesteryear Pros would do massive mileage and rest up before events (from what I understand), now things have changed with more focused shorter sessions and the obvious recovery along with base, but not as much as say in the 70’s and 80’s. There’s a school of thought that is around in Marathon and endurance fields that you now build speed and acceleration first (say racing CX all winter) and then build the endurance over the top in spring before a summer of marathon and endurance racing. Now if you don’t wanna race CX, getting the volume of threshold work in on dark winter nights is damned tricky outdoors.

    ferrals
    Member

    @crikey comes across as a bit of a dick! great if you can make it work for you, but I feel sorry for your partner if you have a full time fixed hours job, young kids, arent rich enough to have a cook, cleaner and maid for the housework, and still have time to put in the minimum 10-15hrs per week it is generally accepted by sport scientists that you need to become competitive.

    Personally I struggle with the time, the only time I have been vageuly competitive on a bike outside of my teens was a few years ago when I rigourously followed a training plan on traineroad (turbo trainer) for a year. You just get so much more bang for your buck, you can be properly beasted after an hour on the turbo in a way I’ve not managed to replicate in the real world outside of races. I tend to have 5-7hrs a week to train which I’ve done mostly in the real world just using an HRM hte last couple of years on the way to and from work, but my fitness and results are not as good as when i was more structured and used a turbo. As above, its hard to find good outside training environments close to home (espeilly if like me you rule out riding on the road).

    There are people I know that dont seem to follow plans, use turbos or power meters but they are the sort of clean lviing poeple that have been cycling for 20 years so have a huge amount of base to work with. Those of us having a mid-life crisis after years of no exercise and too many fags and Mcdonalds need all the help we can get!

    Doesn’t really matter waht approach you take though does it, so long as you race and enjoy it I don’t think anyone really cares

    Premier Icon Garry_Lager
    Subscriber

    How far are you able to go in road or XC MTB racing without using a Turbo Trainer , Zwift , Power Meters etc ? Is it impossible to be competitive without these aids these days ?

    Amateur TT times seem to have dropped a lot in recent years – has to be down to understanding of aero, and training with power, neither of which were in place back in the day.

    A sub hour 25 on an honest course used to be the mark of the club strongman – a real achievement beyond most amateur riders. It’s still very respectable but it’s nothing like the benchmark it was.

    philjunior
    Member

    Amateur TT times seem to have dropped a lot in recent years – has to be down to understanding of aero, and training with power, neither of which were in place back in the day.

    Actually, I’m going to eat my words. For a TT, a target power (combined with power meter readout) would be pretty useful.

    For racing the effort is more up and down and responsive to others (either beating people to the singletrack for MTB or keeping in the right place in the bunch/bridging when necessary on road and track), I don’t think I’d get anything from a power meter and in any case, power meters aren’t allowed on the velodrome which is my main racing these days.

    Premier Icon Kryton57
    Subscriber

    I couldn’t race MTB XCO on power, its too fast and furious.   Power in XCM would be useful as I now use HR to gauge my effort on long climbs in recent times.

    Time is definitely a factor – I’ve just received the next 6 weeks of 8rs fasted Z2 a week targeting weight loss an mitochondria development plus Nino-esque core stuff on intermediate days – happy bloody Christmas!   And thats the other thing – plan it, then do it.  Don’t make excuses.  No one gets faster sitting on the sofa.

    Rollingdonut asked me a couple of years ago how I got motivated for post work 8pm sessions in the cold dark mancave at this time of year – I get out of my suit into my bibs straight from the door, no sitting down, get prepared and go when ready.

    philjunior
    Member

    The trade of for not using that kit is I have to go out in minging weather and I have to ride hard a lot. That means a lot of early starts, longer rides than if I were on the turbo (both distance and time wise) and I will, ultimately, get beaten by the guys with serious training plans on Zwift etc. But I will have had more fun training, and riding my bike is supposed to be fun.

    This is very true, unless you’re really in with a chance of a national champs or something, you just need to be fit enough to have fun racing, the last 1/10th of fitness isn’t massively important.

    Personally I prefer to ride than train, but I ride a lot and keep reasonable fitness. Maybe if my priorities were different I would get a turbo again, but when I had it I just never used it for years and years.

    ferrals
    Member

    Well it seems I’ve got a power meter coming for Christmas (+birthdays!) so we’ll see if I can get benfit from it. I try not to look at metrics when actually racing as it can be dispiriting (and cx is such a variabile sport over a short duration its probably pointless).

    For me a lot of my training is cross specific micro-burst, 100yard sprint, hairpin, 100 yard sprint, hairpin etc when a HRM doesnt give the info I need (doesnt respond fast enouh, hr drift etc) so I can never tell if I’m hitting the right zones.

    I’m hoping to use the trainerroad ‘ride outdoors’ option to follow a plan strictly while commuting by bike. We’ll see next October if it’s made a differnece!!

    you just need to be fit enough to have fun racing

    This is the thing. For me racing isnt fun if you end up doing a timetrial around a course surrounded by other people a minute either side of you also doing a time trial; which means you need to be a similar fitness to others to have a close race. I guess that varies by region, but this season we’ve had fewer entries in the senior cx races, and other people seem to have got faster, so I know I need to do everything I can to get fit enough to keep up with people for more of the race.

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