Riding a Trainer Part 2

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Yesterday I rode my cross bike twice on the Lemond trainer, watching movies.  I rode once early, then went to Keith and Catherine’s house to have 2nd Thanksgiving dinner, came home and decided to ride another hour at 9:30pm.

My cross bike has my power meter on it, so the numbers should be the same as riding outside, right?  It is a bunch different than riding outside.  It is smoother, much less effort to increase rpm’s.  But the pressure on the pedals seems pretty right.

I wasn’t doing any structured workout.  I was just trying to put in the time.  Saying that, I still couldn’t help myself and not check out the wattage time to time.

My two observations.  Starting, the wattage seem pretty low and I seem to be “off”.  But after about 10 minutes, the watts went up about 50 and the effort seemed easier.  I guess that is why you need to warm up some before hard efforts.

My 2nd observation is a little unproven, but right now seems perplexing.  I played around, just for a couple minutes, with pedalling one leg at a time.  I’ve seen guys warming up at races doing this and was curious about what that was for.

So I pedaled with my right leg first and then the left.  What was weird is that it seemed pretty easy to ride about 175 watts with either leg individually.  It seemed like it was easier with my left leg, which is “my bad” leg.  I’m pretty sure that my left leg is stronger than my right, which is counter intuitive.

Anyway, it seems like if I can ride 175 watts with each leg it seems reasonable that it would be just as easy to ride 350 watts with both legs.  But that isn’t the case.  Riding 350 watts is much harder than riding 175 watts on each leg.

I do understand that it takes close to twice as much oxygen for both legs going around than each individual leg, which makes sense.  But I’m not sure it is the oxygen that is the limiting factor.  I can ride at 350 watts continuously, but it takes pretty much concentration and isn’t easy.

I’m sure I’ll be able to answer all of this, probably relatively soon.  It iced again last night and looks like it is going to be trainer weather thru the weekend.  I wish I had my shit together and could take off for a week and go somewhere warm to ride, but alas, I don’t, so I’m here for the duration.

Back to the sweaty pool training.  Think I’m going to do it twice again today.  A little over an hour at a time is all I can stand as of now.

You might notice that I still have my light on my handlebars, just incase a night ride presents itself.

You might notice that I still have my light on my handlebars, just incase a night ride presents itself.

23 thoughts on “Riding a Trainer Part 2

  1. Joe C

    My theory is you’re essentially using one leg at a time, so 175 on each means pretty close to 175 combined. Unless you are the date individual who can add a bunch of power by pulling up on the pedals. And even though your left leg is your bad leg, its still your dominant leg. When I still taught skiing, it was always easy to pick out who was right and left handed, by their dominant leg. Well, it worked 95% of the time.

  2. andy

    You’ve just demonstrated why a power meter which takes single sided power, and doubles it, is faulty…

  3. Spinner

    I have some data that I collected on racing cyclists (n=55) in regards to individual leg strength. About 20% of the tested riders had the non-dominate leg as the strong one. Of those, 17% had had an injury on that (the strong one) leg! While I have not formally investigated why my opinion is that some serious rehab work went into that injured leg making it stronger than the dominate side. My testing procedures included a cycling (single leg) and leg pressing tests……

  4. Barb

    Hey Steve,

    I just got a cross frame I will be building up. Been looking at all the different brakes wondering which ones to get. We live in an age of infinite choices, which makes it more difficult. Yours (hard to tell from low res web photos) look almost like a V-brake on the front, rim brake on the rear. Are they cantis? If so, which ones?
    thank you!

  5. old and slow

    You were quite the roller God back in the day, Steve? Did you ever notice how smooth you were out on the road when you had started out on the rollers that day?

  6. Bill K

    I hope you put a large matt or tarp under your trainer. Without it, you’ll ruin that nice floor.
    I always do my workouts in the garage. It’s amazing how hot you get in an unheated garage, and the amount of sweat you have to clean up, even when it’s 30 degrees.

  7. Rob Pickels

    Muscles have a large capacity to extract oxygen from the blood, the limiting factor is the ability to send it. This has been confirmed with single limb experiments, when working alone a single limb can extract more than when working in tandem. It’s not exactly double like you mention, but the theory is correct.

    Now, obviously, it’s not all about oxygen delivery. Training the peripheral muscles is still important for performance because our delivery system is eventually tapped out. This is why EPO/ blood doping is effective, the delivery system ceiling is raised.

    Rob Pickels
    CU sports medicine and performance center

  8. Steve Tilford Post author

    Andy – My power meter is at the rings, so it takes into consideration both cranks. It registers power pedaling with either the left or right arms.

  9. Steve Tilford Post author

    Barb – They are TRP brakes and work great. More stopping power than I need. Plus, they are way easier to adjust and keep adjusted than normal cantilever brakes.

  10. Ken

    Have you ever ridden PowerCranks? Might be great to try if you are trying to balance out the legs. I ride them exclusively on my indoor trainer bike.

  11. Steve Tilford Post author

    Ken – I’m not really sold on trying to pedal all 360 degrees of a pedal rotation. There are lots of places on a pedal rotation that you are using a big muscle group to not get much power out of the equation. Obviously there are places, such as between 2 and 4 o’clock, that you have an extreme amount of leverage and extract a bunch of power. Not so much at 12 and 6, which takes a non-leveraged movement to get through those areas.

    Over the years I’ve ran into a bunch of guys that smash big gears, super choppy, like Hinault, and do great. Or guys that seem to pedal 360 degrees, smoothly, and do super well too.

    As I’ve aged and lost muscle mass and power, I’m tending to pedal more smoothly I think. I’ve upped my rpm’s about 8 over the last few years and think I pull up on the back stroke more seated than I used to. I always pull up when I’m standing.

    Maybe Powercranks are something I should mess around with some?

  12. mv

    Non dominant leg is often the stronger one. Theory is we try to protect out “more valuable” dominant leg by using the non dominant leg.

  13. wallymann

    i used powercranks during rehab, and they were great and might be a great move for your still-healing hip.

    however, i’m not convinced powercranks are much value once you’ve re-established a balanced and round pedalstroke with both legs.

    over time powercranks tend to turn you into a gear-masher and over-emphasize the up-stroke. in fact, i developed my up-stroke to the point i started getting pressure-sores under my sit-bones!

  14. Krakatoa (East of Java)

    And your power meter is relevant to you only, because you have no way to know if other meters are measuring differently, or if there are differences in calibration.

  15. Steve Tilford Post author

    Krakatoa – That is mostly true. There are ways to check the calibration against other devices. I rode a Wahoo trainer earlier this year. It had wattage that displayed on my phone. Then I used my power meter connected to a Garmin to verify. Same with riding with Garmin pedals on any power meter. But, I agree. You wattage is your wattage and that is what is most important. I can’t remember ever looking down in a race to see what wattage I’m doing. It is a training tool for me. And sometimes, just for entertainment.

  16. Ken

    When I was in the last few years of racing and trying to balance kids, work, and everything else, Powercranks helped me get the most out of my workouts with a limited time frame. I think they did resolve technique issues, or at least improve the technique so that I was applying the pressure through the pedals better and getting more with less (not fighting myself). I do agree that if one gets lazy, they can get into a rut of just pushing large gears on the PowerCranks to avoid the exhaustion of higher RPMs, but focused training on them can be beneficial. I ride the indoor trainer (also a LeMond–bought it first year it came out) exclusively with a PowerCranks equipped bike. Let me know if you want to try them sometime. I have 175s and a real old version (probably the first or second year they were made).


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