Tuesday, December 13, 2011


We are currently in week #7 of indoor riding at the Cycling Centre and although we have moved on to a strength phase, we are still keeping a focus on technique.  I am a firm believer that an efficient, smooth, and fluid pedal stroke will result in faster speeds, saved energy, and an aesthetically pleasing riding style.  So we've heard the following terms, pedal in circles, scrape mud off your shoes, there's your dead spot, pull up, push forward ... but what does it really mean?

Following is a great video created by Cycling Secrets that explains the different phases of a pedal stroke.  When you hear "apply equal pressure to your pedals" or "find your circles" during our workouts, what is meant is you should be thinking about the clock in the video and your toes touching each number.  So if you had a marker attached to your shoe that could draw on air, it would draw a perfectly round circle - whether or not you have a square bottom bracket ... just in case you were wondering.

As we are starting to do harder workouts and our legs are fatiguing, it is common to "mash" on the pedals, forcibly push down, or "pedal in squares" in an attempt to find more power.  I prefer to think of the down stroke as a push forward stroke for the sake of imagery.  If you look at the clock you will see that the 3 is farther east then the 1 and 2, so in order for your toes to "connect the numbers" (remember we have a marker on our shoe), it needs to feel like you are pushing your foot forward, like a leg press, or a lunge forward.  As we get tired, feet start to "drop" down from the 1 to the 5, creating a dead spot, or a spot where we are not applying any force and therefore missing an opportunity to propel ourselves forward.

The pull back phase, in general, is done well by Cycling Centre athletes, until they stand up.  Especially as we get tired, it is common to "rest" at the bottom of the stroke, so when you are standing it is important to remember pedalling technique, to scrape through the bottom of the pedal stroke and push forward through the set up - which will be touched on 2 paragraphs down.  Remember, every time you lack force to the pedal you lose momentum, speed, power .... and when you are standing it is usually because we are looking for extra speed and power, whether it is on a hill or a sprint finish, or to get back up to speed.  By having an efficient pedal stroke you will maintain momentum and save energy.

The lift up phase is done very well by riders who have done fixed gear riding, whether it's on a track bike or at a spin class.  The idea behind this part is to pull up and as you go from the 8 to the 9, through to the 10 and 11, to drop your heal.  So as you move from the end of the lift up and in to the set up, you should have a flat foot, which for many means that you will feel like your toes are much higher then your heal, like you are in a calf stretch position when you start the set up phase.

Then there is the infamous set up, the part of the pedal stroke that many people don't think about as it's not part of the up or down; and if you've been reading from the beginning hopefully you have clued in that there really is no up and down, it is around and around.  We touched on foot position in the lift up phase and if done correctly you should be in good shape for the set up, or the "push forward".  The key to the set up is to have a flat foot.  If you are a "toe rider" or have a more vertical then horizontal foot at the top of your pedal stroke then it is too big a movement to correctly place your foot for the next phase and you are losing a lot of push, or forward propulsion.

The video talks about ankling, which many people do automatically, what you need to be aware of is how flat your foot is.  The flatter your foot, the bigger the lever, so the more power you can generate.  When pedalling at a high cadence you rely more on momentum and due to leg speed, there is not sufficient time for ankling or big changes in foot position; so you'll find that your foot is not as flat, it is simply about smooth circles.

When looking for more power, as we are in the current phase of training, having a flatter foot, really working on having lower heals in the set up phase and pushing forward and out to the 3 o'clock will result in more power, hence speed, at the same heart rate and cadence.  So it is a gained benefit with minimal change in effort.  Body position also plays a role, so when you are at a lower cadence, big gear and looking for big watts, slide your bum back in the saddle, feel like you have a bit of an arch in your back to ensure you are bending from your hips rather then your waist (pelvic tilt), relax your shoulders and drop them while keeping your back straight, bend your elbows and have them in line with your shoulders (going in to the drops can help you achieve this position), and keep your head up to stay aware of what is going on in front of you.  This body position will help get your glutes and quads in to pushing your feet forward and the lower centre of gravity of your body will help with aerodynamics and strength.

So we talked a lot about pushing big gears, and touched on high cadence, but what about when we are riding at our "normal" cadence, or optimal cadence.  All of the principles will be the same, you still want equal pressure your pedals as you do your circles, you just may not be pushing as hard.  You still want more of a flat foot rather then a pointed foot, but it may not be as flat as when you are digging in a harder gear and this may be when ankling works for you.

The following diagram was found on several other websites and I'm sorry proper credit is not given as I'm not sure who the original creator was, but it helps describe which muscles you are using during a proper pedal stroke.  This is a great time of year to get in the gym and work on single leg exercises to help balance out your legs and improve muscle discrepancies and weaknesses.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


The 2011/12 indoor season is almost here, which has me sad and excited.  Sad because it means summer is coming to an end, but excited as the Cycling Centre will be back in to full swing!

There are lots of new initiatives happening at the Cycling Centre this year, for starters, we have a new location in Oakville, Ontario.  The sessions will be taking place at 4th Line and the South Service Rd., conveniently off the QEW in a location without any stairs, yeah!

This season we will have 3 different training times as well starting on November 1, 2011 and ending April 30, 2012 (if it's nice on the week-ends we'll ride outside):
1. Monday and Wednesday nights from 7:15-9:15 pm
2. Tuesday and Thursday nights from 7:15-9:15 pm and Sunday morning from 9-11 am
3. Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 5:45-7:15 am and Saturday morning from 8-10 am

If these times work for you, but not in the packages presented then give us a ring and we can do some mixing and matching as well.

A training camp in Tucson is being organized for the first two weeks in March 2012, you can join for 1 week or 2 and it will accommodate triathletes and cyclists.  More details will be posted in the upcoming weeks.

Want to ride in Europe?  This year we are organizing a trip to Italy and France in May where you will catch some of the Giro and ride the climbs you have watched the pros perform on in the epic battles of the Tour de France.  Details will be posted soon.

If you are interested in any or all of the training sessions, camps, or trips, then e-mail info@canadiancyclingcentre.com.  Spaces are limited, including bike and trainer storage which will be reserved for the first people who register.

See you on the Bike!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Just over a week ago, Angela and I arrived at our Vineyard Cottage in San Martino Alfriedi in Italy and have been living in heaven ever since!  Since the modem in our cottage was not Mac compatible, it meant no internet, so here is a recap of what our week in Italy was like.
We arrived in to our tranquil setting and have been impressed with how few foreigners we have seen.  It means that I've had to dig in to the vault to use my Italian and that we are getting great at flapping our arms around to let the Italians know what we'd like.

The day after we arrived in Italy, Stage 2 of the Giro was starting from Asti, the closest "city" to us.  We decided to drive in to Parma to catch the finish of the stage and sped on to the Autostrada.  Cruising along at 150 km/hr we started to see Team Cars on the highway ... Rabobank, Sky, Lampre .... it was so cool seeing them fly past us on their way to the feed stations.  Once in Parma we stopped for lunch and who should come strutting down the street?  The LION himself, Mario Cipollini!  I was so busy getting Angela's attention and pointing that I didn't even think to call his name and ask for a picture.

After lunch we made our way over to the finish line to stake our spot at the 150 meter line.  We discovered it was the best spot to get Swag.  We got one of everything: hats, bottles, noise makers, if they were giving it out, we got our hands on it.  Holding firm to our spots and not letting anyone squeeze us out we watched in awe as the peloton flew past us.  Petachi won the day with Cavendish in second.  We may not have seen them cross the finish line, but we did see Cav's bike on our way back to our car.

The next day we went in to Torino and explored the closest city to us, what a great city.  Since Angela got pneumonia the week before we left we decided to take it easy and do some shopping!  On day 3 we went for a great ride of our countryside, traveling through a new town every 5 minutes.  It really is a stunning locale and we explored the local hills and vineyards before driving in to Asti in the afternoon for some shopping and people watching from a cafe in a square.  This was when we learned of the death of Wouter Weylandt at the Giro d'Italia.  What a tragic and awful accident.  Our thoughts are with his family.  
Angela was on a mission to see mountains with snow on them, so on Day 4 we loaded up the car and went in to Torino to explore the local surroundings, had some lunch and then drove in the "real" mountains.  We drove up Col de Lys and I once again amazed Angela with my driving skills on these narrow, curvy, and twisty roads ... good thing she doesn't get car sick!  Once at the top, we decided to ride down a bit and then turn around and ride back up.  What a great climb, need to remember this one!
We have learnt during this trip that just because you left a town on a certain road, doesn't mean it will be the same road you return on.  For the life of us we can't figure out why it is so easy to leave and yet so hard to find our way back!  The car rental place was out of GPSs so we have been navigating the old fashion way, map and street signs.  Italy is pretty good with signage, but with road names often too far away to read we end up doing a lot of u-turns when we realize we are no longer headed in the right direction.

Unfortunately, Day 5 had me sick in bed, so Angela explored our small village, it really is quaint.

Our last full day in Italy we had a fabulous ride in to Alessandria, which was surprisingly flat.  It was another gorgeous day, sunny and over 30 degrees, as it's been all week.  It felt good to really get out and ride and we maintained a good speed over our 110 km distance.  The quiet country roads really are a dream to ride here.

We left Italy for France, and after spending about 60 Euros on the Autostrada on Day 2, decided to stay to country roads as much as we could.  It amazes us how long it takes to travel here.  With the roads being so twisty and curvy and going up and over hills and mountains, traveling 200 km took us something like 4 hours - and that's with me driving like an Italian!

Next post will be about our first few days in Aix-en-Provence.  Thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 9, 2011


As Canadians, we are blessed with winter.  Cold, dark, snowy days that seem to last for months and months and months.  Depending on where you live, winter could be as short as 4 months and as long as 10 - I have been lucky enough to have lived in both.  No matter where you live in a cold climate, the benefits of getting away for warmth and sun are many.
A group of us ventured down to Scottsdale, Arizona to get in some strong base miles in the sun, to re-load our vitamin D stores, climb some good hills, and to remember why we ride our bikes.  All the work that was done inside over the past 5 months in the Cycling Centre was to benefit us out on the road is paying off, and now we are on to the next phase, base miles outdoors to prepare for the race season.

Arizona is a great place to ride, the terrain is varied, it is almost always sunny and warm, and can be as inexpensive or as expensive as you want it to be.  Interested in joining us next year?  Let me know:  info@canadiancyclingcentre.com.

Thursday, March 31, 2011


We have one more indoor class at the Cycling Centre and, as many of you know, riding inside is much different then riding outside.  Expect 2 weeks to pass before you really start to feel the effects of the winter training; this is roughly the amount of time it takes to get used to riding in wind again, the resistance provided by the road, the ups and downs that roads naturally take, and getting used to choosing your gears for the new rider that you have developed in to over the winter.  Changing gears effectively will result in riding more efficiently, staying stronger at later stages of the ride, and being able to better react to changes in speed by your riding mates ... but I'll touch on gear changing in another post.

Since many of the riders in the Cycling Centre have not been outside since before Christmas I wanted to remind you about the importance of tire pressure and using the floor pump on a regular basis.  There are many factors that affect the amount of air that should go in to your tube and I am going to touch on a few of them.

Written on the side of your tire will be the maximum and minimum amount of PSI (pounds per square inch).  If you go below the minimum then you risk a flat tire as the tube does not have enough air/shape to hold it in place and when you go over a bump it can squish between the tire and the rim and result in a pinch flat.  The tube can also burst if the maximum PSI is exceeded as it is already completely stretched and has no give that may be asked of it on a ride.  Flexibility can be a good thing as it will deflect potential particles that will cause a flat, such as a pebble.

Many people think that riding at the maximum PSI is going to result in less resistance and a faster ride, but research has shown that this is not necessarily the case.  

Not only does riding at maximum pressure create a harsher ride as the tire offers less give, but traction is also reduced.  If it is wet outside, or if you will be riding on gravely roads, then reduce the tire pressure to improve traction.  For example, if you are riding a road tire that has a maximum psi of 120 and a minimum of 85, then consider riding around 90 psi for maximum traction; however, take in to account your body weight, ride with more air if you are on the heavier side as your body weight will also increase the surface area of the tire.

Tires should be inflated every time you ride to ensure that they are at the correct psi for the road/weather conditions that you will be riding in/on.  At the very least, check the tire pressure every 3-4 days.  If you use latex tubes you will need to inflate every ride as they loose air quickly.

As I often say to my athletes when faced with different ways of doing things, then try them all and see what works best for you.  Start somewhere in the middle of the recommended range and if it feels too harsh then try a little less air the next time, feel to soft, then add air.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Best Cycling Routes on Earth

Spring is in the air, warm winds are kissing our faces, and the sun is embracing us, so what is it that fills our heads?  Well, riding outside of course!  The Cycling Centre has a variety of riders in it's program, triathletes who will be racing Lake Placid and Wisconsin Ironmen this year, World long course and short course triathlons, road races, centurions, newbies to the racing scene, and adventurers.

Before race season though, many athletes are away in warm climates to get in some outdoor milage and it has gotten me thinking about the best cycling routes in the World.  A quick google search pulls up exotic locales such as Isle of Wight in England, Tasmania, La Farola in Cuba, and of course the epic climbs we see on TV in the Giro, Tour, and Vuelta.  Although I've ridden in many places across North America, this year will be the first time my bike travels across an ocean; however, I have done some spectacular rides on this continent and thought I would share my top 5.

5. Las Vegas, Nevada
Riding may not be the first thing you think of when you hear Las Vegas, but the riding around the city is spectacular.  Lake Mead National Park takes you either up or down and there is a smoothly paved bike path that meanders through the park offering breathtaking views.  Mount Charlestown, on the other side of the city offers completely different vegetation and temperatures as you ride up to a ski hill where the smell at the top reminds you that you have moved from the dessert to the forest.

4. Waterfront Trail, Ontario
The Waterfront Trail is a signed recreational route from Niagara-on-the-Lake to the Quebec border that is 730 km long and travels through 41 communities.  It is the communities that put this route on the list for me.  The variety of views, rural and urban amenities, and maybe that you don't have to go much more than 25 km before coming across a delicious coffee shop or pub that make it an enjoyable ride.  Best way to travel the whole route is to register for the Great Waterfront Trail Adventure.

3. Silver City, New Mexico
At 6000 feet in elevation and with climbs that are 10 km at 12%, I've always thought this is the perfect place to go for training - if only they didn't get winter!  Riding the forests around Silver City has always kicked my butt, which is probably why it's on the list, I find it challenging.  Mount Mogollon and the ride up to the Cliff Dwellings are musts if you go.  If you like being around other cyclists and have the chance to see some of North Americas best pro road racers, then travel at the end of April and early May to see the Tour of the Gila.

2. Redwood Forest, California
Every been told to close your eyes, take a deep breath and go to your "happy place"?  Redwood Forest happens to be mine.  I didn't find the riding to be all that challenging, and the scenery doesn't change like the other rides mentioned; however, there is something cool about riding at the base of these massive trees, very neat.

1. Bow Valley Parkway, Alberta
I've ridden all over Canada and the States and done some amazing rides; however, this one is still my favourite.  Maybe it's because it was in my backyard and I have many different memories of this route; maybe it's because I've done it in snow, sleet, rain, and sun and survived; maybe it's because I've seen a Bear almost every time I've ridden it, along with Elk, Moose, sheep, and other wildlife; but whatever the reason, this ride is spectacular and everyone should plan a trip to ride in the Canadian Rockies.  This year Calgary will have a Granfondo, though routes aren't posted yet, I'm sure they will go through the rockies and fingers crossed they include the Bow Valley Parkway.

Friday, February 11, 2011


We've entered in to a pretty tough phase of training with shorter rest, higher heart rates, and more power.  What this means is we're expecting a lot of our muscles, lungs, and mental ability; we're pushing hard and breaking down our systems so that they can build strength and endurance.  The goal is to gain speed, but if we continue to push hard on the bike and in life then we continue to overload our systems; and unless we take the time to provide smart recovery after training sessions and schedule blocks of time for rest and recovery, then our bodies will not be given the chance to re-build and all the training can lead to burn out and injuries and illness.

The Cycling Centre program builds in recovery weeks and watches athletes closely to determine when they may need more rest, or can push even harder.  There are other things that you should be aware of to maximize recovery and come in to each training session feeling great and ready to work hard mentally and physically.  

1. Rest:  Time off is a good thing.  Take 1-2 days a week off completely or with 30-60 min of really easy activity to get the blood moving and to flush out toxins.  Active recovery can help repair and refuel the muscles faster.

2. Cool Down:  It is important to keep the legs moving while the heart rate comes down in order to help eliminate lactic acid and help reduce stiffness.  Continue to ride really easily for at least 10 min, and if it has been a hard workout have a dry shirt ready to put on to stay warm.

3. Eat Properly:  Your body needs a balanced diet with lots of nourishment in order to replenish and restore it's self.  Lots of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, good fats and lots of fluids are needed to keep the immunity strong.  If you are interested in learning more about nutrition and supplements then register for our clinic on Feb. 27 from 1-6 pm in Oakville, ON.  Contact Petrina at cyclingcentre@gmail.com to register or for more information.

4. Ice:  One of the best things you can do for recovery is to ice your muscles.  Ice massage, ice packs, ice baths can all help.  One of the best ways to recover is contrast water therapy where you alternate between hot and cold.  The most effective way is to alternate between hot and cold baths; however, a similar effect can be done in the shower alternating between hot and cold water by turning the faucet.  Check out this website to find out more.

5.  Sleep:  The importance of sleep can not be stressed enough and often is the first thing to be neglected in adult athletes.  Add the role of parent and full time employee to training and combine that with responsibilities that extended to family and friends and often sleep is left out of the equation.  Everyone has different sleep needs, whether it's 5 hours, 8 hours or 10 a night, but we have a pretty good idea of the number of hours we need to feel good. Do your best to get in your "optimal" sleep number, but if that's not possible you may be able to pay back some of your debt.  This website has more information on sleep including whether or not you can bank sleep.

6. Compression:  The new fad in performance clothing seems to be compression, but is it a fad?  Compression helps control blood circulation and resist fatigue.  Garments come in different weights, meaning the amount of give they have, so some are better for wearing during exercise, post exercise, and for travel to help eliminate jet lag.  Many people swear by it, so if you get achy after workouts it may be worth trying.

Remember to listen to what your body is telling you, sometimes it just needs  a little push to get going and other times you need to change your daily plan to rest, recover, and prevent injury and illness.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Had a great group out tonight to see Chasing Legends.  We really enjoyed it and the downhill scenes were the all the buzz after the move was over.  They did a great job showing the speed, grit, and humour of the pro peloton and I think Jens Voigt is now a  group favourite.

We'll see if it was motivating for the group and how they perform during their time trial tomorrow. I've noticed a lot of improvements and am excited to see it reflected in the numbers!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


The Cycling Centre is excited to have a guest Olympic Medalist ride with us on Feb. 1.  Ron Williams, a three time Paralympian and medalist in the Team Sprint and Time Trial, will be riding rollers and answering questions.

When Ron was 15, he was diagnosed with Osteogenic Sarcoma and lost his left leg.  Up to this point, he was an avid soccer player and member of the US Junior National Team.  After gaining his prosthetic leg he took up water skiing an the, while at college, discovered cycling.
Ron has competed at the 2000, 2004, and 2008 Olympics in road and track cycling and is showing no signs of slowing down.  He trains while working full time for Southwire and we are honoured to have him join us.

To find out more about this amazing athlete, check out his website: www.ronswilliams.com

Monday, January 10, 2011


One of the benefits of riding indoors is that it is a controlled environment; there are no hills, no wind, no traffic, no dogs or squirrels that might run in front of a cyclist. Riding a stationary trainer allows the rider to focus on technique and the main focus of the first few weeks of the indoor Cycling Centre program is to work on pedalling efficiency, increased rpms (revolutions per minute), and body position.  

I've found that many athletes that begin riding feel they need to push big gears at a low cadence in order to keep up with their friends, and then wonder why they are getting dropped on the hills when they lead out the group for the first part of the ride, or get dropped completely from the group early on. The answer is that they are working too hard too soon.  By riding an easier gear and increasing the cadence above 95 rpm, also known as spinning, the same speed can be maintained but the body is working more efficiently, lactic acid is being flushed out as it is produced, and energy is conserved that can later be used to power up the hills.

Think of it this way, if you have a 30 pound weight you may only be able to do 10 bicep curls, but if you have a 10 pound weight you may be able to do 30 reps before fatiguing.  In both cases the total amount of weight lifted is the same, 300 pounds, it was just achieved in different ways.  So if you are riding for 100 km and there is a big hill at the 60 km mark, your legs should be fresher when you get to the hill if you are riding 30 km/hr at 100 rpm versus riding in a bigger gear at 80 rpm - speed is the same, but leg speed and gearing are different.

We have been working on making the rider's "default" cadence close to 100 rpm, and 2 months in that goal has been achieved.  Not only that, but the maximum cadence reached in our 10 second warm up sprints has greatly improved.  Riders who were struggling to get up to 120 rpm are now well over 160 and can hold 120 rpm for a minute!  

Still not convinced?  Read the post on Cycling Tips regarding "Things That Make the Pros Different":