Many years ago as I was just getting into bike racing, I had the chance to pedal out to a local training race alongside a pro team. By pro, I mean money, cash and hoes pro. Established riders, the real deal.
The race venue was about 10 miles away from where we departed, and I assumed that I was in for a world of hurt in the form of a warmup. However during the entire 10 mile ride, we never breached 15 miles per hour. We rode painfully slow the whole way. At the time, I assumed the team was just a bunch of fragile pussies afraid to ride hard before a race. But they weren’t pussies, they were just doing a proper recovery ride.
Four Types of Riding
When it comes to training for bike racing, the types of rides you do can be broken down into four main types.
- Recovery Riding
- Not Riding
Each type serves a big purpose in your growth as a rider. In order to maximize your growth, you will need optimally perform each type of ride. Race hard, Train hard, Recover easy and Don’t Ride when you shouldn’t be riding.
Recovery Riding Explained
There should be one to four recovery rides penned into your workout schedule every week. The purpose of these recovery rides is to “recover” from your training and racing rides. If performed properly, these recovery rides will stimulate blood flow into your legs, bring fresh oxygen rich blood to stiff muscles and help flush waste products from your tissues.
The worst thing you can do on these recovery rides is “train.” After a recovery ride, your legs should feel at least no worse than when you started, and hopefully they feel better. If your legs feel worse, that means that you just did a training ride, not a recovery ride. If you can’t do a recovery ride without training, you will be better served not riding instead.
Walking Your Bike
I used to be guilty of doing my recovery rides too fast, and in turn hindering my recovery. I have since started calling my recovery rides “Bike Walks,” and it has changed my perspective.
- Leave your ego at the garage door. If you aren’t getting passed by grandmas on their upright cruisers, you are going too fast. Don’t bother putting on your full kit for your Bike Walk. Look like a Fred, ride slower then a Fred.
- Bike Walks are not the time to ride with someone that doesn’t share the same exact ride goal as you. Not even your grandma.
- Avoid all possible hills. I have 28t cassette installed on my training wheel to insure I can crawl at 4 miles per hour up any hills I can’t avoid. Don’t hesitate to get off your bike and literally walk up a hill if you feel the slightest twinge of lactic acid build-up.
- If squeezing in the time for a Bike Walk is a stressful event in itself, you are far better served in recovery terms by not riding your bike on that day instead.
If you are willing to demote your recovery riding pace beyond pathetic, get beaten by your grandma and have your racing buddies think you are a wimp – then you will reap the true benefits of recovery riding; adaptation to training and racing stress. Which basically means you will get faster, sooner, by going slower more often.