Some of the hardest training sessions I’ve ever done have been on a wattbike. Let me first be clear about why I got on one to begin with… I’d recently taken up mountain biking and road cycling, but then winter hit – cue rain, winds, cold. Not exactly great cycling conditions. But I had to keep my training up for races in Spring. So off to the gym we went.
Let me also just say that wattbiking isn’t only for cyclists. It’s a great way to boost cardio fitness without the impact on your joints that running gives and it improves strength, particularly in your legs and glutes.
These tips will take you from this…
1/ Don’t Be A Peanut
Sitting on a bike, going nowhere and staring at a wall is not my idea if a good time. BUT I know that improvement only comes with discipline and consistency, so I had to be there. I stared at that damn peanut for one whole painful hour (at least I had my headphones and Above & Beyond). But afterwards, the first thing I learnt was that having a “peanut” was no good at all. Let me explain…
A Wattbike contains a unique Polar view that gives you the ability to track your pedalling effectiveness for every revolution throughout your training session. It tells you whether you have a consistent force profile and where you can improve.
Below are three examples of you what you might see on your screen after a session of wattbiking (from left):
‘figure of 8’
This cyclist is losing too much pedal momentum on the transition from right-leg to left-leg (point 1) and left-leg to right-leg (point 2). The cyclist is only using the muscles on the front of the thigh and is “stamping” on the pedals. Aka newbie. How to improve? Being properly secured in the toe cages or using cycling shoes will help sustain power throughout the pedal stroke.
This cyclist maintains some pedal momentum between leg drives. However, there is still a noticeable loss of momentum – especially since at point 2 there is a larger dead spot than at point. How to improve? Imagine scraping mud off the ball of your foot to help extend the leg drive and improve the transitions.
This cyclist has a large rounded shape, which is consistent, balanced between each leg, and maintains good pedal momentum throughout. Typical shape of a strong drive and a balanced recovery. So strive to be a sausage!
For more info on how to improve your technique, visit WattBike.com
2/ Do Your FTP Test
Okay, so besides checking your pedal stroke effectiveness and aiming to be a sausage, you can just pedal at your own pace and pretty much chill out, right? How hard can wattbiking be?
Let’s talk about ‘watts’ – aka your power output. Your wattage measures how much power you’re actually putting into your pedal strokes. Yes, we’re talking about how hard you’re actually trying. How much effort you’re actually putting in.
Don’t be that bear.
To work out your accurate wattage, you will need to add in your height and weight. Why? Because a heavy tall person will need more effort than say a light tall person to move forward.
Because we’re all different shapes, sizes and fitness levels, it’s important to do an FTP test to give you and indication of where you’re at. FTP stand for Functional Threshold Power. Your FTP represents your ability to sustain the highest possible power output over 45 to 60 minutes. As a result 95 percent of the 20-minute average power is used to determine FTP. For more on FTP, read here.
Download the wattbike app and sync it to your wattbike at the gym and do the 20-minute test in the ‘Tests’ section under workouts to get your FTP.
I took it one step further and a test called a 4DP: a full-frontal Four-Dimensional Power test. This test uses four key performance metrics: Neuromuscular Power (NM), Maximal Aerobic Power (MAP), Functional Threshold Power (FTP), and Anaerobic Capacity (AC) to determine your rider type, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and create your comprehensive 4DP profile. This is a test which belongs to a cycling workout programme called SUFFERFEST. Which brings me to my next point…
3/ Up Your Game With Cool Training Apps
Ah…. SUFFERFEST! You kill me! But I love you! Let me explain why becoming a Sufferlandrian will improve your performance, help you shed weight and improve your mental strength. That 4DP test? It will tell you what rider type you are: Sprinter (me!), Attacker, Pursuiter, Time Triallist, Climber or Rouleur. The app will then personalise your power targets to match your unique profile. It will give you specific workout recommendations which will help build your strengths and address your weaknesses. They have loads! Ranging in time and and style: hills, sprint repeats, endurance, a mix of all three… All accompanied with videos and instructions (headphones are essential). And there’s no escaping the work. It measures your cadence and your wattage and sets you targets which you need to stick to. Cue sweat fest. (BTW you get a 7-day free trial to check it out!)
Another great app to download is ZWIFT. Imagine a virtual world filled with real people in real time. Cycling together. Want to hook up with your friend in Joburg while you’re in Cape Town and cycle through virtual London? Yep, you can do it. And you get all kinds of cool dangling carrots too, like kit and bike upgrades, Queen Of The Mountain crowns and records and you can chat to each other too. I use ZWIFT for my indoor recovery rides. I still get a good wattbike workout, but I don’t kill myself like I do with SUFFERFEST. This is what ZWIFT looks like: