Category: training

CrankPunk Training: Get mental and get off the OK Plateau


People get stuck. It happens to us all at some point. You get into something, work hard, see the improvements quickly, then suddenly you’ve reached the flatlands. No matter what you do you just don’t seem to be able to push through it.

As bike riders and athletes, we have learnt since we were kids that to get better you have to train more, train longer, train harder. Yet at a certain point in our development, when that approach is failing us, we have to look at the other aspect of our makeup that has a massive impact on us – our minds.

We tend to focus on the physical aspect and not in any particular sense on the mental side of things.

Truth is though, that this tough old bike game really is very mental – in every sense of the word.

As a cycling coach I find myself not only writing training programs for my clients but also advising them how to break through the various psychological barriers that are holding them back from realizing their full potential.

In essence, you can train ‘right’ all week long but if you’re just going through the motions you’ll never get back from the bike what you’re putting in.

And that’s where we encounter the ‘OK Plateau’.

I first encountered the term in a book by the writer Joshua Foer, entitled Moonwalking With Einstein (Penguin Books 2011). He wasn’t discussing cyclists but typists, yet what he has to say is perfectly applicable to sport.

In the 1960s, psychologists Paul Fitts and Michael Posner identified three stages that we go through when acquiring a new skillset.

First is the ‘cognitive phase’, when the individual intellectualizes the task at hand and quite quickly learn new ways to become proficient.

The second is the ‘associative phase’, when we can concentrate less and make less mistakes but are still learning, still adapting.

The third is where the plateau approaches, known as the ‘autonomous stage’. Here’s where things get easier to the point that the practitioner can now switch to autopilot and loses conscious control over what they are doing.

Think about when you first learnt to drive a car and how you now drive a car, if you have some years’ experience, and you’ll see what I am getting at.

Brain scans have shown that different parts of the brain light up when someone is learning a new skill, and then turn off after that skill has become more or less learnt. They are, in effect, no longer thinking about how to do it, they are just doing it.

Now, let’s consider all of this and cycling. The average club rider goes out riding with a certain degree of dedication and motivation week in and week out, but what, generally, are they doing? The same as many of my clients, before they come to work with me – they are merely riding, pottering about at a similar average speed each ride, hitting similar kilometers and certain levels of lactic acid build up.

Now, consider what the pros do. Like top level professional musicians or other artists, they practice the high-level stuff. They’re not playing Greensleeves all day, they’re working their way through Rachmaninoff and Charlie Parker, hitting the high notes over and over again, stressing their systems at particular moments and in particular ways, doing all the hard stuff, the truly demanding stuff, that marks them out as professionals.

And there’s the nub. When you want to get good at something, how you spend your time practicing is more important than the amount of time you spend.

An accompaniment to this, an absolutely essential one, is that you must be prepared to accept failure. In fact, to break past that OK Plateau, you must embrace failure, practically seeking it out in the pursuit of mastery.

This element – learning to love to fail – is the best way to get someone off the OK Plateau.

How does this work?

It is only through feedback, from your brain and body recognizing what went wrong and why, that you discover new ways to improve. It’s a truth that the guy who comes second learns more from the experience than the guy who comes first. In victory we bask in glory, but in defeat we analyse.

This is why I tell my clients that I want them to go for the mad long range attack from time to time. I want them to go up that killer hill in training at a rate they cannot possibly hold til the end, because I want them to learn, to adapt and thus, finally, to improve.

We all set ourselves limits and work our way towards them, but most people are too harsh on themselves – or too lenient, depending on your point of view. The limits they set are too low and thus they constantly underachieve. Most people have no real idea of what they are truly capable of because of this fear of failure that casts itself like a shadow over everything they do.

Low limits means less risk of failing, but they also mean low expectations.

You may fail 10 times but you’ll fail less each time. And, on the 11th, you just might nail it. Complacency for the cyclist marks the end of advancements in efficiency, power and speed. And, at worst, can bring an end to the rider’s interest in the sport.

Now, here’s something many people may not agree with, but I believe this sincerely: the most successful athletes of our day do not inherently possess that much more natural talent than others who participate in their sport.

In some rare cases yes, there are people like Jordan, Gretzky, Messi and Vos who are clearly from another planet, but in most cases the men and women who we watch on our screens have very human talents. However, what marks them out as successful professional athletes is that they have also learnt, through thousands of hours of practice, how to elevate themselves beyond each OK Plateau they encounter.

They have the hunger and they are willing to fail to improve.

Top level athletes get better with each generation at using the time they have to train, and at learning from failures, both their own and those of others.

The history of sporting achievement bears this out, too. In his book, Foer mentions the 4 minute mile.

For decades, until it was broken in 1954 by Roger Bannister, the 4 minute mile was deemed absolutely impossible.

Now however, the record is 3 minutes and 43.13 seconds. Yes, advances have been made in track and shoe technology but the real advancement has been in the way athletes train, not in what they run on.

The human who holds that record is also just that, human. There have, as far as I know, been no evolutionary advancements over the past 40 years that would mean a bettering of Bannister’s record by over 15 seconds was bound to happen.

Ultimately, if you want to improve and keep improving, a conscious decision has to be made.

The rider who wants to get off the OK Plateau has to decide to ride to fail and then to evaluate why he or she failed. To break through a plateau is immensely rewarding, and it is not too much of an exaggeration to say that surpassing pervious expectations as a result of thinking and riding in this way can have ramifications for just about everything you do in life.

Becoming good at something – in our case, riding a bike – can in itself bring rewards across the whole spectrum of your life, increasing your confidence and self-respect. It can even make you a nicer human being to be around. Exercise, as a result of the chemicals released in the body as a result, has been proven to blunt the brain’s response to both physical and emotional stress.

There’s no lose. It’s all win-win.

So, go get mental.

Get off auto-pilot, wake up, and go out there and fail, goddamit!



This article accompanies this one here on training plateaus that focuses on the physical aspects.










crankpunk on the Mongolia Bike Challenge website: Over 40 & Fit as F**k!

As the official coach of the 2014 GENCO Mongolia Bike Challenge I write articles for their site from time to time, and here’s one I re-edited and have currently up there on the MBC site.

It’s about how old duffers like me (your friendly neighbourhood crankpunk was 42 last week) can get strong, stay strong and keep on keeping on until the wee hours of the night.

Here’s a taster:

Once was the day when a 40 year old man was considered ‘old’. Just 30 years or so ago, people over 40 looked older, dressed older and thought older. Yet as people nowadays are increasingly knowledgeable about nutrition, exercise and the importance of having an active lifestyle, the idea of just being ‘too old’ has itself become old.

40 has become the new 30. With a decent exercise schedule, a cutting back of alcohol and rich food and a more rational approach to work, stress, and all the other attendant hassles of modern life, we can stay healthier, look better and feel better for longer.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light brothers and sisters!

Crank on.




Kaizen & The Anchor: staying focused through a season

this article originally appeared on the GENCO Mongolia Bike Challenge website.


We all know that feeling, I’m sure, of beating ourselves up a little because of lost days of riding due to a loss of motivation, of life getting in the way of our first true love, or just a general disinterest in the goings on of the universe because every once in a while the entropy that defines this world seeps in to your soul and just makes you go ‘blah’.

Thing is, we really shouldn’t be berating ourselves when we experience these kind of dips, as they are perfectly natural and, if harnessed correctly, can prove to be great sources of motivation in themselves. There are few better feelings on the bike than getting over one of these ‘humps’ and coming back raging and ready to crush it on the trails, after all.

There are though a couple of ‘philosophies’ that can help a cyclist to minimize these dips, to stay focused and to crank on.

One is from Japan, known as ‘Kaizen’, which very simply means ‘good change’, the other is the idea of The Anchor, an idea that came to me that I personally use to keep on the straight and narrow.


It might sound a little daft, saying that cyclists need an ‘anchor,’ as surely this would slow you down. But I’m not talking about a literal lump of metal that is designed to keep you held fast in one place, but a mental ‘trick’ that can help you stay focused, motivated and keep your training on track.

In essence, the idea is to ask yourself, whenever you are doing anything, either off-bike or on, this question:

‘Is what I’m doing now going to help me in the race?’

If the answer is an honest ‘yes’ then great, carry on and be glorious. If not, then perhaps an adjustment has to be made to turn that answer around.

Of course, this question may pop into your head when you’re sat eating a Double Whopper and large fries with a chocolate milkshake in hand, and that may not be the greatest thing to happen!

We all need to cheat from time to time though, to feel like the rest of the human population (ie not like a bike obsessed geek whose idea of fun is 7 hours riding over frozen tundra), but ‘The Anchor’ can serve to pull us back into the place we actually want to be when behavior like this, or skipping training, or riding too easily and not challenging ourselves might be occurring too often.

The GENCO Mongolia Bike Challenge was thus named because a) it is in Mongolia, b) there are bicycles involved and c) it is one heck of a bloody challenge, make no mistake about that.

When creating the race a few years ago, Willy Mulonia wanted to create an event where the participants emerged from it having gained something tangible. Not just harder legs and a few kilograms lighter, but a feeling that they were more resolute, more focused and feeling proud of themselves that they’d got through it all.

Something, indeed, that they could carry into other areas of their life. And isn’t that a beautiful thing?

It’s not just the challenge of the event itself but also the challenge to prepare well for it that makes it all so rewarding. So, if you find your attention wandering, try The Anchor.

Or, try Kaizen. I first heard about Kaizen when the English rugby player, Johnny Wilkinson, said that he walks around imagining that a video camera is watching his every move.

Johnny Wilkinson

Johnny Wilkinson

Sounds kinda… creepy right? I agree, but on further investigation I learnt that the basic tenet of Kaizen is of striving to make continuous improvements, whether it be in business, government or, as in Wlikinson’s case, an individual’s personal life.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to get all ‘How To’ on you, and I personally run a mile from self-improvement books and gurus and the like, but there is nothing wrong in adapting ideas if they can make you faster and stronger on the bike.

Kaizen may just be the name for the process but besides that, the idea of stepping back and analyzing your riding, training, diet and rest, looking back to the previous week’s training to discover why you were flying on a certain day or flagging on another and generally seeking to make continuous improvements, is no bad thing.

I always encourage my clients to analyse themselves why we are doing a certain kind of training and to see the reasons behind the suffering! Then, perhaps the next time they ride at 95% of their capacity for 30 minutes up a 10km hill, they may curse me a little less than usual…

There’s another flipside of this process of analysis and anchoring: it actually makes the riding and training more enjoyable as you are constantly learning and discovering new things, and that, when the winds are a-blowing and the sky is the color of concrete, can kick your backside to get off the sofa and out into the wilds.

As ever folks, crank on…!

Wilkinson wins the 2003 Rugby World Cup

a quick word or 50 on descending

by crankpunk

if Henk can do it, you can too...

if Henk can do it, you can too…

this may seem a bit patronising to many but judging by how many riders i see wobbling through corners, braking on the apex, changing their lines on the way in and not pedaling when at the front with others behind when on the straights thus forcing others to brake unnecessarily,  it might be worth going on a little about this crucial aspect of riding a bike.

why is it crucial? simple: going downhill at speed is where you are most likely, if you do crash, to be seriously injured or even killed.

if you do find yourself at the front with riders behind you on a descent, always pedal on the straighter sections, unless you are in a tucked position and going so fast that pedaling is redundant. there is a case to be made even here though that you should still be pedaling even if you’re not actually putting any force into the pedals, as it lets others behind know that you are not braking unnecessarily.

if you find yourself at the front and the road is too narrow for others to pass but you feel unsafe at going at that speed, pull to one side, then brake to slow, and let others pass you safely.

brake on the way into the corner, before you reach it, then release the brake and coast through the apex, pedaling once the road allows. braking on the apex is sometimes necessary but only if you have misjudged the approach to the corner. how to stop doing that? practise, practise, and then practise some more. or get to the back.

this will also stop you wobbling and changing line on the corner itself.

finally – and this is one of the best bits of advice i was ever given by that salty old bike dog Roger, who took me under his slightly stinky wing when i was 15 – put your weight on the outside pedal with a straight leg, and do the same with the hand on the inside drop, keeping the upper body straight as you can. this means that with the hand you can make micro adjustments and have greater control, as it is the bike that changes angle to the road and not the rider’s upper body – where most of your weight is.

if you need to practise this, i recommend over-exaggerating the movement til you gain confidence.

where to see a brilliant example of this?

whenever Spartacus goes downhill, as here in his TT bike, you’ll see just that. see how he  shifts his weight and the angle of the bike with his outer leg and inner hand, only puts his weight into the corner once the apex has passed and he knows he won’t come off, and chooses a line and commits to it.

perfect descending.

then go watch Wiggins, the Schlecks or Pinot to see how not to go downhill.

here’s a decent ‘how to’ on descending.




training: Philippe Gilbert & the Luddite Way

by crankpunk. this is a re-post.

Lud·dite  (ldt)


1. Any of a group of British workers who between 1811 and 1816 rioted and destroyed labor saving textile machinery in the belief that such machinery would diminish employment.
2. One who opposes technical or technological change.
anyone familiar with crankpunk will know that amongst the things i dearly love, such as Yorkshire Tea, pygmy horses, peeing in the sink and the sensation of a new sponge against my teeth is included the art of blatant name dropping. one of my favorites is ‘i remember when i was shucking oysters with Nelson Mandela and Whitney Houston…’ – whether true or not is besides the point. if you build it, they will come, one of America’s greatest all-time exports once said.
and then she said, 'you wanna do some crack?'
and then she said, ‘Nelson! you wanna do some crack?’
shifting sands, as we all know, are the solid foundation upon which all empires are built – just ask LA about that one.
where am i going with this? well, i remember a few years ago hearing from a guy who knew a guy who knew our current World Champ, Mr. Philippe Gilbert, who rode with him from time to time. this guy told that guy who told the other guy who then told me that Gilbert never trained with a powermeter, nor, usually, even with a computer, and that he had no coach  – which is the same way i train. but i still couldn’t quite believe it. i mean, look at his results, and he’s riding against guys who have thousand if not millions of dollars of research and analyses behind them.

i might be doing OK at Conti level but for someone to adhere to the Luddite Way at ProTour level? i just wondered if it wasn’t part of the building of a mystique. and then, a year or so later, i saw this in Velo Magazine:

Velo Magazine: Do you have the feeling of being and old style rider?

Philippe Gilbert: No, then I would not get any result. But it is true that I train mostly by feeling. In the team (Lotto), we have Powertap but I do not use it. I do not even have a heart rate monitor, but I always know where I am. I never analyze my training with the computer or graphics. I have not got a clue about how many watts I produce in a climb. That is totally unimportant. What you have to check is how fast you are moving, and the difference you do in relation to other.

i rode with Gilbert in the Tour of Qatar 2012 (*name dropping alert*) and found him to be a very decent chap. one day we were sat mid-pack chatting about traveling as we drew closer to a parked up, open-back truck. taking out his empty bidon, he tossed it high in the air over the peloton and straight into the truck. ‘SLAM DUNK! WHOOOO!’ he yelled. ‘hey, did you guys see that?!’ he asked, turning to the other riders with a big goofy grin on his face. we agreed that it would be a good idea if the organisers of less-exciting races could have large hoops along the course, where riders could try to throw their bidons into – a successful toss would be rewarded by a time bonus. good idea eh? the Vuelta could be transformed…

anyway, i never got round to asking him about his training method, something i regret. recently though Gilbert once again reiterated his belief in training by ‘feel’, even going so far as to blame his poor early season form this year on allowing his BMC coaches having him adhere to ‘numbers':

after that first team training in December 2011 I was dead. I respect the process of my bosses, but I’ve learned to talk. I’m an old rider. I’m too old to change now. I’m not interested in numbers and values. A cyclist is not a Formula 1 driver who gives all numbers of the machine to engineers after testing and then there is a solution.”

i’m not about to chastise riders who use heart rate monitors and SRMs and the like. i’m sure Gilbert is in the minority amongst World Tour guys in eschewing modern technology, and that for every Gilbert there are 8 or 9 Wiggos and Froomes. i also make a living, directly and indirectly, by cyclist-consumers buying stuff and being eager to improve by reading training articles and the like.

but there’s a truth to what i’m about to say which is news to no one: the manufacturers of all this stuff want you to believe that in buying their product you will go faster. they want you to buy it, period. how many actually use the product in the correct way, analysing and logging the data, pouring over the numbers, well that’s another thing. i’m sure we all know people who have bought the power meter cos they think it means they’re pro but who never actually use the data in any scientific way.(i actually was sponsored by SRM for the 2010 season. the consol;e had a gremlin or two in the first month, and i never got it fixed. i’d had one session before that, trying to hit a designated number for 30 minutes, and it just wasn’t for me. it wasn’t cycling, it was more like a school project…)


the reality is that you don’t need all these gadgets to go fast. what you need is good, solid training, timing your rides over specific routes and distances, an understanding of your own body, and a back pocket full of realistic expectations, not daft impossibilities. most cyclists, like myself, are secret shoppers – we’d never stroll for hours round a mall but get us in a bike shop or an online store and we could spend thousands.

i could be better, faster, a winner even! if i just buy this… and this… and this!

just about every coach i know swears by power meters. but, whilst a powermeter can be great in telling you where you are after a training block and is perfect if you’re a data-loving number cruncher, there are drawbacks. the first is that not everyone is built to follow numbers and the strict methods that they demand. it can kill the passion. the second is that, buy relying on watts and heart beats, the rider begins to lose contact with his or her connection to their body. the numbers don’t lie, the old saying the case of watts this is true. but some riders adhere to the numbers too much. i remember a guy on my team who would drop off the back of races, day after day on the tours, in the last 4 km.

‘what happened? you dropped again?’

‘i felt ok but my hear rate was way high…’

this is an extreme example of how you can lose the sense of the feel. relying so heavily on the numbers had this fit, healthy 23 year old thinking he was about to have a heart attack. lordy, i’m 40. if i believed the numbers like he does i’d be in bed with a cocoa and a hot water bottle rather than racing in international stage races…

one team coach told me that with a power meter he could get an extra 5% out of me.

‘but you’re gonna kill me with the numbers.’

‘whaddya mean?’

‘if i have to ride all day looking at my computer, and indoors too, my soul’s gonna die.’

‘you’re being silly.’

but i wasn’t. the point is that these things work for some, but not for others – and, i’d say, they don’t work for most. having a power meter makes you coachable, but as with Gilbert, it might just not be what you need.

as ever, forever, let us all crank on…

get angry to get them safe

this article originally appeared in SPIN Magazine, out of Singapore – catch my new column there every month, entitled ‘Rubber Side Down’

from the January 2014 edition of SPIN

from the January 2014 edition of SPIN

I’ll never forget my first ever group ride…

There I was, 15 years old and stick-insect thin in my brand new 7-11 uniform, which despite being an XS size still left me looking like Chris Froome wearing Fabian Cancellara’s kit. The slightest breeze and I almost fell off my Harry Hall newbie special, all 17 kilos of it, as the sleeves of my jersey became de facto parachutes.

I huffed and puffed my way that cold winter evening to the roads around the aerodrome where the Wednesday night chaingang ride was held, seeing a throng of about twenty grizzled older guys gathered. I got a nod from one of them whilst the rest eyed me up for a brief second, then carried on with their conversation about the local barmaid.

I looked around at the bikes, far superior to mine with their late ‘80s Campagnolo and Shimano groupsets gleaming in the evening light, and stared in awe at the bulging calf muscles, intimidated right from the off.

‘Crikey’, I thought, ‘I’m gonna get battered here.’

And then with a signal from the leader of the pack we were off, barreling down the flat road in no time, with cars and trucks whizzing close by. The front pair did a couple of minutes then peeled off, as I watched on from the back, eventually finding myself up at the front with an old timer next to me.

He started half wheeling me, then pulled away by a bike length. I changed down  a gear, dug in a little, then pulled alongside. In a moment of youthful exuberance I pulled ahead the same way he had and forged on. This was how I’d been riding for the past three months, since I started cycling, banging along the roads of North Lancashire alone as fast as my legs would permit.

I knew nothing else really, and the old guy’s half wheeling had got me thinking I was in a race. Suddenly I heard a shout from behind and turned to see a guy break out of the group, chasing up to me, pulling alongside.

“Oi!” he shouted again. “What the &*%# do you think you’re doing! It’s steady pace tonight! Go on, *&%# off to the back!”

Thoroughly browbeaten, I peeled off and did as I was told. As I reached the back, the guy next to me then had a go at me for wobbling and told me to get behind him. Luckily the effort I was putting in hid my burning cheeks, now a deep red more from actual embarrassment than from the effort.

After another half a loop, another guy dropped back to me.

“Listen,” he said, “this is a group ride, it’s fast, but we’re not trying to drop anyone. You don’t attack on rides like this.”

“Sorry, I didn’t know,” I replied sheepishly.

“First time?” he asked.

“Yes, can’t you tell?” I answered.

He laughed.

“Well, now you know. And try to keep your wheel steady or no one is going to want to ride next to you. Watch and learn lad, and there’ll be no need for anyone to shout at you.”

And in that moment I went from being a newbie to being a learner. I watched, I studied the other, older guys, copying their style, holding my upper body and the wheel steady. It was something of a baptism of fire but it was a massively valuable lesson I’d just learnt.

I might have been younger than them, and maybe even stronger than a good few, but there was a hierarchy of experience amongst the group and I had to put my time in. I had to serve my apprenticeship.

And then, as I got older, it was my turn to bollock the new kids! That, has to be said, was a sweet moment!

Ok, I’m joking there. Maybe…! However, that experience when I was younger and living in England is one that is mirrored in many countries in the world, where young riders are taken under the wing of older riders who use their experience to guide and teach new riders how to behave on the road.

They teach you how to train intelligently, how to corner, to descend, and, most importantly, how to ride safely in groups and how to respect other riders.

I’ve lived out in Asia now for 15 years, and I’ve been in group rides in Japan, Taiwan and Singapore, and I’ve raced all over Asia, and if there’s one thing I’ve noticed in that time, it’s that older and more experienced riders seem to be less and less common, as more and more new riders of all ages are coming into the sport.

As a result, there’s less of the ‘old hands’ in comparison, and less of the knowledge of the road and of the bike being handed down to these new riders. And the result of that is often group riding that is not only erratic and more akin to all-out racing, but at times very dangerous indeed. Now, I haven’t ridden in a group training ride in the UK for some time, but I would presume that this situation is replicating there and in Europe and the US too, as more and more middle class and middle aged riders are joining the fray.

It’s gotten to the point now, here in Taiwan especially, where I hardly ever ride in groups of more than five or six riders. The last time I went on a group ride of more, there were thirty riders who clearly had never been shouted at in the way I was way back when I was 15!

The result? Utter chaos. Older guys who should have known better, even if they weren’t that experienced on the bike, were sprinting off from traffic lights or even cutting right through red lights, dodging between slowing cars and just generally riding like it was Paris-Roubaix and the approach to the Arenberg Forest, not a Sunday ride through a congested town.

I couldn’t help but think that the example they were setting was irresponsible at best and potentially deadly at worst. There was no cohesion in the group, and little respect for differing levels of ability.  At every other convenience store the front guys would slow to a halt to wait for the stragglers, and then, once they reattached, they’d bolt off again!

I ‘d had enough. After thirty kilometers of that madness I turned off and rode alone. I would have had a good old rant at them but my Chinese unfortunately isn’t good enough…

Riding in groups is where young and other new riders learn their race craft. It is, in fact, where they learn how to ride their bikes for the rest of their cycling career, learning habits, be they good or bad, that are hard to shake. So, beter they be good ones.

And so, for those older guys out there who do know what they are doing, I encourage you to get angry!

We have a duty and a responsibility to shout at people who ride like idiots. Sometimes they know no better, simply because no one has ever told them – though sometimes, it’s true, they are just idiots! Either way though, a quick, verbal cuff round the ear can do a great deal of good.

That, or a quiet arm round the shoulder at a rest stop and an encouraging word in their ear would do. If enough of us do that then maybe we won’t be complaining about all the crashes that racing seems, inevitably, to bring these days.

Clubs and teams also should create beginner rides where new riders learn the craft of handling their bikes with others around. It can, ultimately, save lives.

Right, I’m off to learn some more Chinese. I’ve got some bollocking to do!

‘your fat has a brain… and it’s trying to kill you’


excellent and enlightening article in Outside Magazine from last March, explaining just how fat works and affects the body.

it’s kinda scary – but luckily there is a way to combat it. and yup, you guessed it, cranking it is the way…

here’s an excerpt:

‘Just as fat was long thought to be neutral, muscle was considered a passive organ that did what the brain told it to do. But muscle is now known to be one of the most dynamic systems in the body; when it contracts, it undergoes huge changes at the cellular level. And its mortal enemy is fat.In any sedentary, inactive person—including people who aren’t actually obese—fat invades the muscles, slipping in between muscle fibers like the marbling in Wagyu beef. Worse, fat infiltrates individual muscle cells in the form of lipid droplets that make the cells sluggish.’

read Bill Gifford’s article here.

how to: sit on a saddle

by crankpunk



‘who’s this patronising ****, telling me how to sit on a saddle?’


it’s me.

sit on it

sit on it

here’s the gist. i see many riders putting far too much weight on their handlebars, especially those with locked out arms. watch the top riders and you’ll invariably see bent arms and a loose grip on the bars. the ‘loose grip’ element is the crucial part here…


because this releases unnecessary tension in the shoulder and neck area, and places the majority of the rider’s weight on to the saddle, allowing more power to be generated from the core area and the arse, resulting in a more fluid pedaling motion, more economical use of the thigh muscles and better use of the abductors, and less motion in the upper body.

all that stiffness around the neck means wasted energy and a less comfortable ride. an upper body that bobs up and down, even slightly, means more wind resistance and a loss of power that could be put into the pedals rather than being used to propel and stabilise the upper body movements.

when you sit on the saddle, you really want to be sitting into the saddle, kind of as if you’re forcing the arse into the seat rather than bobbing about on it.

next time you go out, try, on a well-surfaced road, to ride at a threshold pace first with a tight grip on the bars, and then after a few minutes release the fingers so that the palms are only resting on the bars. they say a rider with a really good core can grab the drops for a bit and then take their hands off and still stay low down – give that a go too.

you’ll find, with hands resting instead of gripping, all white-knuckled, that the legs have to do more work pulling as well as pushing, to keep you in one place on the saddle. this is especially true when climbing on moderate slopes. you’ll most likely find that at first your times on regular climbs are slightly slower than usual, but climbing in this way provides a little ‘re-education camp’ for the leg muscles, improves muscularity (as you’re utilising more of the muscle), improves the pedaling motion (because you have to pull as well as push), and, once you get the hang of it and it becomes second nature, you’ll find yourself going faster because you’ll be stronger and making more economical use of your body by keeping the upper part still and improving your core, glute and abductor muscles.

you should also find that, when you stand up, you can get ‘deeper’ into the pedal stroke because you won’t be swinging the upper body as much as previously, thanks to that improved core and leg muscularity.

one other way to work on this, if you have no hills, is to drop to one gear harder in off-season training, and to go quickly as possible from standing starts (after traffic lights, for example) to seated, forcing the legs alone to get you moving rather than also using the arms.

give it a whirl. you might just be surprised with the results.



nutrition: jam & water vs. brand energy drink

by James Machin

I’ve been experimenting with different fuels on my ride and after looking at gels, powders and mixes I thought ‘hang on a bloody minute! Most of these drink supplements are boasting 2:1 fructose mixes or other “Fruit” sugar mixes, what would happen if I just mixed jam with 750ml of water?’

If you follow me on Facebook you’ll know I love home cooking and recently I made a massive batch of home grown blackberry jam and decided to see what it was like mixed with water. The Blackberries were passed through my juicer 5-6 times to remove every last seed and liquid from the pulp that made a very thick concentrated blackberry juice which was then added to organic demerara sugar and lemon juice, very simple, very healthy and bloody delicious!


Once mixed with water you don’t lose the flavour of the berries and it has a nice sharp after taste that leaves you refreshed when out on the road, especially in this heat.

So how does it nutritionally stand against the big names?

Homemade Blackberry Isotonic Energy Drink

  • 47g of homemade organic blackberry jam (no seeds or pulp)
  • Pinch of salt
  • Water

Estimated nutritional value

  • Calories: 114kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 30.5g
  • Sugars: 28.2g


HIGH5 Energy Source

  • 47g
  • Water

Listed Nutritional Value

  • Calories: 180 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 45g
  • Sugars: 16.0g


Nectar Sports Fuel Isotonic Concentrate (blackcurrant)

  •  50g
  • Water

Listed Nutritional Value

  • Calories: 120 kcal
  • Carbohydrates: 30g
  • Sugars: 20.0g

As you can see there is very little difference between them, the HIGH5 powder is actually a carb drink and thus naturally has a higher carb %age. My jam on the other hand has a higher sugar content although I would argue that it’s all organic, homemade and doesn’t have any preservatives or other chemical enhancers, but like I said they are all pretty close.

On today’s ride and even at 6am the temperature hit 34°c. I used the homemade mix, it was easy to drink and had a nice sweet but sharp taste that didn’t leave a gritty or dry after taste in the mouth. More importantly it was easily digested and didn’t unsettle my stomach or digestive system.

The only down side I can see with using jam is basically it’s a premix that you leave the house with as there really isn’t a viable solution for taking it out on the road and then mixing.

Although this is homemade I looked at other jams and they are very close to mine regarding nutritional values. So I don’t see why others can’t experiment with this!

Get jamming!



CrankPunk Coaching Systems client claims first ever win!

yes! i was more nervous before Ian Hilt’s race then i’ve ever been for one of mine, and was waiting feverishly to hear the result.

i’ve been coaching Ian for 5 weeks or so, and after a bit of a blow-out in his first event just 2 weeks into the CPCS training program his spirits were low, but we got to work and honed him close to absolute perfection – well, kinda!

Ian, a 4th Cat rider from Iowa, not only had never won a race before but had never even been on the podium, if you can believe that.

so congrats to you Ian, great stuff.

Ian, far tight, starting his sprint

Ian, far tight, starting his sprint

all i can say is - YEEHA!

all i can say is – YEEHA!