Tagged: cycling

Kaizen & the Art of Staying Focused through a season

re-published by request!

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

another awesome c-r-a-s-h


I hate the word c-r-a-s-h. I generally spell it out when I am talking and this makes me wonder why I am posting the second c-r-a-s-h video in two days but this is a great one, a proper 9.5 for both technique and execution. And he didn’t hurt himself. And he is a cyclocrosser, which makes it all ok.


Lee’s Lowdown on PEZ: Cycling through the smog in China

The third installment of my weekly Lowdown column on PezCycling News is a brief (kinda) history of the bicycle in China, from its first appearance to the smog-filled present.

Click on the image below to head over to the article.


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Pre-Season Training Plans: $6.99 per week on Crank Punk Coaching Systems

CPCS will get you in top shape for 2015

CPCS will get you in top shape for 2015

How do you go from the splurge that is a good Christmas break into some smart, sensible training that will lay a solid foundation for the new year of riding and racing?

How do you get back into the groove without overtraining or wasting your time doing things you don’t need?

How do you utilise the new research about High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) into your routine, whilst being sure to use Long, Steady Distance riding effectively too?

And when and how should you start using shorter, medium intervals so that you do not compromise the gains you’ve made with your longer workouts? Finally, how and when do you take it from that middle period into the high-end stuff, the top-end workouts that will get you ready for your first week?


With Crank Punk Coaching Systems you’ll find one of my pre-written plans to suit your pre-season needs perfectly, with a 6 Week Winter Plan on offer that can then be switched to the PowerUP Plan that will get you up to that next level, and a Comprehensive Pre-Season Plan that will incorporate both the base training and the move into longer HIIT work, with a final chunk that will take you from that middle area into getting ready for that first race.

At $6.99 per week the plans won’t bust the bank but what you will get in return is a proven plan constructed using my experience and expertise in creating winning coaching systems, including a guide which will offer instructions as to how to adapt the plan to your needs and time schedule. You will also get a free TrainingPeaks account.

Also available is the 1-2-1 Fully Personalised Plan, please email me at leerodgers202@gmail.com.

Crank Punk Coaching Systems: as my Mum says, “They’re the best!”

CrankPunk Mum: she knows the form

CrankPunk Mum: she knows the form

Iron Deficiencies: training with weights to get stronger & faster

crankpunk was a gymrat for a good 7 years or so, serious for a couple, getting up to a ridiculous 96kg. From there I got down to 74kg at my lightest when riding for Fuji-Asia, but I do believe that the muscular strength I had as a meat head served me well as a cyclist once I had dropped all the daft lumpy stuff! Here is a little guide to working with iron to get better all-round on the bike.
Chris Froome in the off-season

Chris Froome in the off-season

Most cyclists would rather lose a few non-essential digits than risk ever putting on weight, so the idea of going to the gym to actually pump iron would have many fleeing to the mountains to cram in another 3 hour hill session.Yet in fact a quick, smart workout program at your local gym or at home could mean substantial gains in your cycling efficiency and all-round strength and health.

We are though of course cyclists, not weight lifters, so we can make mistakes in our gym work – indeed, this is one of the major factors that deters many cyclists from working out, as they don’t know where to start.

If you can get your workouts right though and steer clear of exercises that could injure you and avoid doing the wrong training and thus not build non-essential muscle, you will soon be riding with a better position and utilizing your leg and back muscles to the max.

Recovery can also improve quite noticeably.

Firstly, decide what you want from your workout, in accordance with this:

  • 1-6 repetitions: create strength
  • 8-12 repitions: foster muscular growth
  • 15+ repetitions: build muscular endurance

So, short, heavy lifting will not give you bulging muscles but rather build strength. Muscular endurance should be built on the bike, not in the gym in my opinion. If you want more explosive power, about 5 reps is perfect for each exercise, in sets of two or more traditionally three.

Personally I prefer to use one set to warm up (12-15 reps, lightish weight), then on the second I will do 8-10 reps at a medium weight, then do one set with heavy weights at 4-6 reps (maintaining good form though the whole way).

As with interval training, intensity is critical here.

Secondly, choose the right kind of exercises. There’s little point doing immense bench presses or too much shoulder work, as you don’t need this on the bike. The upper body portion of a decent workout can be done in ten minutes or even less.

One area of the body many cyclists neglect is the stomach, yet a strong core can really help improve all aspects of a cyclist’s performance. There’s a whole range of exercises you can find on-line, so I won’t go into that too much, but the abdominals are a muscle group that can be worked almost daily. A strong core not only improves posture and allows the rider to generate more power, it also looks great on the beach!

Of course a cyclist should also work the legs, but be careful here. Free-weight squats have long been a favorite exercise of cyclists but can lead to knee injuries if not done strictly. Personally I favor lunges as they work the glutes (‘arse’ to you and me), thighs and calves all at once. Seated squats are also good as there’s a decrease in the chance of injury, and you can at the end do a few calf pushes on the same machine.

An intelligent workout should have you in and out of the gym in 30 minutes. Short, intense bursts are the way to go, and if done three times a week you’ll soon notice the changes.

Below is a guide I wrote for my Crank Punk Coaching Systems clients.

 Why weight train?

Some studies have shown that training with weights have no effect on stamina or endurance yet there are many more that have shown the opposite.

In a study of elite cyclists from the Danish U-23 National Team, strength training plus cycling improved performance during a 45-minute time trial to a greater extent than cycling alone [1].

In another, strength training increased time to exhaustion at maximal aerobic power by almost 20%, as well as improving cycling economy by 5% [2]. Eight weeks of strength training has even been shown to improve cycling performance in subjects (albeit untrained beginners) doing no cycling at all.

Who should train?

Just about everybody, unless you’re either severely disinclined or feel you don’t need to make gains in power or strength. There is some validity to the school of thought that believes that the bike is all the training you need, but this is true more for top-level riders (who are natural athletes, more often than not) who can ride 25-30 hours a week and who are more instinctive in their training than the average rider.

For the rest of us, getting in some strength training is definitely worthwhile.

When Should I train?

In season (mid-February-September/October traditionally), most cyclists do not train with weights, as at this time there should be enough on-bike work to keep you busy and to ensure that you are working the necessary muscles – namely, the legs, core and lower-back.

If any exercise indoor with resistance is to be done in season, some core work 3-4 times a week with nothing more than a few push-ups and/or dips should suffice.

The reason for this is that we don’t need any additional upper-body weight whilst on the bike. It might look great on the beach to have rippling pecs and boulder-like shoulders, but on-bike these are less than useless, they actually slow you down.

So, the following exercises are best to do in your ‘off-season’, anytime from say November to the end of January/mid-February.

Think of them as more of strengthening exercises than body-building ones. Slim, sleek, athletic and powerful should be the watchwords.

Train when rested, train if possible at least 6 hours after riding and, ideally, keep ‘heavy’ gym days for non-bike days. One day off between workouts at the very least is required.

And remember – this is about getting faster, stronger and more powerful on the bike. Not about getting buff like Peter Sagan!

How should I train?

There are different theories in what kind of training is best for cyclists. Some believe that mimicking on-bike training is best, meaning high reps with a low weight.

Others believe that heavier weights and lower reps (between 6-12) bring about better gains for cycling.

Personally I prefer a mixture, one that will help build muscular strength and also work a bit on building endurance (especially important if you’re home-bound due to cold weather).

For the legs, heavier is good. This would mean weight that allows for between 2-3 sets and a descending number of repetitions, starting at about 10-12 as a warm up for each exercise, and going down to 8-10 for the next, 4-6 for the last.

A LOWER BODY workout:

  1. Stretch
  2. Lunges
  3. Leg Press
  4. Hamstring Curl
  5. Calf Raises (calves can be worked more as they are ‘stubborn & sturdy’ muscles)
  6. Stretch

Legs can be done three times a week, more than that and you will eventually overtrain these muscles. Less than that and you will still feel gains but they will be harder to sustain and to consolidate.

Also with the legs – when doing these workouts it is essential, like with the training on the bike, to mix things up. So if doing squats, you can go really light (ie just with the bar, no weights) and practice jumping up so that your feet leave the floor (though as mentioned, be wary of squats). If on a leg press machine (safer), push off the leg plate with your toes and ‘catch’ it on the way back, working the calves as well as the thighs.

For at least one set (the last usually), cut down the reps and increase the weight, so as to ‘break’ the muscle fibers, encouraging repair (hence the need for adequate rest) and growth.

Be sure to start with light weights on any program and to build up. Allow for enough rest between workouts.

Here are examples of a UPPER BODY exercises, the idea here would be to chose, as stated, two or three of these and to rotate them each time. I would do chest and biceps on Monday for example, then back and shoulders Wednesday, and so on. Over and done in 10 minutes max, nothing insanely heavy.

  1. Stretch
  2. Chest: I prefer dips and pushups here but also incline bench dumbbell flies from time to time – as ever, it is important to mix things up
  3. Shoulders: I prefer the  Lift and Press as it works almost the whole shoulder area and also the arms
    How to do: Standing straight, hold dumbells or barbell with straight arms, resting on thighs, with straight back, lift to chin, pause a moment, then press overhead. Dumbell flies also great.
  4. Biceps: Again, not too many, not too heavy.
  5. Lat work: I rely on the dips and pushups to give the lats all the work they need. Some overhead lat machine work also good, as are chins.
  6. Deadlift: A great general exercise, not one I would do each time but a great all-over body workout, works glutes, back, arms, neck, the lot. If pressed for time, this and some leg work is a good solution.
  7. Core: Any combo of exercises are ok, aim for somewhere in the region of 100-150 reps in total once strength has been built up.

The 30 MINUTE Workout

Traditionally, body builders would work the legs one day and the upper body the next, but for the time-constrained cyclist this kind of a workout style is not possible, nor, in my opinion, desirable. When I was addicted to the gym even then I would be in and out in 25 minutes, 30 tops.

I recommend a 3 day per week to a 4 day per week cycle (once you are sufficiently dialed in and if you do really need the strength work), one on which you work both the legs and the upper body, as well as the core, and it’s a workout you can do in about 30 minutes.

We want to do almost the whole leg workout each time, being sure to do a calf exercise, a thigh exercise, and a quad exercise. Go for the full 3 sets on each muscle part.

For the upper body, we can omit one part each time and rotate them in the next workout. One way to decide what to leave out is to look at your body and to see visually which area needs more work and which less.

Personally for the upper body I prefer to use weight-free exercises as much as possible, meaning push-ups, chin-ups and dips with some weights used from time to time for biceps, shoulders and for the ever-useful deadlift.

Start with push ups, do 40 say, then the shoulders, and finally the dips. Three exercises, all the muscles used and done in 10 minutes or less.

Next time, do the biceps instead of the shoulders.

Cram the crunches in between the legs and the upper body and you’re done and dusted in 30 minutes tops. Move quickly between sets and exercises to keep the blood flowing and to save time, however do not move too quickly between upper and lowed body as the blood needs time to ‘re-jig’ itself.

3-4 times a week on this and you will see the difference. Use weights that you can manage – train smart, not macho.

[1] Aagaard P, Andersen JL, Bennekou M, Larsson B, Olesen JL, Crameri R, Magnusson SP, Kjaer M. (2011). Effects of resistance training on endurance capacity and muscle fiber composition in young top-level cyclists. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 21, e298-307


[2} Sunde A, Støren O, Bjerkaas M, Larsen MH, Hoff J, Helgerud J. (2010). Maximal strength training improves cycling economy in competitive cyclists. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 24, 2157-2165





(Livestrong features heavily, please don’t hate!)


For Core:


  • Excellent one here from Garmin, for CORE STABILITY and for Stretching:


  • To strengthen the lumbar spine – hyper-extensions or ‘super mans’


  • To strengthen the abdominals – crunches on physio-ball, planks, bridge on ball


  • Some new ones here:


For the Legs:

  • To strengthen the quadriceps – lunges, leg extensions, dead lifts


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2n58m2i4jg (my favorite)

  • To strengthen the hamstrings – hamstring curls

No weights? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLJ1YuRRTOE

  • To strengthen the calves – seated or standing calf raises



Amother word on SQUATS:

Two very good cyclists that I know had to quit cycling due to injuries sustained from doing traditional squats. Personally, I prefer the seated squat machine:

For the Upper Body:

  • Lat pulldown (Back):


Without weights:


This one is great:

  • Dumbell chest press


Decline Push Up (chest, shoulders, triceps):

  • Dips (back, shoulders, triceps, chest)

  • Shoulders

  • Bicep





Cycling in Taiwan: The Hidden Gem of Asia

This article originally appeared in Action Asia, the leading adventure sports magazine in these parts. To download the pdf, please click the link below. The article contains tips on what to bring and when to come and all you need to know on choosing the best roads to ride.

COMING SOON : I’m currently planning a cycle tour here in Taiwan, interested parties are more welcome to get in touch and I will get you on a mailing list that will let you know the latest developments of the new venture.

Click below for the article pdf, downloadable:

Taiwan Feature Action Asia Jan 14 NEW

Thank you to Andrew Kerslake for the contribution to the article. Check out his excellent Taiwan In Cycles site here.

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Money, pump… gun? Is a weapon necessary for a bike ride?


I read a cycling article last week that rather brilliantly had the word ‘bandits’ in it, not something you see every day.

Darwin Atapuma attacked by bandits in Colombia” read the shocking headline.

While out on a training ride the BMC rider was accosted by two men who tried take his bike from under him. The attack resulted in cuts and bruises to Atapuma’s arm, and though the report states that the men were arrested by police it does not say whether they actually made off with his bike before that.

Personally, I’d have targeted Nairo Quintana for his Canyon Ultimate CF SLX, a far superior bike to the BMC time machine SLR01, but I suppose bandits can’t be choosers.

In all seriousness though this attack does highlight some interesting points, the first of which is, why doesn’t this happen more often?

Think about it – we are off in the middle of nowhere quite often, rolling along alone a lot too, on machines that are worth thousands of dollars, more than some of the cars that whizz by us.

We’re skinny, lack upper body strength and wear shoes we can’t run more than 10 feet in. We may as well be wearing bright multi-coloured kit to announce our presence…

This brings up the second point: should we carry guns?

I laughed as I wrote that because it does sound ridiculous, but the truly astounding thing is that there are cyclists out there who do indeed pack heat on their daily jaunts.

There is a thread on http://www.cyclingforums.com that is entitled “How many of you carry a gun as part of your cycling equipment?

Joe West, the author of the thread, opens by saying he prefers a .45 when out touring.

Here in Arizona we can legally carry open and concealed (concealed with permit).

For long distance touring and bicycle camping… I think I’d feel safer carrying my .45 semi-auto pistol (concealed so it doesn’t freak people out).

Anyone else carry while biking?


Weisse Luft then chimes in with his preference.

My current choice is a Kel-Tec P3-AT. 10 ounces loaded, locked breech, recoil operated semi-auto with a six round magazine. Its good enough in my hands for “velo-dog” use (small revolvers traditionally carried by cyclists in the early 1900’s) but being .380, adequate for self-defence when loaded with +P Cor Bons. A spare magazine is only an additional 3 ounces. For the weight of a small water bottle, I have adequate defence. I have yet to use it and my cycling partners don’t know I carry.

Three ounces huh? Wonder if there’s a gun thread on WeightWeenies too? (I checked, there isn’t, unless a ‘grease gun’ is a weapon?)

To balance the gun-carriers, Routier wades in with a slightly hysterical comment but one which I am sure most of us have some sympathy with.

Are you sick? What attitude is that? You also wear a gun while going to the theatre with your girl?

         Well I guess it’s just typical American behaviour. I saw that movie Bowling for Columbine. You should watch that, it                 gives you a whole other look on the carrying of weapons.

         Answer to you question: No I don’t carry a weapon on training! But many do, most of whom, it seems, are Americans.

Here’s a fellow on YouTube showing off his pistol pack

It seems mad to me, an Englishman living in the relatively calm, relatively gun-free Taiwan, that people would ever think of carrying a gun anywhere. And yet should we as rational people consider actually riding armed and ready for an attack? Would Atapuma have been better off with a Magnum in his back pocket? Or would he be awaiting sentencing for manslaughter?

I was involved personally in an attack by a motorist when I was 16, out riding with my 18-year-old teammate in the north of England on a remote hillside.

A large BMW came speeding by, bringing an involuntary middle finger from my companion. The car stopped, drove back, and out stepped two massive blokes. My friend got a smack in the mush that wrecked his front teeth and we had our bikes thrown about too. It was terrifying.

Do I wish I had had a gun? That is a question I want to say ‘No’ to, but, thinking on it, I just don’t know.

And then there is the issue of female cyclists and safety. If my soon-to-be-born daughter decided to take up the sport and was off on five hour rides alone in the hills, would I insist on her carrying a whistle and mace? Would it be enough even if she had them and was attacked?

What next? A knife? A telescopic striking stick? Or a snub-nosed automatic? Maybe Garmin could make one with a bike computer on it, might do well.

Many will say ‘Well that is America, more people have guns there’ but this misses a point – just about anyone who rides more than to the corner shop has encountered an angry motorist. Scary encounters can happen anywhere, you needn’t be in Texas or Wyoming.

South Africa is also known as a relatively violent place, as this video here attests to:

And it’s not just in America that cyclists are carrying weapons. Road.cc ran a story back in March 2014 that told of David Best, 64, who had been hit by a car and was subsequently discovered to be carrying an airgun, a knife and – best of all – nunchucks!


Seriously though, I hope I never live in an environment where I really have to confront my indecision over carrying a weapon of any kind.

Finally, for those of you considering going all Dirty Harry (the shaved leg version), here’s a bit of advice on making that first gun purchase.

‘i blog, therefore i am’? Kate Smart on the function & role of the ‘outsider’ voice in the media, featuring crankpunk.com

Kate Smart was a contributor to The Roar‘s cycling section when I was its editor. She has just recently begun a new ‘blog’ (yes, not a term I am fond of), Sports Media Theory and crankpunk features heavily in her very first post.

The idea behind the site was to apply media theory to sports media specifically. In her own words she says:

“The original idea behind the blog was to think about media theory and how it can be applied to sports media and that is very much what I want to do, but as I worked through this project I realised that perhaps I should have given the site a much more general title such as “Sports Communications”, as this is at the heart of what interests me.

“The act of communication is undergoing vast change and sports communication is no different, yet it still seems to be dismissed as not being terribly serious or worthy of powering at a deeper level.”

Interesting stuff. Check out her first article here. Below follows a snippet:

Crankpunk is a reminder that sport blogs also serve an important function in seeking transparency in sports journalism.

As Rodgers notes, “Maybe when Armstrong was around, when he first started becoming really successful, maybe if the blogging sphere had of been stronger or if there were more independent people who had better access to cycling fans and had this space which we have now started to generate, maybe Armstrong wouldn’t have been able to get away with as much as he did.”

There is no way of knowing if what is widely called, “the biggest fraud in the history of sport” would have been limited by a larger blogosphere, but it’s an interesting point to think about.

“Maybe he would have had to answer questions and the groundswell of public opinion may not have been on his side”, says Rodgers.

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