This is the first in a series of forth-coming articles to discuss the benefits of incorporating an air-braked trainer (an erg) into a cyclists training program.
Hunter Allen recently wrote an article on Functional Threshold Power (FTP) and Indoor Training. He outlines various factors that contribute to the usual drop in FTP associated with riding on an indoor trainer. Here's an excerpt:
As you ride outside on the road, your bike continues to move forward with momentum from the force that you exerted onto the pedals from roughly the 1 o’clock to 5 o’clock position in the pedal stroke. Across the bottom and top of the pedal stroke, the legs have little ability to create any meaningful force against the pedals because of biomechanical inefficiencies in body position due to being seated almost directly above the crank. This lack of resistance to pedal against may even give the legs a micro-rest in each pedal stroke as the momentum of the rear wheel continues moving forward and the legs try to keep up with the rpm's needed to move the crank.
On a rear wheel resistance trainer, there is little to no momentum of the rear wheel. If you stop pedaling the rear wheel comes to an almost immediate stop. Because there is resistance around the entire pedal circle, your legs are not used to having to produce power throughout the entire pedal stroke. As a result of this inefficiency, more strain is put on your cardiovascular system. As a result, this reduces your ability to create the same wattages as outdoors.
Hunter's article informs us on how to progress as a cyclist.
Indeed, after training on a flywheel-based trainer the legs are not trained to produce power at the top and bottom of the pedal stroke. This is true also for outdoor training when the diet is deficient in extensive climbing. However, the amount of momentum on indoor trainers is in general under-stated. An air-braked trainer such as the Revbox Erg provides an absolute minimum of momentum, the rider is provoked to engage throughout the entire circle to achieve a smooth pedal stroke.
A need to use the muscles that bring the foot through the top and bottom pedal positions is the first step to developing these muscles. It is not enough to simply develop strength in these muscles. For example, a cyclist needs resilient tendons, advanced capillary development, and high mitochondrial density. Even with these developments in place, a cyclist still needs the neuromuscular system developed so that the timing of tension and relaxation is perfect. Anything less than perfect synchrony of neuronal firing spells inefficiency. It takes high-quality, deliberate practice to bring a skill to its highest level. Consistent and well-designed training on an erg goes a long way toward reaching these goals.
One doesn't generally pedal in a fully engaged fashion when out and about in the world. Rather this skill is needed to develop other skills. Elite cyclists will vary, both consciously and subconsciously, how muscle groups are recruited at any particular moment. For example, a simple shift in position on the saddle results in changing the muscles being recruited. Changing recruitment patterns allows the athlete to rest tired muscles, to work hard after making a hard jump, and to accelerate efficiently during extensive climbs.
The plot comes from data collected while training on the Revbox Erg. Data points are the average power of 2x60s at 100rpm. Rest 2 minutes between. Done, not maximally, rather to complete the warm-up. There's a 100+ watt gain in 10 days. How? Improved intermuscular and intramuscular coordination. Everything is a skill. One must train from the brain down.
I will continue this article with a comparison of oxygen consumption in the leg muscles of a cyclist.
25.03.2016 / www.kotinosathletics.com/read.html
Indoor ‘wind’ trainers have come a long way since they were first developed to use when the weather had turned nasty or during the winter months when there’s less daylight hours. Now a new stationary trainer that I think is going to have a huge impact on the market has been developed right here in New Zealand by the guys at European Sport Imports.
In doing so, they had clear objectives to create a device that would allow extremely high power outputs; offer a range from very low to very high cadences; and would be suitable for even the most powerful elite athletes through to recreational riders wanting to improve. Plus, they were keen to build a training unit that would stimulate specific muscular, aerobic, and anaerobic adaptations to improve key areas of performance. After getting to test ride the fifth prototype I can say it’s a job well done and the objectives have been achieved. The Revbox Erg is a high performance unit that has an unlimited resistance range and it is compact, not as noisy as I expected and is lighter than it looks, making it easy to transport.
For riders really wanting to make some real gains with their cycling, training on a stationary trainer can make all the difference. It allows you to train in an environment that is much more consistent than being out on the road. You don’t have any traffic to worry about, the road surface isn’t a factor and there are no environmental factors like wind either - meaning you can monitor your heart rate, power outputs and timing much more accurately. At the heart of the Revbox Erg is a large diameter, lightweight, air-braked fan that operates within a specifically tuned low-inertia range. As the fan is so light there is no assistance with pedalling efforts meaning you have to work all the way through a pedal stroke, applying power in a co-ordinated manner. The outcomes of that are improved efficiency as well as developing more strength.
Other trainers I have ridden provide you with more inertia; meaning when you are up to speed there is some assistance resulting in an easier work out. There is nothing particularly easy about the Rexbox; the 580mm (22.8”) diameter fan produces air drag that allows training at power outputs in excess of 1800 watts. In a 53/11 gear ratio a cadence of 50 requires an output of 500 watts, while at the top end a cadence of 90 in a 53/11 gear ratio requires 1800 watts. This clearly shows the versatility of the Revbox Erg for both low cadence strength training and high cadence speed training that is suitable for recreational riders through to Tour de France pros.
To get started you take off your rear wheel and it’s easy to drop the back of the bike onto the cassette mounted on the drive hub of the Revbox. Once on the bike and rolling the unit is stiff and very stable and straight away it’s obvious you need to work all the way through each pedal stroke. The prototype unit I rode had a 52 chain ring with a 14 rear sprocket which did make spinning tough in the big chain ring on the bike. So I used the bike’s big ring for my efforts, dropping into the small ring for spinning in the 90’s while I recovered. I found I was still averaging around 230 watts spinning at 95 in my small ring. What is great about the unit though is the ability to change the ratios, and therefore the resistance levels, from anywhere between 50 to 56 for the front to 11 to 20 for the rear, giving it some real versatility for a range of riders. Christchurch based rider Mitchell Podmore also test rode the unit, saying it felt really smooth and stiff and was ‘amazing for short efforts.’ “It really makes you want to train and was the best intense training effort I’ve done,” he enthused. “It’s great for strength training and is not as noisy as some other trainers I’ve used.”
Great features of the NZ-made Revbox Erg are: it is compact, light (weighing in at just over 12 kilos) and easy to transport; and gives you as tough as a workout as you’d ever want or need at a reasonable price. The final product will be available from February and will weigh in at 11.5 kilos. Plus you will be able to purchase a carry bag or even a case if you plan to take it on a plane.
The patent has been secured worldwide and the Revbox Erg can be ordered directly from www.revbox.co.nz.