New location

Come on over to my new site: www.endurancenerd.com


Going to be posting regularly there.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Off season triathlon training -- to run or to bike?


I've been asked about off season training for triathletes a few times in the last few weeks. A few athletes have come in after 4 and 5 hour rides, and when I asked them what races they had coming up, they rattled off either a half-iron or full sometime next summer.

How come the 5 hour rides now? -- "Doing some bigger builds to get stronger on the bike"

Okay, I can buy that. Plus, the weather has been incredible here, so I can understand wanting to get out on the bike more. My only hesitation is that these people are good cyclists -- not great, not headed to the Tour de France, but good solid bikers. They typically cover the 112 miles on the bike in 5:15-5:30 or so. And, like many triathletes, they are mediocre runners -- above 4 hours for the marathon leg.

So here's my hangup -- triathletes are always strapped for time, and need to make the best use of their training days, especially those of us who work and have families, etc.

If we really want to improve the most, how should we go about it? If we do a little simple math we can find the right thread to pull.




It doesn't take long in the sport of triathlon to understand that winning a triathlon because of a great swim is about as rare as, well, a triathlete eschewing a wetsuit voluntarily in a race. There's just not enough time to be made up in the swim. Which isn't to say that the off season isn't a great time to work on your swim form -- getting out of the water having wasted less energy than your opponents is a great way to start a race.

So that leaves the bike or the run. Which one holds the most potential for improvement? Well, that's going to depend on the athlete. But if we do a simple experiment, like taking the first 5 finishers in an age group for an ironman, and finishers number 70-75 in the same age group, and average their bike and run times. We can then take those times and compare bike and run to see if there is a more significant gap in one or the other.

I mined data from two separate Ironman races on two different ends of the globe. Race #1 is Ironman Western Australia, and race #2 is Ironman Cozumel.

Looking at the mens 30-34 age group I took the top 5 finishers times, and then the 70th through the 75th.

Here's what I found:

Ironman #1 the top five bike average was 4:45, run average was 3:13
finishers 70-75 bike average was 5:29, run average was 4:10.

Ironman #2 the top five bike average was 4:58, run average was 3:16
finishers 70-75 bike average was 5:37, run average was 4:10.

That means in race #1 the 70-75th places biked 15% slower, but ran 29% slower than the 1stthrough 5th finishers. A 44 minute difference in bike, but a 57 minute difference in run.

Race #2 they were 13% and 28% slower respectively. A 39 minute difference in bike, and a 54 minute difference in run.

It's clear that most people ride well enough, and the place to spend some time to improve on is in the run -- for most of us.

If we look further down the finishers list the disparity gets even larger. Looking at the same races, same age group, but now finishers 175-180 we find for race #1 that they were 35% slower on the bike (+101 minutes) and 81% slower on the run (+158 minutes), and in race #2 they were 38% slower on the bike (+114 minutes) and 70% slower on the run (137 minutes).

I will completely stipulate that many athletes merely need to spend more time just getting better aerobic efficiency overall, and the easiest and usually the least injury prone way to do that is to bike more, but this definitely shows some major gaps in running efficiency.

If you're new to triathlons and you can run a sub 2:45 stand alone marathon, then you're probably fine biking a bunch this off season. If not, then this might be a good time to bring down that marathon time and work on your running efficiency.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Basic Triathlon Bike Fit

I do a lot of tri bike fits every year, and while there are dozens of variables to consider when doing a fitting (and innumerable possible fixes and outcomes) this video is just a very quick before and after. 

What it demonstrates, though, is how drastic a change can be made to put the rider into a position to access larger muscle groups. and allow those muscles to work in a more powerful range of motion.

This is a quick visual reminder of that:



Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Lenz Sport Mammoth -- the new standard?

I had the opportunity to ride a new Lenz Mammoth this past weekend for an extended singletrack adventure and I was not left wanting.

The Mammoth is a new model from Lenz, and there are only a couple demos/prototypes out there yet.  It's purpose was to fill a niche between the more cross-country driven Leviathan (80 or 100 mm travel) and the more all-mountain Behemoth (140 mm travel).  You could say alternately the goal was a burlier Leviathan or a lighter, quicker Behemoth.

Devin Lenz succeeded in this quest, no matter which side of the fat wheel crowd you view from.  The bike is certainly lighter than the 'Moth -- the size large test rig I was on was about 28 pounds and some change -- and definitely more capable in the chunk than the Lev.  But I'm getting ahead of myself....first more about the bike.

The Mammoth is not in between in travel -- it's a full 140 mm like the Behemoth, but that travel is accessed so differently than either of it's predecessors.  It has a tapered head tube, what appears to be a Behemoth top tube, and seat stays, with a Leviathan down tube and chain stays, a brand new seat tube configuration (which is direct mount front derailleur compatible), and 135 mm rear spacing.  Essentially the top half of the bike is Behemoth and the lower half is Leviathan, but again, I think that is extremely simplistic view based on the amount of sweat that went into designing this bike.

My ride on Saturday was for the better part of 3 and a half hours, with lots of singletrack, some climbing on a road initially followed by consistent ups and downs all day, in varying degrees of smooth trail, and messy western Colorado chunk.  I was riding with MC and we switched back and forth between the Mammoth and a Behemoth.

Succinctly, the Mammoth was.......remarkable.  I certainly couldn't hammer down heavy technical trail at the speeds I was doing so on the Behemoth, but the difference in fork and tires (the Behemoth had bigger, heavier components on it) likely played a bigger role on that than in any short-coming of the Mammoth.

I actually think it climbs every bit as good as any Leviathan I've ridden (or any other cross country bike I have ever ridden for that matter), and feels as "flick-able" as well.

The rear linkage is, I think, clearly the best that Devin Lenz has designed, and if you've ever ridden one of his bikes, you know this is not any small compliment.  It feels deeper and smoother, from the first millimeter until you knock the O-ring off the rear shock. 

In fact, on this particular ride, we purposely hit a few small ledges and drops to test out the full range of the suspension.  On the final one of the day, I re-set the O-ring up onto  the rear shock and took the 2 foot drop with a little more, shall we say, prejudice (I kinda goosed the landing a little to try and get the bike to bottom out).  To my surprise, I never felt the bottom.  There was never any harshness on the landing, just a nice smooth, and what felt like a very linear compression.  I looked down at the rear shock, and the O-ring was completely off -- I had gone through every millimeter of it's travel, and it never ramped up, clanked, or harshened.  Needless to say, I was impressed.







In the words of MC, it also feels like you're sitting higher in the travel even when you're just pedaling along.  Does this translate into being able to access more of the travel?  I don't know, I can't say with scientific certainty, but it sure felt like that.

To round out, the Mammoth has the signature geometry of a Lenz -- slacker head angle, higher bottom bracket, short chainstay -- and, again the BB  height and chainstay length fall comfortably in between the Leviathan and Behemoth.  (Lenz bikes are unique and, I believe, vastly superior to just about every other full suspension 29er out there in this regard -- the major manufacturers have really screwed up here.  You can read more about it in my article about what makes a good full suspension 29er.)

I'm sure the Leviathans and Behemoths will continue to roll out the door at the Studio here, but the Mammoth provides another "can't miss" option for riders to enjoy.

Specs:
Lenz Mammoth frame
Chris King Headset
White Brothers Loop 140, QR15 fork
SRAM X.0 drivetrain (21/33 and 11-34)
Hayes Prime Pro brakes
Stan's 355 rims, DT Swiss 240s hubs
WTB Vigo carbon saddle
Maxxis Ardent (rear), Schwalbe Knobby Nic (front) tires



Friday, October 7, 2011

Rare Treat - The Colorado National Monument

 It's not often that I get sneak away for an early morning bike ride in the middle of the week.  Between getting the kid to school, answering emails, writing training programs coming up for the next few weeks, working around bike fittings, and just trying to spend quality time with the family, riding my bike uninterrupted for a few hours just doesn't happen often.

When all the planets align just so, I try to take advantage of it as I did a week or so ago.  I opted for my default road ride -- that's the ride I do when I know I'll be by myself, and I have a couple hours -- which is the Colorado National Monument.


I prefer the west side climb for a few reasons.  The main body of the climb is not as steep as the east side, but that's not why I prefer it.  It's the fact that it keeps on climbing, pretty much all the way to the Black Ridge, and even after that there are three more short climbs to reach the high point.




When you hit the high point, there is a fair bit of descending, but not nearly as much as going the other direction.



 I like the extra work that going west to east makes you do.  There's very little traffic during the week, so it's very relaxed with respect to cars.  If I'm alone, I'll pop a podcast in one ear (usually "Wait, Wait. Don't Tell Me" from NPR or "radioLab" from WNYC) and settle in for the roughly 45 minutes of climbing to the top.  If I'm riding with a friend, it's just nice to chat and catch up on the week.

So it's a rare treat indeed, to sneak away, and ride one of the best road rides on the planet....right in my backyard.  check it out.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Full suspension 29er geometry...what's "good", A brief history from Gary Fisher to the BMC SpeedFox 29

29ers are nearly ubiquitous these days on the trail.  When I first began riding them in 2001, they were fringe, at best.  There were only a couple of tires around, and the best option for us out here in the desert of western Colorado, the WTB Nanoraptor did pretty well.  There were only one or two forks, and they were hard to come by.

Especially back then, critics said (often, I believe without ever having taken a 29er out on a technical trail) they were too slow to accelerate, were suited only to tall riders, and, my favorite, couldn't make any of the tight technical turns on trails, like the ones we have here out at our local haunt, the Lunch Loop.

In those early days, we were limited to hardtails for a while -- perhaps a lucky individual would get "the angry inch" on  Moots YBB -- but we were cross-country riding for the most part.


Now sidelined Gary Fisher, came out with the Sugar 292 and 293, since Gary was the first to really embrace the big wheeled bikes.  These early full suspension designs were plagued with problems though -- poor cable routing, and questionable geometry among others, but it was one of those necessary first steps into the foray to get things rolling in the full suspension 29er market.

Even a year or two later, at the Interbike Trade Show in Las Vegas, the 29ers were seen still as fringe elements.  I liked to joke that they seemed to be getting as much attention and support from the component manufacturers as the "burro bikes" with their funny 12 inch wheels.

So now we're up to about 2005 or so, and some of the bigger names in the industry are beginning to build hardtail 29ers -- Specialized, Trek, Scott, Cannondale, etc.  Around that same time, Devin Lenz of Lenz Sport mountain bikes began making a 3" travel full suspension 29er.  Devin had been building mostly big-hit and downhill 26 inch bikes, and he took what he learned from that to make his 29er (he skipped the hardtail step altogether).  the geometry he built with was unique -- he maintain high bottom brackets (13.625 inches), very short chainstays (~17.3inches), and the more slack head angles (~69.5 degrees) most associated with his all-mountain bikes.  The result of these changes is that you hit your pedals less or not at all on technical sections (higher bottom bracket), the bike climbs well and is easy to manual/unweight the front wheel to get up ledges (short chainstays), and it descends with exceptional stability and makes it much less likely that you will go over the handlebars when coming off rocks or ledges (slacker head angle).



Devin is a small, one-man operation, and probably not on the radar of the big manufacturers, and frankly, I'm sure they figured they knew better.

When the bigger companies finally began investing in full suspension 29ers, this turned out to be true.  They listened to the "problems" 29ers -- they're slow accelerating, their wheelbases are too long, poorer cornering stability since you're higher up -- and they concluded incorrectly, I believe, what they should alter.  They didn't want to take a 26-inch bike and just scale it up to the bigger wheels, so the changes they made were to shorten the chainstays (which is good, but not all of them accomplished this because their suspension design wouldn't allow that), lower the bottom bracket height to "improve cornering stability", and steepen the head angle to keep the overall wheelbase shorter.

There are some small differences between the big guys, but for the most part they all share this very common, and in my opinion, poor geometry.  If you don't ride on any technical terrain, these bikes can work fine, but they can make stepping up your technical riding game difficult and/or painful.

Here is a brief breakdown of a few of the more popular bikes out there.  The three dimensions listed are the head angle, then bottom bracket height, and then chainstay length:

LenzSport Leviathan
69.5degree;
13.625" ;
17.75"

BMC SpeedFox 29
70degree ;
13.3" :
16.9"

Specialized Epic series
70.5degrees ;
13.1" ;
17.6"

Cannondale Scalpel 29
71-71.5degrees
12.9" ;
17.5"

Santa Cruz Tallboy
71degrees ;
12.8" ;
17.5"

Ellsworth Evolve
72.5degrees ;
13.4" ;
18.2"

There are a lot of other out there, nearly all very similar to the Ellsworth, the Santa Cruz, and the Cannondale.

The Specialized's geometry is not bad, but my point was to point out the sleeper in there -- the newer-to-the-market BMC:

It is as close to the optimal geometry for riding moderate to severe technical terrain in it's first iteration.  Even better is that their hardtail 29er - the TeamElite 29 -- still has this optimal trail geometry, where the big manufacturers really drop the ball -- they revert back to 72.5 degree head angles, and even lower bottom brackets (the Orbea Alma drops theirs to 11.95"!).  What does this ride like?  Imagine just putting fat tires on your road bike, so I hope you don't plan on riding on any obstacles, like dirt or rocks, or maybe branches.

So if you don't like going over your handlebars, you don't like cracking your pedals on every rock you pass, and you just want the most enjoyment on the trail, then do your homework.  Find a friendly geometry, and hit the trails with confidence.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Guess the fix

What would you change in this rider's position?  Can you pick out the main things that need to be done?

video 

I'll post a follow up (what we did for him) and include a video of the "after".
Meanwhile, lemme see what you come up with.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Orbea Onix Dama vs Onix -- more on the women's specific myth

Orbea Onix
Orbea Onix Dama
I know I've gone over this before, but more on the "Women's Specific"  myth. 

My primary gripe is that the geometry changes that are actually made to the frame are minimal, and usually very poorly thought out.  Also, yes, some women have longer legs and shorter torsos -- but a lot of them do not.  In fact many men have long legs and short torsos, rather than the shorter legs and longer torsos that the bike manufacturers would have you believe.

For instance, look at the Onix series of bikes from Orbea -- they have their standard version and the Dama, or women's specific version.

The Dama, size 53 is essentially just the size in between the standard Onix sizes 51 and 54 -- possibly a slightly taller scaled head tube.  The Dama size 49, has an effective top tube of 51 cm.  The standard Onix size 51 also has a 51 cm effective TT.  The women's version has a head tube length of 110 mm, the standard version has a 122 mm one. 

If women did have shorter torsos wouldn't they need to make the reach and overall cockpit of the bike more relaxed rather than more aggressive?  Especially since the women's bike has a seat angle that's a full degree steeper (while still maintaining a 51 cm eff. TT), making it's weight bias more forward, upsetting the handling and making it squirrely at high speeds.

Again, I'm not saying that women shouldn't have their geometry tailored to them -- in fact they should, and just as often as the men-folk.  These are not well-thought out changes, they're token, and gimmick and marketing.  These changes are made because they're easy, not because they work.

Don't be fooled; more thought goes into how to "accessorize" a bike in pink and purple bits to make it "Women's Specific" than goes into the fit and the geometry.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Barefoot" running shoes -- my $.02

It seems every time I look at a running or triathlon magazine these days, there's an article about barefoot running technique.  The book by Christopher McDougall Born to Run has created so much pop culture force behind it that it has nearly become mainstream.  Meaning even people outside the running or endurance sport circles consider running in minimalist shoes to now be the norm.

In fact, the evidence for "barefoot" running technique has been around for many years, and many of us who frequently keep up with the newer research trends have been aware of it for some time now.

I began my transition to minimalist shoes about 4 or 5 years ago.  Notice I didn't say I switched to them -- it took me roughly 8 months to make the move full time (i.e. when I could run a marathon in them).  Switching too soon is the number one mistake amongst runners, and is the reason why physical therapist, orthopedic surgeons, podiatrists, etc, have seen a huge uptick in running related injuries as a result of people switching to lower profile shoes.

I won't get into the why and how of what makes people fail and injure themselves -- suffice it to say that they either aren't a good candidate for running in minimalist shoes (Yep, that's right, not everyone can or should run in them) or they tried to run too much too soon in them.

Today I'd like to share my experience with the different shoes I have had in the last half-dozen years or so.

6 or 7 years ago I was running in some very rigid, motion-controlling shoes.  I was a heel striker who had a pair or Nike Air Structure Triax shoes for the road, and a pair of Montrail Hardrocks with custom orthotics for the trail. 



My education as a PT had reinforced to me, in error -- it was 10 years prior--, that I needed to control my mid-foot motion when I ran to prevent injury (I was frequently experiencing ITB syndrome, plantar fasciitis, among others).  My continuing self education, formally in classes geared towards PTs and informally from just voraciously reading research articles, began to reinforce to me that perhaps there was another way.

When I was deciding what new shoe I wanted to buy I was having a little trouble.  At the time there were really no viable mass-market shoes that fit the bill -- at the time, the shoe industry was still in full swing telling us that we needed the super-duper max-flow cushioning, motion control wonder-shoe.

Then as I thought about it more, it dawned on me:  back in the 1960's and 1970's, before the shoe industry went completely haywire, shoes were simpler; usually not much more than a thin layer of rubber and a few millimeters of EVA padded the bottoms of the shoe.  We used to make fun of these "old school" shoes, since the cushion, the striping, the decals of today's shoes certainly had more pizazz, more sizzle.




So I decided that fashion aside, I just had to get some old school wonders to try out this minimalist thing.  It made sense to do this also because these older shoes can be found online for cheap -- I think I paid 40 bucks for that first pair.  If I can, when I'm experimenting with some new idea, I like to keep it simple, and not have to drop a lot of coin on it, in case it doesn't work out.



I chose three of the shoes I have used in the last 5+ years to demonstrate some of the pros and cons of the varying avenues of the minimalist shoe revolution.  I actually haven't used very many pairs of shoes in this time -- they tend to last so darn long because the proper form to run in them is not dependent on having a lot of cushioning or motion-controlling, which new shoes tend to lose the ability to do as they age and break down.  When you have a shoe that affects your gait in some way (again, by either controlling some motion or providing artificial cushioning) then that shoe is going to lose that ability over time and you'll have to buy new shoes sooner. 

Anyway, here are the three and my thoughts on them:

The Old-School dreamboats



These are the classic Saucony Jazz Low Pro, which was one of the best selling shoes of it's day -- more than thirty years ago!

I was initially a little embarassed, I have to admit, when I first ran in these shoes.  They were my first pair, and I had always worn the latest, modern marvel of shoeware, and these were a bit doofy looking.  But they grew on me, and quickly.  They have a very comfortable fit, the tread was perfect for either road or trail runs, and they have just enough strength through the sole of the shoe that they were good at resisting small rocks from gouging the underside of my feet when I stepped on one wrong.  I used these shoes for 2 years!  The EVA foam in the sole packed down in the first few months -- there was a slight depression inside the shoe where my heel rested, as well as my metatarsals (balls of the feet), and even a couple of the toes, which rather than being a negative, actually made the shoe really feel like it fit like a glove.  After 2 years of many miles, though, they "packed down" a little too much -- I began to feel more pebbles "poke through" when I ran, and so it was time to try something else.

Shortly after this the first printing of Born to Run had come out and manufacturers had begun to offer some low profile options.  I decided to go with this pair of Nike Zoom Streak XCs.  They are made for those running cross-country and track middle to long distance, but without the spikes.

I found these to be very light, having an all-mesh upper, which was great most of the time.  In the winter, however, I'd have to wear two pairs of thin socks with a vapor barrier between to keep the wind, rain and snow from abusing my feet.  The soles were nearly as resistant to poking as the Sauconys were, and the sole performed well on the road and trail.  Aside from the cold-weather short-comings, the soles did wear out faster -- there seemed to be less rubber on the underside of the shoe to protect the foam from getting torn up by the ground.  Also, the all-mesh upper, while light, was prone to tearing, and after about a year I was left with a number of holes in he shoes as you can see. So I got (only?) a year out of these and they cost me about $75, so about 4 times the yearly cost of the Sauconys.

After going back to my old school choice for a while, I recently decided to try a new generation shoe again.  I figured it had been a while, perhaps they had improved the offerings.

I went with these New Balance Minimus Trail shoes. 
They cost me about $100, and I've had them a little over a month, so I don't know what the longevity will be just yet.  They have a very comfortable, anatomic fit, but the lacing doesn;t extend as far up on the shoe as I'd like to improve the fit through the toe box.  The sole is made of a Vibram checker-board pattern of sorts, and there seems to be little to no "foam cushioning" inside them.  They're comfortable to wear, and they definitely look cooler than my previous entries (I think anyway).  My main complaint is that they are terrible at resisting small rock pokes through the sole.  The Vibram is strong, but there isn't one continuous piece of it on the underside; it has that checkerboard pattern which makes the bottom of the shoe articulate more than any other I've used.  I understand that they're going for a barefoot feel, but it makes the sole of the shoe so flexible that I jab the bottom of my foot a couple times every single run -- road or trail.

I don't know how long these are going to last.  I think I'm going to tire of their "pokiness" long before the Vibram wears out.

So for now, still my favorite, considering all of the pros and cons, are the Sauconys.  They don't look new, but the old school style is starting to grow on me (I began wearing my old ones to work on occasion).

I know there are many other options out there, so tell me, which ones have you had experience with?  Any out there that you love?  Lemme know

J

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Earthquake proof bikes!

Remember in mid February when that 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit Christchurch, NZ?  This was before all the volcanoes started erupting, before all the tornadoes hit the US, before the tsunami and resulting nuclear crisis in Japan.....it seems like the year ought to be older.  This is merely an interesting story about 2 bicycles who survived the quake. 

About 3 years ago, I collaborated with Seven Cycles to build steel road bikes for a very nice couple from Grand Junction, who had retired and planned to spend a lot of time traveling and riding their bikes.  Because of the travel we built them with S&S couplers, which, if you're not familiar, allow the bike frames to be broken down into two pieces and packed into an airline approved hardcase -- your bike is well protected and you don't get charged bike fees on the plane, which can run $100 per leg.


As with all the custom bikes I build, not only was the frame geometry full customized for their riding style and purpose, but the fork was rake-matched for optimal handling as well (eat your heart out twitchy stock bikes).

They rode these bikes all over and if the bikes had passports, the stamps in them would rival any globetrotter's.  Paris, London, Sydney, all over the US..........you get the idea.  I think in two years the bikes had been ridden about 12,000 miles and had flown upwards of 45,000 miles.

Spring of 2010, they came back and again told me how much they loved their bikes, but....

But, they wanted to be able to run bigger tires to handle some moderate off-road, muddy, gritty trails as well as be a little more forgiving on the rough cobbles common throughout Paris.



This time they opted for titanium bikes with S&S coupler (and custom paint to boot) that could fit up to 35mm tires.  No compromises on function, of course, so we went outside to Waterford to build custom steel forks with the proper rake (in this case 58 mm) that fit the fatter tires and still had an appropriate axle to crown measurement to keep the head tube at the angle it was designed for.


The bikes were finished, and almost immediately whisked off to Paris to see the 2010 Tour.  These bikes, like their steel siblings, traveled far and wide until late January 2011.  


They were taken to New Zealand to tackle the Otago Trail.  Two weeks of every trail and road condition imaginable and they had safely and successfully completed their mission.  The bikes were cleaned as best as possible, and carefully packed away into their travel cases.  They soon found their way to the concierge's locked storage at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Christchurch, while the owners continued site-seeing on foot the remainder of the trip.

On that late day in February the earthquake hit.  My clients were in the lobby of the hotel, saying it felt like being in an elevator that suddenly drops, except that instead of dropping down, everything lurched sideways.

Like nearly everyone in that part of New Zealand, they fled to a safe area -- in this case a nearby park -- and took up residency with tarps and sheets of plywood supplied by the Kiwi government.  

Everything was left at the hotel.  Everything.  Bikes, computers, cameras, clothes, GPS's, passports.  With the help of the US Embassy and local government, they were able to finally make their way back to Colorado.

The Crowne Plaza Hotel, luckily is one of the most well built structures in Christchurch, and it didn't sustain major damage in the quake.  However, buildings immediately surrounding it sustained serious structural damage and, like many buildings in the area had either collapsed or were threatening to, so nobody was even allowed in the area in the weeks following.

Without much information, aside from checking Google Earth images to check which buildings were still standing, they had no idea when or if they could expect to get their things back, but being the compassionate, pragmatic people that they are they always reinforced that they felt very lucky that the only thing they may have lost were things, while many others their lost much more.

Finally......

Nearly three months later, I received an email that they thought the bikes were on the way -- something had been sent from the hotel -- and they might be somewhere between Hong Kong and Cincinnati (?!??).

Well, they did show up:


It was clear that someone had opened up the hardcases on their way back into the US, and let's just say that they were not closed and re-packed with the utmost of care.
Both bikes were brought into the Studio, and aside from having to true all four wheels, replace some cables and housing and generally clean them up, they were in surprisingly good shape.


Besides a few scrapes and chips in the paint, the frames were perfect, but that wasn't too surprising:  titanium frames, properly built can last about 200 years or so (steel is about 50 years, aluminum about 15 or so, and carbon is around 10 years).
So, things turned out okay, and the bikes live to travel on.  I'm glad these rolling works of art and their owners, are able to roll around the world together for many years to come.





Monday, May 23, 2011

Clipless versus platform pedals

I have had a few clients asking about whether platform pedals will make them faster on their mountain bike.  I think it's important to carefully consider equipment choice when it comes to your bike, since that can severely affect how enjoyable the sport is.

I'm not here to tell you that flats or platform pedals are bad, and clipless pedals are good.  In fact, I think there are situations that warrant either.

Normally, I wouldn't mention anything, but some of the advice and "facts" I have read of late have convinced me that the "No Harm, No Foul" rule has been violated.  If someone who coaches cyclists is telling them, "You know, you might ride better and more confidently on flats"  I don't take issue.  It very well may be true, and in the best interest of that client.

But when I read about claims that clipless pedals cause injury, "mask dysfunction", "feed into dysfunction", "artificially strengthening the weak link of the feet", they can "increase your risk of overuse injury"  with no explanation of what dysfunction they're feeding into, I think some balance regarding the science is needed.

I do a lot of bike fits.  As a practicing physical therapist for 14+ years, I have seen and assessed thousands of riders using some of the most sophisticated infrared motion capture equipment on the planet.  I assess clients who ride with flats and with clipless pedals, and each group has consistent numbers of knee pain.  There never has been any research that proves the claim that clipless pedals cause more injuries because of their inherent "dysfunctional movement".  There is no research whatever that shows platforms to be better that clipless.

So let's get to the research cited.  I have seen two main articles cited as evidence that platforms are superior to clipless.

KORFF, T., L. M. ROMER, I. MAYHEW, and J. C. MARTIN. Effect of Pedaling Technique on Mechanical Effectiveness and Efficiency in Cyclists. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 39, No. 6, pp. 991–995, 2007.

The Korff et al article in a nutshell took 8 cyclists (with a minimum 2 years experience experience cycling)and had them perform 4 different pedaling trials at 90 rpm and at 200 watts.  The four trials of different pedaling where referred to as:
  1. Preferred: they used their preferred pedaling technique
  2. Circling:  pedal in circles and to concentrate on the transition phases through top dead center
    and bottom dead center of the crank cycle
  3. Pulling:  emphasize an active pull during the upstroke of the crank cycle
  4. Pushing:  emphasize the pushing action during the downstroke of the crank cycle
Each pedaling test was 6 minutes long followed by 6 minutes of passive rest.

The long and short of the results is that the cyclists had the lowest metabolic cost (or the highest metabolic efficiency = least energy expended) during the "Preferred" and the "Pushing" tests.  But the "Pulling" and the "Circling" had significantly higher mechanical effectiveness (you might say it was the most even or balanced distribution of power throughout the entire pedal stroke).

Some issues to consider:

Just because the cyclists "Preferred" pedaling style and the "Pushing" closely mirrored each other is not proof that "we already know how to pedal", and instructions to change this (cueing riders to pull up to even their distribution of force) just screws up our stronger natural instinct on how to pedal.  The authors of the study even think that this lends support to the idea that other pedaling styles (other than just "Pushing") may be better in the long run because:

"...multiple physiological systems are likely to adapt in response to training with a specific pedaling technique. Our data support this speculation by demonstrating that in all participants, the preferred pedaling style was accompanied by the greatest gross efficiency."

Another thing to consider is that these cyclists were tested on an ergometer (power meter) at a low wattage of 200 watts -- really just easy spinning for most riders, especially the male cyclists employed in this study.  No significant effort was required so it's not surprising that the "pushing down" was emphasized during their "preferred" pedaling style.  If you are trying to determine efficiency (metabolic) and effectiveness (mechanical), a range of wattages would provide for better data -- a more difficult study, for sure, but it would shed more light on the differences and benefits of the pedaling styles.

Pedaling in a circle decreased torque?  It did, but only "peak Torque", or the very high of the high end, and, again, at a very sub-maximal 200 watts -- severely limiting what conclusion you can draw about torque and force profiles.  I.E. drawing "Peak" or "Maximal" torque conclusions from sub-maximal testing  (actually not even close to their threshold level) is not very effective.

Metabolic efficiency was highest for the "pushing down only" pedaling style?  True, again, but only at 200 watts, but "mechanical effectiveness" increased significantly.

One thing to reiterate is that this study only tested eight (yes 8) cyclists.  In research, that's referred to as a study with N = 8.  Not very in depth, and certainly in need of more subjects of varying abilities to draw better conclusions from.

Another problem:  We don't know a lot of things -- like if these cyclists were ever trained in circular or a balanced pedaling style.  They were just prompted into this technique briefly before the study began.  We don't know how much they actually ride  -- only how many years they have participated in the sport.

Mornieux G, Stapelfeldt B, Gollhofer A, Belli A. Effects of pedal type and pull-up action during cycling.Int J Sports Med. 2008 Oct;29(10):817-22. Epub 2008 Apr 17.

On the other study, Mornieux et al., 8 elite cyclists and 7 non-cyclists were tested at 60% of their maximal aerobic power (MAP) in three different pedaling situations:
  1. With platform pedals
  2. With clipless pedals
  3. With clipless pedals and instruction to pull up on the upstroke

Despite claims I have read online to the contrary, the pedaling forces of the trained versus the untrained cyclists are different through the pedaling styles.  The untrained cyclists have much greater negative pedaling forces no matter how they were pedaling, than the trained cyclists.  This actually lends support to the idea that more practice with a balanced pedaling technique (some pulling up on the back-stroke with clipless pedals) may lead to better effectiveness in your pedal stroke. 

Of course, you see I'll say it MAY lead to better effectiveness.  This, again, is a very small study with barely over a dozen of participants, so we have to be careful of the conclusions we draw.  It was also conducted with low power output -- 60% of MAP is a very steady, easy pace (it's not 60% of their "maximum" but of their aerobic max -- much different).  But all  the same, it actually makes it worthwhile to consider testing a "pulling" pedal stroke further to see what benefits can or should be gleaned from this.

In fact the authors of this study in a more recent article called Muscle coordination while pulling up during cycling from 2010 concluded:

" training the pull up action could be of interest to optimize this muscle coordination associated with better pedalling effectiveness by additionally relieving hip or knee extensors during the downstroke."

Scientific research is great, but at least three rules should be adhered to:
  1. Read the whole article
  2. Learn how to dissect a research study to find it's strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Be careful with the conclusions you draw -- the good research authors usually are.  they understand that research can almost never pronounce anything with 100% certainty.  For example, in the full text of the Korff et al article the authors say in the Discussion:
"Although our results suggest that actively pulling on the pedal reduces gross efficiency during steady-state cycling, there may be situations during which an active pull is beneficial in terms of adding power to the crank.....A limitation of our study...is that it does not rule out the possibility that there may be a more efficient
pedaling style if participants are given enough time to adapt to it. Longitudinal studies are needed to explore this possibility."

Again, my purpose is not to do a flame-job on anyone, or tell you that clipless pedals are better for everyone in all situations, but reading these articles and drawing conclusions like,

"...clipless pedals literally offer no help....and will decrease pedaling force and screw up their (riders) pedaling patterns."

is not prudent or helpful for readers looking for good advice.

You can't take one idea about movement and apply it to all things -- this is why the study of human movement is difficult and takes years of schooling and clinical work to best understand.  

Can you generate a lot of peak power with platforms?  Yes, definitely.  Nathan Rennie is a super strong pro mountain biker.  He tested at 1800 watts on platforms.  But, there are also a few dozen track cyclists that test between 2300-2400 watts all with clipless pedals (and some with pedals that are molded into their shoes -- you don't unclip at all, you have to take the shoes off to get off your bike).

Again, I'm not hear to tell anyone they have to do anything one way or the other.  But the discussion went from "Flats are good on technical terrain, and for gravity racers" to "Clipless pedals are bad for you and don't help anyway, so no matter how you ride you should use flats".

Many cyclists on the dirt find clipless pedals more useful because of the fact that they do allow you to smooth out the peaks and valleys of power generation, and decrease the likelihood of spinning your rear wheel on a steep, loose climb.  Some of us still ride on hardtails, which makes this even more important, but even on the best full-suspension machine, there are times when smooth, not maximal, power generation will get you up a climb.

I can see flats being better when you're on terrain you're really not comfortable tackling yet, if you are more into the gravity end of the sport, or if you're riding very leisurely.  But road riding/racing on flats? -- sorry nope, and I think you'd be hard-pressed to convince any roadies to give up their clips.  If you mountain bike, and you sometimes ride easy, you sometimes ride harder racing your buddies, sometimes you go downhill fast, sometimes you flat-track fast, sometimes you climb, sometimes you single speed, sometimes you ride the White Rim liesurely, then like many of us, you may ride better with clipless pedals.  Maybe not.

So try them both,and decide for yourself.  Research doesn't prove anything one way or the other (as is usually the case).  I'm here to tell you that just because you ride with clipless or platforms you don't have a "dysfunction".

That's all for now.

John

Monday, May 9, 2011

SRAM Red? Shimano Di2? Campagnolo Super Record? What's the difference?

I've got some good info brewing, just trying to finish it up:  aesthetics aside, where do you get the mostr bang for your buck?

A little teaser:  Did you know that SRAM Rival (3rd tier) costs less than Shimano 105 (also 3rd tier) but weighs less than Shimano Ultegra (2nd tier)?

More later

J

Monday, April 25, 2011

What goes into designing a bike?

At my Studio, we, of course do a a lot of bike fits.  We also build a lot of custom bikes.  But not everyone that needs one has the dough for a full custom rig.  There are ways around having to go the full custom route, at least for some clients, but there are always compromises that take place.

This post is about how we go about finding the right fit for each client regardless of whether they are spending $15,000 on a custom carbon road bike or $1800 on a stock-sized steel hardtail mountain bike.

In the picture above is an size XS Wilier Izoard XP -- a $2500 carbon road bike.  Behind it is a Size Cycle; which is an adjustable bike we use to mock up various positions to see what the best fit is.  We can then take these raw contact points -- where the seat is relative to the bottom bracket, where the bars are then placed as far as reach and height, as well as the proper crank length.  If a client is interested in a particular bike, like this Wilier, I will mock up that bike's contact points on the Size Cycle and test from there.

Why not just get them on the Wilier to start?  Sometimes I do, but the Size Cycle allows for quicker adjustments, and makes it more likely we're going to settle on the best fit for that client, not just the best fit that's possible on that bike.  There are times, like with a client that came in last week, where the bike they were interested in would not provide the best fit, even with drastic alterations to it's components.  On the size cycle, we aren't limited by the bike, because all it's dimensions are adjustable.  To make the reach longer or shorter, I can change:
  • the effective top tube length
  • the seat angle
  • the saddle fore-aft
  • the stem length
  • the bar reach
  • and even the head angle (which changes how much reach the stem has).  
On an actual bicycle I can only change:
  • the saddle fore-aft
  • and the stem length
If I don't think we can make the bike work well  for them, I will talk to them about other options.  And, no, I don't just tell everyone they need to get a custom bike.  In this case, this client will spend less money on the bike I have proposed, than they would on the Wilier bike they were initially looking at.

So the first thing we get out of the way using the Retul infrared motion capture system is the saddle height and it's set-back from the bottom bracket.  While the set-back is important because it relies on the seat angle of the bike -- something that is not changeable once we have an actual bike under the client -- the saddle height is not of huge consequence because it is by far the most adjustable aspect of the bike via seatpost adjustment.  (we do still need to consider things like what shoes and cleats the client will use since the overall seat height plays directly with the overall saddle to bar height differential -- how much the bars are above or below the saddle).

After we determine the saddle height we begin on the reach and height of the bar.  Using the Retul, we can again make adjustments to find the optimal bar position.  We have to take into account the client's riding history (do they get numb hands, neck pain, low back discomfort?) as well as their medical history (have they had any orthopedic surgeries?  leg length issues?)

Once we have them comfortable and efficient, then I start with the 7th grade math and trigonometry.

What is my aim?  Basically to take this bar position (it's height from the ground and it's reach from the seat) and find out the easiest way we can achieve this position and STILL have room to move the bars up or down or further away or closer to the rider.  We establish this as a sort of middle point for the bar.

The reach to the bar is relatively simple -- there are only a couple variables.  We need to know how much set back the seatpost gives us, which we can use some simple trigonometry from the seat height measurement to get.  We factor in the effective top tube length, but using a measurement call the frame reach is more effective (this is the horizontal distance from the center of the bottom bracket to the middle point of the top of the headtube).  And then the length of the stem (with a bit more trig to take into account the rise of the stem and the head tube angle), is the final piece to give us the overall reach of the bike.

The bar height has more variables to consider:


A simplified list of the parts that determine bar height are (from the ground up):
  • radius of the wheel and tire
  • fork axle to crown measurement
  • lower headset cup stack height
  • head tube length
  • upper headset cup stack height
  • spacers under the stem
  • and stem rise or height

There are a lot of limitations in these parts:
  • radius of the wheel and tire -- this doesn't change much unless you get a huge tire on there
  • fork axle to crown measurement -- while there are variations in fork height, we often are stuck with what a given manufacturer provides
  • lower headset cup stack height -- sometimes this is zero with inset headsets (as in the Wilier above)
  • head tube length -- again, can't manipulate this after the fact
  • upper headset cup stack height -- varies anywhere from 5mm up to 25mm
  • spacers under the stem -- most modern forks, we're limited to 35 mm of spacers
  • and stem rise or height -- while we can alter the stem rise, if we need more height, 35-40 degrees, depending on the length of the stem, is usually all we can get, and this isn't necessarily optimal for handling and aesthetics

So I can do all the math and run the variables for the bar height by hand, but I have created a couple of customized excel files to make estimating the bar reach and height a little simpler. 

I can plug in certain parameters, like for instance that I want to keep the stem to only 12 degrees of rise and no more, and this will tell me what bar height I'll end up with.

I can use this to determine if the frame and bike the client is interested in will work -- if the head tube is the right length, but also is the headset integrated into the head tube or does it have external cups?  Just this small variable change can make a big difference in whether a bike will work for someone.

Building a custom bike takes more knowledge about bike fit, handling and weight distribution, but it is much easier to get the bar position where we need it because I can manipulate the head tube to almost any length I want.  This will ensure that I don't need to use an excessive amount of spacers under the stem, or a high rise stem, etc.

When dealing with a stock sized bike, we're essentially stuck with the size of bike that the manufacturer has created.  Why not just get a frame the next size up to get a longer head tube if I need it?  The problem with that is as the head tube gets longer, so does the effective top tube -- so the reach of the bike may then be too big.

It's a lot to keep track of, but we have to (yes, have to - at least in my shop) do our due diligence to get the best possible fit for our client.  Anyone can build and sell a bike, but only the most particular professional can make sure that each and every client is as comfortable and efficient as possible on their bike.

There's more money in just selling bikes and getting them out the door, but we want to make sure that the bike will feel good in the shop, and 6 months down the road.

Check back later this week, and we'll have gone through all these variables and in the process of building a client's bike.  We'll post details of the build as we go, including why we chose certain parts and accessories

Stay tuned

--J

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Trail musing


The above picture is of Andy's Loop out at the Tabeguache. It has been the ugly step-child of the trails out there. Just rode down it today - figured I'd check it off the list for the year -- still no flow to it. It's really not fun to ride up or down. It's a shame because it has so much potential. It could be a killer descent, and one of the longest out in this area.

As many of you know, I live on the western slope of the Rockies in Grand Junction, CO. It's a great place -- the redneck issue is becoming less of one each year, we have great weather (we are where the mountains meet the desert), and fantastic trail systems for running, biking, hiking etc.

This time of year, we get a lot of tourists coming to mountain bike here. There was once a time when they only frequented the Loma (Kokopelli) and Fruita (18 Road) trails. Now the local's favorite of the Lunch Loop -- not called the Lunch Loops despite what the signs say -- is seeing it's parking lot full nearly every evening and all weekend long.

We're happy to play the cordial host, but please, if you come to visit adhere to a few rules:

1. DON'T ride off trail. Even when you are crossing paths in opposite directions with other riders. Just barely pull your tires to one edge of the single-track, place one foot off the trail, preferably on a rock if you can, and lean your bike away from the trail. When you ride off the trails and create a new "scar" off the side of the trail, you'll be able to come back and visit it in 2 or 3 years -- it'll still be there; the desert heals very slowly.

2. Try to ride in smaller groups. Every weekend this spring I have seen huge groups -- 15, 20, 25, even 35 (!!) riders. This can't be fun for anyone in the groups -- the fast riders are always going to have to wait and the slow ones will feel guilty for slowing everyone down, but you also create a juggernaut on the trail that can take a lot of time to get through if you're a lone rider heading in the wrong direction. If you come over in a big group, try to break up into group of maybe 6-8 at the most -- you'll be a lot more nimble, everyone will get to ride more, and you won't irritate the locals. BTW this goes for riding anywhere -- we break up into boys and girls rides when we head to Crested Butte in the summers to ride.

3. Know the yielding rules. On a mountain bike you basically are supposed to yield to everyone -- hikers, runners, horses, and other mountain bikers going uphill. If a runner/hiker sees you and steps off the trail to let you by, it's because it's expedient to do so sometimes. Thank them.......and don't get used to it.

That's all for now. I want to reinforce that we love it that we're a popular destination, but you'll have a lot more fun if you're not stepping on everyone else's toes.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The high cadence "issue"


A lot has been made of “spinning” and keeping a high cadence in the last 10 or so years. Of course, many of us have heard the story about how Lance Armstrong optimized his riding style by changing his average cadence and in the process made himself into a grand tour contender.

Here is the basis of it: higher cadence has a lower muscular cost, and a higher cardiovascular cost. Lower cadence is a higher muscular cost, and lower respiratory cost.

When the muscular system is overly taxed, like in a hard one day bike race where you rode with a high wattage, but a low cadence, it can take a few days for the muscular system to break down and repair the damaged tissue. If you're just doing a one day race and won't race again for a few days to a few weeks, then this may be just fine, and as we will find out later it may be the best game plan to do well in that race.

If you're riding many days in a row, as in a grand tour (3 weeks) or a shorter stage race (say, 5 days to a week long), you won't want to carry this muscle damage from day to day, since recovery will be far from complete, and in fact, you could experience progressive breakdown, and a precipitous decline in performance.

The higher strain on the respiratory system has much shorter term down side. The respiratory system, our lungs and heart, can recover after a hard ride within a few hours. Think about that: imagine you just did a hard ride (at any cadence) that was an hour longer than any ride you've done so far this year. Your lungs may be a little “phlegm-y” for a few hours from breathing hard, but it's usually gone by the evening or in the morning. Your legs, however, can be sore for many days after.

The more consistently you ride, and the more consistently you race, the more useful a high cadence is. If you ride only a couple days a week or, more importantly, compete only infrequently then there is not much benefit to pedaling with a cadence over 90-95 rpm.

As with most things, “low” cadence is also a matter of degree. I would consider 90-95 rpm “high”. When the magazines and websites began touting the benefits of high cadence, many cyclists, as is common for their type-A, if-some-is-good-then-more-must-be-better attitude, immediately decided if 90 was good, then 110 must be even better. I had, and still have, dozens of bike fits every year where the client is spinning madly, in an obviously uncontrolled way to reach their high target. Things brings me to two points:

Extremely high cadence: 1. requires more coordination and pedaling skill and, 2. makes small mechanical deviations more likely to create injury

Doesn't extremely low cadence can also create injury? It may, but I can say from two points that cadence on the lower end requires much less coordination and skill and it does not make mechanical deviations (like a drifting knee) worse overall – this has been born out over years of performing bike fits.  Remember those clients spinning madly on their bikes?  Well, their 3D motion capture numbers were often all over the place: Knee Lateral measurements over 50-60mm each side, Knee Angles anywhere from 6 - 15 degrees, Hip Vertical Travel measurements excessive, etc. etc.  I would then make them shift into a bigger (harder) gear, and take another view with the infrared -- voila!  Usually about a 30% reduction in the aberrant motions.  Then we were able to get down to the business of finishing their fit.

Studies have varied, but the median for overall efficiency is somewhere in the low 80s, which, in my experience, fits with the clients who have the lowest incidence of injury. (Again, this is an average or a generalization over hundreds of bike fits, but indicative nonetheless.)

So should you grind up all your climbs at 45 rpms? Of course not, but there is no good reason to spin away at 110 rpms on the flats either.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"Will weight training help me this season?"

A question I get asked a lot, especially this time of year, is about weight lifting routines.  Specifically should my athletes (runners, cyclists, and triathletes) lift throughout the winter, and if they do it, when and if they should stop lifting.


Let me start by saying that, as a physical therapist, I do think that weight-lifting is beneficial for most every athlete, but the degree to which an athlete needs to participate can vary greatly.

I think that in the dark of winter, just about every athlete could see some benefit from a few weeks of weight lifting.  Will this make them stronger in the short term?  Certainly.  But they shouldn't expect to really hang on to any of this strength once they stop, and especially as they head into the summer racing season.  What's the point then?  While I wouldn't expect to see someone really cranking out significantly more watts I think the benefits for injury prevention or resistance are worthwhile.  Some of the structural changes that occur at the tendon and bone/tendon junction can help prevent break down of these tissues during hard training phases.  I know some people may say, "Well if it helps you during hard efforts, then it must make you stronger/faster".  Maybe.  It's no guarantee that the athlete who didn't do the weight routine, would definitely get injured; nor is it clear that he athlete who did the weight routine would be able to swim/bike/run faster or harder during their intervals.

I think triathletes have the most chance for gain with the weights -- the more "whole body" nature of the sport and the fact that triathletes tend to be bigger and more muscular than their cycling and running counterparts, makes it a good match for weight-lifting.

The problem with weight-lifting and these types of sports is two-fold:

1. the extra body weight is often not helpful and often becomes a liability -- again triathletes are exempted from this a little

and

2. sport-specificity is definitely not a strong suit of weight-training

The extra muscle mass is easy to understand, but what is the sport-specificity thing have to do with it?

Put simply, some tasks (specifically pedaling a bike is what I will spend the most time on right now) are too complex biomechanically to have the strength increases transfer over from weight-training.  Think about it this way:  when you train your quadriceps in the gym what is the most common exercise?  The squat or leg press, right?  How does the brain "see" this exercise from a motor-plan standpoint?  It basically breaks down like this:

distal quads activate (eccentrically of course) first to manage patellar movement -- progressive engagement of the majority of the quad muscles -- deeper into hip flexion the gluteals/hip extensors engage progressively -- then all these muscles work concentrically to reverse the motion

The most important aspect here?  BOTH legs are working at the same time in the same direction.

So what about the motor plan of a pedal stroke on the bike:

(starting at the top of the pedal stroke - 12 o'clock)

the gastroc-soleus muscles (calves) progressively engage from 12 until about 3o'clock as does the gluteus max (rear end), but the gluteus is done with it's power phase and on the decline even before 3 o'clock -- in this same time period the quad muscles (specifically the vastus muscles and the rectus femoris) are in the middle of their engagement and declining, and their involvement flatlines around 4 or 5 o'clock -- just before 3 o'clock the hamstrings start to engage and they peak about 4:30 and start their slow decline until about 8 o'clock -- after 6 o'clock nothing much is going on, but ideally the tibialis anterior and the hip flexors would be working powerfully from about 7 o'clock until about 9 or 10 o'clock (this does not happen to a significant degree, however, for all but the most talented of pedalers) -- at 9 o'clock the rectus femoris begins it's phase and the vastus muscles start a bit later at around 10:30 -- and then we're back at the beginning.

What's the most important aspect here?  ONE leg is doing this complex sequence while the other is doing the OPPOSITE while positionally opposed 90 degrees.

The second most important aspect?  On the back side of the pedal stroke (from 6 until 9 o'clock specifically) our leg can't get out of the way fast enough of the rising pedal (and it's rising because our opposite leg is powerfully pushing it down) so everyone (yes, everyone - even the most efficient pedalers) is exerting a sort of "negative torque on the pedals with their recovering leg.

Back to the weights:  If you are training your quads/gluts to push downward with more force, invariably they will be doing so with more speed as well.  If you haven't improved your body's ability to get the recovering leg out of the way, that leg will only be exerting more "negative torque" and your net gain of power is roughly zero.  Can you train the legs to improve during their recovery phase -- basically training to improve hip flexion?  Possibly, but their is a significant limitation of this as well and it has to do with another aspect of sport or task specificity -- cadence.  Often we're pedaling at roughly 90 rpms.  Do we ever do weights at this frequency?  It's not really feasible. 

What's the answer?  If you're going to work on your strength do it on the bike where you have the specificity of the pedal stroke motor plan and where you can work on training the recovery leg to improve with the power phase.

For my athletes, I have them do specific intervals on the bike to work on strength AND cadence in a bilateral and a unilateral manner.

So if you don't get into the gym this spring after being diligent through the winter, don't sweat it too much.  Often there are other, more efficient ways to use your time.