Thursday, 5 July 2012

Total Cycling Performance: Test session update

Well I think I have just about recovered from my day spent with Simon at Total Cycling Performance over in South Wales last Friday (29/06/12) The first thing that struck me when I arrived in the area that Simon is based in was the stunning countryside that Simon has on his doorstep, there are some seriously hilly cycling routes available which I will be exploring with Simon in the near future.


Upon arrival at Simon's I was pleased to find that the first item on the days agenda was a cup of coffee and a chat whilst Simon completed some medical questionnaires and checked that I didn't have any pre existing medical conditions which might make the days activities dangerous for me to undertake.

Once the paperwork was completed we moved onto the actual testing which took place in Simon's self contained fitness testing and training building. Simon eased me into the day with the tests that related to ascertaining what my body composition is, including body fat analysis, muscle analysis, hydration analysis and BMR (which works out how much energy, or how many calories, my body uses in a 24 hour period whilst simply resting) The highlight of these tests was the news that I have less body fat than I thought I had and my hydration levels are good. 

We then moved onto the piece of work which prompted my contacting Simon in the first place, the "bike fit" session. I won't bore you with details but it is safe to say that the set up on my bike was a country mile away from where it should be for optimum performance and comfort. Simon checked the bike using lasers and made all of the required adjustments to both the bike and the pedal cleats on my shoes. The bike was so far away from where it should have been that we suspect that now that it has been corrected, a niggling pain in my left knee may now go away. 

The new settings from my bike were then transferred onto the "Watt bike" so that the first batch of the cycling performance tests could be conducted. Simon would normally do an initial test using the original settings from the clients bike to establish a base line to work from, however my set up was so bad we decided it would be a waste of time and elected to use the new settings for the first run on the Watt bike. A number of tests were conducted in this session (details of the tests can be found in my last blog post or on Simon's web site ) however the test that grabbed most of my attention was the pedalling efficiency test. As the name suggests this is a test that analyses the efficiency of the cyclists actual pedalling technique. The picture below is a copy of the results of my first run on the Watt bike which resulted in an uncorrected or coached pedalling efficiency of 51.9%

My first run on the Watt bike was followed by a second run where Simon provided some tuition to correct some faults in my pedalling technique and to say I was pleased with the results I achieved on the second run would be an understatement! The following picture shows the results of the second run which were an average efficiency of 86.7% and a peak efficiency of 91.6%

More information on pedalling efficiency and how its possible to change a peanut into a sausage can be found on Simons web site at 

All of the information that I have learnt as a result of spending the day with Simon is really useful and the next steps are to put this information into use by changing the way I train. An example of this would be the application of my "maximum aerobic efficiency hear rate" which I now know is between 139-145 beats per minute. By focusing my riding so that the majority of work is completed within this heart beat range, I will be looking to increase my anaerobic threshold and increase aerobic efficiency. This together with a rounded training programme that is designed to improve both pedalling strength and endurance should provide an end result that is an all round increase in cycling speed.

We did a number of tests on the day to assess my core strength and overall strength for cycling. It's fair to say that the results were a bit of a mixed bag and as I suspected prior to commencing the testing, my core strength is an area that I really need to focus on. I don't know how many articles in books and magazines I have read over the last few months advocating that core strength is key to cycling performance, what I do know is that whilst I have accepted the validity of this advice, I haven't actually done anything about it. Cyclists, it's true, if you want to go further and faster, spend some time developing your core strength!


The results of the body composition and nutrition analysis make for an interesting read and in a lot of respects have confirmed my suspicions that the time is now right to move my nutritional focus away from simply losing weight. 

The headline figures from the body composition analysis are as follows;

  • Total weight 78.8kg
  • Lean weight 64kg
  • Body fat % 18.8%
  • Hydration 61%
  • Basil Metabolic Rate (BMR 1685kcal) 
When I reflect on where I was at the beginning of the year in terms of weight and probable % body fat (I don't know what the figure was but at 17 stone and being 5 foot 8 inches tall it was going to be a high %) the above figures are quite pleasing and probably validate that what I see in the mirror every morning is not a mirage - Yes I think I might finally accept that I may be a bit skinnier than I was in January!

It's not all good news though, the analysis of my current nutritional intake has revealed that I'm not really eating enough food (specifically carbohydrates) for somebody who is training as a potential endurance athlete. Failing to eat sufficient carbs is almost certainly holding back my progress in consistently being able to stretch out the distance I cover on the bike by simply not allowing the body to create sufficient energy stores to fuel my exercise programme. 

The aim for the next 16 weeks is to shed a further 5-6kg of fat to bring the body fat % figure down to something close to 10% and to modify my nutritional intake to facilitate both the desired further drop in body fat and also to provide sufficient carbohydrate in the diet to fuel the training programme that Simon is writing for me. Taking the results of all of the days testing into account my overall nutritional targets for the next 16 weeks will look something like this;

  •  Total calorie target 1800kcal per day, of which;
  • 300g of carbohydrate (1200kcal)
  • 60g of protein (240kcal)
  • 40g of fat (360kcal)     

Just to put that further 5-6kg of fat that I want to lose  into context, 5.5kg of fat is equal to 22 of these;


As I'm sitting here writing this and looking at the report that Simon produced detailing the results achieved and related recommendations for each of the tests conducted on the day it has made me aware of exactly how much work was completed on the day. To document everything we did on the day would probably turn this blog post into cycling's version of War and Peace so I think I will let Simon's web site provide the details of the actual tests that were completed.

I had a really enjoyable (if it's possible to enjoy pushing your body to it's limits! :) ) and informative day at Total Cycling Performance and if you are a cyclist or athlete that is curious about understanding more about how to develop your performance, I would recommend talking to Simon about how he works and how he might be able to help you train "Smarter not Longer"  

If you are reading this and are interested in asking me something specific about the tests I undertook with Simon and how I got on with them on the day, please feel free to contact me either via this web site or via Twitter @velopixie  

Once again thanks for taking the time to visit and read the blog, hope you can come back again soon.


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