Wattbike Big Legs training update

It’s been a while since I’ve written a Wattbike training update. A lot of the reason for that is I’ve been too busy riding the Wattbike and getting out and doing some tough rides on the road. I had intended to write an update before Liege-Bastogne-Liege but with training, working and family life something had to give and I’m sorry to say it was this training update.

As you may know, I borrowed the Wattbike to help me train for Liege-Bastogne-Liege (LBL). The catch was that the Wattbike sportive programme is 16 weeks long and LBL was 8 weeks into the programme.

I’m just finishing week 10 of the plan now and am going to cover some of the highlights of the last 4-5 weeks in this update.

One of the many things that I’ve warmed to about the Wattbike is that it can help you get the specific training you need done in a relatively short amount of time each week, certainly less than riding on the road. Looking back at the last few months I’ve been doing 4-6hours a week including riding both inside and outside. Last year my target was 6-9hours a week.

I’ve been really busy recently and a great thing about the Wattbike is I can do my training on it and still be in the house with my family. Weekends away riding and working has been meaning I’ve been around less for my kids. When I am home at the moment I know I don’t have to get out on the bike to get some miles done- I can just ride indoors and still participate in family life (well more than disappearing down country lanes for hours).

My Wattbike training plan has still had a remarkable amount of zone 2 in the sessions and it’s been great watching my body slowly get the hang of putting out the power I’m supposed to be producing at a lower heart rate. If I’m tired or stressed it doesn’t help my heart rate, but the power is the power. Interestingly I’ve also noticed that the zone 2 session immediately after a hard ride or hard workout gives me a noticeably lower heart rate for my zone 2 power, which is great.
Looking back to the end of week three of the plan, I did a 100km ride with David Alvarez of Stoemper Bikes and really battled over the last 40km. It’s a loop I’ve done a few times and had ridden much better than this before. That ride made me worry about whether I could be fit in time for LBL but I put that to one side, trusted my Wattbike plan and kept knocking out the training hours. I had 5 weeks of training to go after all.

Towards the end of March, I rode another favourite loop with my friend Damien and although it was a great day out and a decent average speed of 28.4kmh, I felt I’d worked really hard – more than I would have thought for the speed.

So once again, I was worrying about LBL and the fact that I’d only be half way through the programme for the toughest ride I’d ever done.
Meanwhile I was slowly ticking off the weeks of training for the Wattbike plan. The plan I’m doing is one of Wattbike’s free training plans – the Sportive, level 4. I’m putting all of my sessions on Strava if you’re interested (but I don’t blame you if you’re not).

The next key ride to check my progress was at the Wiggle New Forest Sportive in early April:

I rode this with a friend (James) on a beautiful spring day. In fairness, it wasn’t the most gruelling of courses and James did more of his fair share on the front (I did ride on the front as you can see in the photo at the top, which is from the New Forest ride). This ride was great – I felt good all through the ride. James set a sensible early pace of just over 30kmh per hour, so we didn’t burn too many matches to begin with. We ended up averaging over 30kmh for the entire ride – something I’d only ever done once before on a ride in a group of about 8 guys. This was very encouraging and I certainly felt on this ride that the Wattbike training was showing a bit more – particularly in my ability to hold an effort for much longer than previously as some of the “intervals” I’m doing mean you ride and hold a specific intensity/pace (power level) for 3-4 minutes. This was a very good day indeed!

The next challenge after that was LBL itself and you’ve probably read my thoughts on it by now: http://girodilento.com/riding-liege-bastogne-liege-challenge-sportive/ To cut a long story short, once again I felt that the Wattbike had helped give me more endurance and more ability to ride at a higher tempo for less effort on both climbs and the flat. I’ve always been poor at riding on the flat but I seem to be doing it a bit better at the moment. As it turned out I did have the endurance I needed, which was fantastic but we weren’t out to set any speed records, which helps a lot too. I believe my Wattbike training was a key part of getting this ride done (not least of all as it’s been the core of my riding for the couple of months preceding).

I had an easy week after LBL as I felt too tired and too uninterested to ride. After that it was back into the Wattbike plan again and another great road ride at the Wiggle Jurassic Beast.

I rode with Paddy from Upgrade Bikes and he was keen to get round the short course as fast as possible. Paddy literally attacked right off the start line and my body didn’t like it at all. I found the first hour very hard going but did my best to keep up and take the occasional turn on the front. It was a mostly sunny morning for us – but with 25-30mph breezes, it was very windy! For the first third of the ride we averaged comfortably over 30kmh but that was before the climbs and before a big dose of the headwinds. I climbed well enough and after about 40 minutes into the ride I was doing better, my legs were hurting less and I was able to keep pace with Paddy a touch easier. It was still hard though but all the better for it.

Last year we did the same ride with David from Stoemper, so there were three of us in a chaingang and it wasn’t nearly as windy. Last year we were also 30 seconds faster around the 58km course and I think Paddy and I rode very well in 2014 to get that close. A hard ride but a great ride and one that reminded me that keeping up the Wattbike training is extremely important.

I’ve only one more ride to do in week 10 and that’ll be an outside ride on local roads this weekend with my mate Warren, who’s the fastest rider I ride with. Riding with Warren will be good fun and will give me a useful feeling for how I’m really doing. Doing a bunch of rides away from home is fantastic but I feel that I need a good local ride or two now to check my progress against. That opportunity is now upon me and I’ll report back.

I think the Wattbike is a brilliant piece of kit, it’s really transformed my view on training. Training with power (as well as heart rate) means I just concentrate on getting the work done in my programme for each session. I know if I do that, I’ll make progress.
If I get too tired after a tough week, I have taken an easy week where I do half the training volume to get some rest. Getting my main training sessions done indoors during the week also means I can simply get out and enjoy my ride on a weekend without giving training a second thought. That’s great too.
As I said earlier, I also like the fact that I can do my training at home whilst my kids/wife are around.

Training with a power meter is a great thing and I’m enjoying the Wattbike so much as it cancels out variables like, terrain, windspeed, temperature, traffic etc that I can’t imagine owning a power meter to ride on the road. It suddenly seems like solving the wrong problem. Considering I spent about the cost of the Wattbike (perhaps more) on my last winter training bike (the Kinesis GF_Ti v2) and that a really good power meter is well over £1k – I don’t even think the £2k asking price on a Wattbike is that bad (aside from the fact I don’t have £2k right now).

I’m very fortunate in that I have a couple of terrific summer bikes. When it rains at the moment, I don’t even think about using one of them – I just do another session on the Wattbike. I can really see that for me – the Wattbike might be my perfect winter training bike.
Perhaps, I’m still in the honeymoon period? I’ll keep training and let’s find out in my next update.

Thanks for reading.

If you’d like to findout more about the Wattbike, please visit their site here: https://wattbike.com/uk/

P.S. I’m sure my legs have grown (thickness) since I’ve been training by Wattbike, so that’s where the title comes from

UPDATED: 18/05/14

I had a great ride with my friend Warren on Saturday morning and as I’d hoped it was perfect reflection point with my progress.  Warren’s riding better than I have ever seen him manage before and he’s reaping the rewards from training on his turbo at least a couple of times a week if not more for the last 4 years or so. We did one of the more challenging loops we ride. Weather conditions were pretty much perfect: warm, dry and only a little breeze.  I didn’t sleep well the night before, which isn’t ideal but can and does happen to us all sometimes.

For me it was a 114km ride including 1622m of climbing. According to Strava, I had 21 Personal Best segment times on the ride and I averaged 28.2kmh. The previous fastest average I’ve had from three goes at that loop was 26.2kmh. I rode particularly well on the flatter parts of the ride but struggled as the climbs got steeper. I felt like I’d lost my climbing legs but looking at the data, even where I’d not set a personal best, I was generally riding at a pace that was towards my best times on almost every segment. It was a bit deceiving at the time as Warren is riding so well, he was leaving me behind easily on all of the climbs, so I thought I was doing worse than I actually was. I still don’t feel like I’m riding at my best – or close to it but there’s no doubt to me anyway, some solid progress is being made. Given that since February the Wattbike has been how I’ve trained, I have to conclude it’s delivering results. I don’t think it’s a leap to think that if I keep following instructions more progress will follow? I’ll keep training and report back.