DISCLAIMER: I am not a coach, a doctor, a physiologist or a pro racer. These tips come from what I’ve read and what I’ve experienced. If you don’t get the results you desired from following my advice, well that’s what you get for listening to a blogger.
Winter is here and many velodromes around the country are locking up the gates until the season starts again. This means a lot of trackies have little to do but to leave the safe little confines of the enclosed oval and ride out into the world for some off-season training.
Around this time of year, everyone starts talking about base miles this and base miles that. For some, it’s the best part of training. For others base miles are what burn you out on your cycling before the season even starts. Base miles are important for pretty much all cyclists (or athletes for that matter) because as the name implies — they build an endurance base upon which you can build other areas of fitness.
When you talk to coaches or read the training guides, some think base miles should be done all alone or all on flat terrain or even all in the small chainring. Personally, just thinking about that kind of riding makes me bored. Total yawnfest. Let’s face it, the reason we’re doing all this riding is because we enjoy it — so let’s try to make it enjoyable. There’s plenty of time to torture ourselves later in the training year.
Want to make the base miles a little bit less mundane? This is probably the easiest riding advice you will ever read…
SOLO OR GROUP?
While I love riding alone, usually it’s just more fun to ride with a friend — or a few friends. Riding base miles with a group should be fine so long as you’re able to pace yourself. Don’t get caught up in the dick-measuring races that always happen during group rides. You don’t need to be in the front. On the other hand, you don’t necessarily need to ride as slow as the rest of the group does. Just ride your own pace and if that means that you’ll be riding solo, then save the socializing for the regroup spots.
FAST OR SLOW?
Speaking of socializing, most base miles should be ridden at a pace where you can hold a normal conversation with whoever is riding next to you. Riding at a pace that keeps you out of breath or your teeth clenched shut really doesn’t do much for your base endurance. But that doesn’t mean you gotta ride slow. Let’s get some blood flowing through the capillaries here. It feels great to be tired at the end of every ride, exhausted even. So for those base mile rides, try to focus on how long you’re riding rather than how fast you’re riding and gauge your efforts accordingly.
FLATS OR HILLS?
A lot of trackies act like they’re allergic to hills. If you’re one of those, I hope you have fun getting all your base miles in on the Yawnsville Flats. For me, hills can be like heroin — an addictively torturous love affair. I’ve heard people say that base miles should be flat but where’s the fun in that? Like I said, we should be enjoying our base miles. While it might be a different story in a location with lots of expansive backcountry roads, here in Los Angeles things don’t even start to look nice until you’ve hit at least 1000 feet above sea level. If you want to climb, I say climb. But for base mile riding, keep your butt on the saddle.
BIG RING OR LITTLE RING?
This is the old school philosophy: the base mile training period is 1,000 miles of riding in the little ring. I also read an old training book for track cyclists (I think circa 1950) which stated that all winter base riding should be at 15 mph. Pretty hilarious. While I admittedly love things that are old school, it’s just no fun to subscribe to that mentality or anything that sounds like it. This period of training doesn’t need to be so regimented by the numbers like speed or distance. However, it’s important to keep a comfortable cadence of at least 90 rpm during base miles. This is especially helpful for us trackies because we need to be building leg speed during this period.
TIME OR DISTANCE?
Plan for and keep track of the hours, not the miles. This makes it easier to prevent burning out. When we think of miles, we tend to think of how far we can make ourselves go. When you think about it in the context of time spent in the saddle, the perspective changes to how much time you actually want to spend riding today. In regards to base miles, the worst situation to find yourself in is that you just don’t want to be in the saddle when the race season starts up again.
For more expert (and probably somewhat contradictory) advice on base training, check out Joe Friel’s blog.
All photos taken by John Maniquis last Sunday at GMR.