The Grind: Low cadence and big gears to improve your Ironman bike
The Grind: Low cadence and big gears to improve your Ironman bike

The Grind: Low cadence and big gears to improve your Ironman bike

The Grind: Low cadence and big gears to improve your Ironman bike

We catch up with Rob Hill on The Kona Edge today, as he reveals some of the workout that he feels gives him the edge on the Ironman Bike.

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BRAD BROWN:  Let’s chat some biking and we head back to Melbourne now to touch base with Rob Hill. Rob welcome onto The Kona Edge once again.

Melbourne, a great place to ride your bike. there’s a couple of really great rides around there, aren’t there?

New terrain on every Ironman bike training ride

ROB HILL:  Yes thanks Brad and thanks for having me back. Melbourne is a fantastic biking city, it really is. It’s a big city, it’s over 3 million people and the traffic every year seems to be getting worse. But all the same it’s just a great hub for cyclists, for triathletes and we’re very lucky to have the roads that we have and the training grounds.

Whether you want hills or you want flat or whatever you want. You can ride in any direction pretty much from Melbourne and you’ve got new terrain to ride through.

BRAD BROWN:  Absolutely. For you personally, your favourite things to do on the bike, what do you just love doing?

Long, hard Ironman bike rides set the pace

ROB HILL:  I love going out with a friend on my TT bike and sitting on the front and then just winding the pace up on the trip back and just seeing how people are coping with that. I like dictating the pace on the front. A nice long ride and back into a head wind. That’s my idea of heaven Brad.

BRAD BROWN:  You sound like a bit of a masochist Rob.

ROB HILL:  Bit of a masochist and bit of a sadist as well, I understand. But also, I love a ride up on the hills. We’ve got hills to the north of Melbourne and to the east of Melbourne and a few to the west of Melbourne. Just to get out to the long climbs, sort of 8 to 10km climbs and the fast descends.

Be the fittest and strongest with your Ironman bike technical skills

I find the more years that I spend in the sport, it’s quite a simple sport. It’s all about the fittest and the strongest will do the best on race day. But the technical side of it, whether it’s swimming technique or biking, there’s so much that is technical that is critical which a lot of triathletes and cyclists might not be aware of. Just working on that pedal stroke and things like your descending skills, I love that side of things.

BRAD BROWN:  Talk to me a little bit about that. The techniquey side of it when it comes to cycling. Because a lot of people, as you say, think they just have to get out there and bomb the miles but there is a nuance to it. Tell me about some of your experiences and some of the things you’ve done from a technique perspective to get better over time.

Put hours into your Ironman bike training to improve performance

ROB HILL:  Sure Brad. First of all, cycling has been called a blue collar sport in that you do the work, you put in the hours and you will get better and that is true. Out of all the 3 sports in triathlon, if you’re just going to throw volume at it, I think cycling will give you the best return. But in saying that there are some things that will add to that volume and improve your bike splits even more.

And I think that learning how to ride with good power at different cadences is a key thing. A lot of people are just grinders and they get uncomfortable if they go up into the AE cadence when they’re pedalling. And other people might be over spinning and they’re not able to put enough power through because they’re trying to clip too high cadence for their ability to pedal at that cadence with good technique and good power.

Low cadence and big gears on your Ironman bike

So I think mix it up and do some sessions with some real strength sort of cadence work. Like around the 60 cadence and pushing a big gear. Especially when you’re on your triathlon bike and you’re down on the aero bars, you throw in some 15 minute intervals of the big gear work. It’s strengthening all those muscles that on race day in that position, you want those muscles to be strong and you want to have good power at race intensity. So stuff like that is very important.

Then throw in the high cadence stuff too. I’m hearing recently about the importance of the amateur rider at fairly high cadence because it can be glycogen sparing. Ironman of all the race distances, being able to spare a bit of glycogen while you’re racing is critical. Because you want to go fast but if you’re just chewing through your glycogen reserves you can only stomach so many bars and gels and sports drink during a race, and then that becomes a limiting factor.

Find the balance to preserve glycogen on your Ironman bike rides

The high cadence is important so you can then use an appropriate cadence during the race which isn’t going to be too much of a drain on your glycogen reserves. But at the same time it’s not just going to tire your cycling muscles out in your legs because you’re just pushing too big a gear. So it’s finding that balance.

BRAD BROWN:  You mentioned in our first chat about power and you obviously use a power meter but you said people need to not jump straight into it. Dig a little bit more into that for me if you wouldn’t mind, and your thinking about maybe not getting a power meter straight out.

Is it a case of you need some time on your legs and miles in your legs before you really start knuckling down on the nitty gritty sort of stuff like power?

ROB HILL:  Look if power meters, they keep coming down in price, and if they come down to a few hundred dollars, I’d say to anyone get one straight up because I think it’s all up to understanding how to use a power meter with a training lap. But given the expense and also that people do have that danger of getting carried away with the gadgets. The analysis of the data and stuff like that.

Is your Ironman bike all about analysing and assessing your data?

That’s not really what the sport is about and I think all those tools can assist you but at the end of the day there is a beauty and simplicity of the sport and of competition which we don’t want to lose sight of. My concern is that they’re focusing on all the data and assessing and analysing every session we do and putting it in training peaks or whatever you use.

We just have to be careful we don’t lose sight of why we do the sport. There is that beauty of the sport that’s in it’s simplicity of going head to head against other competitors. I don’t want to get too spiritual about it but I think the problem with the sport is we can lose sight of what’s important.

BRAD BROWN:  Yes absolutely. I think that’s a very important point. I think we can leave it at that and we will chat about your run next time out. Rob as always, great to catch up. Thanks for your time today.

ROB HILL:  Thank you Brad. It’s been a pleasure.


About Us

Brad Brown is a 40 something age grouper that dreams of one day qualifying for and racing on the big island (He may have to outlive everyone in his age group though).

Morbidly obese in 2009, Brad clocked in at 165kgs (363lbs) at his heaviest.

He's subsequently lost a third of his body weight on the way to a half Ironman pb of 5:06 and a full Ironman pb of 12:21.


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