On this episode of The Kona Edge, we catch up with Michael Girard to find out what he has done to improve his Ironman bike performance. You may be surprised to find out what Michael believes has helped him get faster on the bike.
BRAD BROWN: Welcome onto another edition of The Kona Edge, I’m Brad Brown and we’ve got Michael Girard with us once again all the way in Michigan. Michael, welcome back, last time we spoke a little bit about what you’ve done in the pool and in the water to improve your performance. Let’s talk about the bike now.
You’ve raced bikes competitively, is there one thing you’ve done that’s really made a difference to the way you ride and improved your performance on two wheels?
MICHAEL GIRARD: I’ve got to say it’s probably that background. As someone starting out it’s being comfortable on the bike and it just comes from a lot of mileage. So the background comes from mountain biking. If you can spend some time off road, it’s just a huge advantage and the workout you get, the intervals you get from mountain biking, it’s great.
Master the technical bike skills
You’re doing big gear work, sometimes you have to keep in a gear, you’re spinning really high, you’re constantly real short, very very hard intervals, all the while you’re keeping really engaged and focused on the trails. I just love the chance to ride some real technical trails and lately I kind of joke, if you don’t crash, you’re not trying hard enough.
Each of the last three times there’s some very technical trails I’m near and even if it’s not that technical, if there’s sweeping corners, if you’re not going down every once in a while, you’re not finding where your limits are and you’re not going to learn the same amount from just, as I say ‘pussy footing’ through the trails all afternoon.
Go out there and hammer the trails, hang out the turns, get a little air on some jumps and really learn how to ride a bike aggressively, that’s really great stuff.
I could say, oh, there’s this great two by twenty workout or some interval workout, those are all great things and you’ve got to do those as well, but to really become a strong cyclist, you’ve got to become a cyclist and a lot of that is getting out there and riding in packs on the road, even doing some road races and getting off road and in the fall, after Kona or after your last race, do some cycle cross. Get out there and really test your hand point skills on two skinny tyres on the gravel.
BRAD BROWN: You’ve also come from a bit of a motorcycling background and the bike handling skills you mentioned in our first chat was some of the technical corners and there are lots of those courses around the world that if you’ve got those technical skills on the bike, it makes a big difference.
MICHAEL GIRARD: Absolutely. There’s guys, I’m not going to say I’m definitely the best, by any means, there’s guys that have even done motocross and are really skilled at cornering. I do well enough that there’s never a fear. You’re descending at high speed, I’ll be in the air at 45-50 miles an hour, it’s not a concern because I’m comfortable at those speeds. I’ve been at mighty higher speeds and I know how the bike is going to respond, I know what the bike is capable of, even just simple things.
One of the biggest tricks to cornering, is what you’re doing with your eyes. It’s looking through the turns, it’s knowing what’s a smart line, reading the road, finding a line through potholes, through gravel, it’s just those kinds of things and knowing when not to go fast. If it’s a blind sweeper and you’re not sure about whether there’s gravel on the road or if there’s going to be a car around the corner or what have you, then you take it a little conservatively, you adjust your lines.
Stay relaxed and trust your bike skills
It’s just learning those little subtle things that not only allow you to go faster but at the same time, people think that’s reckless, but you know, it’s not because I’m still holding back, I’m still riding within myself and what’s comfortable. I still have that margin for error, so it’s elevating your riding ability and even as simple as, get on your mountain bike and find a good piece of road, get up to speed and hammer the brakes and learn how to brake hard.
There should never be a fear of braking hard. If you shift your weight back far enough, you can lock up the front wheel on the bicycle. You never ever, ever should be going over the bars and I always say this to the motorcycling community, laying the bike down was never the best opportunity. That was never the best strategy, that’s a bail out maneuver.
You try to stay in control of your bike until the last moment and you will be amazed sometimes at the situations you can pull yourself out of. I’ve been in some very hairy situations, I’ve gotten over my head but you just stay relaxed and you trust your skills and you just maneuver your way out of it.
BRAD BROWN: A lot of those skills just come from spending lots of time on the bike I guess. Michael, thank you so much for your time once again here on The Kona Edge, much appreciated, we look forward to catching up again soon.
MICHAEL GIRARD: All right, thank you Brad.