It’s the last full week of February, and with the arrival of March next week, some of us will be outside for the first time after spending the winter indoors on the trainer. For those of you who had a mild winter and got out for some riding, that puts you ahead of the curve in getting fit for spring.
Of course, the biggest difference between the trainer and riding outside is the presence of hills. We all want to go up them faster and easier. The element that helps that to happen: power to weight ratio on the bike. The less weight you’re carrying, the faster you will be. Here are some tips based on an article over at road.cc to start burning up those hills.
Start By Checking Your Current Weight
Maybe you put on a few pounds over the winter because you didn’t spend as much time on the trainer as you would like. It’s okay, it happens. No need to beat yourself up over it. Most of us have jobs, family, and other responsibilities that don’t allow for lots of time on the bike.
That said, if you have an ideal weight you’d like to be at so you can ride optimally this spring and into the long months of the season, get naked and hop on a scale. Make note of your current weight and where you’d like to be three or six months from now. Working toward a goal is always a good thing.
What is Power to Weight Ratio?
If you are a road cyclist, you’re going to encounter a lot of shifts in terrain while out riding. You’ll ride flats, false flats, short climbs, and long climbs. These shifts definitely impact your speed and test your fitness. Adjust for these terrain changes by working out your power to weight ratio.
What is power to weight ratio, you might ask? According to road.cc, “power-to-weight ratio [is] the relationship between your power output (measured in watts) and your body weight (in kilograms or pounds).” The website points out that pro riders can hit 6 watts and above, which is considered outstanding. We, mere mortals, are lucky to do 2 or 3 watts.
Sometimes It’s About the Bike
If you’ve been in the road cycling game awhile, I’m sure you’ve heard of those hardcore cyclists who are called “weight weenies.” They weigh every component on their bike and choose carbon or titanium parts versus other less expensive options to gain an advantage on other riders.
While there is such a thing as “mechanical friction,” according to road.cc, if you are a recreational roadie like myself, carbon and titanium everything won’t matter much. Of course, less rolling resistance in your tires and smooth bearings in your pedals, cranks, and wheels will help you gain speed on climbs. Additionally, make sure your chain is either clean or new for optimal shifting.
Figure Out Your Functional Threshold Power (FTP)
Outside of your bike setup, do you know how much power you can sustain for an hour of hard pedaling? If not, you can figure this out by using indoor cycling apps like Zwift. FTP, according to BikeRadar, is “the highest average power you can sustain for approximately an hour, measured in watts.”
Hop on your bike trainer, then spin hard for an hour. There is supposedly a shorter test that lasts only 20 minutes. However, (and ideally) if you have a power meter, you can do the test outside while using your bike computer. Once you know your FTP, you’ll have a better picture of how you will do on climbs of varying grades.
Alter Your Nutrition: Choose Less Fat, Carbs, or Fasted Training Plan
Unfortunately, the best way to improve your climbing speed and power doesn’t have much to do with your bike. It also has little to do with your FTP. What is going to make you faster going uphill is your physical weight. So, how do we alter that? Start by monitoring your nutrition.
Losing weight is a challenging task for most people, but regular cycling will definitely take off the pounds. But if you feel you want to drop more weight than what you’re losing through regular exercise, here are a few tips.
- Cut items from your current diet you can really do without, such as snacks or alcohol.
- Shorten your eating window. Stop eating by 8 pm and don’t eat again until the next morning at around 9 am.
- Cut down on your intake of carbs but don’t eliminate them entirely. Your body pulls its power from those reserves, so your training will definitely be impacted.
Fasted Training Not For Everyone
There is also something called Fasted Training. According again to BikeRadar, “[f]asted training involves riding on an empty stomach, primarily to encourage your body to burn more fat for fuel, rather than carbohydrate, in order to improve your endurance. This usually means riding in the morning without having eaten anything since dinner the night before.”
Fasted training is not for everyone, so it’s not a practice you should do more than a couple times a week. For one thing, it’s not something you can sustain for long because your power will be depleted quickly. And overall, the gains will be small. It will take time to adapt to this kind of training as well as get improvements from it.
Power to weight ratio is a good goal to work toward. Start with your nutrition and monitor the calories you’re taking in, then you can train accordingly. A good approach to power gains, your weight, and an optimally running bike will put you in the position to be a better, faster, and more efficient climber. It’s just one of those nice goals to achieve for spring (and overall).
Have a good weekend everyone, and if the weather is good where you are, I hope you can get in a good ride.