By Michelle Colvin, International Spinning® Master Instructor-UK
So Flats are EZ?
Some riders think a flat road is either easy or boring. But if you’re not conditioned for it, cycling on endless flat roads can be monotonous and demoralizing. We need to learn how to keep our strength and spirits up when the road is long and level and how it can be applied to your Spinning® classes. A class with no hill climbing techniques can be a ‘hard’ and even intense class!
Train on the Edge
On long endurance training rides, aim for 50% of your effort being easy and 50% being at the upper end of your aerobic zone. Just hard enough that you need to concentrate to keep from drifting back into easy. This drill will help you stay fast on the flats.
When training on undulating terrain, keeping the pedals turning will train your legs to match the effort needed to cruise on flat roads.
When on a long, flat stretch, periodically click up and then down a gear. The variation in cadence will keep your legs feeling fresher.
Prevent your supporting muscles from getting sore by shifting your weight or by standing up and stretching.
Work the Head Wind
Resist the temptation to increase your resistance to gain power and speed because you may wear yourself out. Instead reduce your resistance, pedal fast and enjoy the ride.
Other Flat Road Techniques and Meanings:
- Criterium—A race on a closed short distance course with multiple laps.
- Team Time Trial—Riders start in groups or teams, usually of a fixed size. The time of the last rider of a team counts for the classification for each team member.
- Individual Time Trial–A race where riders set off at fixed intervals and complete the course against the clock; fastest time wins.
- False Flat—A low-gradient climb, usually occurring partway up a steeper climb. It’s called false because while it may look deceptively flat and easy (especially after the steep climb preceding it), it isn’t easy to ride. To replicate this in a Spinning® class, ride at cadences between 80-85 RPM.
- Pace Line—Group of riders performing at high a speed by drafting one another. Riders will take turns at the front to break away and then rotate to the back of the line to rest in the draft. Larger group rides will often form double pace lines with two columns of riders.
- Rouleur—A rider who is strong on flat and undulating roads. The rider is well suited for races such as Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders. Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara are examples of this type of rider.
You will never see a professional rider struggling along in a hard or low gear or standing up on the bike except on steep inclines or when it’s part of their race strategy. Most of the time, you will see them pedalling at a high rate or cadence. For them, this provides the most efficient transfer of energy to speed and distance as well as the best use of their overall physical energy. For you, this means the best physical exercise as far as heart rate and physical conditioning are concerned. By pedalling at a high cadence, you are giving your heart a good workout and you’re keeping the blood flowing throughout your system (most importantly your legs), which gives youa great cardiovascular workout.
Keep it flat, keep it simple and use music that has a constant rhythm and circular feel. This will help to keep your class participants motivated and engaged.