Monday, December 11, 2017


By PCG Elite Coach David Ertl

I have to admit that when I first received my LEOMO TYPE-R, I wasn’t sure what it would tell me about my pedaling motion and if there was a problem, I was skeptical that I would be able to do anything to improve it.  After all, I’ve been coaching for 16 years and racing for 45 years and my pedaling motion is pretty well ingrained.  I incorrectly assumed that my pedal stroke had probably evolved to a point where I was fairly efficient.  After one ride with TYPE-R, it was quite obvious that my pedaling motion was “messed up”.  My left leg looked great but my right leg was somewhat of a “train wreck”.  My Pedal Stroke Intelligence (PSI) graph shows a lot of movement of my feet, especially my right foot. Here’s an example of my PSI graph shortly after I began using the TYPE-R.

There are dead spots at both the top and bottom of the pedal stroke on my right foot and at the top of my left foot.

Below are my Power Cadence Dead Spot Score (PCD) maps for this same ride, again showing how poorly my right foot is working.

As I watched my feet as I pedaled, I noticed more motion in my right foot. It was subtle, which explains why I never noticed this before, but it was certainly there. I seemed to be “ankling” (bringing my heel down over the top of the pedal stroke and again at the bottom).  I conducted the toe down pedaling exercises recommended by Hunter Allen and it improved immediately, seeming to eliminate the Dead Spot Scores almost completely. After several rides showing similar results, I began focusing on pedaling with a more toe-down position and found this cramped by pedaling style, so I moved my saddle up a bit to allow my leg to move a little more. This seemed to result in improved comfort.  As I continued to ride, I found it easier to concentrate on keeping my heel up on the backstroke and over the top of the pedal stroke, than to think about pedaling toe-down. But when I did this, I still felt tightness in my right hip. This probably explains the “ankling” and foot movement. If my right hip is stiff, it would be difficult for the thigh to come up as far and then my ankle would have to flex more as the foot came up over the top of the pedal stroke. When I focused on keeping my toe down, or heel up, that helped force the knee up and flex the hip more.  My erratic foot motion actually seemed to be the result of a stiff hip. This illustrates that the solution is not in trying to improve my foot motion, but improve the mobility/range of motion in my right hip. Recently, I’ve been stretching my hip before rides in an effort to loosen it up.

For several weeks I rode without the TYPE-R and just thought about keeping my heel up on my right foot. At the beginning, I really had to concentrate on my foot position but as time went on I noticed I had to focus less on it and it was in fact becoming more automatic.  Forty-five years is a long time to develop a habit that had to be overcome. 

I then rode again with the TYPE-R to see how I was doing.  To my surprise, my DSS numbers had improved significantly.  Here is a Pedal Stroke Intelligence (PSI) graph of my first ride with TYPE-R after focusing on my pedaling style.

It’s pretty clear to see the improvement in my Dead Spot Score (DSS), most noticeably on my right foot, but even on my left which has never been all that bad.  Here is my (Power Cadence Dead Spot Score (PCD) map for this same ride.

My right foot was almost as good as my left foot.  Keep in mind that this was a fairly moderately paced ride.  I still notice that when I really work hard at high power and force, my Dead Spot Score (DSS) numbers rise and I tend to resort back to my old ways.  I’m pretty sure that over time this new pedaling style will become more second nature, even under these high power efforts.  Time will tell, but I’m encouraged that focusing on my pedaling motion over time can become my new “normal”.

The TYPE-R appears very effective at identifying pedaling motion inconsistencies.  However, I’ve learned that it may not diagnose the cause of the problem.  That may take some investigation and may not be initially obvious, but if an irregularity is found there must be something causing it.

The one question still remaining is whether improving my Dead Spot Score (DSS) will actually improve my power output. That may be difficult to test but it makes sense that if my dead spot scores improve, my pedaling efficiency will also improve which should result in more energy conservation.


Written by Peaks Coaching Group Elite Coach David Ertl. David lives in Waukee, IA he is a LEOMO motion analysis certified coach. Learn more about David. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Straight To The Core

How a few minutes of weekly strength work now will pay off next season

With the race season at an end, it’s time to evaluate your season and assess your strengths and weaknesses. For many cyclists, core strength and muscular balance are weaknesses. Doing some simple exercises during the winter can go a long way to shore up any inadequacies and equalize those imbalances.

Cycling is a linear activity. During the winter, take the opportunity to wake up your stabilizer muscles, which will help your performance on the bike. Beneficial exercises include a walking lunge with weight held overhead, plyometrics and lateral lunges. These moves also reflect the alternating motion of pedaling and focus on the quadriceps, gluteals and even calf muscles.

Abdominals can be worked on by practicing core activation and strengthening the transversus in addition to rectus abdominus and the internal and external oblique’s. One of the best ways to strengthen the core (and the “core” means more than just the abs) is to focus on exercises that recruit not only the “dumb” muscles like the rectus abdominus but the transversus as well. Moves like a fit ball “roll up” or hanging leg raises will engage these target muscle groups.

Hyper-mobility of the extensors and gluteals is another phenomenon seen in cyclists. Flexibility and hyper-mobility are two different things but are often mistaken for each other. The extensors and gluteals are in a lengthened position for an extended period  of time in the cyclist with the hands and arms holding the body upright and over time these muscles can lose strength. 

Since the gluteals are the primary hip-extensors, you must occasionally re-educate them on “how they make a living”. Being in the flexed position often times for a fair number  of hours on a recurring basis, the cyclist’s abdominals do very little work, and it’s not unusual for a cyclist to have accompanying back issues as a result. Moves to correct low back issues can be things like hyper extensions or “super-mans.”

Body weight moves such as pull-ups and dips will, in a general fashion, tune up upper body musculature without focusing on any single group. While upper body mass can be a liability for the cyclist, that extra musculature will help with posture or body proportion and it will also create extra “space”  to hide away more glycogen.

These issues can be  easily addressed  at home or in the gym. A well thought out and periodized weight program that addresses the musculature of the legs and core will result in an athlete who is less prone to injury, has more usable power and a stronger and more stable  core.

Ainslie MacEachran is a Peaks Coaching Group Associate Coach and Sports Nutritionist, to learn more Click Here.

Make the Most of Your Off Season

After a season of hard training and racing its good to build in some down time, let your batteries recharge a little and take a mental break from training. Doing so may allow you to come back stronger in the new year.

Have you had your down time this year?

Take a break from competing and hard training and you may be surprised at the results.  I can almost guarantee that your mind body will thank you later.  You may be able to use this to your advantage as a platform to help launch your fitness beyond what you have seen in the past. It’s both mentally and physically challenging for competitive athletes to take time off the bike. Usually, their first thought is that they will lose a fair portion of the fitness they gained during the racing season. You could race CX in the “off-season”, but that’s a topic we won’t cover here! Of course you will lose some fitness during the off season, but that will occur for the most part only in the upper training zones.  With just a few Endurance/Tempo rides per week, you can maintain your base fitness.

This is a great time to check off a few items on the To Do List, get your mind and body to focus on other tasks. This rest period can last a couple of weeks to maybe up to four weeks for those with higher mileage and more racing in their legs. Also, this is a great time of year to assess your strengths and weaknesses. 
For one athlete, it’s been a long rewarding season with over 35 races, winning a Spring Stage Race, 10 podiums and finishing the season by winning a Criterium Series. It was time for a much needed 2-3 week break composed mostly of unstructured short recovery rides with a couple 90 minute Endurance/Tempo workouts per week.  During his off season, his CTL dropped to 50 (from a high of 70) and FTP to 315 (from a high of 360 in May).  The athlete was a little concerned that he had lost too much fitness. However, the reduced training load each week allowed the athlete to recharge his batteries.  His break from hard training was just long enough that he again looked forward to structured workouts. It’s important to note, during the off season that you reduce your caloric intake in order to limit weight gain. You just aren’t burning near the calories you were when you were training hard and racing. 

Don’t minimize the importance of the re-build process during the off season. It’s important to adjust your FTP during this time, so that you’re not over-training during your re-build. Traditional LSD (Long Steady Distance “rides”) or Endurance/Tempo workouts work well for some athletes. Most, especially Master athletes will benefit from a shorter 8 minute FTP and 2-3 minute Vo2 max intervals every 7 - 10 days and longer group rides on the weekends. Yes, those first few workouts aren’t going to feel as good as they did in August, but after a couple weeks you’ll be back in the groove again. You might suffer for a few weeks on the group rides, but that’s okay too. After an adaptation period, you should see improvement on the climbs and your FTP should be back on the rise. 

By following these basic guidelines and taking time off this bike and beginning the re-build process, this particular athlete’s FTP is now 20 watts higher than the same time in the previous year (340 vs. 320). He now has a spring board that may help him get to the next fitness level.

Will this athlete will be a “January Star”?  Probably not, since he has headroom for at least 20 additional watts according to his FTP of 360 in May, but then, many athletes purposely don’t train as hard during the build phase since they have no desire to be a “January Star”. If you fall in this camp, this might work to your advantage as it has for this athlete.

Earl Zimmerman is an Elite/Master Coach with Peaks Coaching Group to find out more about Earl and his coaching philosophy Click Here