a stunning amount of money is spent, perhaps unwisely on occasion, on replacing perfectly good componentry on bicycles with stuff that would make your bank manager wince, purely in the interests of going a bit faster. for the mindful equation equates light weight with less to push in a forward direction, therefore justifying the alarming number that has just arrived at the bottom of the credit card bill. the logic is understandable but somewhat flawed, for light weight really only makes a real difference when gravity is to blame; in other words, riding uphill. most of us are well enough educated to comprehend the fact that heavier bicycles and/or riders have a tendency to descend at a faster rate than the light bulbs.
bring the intrusive subject of momentum to bear, and those fewer grams might conceivably bring disadvantages. bring any object up to speed, and though the rate of acceleration will vary according to drag and the mass that requires to be accelerated, once at cruising speed, the heavier object is likely to cruise more easily. the rider of the less weight challenged bicycle will require to input more energy to maintain speed than that of the heavier rider/bicycle combination, even if they were quicker to reach the desired velocity.
there's also the not inconsiderable problem of air resistance, one of the main reasons why time trial bicycles tend to favour a front wheel with a deep flange rim, is to smooth out the airflow before it meets those thrashing legs. the solid rear wheel creates more of a flywheel effect because the air has been well and truly disturbed as to render the aerodynamic properties somewhat null and void. take all the foregoing into consideration and the only logical conclusion is that, if you want to go faster than the guy next to you, one who is likely to be on a similar standard of cycle, you're going to have to train that body to be more efficient. succinctly put, that's where the nub of cutting edge cycling resides today.
cycle manufacturers spend an inordinate amount of pounds/dollars and hours having their bicycles wind tunnel tested, a process that undoubtedly has a dubiously favourable effect on the swooping carbon fibre eased from the mold. however, the wind in the real world rarely swoops past in one constant direction (at least, it doesn't on islay), surely rendering at least a portion of all that testing just a tad academic? related to track cycling, that wind testing may have some practical useability, but additionally, so does that of registering power output and methods of improving same. for conditions on the track are of a more finite sphere of control. if the guy who won the last 4,000m pursuit did so on an average power output of 850 watts, then an average output of 900 watts has pretty much got them beat.
the road is a whole different box of skittles, incorporating as it does various road surfaces, often wildly varying inclines and a wind resistance that knows not whether it's coming or going. theoretically the guy with the higher power output still has victory in his favour, but there are so many other factors involved such as lactic acid build-up, efficient fat burning, carbohydrate storage and a myriad of other bits and bobs bringing effect to bear on who crosses the line first. making changes to this - human physiology - is where the cutting edge is at present. if you think i am mistaken, take into account the the principal bicycle purveyors of the world seem concentrated on lobbying the uci to legalise the homologation of disc brakes for competition. so while hunter allen and stephen cheung have produced 280 pages of ways to make yourself faster, the bikebuilders are intent on improving ways to stop.
i do not wish to give the impression that i'd already figured just what cutting edge cycling was all about before i started reading. in retrospect (in other words, by the end of page one) all seems glaringly obvious, but i will confess that i thought we were about to be immersed in a dissertation regarding the properties of high modulus carbon fibre allied to the old chestnut, vertically compliant but laterally stiff.
the authors, however, both well-respected in their particular fields (allen is a renowned cycling coach, cheung is a sports scientist) have scant regard for the chattels of burnt plastic. in fact, they have few in mind for certain aspects of the modern heart-rate monitors:
"In looking at the features list of heart rate monitors (HRMs), we see that manufacturers appear to be in an arms race to load as many bells and whistles into the watches as possible. Some of the more dubious and unnecessary features include the following:
Body mass index calculator. The equation is weight (in kilograms) divided by height (in meters) squared, but your BMI does not change significantly day to day unless you suddenly lose weight by cutting off an arm. Use an inexpensive calculator instead.
Fitness tests built into the HRM. These tests promise to calculate your aerobic fitness by taking your heart rate, usually at rest, and then comparing it with equations built into the HRM memory. The problem is that these tables are generalized estimates based on other people.
Calorie counters. These counters are typically based on your heart rate along with other inputs such as gender and estimated maximum heart rate, so take these data with a grain of salt. However, a counter in HRMs or cycling computers will give you ballpark values that may be useful as estimates if weight control is a concern."
cutting edge cycling is one of the most comprehensive and clearly explained books on the subject of training the body for its intended purpose i have had the pleasure to review. i cannot vouchsafe for the veracity of the information contained within; i rarely wear so much as a watch when out riding let alone a heart rate monitor or, heaven forbid, a power meter, but the authors' collective intelligence and logic as regards current physiological thinking seems as close to infallible as it is possible to be. books, by their very nature, and currently even e-book versions as reviewed here, tend to be written in stone. several have only just reached publication when along comes an alternative order as the result of continuing research.
that, however, is something that will plague such volumes till the end of time.
this is not a book that will necessarily fill the gap between getting to bed and lights out, but it is considerably less convoluted than some of its peers. disappointingly, many of the illustrations seem suprlus to requirements, though it's possible they may fulfil the function of a visual break from the ceaseless scientific explanations and discourse. a photograph of mark cavendish punching the air as he leads across the line, captioned as "Whether they strive to be victorious at elite levels or to achieve faster personal bests, cyclists turn to science for new ways to improve performance by even the smallest margin " seems a mite incongruous and pointless. subsequent images do little to improve this state of affairs. however, there are several clearly defined tables and graphs to support and elucidate the often densely-packed narrative.
i confess that i will be very unlikely to put any of the contents into practice; i'm just not that kind of cyclist. but for those who have a desire, need or employment to go as fast as their bodies will allow, i doubt you need look much further than this.
cutting edge cycling by hunter allen and stephen cheung can be ordered or downloaded from the human kinetics website
tuesday 5th june 2012..........................................................................................................................................................................................................