the all new cyclist's training bible 5th edition. joe friel. velopress softback. 305pp illus. £21.99

the cyclist's training bible - joe friel

scientific theory expounds that a sheet of hot buttered toast, if dropped, will always fall butter side down; it's a salient part of einstein's theory of relativity (i might have made that bit up). and the scientific corollary, concerns that of the family cat which, as we all know will always (and i mean always) land on its feet. so, logically speaking, were we (purely for scientific reasons, you understand), to strap a sheet of buttered toast to the back of a cat, butter side up, then push the cat off the couch, it would hover there all day.

perpetual motion.

it's a conundrum similar to that which pervades my current reading regime. around the same time as this latest edition of joe friel's training manual arrived, considered by many to be the cyclists' bible in such matters, so did a book concerning the need for better urban and city planning to accommodate the bicycle. and those amongst you who are confined by circumstances to spend a substantial portion of your velocipedinal lives, tootling back and forward along city roads to and from work, will know that possessing an enviable top end sprint is hardly considered a necessity.

thus i have mr friel on one hand, urging me to ride ever faster and further, providing me with the wherewithal to achieve precisely that and the opposite side of the coin, making every effort to point out how and why cycling should not be framed in mamil nomenclature, nor be dependent on any form of lycra, bendy bars or skinny tyres. what's a hapless reviewer to do?

i'd be lying were i to infer that i harbour a secret ambition to trounce all and sundry in the finish line sprint at debbie's each sunday. i like riding (relatively) fast; there's a deal of exhilaration to be gained from so doing, but that contrasts dramatically with a stunning reluctance to undertake any form of training regime in order to make that happen. currently, i'm relying on subterfuge; i feign disinterest over the course of a few sundays to lull the peloton into a false sense of security and when i'm no longer perceived to be a likely threat, i pounce from the back. mostly it works, but sometimes it doesn't.

the downside to the above is that it bears comparison with my recent brief return to pipe band drumming. my percussive endeavours worked a treat, but truthfully, i was making it all up as i went along.

if your cycling career (however you choose to define that) demands a parabolic curve of improvement, it will undoubtedly become necessary to formulate some sort of cunning plan. since few of us are sufficiently well-versed in sports science and or psychology, there's a danger that the components of any training scheme will be randomly gleaned from articles in the cycling press. while many of those may prove effective, it can hardly be said that they're guaranteed to work seamlessly with each other. some of them may even prove entirely contradictory.

in the original edition of mr friel's training manual, first published over twenty years ago, the author, as stated in the introduction, had not set out out to produce a best seller. in fact, as he says "I figured that it would only sell a few copies and within a handful of years would be long gone." it is testament to his expertise and writing skills that a matter of two decades later, he threw out the original manuscript and started again. for, in the intervening years, rate of perceived exertion (rpa) and heart-rate monitors have been superseded by the ubiquitous power meter. the landscape has changed.

the stated purpose of the book, as espoused in the prologue, is " help you become fitter, ride faster and achieve high goals." hardly relevant to the commuting cyclist, who's probably riding to work in order to get fitter and to whom the only relevance of riding faster is to gain a safe distance from following cars at the traffic lights. but it is perhaps prudent to now discard the 'individual with a bike' on the basis that ultimate performance is hardly their watchword.

this is a book for the aspirant racing cyclist, at whatever level they currently find themselves, or perhaps those who gain smug satisfaction from reaching the finish line ahead of the pack in a local sportive. and perhaps in restrospect, the first hurdle to be overcome is that of mental attitude, a subject that begins the book with a chapter all of its very own. all eleven pages of it.

not that there was ever any doubt, but chapter one reinforces why i am not within joe friel's target market. he maintains that your attitude about cycling consists of "...hundreds of thoughts and small decisions..." of which he provides several examples, sadly none of which feature in the 'wee churly bits' that revolve around my head on a daily basis. the chapter is subdivided into relevant sections such as motivation, dreams, goals and missions, mental toughness and patience amongst others. meanwhile, the margins feature a peppering of what i presume to be motivational statements, but which i would approach with a healthy degree of circumspection: "To promote self-confidence, open a savings account of successes." is a tad too twee for my liking.

though i do not propose to offer a chapter by chapter breakdown of the author's training advice, it does make clear sense to succeed the pages on mental performance with nine that concern themselves with physical performance before approaching basic training concepts. as friel describes in the introductory paragraphs to this chapter, each individual athlete frequently requires a training plan that is every bit as individual as they are. "...while there were many similarities among these athletes, what worked for most, did not work for all."

following the latter, a training intensity chapter leads the reader onto part three concerning purposeful training, a somewhat quizzical title, for i cannot conceive of any purchaser of this inestimable publication who would consider training without purpose. as friel himself states "Having a purpose when training, separates the best from the rest." though i might find it a tad irritating that he constantly lists questions the prospective athlete might ask him or herself, in point of fact, this process does seem to be intrinsic to achieving training nirvana. queries such as "what's currently standing in the way of your goal success" does seem like a pertinent start.

in my case, i fear the answer is 'apathy'.

but joe friel considers part four to be "...the heart of this book.". his reasoning is hard to fault, for this section of the manual concerns planning your season. "...determining what type of workouts you'll do and when you'll do them." for myself and many of my pelotonic colleagues, it's simply a case of riding as hard as personal psychology will allow and for as long as our current fitness will allow. the occasional creak when climbing the stairs is surely indication of having accomplished at least one of those ideals?

this is the chapter that features the training watchword, 'periodization'. it's one often bandied about by those who have come across the word in their readings, but not always properly understood or necessarily related to any training they may or may not be currently undertaking. fortunately, the author is well-versed in such matters, not only satisfactorily explaining the term, but relating how it ought best to be implemented in the planning stages. for those such as myself who often fail to grasp such textual dissection, there are some helpful graphics to augment friel's words. unfortunately, as the chapter progresses there are a couple of large charts featuring a plethora of numbers that threw me into a befuddle of confusion.

but, as i stated above, i hardly think i'm in the author's target market.

oddly enough, despite an apparent total re-writing of the manual and his tacit acceptance of the power meter as a tool that has altered the perspective of the training athlete, there is scarce mention of how the latter might be integrated into a modern-day training plan. the chapter concerning muscular force training features a comprehensive section on weight training: "Delivering greater force to the pedals has a lot to do with becoming muscularly stronger." and begins with the declaration "Power. It's what separates the best from the rest."

the best i can find is on page 31 where friel mentions, almost as an aside "The power meter is a tool I highly recommend all serious riders use." there are sporadic mentions where the author espouses use of a power meter for baseline tests etc., but anyone expecting copious details on how to sensibly incorporate an srm or powertap into their training, might better look at 'the power meter handbook' by the same author (velopress).

if your weekly ministrations in the search for greater speed, endurance and ultimate victory seem consistently to end in naught, there's surely little more that you could do in your favour than acquire a copy of joe friel's 'the cyclist's training bible'. inscrutable charts aside, the author's clarity in explaining the ins and outs of getting fitter and faster has rarely been equalled in my opinion. if i were a couple of decades younger, or possessed of a more ambitious nature, this would be my bedtime reading every night of the week.

joe friel's 'the cyclist's training bible' is available in the uk from cordee books and in the usa from velopress

sunday 6 may 2018

twmp ..........................................................................................................................................................................................................