PezCycling News - What's Cool In Road Cycling : 4 Great Training Gift Ideas

4 Great Training Gift Ideas
TOOLBOX: Winter is on the rise, the holidays are not far behind and with them the onset of the madness that is holiday shopping. Now, I’m no fan of shopping, malls or the scourge that is “Black Friday”, but I do know that a well thought out gift is worth its weight in gold for that tough to buy for athlete. Want some ideas?

Welcome to my first annual “Cool Tools For The Holiday” article! Since I’m constantly on the hunt for the next cool thing, and I hate holiday shopping with a fervor usually reserved for bad drivers, dopers and reckless politicians, I thought this might make a nice forum to offer up some quality solutions for that hard to buy for athlete you probably know (or at the least some ideas to drop onto YOUR list for friends and family).

Winter Tires
This one is easy! Get some tires that are built to withstand the coming road conditions. Branches, road grit, and detritus of many forms can easily ruin what is an otherwise pleasant winter ride.

Changing a flat in cold weather may be my least favorite thing to do and having a good set of tires, and perhaps even some heavy duty tubes, can save you the hassle and inevitably cold and dirty hands that always follow.

Heavyweights like the venerable Continental Gator Hardshell, the Schwalbe Durano S, or the Specialized Armadillo line, have earned a reputation for longevity thanks to thicker rubber, tougher sidewalls, and puncture resistant technologies with names like “PolyX” “RaceGuard” and “Armadillo Elite.”

The next step is to do your athlete a solid by getting tires that are bigger than they normally ride. If they spend the season astride 23mm tires, get them set of 25mm, or better yet 28mm tires! Check online to make sure their frame can accommodate a tire as wide as 28mm, but trust me that the lower pressure and wider stance will substantially improve their happiness when the roads are full of muck and mayhem

Chuck that Tube!
If you already have tubeless-compatible wheels but are still using tubes with them, this is a perfect time to make the switch. First off, tubeless allows for lower tire pressures, giving you more grip on roads slick with rain or leaves. But even better, the combination of tubeless and sealant all but eliminate any risk of punctures or pinch flats. And in keeping with the above discussion on wider tires, the gravel trend means that your choice of fat tubeless rubber in any width or tread is becoming essentially infinite.

Of course, those without tubeless wheels, this is a perfect opportunity to upgrade! I recently reviewed the American Classic Argent tubeless wheelset, which our editor Dr. Stephen Cheung has also been riding throughout this CX season. It comes in both rim and disc versions and can accommodate tires from 23 mm road slicks through to 40+mm gravel tires.

This is not a pitch for a particular methodology or brand…it is more of a reality check for riders who may be new to winter riding. Layer!

Luik - Belgium - wielrennen - cycling - radsport - cyclisme - illustration - sfeer - illustratie snow Tiralongo Paolo (Italie / Team Astana)pictured during Liege - Bastogne - Liege 2016 - photo Dion Kerckhoffs/Davy Rietbergen/Cor Vos © 2016

I use various base layers throughout the year, but when it turns cold I generally opt for a long sleeve version, even if I’m wearing arm warmers. On top of that I like a nice mid-weight vest. Even better? A vest with a wind stopping fabric or a bit of additional insulation or a thermal jersey like Castelli's Potenza FZ jersey makes good sense.  Technical fabrics have advanced like crazy in recent years, and lines like Klimatik from Alé Bikewear offer head to toe solutions for rain and cold.

Of course no attempt at layering would be complete without a hat and gloves. Fortunately, there are literally dozens of options for each. My personal preference is usually a water and wind resistant glove and a hat that covers my ears. Then again I’m a bit of a baby when it comes to cold so I’ll often carry a regular cycling cap as a back up, and have been known to carry two different weights of gloves. Hey, more stocking stuffers right?!

Shoe covers. Again, this one is obvious for those who live where it’s wet, which is most of us. Then again I wear shoe covers anytime it is below 50 degrees because nothing sends me home early faster than cold feet. Trust me, your athlete will thank you for shoe covers.

Cool Technologies
For the rider who “has everything” there are some intriguing technologies out there that might offer some novel insights for your athlete.

First up let’s consider some powerful software solutions. Programs like WKO4, Xert, Golden Cheetah, and others give you a way to dig deep into your power data and better understand your own strengths and limitations, training and development.

WKO4 is a great example. Born from a desire to analyze and understand power data and the underlying mechanisms that impact them, the original WKO was a completely new way to tie together power and physiology, albeit somewhat limited in retrospect. The newest version, WKO4 is much more powerful and is actually a fully developed analysis engine that allows the individual user to create completely self derived reports, or make use of the extensive library and community of users that continually develop new analytics in an open source style. If you’ve been lucky enough to read some of the articles here by Tim Cusick of WKO then you know a few of the impressive things the software can do and the value in having these insights at your fingertips.

Similarly, Golden Cheetah offers the end user a level of insight that would have been unthinkable without an ultra-high dollar metabolic cart and a PhD a few years ago. Things like VO2max, anaerobic work capacity - now known by the “new cool” terminology of “Functional Reserve Capacity”, and efficiency.

Xert from Baron Biosystems takes the unique approach of real-time modelling your Maximal Power Available (MPA), permitting you to see your fatigue and strain even as you are riding. The software is also a complete data analysis platform, modelling your fitness signature ride-to-ride based on a combination of Threshold Power, High Intensity Energy, and Peak Power. Going even further, Xert is a complete workout platform, with a variety of programmable workouts for your indoor and outdoor riding, each one automatically adjusted to your unique fitness signature.

Here is where we get our first caveat; these values are mathematically derived. I find this, overall, to be an incomplete approach, though I’m sure the mathematicians will disagree with me. I will say that so long as the math is accurate to itself, then it does offer a set of baselines for comparison. Do you really have a VO2max of 65 or an FRC of 32 KiloJoules? I don’t know…but I do know that so long as I have a starting point and an accurate way to track progress, I can help my athletes make sustainable progress, hopefully without going too far!

Yes, winter is approaching along with the holidays. This is the time to stock up on equipment that can extend your outdoor riding season, and the key is to do your outdoor rides comfortably and safely.

This is also a great time to plan your training, and getting comfortable with data analysis software is a perfect way to see what you did in 2017 as you plot your 2018. Have fun with the new toys!

About Matt McNamara: Matt is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach with over 20 years of racing, coaching and team management experience. This fall he is once again jumping into the ‘cross game in anticipation of a massive El Nino in Northern California and the arrival of much needed (and anticipated) rain! Matt is the founder and president of Sterling Sports Group. Learn more by visiting him online at


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