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Beginners’ training plan jargon buster

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Knowledge level: Beginner

Sportive

Article posted: 03/10/2013

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Like many sports, cycling can be full of confusing jargon and technical language that can be off putting and confusing for beginners. When developing the British Cycling Training Plans, we’ve purposely kept jargon to a minimum but some always manages to creep in. This Jargon Buster directly applies to the plan . It’ll give you clear and easy to understand definitions and links to informative and relevant supporting articles.

Apex: Every corner is made of three parts, the entry, the apex and the exit. The entry is where turning begins. The Apex is the point at which you reach the furthest point on the inside of the turn. The exit is where you’re riding straight again. Find some great videos on cornering technique here.

Brake Hoods: Rubberised covers that extend over the top of your brakes. They provide a comfortable position for your hands that is more relaxed than being down on the Drops but that also allows you to be able to change gears and brake.

Brake Levers: The levers that you pull towards you to operate your brakes. Look here for tips on setting up your brakes correctly. With many modern bike, you’ll also change gears by moving the levers sideways.

Cadence: Cadence is simply the speed at which you turn your pedals. It’s referred to in RPM’s (revolutions per minute). You can check it by simply counting but it’s far easier to use a handlebar mounted cycling computer that will continuously show it. Many novices tend to ride at too slow a cadence but, with experience, following the cadence guidelines in the British Cycling Training Plans and correct use of gears, it will increase to a more efficient level.

Cassette: The cluster of sprockets on your rear wheel that, in combination with your chain rings, give you the wide range of gears to tackle any terrain. To understand how gears work, look here.

Chain Rings: The two or three rings that your pedals directly turn. If you have two rings, your setup is referred to as a double and, for three, it’s a triple. Many sportive bikes have a compact double which are smaller and give lower gears for tackling hard tough climbs.

Computer: Attaches to your handlebars and, at the most basic level, gives you time, speed and distance information calculated from a spoke mounted magnet and sensor. For following the British Cycling Sportive Training Plan a model that also displays cadence and heart rate is advisable. GPS (global positioning system) cycling computers are becoming very popular and offer the advantages of being simpler to setup, easier to switch between bikes and allow route planning, navigation and social media applications. There are also mobile phone apps that allow your smartphone to function as a bike computer.

Cross Training: Any training or exercise you do that isn’t cycling. Cross training sessions are programmed into the British Cycling Training Plans to add variety, to help develop more balanced all-round fitness and other benefits. You can find Phil Burt’s, Lead Physiotherapist at British Cycling and Consultant Physiotherapist to Team, and Martin Evans’, head of Strength and Conditioning with British Cycling, strength routine here.

Cranks: Connect your pedals to the chain rings.

Drops: The lowest hand position on your handlebars. You should ride on the drops when riding hard on the flat as the lower position minimizes wind resistance. You should get down on your drops when descending as the lower position is more stable and it allows more effective force to be applied to your brake levers.

Feed Stations: Designated stops around your sportive route where food and/or drinks will be available. Check to see how many feed stations are on your chosen sportive and what will be on offer. For guidelines to what and how much to eat and drink during a sportive or long training day from Nigel Mitchell, British Cycling and Team Sky Nutritionist, look here.

Gears: A combination of two or three chain rings and a cassette at the rear give you a wide range of gears that’ll allow your to ride steep uphills, maintain a solid speed on the flat and be able to pedal fast downhill. To understand how gears work, look here.

Gels: Gels offer a convenient, easy and quantifiable way to fuel your cycling. Experiment with different brands and flavours to find ones that suits you and, for advice on how many to take and when, go here.

Hand Signals: When riding with friends or a club or during your sportive, you’ll be in a group and will need to be able to communicate. There are a number of voice and hand signals that you should be aware of. Go here for a guide to group riding.

Heart Rate Monitor: Uses a chest strap to wirelessly transmit your heart rate in BPM (beats per minute) to your computer or a watch.

Heart Rate Training Zones: Your heart rate training zones are percentage bands derived from your threshold heart rate. You find this out by performing a threshold test, which is a key component of the British Cycling Training Plans. Once you know these zones, they are invaluable for pacing your sportive and knowing exactly what intensity to ride at the get the most out of your training sessions.

MTB: Mountain bike. Riding off-road is an ideal compliment to road cycling and is a great way to add variety to your training and improve bike handling skills.

Overshoes: Insulating and often waterproof covers that slip over your cycling shoes to help keep your feet dry and warm.

Pacing: Key to both successful training rides and achieving your sportive goal. As well as building fitness, structured training teaches you what intensity you’re able to ride at for how long. You’ll use a combination of how you feel, heart rate training zones and your speed from your computer to gauge your efforts perfectly.

Recovery: When your body recovers from training it becomes stronger. Not scheduling in recovery weeks or not optimising post-training recovery are the most common mistakes people make when training for endurance events.

Rollers: A form of indoor trainer that, unlike a turbo, you have to balance on. This can be disconcerting to start with but, once mastered, it’s a great way to develop bike handling skills. 

Skullcap: A tight fitting insulating and windproof cap that goes under your helmet to keep your head and ears warm on cold rides.

Sportive: What you’re training for! Sportives or Challenge Rides are mass participation events that tend to either follow the routes of iconic professional races or cover particularly stunning or challenging terrain. They’re not races though. Instead of competing against other riders you’re competing against the course and the time classifications set by the event organisers. That’s not to say though that if you get in with a group of riders or are riding with mates that a little friendly competition might not rear its head. Starts are usually staggered to avoid the frustration and bottlenecks typical of running marathons and individual times are given via electronic chips.

Tapering: You want to be fresh and well recovered before your sportive and a period of less training, known as a taper, is how your achieve this. This is scheduled into the British Cycling Training Plans and tapering is an essential part of the pre-event preparations of all riders.

Tempo: A heart rate training zone also known as Level 3. Tempo is a training intensity that well trained riders can maintain for sustained periods but need to concentrate to do so. You’ll initially only be spending relatively short periods of time in this zone but, as your fitness improves, you will use the upper levels of the zone on long climbs and the lower end when working hard on flat terrain.

Threshold: Threshold is an intensity that can be thought of as your “red-line”. Riding below it is just about sustainable but, push beyond it, and you’ll rapidly feel burning legs and get out of breath. Training will raise your threshold increasing your ability to ride faster for longer. Threshold also refers to a heart rate training zone known as Level 4.

Threshold Test: A test to determine your threshold heart rate that is then used to calculate your heart rate training zones. You’ll take this test a number of times during the British Cycling Training Plans to track your progress.

Tops: The flat sections on of top of your handlebars that give you a comfortable and relaxed hand position on long seated climbs. In situations where you may have to brake suddenly you should not ride with your hands on the tops as you won’t be able to quickly reach your brake levers.

Turbo: An indoor trainer that you bolt your bike to. Models range between very basic ones to versions which offer a full virtual reality riding experience. There are advantages and disadvantages to a turbo compared to rollers. Look here for a buyers guide.

Warm-up: A warm-up prepares your body and mind for a training session and is essential for optimum performance. In the British Cycling Training Plan, you’ll use a specifically designed Sportive warm-up, and the official British Cycling 20-minute warm-up used by Bradley Wiggins, Team Sky and the GB Cycling Team.

 

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