A few weeks before Christmas I saw an ad on Facebook promoting the Urban Cycle Club (UCC). This ad immediately caught my attention because it was promoting the next generation of indoor cycle training. There were photos of real bikes in stationary position attached to large screens with lots of data. I was immediately intrigued and I contacted the UCC to enquire when I could I come in for a free trial together with fellow Baroudeur, Hernán (Buzz).
We showed up wearing our cycling gear. I was wearing my Baroudeurs bibs and a jersey while Hernán chose less formal attire. We also brought our cycling shoes with Shimano SPD SL cleats. There were towels, water bottles, changing facilities and showers at the UCC. There were also bike stands just outside the UCC so I kept an eye on my bike while working out inside.
There are in total eight bikes so we had six other riders competing against us. I do some training on a Wattbike at my local gym so I was expecting something similar but I was pleasantly surprised that the feeling was completely different. Actually, it was much better! I was shifting using real levers unlike typical Watt bikes in the gym where you have to use a round handle to adjust gears. Another thing that surprised me was a constantly changing resistance. At first I struggled to understand how I could prepare for forthcoming hills but in a matter of minutes I saw the landscape graph on the big screen in front of my bike that was moving with each pedal stroke. Once I got a grasp of how everything works and what to focus on, I concentrated on pedalling and beating Buzz which was impossible!
There was also a lot of other data to look at including cadence, watts, average speed and everything else what you need. I didn’t know what all data meant but Dan, the direct of UCC, kindly answered all our questions during and after the session.
The Big Fan
I must also note that cooling, at least for me, is a big issue with indoor training. Usual gyms don’t have fans because bike training areas are created by those who don’t cycle or they are just there to warm up. Anyone staying on a watt bike for more than 15 min knows how uncomfortably wet you may get. The UCC have thought about this and they installed good cooling system. It still gets warm but it’s much better than anywhere else indoors I have been to.
We did a few sessions. The first session was to measure our FTPs. The second session focused on climbing big hills. The third session was a race in Flanders. The last session was especially fun because it was a race with lots of climbing. I was trying to save myself until the last bit but I didn’t realise how quickly that last bit was coming so when I attacked, it was too late. This was a good lesson. Nevertheless, both me and Buzz got in the top 10 lead board.
After the ride, we received all our results in an email. There was so much data to look at and analyse. This encouraged me to read about different data more to understand what it all meant.
Data, Data, Big Data
Enhanced winter training
Dan, our friendly UCC coach, suggested to organise a club session for us. We gathered two groups of eight people from our club to come in at two different time slots. It was a good way for the team to encourage and check each other out, as many people from the second group came in earlier to see how the first group was doing on the Flanders session. I believe this experience encouraged a few club members to come out of their winter hibernation and to ride more outside.
I am also one of these people who struggle to ride when it is wet, cold and dark. I know it’s not that bad and I went to Lithuania in January where I saw a few cyclists riding on the snow with minus temperatures. However, I am really happy that the UCC offers another opportunity to take winter training indoors. Riding together with other competent cyclists makes me push harder and it also makes a whole experience fun compared to my boring Wattbike sessions. Training at the UCC also gives an opportunity to explore and learn about cycling data in more detail.
We will be organising more club sessions in the coming months. Steve (Bison) has completed a performance camp and I have also started a camp. Meanwhile, the UCC is seeing greater demand for its range of sessions that match the needs of cyclists who want to enjoy training in a safe, accurate and fun environment – it’s challenging too. I am sure that they have come up with a great idea for a growing community of cyclists. We’ll see you there.