How to plan the perfect training ride
By Erin Huck
Erin Huck is a professional mountain biker on the Olympic long team for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Erin has been a Stages sponsored athlete for five years and rides with Stages Dash, Stages Power and trains indoors on the StagesBike SB20 Smart Bike.
I feel like it’s been a long winter. We’re still in a pandemic, group rides aren’t happening, I’m at home, training by myself on the same roads that I always train on, and motivation is just a little bit harder to come by. I realized that I needed to prioritize my training, make it exciting, make it fun. So one day a week, I pick my perfect training ride day. This is a choose your own adventure, story fairytale. In this story, princess Erin is going to go out, one day a week. I’m going to pick out my nicest outfit, my matching kit, my special helmet, special shoes for Erin’s perfect training ride.
Step 1: Pick the good day
First you have to pick the good day, usually there will be one day of the week where the weather looks like it’s going to be the nicest. That’s the day. Then you prioritize, nothing else is as important as your training ride, you block it out on your calendar, tell your friends and family that you’re unavailable. Make sure that everything is set so that you don’t have any distractions other than getting this training ride done.
Step 2: Pick the bike
Next, I pick which bike I want to ride. More often than not, this time of year I’m picking my gravel bike (equipped with Stages Power and Stages Dash). It is the most versatile, I can take it on any surface. It’s fast so I still feel like I’m going places, but it is also sendy in case I want to get sendy.
Step 3: Plan your route
Then you plan your route. This is probably the most important aspect of the perfect training ride. A good route has to include a goal, for me a goal usually involves some kind of hill climb, I usually try to go for a winter PR, which is different than summer race fitness. This is my winter base fitness PR. You want your goal to be challenging but achievable, you want to make sure your training ride has some element to make you feel successful. Next, I pick a destination. Every good ride has to have a destination. Where do you see yourself ending up? Usually a destination involves a good view, like something spectacular, or a treat. For me, I’ll ride far and wide for a good oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. Of course, make sure all your treats are easily accessible when you get back on the bike.
How to plan your route with Stages Dash
Stages Dash is the perfect adventure and training partner, so when you’re preparing for your perfect training ride don’t forget to utilize all the features Dash has to offer that will help make your perfect training ride even better. Use Stages Link or your favorite 3rd party mapping system to plan your route. Plug your Dash in via USB and export the GPX file of your route, then drag the file into the “add files” folder on your Dash. When you’re ready to ride, go to Main Menu > Select a course > Manually added. Select the course you want to ride, then click “Add course to my ride.” If you’re using Smart Profiles, Dash will automatically add a map page and course instructions if your route has turn-by-turn directions.
Step 4: Extra Credit Adventure
Next, some kind of bonus challenge is good. After you’ve already accomplished your one goal, I’ve climbed that hill, reached my destination and I’m heading home, and I tack on a little adventure. What I love about riding my gravel bike, is that I can seek out some of my favorite mountain bike single track trails and just test the limits a little bit and see what bike and rider are capable of. The extra challenge mixes it up, makes it more fun and gives me something to focus on other than just putting out watts.
How to plan your power output for long rides
One major key to the perfect training ride is maintaining the right level of intensity, you want to get a good workout in but you also want to avoid going way to hard and struggling through the last part of your ride. First you should know your FTP, or Functional Threshold Power. If you know that 200 watts is what you can do for an hour, spending the first 45 minutes of a three hour ride at 250 watts won’t set you up for success. Using your Stages Power Meter in conjunction with your Stages Dash to keep an eye on your power and heart rate will let you monitor your effort throughout the ride. On long course rides you should stay around 70-80% of your FTP. If your perfect training ride is shorter, then you can plan to stay between 90-105%. There may be hill climbs where you go above this for short periods, but staying within these ranges for the majority of your ride will set you up for an enjoyable and effective training ride.
Step 5: Be Prepared
Sometimes my adventures are a little too adventurous, dead ends, getting flat tires. These kinds of things have been known to happen on Erin’s perfect training rides. Which is okay, a little bit of adversity makes us stronger. This is another element of the perfect training ride: make sure you’re prepared. Bring extra snacks, a pump. There is nothing like overcoming an obstacle. It makes me feel even more proud that I persevered, I accomplished everything that I set out to accomplish. I overcame obstacles, I had fun, I planned this great adventure and I come home feeling happy, tired and satisfied that I just had the perfect training ride.