Dear Dr. Spalm - I know that you say that just riding my bike is the best way to get better, but surely there are some ways to ride that have better results than others. I mean, if I ride 10 mph for 8 hours that can't have the same result as riding faster for a shorter period or doing intervals or motor-pacing or whatever? If you really know that much about cycling, can't you share some advice?
A Training Racer
Dear Training Racer:
I was unfairly characterized last week as being grumpy or ill-tempered. It is so American to praise people for being straight-shooters or plain spoken, but when you are actually given straight-forward advice or plain spoken truth, you dislike it. In my homeland, we had a saying, "if you put butter on a shit biscuit, it is not better than a plain shit biscuit." It may be that the saying lacks the impact upon translation than it does when you hear that in your crib when your parents walk away, but even with your low educational standards you probably perceive what is being said to you.
That being said, there is also the semblance of a reasonable thought or question within your ramblings. I would strongly suggest, however, that you not start sentences with "I mean" unless you are trying to explain your way out of a gross misstatement or you are poorly translating from one language to another. Nonetheless, looking past your poorly phrased question, as I am often asked to do, it is correct that different training methods can have different impacts. That is, however, only after the point at which you have devoted sufficient time and energy to developing actual fitness and strength on your bicycle. If you are as fat and lazy as your average citizen, you will indeed benefit from anything that takes you away from your couch and yet another hour of American Idol (turning you into a nation of American Idle), whether that is riding for many hours very slowly, riding faster for shorter period or any other manner of movement.
But, for the sake of argument, let us entertain the idea that you have achieved a base level of fitness by riding for many hours on many days in many conditions and on many terrains and are ready to proceed. Then and only then, are you ready for specific training or further development.
In my past experience, this is the time that we suggest you start taking vitamins. By vitamins, I mean drugs. By drugs, I mean performance enhancing drugs. That is the fastest and best way to win races. If your goal is to go faster than everyone else, this will do it, particularly those who are not on drugs. No method is more proven or more reliable. Yes, you may die from over-thickening your blood, from any variety of metabolic process gone awry, or from inexplicably developing testicular cancer, but in the meantime you will win races, get a much larger paycheck and kiss many more podium girls. And by kissing podium girls, I mean . . . never mind. Just take your vitamins and don't ask any more questions.
Dr. Spalm - I would like to buy a new race bike, but I am really leaning towards a steel frame rather than carbon fiber. Any suggestions?
Dear RR - It is often said in bicycle circles these days that "steel is real." That is true in a literal sense, as purely metaphorical frame materials are dramatically less practical for racing of most varieties. It is also true that steel is real - real Victorian. I suggest that you purchase a safety bike of steel material, mate it with wood rims, a two-speed drivetrain switched from one gear to the other by simply taking out the rear wheel and flopping it around to the gear affixed to the other side of the hub, and then enter the first Tour de France. If, however, you are intending to race in this century, I suggest that you avail yourself of technological advancements, as you will be competing against others who have done so.