Michael Hanslip Coaching

If you want to go faster, you have to pedal harder

August 2022

Fox Proframe

A long-term review
I've had a Proframe for several years now. It is my go-to helmet for Enduro racing and riding anything steep, except for lift serviced riding on anything but the hottest days (where I choose my Rampage Pro Carbon for its higher level of protection).
The Proframe is breezy. Everything from the open mouth port to the interior channelling in the foam contributes to a better flow of air than in the Rampage (which has filter-like foam in the mouth port and smaller internal channels for air flow).
It is light. All those holes "add up" to less mass.
It is comfortable. I have a Fox-shaped head (all my MTB helmets are now Fox) but the padding in the Proframe is good at moisture management and keeping the MIPS liner off the actual head. The weakest point is the brow pad which is very thin and takes a lot of pressure and movement from donning and doffing the helmet. The brow pads disintegrate before anything else (I have used several so far in the life of my one Proframe).
Protection seems good. Thankfully, I haven't crashed my Proframe but people I know have. One fall directly to the chin bar did break that into pieces, but it also absorbed nearly all the fall's energy leaving the faller with no facial injuries and only a couple of tiny marks. It doesn't look as solid as the Rampage chin bar for example, but it took a big impact and saved the owner.
With either a drink pack or a bottle you can drink with the helmet on - the open mouth port lets water directly into the mouth.
I try to replace my helmets roughly every 5 years because the interior generally only remains a pleasant place for my head for about that long. And so it is time for a new Proframe this coming summer. I read a story about a Pro version of the Proframe (will Fox really call it a Proframe Pro like the Rampage Carbon Pro?) but maybe I don't need more complexity and weight (and expense) when I have the Rampage too. Regardless, it will be one or the other as I'm very happy with the helmet.
I just hope Fox does some good colours and has stock when I decide to buy one.

You get what you train for

I see the question a lot online. "How do I get better at X?"
The short answer is by doing X.
Steep hills are a problem, train on some steep hills (though some gym work might help with that too). Sustained efforts are a problem, ride with some sustained efforts. Most people who aren't coached ride aimlessly and therefore too slowly. They get good at riding long distances slowly (not exactly called for in any race situation).
If you want to gain speed, do intervals.
If you want to climb faster, do hill repeats.
If you want to be able to push a bigger gear, do big gear intervals.
If you get tired too quickly, ride more hours.
Most training from a coach is focussed on one thing at a time. It will either be very hard, or very easy.
Most self-guided riding is middle paced. It is not hard enough to promote adaptation, or it is too hard to promote recovery.
If we look at some pro riders and the little info that there is about their training we can see some examples of this.
Mona Mitterwallner of Austria LOVES to ride long distances in the Alps. She was fit enough last year in her first year out of juniors to win the XCM World Championships. She gets better the further the race goes because of her big volume training. But this year she moved up to Elite racing and she has been slow off the starts. Part of that is experience as she's never had to deal with such fierce starts before (the U23 category might be quite competitive but it doesn't have the depth or competitiveness of the Open category). Quite a bit of it is the fact that riding at high altitudes for hours at a time doesn't build a powerful start.
Rebecca McConnell won the first three rounds of the UCI World Cup this season (2022), which is unprecedented for her and unusual in World Cup racing too (to win 3 in a row). Bec said in interview that her new coach and she had to negotiate how many intervals she added to her program because she'd never done them before and didn't like doing them. (But obviously they worked in a way that whatever she did before did not...)
Some of the people I coach do nothing but intervals thanks to their time challenged schedule. Intervals are your friend when you want speed on a bike.

Feeling slow, Being fast

Until 15 days ago (when we returned to working from home) I was having a good run of commuting time on the bike. Minimal intrusive weather events and lots of days pushing the pace meant my time to work was consistently shorter than what I was used to. I felt like my fitness was progressing. But commuting "work" and training "work" are usually quite different. In duration and impact.
Still, it is regular riding of a decent length and I've proven I'm pretty good at using commute time as training.
However, I've felt pretty slow on the bike - especially the mountain bike - when I'm not commuting.
Given the slightly muddy conditions of late, most of my MTB time has been on the single speed. I got a single speed years ago in part because there are no derailleur gears or expensive drivetrain bits to wear out. I am on my third single speed now because they do run forever with little maintenance and they're a lot of fun.
Last weekend I had two decent rides on that bike. Both felt like I was struggling for speed.
Enter Strava. I got several PBs on both rides. Mostly climbing ones (where fitness matters most). Including one that was set in a race about 8 years ago. While Strava is GPS reliant and therefore not accurate enough for proper race timing, to-the-second results are fine and I don't care about a second here or there anyway. On a 3 minute section, being one second out matters in a race but not in a "how fast did I go?" query.

The coaching lesson from this is one I've seen many times before. How you feel and how you go are two distinct and separate things. The feel slow, but are fast situation is infinitely preferable to the feel fast, am slow situation at the other end of the spectrum. For me personally, the feel fast, am fast situation leads to tactical errors.
If only there was some good racing to really test my fitness on...

A Crank Length Experiment

To make a long story short, I have used 180 mm cranks on my road bikes for nearly 30 years. This is becoming virtually impossible - even the new Dura Ace 12-spd lacks the 180 mm option. It's all about shorter cranks these days.
And the 177.5 mm cranks on my commuting bike cracked over a year ago. SRAM couldn't easily replace them (they were just out of warranty cover so they offered to give me a great price on replacements) because they're all about the DUB axles now and DUB doesn't fit BB90.
At this point I thought "what about 170 mm cranks?"
Why 170?
Because that is the length I have migrated to on the MTB (well, 2 of 4) for ground clearance. The remaining two MTB are the DH bike > 165 mm and the Single Speed > 175 mm. I'd like to change the SS to 170 mm as well, but basically can't be bothered.
Enter a set of loaner cranks with all the critical dimensions OK for my BB90 Trek. A 24 mm axle, a compact spider, the 170 mm length and enough offset to clear the chainstay. That they happen to be lightly used Rotor cranks is a bonus because they look good with the bike and the Record parts on the rest of the bike.

To make the swap I had to change the off-side bearing. SRAM GXP uses a 22 mm inner dimension while Shimano (and equivalents) use a 24 mm axle the entire length from left to right. In the end I put the original Trek bearings back in (the bike came with Shimano parts) on both sides. They have a thin nylon sleeve that covers the outside of the bearing and runs inside the bore to sit between the axle and bearing race. I have zero idea how durable this will prove, but maybe it will be quieter than a metal on metal system?

A side note: this bike has had a very noisy BB area from day one. The drive-side bearing doesn't seem to fit tightly enough in the bearing seat and the off-side bearing fits too tightly. So anything that makes it quieter is welcome!

The Rotor cranks might also be good in that they are not a fixed width system like Shimano cranks. Perhaps a bit of inwards pressure on the bearings will keep them quieter? Yes it might come at expense of a couple of Watts of power and early bearing failure, but I'll take it after 2 years of listening to noise from down there.

First up after installation was front shifting. It was perfect. The Rotor cranks located the two chainrings in the same place as the Red cranks before them.
Second was the test ride. I didn't have much light left, so I headed up Stromlo access road for one "effort" that would test out the system. Big ring all the way (which is so possible with compact cranks). No noise. The cranks did feel a bit short. I think I was running smaller than usual gearing to compensate.

Only time will tell if the shorter cranks become OK in a road environment. I'm also concerned about jumping back on either Madone with their 180 mm cranks. Will they feel too long?
Another side note: I haven't changed my seat height. The expected thing would be to lift the seat up by 1 cm to compensate for the 1 cm shorter crank and still achieve maximum leg extension. But that changes the top of the stroke by 2 cm. I've not been convinced for a multiple-crank-length riding cyclist that different seat heights are optimal. Many tell me I'm crazy. I always ran my track seat at the same height as my road seat. The centre of the circle of pedalling remains the same that way (concentric circles). I may also experiment with seat height as I go.

So expect me to report back in a few weeks with how radically shorter cranks are going for me. Dependent on going back to the office too, as working from home provides few demands on my commuting bike.