Seven Deadly Spins

This post consists of excerpts from one of my mentors in the early 2000s, Chuckie V. His advice and guidance changed the type of bike training I did and, as a result, brought me to a level of biking I had previously only hoped to achieve. I eventually became one of the fastest age group triathlete bikers in the U.S. in the late-2000s. But, this speed didn’t come easily. I had to work HARD. I had to be SMART. And I had to rely on the knowledge and experience of those that walked the path before me. Without the insight and support of Chuckie and other mentors, I wouldn’t have achieved nearly the success.

I met Chuckie on the Ironman Wisconsin run course. He had just come off of a 6th place finish at Ironman Canada a few weeks earlier. We were both having a rough run and ended up walk/jogging the back half together.  For the next couple of years, Chuckie served as my Ironman mentor.

In early-2003, Chuckie sent me his ‘Seven Deadly Spins’ for bike training. Keep in mind, this was in the early-2000s when people were just beginning to translate high intensity training, big gear work, FTP, and pedal stroke into training programs. Chuckie was a pioneer, and I was fortunate to be in on the ground level. Many of these workouts were staples throughout the 2000’s. They are strategically placed in our athlete’s training programs.


1. The Seated Force Ride. Otherwise known as “Big Gear” work. The idea is to challenge the muscles in new ways by pushing a larger-than-usual gear at 50-60 RPM while climbing a 3-8% grade in your standard aero position at a moderately hard intensity (90=95% of LT/FTP). At least your aerodynamic drag will be minimized as you rip through the wind at 5-8 mph.

2.The Indoor Ironman Grind. Identify your optimal Ironman Power Threshold (ITP) and ride 8% above it for as long as possible, indoors, but in comparable race day conditions. You should be able to ride at least the same duration as your last Ironman’s ride time. If not, your steady-state stamina neds working. (your optimal Ironman Power Threshold, or what I term as such, is basically the highest possible power output you can sustain throughout the ride on Ironman race day, and still run your best.)

3. Hill Repeats. This is about the fastest way to get fit on a bike. As Monster mercks quipped, “Don’t buy upgrades, Ride up grades.” Find your lactate threshold/functional threshold power, and ride just this side of it for as long as the hill allows. Then repeat. Over and over and over.

4. The Long Ride. “How far are we riding?” I asked Mike Pigg. “We’re not riding far,” he replied. “We’re riding long.” I didn’t know it at the time but long rides didn’t need to be hard; they just had to be long. Of course Pigg’s version of “long” was inconsistent with mine; I remember reaching our halfway point in the same duration as my previous longest efforts, somewhere near Laramie (which Sorry mike, was indeed far from Boulder!). 112 miles never seemed long—or far—again.

5. The PowerCrank Ride. Years ago I helped out at a PowerCrank both at the Hawaii Ironman expo, offering $5 of my own money to anyone who could pedal this new invention for more than two minutes straight. My antics didn’t cost me a thing. As an ex-professional cyclist, I rode them for five hours my first time out. Hip strength and mobility is vital for triathlon and I suggest borrowing a pair of PCs and seeing how long you can pedal. If it’s less than an hour, hour hip flexors are feeble, you maggot.

6. The Group Ride/Bike Race. There’s a time for a hard group ride and although that time seldom arises for the triathlete, nothing can push you like a bunch of ego-driven cyclists. Go get pushed and push yourself. If you get good enough, you might even be able to push them.

7. The New Stress Ride. I’ve been riding a road bike since 1980 and this is the single hardest ride I’ve ever done. My coach at the time, Joe Friel, suggested, “One hour at 120 RPM average, regardless of HR or power output.” My power has half of what I can maintain all day and naturally my heart rate reflected it, and yet, I could not wald for three days after this. New stres can be good stress, and I was able to increase my riding performance after this for reasons Jor or I still can’t explain. All the same, I’ll take it.

Finally, another Deadly Spin includes the old standby: Tabata Sprints. If you’re serious about your cycling/triathlon performance you won’t go ten days without doing these ever again.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, any of these seven deadly spins can be combined.