Monthly Archives: September 2017

Dream, Plan, Do, Celebrate!

Cycling…………..relationships……..mimic each other in many ways including this: leaving it up to chance or said another way, not investing some time to think about a plan for yourself, essentially saying that you will live by someone else’s plan for you. 

Somehow you have convinced yourself that the pain associated with the development of a plan and perhaps not achieving the exact result you desired is worse than the potential pleasure of successfully executing your plan and getting those results, or perhaps you just don’t think you know what to do so you just don’t get started.  I have found, both through my own experiences (the “good ones” and the “learning ones” – there aren’t any “bad ones”) that by simply getting started you set in motion forces that have been lying dormant inside of you, simply waiting there to help you…except you have been too busy focusing on all the perceived problems in your life that you haven’t been able to see the opportunities. 

A couple of things come to mind from my own experiences (perhaps you might identify):

  • “I’m not a morning person.”  What does that mean exactly?  Does anyone really believe that people are genetically predisposed to either getting up or not getting up early?  If that’s the case what happens when one makes a drastic change in their time zone?  Tell me you don’t get to bed until 2AM for whatever reason and of course (well…maybe) I understand not getting up at 4:30AM (I said maybe).  Perhaps the real reason is it just isn’t important to you to get up early and jump-start your day by training (perish the thought).  The truth is this: anyone can do it if they attach enough meaning to it.
  • “I don’t have enough time.”  I don’t know about you but when I was using that excuse and looked down at my watch it seemed to have the same 12 numbers on it as the next person’s (pre today’s super watches of course!)
  • “I’ll start tomorrow”.  Let me leave you with this thought.  Leave 1 ounce of bodyweight extra each day for a year – one ounce.  365 ounces…23 pounds….without compounding….

Some thoughts that might inspire you to get going, especially on those days when you expected to wake up to a sunny, 60 degree day…and the temperature reading is 24 and dropping!

  1. Start where you start and go from there. Make a realistic assessment of your starting point, and make sure to focus on all your positive attributes and characteristics rather than waste time thinking about the three l’s – lack, loss and limitation (in other words, what you don’t have, what you thought you had and don’t any longer, or the idea that you aren’t good enough for something).  Think about those positive characteristics as your base, something to build on!
  2. Remember your dream – create a vision for your future. Your future is created by you.  Circumstances move through your life without permanence – how you perceive them and deal with them is what creates your present frame of mind and therefore your actions which lead directly to your future.  Success breeds success – in sports, in business, in life – it is known as momentum… it right and it becomes a tidal wave!  If you thought of your potential as limitless, and that is really the only way to think about it, what would you do right now?  What decisions would you make?  Even undecided is a decision….can you imagine sitting on a picket fence, with the choices being right or left and saying “I think I will be undecided”?  More painful than the saddle on your first bike, no doubt!
  3. Learning more is critical! You can only make decisions and choices based on your current point of view and information you have at that moment in time.  Learn more and you will develop greater perspective, leading to a deeper understanding about yourself and the world around you, which in turn will empower you to make the best possible choices in the current moment…your future is NOW!
  4. Always do your best. You will hear this from me as we ride together – “you are a champion when you do your best….YOUR best, not someone else’s”.  Always do your best in any given set of circumstances; do that and you will begin to have confidence in your ability AND you will trust yourself to make what seem like difficult choices.  Recognize that “your best” changes with different circumstances; my own example – my power output in my current classes is 60% of what it was prior to my cancer and chemo treatments.  Clearly circumstances changed, for now.  It isn’t permanent, and with dedicated effort improvements will come.  I know that because as low as it is compared to a year ago it is still better than it was a few years ago.  Be careful not to use the given set of circumstances as a crutch…always give it everything you’ve got…or don’t bother.
  5. Create something new. I will paraphrase my friend Mary Lynne – “don’t waste time trying to repair what doesn’t need fixing, there is nothing wrong with you.”  Keep your eye on the horizon as you follow your path –an Aurora (a new beginning, a new dawn) is always being created from that point forward.  You MUST accept everything that has transpired in your life to this point as something that was required to happen in order to be here and now!  Some of the experiences may have been challenging (to say the least), but if I were a gambling man I would bet dollars to donuts that those experiences are the ones that have helped you grow the most.
  6. Celebrate and build on your success. You can feel a quiet satisfaction from your success – the celebration does not necessarily need to be loud…but it can be if you like!



P6 – Perceived Effort – how I feel while I am doing the work

Cycling mimics life; being mindful of the amount of effort it takes to move from place to place, learn the next skill, further a relationship, earn the next dollar or build the next business is important.  How much more do you have to do in order to accomplish how much is perception of effort.  Perceived effort also matters in our previous conversation about power; how much more effort do you need to make in order to generate those 10 more watts, and is it worth it?

A simple measure of perceived effort is to break it down into three perceptions – comfortable, uncomfortable and breathless.  Perception is the key word here as there is no independent basis to measure those three descriptions of effort; you simply know how you feel while riding a specific segment at a certain pace.  You can gauge your improvement by riding the same segment over time and when what was causing you to become breathless is now only uncomfortable you know you have improved.

Measuring heart rate allows us to attach some data to those perceived feelings; we create ranges that mimic comfortable, uncomfortable and breathless.  For example, if your heart rate remains at or below 70% of your theoretical max you are likely to be in the comfortable range; when your heart rate between 71% and 85% of your theoretical maximum is your uncomfortable range, and anything above 85% will likely cause you to feel a little (or a lot) breathless.  Caution – these are ranges used for the purposes of this explanation and not exact; we normally do a simple physiological test in order to find the ranges that are more specific to the student/athlete.  Training within specific zones will lead to specific results, for example if we are working with a new student/athlete whose main interest is to shed some extra weight and body fat we would do most of our training below the uncomfortable range in order to help build their basic cardiovascular system.  If, on the other hand we were working with a cyclist interested in developing greater endurance and speed we would have them spend additional time in the “above 85%” category.  Everyone has different starting points and goals; the idea is to do the work in the ranges that provide the most specific benefit.  Using heart rate zones does now obviate the question “how are you feeling?”

Combing the question “how are you feeling” with the date from a heart rate monitor along with the data from a power meter is the best of all worlds.  It allows us to ask the question “how are you feeling?”, measure it against what the heart rate monitor is telling us and compare it to the power output.  We then go back and answer the original question which was “is the extra effort worth it”.

I can give you two specific examples related to my own cycling.

Example 1.  I do not use a power meter on my road bike although I use a Garmin 1000, a heart rate strap and Strava.  I know the power meter would be a benefit but the extra investment of money plus the extra analysis would take away some of the joy of riding outdoors therefore the answer to the question for me is “the extra effort is not worth it”.  I do power vs. heart rate and speed analysis on my indoor rides at Gavia where the focus and specificity of the training helps me tremendously and the data is easily captured without changing the focus of my ride.

Example 2.  As I trained for GFNY 2016 I analyzed my heart rate and perceived exertion vs. speed on the segment that drops us down into Haverstraw then along the water and back up to 9W.  I know that I can keep my heart rate at 132 – 136 bpm riding into the wind and maintain a speed of 32kph (it is relatively flat); I know that if I try to increase my speed to more than 35kph my heart rate will increase to 150.  Given that I need to conserve some energy for the upcoming climbs and the remaining 100km it doesn’t make sense to me to try to ride faster than 32 to 35kph at that point in the race, it isn’t worth the effort (actually I am not sure that I can ride faster!).  Faced with a similar choice in the park on the return I would make the extra effort and suffer the consequences knowing that I was almost home; it would be worth it to finish the race with a better time.

I hope this series of blogposts has been helpful to you.  Please feel free to visit to join our email list in order to continue receiving information designed to help you improve your cycling performance and enjoyment.

If you have any specific questions related to these blogposts and/or would like them all together in  eBook format, or might be interested in a participating in a cycling coaching and training program specific to your needs and goals please feel free to email me at and let me know how I can help.

Thanks for reading!

Teaching is my life’s purpose.  I have been teaching, coaching, training and inspiring cycling students of all levels since 2004.  From 2004 to 2006 I taught indoor cycling (I certified as an RPM teacher in 2006) and in 2006 I decided that in order to be a better indoor teacher I ought to begin riding outdoors.  That has been the most impactful, life-changing decision I have ever made.  Cycling has provided me with just about all the meaningful relationships I have in my life (I actually met my wife through cycling!) and has provided me with THE platform that allows me to accomplish my objective as a teacher/coach – to effectuate positive change in people’s lives.  I am one of the founders of Gavia Cycling, where I am involved in developing the coaching, training, classes and group rides we offer at our studio located in Englewood Cliffs as well as on the road.  I have been a member of Gruppo Sportivo Gran Fondo New York since 2011.

Vito Valentini, Human Potential Catalyst – DeRosa I Gavia Cycling


P5 – Power – it is all relative

The simplest definition of power is this: how hard you push multiplied by how fast you push.  Power output is measured in watts and there is a direct correlation between watts and calories expended, therefore power measurement matters for the elite professional cyclists as much as it does for those of us who don’t race but ride for fitness and enjoyment, with this caveat: if you are not a professional racer and your rides are beginning to become all about power numbers rather than the positive effect on your health, life and relationships it is possible that you are on the verge of becoming a power-obsessed lunatic and ought to reconsider what you are doing to yourself!  That said, let’s talk about power.  Power is measured primarily through the use of gauges that measure the force you are putting into the pedals.  Power meters come in various forms, with cranks, pedals and wheel hubs being the most popular tools used to measure power, with prices ranging from approximately $1,200 for a set of power measuring pedals that measure both left and right side power to $4,000+ for the top of the line SRM.  Not all power meters are created equal and it is important to do some research or buy your power measuring device from someone who will charge you a fair price, install it properly, demonstrate its use and help you when it doesn’t work, which happens from time to time.

I wrote the words “it’s all relative” at the top of this section for several reasons, as follows:

  1. Power matters however, training properly in order to increase your absolute power relative to where you began, the increase in power, your progress, is more important than the actual number itself. We all have different abilities, interests and goals; what matters to a pro rider doesn’t really matter to a cycling enthusiast.  Constant improvement is key!
  2. Power to weight is important, measured as watts per kilogram (output per kilo of bodyweight). Consider the following two cyclists who have the ability to sustain 260 watts.  Cyclist 1 weighs 80 kilos while cyclist 2 weighs 65 kilos.  Their power to weight ratios are 3.25 for cyclist 1 and 4.0 for cyclist 2.  (260/80 for cyclist 1 and 260/65 for cyclist 2).  Relatively speaking cyclist 2 is stronger and will therefore go faster or, said another way, with the same work expended the cyclist pushing the lighter object will go faster.
  3. Sustainable power matters to sprinters and climbers but only within their respective competitor groups. For example, a sprinter may push in excess of 2,000 watts during a sprint (I hate to use the word however here because of the sheer craziness of being able to push 2,000 watts), however the sprinter needs to sustain that power for a relatively short period of time – however long it takes to travel several hundred meters (usually less than one minute).  Climbers on the other hand push out 400 watts on their climbs however (again with that word!) they sustain that power for climbs that, in some instances, last 90 minutes over 20km.  Some sprinters actually cry on those long mountain stages while the climbers wouldn’t be caught dead in a bunch sprint!


P4 – Pedal Stroke – think in perfect circles (as it relates to your pedaling!)

Proper pedaling technique, in words, sounds like this: push, scrape, pull and drive over the top.  Think about your feet moving around the face of a clock.  From 2 o’clock through 5 o’clock you are pushing down on the pedal using your quadriceps (the large muscle group at the upper front of your leg) and the ball of your foot.  As you hit 5 o’clock you begin to flex your ankle almost as if you are trying to bend your foot around the bottom of the clock, while you continue to push through to 7 o’clock.  As you get to 7, you begin to pull up using your hamstrings (the large muscle group at the upper back of your leg).  When you hit about 10 o’clock you drive your leg over the top of the clock and begin the process again.  You are not alone!  What I mean by this is while the one leg is going through this process, the opposite leg is doing the opposite; while one leg pushes the other leg pulls and vice versa, and while one leg is scraping through the bottom of the clock the other leg is driving over the top.  We all begin with a dominant leg and a leg that likes to tag along; single leg drills are the cure for what ails this!  (More on single leg drills in another eBook).

P3 – Posture – always carry yourself with confidence

I believe that mindfulness and cycling go hand in hand.  To be mindful of your posture on the bike will make you more efficient which in turn helps you save energy which of course allows you to ride stronger, faster and further without causing injury to yourself.  During the conversation on Position we discussed your alignment on the bike.  Start here – when you first sit on your bike think of yourself as a Marine or a Ballerina.  Imagine a string pulling at the top of your head, lifting your head and ears away from your pulled back/relaxed shoulders.  Imagine that there is a hinge at your hip that allows you to keep that upper body posture while you bend forward, almost as if you are bowing to someone in front of you.  This is clearly easier to do if you are riding your bike on an indoor trainer or if you are riding a stationary bike.  The theory is the same if you are going for a ride outdoors, with some additional considerations.  First, you gain control of the bike by squeezing the brake lever on whatever side from which you will mount your bike.  Your other hand is shaking hands with your handlebars.  If you are going to swing your right leg over the bike your left foot will remain on the ground therefore squeeze the left brake lever and keep it squeezed until you are ready to begin rolling forward.  Next, using your right foot roll the right pedal around so that it is at the low point, 6 o’clock, and once it reaches that low point clip in your right foot.  Next roll that pedal up until it reaches approximately the 2 o’clock position.  The next part is fun and all done simultaneously:  pedaling with the clipped in foot (the right) and pushing off the ground with your left foot while gently releasing the left brake causes your bike to move forward.

I am going to quote Einstein here, and I cannot stress this enough:  “Life is like riding a bicycle.  To keep your balance you must keep moving”. 

As you are moving forward, place your left foot onto the left pedal and clip it in while you continue to move forward.  Don’t worry if you don’t catch the clip right away, just continue to turn the pedals until you get it.  Also, please continue to look where you are going and not down at your foot.  Cycling is about feeling, so feel your way to the pedal and clip in; trust me, be patient with yourself, we all get it, eventually!  Now that you are clipped in and rolling, find that perfect comfortable posture we’ve been discussing.

Improving Cycling Performance: Focus on THE 6 P’s –

P2 – Pace – the speed of your legs, otherwise known as “cadence”

Pace, or cadence, is measured in RPM’s (revolutions per minute).  Everyone’s physiology is different and determining what works best for each student/athlete requires some additional P’s – patience, persistence and practice.  In addition to your fitness level, cadence depends in large part on the gearing of your bike (a subject for another eBook) and your comfort level, or willingness to be slightly (or wholly) uncomfortable.  I would like to offer you some typical cadence ranges, it is a good starting point and with some riding and training we are able to help people to find their optimal cadence.  When riding on flat roads a good range to look for is 75 to 90 RPM with 70 and 100 begin acceptable on the low and high end, respectively.  Your cadence will naturally decrease while climbing; consider decreasing to as low as 60 (lower if necessary).  Again, different gears require difference cadence, for example if you use the large chain ring in the front (53) rather than the smaller ring (39) you will naturally ride with a reduced cadence.  Using the rear sprocket properly will help you climb properly; the smallest (11) will provide the most challenge while the largest (27) will make it easier.  Remember that your training goals are different than your riding goals; you train to get stronger so that you can be a better rider (more on the big ring/small ring conversation in another eBook).  Cadence on descents will depend on your experience and confidence.  In the early stages of your cycling career you will likely keep your feet parallel (the 3 and 9 position on the clock) and knees against the top tube.  On long descents, even though your bike is being carried by momentum, it is important to turn your legs around the pedals so that you keep blood flowing to your muscles.  One of the worst feelings comes on the short climb after a 10km descent if you haven’t turned your legs while descending for the past 15 minutes.  Think back a second to our conversation about the first P – Position – when we talked about the three points of connection – the pedals, the saddle and the handlebars.  You will know your cadence is too high if you are beginning to bounce in your saddle (doing so typically means that your joints are acting like brakes rather than your muscles doing the work); if possible switch to a more difficult gear in order to get yourself back into the rhythm of pedaling the bike properly and feeling the push under your foot.  Please keep in mind that everyone is different, the ranges I provided are a great place to start, proper coaching and training will help you find what is best for you.

Improving Cycling Performance: Focus on THE 6 P’s

In cycling and in life, focusing and improving on the fundamentals provides us with a proper foundation, or as my father used to say “planting seeds properly, watering them carefully and making sure they grow straight early on helps the tree grow straight.”  (Truth be told he may not have said it quite that way, especially after he found me doing something stupid, but I have come to believe it is what he meant!”).  Basically what I am saying is this – with training you can develop higher cadence, increased strength and power, develop more endurance, and gain more confidence; do this while being mindful about your breathing rhythm, your alignment and you how you feel while riding and training will allow you to make greater improvements in a shorter period of time while reducing the risk of injury.  It is important to maintain the health of your joints and connective tissue so that they do not begin to complain (quietly at first, then louder, then to the point where you can’t take it anymore and cycling becomes a chore rather than something joyful).  Let your muscles do the work rather than your joints.  Train properly, be patient with yourself, consider not getting caught up in the numbers during your ride and focus more on the feeling you get from riding; your clear and visible improvements as well as your lack of injury will speak volumes about your dedication and perseverance!

These 6 P’s are not a secret, they are position (alignment), pace, posture, pedal stroke, power and perceived effort.  Pay attention to and master these 6 P’s and you will become stronger, faster, more fit and avoid injury (and attain that GFNY personal best and/or other personal goal!).

P1 – Position – connection and three points of contact

Your position on your bike is best when you and your bike are properly connected and synchronized at three specific points – feet with the pedals, butt with the saddle, and hands with the handlebars.

When sitting on your bike your “sit bones” need to be resting on and aligned with the wide part of your saddle.  Saddles are not one size fits all, they are available in different widths, with or without cutouts, made of different materials and designed different nose lengths.  I wrote a blogpost about saddle choices some time ago, using Selle San Marco as an example of how to purchase the correct saddle, you can read that blogpost HERE.  While I have never ridden anything other than Selle San Marco and I believe they make great saddles it is possible that you require a different saddle; still, the principles in the blogpost are the same and will help guide you to make the proper choice.

Much of your weight for most of your ride will be on the pedals.  As soon as possible, release the thought of riding with flat pedals and sneakers and purchase a pair of stiff-soled cycling shoes along with a set of pedals and cleats.  The cleats are screwed into your shoes and allow you to clip into the pedals allowing for the best possible connection.  We will discuss your pedal stroke and how the right shoes help you a little later in this eBook.

Handlebars come in a variety of widths, with 40cm, 42cm and 44cm being the most popular.  The goal here is to make sure that you have the largest possible capacity for oxygen and the most comfortable position; when you reach out to “shake hands” with your handlebars” there should be a straight line along your arm to the hoods and shifters.  If you find that you are reaching inwards, the bars are too narrow, reaching outward means they are too wide..

This is the exact conversation we have with all of our students prior to beginning a class or coaching/training session:

Whether you are sitting on your road bike connected to a trainer or a stationary bike,

  1. Straddle the bike, clip in the foot to the pedal that is lowest to the floor, push yourself up onto the saddle then clip in the second foot.
  2. Sit up straight with your hips toward the back of the saddle.
  3. Give a big shrugging rollback of your shoulders then, hinging at your hips, bring your hands down to the handlebars, almost as if you are formally bowing to someone in front of you.

If you are perfectly aligned in the proper position with feet at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock you will look like this:

A side view will show you with your feet perfectly parallel, the ball of your foot directly on the center of the pedals with the front of your knee over the center of your foot and pedal.  You will have an approximate 30 to 45 degree angle at your hips with your spine long, your shoulders relaxed and the palms of your hands lightly resting on the tops of your handlebars.  Your elbows will face down and there will be a slight bend on the inside of your elbow.  Your head will be tilted slightly forward so that you are looking at a place that is several meters ahead of your front wheel and your vision of the landscape further ahead is broad.

A front view will show your toes, knees, hips and shoulders perfectly aligned with your chest open and your arms on the hoods, seeming almost as if you are reaching to shake hands with the person in front of you.  There is a perfectly straight line along your upper arm to the back of your hand with a slight bend in your elbow with those elbows facing up.  Shoulders are dropped and relaxed.  In this position you will be able to breathe deeply.

Great, now that you are properly connected to your bike lets Join the Ride!

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