On Friday I rode my bike 202 miles with Fast Freddie Rodriquez. The ride was part of a fundraiser event called Dennis and Freddie’s Excellent Adventure. The event raises money for the Fast Freddie Foundation which provides underprivileged children with bicycles and safety equipment. Last year the foundation donated bicycles to an elementary school in my school district.
Freddie is a retired professional cyclist whose resume includes four national championships and the Tour de France’s green jersey. Freddie has been retired for a few years now, but he still looks like he could line-up at the start of any race. Fortunately, he took it easy on us on Friday. I was fortunate to ride in a small group with him for the vast majority of the day including the last 80 miles. Throughout the day I was able to chat with him about everything from training methods to parenting. Here are five things I learned by either chatting with Freddie or just by observing him throughout the day.
The Cadence Never Changes
Anyone who takes bicycle riding seriously strives for a smooth and steady pedaling cadence without any wasted upper-body movement. In other words, the exact opposite of what Peloton commercials depict. Whether we were on the flats at 25mph or going over Pinkham Notch at 10mph Freddie’s cadence never made a noticeable change. More importantly, it looked smooth and steady.
Heart Rate Matters More Than Perceived Effort
It was while riding over Pinkham Notch, a pretty climb through the White Mountains, that I got to chat with Freddie about training methods. It started out with him asking me, “how are you feeling?” I said, “great, this is a nice, casual pace.” To which he replied, “this is like a lot of the training rides we used to do.” I thought he was talking about the long, gradual climb so I said, “but with a bit more intensity, right?” I was wrong.
What Freddie told me is that too many people, mostly amateurs like me, think that training for big climbs or big races is all about doing hard efforts in zone 4 or 5 of heart rate. The reality is that longer efforts at zone 2 or 3 is what burns fat and better prepares you for endurance events. Case in point, Freddie was watching his heart rate monitor all day and not a speed or cadence meter. He had picked a heart rate zone and was going to stick with it all day regardless of the perceived effort being put out.
Find Shoes You Like and Stick With Them
“I hate getting new shoes.” – Fast Freddie Rodriguez
During our last rest stop of the day one person in our group of five mentioned that his feet hurt. That prompted a short discussion about shoes. Freddie mentioned that he hates getting new shoes and the shoes he was wearing proved that as they looked quite broken-in (a chunk of carbon appeared to be missing from the sole of one of his shoes).
Coca-Cola and Donuts
When we rolled into a gas station for our last rest stop of the day (the same site as the conversation about shoes) Freddie grabbed a Coca-Cola and some Hostess donuts. We amateurs with him followed suit. Freddie told us that Coca-Cola has been found to be as effective as any of the fancy sports drinks when it comes to refueling during a long ride and that’s why you see it in so many professional cyclist’s feed bags.
Get Up and Go, You’ll Feel Better
Early in the day I asked Freddie if he is still rides much besides the charity rides. He does a lot of running and playing soccer along with some riding. He told me the exercise today is as much for mental health as physical health. In short, being active keeps his mind in a better place. I agree. I’m far less moody when I’m regularly exercising than when I’m not. Even when I only have 25 minutes for exercise it’s better to spend those minutes exercising than watching a re-run of Friends.