Author Topic: Biking Endurance Question  (Read 10476 times)

cbr shadow

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Biking Endurance Question
« on: June 11, 2013, 12:48:36 PM »
2 friends of mine and I decided this past weekend to do a Century (100 mi bike ride) in Wisconsin.  The path was very poorly marked so we went way off course, but ended up doing about 75 miles of riding.  The roads we took were in great shape and beautiful scenery, but there were massive hills that made that route difficult/fun.  Anyways, on to my question..
I'm about 215 lbs and in pretty good shape, but have 17.8% bodyfat so I'm carrying plenty extra. I'm built big and strong but I dont have a lot of endurance doing things like running/swimming.  My friends who joined me on the other hand are both serious runners and could run circles around me easily.. but for some reason I was much better off biking.  They weren't able to keep up on the flats, and had to walk their bikes up a lot of the difficult hills where I pedaled the entire time then had to wait for them.  By the end of the day I felt great still and was actually a bit disapointed in the pace we held, but they were very low on energy and said they couldn't go any faster (roughly 10mph for the last 15 miles). 
We're doing another Century in July and I plan on telling them that I'm going to ride ahead and meet them in the end so I can push myself.

Anyways, i'm wondering why I would be so much better at biking when they both have so much more endurance running than I do.  They dont bike a whole ton, and I've been biking 10mi each way to work every day, so i'm sure that had to do with it.  What other factors could have caused such a difference?


tuyop

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Re: Biking Endurance Question
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2013, 01:01:20 PM »
Endurance is a tricky concept. I'd say the short answer is that because you have more bodyfat (assuming) than your friends, your glycogen stores are significantly higher.


Long answer:

Cycling is a very complicated activity that has a huge mental component and depends a surprising amount on form or technique. Depending on your background of activities and experiences, you may be better equipped as a rider to handle the mental component. You may also naturally have good cycling form or a better position or fit on the bicycle.

In the future, analyze your position on the bicycle, how far away horizontally your hips are from your legs, how horizontal your torso is in the drops, all that.

Also, look at your cadence compared to your friends' cadence. Many people are naturally "mashers" and hang out comfortably in the 60-80RPM pedaling zone. If you want to push in this zone, you have to produce power using fast-twitch fibers, which produce lactic acid and fatigue much faster than slow-twitch muscles. You can keep pushing longer if you focus on "spinning" in the 80-120RPM range, which uses the slow-twitch fibers. Your friends may be mashers and you may be a spinner, the difference is very significant.

Also, it's not cycling if you walk up the hills. :crossed-arms:

cbr shadow

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Re: Biking Endurance Question
« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2013, 01:05:30 PM »
Those are all good points.  I hadn't thought about cadence so i'll keep an eye on that along with riding position on our next one.
Neither friend is wimpy - both were pushing themselves but the hills were very tough.
Do people with higher bodyfat have a higher glycogen capacity?  I am hoping to lose a bunch of BF before the next century - I figure if I lose 15 lbs of fat before then I'll be able to hold a much higher speed.

Hamster

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Re: Biking Endurance Question
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2013, 01:06:14 PM »
Anyways, i'm wondering why I would be so much better at biking when they both have so much more endurance running than I do.  They dont bike a whole ton, and I've been biking 10mi each way to work every day...
I think that's pretty much it right there. You've been developing biking-specific muscle groups/fibers. They've been developing running specific muscle groups. You probably also have developed a more efficient pedalstroke/cadence since you ride more.

FWIW, a triathlon training book I read once said that biking helps build running endurance more than vice versa. I'm not entirely convinced that's true, since they didn't support it with any reasons or studies, but that was the author's statement. Having been a bicyclist for years (commuting, rec rides, some centuries/multi-day rides), I had practically no endurance for running when I added that to the mix about 4-5 years ago. I had to build up pretty slowly which was frustrating.

Hamster

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Re: Biking Endurance Question
« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2013, 01:12:46 PM »
Do people with higher bodyfat have a higher glycogen capacity?  I am hoping to lose a bunch of BF before the next century - I figure if I lose 15 lbs of fat before then I'll be able to hold a much higher speed.
Glycogen is stored in the liver and muscle. I don't think more fat adds to glycogen reserves. Training at certain efforts improves your ability to burn fat during exertion, but that's another issue.

Losing fat will probably help on the uphills since you weigh less. I doubt it will do anything for your speed/endurance on the flats/downhills, although training will.

Just an idea: If you get bored on your commute, you can throw in some sprints on your ride home - just go all out for a minute, then slow pedal for a minute, and repeat 5-10 times on your ride. Try mixing up the type of efforts on different days - try it on hills vs flat, seated vs standing, and high gear mashing vs low gear with high cadence spinning. You can also do longer lower-intensity efforts vs shorter all-out efforts. All will develop different types of speed/strength/endurance. Adding in high intensity intervals can do wonders for endurance/speed and keep things fun.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2013, 01:14:26 PM by Hamster »

anastrophe

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Re: Biking Endurance Question
« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2013, 01:25:14 PM »
Running and biking are totally different. Really. I run all winter but when I get on the bike in the spring I'm miserable. Before I started running I biked all year, running kicked my ass when I started. Running gives me asthma attacks, cycling never does. They are just not the same activity. To get good at running, run; to be a good cyclist get on your bike.

tuyop

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Re: Biking Endurance Question
« Reply #6 on: June 11, 2013, 01:55:56 PM »
Glycogen is stored in the liver and muscle. I don't think more fat adds to glycogen reserves. Training at certain efforts improves your ability to burn fat during exertion, but that's another issue.

Hey I may be wrong but:

Quote from: Kreitzman and others in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Glycogen is stored in the liver, muscles, and fat cells in hydrated form...

Whether this applies to your bicycle endurance question is just a guess on my part, but I think that yes, you have more glycogen than a person your size with less bodyfat.

ScottEric

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Re: Biking Endurance Question
« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2013, 03:02:43 PM »
Generally, if you're walking up hills you're doing it wrong...unless you're talking about 17% grades. 

I wonder if they were trying to get up the hill in the wrong gear?  Or if they're running double chain rings up front and you've got a triple with better hill gears?  Killing themselves on the hills might explain their later slowness too.   Standing on the pedals going up hills will drain you a lot faster, so gear selection/availability matters a lot.


cbr shadow

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Re: Biking Endurance Question
« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2013, 03:08:30 PM »
These were the hardest hills I've biked but I'm not sure about the grade.  We're all new to any organized ride/races so this was just to get a feel for what to expect.  We've already signed up for 2 more 100mi rides this summer.  Like I said before though, I think I'll explain to my friends that I would like to ride ahead to see what my best time is.  Unless they just had an off day, their biking abilities are about the same.

Hamster

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Re: Biking Endurance Question
« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2013, 03:34:15 PM »
Quote from: Kreitzman and others in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Glycogen is stored in the liver, muscles, and fat cells in hydrated form...
Whether this applies to your bicycle endurance question is just a guess on my part, but I think that yes, you have more glycogen than a person your size with less bodyfat.
Thanks for the reference. I'd never seen mention of glycogen in fat cells before. I'm getting very off-topic, but I did some scrounging around for my own knowledge and thought I'd share if you/anyone cares. It sounds like glycogen is in fat cells in very small amounts, but it's not entirely clear why. If you want to geek out with me on some biochem/physiology:

Quote from: Jurczak et al. Amer J of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism 2007
...following a meal, dietary lipid is stored by adipose tissue, and glucose is disposed of as glycogen by the skeletal muscle and to a lesser extent by the liver. Alternately, glucose can be utilized postprandially by the liver and adipocytes for de novo lipogenesis and long-term storage as triglyceride. However, adipocytes [edit: fat cells] also store glucose as glycogen, albeit at substantially lower rates than in skeletal muscle and liver, so the physiological role of adipocytic glycogen metabolism remains unclear.
...and one more suggesting that glycogen in fat cells may serve a regulatory function - i.e. tell the fat cells that there are enough raw materials for the cells to synthesize/store more fat.

Quote from: Stapleton et al. Proteome Science 2013
The function of glycogen in adipose tissue is not well understood but appears to have a pivotal role as a regulatory mechanism informing the cells on substrate availability for triacylglycerol synthesis.
I could be wrong, but it sounds like the amount of glycogen in fat cells (and a few other tissues) is pretty miniscule and may not serve the same energy storage function as glycogen in liver and muscle.

Kriegsspiel

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Re: Biking Endurance Question
« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2013, 04:02:20 PM »
The amount of fat you have is fairly irrelavent, since it's so energy-dense, even someone with a small absolute lbs of fat still theoretically has enough energy packed away for many many miles of activity.

The answers are probably twofold, one, endurance activities are pretty specialized.  An experienced runner uses less energy (or, is more mechanically efficient) than a non-experienced runner, even if that person is a experienced biker, or rower, or jump roper or whatever. For instance, the greatest biker in the world, Lance Armstrong, finished almost 900th in the Boston marathon after basically being the shit at biking for like 10 years.

Second, biking is a non weight-bearing activity, as opposed to running.  So having bigger stronger muscles helps more than in running for long distances.  And enduroweenies usually have extremely low muscle mass.  I'm sure you could also rep out 20 lbs on the leg extension machine many more times than your runner friends too.

matchewed

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Re: Biking Endurance Question
« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2013, 04:40:50 PM »
As one of my co-workers put it, "The best way to get better at bicycling is to ride a bicycle". You're probably just all around better due to your time in the saddle.

tuyop

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Re: Biking Endurance Question
« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2013, 06:59:24 AM »
Quote from: Kreitzman and others in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Glycogen is stored in the liver, muscles, and fat cells in hydrated form...
Whether this applies to your bicycle endurance question is just a guess on my part, but I think that yes, you have more glycogen than a person your size with less bodyfat.
Thanks for the reference. I'd never seen mention of glycogen in fat cells before. I'm getting very off-topic, but I did some scrounging around for my own knowledge and thought I'd share if you/anyone cares. It sounds like glycogen is in fat cells in very small amounts, but it's not entirely clear why. If you want to geek out with me on some biochem/physiology:

Quote from: Jurczak et al. Amer J of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism 2007
...following a meal, dietary lipid is stored by adipose tissue, and glucose is disposed of as glycogen by the skeletal muscle and to a lesser extent by the liver. Alternately, glucose can be utilized postprandially by the liver and adipocytes for de novo lipogenesis and long-term storage as triglyceride. However, adipocytes [edit: fat cells] also store glucose as glycogen, albeit at substantially lower rates than in skeletal muscle and liver, so the physiological role of adipocytic glycogen metabolism remains unclear.
...and one more suggesting that glycogen in fat cells may serve a regulatory function - i.e. tell the fat cells that there are enough raw materials for the cells to synthesize/store more fat.

Quote from: Stapleton et al. Proteome Science 2013
The function of glycogen in adipose tissue is not well understood but appears to have a pivotal role as a regulatory mechanism informing the cells on substrate availability for triacylglycerol synthesis.
I could be wrong, but it sounds like the amount of glycogen in fat cells (and a few other tissues) is pretty miniscule and may not serve the same energy storage function as glycogen in liver and muscle.

Awesome, I had a feeling that it might have a negligible effect and kind of felt bad about arguing the point.

After I made the post I did a 60 minute fasted swim-and-run workout to meditate on glycogen depletion and I thought, "Hey, wait a second, what athletes require lots of glycogen or efficient glycogen use for success?" Then I looked up photos of rowers, cyclists, swimmers, and of course, marathon runners. These people have something in common!

Yet, I'm proposing that more bodyfat would be beneficial for endurance in these, and other, endurance sports. Hm.