Have you ever watched bike races and wondered how the elite racers have such fluid pedalling motion at high intensities while making it look effortless? Have you ever seen yourself pedalling and wondered why you look like a sputtering engine instead of a well-oiled one?
The ‘Secret’: motorpacing
While a lot of racing mileage certainly does contribute to such efficiency on the bike, many of them use motorpacing to get fit and fast throughout their season as well.
Motorpacing, the art of a cyclist drafting behind a pace – controlled vehicle, is an advanced training tool that simulates racing conditions without the need of racing or a large group of riders riding together at high speeds.
The bare minimum for a motorpacing session is you, the cyclist, and someone else on a motorbike/in a car. This makes speedwork on a bicycle accessible to even individuals who do not do many races in a year or do not have a group that does structured speed training.
Being specific about the things you do in training is how winners are created. Racing at high speeds not only requires good aerobic and anaerobic fitness but also good neuromuscular function and skills.
Riding at high speeds in a group require cyclists to pedal at a high cadence and power output, but with low torque. This is difficult to achieve as many of us often ride at:
- Low cadence, low power output, low torque (e.g: general group riding)
- High cadence, low power output, low torque (e.g: descending)
- Low cadence, high power output, high torque (e.g: climbing)
Specific race skills need to be practiced and honed. Structured motorpacing sessions allow for a cyclist (or a group of them) to practice skills. Like timing their sprint, practice hard accelerations at high speeds, forming a lead-out train, and even holding a smooth paceline.
This is where motorpacing comes in and fills up that ‘gap’, creating a more holistic approach to training and ultimately producing a more complete cyclist.
In short, motorpacing helps to improve:
- Neuromuscular firing (communication between the brain and muscles)
- Leg speed at high intensities (cadence at high power but low torque)
- Bike handling at high speeds
- Racing skills (e.g: sprinting, leading out, attacking, riding an echelon)
- Mental awareness
Word of Caution!
If you are already thinking about heading out on your next ride with your buddy on a motorbike, hold your brakes!
Motorpacing should only be reserved for the highly-skilled cyclist and motorbike rider and as most things at high speed, carries some form of risk of injury and accident.
You should not perform these sessions if you are not comfortable and confident in handling your bike at high speeds.
You should also perform these sessions only with a motorbike rider (preferably a coach) who has done this sort of session as a cyclist himself.
Being able to ride a motorbike well and motorpace someone well are two different things. It requires the motorpacer to understand how quick/slow a cyclist can pedal and respond to very subtle changes in wind, terrain, acceleration, deceleration, and paceline position.
It takes great skill, throttle finesse, and understanding of cycling to be a good motorpacer. Motorpacing sessions should also be structured and executed with a specific plan and goal in mind. It is best to seek advice from a coach on how these sessions should be done.
Be also sure to abide by the laws of the land!
Is it for me?
Are you a competitive cyclist who has been actively racing for more than 2 years? Are you looking to gain an edge in your riding abilities? If so, motorpacing – along with its many potential benefits – could be for you.
CrankSmart offers structured motorpacing sessions that are crafted based on your specific goals. Find out more: https://cranksmart.com/services/motor-pacing/
Author: Lemuel Lee
Founder and coach at CrankSmart, Lemuel is passionate about all things concerning cycling. He has been in constant pursuit of methods and ways to improve human performance ever since he start cycling competitively in 2005, and has spent his cycling career not just as a rider, but also dedicating time in the field of Sports Science, applying those lessons to his own training. He graduated with a Diploma and Bachelors degree in Sports and Exercise Sciences (Republic Polytechnic, National Technological University of Singapore) and is now helping individuals unlock their potential through smart training.