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  1. #1
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    New Bike or New Coach?

    I started seriously training for the first time in 10 years back in July (I'm now 7 weeks into Carmichael's TCTP). I use to ride 4 times a month max, now 4-5 times a week.

    My goal was to start racing this fall and I have done so.

    I started in Cat 3 and feel top 10 is an attainable goal for me in every race but I would like to get faster and move up to consistently finish in the top 10 in Cat 2. My current ride is a 26" 27lb FS. Nice ride but not too speedy going up hills. I'm down to about 9% BF, so I don't have a lot of weight to lose on the "motor" side of things.




    My question is simple, should I spend my money on a new ride or on a coach? Which one in your experience tends to yield better race day results?

  2. #2
    I'd rather be riding
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    I ride a 27lb 26" FS and I don't have any issues with bike weight, it climbs and let's me run faster times on most stuff locally than my 25lb hardtail ever did. Get the coach.

  3. #3
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    I'd say it still somewhat depends on the particular FS bike.

    27 lb Epic? Get the coach. Something with a ton of travel that gets totally incoherent every time you're out of the saddle? Maybe a racing bike.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  4. #4
    I'd rather be riding
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    Yeah I agree with Andrew on that as well, mines a 27lb aluminum top fuel, for clarification. And most of my weights hiding in the drivetrain, cockpit, and low end spds.

  5. #5
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    Get your soft tail down to 23 pounds like I did. Get a coach when you reach cat 1. I think you can get there on your own.

  6. #6
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    Interesting points thus far, thank you.


    I have an '09 Gary Fisher Hifi. I have upgraded some of the easier bits, tubeless, carbon bars etc. I'm to the point where I don't really want to throw a bunch of $ at it that would be better spent on a new steed.

    I'm happy riding the Hifi and upgrading the motor, so coaching is where I am leaning. Just wondering if coaching is something that people consider more at the Pro/Cat1 level or if a newb like me can really benefit?

    I rented a 29er HT for a weekend and I was definitely faster, especially up the hills, for the type of terrain that I ride. I guess that is "evidence" of improving by upgrading the bike.

    If you had to choose one or the other, would $3,000 be better spent on a new ride or on a year's worth of coaching?

  7. #7
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    $3000 would be better spent on a trip to hawaii. Coaching is IMHO a waste of money, sorry coaches, buy a book, ride smarter, rest and eat healthy.

    New bikes are fun though.

  8. #8
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    I'd spend the money on a bike. You can learn a great deal by reading this forum, picking up a couple of books, and learning on your own how your body reacts to training stress. Given that you're racing Cat 3 right now, you can make some giant gains without hiring a coach. I'm no expert on training, but I know that as you progress the gains become smaller and smaller. When you get to this point, a coach could be very helpful. Of course, if you have motivation problems, perhaps you should spend the money on a coach.

  9. #9
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    To answer the question; I'd say coach. A new bike is just going to make your wallet lighter. When you are finishing top 3 to 5 consistently in CAT2 and need a little advantage then new bike time. The thing preventing you from being "speedy" up hill is the motor at this point. Just my opinion.
    But really, at this point maybe save money on the coach and just spend more time on the bike. Climb more hills.

  10. #10
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    I've got a coach and a nice race bike. Both are beneficial. I also race Pro and want to do World Cup's at some point.

    Maybe follow the go to Hawaii suggestion to make your spouse (?) happy, and aside from that - read a lot on training/self coaching and RIDE LOTS. I think coaches are most beneficial when you've kind of gotten yourself as far as you can and aren't making gains anymore. Not saying there's anything wrong with Cat 3 Clyde's having coaches, but I'm not sure that it would be where I would put my money first if I was in that situation.

    What will most get you out the door to ride and train? If a new bike (and if you're already pretty lean, losing 5-6lbs of bike will make a big difference) gets you excited to go train, ride, and race, then do it!

  11. #11
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    A new bike is always nice but coaching is good too no matter what ability level. Self coaching books are nice but is there a club or trainer nearby that has training camps? A short course can really help with form as well as fit and give you an base that you can expand on with book training regiments.

  12. #12
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    Its the motor, not the bike. But be careful...

    As someone who has hired a coach in the past (with very good results), I will tell you that a personal (one-on-one) coach would be a huge benefit. But if you are a Cat 3 right now riding (probably) 6-8 hrs per week, a coach may only raise your training hours by about 10% per year for steady improvement year over year. If you beg them, they may throw a huge workload at you, and you may be able to do everything they ask of you, but then you risk severe burnout, which is what happened to me.

    A good approach may be to try to raise your weekly training volume to the 15hrs/wk range and then hire the coach the following year.

    Caveat emptor... A coach will take the fun out of riding very quickly.

  13. #13
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    Neither, I'd get a road bike if you don't own one or a power meter for the road bike. Do some reading about physiology and power, don't take everything too seriously and map out a plan that spans an entire year and try to stick with it, but measure yourself frequently and adjust as needed.

    Ask other riders for their help and perspectives, most people are happy to help out. Ask the riders who are winning races for some hints about training.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by jroden View Post
    Neither, I'd get a road bike if you don't own one or a power meter for the road bike. Do some reading about physiology and power, don't take everything too seriously and map out a plan that spans an entire year and try to stick with it, but measure yourself frequently and adjust as needed.

    Ask other riders for their help and perspectives, most people are happy to help out. Ask the riders who are winning races for some hints about training.

    I have the roadie and a power meter along with WKO+ for logging all of my data. I've read Training w/Power and a lot of other books on the subject but certainly feel like I am far from a master of the data and am intrigued by the many things a coach may see that I don't. That said, I'm sure that all of this has helped me be pretty competitive (in Cat 3) right out of the gate. Like many competitive people however, I want more.

    Your advice is helpful and for the most part, I feel like I'm tracking along with what you recommend.

  15. #15
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    I feel an inane little story coming on

    The first time I entered a cross-country race, I "accidentally" entered Sport, and I won my age group. On a Specialized Hardrock.

    There is some context to this, though. I'd been riding a lot, and did several cyclocross races the previous Fall. I did some speed work to prepare for those. I'm a pretty bad 'cross racer, but I have a good time. This particular race was on an island near me, and not part of either of the local series that people are more serious about. And I do have a decent suspension fork.

    Anyway, I've decided I'd like to get myself into Expert MTB and Cat. 3 'cross before I throw a bunch of money at it.

    Obviously a mileage may vary thing. I don't know how competitive everyone else's series are.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by LATAH_M.E. View Post
    As someone who has hired a coach in the past (with very good results), I will tell you that a personal (one-on-one) coach would be a huge benefit. But if you are a Cat 3 right now riding (probably) 6-8 hrs per week, a coach may only raise your training hours by about 10% per year for steady improvement year over year. If you beg them, they may throw a huge workload at you, and you may be able to do everything they ask of you, but then you risk severe burnout, which is what happened to me.

    A good approach may be to try to raise your weekly training volume to the 15hrs/wk range and then hire the coach the following year.


    Caveat emptor... A coach will take the fun out of riding very quickly.



    Interesting, thank you.

    I wonder if the quality of ride would improve even if the quantity remains similar? Is that what you found to be the case?

  17. #17
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    The best thing I ever did to get faster was to buy a cheap single speed and ride the hell out of it. Leg strength was my biggest short coming. I used to never get out of the granny gear when I first started riding / racing.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by string_wise View Post
    I have the roadie and a power meter along with WKO+ for logging all of my data. I've read Training w/Power and a lot of other books on the subject but certainly feel like I am far from a master of the data and am intrigued by the many things a coach may see that I don't. That said, I'm sure that all of this has helped me be pretty competitive (in Cat 3) right out of the gate. Like many competitive people however, I want more.

    Your advice is helpful and for the most part, I feel like I'm tracking along with what you recommend.
    I tried one of the coaching programs through carmichael, I can't say it was altogether effective. I was on the cheaper level plan and kept being assigned to new kids with a BA in exercise phys who sent me emails full of pat advice like "let pain be your guide" and "build you aerobic engine" and other similar crap, while sending me some machine generated training plan that required me to ride alone every day. The overarching stupidness of the whole thing caused me to return to my self coached ways.

    If I were to hire a coach it would be someone who I respect as a racer who has been able to win at the high level and has been able to improve over many years. It would have to be someone who has put the time into learning and continues to be a lifelong learner. As I get older, i would want someone who understands that whole side of things. But i don't want a coach, you do. I think it will be money well spent given your motivation, just finding the right fit is the key, there are some real wanks out there who can barely get out of their own way on the bike who decide they can be a coach

  19. #19
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    Buy the books, go on a two or three day xc training camp and also get the new bike.

    By self coaching you will learn so much and over time understand what works for you and what doesn't. It also allows a lot more flexibility. Last year I was riding my granny gears all the time while racing, this year I'm rarely in them. Improving leg strength and the motor has really helped to increase my average speed.

    I've also been renting some bikes (my current tank at 28 pounds) and I'm hoping to get something like the scott scale 29 pro for next year. At 23 pounds its hard to been for 2500 bucks.

    Good luck and HAVE fun.

    PS: I spoke with a couple of Carmichael coaches early this year and almost signed up for the basic program but I felt the difference in our ages which was almost 20 years wasn't a good thing.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by string_wise View Post
    My current ride is a 26" 27lb FS. Nice ride but not too speedy going up hills.
    As a race setup try adding some more pressure to the rear shock of your current 130mm travel bike. As much as 30-40psi extra perhaps on courses where pedalling is important.

    If you over pressure the rear shock significantly above the recommended pressure for your weight then it will make the rear suspension less active. With a less active shock the bike should pedal better with less bob, accelerate faster out of the saddle and be quicker uphill on easier terrain where traction isn't as vital. The trade off is that you'll lose some travel and comfort with the firm rear shock as the bike will feel more like a hardtail.

  21. #21
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    If you are going to spend the dollars one way or another but a bike. Coaches have their usefulness (I am one myself) but for a new racer 90% of the time are more harmful then good.

    Really if you are in your first couple of years riding or racing (Cat 2 or Cat 3) really you just need to ride more. Training is just about accumulating miles and skills. If I was to write you a program it would consist of four or five rides a week ranging from 1hr to 3hrs in length with no structured intensity. It would be pretty simple and you would question why you were paying $100/month for such a program.

    My expereience is coaching is best for fairly advanced racers (Cat 1 perferably higher). Honestly as a coach I have had terrible sucess with new racers, the program I wrote were to complex and they didn't have fun and they didn't improve. I have had incredbile sucess with elite racers who have capacity and the drive to handle a training program.
    "The best pace is suicide pace, and today is a good day to die." Steve Prefontaine

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by LATAH_M.E. View Post

    Caveat emptor... A coach will take the fun out of riding very quickly.
    My experience here tends to be the opposite; I much prefer training to a program than not

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by miss rides a lot View Post
    My experience here tends to be the opposite; I much prefer training to a program than not
    Is this a hint that you are ready to be on a program again?
    "The best pace is suicide pace, and today is a good day to die." Steve Prefontaine

  24. #24
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    my advice is to buy some books on training and read them. if after reading them you think a new bike would help, do that. after you get to CAT1 and can't imagine going faster, get a coach. before that point you will be wasting money unless you REALLY need an email cheerleader (go dude, you got this!)
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by miss rides a lot View Post
    I've got a coach and a nice race bike. Both are beneficial. I also race Pro and want to do World Cup's at some point.

    Maybe follow the go to Hawaii suggestion to make your spouse (?) happy, and aside from that - read a lot on training/self coaching and RIDE LOTS. I think coaches are most beneficial when you've kind of gotten yourself as far as you can and aren't making gains anymore. Not saying there's anything wrong with Cat 3 Clyde's having coaches, but I'm not sure that it would be where I would put my money first if I was in that situation.

    What will most get you out the door to ride and train? If a new bike (and if you're already pretty lean, losing 5-6lbs of bike will make a big difference) gets you excited to go train, ride, and race, then do it!
    That is what I'd recommend. Most of us amateurs can dramatically improve by reading the training resources out there so that we train smarter. Educate yourself on exercise physiology and training and you can put together a quality plan without being an expert or certified coach.

    Now when you've reached the point where the gains are not coming easily anymore, then a good coach becomes much more valuable. They will have worked with hundreds if not thousands of athletes and will have lots of experience in taking people to the next level.

    So I'd get the race bike for now plus a few books. Coaching later.

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