Should I train heavy?

The Bike Affair

In my training, I insist on train heavy - a practice for which, I am sure, I am sworn at by my young athletes.


What is train heavy? It is a practice where you use heavier equipment during training and switch over to lighter and more efficient equipment closer to important events.


Like several other things, this is an approach that is easy to preach and tough to practise. I am especially experiencing this difficulty in practice, as my new gleaming carbon bike entices me during the morning of my ride. I recently moved to the other side of the grass with my new Chapter 2 Tere.


Despite this new temptation, I continued to stand by my advice. However, a few recent observations have made me rethink this.

First, let me give a quick intro to the horses in the stable


Training Steed: This is a custom chromoly steel frame which I had designed with trusted frame builders as a gravel prototype for our Astr brand. We intended to take this to production, but that never saw the light of day. This is complete with Microshift R9 shifters and derailleurs - a modest 2*9 groupset. There is a solid (read heavy) aluminum alloy wheel mated to 700*32 c tyres. As if this is not heavy enough, I have a leather saddle!


Young Turk: Chapter 2 Tere frameset - this is a full carbon all round frameset. Groupset duties are given to SRAM RED ETap with a rotor inpower crank with Q rings and integrated power meter. Token C45, carbon 45mm deep section wheels barely move the needle on the weighing scale.

Now, we shall move to the surprises


The Tere frame is so stiff that I think the word responsive doesn't do justice to it.  The response indicates that there is some lag between the effort & power transfer, but this one is so connected that there is zero lag. Along with the Q Rings, this has helped in making my pedal stroke smoother. The difference in speed is so high that I realized that I need to develop my skills to ride at the higher speeds that it can reach.

On sustained efforts lasting up to 5 mins, I can push more and dig a bit deeper. I have my power meter exclusively on the race setup, so monitoring performance is better with that.


The general rationale for training heavy is that you build strength in training and seem to have a fresh wind on race day when moving from heavy training gear to lighter race equipment just before a race. Chris Froome in his biography “The Climb” had written about how he used to ride while applying brakes on flat roads near his home to prepare for climbs. His determination and his ability to go and create his own luck are legendary, so there is definitely some credit to training heavy.


Additionally, there is lesser wear and tear on your race equipment if you train heavy.


So what really is the conclusion?


I would say it depends on affordability a lot and the equipment one possess. If the race setup has additional sensors to analyse performance or components that will help in improving your form it makes sense to give in to the temptation more often.  After all, it has to be about enjoying what you do, right?


Now, on to one additional thought...


Even if you train heavy, make sure you spend enough time to get used to the new setup and don't switch just on race day.  Deep section wheels are a classic example as you will need to get used to handling it in crosswinds.


Has training heavy worked for you? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.