Saturday, January 18, 2014

Go light to go Fast

Your body can produce a limited amount of power.  The power (watts) your body produces has to propel you, your gear and your bike on down the road (or up them hills) day after day after day. 

The less weight your limited power has to move the faster you will reach Antelope Wells (or Banff if your race is north bound).  IE: the better your Watts/Pound ratio the less time you need to bake in the New Mexico sun at the end of your race………….

So every TDR racer wants to produce more watts, ie train and get in shape 

And most TDR racers also will plan to use a light bike and carry light weight gear.

So there are 2 basic factors to minimize the time it takes to finish.  The watts your body can make/sustain and the pounds it has to propel. 

Within reason, which factor is most important, power or weight? 
The practical answer is that weight is more important than power.

Ok then, but let’s first look at power or watts.  Your body’s power producing capability is limited by two elements: First who you picked for patents, second how effectively you have trained.  Obviously our genetic potential for maximum power is fixed.  And within reason, you can only train or optimize your power capability to a certain maximum level.  My point is that you can only impact the power you bring to the TDR to a fairly small degree. 

Weight on the other hand can be rather dramatically increased or decreased by a whole host of choices we all make.  The weight we must push from Canada to the Mexican border can also be broken down into two elements, Dollars and FAT.   The more Dollars you spend on bike & gear the more weight you can eliminate.  And the less Fat you choose to carry the better your watts/lbs ratio. 

Dollars tend to be limited and more important the $/lbs effect has distinct diminishing returns. IE: don’t be cheap but after a point more dollars spent on weight reduction are basically wasted dollars.  

So this brings us to the heart of the matter -FAT. 

(Pause—now is a good time to insert a disclaimer: ok here goes--if you are a semi-pro level type who will finish your TDR in 20 or fewer days the following does not truly apply to you.  But if you tend to fall into the 20-26 day range read on…..)

FAT can be divided into two types.  1st is senseless FAT on your bike and 2nd excess FAT on your body. 

Pointless fat on your bike is easily recognized, just look for extra, bulging bags, big stuffed backpacks and a mish mash of items haphazardly strapped on to the handle bars or seat bags.  Make you bike look slim and lean, just like the < 20 day finishers and chances are very good you will have eliminated most superfluous bike FAT.

FAT on your body is also easily recognized (& we all recognize it when we see it, ha- so I will not torture you with a grossout picture...)  But aha you say, doesn't excess body fat circle us right back to power/watt production?  Funny how life is usually a circle of some sort. 

And ok, so I sort of lied about weight being the most important factor, but not really as its mostly where you happen to be personally on that there circle.  

So my main focus on improving my personal watts/pound ratio is to lose weight.  If I can do that just about everything else falls into place effortlessly. 
In 2010 I started around 167lbs and finished around 163lbs.  Even though I did not lose much weight I did eliminate 8% body fat (or ≈ 13 lbs of fat) .  I have always wondered about that, I must have gained muscle, but supposedly you can not do that on the TDR??
2014 Weight Chart
Nov 20th               187lbs
Dec 23rd                181lbs
Jan 18th                 174lbs
edit: Feb 23           169lbs
edit April 1st         166lbs
edit May 28            157lbs    my Birthday
June 11th              fly to Banff





  1. Hi Marshall,

    Good advice.

    Before the 2013 TRD I was told by Mike Kerley (2012 vet) to pack up with as little as I thought I needed, then get rid of 1/3. I did that by taking off my handlebar bag which forced me to go even lighter. Also ditched my hydration pack. So remove the temptation to overpack by reducing your number of bags.

  2. My method is to load up your bike with every single thing you plan to bring. Then ride all day and finish with a climb for 1 hour or more. At the top of said climb stop and list for removal all the stuff you now realize you don't need that badly.......usually equals about 5lbs of unnecessary items the 1st time you do it.