Patrick McIntosh's Life Cycle


As a cycling coach I have a great and varied client base but none more interesting than Patrick McIntosh who is attempting a ride from London to Tokyo for charity. A chance meeting while supporting a ride organised by local bike shop 'On Your Bike' we struck up a conversation regarding performance zones and a more structured approach to training. Patrick came to Merlin Cycle Coaching HQ for testing the very next week on our Wattbike Pro. Quickly replicating his normal road bike  position, swapping his pedals and after a short warm up we conducted a Sub Maximal Test. This is designed to give a benchmark fitness level from which improvements can be monitored. The test is terminated when the rider indicates they have reached a level of exertion  which is best described as a ‘no-talk’ level!

The readings at that point are deemed to be 85% of maximum heart rate and 60 watts is added to the power to estimate maximum aerobic power so that heart rate and power training zones can be calculated. From this and other data captured we were able to write Patrick a full test report including training zones, aerobic thresholds, power to weight ratio and an estimated V02 max. It was clear that Patrick's endurance was quite good but his performance required some attention for 'top end' and recovery which he'd require on any long climbs encountered along his route.

In accepting my proposal to coach him he requested we work more on a ‘one to one’ basis over a series of early morning rides. This always works well when there is a short time frame as techniques can be taught quicker out on the road. From local knowledge I knew that just adjacent to Patrick's base is an excellent road training circuit 5 miles in length used by many local clubs for evening time trials and Road Racing, it's undulating, with a small hill for repeatable efforts, perfect terrain for zonal riding.

Leaving nothing to chance I also wrote a series of weekly training schedules as a framework for Patrick's week on the bike.

During the one to one sessions we were quickly able to fine tune Patrick's zones and educated him on how to ride at a steadier pace that can be maintained over the weeks and months of his ride to Tokyo and beyond. We addressed nutrition, technique and gearing all of which has lead to a partial re-think in equipment.

When taking on a challenge of this magnitude  attention to detail is a key factor the old saying 'Fail to Prepare - Prepare to Fail' rings true but in Patrick's case I'm sure he will succeed.   

At the time of posting this Patrick is cycling across Russia - follow his progress on his epic ride on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @KMGfoundation


Supporting links and information mentioned in Turbo Training Podcast

Useful turbo training sessions are here:

As I mentioned 220 – age doesn’t cut it anymore to calculate maximum Heart Rate.

Everyone is different but if you don’t have any underlying medical issues the best way to find your HR and Power Zones is with a Ramp test under controlled conditions using the British Cycling protocol.

For fitter riders you can do a Threshold test, we use the protocol described by Dr Andrew Coggan found in his book ‘Training and Racing with a Power Meter’

But a rough calculation can be done thus:

Max HR = 210 – (0.5 x age) – (0.05 x weight in kg) + (4 if male, 0 if female)

For example for a male rider age 62 and weighing 85 kg

210 – 31 = 179 – 4.25 = 174.75 + 4 = 178.75

At his last max ramp test the riders max HR was 179bpm!

Enjoy the Podcast!

Amat Victoria Curam

Don’t know about you but when I qualified as a coach Latin wasn’t on the curriculum!

‘Amat Victoria Curam’ means ‘Victory Loves Preparation’ and its equally true in all forms of cycle sport from Charity Rides to Le Tour de France and everything in between. If you don’t train specifically your performance will be poor or in coaching terms all the ‘P’s – Poor Preparation equals Poor Performance

What can you do?

Motivation is key but it’s too easy to say:

I’m tired

There’s something on the TV

My Auntie is sick

…  we’ve heard and used them all!

Joe Friel a well published cycling coach puts it thus:

‘Hire a Coach. Without a doubt, nothing can take your performance on the bike to the next level like working with a good professional coach’.

I of course agree, but there are always a few questions to answer;

“It’s too expensive.”

There’s a wide range in cost of coaching available. Firstly, your coach must hold a recognised qualification, I’m qualified to ABCC level 3. Our ecoaching is currently just £55 per month – a similar cost of a mid-range racing tyre. We can also write a one off 6-week training block for you. Costing just £50 and called ‘Six Pack’ it’s still personalised coaching but without weekly feedback. You could try this before committing long term, for a special event or motivation during Winter months.

Ask yourself how much you are spending on the latest components and gizmos for your bike(s) are they making you a better rider or just to impress your mates?  

“I’m not a serious enough athlete - coaching is just for pros and elite racers.”.

We specialize in recreational and amateur athletes as well as top racers. We work with your background, ability, and your goals for the future.

“I can self-coach.”

You might think you can reach your goals through self-coaching or following a ‘one size fits all’ training plan. There are many on the internet and you are a highly motivated individual but how do you know you’re not under or overdoing it? Wouldn’t it be great to have someone work and adjust your training schedule just for you with the equipment and time you have available?

Our riders don’t waste time guessing rest days, training days or whether they’re working to the right intensities based on personal zones. They get total peace of mind to get on with just riding confident in the knowledge they are maximising their potential.

Contact us today for further information on how we can take your cycling performance to the next level

Time Trial Pacing

Some of you are still looking for that elusive personal best this season, in my experience, these can come late in the year – some of us have left it as late as 1st week of October!

If you have trained hard and have the form there may be a reason why you can’t quite crack that ride you did last season or a few years ago on the same course. There are a lot of variables but one you have control over is pacing.

Many people simply start way too fast and can’t maintain the effort, far better to start conservatively and build to your cruising heart rate over the first few minutes – this will be your functional threshold heart rate [FTHR] that you can maintain for 1 hour in a 25-mile TT and just a few beats higher for a 10-mile TT.

Heart rate, should rise gradually over the first 2 minutes to FTHR, after the initial acceleration from the start the rider used his power meter to manage his effort at FTP. If you’re fortunate enough to own a power meter this is a handy tool to use but with experience and little practice you can manage effort at the start by feel. The illustration then shows a gradual increase in effort over the last third of the ride to go virtually flat out for the last mile.

What are the effects of starting to fast?

Ironically you will in most cases record a slower time. A graph will show your HR rising almost vertically and overrunning FTHR, you will go anaerobic - recover - repeat the whole ride. In most cases you will finish feeling totally spent and wondering why you went so slow rather than tired but exhilarated knowing you paced the effort correctly and left nothing ‘on the road’.

Want to know more about how to train and pace a successful time trial and beat your personal best including how to find your Functional Thresholds

Contact us at Merlin Cycle Coaching

Merlin Cycle Coaching signs sponsorship deal

It is with great pleasure we announce sponsorship of East Grinstead Cycling Club.
EGCC is one of the oldest established cycling clubs in Sussex with some of the best club riders in the area including past national champions.

The Club will shortly update all affiliations to reflect its new name EGCC/Merlin Cycle Coaching

Over the next 4 years its members will benefit from coaching, event support and testing facilities at Merlin as well as financial assistance when purchasing new Club clothing.
A slightly revised version of current clothing design will be manufactured with Merlin

Push off!

I pushed off again at the weekend - a time trial that is, my thoughts are here!

I've been time trialling since I was 14 - never been much good at it so have on occasions helped in other ways. Now a veteran I seem to have become a regular at pushing off.

There are many advantages in turning up to do this at an ungodly hour of the morning:

Its warmer than marshalling.

You finish early

You get to look and often laugh at what other people are riding and wearing

You get to banter with the timekeepers - believe or not they do have a sense of humour.

It encourages you to ride the next event because looking around you're not in as bad a shape as you thought.

 Having personally turned pushing off into an art form you will be familiar with both riders and fellow volunteers short comings.

Worst of the pushers faults is the 'wonky hold' where the person holding has you leaning over as if you're negotiating a high speed corner. I've adopted the continental  approach and now push from the rear. Some riders still query the vertical but I always carry a plumb line in my pocket to prove my point. This seems to upset some people just before their effort  but standards must be maintained.

 There are however many things to observe from the pushing perspective as one esteemed timekeeper recently put it 'I could write a book'

The first annoying aspect is people who insist on standing on the pedals just before the off. I always point out that all coaching manuals recommend a moderate start to a TT.

'The Panic' a wobble brought on by those not used to being stationery on a bike when clipped into the pedals. I take this personally, it displays lack of trust. I remember having to let one very experienced  rider go early on one occasion, with the timekeeper commenting '......5-4-3...oh near enough!'

Another personal dislike is unnecessary 'bike furniture',  turning up with a bike looking like they're going on some transcontinental adventure. This seems to be a particular affliction with our friends who also like to swim and run. When purchased the bike has been endlessly wind tunnel tested, it is constructed of ultra light carbon fibre and has wheels worth many thousands of pounds. Then it's turned back into something as aerodynamic as a garden shed, adorned with various bags, pumps, lights and possibly the most hazardous to the pushing off operative, the double rear bottle cage. I've almost broken fingers and once snagged a perfectly serviceable cardigan on one. Why? you're only riding a 10!

Now we come to  the 'grumpy competitor'. As we all know good manners cost nothing. While you can be focused and even shouting 'I need pain!' for goodness sake be civil.

From memory one of the worst was always Dr Hutch who once grumpily commented when the timing and pushing off staff were having a bit of a  banter 'Could we take this seriously please gentlemen'. At least he said please. Probably a moment of 'cycling stupidity' he omitted to mention.

Lateness or lack of planning is often a problem. Riders arriving late always seem to have a greater sense of entitlement for some reason and while every effort will be made to start you within the rules including the pusher  catching you when you are red faced and out of breath with less than  5 seconds to go, but don't blame us for your tardy appearance beyond this - its bad form to upset a timekeeper. You might be waiting a very long time to start.

'Oh you still here?' is a comment I often hear after an individual is abusive.

Flatulence ... sorry to bring this up, but its not big or clever especially with me behind you - what are some of you eating and drinking before an important event?

Courtesy - don't forget to say 'thank you' this goes a long way with the timekeeper and pusher  and can often be the difference between an '0' and a '59' and also getting your jacket returned if know what I mean!

 If you're new to pushing off fear not, the vast majority of riders are ok, but sometimes a little panicky and confused. You'd think some are walking to the gallows than simply riding a TT.

Be positive and assertive, grab the bike at 30 seconds to go and give a positive affirmation such as 'OK' or 'when you're ready' - at this point some of the less organised will:

Suddenly become totally unable to clip into their pedals

Want to take there jacket off.

Pin their number on

Realise they're in the wrong gear

Pump up a tyre


Ask course details

Answer mobile phone calls, send texts and take selfies

Have a complete meltdown

....or in the very worst cases all of the above.

After the last rider has started reflect on how well you've done, gather up the jackets to take back to the HQ knowing most will never be claimed and end up in the next cycle jumble.

You will also gather all the bits you've managed to pull off bikes [refer to 'Bike Furniture'] and reflect on all the new vocabulary you've learned [refer to 'Lateness' and 'Grumpy']

Note how your passages are now much clearer due to 2 hours of breathing in riders embrocation - get used to it you will  be still tasting it for the next few days.

 Then its back to the warm HQ for first dibs on the coffee and bread pudding - bliss.