How to use Expresso to train

We asked our Team Captains how they train for races, rides and life on the Expresso Bike. Here is what they had to say.

1. Chad Katter, Equinox Sports Club New York, “Become skilled at using different gear/cadence combinations. Try riding the same route at the same effort level in different gears. For example, ride Fruitdale once mostly in gear 10. Then ride Fruitdale again mostly in gear 15. Try to maintain the same average watts for both rides. Your cadence will need to be higher when riding in the lower gear. Using a higher gear requires more strength and will burn carbohydrates at a faster rate. Using a lower gear requires more aerobic capacity and will probably require a higher heart rate at cadences above 80-85 rpm.

  • For my training, I first do a tour that takes me close to an hour to finish to establish my baseline. For me, that is Savage Revenge, but for slower riders it may be another Extreme tour.
  • I then follow the advice given in Joe Friel’s “The Power Training Handbook: A User’s Guide for Cyclists and Triathletes” to establish 7 power training zones.
  • Finally, I try to ride close to a certain percentage of the time in each of these zones to focus on improving many of the skills required to race effectively. The percentages are also detailed in this book and will vary according which races have the highest priority.
  • I find that training in power zones is generally more effective than training in heart rate zones. However, understanding heart rate data is important to avoid overtraining.”

2. Bonnie Wilson, West Coast Fitness,Use the Chase games to break up your high interval time. When I really want to work on HIIT Training I will take one of the smaller traiditional rides as hard as I can handle, and then to give myself some active recovery, I will do a Chase in speed mode. It allows me to make it more an active recovery. I still go hard, but the speed allows me a chance to recover.

3. Michael Lewis, Gold’s Gym – Colonial Heights, “I check the elevation, RPMs and what gear I am in the most. Downhill I use the highest gear that I can use with comfort. Uphill I use the lower gears like 3 or 4. I like to ride every other day if possible. If I ride consecutive days, I try to ride an easier trail if I rode a hard trail the day before. And the reverse is true as well, for rides on consecutive days. To train to ride a 100-mile bike race outside, I would try riding a longer trail one day a week or several short trails on the same day one day a week the first week.”

4. Andrew Hall, Hobart Aquatic Centre, “I use gears between 16 and 22 to go uphill and 30 plus downhill.”

5. Caleb Cohen, YMCA – Scotch Plains, “I am just an average cyclist, love getting out, but won’t kill myself to do so… That said, this winter was the first I ever ‘trained’ at he gym during the off-season. I work up one heck of a sweat on the Expresso bikes, much more than on a real bike, but there is no wind in my face, so. I’ve finally been able to get out on the roads this past month. I am cycling at the beginning of the season better than I ever did at the end in previous years. My goal was never to use the Expresso to “train” but just for exercise. The end result is I feel much stronger on the roads, especially the hills and pushing myself on the flats (no gliding on the Expresso has taught me to always pedal hard, never relax). I’m sure my Expresso riding over the next few months will be much less, but it truly has helped my real-life riding.”

6. Cindy Schnee, YMCA – Calgary – Eau Claire, “…

  • tip #1 Every 3 weeks I do a Functional Threshold pace test to determine my zones for heart rate (I use my own hr monitor, not that on the bike) and power. The test is 30 min, so I do Fruitdale x2, my hubby does Coastal Run x3, etc… We then use this to determine how hard we should be riding on subsequent rides and to determine if we are improving.
  • tip #2 I like doing hill repeats on Temple Ridge. I can do 8 min or 12 min repeats and then recover on the 4 min flat part from the beginning to the other side of the bridge. I just hit leave route and start over again, trying to reach tthe required power and hr zones eac time.
  • tip#3 Bricks (bike to run, one right after the other) are easy to do in the winter; I just head upstairs at my YMCA to run on the track, since it’s too cold here to run outside. In the summer, I head outside!
  • tip#4 Intervals – pick a route that takes you your interval time to complete, not too hilly! Repeat, keeping in required hr and power zones.
  • tip #5 Pyramid intervals – From shortest to longest routes or vise versa, all out! I like Bent Spoke, Fruitdale, Rabbit Run, Evening Bliss, etc…Do an easy short one like Rolling Thunder, Redwood Dash, Expresso Speedway in between for recovery.
  • tip #6 I play around with my Ghost A LOT. At the beginning of the indoor riding season (October or November for me), I put my Ghost at the slowest time. I move it up as I improve.”

7. Scott Jordan, Liv Avenida, “I had to look up HIIT training and I have two degrees in this exercise stuff. HIIT training is “High Intensity Intervial Training”–a period of high instensity (HI) exercise followed by a recovery period of rest or low intensity exercise. More of an advanced training technique for both trainer and trainee, this kind of training will help racers with both speed and power. On an Expresso bike, you might use Expresso Speedway for such work. I’ve done my most serious sprints on this course as I am sure many others have. The track is mostly level and the 1/4 mile markings on the track would help with pacing and HI/LI intervals better than any other course. Plus, all Expresso stats will be kept and not just miles and calories if you would to do interval training outside of an Expresso course–like while watching TV. Search “interval training for bicycle” on the Web and you’ll find a wealth of info on interval training benefits, considerations, and modalites. On heart rates: As you all know, Expresso bikes provide real time heart rate feedback during a ride. And, captures and displays heart rate data for each ride, as well as graphs watts per heart beat as a measure of fitness over time. I use this data to get an idea of what my exercise heart rate should be for given workload. For myself and other riders, I also compare heart rates to general exercise heart rate guidelines for age and intensity–to get an initial idea if I or a rider is working too hard, too easy or just right. I also look for trends that indicate if I or a rider is getting in better shape or not. Heart rates should go down for the same amount of watts over time. You can do a run-to-run comparison as well as use the watts per heart beat graph to do this analysis. In this way, heart rate zones take shape and change according to the rider’s level of fitness. And huge kudos to Interactive Fitness for making this all possible for thousands and thousands around the globe!…”

Be a leader. Become an Expresso Team Captain. Train Now.

Worldwide Top 100 Power Couple – Tom and Diane Walton

Tom and Diane Walton have been married for 43 years and live in Powhatan County, Virginia. Tom and Diane are both retired teachers. For the past nine years, they’ve been enjoying their retirement by fishing in local ponds. On Monday, Tom hunted and caught a wild turkey by the James River in anticipation of the holidays. With the exception of the first Ghost Busters challenge in June, Tom and Diane have been ranked in the top 15 worldwide in the Expresso Top 100 monthly challenges for the past ten months. “I found out you could compete and competing is something I respond to,” says Tom.

In May of 2012, before the Top 100 challenges existed, Tom and Diane first hopped on an Expresso bike at the Greater Richmond YMCA. They spent time riding every tour and casually rode until December when they started to practice chasing dragons on Proving Grounds. The next month, the first challenge was released: Turkey Day Giveaway, a race for the most calories burned. Tom and Diane started to climb the leaderboards and in March, Tom and Diane took 2nd and 3rd place in the world for dragon chasing in the Dragon Hunter challenge. “People see us in our 60s and say ‘if they can do it, we can do it too’,” says Tom.

Tom & Diane's Stats
Click to view Tom & Diane’s Stats from the past year

By July, the Waltons were fully immersed in the Expresso world. The month’s challenge was Le Tour d’ Expresso, a competition in which riders needed to complete the tours allotted on certain days. Simultaneously, Interactive Fitness created a FUNraiser just for YMCA’s. They agreed to donate ten cents for every mile ridden that month to the facility that rides the most miles. The couple went into the gym every day, about 2 or 3 times a day, and use word-of-mouth to promote the program – resulting in about 30 Expresso participating riders. The strategy was to complete the rides designated for the Tour de Expresso that day, then ride as much as they could for the FUNraiser. 75 people rode 9,643 miles, won, and raised $538 – then a YMCA board member matched it. Their facility provides services for low-income residents, which influenced the gym to win. Although the Top 100 challenge spans the whole month, the FUNraiser ended on the 17th – but the YMCA members kept riding. Tom explains, “we were in it for the money at first, but then it was about pride!”

Tom and Diane grew up with active lifestyles and are driven by competition. Tom played basketball in school and Diane had less of an opportunity to play sports because her family moved around often, but kept active in her own time anyway. Diane explains that she may be more competitive than her husband, “I’ve got an older brother and he never let me be on his team until I started to beat him.”

Tom placed more importance on health after his father and sister passed away from stomach complications. The couple feel lucky to be healthy and vivacious. Diane proudly admits that they don’t need medicine to live day-by-day. Tom explains his emphasis on fitness, “you only get one body and you need to try to take care of it,” he explains. “I just feel like if you don’t use it, you lose it.”

Since retiring, Tom and Diane compete in half-marathons monthly on top of the Expresso monthly challenges. Their youngest daughter, Mary, a certified personal trainer, motivated her parents to enter a half-marathon at Disney World. It’s now the couple’s fourth year completing the Disney run, Richmond half marathon, and the Virginia Tech run. They average about 16-24 miles a week running around Powhatan. Tom explains how running and biking on Expresso have helped each other and increased his endurance. “It started out as more of a cross-training for running and now you could say that running is a cross-training for riding the Expresso bikes,” says Tom.

hokiehalf 2 003

In addition to running and biking the Expresso tours, Tom and Diane became absorbed in chasing dragons in the Expresso game, Proving Grounds – or the “chase game”. Tom says that he used to get 12,000 points in a 5-minute game and now get’s 44,000 points. He explains that his strategy is to recognize the terrain, stay away from certain parts of the map where it’s harder to obtain points, and even focus on some Chase game secrets. On the months when the challenge does not interest them, like the October Ghost Busters 2 challenge, they follow the Chase points leaderboard for the month and occupy spots in the top 5 or better. “I believe that my mind is mentally sharper now than before I started,” Tom says. “It’s good for the brain and makes me concentrate more.”

In August, Expresso released the Summer Sprints challenge with three sub-challenges. Tom and Diane participated heavily in the Chase portion called the Dragon Hunter Sprint. Again, Tom and Diane recruited riders to participate. Tom recalls the challenge, “a 75-year-old guy with both his knees replaced rode for eight hours that day,” he says. “We had more fun that day than any other because of the Expresso competition.”

One of the younger riders pulled up the Interactive Fitness Facebook page on his smartphone and noticed that a fellow dragon hunter by the name of Ken Dunn posted that Tom must have been cheating because of his accumulation of points. Ken later admitted that he knew the Powhatan facility closed at six so he stopped riding, thinking the YMCA would no longer be competing. But the YMCA stayed open late that night for the challenge. At seven, Ken saw the couple’s facility was still racking up points and gave up. Tom and Ken didn’t previously know each other but Tom wanted to contact Ken. “I called him and it was a lot of fun,” Tom says lightheartedly. “He said to me, ‘maybe you could give me insight into the Chase game,’ and I said ‘no, you’re too dang good!’”

There are about 23 YMCA’s in the Richmond area and the Powhatan one is one of the smallest. Tom explains that winning the Top 100 challenges is their claim to fame. “People ask us what we were doing and they would say it’s amazing that we could ride so much in a day, but it really isn’t,” Tom says. “Anyone could do it. If you set goals and work at it, you’ll improve.”