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Why Motorbike Assisted Efforts Aren't Imperative to Cycling Performance

If you’re a sprinter and accustomed to following a motorbike as you complete flying efforts around a velodrome, than you’ll attest to just how fun this type of activity is. 

But are motorbikes imperative to cycling performance? 

We think not… 

Whilst they’re a great training tool for overspeed efforts, utilising the motorbike isn’t imperative to cycling performance and in this blog we’ll explain a few reasons why.

First, lets talk about how motorbikes are used on the track. 

In sprinting, motorbike lead activities can include activities such as motor-jumps, motor-paced gradual accelerations and motor-paced flying entries (to name a few). 

The motorbike leads the cyclist around the track and thus deflects most of the air resistance, allowing the cyclist to maximise their speed (ride faster than they would without the motorbike) due to minimal aerodynamic drag. 

The motorbike (if ridden well by an experienced pacer) can reach peak speeds of up to 90kph, and therefore, allows cyclists the flexibility utilise all sorts of gear ratios without compromising their top end speed abilities.

A lot of the time, motor paced efforts are completed on gears close to race gear in the lead up to an event as reaching high peak speeds isn’t a barrier. 

One issue with regularly utilising big gears behind the motorbike, is that when the cyclist rides on their own (unassisted by motorbike), they’re unable to reproduce the cadences and speeds they were able to achieve behind the motorbike. As a result, pedalling efficiency in some cases is compromised (i.e. they become ‘stompers’ or ‘mashers’ and don’t have the finesse to pedal lovely looking circles at high revolutions). 

Producing high force throughout multiple pedal revolutions at high speeds is also very neurally fatiguing, which is why, speed focused motor paced efforts are usually only completed close to major race events. 

Additionally, when utilising a motorbike for a large portion of training efforts which include activities such as motor-paced warm ups and warm downs, the minimal air resistance doesn't allow the body the opportunity to feel and dictate cadences and speeds.  Closer to competition this becomes less of an issue, but certainly for the bulk of training - it's important to have an adequate level of fitness to be able to complete a warm up and cool down without the assistance of a motorbike.  

Training without a motorbike is just as effective, and the following 3 exercises we recommend if you’re aiming to maximise your speed in the lead up to a race event:

  1. Drop the gear ratio down, and focus on high cadence efforts
  2. Use the ergo and/or rollers
  3. Head out on the road bike and complete downhill efforts

If you are planning on using the motorbike, the only exercises that we recommend are: 

Overspeed efforts 

Where the rider will complete a flying or rolling start effort behind the motorbike on a moderate gear (close to race gear) and strives to achieve highest possible speeds. These speeds are higher than the athlete can complete un-assisted, and engage the
neural system.

Up to speed assistance 

Where the motorbike brings the rider up to the required speed prior to the start of the effort and leaves the rider to complete the remaining effort unassisted.

The motorbike in this situation removes much of the wind resistance, allowing the rider to use much less energy achieving the required ‘start of effort’ speed. 

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