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Monday, January 21, 2019

No Dead Miles

I don't believe in "dead" miles. I feel alive on every mile I ride.

This time of year triggers an avalanche of quick fix training programs guaranteed IN JUST 10 DAYS! to GAIN SPEED!, LOSE WEIGHT! and SLAY DRAGONS! A prominent admonition this year seems to focus on the concept of avoiding "dead" miles, i.e., pedaling miles that are too easy for aerobic or strength training, but too hard for base building or recovery. In general, this concept advocates a high percentage of miles be very easy and a low percentage of miles be off-the-charts hard. Everything in between has no beneficial training effect and are "dead" miles to be avoided at all cost.

Maybe this resonates with those having the goal of optimizing every riding moment for optimal training effect. If your paycheck or your ego depends on your relative placing in races, then perhaps you should ride only boringly slow or lung-burstingly fast. If there's no margin for error, maybe every riding moment must contribute to a specific training benefit. I don't know. I'll leave that to the professionals.

Just riding along on some favorite M-Hill trails in the heart of Rapid City.
(photo by Chani Groseth,
I'm just not buying it for me. Not any more. Those in-between miles are fun. And more fun leads to more riding and better conditioning, even if it's not optimal. I don't care if I'm not as fast or as strong as I theoretically could be through optimal training. I ride a lot because I have a lot of fun riding. My weekends often are filled pedaling through remote country on those fun, in between miles. None feel "dead" to me.

I understand that a structured plan with high intensity workouts produces results. By following a variety of such plans over the years, I have experienced the speed and endurance gains from high intensity training. However, these days I choose not to rigorously structure my riding to specific training. I just ride.

That does not mean my week is without structure. For base building and recovery, I commute every day by bike, year around, which is about 25-30 minutes each way or almost 5 hours a week. That quietly adds up to about 2,500 miles a year. I don't feel compelled to add more base building/recovery rides during the limited ride times on nights and weekends.

For high intensity training, I now run. In late 2017, I started running again after a very long hiatus. For the past 68 weeks, I have run three times a week, with increasingly harder and longer efforts. By now, I'm at Tuesday early morning short intervals (4x3min, 3 miles total), Thursday early morning threshold (1x20min, 3 miles total) and Sunday morning trails (1 hour up and around M-Hill). The key for me is consistent effort over time. I am gradually getting lighter and faster, both running and riding, as a direct result of incorporating these short runs into my week. They also free up the rest of my nights and weekends to find someplace fun to ride.

So, I bike commute for base building/recovery, run for training and ride nights/weekends for fun.

No "dead" miles for me.


  1. Craig, been fun to follow your posts on the Jones LWB and I'm trying to decide on a new build myself. How does the Medium/24" feel after riding it a while? How tall are you and what's your standover height (or pant inseam?)? Jeff tells me I'm between the 24 and 25" and he'd probably go with the 24" (I'm 6'1.5" with 34" standover height--long arms and torso, shorter legs). Just trying to judge the size to buy, since haven't found one to try out. Your thoughts and data would be appreciated. Tim

  2. 5'11'' with 34" standover (long legs, short torso, long arms). Jeff recommended the 24", but said the 25" would work if I wanted the larger main triangle for bike packing. I love the 24. At first, the bike just felt mammoth - tall, long, wide - with a crazy upright and rearward body position. But it rides very intuitive, and never sluggish. I love it for all kinds of riding. And the available bags provide loads of capacity with the 24" main triangle. Body positioning is so different from every other mountain I've ridden that I really don't know how to extrapolate handling to the 25, but I suspect it rides much the same but would feel even bigger.

    At your size, I would consider the 25, if primarily riding longer dirt/gravel roads loaded. But I would listen carefully to Jeff. He didn't push for anything with me, but clearly expressed his thoughts on every detail of my frame, fork and build. I went with almost all of his recommendations and love the result.

  3. Thanks for your response and input. Had a long discussion with him as well and just deciding on the size is the issue, but the other pieces are mostly set.