Mountain Biking and Marginal Gains

The idea of marginal gains goes hand in hand with endurance races like the Leadville 100.

With two of the three of the Marginal Gains hosts also doing a weekly podcast on the Leadville 100 MTB race, you knew it was just a matter of time ’til we dragged the topic of Leadville into this show.

And that time…is now.

The fact is, the idea of marginal gains goes hand in hand with endurance races like the Leadville 100. It’s over long days in the saddle that little changes start making a big difference. 

We cover a lot of very practical topics in this episode, and while we’re focusing on one particular race, a lot of it is about techniques any cyclist — on dirt or pavement — can use.

Got a question you’d like to ask? Text or leave a voicemail at the Marginal Gains Hotline: +1-317-343-4506 or just leave a comment in this post!

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8 thoughts on “Mountain Biking and Marginal Gains

  1. I had already done a breakdown of the course terrain by distance based on my 2015 race/Strava file. I updated the analysis to also look at the time spent on each surface type: pavement, gravel, easy MTB/singletrack, MTB climbs, and MTB descents.
    – Pavement (start to St. Kevins gravel, Turquiose Rd, 5a/300/11, 10 in both directions): 26% of distance, 19% of time
    – Gravel (many segments): 49% of distance, 44% of time
    – Easy MTB/singletrack (singletrack close to Twin Lakes, flatter section at Columbine turnaround): 3% of distance, 2% of time
    – MTB climbs (Powerline, Goat Path): 11% of distance, 25% of time
    – MTB descents (Powerline, Goat Path): 11% of distance, 9% of time

  2. Rather than stop to lube a chain, consider having crew do the lubing while you’re stopped doing something else?

    As for waxing a chain and putting it on for race day, that worries me–too much risk of losing a chain that hasn’t been tested.

    1. I’m riding waxed chains since 18 months now and I don’t look back. If you are worried about the initial cleaning process, you can buy them fully prepped.

  3. A question for Josh: let’s say that our intrepid Leadville “Racer X” wants the comfort/security of robust “Tire R” for the big, rocky descents down Powerline, upper Columbine, and Sugarloaf. Racer X also wants the speed of smooth rolling “Tire S” for the faster rolling portions of the course.

    In a burst of insight, she exclaims, “Wheel swap!”

    Racer X knows the out-and-back course and the aid stops well. For practical reasons, she can only do wheel swaps at the 27 mile mark (Stop P), the 40 mile mark (Stop T), the 60 mile mark (Stop T again), and the 73 mile mark (Stop P again). The Powerline descent comes before Stop T outbound, the Columbine descent comes before Stop T inbound, and the Sugarloaf descent comes after Stop P inbound.

    “Wake up, crew,” Racer X admonishes, realizing that her description of the challenge may have induced at least some yawns if not actual slumber. “Let me put it this way.”

    “I’ll ride my robust Tire R for the first 27 miles to Stop P.”
    “I’ll do a tire change to my smooth-rolling Tire R for the next 13 miles to Stop T.”
    “I’ll do a tire change back to Tire R for the next 20 miles back to Stop T again.”
    “I’ll do a tire change back to Tire S for the next 13 miles back to Stop P again.”
    “And I’ll ride Tire R the final 30 miles to the finish.”

    Finding her crew fast asleep, she calls the Marginal Gains hotline.

    “Josth, wheel changes take 1 minute. I have to do 2 wheel changes for each 13 mile segment that I want to ride with my smooth rolling Tire S wheelset. Those 13 miles are reasonably smooth–think gravel, where I can average 15 mph with Tire R to cover the distance in 52 minutes. Can I gain enough time in those 13 miles/52 minutes to more than offset the 2 minutes it will take me to do wheel swaps? Let’s assume that the wheel swaps are purely dead time–I won’t be using that time to onboard or offload liquids or solids.”

  4. Josh mentions “an australian company” in the podcast, it is .worth having a look and read for sure!

  5. I am not sure of the correct term, but i wonder about aero shadows? To clarify what i mean by that term i just made up… we know a lot about the distance behind a rider you need to be to get drafting benefit. (For example the minimum distance you are allowed to follow someone in triathlon does give some drafting benefit). Closer is better. But how far back can you go, and more importantly, how much does this distance change with speed? Say 20km/hr vs 30 vs 40? I presume you need to be closer the slower you go.

    To complicate this question, i am not thinking about drafting another cyclist, but rather how much your rear wheel drafts your frame, or how much your seat tube drafts your stem/downtube, or how much your stem drafts your front mounted computer. How much drag is your seatube playing in the equation of frame drag at say 20/30/40 km/hr? I presume it plays a larger percentage of frame related drag at lower speeds.

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