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Feb 13, 2024

In this episode, host Craig Dalton interviews Stefan Barth, author of the book "Ultra Cycling and Bikepacking: All You Need to Know." Stefan shares his journey into ultra cycling and bikepacking, discussing the challenges and unique aspects of these long-distance events. He highlights the importance of sleep, nutrition, and positioning in preparing for and competing in ultra cycling races. Stefan also emphasizes the need for a strong physical foundation and the role of mindset in overcoming obstacles during these demanding events.

Ultra Cycling and Bike Packing. All you need to know (Amazon link)

ISBN: 978-3-910501-03-4

Episode Sponsor: Pillar Performance (use code: CRAIG for 15% off)

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About the Guest(s):

Stefan Barth is an author and coach specializing in ultra cycling and bikepacking. Based in Frankfurt, Germany, Stefan has a passion for long-distance cycling events and has participated in races such as the Race Across America and the Transcontinental. With a background in medical fitness coaching, Stefan combines his knowledge of training, nutrition, and mindset to help athletes prepare for and succeed in ultra cycling events.

Episode Summary:

In this episode, host Craig Dalton interviews Stefan Barth, author of the book "Ultra Cycling and Bikepacking: All You Need to Know." Stefan shares his journey into ultra cycling and bikepacking, discussing the challenges and unique aspects of these long-distance events. He highlights the importance of sleep, nutrition, and positioning in preparing for and competing in ultra cycling races. Stefan also emphasizes the need for a strong physical foundation and the role of mindset in overcoming obstacles during these demanding events.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ultra cycling and bikepacking require a different approach to training compared to shorter races. Factors such as sleep, nutrition, and positioning become crucial in ensuring success.
  • Sleep strategies vary depending on the duration of the event. While shorter races may not require sleep, longer races necessitate planned sleep breaks to maintain physical and mental well-being.
  • Nutrition plays a vital role in sustaining energy levels during ultra cycling events. Experimenting with different foods and finding what works best for individual digestion is essential.
  • Positioning on the bike is crucial for efficiency and energy conservation. An aggressive position, combined with flexibility and mobility training, can improve performance and reduce energy expenditure.
  • Building endurance for ultra cycling involves training at or just below threshold levels for extended periods. Long intervals of 20-30 minutes at high intensity can help increase the ability to sustain effort near threshold.

Notable Quotes:

  • "Just because it's possible to push through doesn't mean it's fun. Cutting off sleep is a sure way to get rid of the fun." - Stefan Barth
  • "Your base or your fundamentals are always a good physical condition. That's what you really need to finish those events." - Stefan Barth

Automated Transcription, please excuse the typos:

**** - (): .
[00:00:00] - ():  Craig Dalton: Hello, and welcome to the gravel ride podcast, where we go deep on the sport of gravel cycling through in-depth interviews with product designers, event organizers and athletes. Who are pioneering the sport
**** - (): I'm your host, Craig Dalton, a lifelong cyclist who discovered gravel cycling back in 2016 and made all the mistakes you don't need to make. I approach each episode as a beginner down, unlock all the knowledge you need to become a great gravel cyclist.
**** - (): This week on the podcast, I've got the great pleasure of welcoming author and coach Stefan Barth. He's the author of a book called ultra cycling and bike packing. All you need to know that was recently translated from German to English. It's a very deep technical book. About ultra cycling and these long distance events. Highlighting how different the training. Preparation and otherwise competing successfully the events. Needs to occur.
**** - (): Stefan noted that in his preparation for ultrasonic. Recycling events. While he could cobble together a number of resources, podcasts, videos, et cetera. There was no singular location. That highlighted insights and philosophies and training methodologies. That he could find. So he sat on a journey to create the, this book. They look forward to jumping into the conversation with Stefan.
**** - (): Okay. Before we jump in, I do need to thank pillar performance for their support of this episode. Pillars of sports, micro nutrition company. Who's developed products that intersect between pharmaceutical intervention and sports supplements for athletes. As I mentioned previously, I'm really thinking about my overall health and wellbeing this year.
**** - (): Trying to make some changes from a lackluster 2023.
**** - (): My nighttime routine and sleep has become a crucial part of being able to perform my best pillars. Triple magnesium is informed by leading heart rate variability researcher, Dr. Dan Pluse and used by many high performing athletes. Pillar has recently signed on as the official micronutrition partner of Israel, premier tech. It has been integral to my end of the day routine. 30 minutes before sleep.
**** - (): I mix in one scoop of pillar's triple magnesium powder into a glass of water to help guarantee my body spends as much time. In REM and deep sleep as possible. Pillar uses a high dose of glycinate magnesium. Activating the parasympathetic nervous system. And ensuring you fall asleep. And stay in that restorative sleep phase longer and longer. I've been tracking my HRV data each morning and it speaks volumes as to what pillar triple magnesium is doing for my recovery, higher HRV and more closely linked REM and deep sleep cycles on top of that. I feel better. More rested and recovered. If you'd like to try pillar today, head on over to pillar For us listeners, you can head to the and enter the code Craig for 15% off. That's Craig C R a I G for 15% off all first-time purchases. Would that behind us, let's jump right in to my conversation with Stefan.
[00:03:22] - ():  Stefan Barth: Stephane, welcome to the show. Hi, Greg.
[00:03:25] - ():  Craig Dalton: I'm excited to get you, to know you a little bit better and learn more about the book you wrote Ultra Cycling and Bikepacking, All You Need to Know. As we were talking about offline, I think it's a very interesting journey where many of us honor are on as cyclists from starting to do gravel events, starting to do longer gravel events, getting interested in bikepacking.
**** - (): And I think as the sports evolve and the science of training evolves, it's super interesting to have a discussion with someone like you has thought a lot about. Ultra cycling, how to train for it. You've thought so much about it that you've written a book
[00:04:03] - ():  Stefan Barth: about it. Yeah. And glad that it got translated into English.
**** - (): So more and more people are able to read it now. So I'm really looking forward to our chat.
[00:04:15] - ():  Craig Dalton: Yeah, it's so maybe that's a good point to let's, let's set the stage where you located and maybe follow that on by where did you grow up and how did you discover cycling in the
[00:04:25] - ():  Stefan Barth: first place? Okay. Yes, I'm from, from Germany and I'm located in Frankfurt here.
**** - (): And yeah, so the book is about ultra cycling and bike packing. And that actually is where I started my cycling career. So it was like always. I was, I was driven to the, to the longer, longer events. And even when I started cycling as a teenager, it was always, okay, I want to go the, for the 100 kilometers to the town that is a little bit farther away.
**** - (): Uh, most of my friends, they were not able to reach these towns even by the bus. And I was feeling very, very cool just to be able to go there by bike. And somehow this, this got my addiction to long distance cycling starting and yeah, it developed from that. So. I'm probably a young starter, so I think it was like with 14 years that I did my first free day ride and yeah, then it escalated quickly.
[00:05:29] - ():  Craig Dalton: And did you ever get drawn into kind of more traditional bike racing or was touring and long distance riding always your true love? Yeah, only
[00:05:38] - ():  Stefan Barth: for a short time. I had like a triathlon time. So I had a couple of years when I was more doing Ironman distance triathlon races. And that was the time when I got more professional in cycling as well, because I got more, yeah, I focused more on competitive cycling.
**** - (): And during that time I did a couple of criterium races, but it never really catched me, so it's not, yeah, it was not to my taste to, to ride in a, in a bunch and to always, uh, have this fear of, of, of a crash and I'm not the, the guy made for speed, but rather for, for long stretches and to, to feel like the, the exhaustion creep into your legs.
**** - (): But. Because of the duration and not because of the intensity.
[00:06:29] - ():  Craig Dalton: Got it. And where did your sort of professional life and, uh, and cycling start to intersect?
[00:06:37] - ():  Stefan Barth: A couple of years ago, it was like really the time when I, when I did those Ironman distance races that was like the beginning of putting more thought into how should I prepare my body, how should I prepare my mind what do I need to do with nutrition to get better on those races and yeah, that's probably where I started to think, okay, I could or this is my passion and I, Will, well, I want to do something in my professional career in this area in the long term, and soon afterwards I started to go part-time as a coach.
**** - (): And I did like, in Germany it's called medical fitness coaching. So I studied in an area where you put a lot of weight into how to. coach athletes, but at the same time, how to do rehab and prehab. Yes. And this I did some years in part time and I had a full time job in the finance sector.
**** - (): And when I published the book or the German edition of the book, ultra cycling and bike packing at that time. I had to make a decision because both careers would have been, one career would compromise the other one. And then I decided, or it was pretty easy for me actually to decide that I want to, to have a job that is my passion at the same time.
**** - (): And so I decided to go all in, in coaching and writing about coaching.
[00:08:02] - ():  Craig Dalton: That's super interesting. And it makes sense given some of the very technical elements of the book. Around physiology that you lean into that we can talk a little bit about later. And it also makes sense that Ironman journey, which you and I share, I feel like as athletes, Ironman, it's one of those disciplines that highlights your deficiency of preparation very quickly, both physically nutrition and all kinds of things.
**** - (): So I'm curious, you know, building off upon that, when did you start getting drawn into the more ultra distance cycling events?
[00:08:40] - ():  Stefan Barth: Soon, soon after my first Ironman actually. And at that time I did like big bike packing trips as like base my training for Ironmans as well. So I, I always try to have one vacation in summer.
**** - (): And be like three or four weeks with my bicycle and ride as many miles as possible to build a strong or a strong foundation for the Ironman training. And during that time, I noticed that there's a crazy race in America called the Race Across America. I think it was some time about 2013, probably, something like that.
**** - (): When I heard the first time about this race across America and that there's an Austrian guy called Christoph Strasser, who's not living too far away from, from here who is really good at it. And I was like, okay, he's crossing the whole continent in 10 days. This is crazy. And that's what I want to do.
**** - (): And yeah, that's, that's how I. Got drawn into this long distance cycling. And I think that actually kicked off here in Europe, quite a, uh, fascination for this sport in general, especially in Germany and Austria. And there popped up a little more and more 24 hour cycling events. And that was the beginning for me.
**** - (): Then I started to, uh, to participate at these 24 hour events and yeah, just looked how, how much can I do or how long can I go in 24 hours? And then this evolved into supported races. So I did. A couple of races, ultra cycling races where I had my own support crew which is quite expensive and at the same time, more and more bike pack, bike packing events popped up here in Europe, like transcontinental and more and more smaller ones.
**** - (): And yeah, then I switched.
[00:10:36] - ():  Craig Dalton: You were talking about the transcontinental and some of these other. Ultra endurance road cycling events. How many days were those events taking?
[00:10:46] - ():  Stefan Barth: Yeah, I think that the first, when I, when I started the smaller ones were two or three day rides. And my longest one was, uh, nine, nine days, one hour.
**** - (): So this is a bit more than three and a half thousand kilometers. It's
[00:11:04] - ():  Craig Dalton: always super interesting to me when you kind of transcend that single day racing format to multi day format, to just understand the mentality. And I know some of this is included in the book, but I think it's great background before we get there.
**** - (): How do you handle kind of sleep along the way
[00:11:22] - ():  Stefan Barth: in those events? Yeah. It's, it differs between like ultra cycling is not ultra cycling, but it's important to make this this to distinguish between how long, or is it a multi day race or is it just 24 hours? Because I think in, in a 24 hours, uh, race, at least for me, there's no difficulty and uh, no sleep at all.
**** - (): So if you're doing a 24 hour race. it's okay to have a stop time about 15 to 20 minutes only. And in a 48 hour race, it's still works for me without sleep, but just if you are practiced at it and everything beyond 48 hours is where it gets really tough and where I think you just have to sleep. probably can go with a napping strategy.
**** - (): It's way more fun if you sleep. And that's something I think that some people underestimate the first time just because it's possible to push through doesn't mean it's fun. And to cut off the sleeping time is a sure way to get rid of the fun. That's for sure.
[00:12:32] - ():  Craig Dalton: As you were, as you were pursuing these new and different style races, were you able to find the resources you needed to understand how to train and prepare for them, or was it more trial and error along
[00:12:45] - ():  Stefan Barth: the way?
**** - (): It was a lot trial and error and yes, there was, I think nowadays it's easier 10, 10 years later, there's a lot of more content on the internet and you have podcasts that go into different topics of ultra cycling and you have bloggers that post a lot but still there's not too much scientific background of it and when I started, I tried a lot shit.
**** - (): By trial and error, and I also tried to find people obviously who have done it before, uh, try to talk with them, connect with them on social media, and at the events, use the time to, to have a couple of words with them. But it was a very. Uh, sometimes frustrating way because you have to invest a lot of time and you could not be sure that you, yeah, you get a return on your investment because yeah, then you, you tried something out, uh, for example, nutrition and I had like one huge mistake I made.
**** - (): When I tried to copy the nutrition, nutrition strategy of Christoph Strasser from his race cross America. And he had like some, I don't know if it's sponsored product, but like some fluid nutrition and he was always telling, okay, he drinks like 200 milliliters of this. Uh, fluid per hour and that works fine for him and I was, okay, if it works for him, I should try it as well.
**** - (): And I did it during a race and this was probably really one of my biggest mistakes because I totally underestimated that he's. probably something like 40 pounds heavier than me because I'm quite short and he puts in a lot of more power. And I totally underestimated how this power and this body weight factor correspond on your nutrition needs.
**** - (): And I drank way too much and I consumed way too much energy which ended. in me at the roadside feeling very, very sick. And yeah, I had to do a complete restart. So I, I did finish the race, but after lying in the ditch for, for, I don't know, 30, 40 minutes I had to, to To build in a period drinking only water, don't eating anything, and just have a complete reset for my body and my mind, and then I could start again.
**** - (): But yeah, that's, that's the mistakes that I made on the road. And that's what the book is about, that not everybody has to lie in this ditch and make the same mistakes all over again.
[00:15:31] - ():  Craig Dalton: You sort of alluded to this in your answer there, but if we go back to sort of what inspired you to write a book, I'm just curious how you would answer that question.
[00:15:41] - ():  Stefan Barth: Yeah, it's at the beginning I was not planning on writing a book. So probably this is the most important part because when I started it was more like, okay. I. Okay. I had a lot of conversations and I have tried a lot of things and I wanted to write it down for myself first. So it was, was not planned to, to make a book out of it, but rather a compendium for myself for future events.
**** - (): And also when I thought about starting a coaching business, business, this was like a blueprint for my clients. And then I started to talk to other athletes about what I had until that moment, and they were really, really interested in this whole topic and to have a compendium for how to best prepare for ultra cycling events.
**** - (): And yeah, then I started thinking, okay, maybe I should look up into more and more papers and maybe I should add some, some new chapters to it. And at that time I started with the interview. So the book incorporates a couple of. Of interviewees or a couple of interviews I did with other athletes and I started with those who are my friends, obviously.
**** - (): And we just sat at a table for, I think with Mati Koester, I sat for almost eight hours and we talked the whole day about what are topics that he's interested in. And then I used these, yeah, guideline or these topics that we discussed that day to go to other athletes, also to some, yeah, some very renowned athletes, and just to ask them about their, their experiences to in these topics.
**** - (): And somehow the interest was. Yeah. Overwhelming. Because when I started, I started with people I know and at the end I talked to Lael Wilcox and at the beginning I would not, would not have thought that I will be talking to someone like Lael Wilcox about her racing experiences and be able to incorporate them into, into my book.
**** - (): So yeah, it was a process and it almost took four years from the beginning of. When I started to write down the first sentences until I finished the book in German, it's almost four years. So it was probably a way longer than normal, normally an author would take to write one book.
[00:18:11] - ():  Craig Dalton: Got it. Super interesting.
**** - (): Obviously there's a lot of information about. Cycling training out there when you talk about maybe road racing or traditional mountain bike racing. And as we've mentioned, there hasn't been a lot documented about training for ultra cycling and bike packing. If there were a couple areas that you would highlight that are dramatically different from shorter races to longer races.
[00:18:35] - ():  Stefan Barth: Yeah, we talked about one, which is like sleep, something that is completely unimportant for normal sports, or which is only important when you talk about recovery, but there's No need to cut sleep during doing races. And of course, nutrition is a big, big part because nutrition becomes even more important, the longer the races, also the whole part efficiency and how you sit on your bike, how it gets way more important because.
**** - (): You develop more problems with your neck, with your shoulders, with your lower back than if you are just riding your bike for five or six hours. And also the training aspect is different. So it's not just about pushing your lactate threshold or your, your, or getting more power to the pedal because at the end, it's not necessarily the efflet.
**** - (): With the most power or the best power to weight ratio that wins the races, but it's the one that has the best overall ability to ride the bike as long as possible. And with as few breaks as possible. So many questions are coming to mind on this. Oh, okay. So let's go give it a shot
[00:19:53] - ():  Craig Dalton: to some of those a little bit one by one.
**** - (): So we talked a little bit about sleep. Obviously. Most of us, we try to get eight hours of sleep a night when we're at home, try to do rides well rested every time in order to compete in some of these events. And in order to even maybe just do them, you need to be able to sleep outside. You need to be able to sleep on the go when you, maybe it's easiest if we talk about a four day long event, for example, what is a sleep strategy that Maybe someone newer to the sport could, could realize and approach.
[00:20:30] - ():  Stefan Barth: Yeah. Yeah. At the beginning, I would always recommend to have like a longer sleeping break every night, something like maybe three hours or three hours sleeping time, which will translate into something like four or four and a half hours stopping time. And the important thing is to sleep cycles, you know, because your, your body or your mind, your brain goes through different sleep stages during the course of the night.
**** - (): And I think a lot of people already heard this that it's. It's easier to wake up if your total sleeping time can be divided by 90 minutes. And this reflects those sleep cycles. It's easier to, or you have one, you have four, four sleep stages. And one of them is where you are sleeping really, really deep.
**** - (): And if you wake up or if you get woken by your alarm clock or friends, whatever during this really deep sleep this will be very confusing and you can actually, if, if it is combined with the physical exhaustion it can happen that you wake up and you're feeling disoriented and you don't really know where am I, am I racing or what's going on?
**** - (): So it's good to know your own. sleep cycles because they differ from this 90 minutes a little bit and they get like they get each time you go through them during the night they get a little bit longer so if you are trying to sleep three hours around three hours the for most people it's better to sleep for example three hours and 10 minutes which reduces already the risk of waking up from this deep sleep stage.
**** - (): And then I would always recommend to have routines if you're going for four or five day ride. It's way easier to go to bed around the same time every evening and to wake up around the same time every morning. It's a little bit like in your everyday life. If you're working on shifts and Yeah, you have to, uh, some day you are waking up at 6am, sometimes you have to wake up at 10am, then it gets really, really hard to to be fit in the morning.
**** - (): And during the event, it's the same, it's way easier to have a routine and also transfer this routine as or as much as possible to the whole cycling event. For example, also, it's a good idea to have your lunch break around the same time each, each day which makes life way easier, especially for
[00:23:06] - ():  Craig Dalton: beginners.
**** - (): I imagine so. One of the things I wanted to highlight, which I thought was interesting, you mentioned, you know, if you're intending for a three hour sleep, you probably need a four hour window of time. And as someone with a limited amount of bike packing experience, I can, I understand that because you need to get off the bike, you need to cool down.
**** - (): You may need to change to get comfortable. You have to lay out your sleep gear, and then you have to do all that in reverse to get yourself back going. So it's interesting. To hear you highlight that, which makes sense as you've
[00:23:38] - ():  Stefan Barth: said it. Yes. And that's also one, uh, very, very good advice. Which I learned from, from one of my interviewees because a lot of us, we are quite organized and we like, like it's structured.
**** - (): And so a lot of people when they do their first bikepacking experiences and they have this sleep break. They like, they, uh, arranged their whole equipment so that after their sleep break, they can be moving as fast or, yeah, yeah, as fast as possible. So like you're already putting out the gear that you're needing after your sleep break and that oftentimes is a huge mistake actually, because if you push your, your, your limits a little bit, then you are already a bit sleep deprived, maybe, and you're a physical, like, physically completely exhausted when you have been writing for maybe 15 hours this day.
**** - (): And then you are trying to make decisions before you go to sleep. And oftentimes you need way longer to make decisions. And then those decisions are Not always the best ones because after you wake up, you notice, ah, it's way colder than I expected, or I feel way colder because just my yeah, my, my heart rate is really, really slow after, after sleeping but I already packed my, my warm clothes.
**** - (): at the complete, uh, yeah, the most down, downward, uh, in my, in my bike packing bags. And so it's a good, good advice to just grab your sleeping bag, grab your mattress or whatever you use, your BB bag, and just close your eyes. Try to fall asleep immediately. Don't forget to put your alarm clock, but, uh, do the whole equipment thing and arrangements.
**** - (): You can do this all after you have slept and you will notice that you are way more alert, you are awake and you will make better decisions. The second
[00:25:40] - ():  Craig Dalton: thing you mentioned to drill into was nutrition. And again, many of us have done gravel events, a hundred mile, maybe 200 mile. And we sort of know, Oh, we could get by with.
**** - (): Sports nutrition all day long, how do, how do we need to think about it differently if we're extending to that example, four day event?
[00:25:58] - ():  Stefan Barth: Also there's yeah, there's some parts are for nutrition. Some parts are the same like in normal cycling, especially. during training. So it's you have the same amounts of carbs per hour that you try to get in during your training rides, for example, so that you get the best physical adaptions.
**** - (): But at the same time you need to plan ahead and think about what can you get during a bikepacking trip, because you are limited oftentimes to gas station food or. Uh, if you're doing races in remote places, like the Silk Road Mountain Race or the Atlas Mountain Race, uh, well, you have to eat what you can get there.
**** - (): So it's always good advice to experiment a lot with nutrition so that you know, uh, which kind of food can I take down, which kind of food can I stomach. And what do I like probably because yeah, if you are used to going with sports nutrition or with sweets I don't know if you ever tried to, to survive on those sports nutrition gills and, uh, bars for, for eight hours.
[00:27:07] - ():  Craig Dalton: Yeah, it does add up and you do get quite sick of them by the end of the day.
[00:27:12] - ():  Stefan Barth: Yeah. And I think you get a feeling in your mouth that's like sticky and doesn't feel, feel very nice. So, yeah, it's good to know this in advance. And to experiment with other foods also with solid foods that you can buy like cheese or like sandwiches and like, uh, like rice and stuff like this if just to try it out and to learn, can you digest it?
**** - (): Does it taste good for you during writing? So this, this would be like the first step to, to get a bit more experience with different kinds of foods. And then another part is like proteins. You need proteins on a longer ride, uh, even though you don't need them. During short rides, because your body is not, or it's, it's easier for your body to, to transform carbs into energy.
**** - (): But during a four day ride, you also need proteins for your recovery periods, especially if you plan on sleeping three hours every night, because then your body actually has the time to recover a little bit
[00:28:19] - ():  Craig Dalton: from day to day. Where, in your opinion, where is the cutoff point for needing protein? In your cycling nutrition in terms of hours, would you need it in a, in a, in a 15 hour day or does it not come into play until you're 24 hours?
[00:28:34] - ():  Stefan Barth: That's a difficult question and I'm not sure if there's like scientific proof for when it gets beneficial. But I would always already included. If you go beyond those recommended durations for cycling, because like, if your ride is longer than five, six hours, this is already almost a little bit too long to build up endurance.
**** - (): And if you stretch these, these timeframes, I think it's beneficial to add up some, some proteins as well. And definitely if you go beyond. beyond those 15 hours. And it's individual, you will probably notice it. For example, when I eat too, or when I limit myself to two carbs during a right, at some point, I will get a headache, I need some fats or some protein.
**** - (): Otherwise, my body tells me, okay, this is this is just too restricted to carbohydrates. So if you notice something like this. it can be the solution to eat something with fats and proteins. And then there's also, especially with proteins, a huge difference between male and female athletes, because there's, yeah, like males are way more or it's It's, they are way more dependent on carbohydrates, on carbs during, during activity.
**** - (): And female athletes, they are more dependent on carbs after the activity for recovery purposes. So female athletes, they also need a little bit more protein already during their
[00:30:14] - ():  Craig Dalton: rides. And then on to the next subject of positioning, interesting that you highlight that as a key area of consideration. Can you talk through sort of some of the differences one might want to consider in their position as they go longer and longer in
[00:30:29] - ():  Stefan Barth: duration?
**** - (): Yes, because the longer the duration gets, the more efficient you need to be. Because if you can save only 10 Watts or every day for a writing time of maybe 16 hours each day you really save a lot and you really gain a lot of speed. And at the same time, you reduce your energy expenditure and energy expenditure is like one of the.
**** - (): Key limiters in ultra cycling because it's simply it's, it's really, really difficult to get in enough energy for what you are burning. And so if you can. reach the same speed with less energy expenditure, this already is a huge, huge benefit. And so it's a good thing to have an aggressive position on your bike, actually in ultra cycling and not being too focused on comfort, because this is something many beginners Doing because bike fitters also are promoting this.
**** - (): If you are going for longer rides, try to get your position on the bike, more comfortable. And my approach is a little bit different. Because I think you can you can have an aggressive position on your bike, which is at the same time, comfortable if you are putting the energy or the. Uh, time into your own flexibility, mobility and strength training, because most of the time the limiter and not the bike.
**** - (): And so this is what I call efficiency in the book. Like the, the position on your bike is, is detrimental for your efficiency and you can gain a lot of efficiency by optimizing your. Own your own, uh, flexibility, mobility, and strength.
[00:32:22] - ():  Craig Dalton: Yeah. I know you, you go into sort of great technical detail on how to improve your strength and flexibility and mobility.
**** - (): And I would agree that those are critical elements for any cyclist, whether you're trying to get a more aggressive position or not, I can only speak to my own limitations, which are definitely hindered by the lack of mobility. And I spend a lot of energy these days, trying to increase my mobility to.
**** - (): Have that all day long comfort because I, I don't currently have that right now in my Cycling. You know, as I go longer and longer, eventually my lower back's gonna start to hurt and it becomes quite a limiting factor in my own personal case.
[00:33:01] - ():  Stefan Barth: Yeah, and I think cycling is like a limiting sports or a limiting type of sports because we have, we don't have a lot of different movements.
**** - (): We only have one type of movement because the, the bike completely determines how your body moves. And so the body is limited to, to there's no rotational movement. There's no sideways movement. There's nothing more dimensional. This is only happening in one in one plane. And that triggers a lot of adaptations in our body that are not that good.
**** - (): And in combination with a lot of jobs where we are sitting like eight hours in front of a desk. And then we go home and then we sit two hours on the roller or on the bike and actually we are only sitting. So there is a reason why cyclists chose a sports where you are sitting because we don't like to move too much.
**** - (): So
[00:34:00] - ():  Craig Dalton: is there any, is there any sort of silver bullet in terms of Mobility exercises that are your favorite go tos.
[00:34:08] - ():  Stefan Barth: Yes, definitely. Because like the, the disadvantage of the bike giving you or limiting your, your mobility and your, your range of motion during, during riding is also kind of an advantage, at least from my coaching perspective, because you can be pretty sure that almost every cyclist has the same problems.
**** - (): Because we all have exactly the same movement. If you compare this to other sports, like, like football or ice hockey or something like this, like there's a lot of potential. injuries and sources of injuries and because every athlete is moving in a different different way but cyclists they are all moving in the same way so we are having the same trouble and one of those troubles is that we are losing the flexibility in our posterior chain so like the the pedal stroke is highly dependent on your quads So this is where the power comes from.
**** - (): So you get really, really strong, strong quads and your body, uh, needs to compensate this because the quads, they are, they are pulling at your, at your hips and at your pelvis. So you need the same amount of force at the back of, of your body at the posterior chain. And since we don't have strong backs of the legs, because this is just pulling up the pedal again, and this is like the recovery phase of the pedal stroke what your body does is it tightens the hamstrings.
**** - (): Because tight is like the compromise you, if you, if you don't have, muscles, you get tight muscles just to have like this counterbalance to the very strong quads. So it's always the first part of a mobility flexibility training for cyclists is always. Gaining more flexibility in the, in the hamstrings, in the backs of the legs and afterwards strengthening these body parts that you have a counterbalance to, to the quads.
**** - (): Interesting.
[00:36:15] - ():  Craig Dalton: That's helpful. The final area you touched on, and I'm going to add an additional component to it. You, you talking about training and you were talking about how simple power to weight ratio, which may be the sort of the predominant metric in road cycling, Is not necessarily going to make or break your success as a ultra endurance cyclist.
**** - (): So if you could talk a little bit about that, and then I would add on just a question around mindset.
[00:36:45] - ():  Stefan Barth: Yes. So, I think a long distance cycling, it's more important to, to increase the capability to cycle at, or just a little bit below your threshold. So if you, if you started with. Maybe you can ride four hours at 50 percent of your threshold, then it would be a very, very good or a huge benefit. If you increase this, this, uh, capability to 60 or 65 percent of your threshold and your threshold can actually stay the same the whole season.
**** - (): It does not necessarily need to, to go up all the time, but it's, it's very important that you, that you can sustain, uh, huge amounts of time. Near your threshold or that you that you can gain. Yeah, that you can push up those, those percentages. So this is what I tried to with my coaches most of the time in training to, to increase their ability to, to get to those 60 or 70 percent in a, in a 24 hour race.
[00:37:50] - ():  Craig Dalton: And what kind of, uh, training efforts help to that end?
[00:37:57] - ():  Stefan Barth: It's a lot of steady state writing. So a lot of writing a little bit below your threshold. But doing this for, for longer periods of time, for example, if you are looking in the typical, uh, training plans generated by Strava or by Swift, you will see a lot of, a lot of efforts, a lot of intervals that are lasting only a couple of minutes.
**** - (): And I also, I'm a big fan of having those long intervals of training. 20 minutes sometimes, or even 25 minutes almost at your threshold. And that's a very good way to get better at, at riding near your threshold. Because your body gets very, very good at. Eliminating the lactate from your blood while pushing hard.
**** - (): So you, you reduce the, the level of lactate that is building up in the, in the intervals.
[00:38:54] - ():  Craig Dalton: Gotcha. So if you were out on a, on a training day for one of your athletes, would it be something like, you know, two or three 20 minute intervals at 65 percent of threshold with 10 minute break in between something like that?
**** - (): Yeah. Yep. Yep. Yes,
[00:39:10] - ():  Stefan Barth: but way more than 65 percent of threshold. It's more like 90 percent of threshold for 20 minutes then. Okay. So it's like, but it's a slow buildup. If you start with this kind of training and you are going maybe with eight minutes in each interval and do this three or four times, then you are, this is a good start.
**** - (): And if you do this a couple of weeks. At some point this will, it will make, it will make, uh, like you put a, put, put a switch on and it will be, you will be able to go for 20 or 30 minute intervals. Yeah.
[00:39:43] - ():  Craig Dalton: As you're thinking about for your athletes, these longer events and selfishly, I'm thinking about my own 200 mile or 360 kilometer aspirations this year, obviously in a lot of the training plans you might see, you might have a six hour training ride or an eight hour training ride.
**** - (): These events are going to last longer than that. You know, it might be a 15 hour day for me and certainly for a 24 hour, four day event, you're talking about thousands of kilometers. How do you in training kind of build up to that capacity to continue on for these distances?
[00:40:21] - ():  Stefan Barth: Yeah, you need to stretch the traditional cycling distances from time to time.
**** - (): Because I like to I or I call this challenges. Because you you need to know how your body reacts to those long rides. They are not very efficient in building up endurance. Like I said earlier, there's like Five to six hours. If you are already a very good cyclist, maybe you even benefit from a seven hour endurance ride, but everything that is longer than that, just yeah, just you need more recovery time afterwards, but you don't get the physical adaptation or not more physical adaptation than from a four or five hour ride.
**** - (): But in ultra cycling, we're also in what you are doing on the gravel bike, you need. Sometimes a ride that lasts 10 or 12 hours, just so that you know, okay, how will I feel when I'm really exhausted and how will I cope with nutrition? Will I be able to eat at the end? Because I think that's something probably, you know, it from your triathlon time eating gets difficult the longer you are, you're active.
**** - (): So you really need to know. Okay, does the food that I can stomach after five hours, can I still stomach it after 10 hours? And how, how does my butt hurt after 10 hours? Because this will hurt different than after five hours. And it's good to know how this feels and how you can cope with it. And then you can, you can think about a strategy.
**** - (): How you will, how you will tackle this problems during unbound. So yes, I incorporate rights that are longer than 10 hours from time to time, but limited. Not, it's not, it's no good if you do this every weekend.
[00:42:14] - ():  Craig Dalton: A couple questions that came up after your last comment, Stefan, around training. So I remember from marathon training, like we'd only run 22 miles and we'd never run that full distance thinking you'll be able to get there on race day.
**** - (): The second thing for my ultra marathon training was we would often do a long day on Saturday and then follow it up by a medium day on Sunday. And my understanding of that philosophy was, Hey, we can't beat you guys up and we can't have you running 35 mile days. Quite regularly, but we can do a 22 mile day on Saturday and a 15 mile day on Sunday to try to kind of make the body feel like it's done.
**** - (): This long event. Does any of that track with the type of training that makes sense for ultra ultra cycling?
[00:43:03] - ():  Stefan Barth: Yeah.
[00:43:04] - ():  Craig Dalton: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And the final thing I want to touch on it. I mentioned it a bit earlier. It was just Sort of mindset. And I thought about this a lot as we were talking about sleeping and waking up from a three hour sleep, having to get your gear ready and get going again. I could just see in myself struggling to kind of.
**** - (): Put, put pedal in front of pedal after, you know, just sleeping for three hours. So can you talk about the importance of mindset and maybe if there are any tips and tricks that one can learn to keep, keep pedaling forward?
[00:43:40] - ():  Stefan Barth: Yes, definitely. Because you, you need to find like a sweet spot between recovery. And exhaustion during training. So, I also like to do those back to back sessions. For example, also with those long interval sessions we spoke of earlier, that I am doing, like, maybe on Friday, some really long and hard intervals, followed by a long ride on Saturday, followed by a short ride on Sunday, to build up this exhaustion over the weekend.
**** - (): But still without compromising your recovery completely. So yeah, that's, that's a good way for, for those working athletes.
[00:44:27] - ():  Craig Dalton: Interesting. I mean, it sounds like with all this, you know, preparation and doing the work leading up to your event is key. It's probably a trite thing to say, but I think that work for ultra cycling clearly is a lot longer than it is for shorter events.
**** - (): Because I do think you need to prepare yourself mentally for All the intricacies around your sleep system and getting up and preparing the different types of nutritional needs, as you've, you've outlined and the, just a different mindset you need to go going into these events.
[00:45:01] - ():  Stefan Barth: Yes, there's, there's a couple of, of little hacks that I, I like to include or that I included in the book.
**** - (): Because when it comes to mindset. I have a little bit a different opinion than a lot of people out there, I think, because from my point of view, the mindset is a little bit overestimated when it comes to ultra cycling or some ultra adventures, whatever you call it. Because in the general public, it always comes down too much to the mindset.
**** - (): And from my point of view, your base or your Your fundamentals are always a good physical condition and that's what you really need to finish those events. And of course you can finish an ultra cycling event or a bikepacking event just by mindset and by iron willpower. But this will mean that you will do sacrifices and maybe even sacrifice your health in.
**** - (): in some situations. And I don't like that too much about this sports. And I don't like that in the general public people focus so much on this. So from my point of view, it's always more important to build up your physical capacity. And then mindset is important, of course, because like you said, you go out there and you will.
**** - (): Have uncomfortable situations but then it's more, uh, willpower what you need. You need to like, you need small life hacks that will, that will keep you going. And I like to, to dig a little bit into how our brain works in these parts, because our brain is like still the same brain that we had thousands of years ago.
**** - (): And it's divided into parts that are. focused on emotional fee or on emotions, on feelings. And you have parts in your brain that are focused on the rational thinking. There was a couple of tricks to better get those rational thinking parts in your brain working. And this will help you a lot in ultra cycling events because yeah, you will trigger a lot of those, those those feelings that are very ancient in, in humans and your brain will correspond.
**** - (): With reactions that are also very ancient and those are oftentimes not the best, the best, uh, reactions. So it's important to, to keep rational and to keep your thinking going. So one life hack, for example, is very, very easy. And that's the, the stop button. You can visualize a stop button. Uh, once you notice that your thoughts are dysfunctional and this stop button or the sign like on the road sides on the highways, I'm not sure how they are looking in the US, but here in Europe, it's like a big red sign where in white there's written stop on it and just by visualizing this sign, which is a very, very easy picture to visualize.
**** - (): You can, you can stop those emotional parts in your brain from taking over completely. And you gain a few seconds. And this is oftentimes enough to start rational thinking. And once you start rational thinking, you will notice that you, you are way better, you are better able to keep your willpower because you keep yourself in control.
**** - (): Yeah. And it's, it's a difference between motivation and willpower. So like motivation is the thing that, uh, gets you going in the preparation and which is probably the, the reason why you signed up for the event and which is the reason why you are willing to put in all those training hours and then during the event itself, you need to Willpower, that's the thing that will bring you to the finish line.
[00:49:00] - ():  Craig Dalton: Yeah, a hundred percent. I think Stefan, that's a good place to end it. I appreciate the time this evening calling in from Germany. Appreciate you taking the time and effort to document everything in this very thorough book on ultra cycling and bike packing. I think you did a great service to that community and the world.
**** - (): We'll certainly put links to how to find the US version of the book in the show notes of this podcast.
[00:49:25] - ():  Stefan Barth: Yeah, that's great. Thanks for your invitation, Craig. Cheers.
[00:49:30] - ():  Craig Dalton: That's going to do it for this week's edition of the gravel ride podcast. Big, thanks to Stefan for joining the show. That's going to do it for this week's edition of the gravel ride podcast. Big, thanks to Stefan for joining the show. It's so fascinating for me to think about these ultra cycling events and the differences it would require in order to be successful there.
**** - (): If you're interested and able to support the show. Ratings and reviews are hugely appreciated. Or if you want to contribute financially, please visit buy me a gravel ride. Until next time here's to finding some dirt under your wheels.