Chapter 5 Kit, gear, diet, and philosophy

The physical and mental aspects of cycling can often be overshadowed by sexy bikes and high-tech kit. But the truth remains, you need certain equipment in order to race. This article outlines not only the gear I use personally, but also delves into my diet, training approaches, supplements, training space, and more. This is the last of the “set-up” articles. The focus on specific training begins with Chapter 6.

Good tools and a repeatable process make for better training focus.

Self coaching is really hard, even if you do hold a coaching certification. There is so much noise and distraction attempting to thwart your clarity as you attempt to ramp up to new performance heights.

What are the kinds of things that get in the way?

Sometimes, ya just wanna ride…

Pain: Greg LeMond said it best: “It never gets any easier, you just go faster.” Cycling isn't really about speed; it's about pain management. And pain can be mentally loud.

Fatigue: When fatigue sets in, either as a result of an interval that is simply difficult, or because you are bordering on overtraining, it can become demotivating.

Personal life: Work, the lack of work, relationships, illness… The list of non-training items that can interfere with your best laid plans his seemingly endless.

        In the spirit of transparency, here's my full training arsenal. As the weeks unfold into the racing season, these are the tools I'll be using to make myself stronger and faster.

        Author's note: As a coach who trains others, you need to invest in good tools. I don’t expect for the casual cyclist or the every-once-in-a-while racer to have the parallel of a bike shop in their garage.

        If you are especially new to cycling or working with a particularly limited budget, the laundry list that follows might be overwhelming. I don't mean it to be, in fact, the opposite is my intention. All of the equipment, kit, and paraphernalia that comes with cycling can take up an entire garage, attic, and two basements if you have been doing it long enough. And I have been doing it for nearly 20 years on a serious level. You can be a successful…and very happy…cyclist with less than a quarter of the items I am about to list. My hope is that this catalog will help you in selecting items that are most helpful to you in your cycling, and as the articles continue to be published, you may realize there are some things you don't need.

        Authors and mentors

        The approach that I take in self-coaching and in coaching others comes from my education:

        USA cycling level III certification, and USA cycling level II certification.

        The USA cycling level III certification is granted after an extensive self-study course and exam. The criminal background check and safe coaching seminar must also be passed. The USA cycling level II certification comes after the successful completion of a multi-day live seminar taught by USA cycling. Following that live seminar, which includes sports physiology education and on-bike course time, a coach must complete an exhaustive exam.

        Extensive reading and software investment
        Throughout I have mentioned the names of those cycling training luminaries whose publications and blogs I have read exhaustively: Joe Friel, Hunter Allen, Andrew Coggan, Alan Couzens, and Chris Carmichael, to name the most notable.

        Sheer time

        Max hours per workout week / on-bike and gym: 15.

        I own my own business as a marketing communicator as well as photographer and coach. I work from home and my children are adults. That means I have the luxury of time: time to devote to my own training and to staying up-to-date on training software and performance tracking.

        Approach: Linear periodization

        I am not a professional cyclist, and I don't coach professional cyclists (at least not yet.) Therefore, my long-term training plan approach is straightforward and classically linear. There are other more intricate styles of periodization that lend themselves to those who have exorbitant amounts of time to devote to training as well as those who have multiple key events in a season. My beginner training plan 3x25 is an example of this, and my own self-training is a more custom extension of the 3x25 style of linear periodization.

        Three week blocks

        My training plan is structured around three-week training blocks as opposed to four weeks because of my age. After around the age of 40, the usual four-week block (hard, harder, even harder, recovery) shifts to three weeks (hard, harder, less volume).

        I subscribe to the Joe Friel system of three periods of training, followed by two periods of build, followed by a peak, taper, and then the event.

        The power of the gym

        Cyclists need guidance in the gym

        The science doesn't prove that lifting will make you faster. But it does conclude that you'll recover quicker and be less prone to injury.

        Be a complete athlete: lift.

        My 3x25 plan includes very specific lifting guidance that are specific to riding.

        I am devoted to cycling specific weight training. My gym time mirrors the periodization of my season:

        • Adaptation: after a short end of season break, you lift light weights with lots of reps
        • Transition: Then you move into a few weeks of intermediate weight, as your brain recruits more muscle fibers to the lifting motion.
        • Heavyweights: Then for a short period, it's very heavy loads with very few reps: 3–6 per set.
        • Maintenance: And then maintenance lifting, which blends the transition weights and heavy weights into each session for the balance of the season to maintain core strength and stability.

        During adaptation and transition I lift twice a week, once I begin lifting heavy weights everything backs off to once per week as the focus of physical activity shifts to the bike.

        Diet — The real fuel in the tank

        I eat a primarily Paleo diet: meat, eggs, vegetables, some whole grains, very little fruit. Minimal sugars, usually in the form of honey or maple syrup. Alcohol is a rare treat, no more than 4 “servings” in a month; usually a small glass of wine, a Belgian beer, or a small gin martini or Scotch. I’ve recently come to grips with the fact that I actually have a pretty powerful intolerant reaction to alcohol, especially my beloved gins. Halfway through a martini, I'll well-up and sneeze, followed by a runny nose and then — really challenging congestion. After some concentrated reflection, I realized that I've almost always had this, but never thought anything about it! That's one of the reasons I recommend Whole30 (see below.) Once you really get to understand your body and how it responds to specific foods, you can make much better choices, meal after meal.

        If you have similar intolerant reactions to alcohol, take them seriously. Acetaldehyde, a highly toxic substance and known carcinogen is part of the metabolic process when drinking. Limit your exposure.

        With the exception of butter, the occasional latte, and the even more rare single scoop of ice cream, dairy is essentially eliminated. My meat of choice is seafood, lean pork comes in second, followed by beef as a distant third. Chicken is rare, turkey or duck only comes at holiday time.

        I highly encourage anyone reading this set of articles to explore the philosophy and recommendations of, which I discovered years ago after visiting a nutritionist and sports dietitian. After learning that I had an unusually high resting metabolic rate in combination with an unusually high body fat percentage (18%, despite being nearly 6 feet tall and 164 pounds at the time) I made some informed and drastic changes to my eating. For the record, my body fat percentage is now regularly under 10%, as low as 7% during race season, and I am presently 154 pounds with a few weeks to go before the first race of the season.


        I currently employ no multivitamins or individual vitamins or minerals in my diet plan. I have taken and experimented with many vitamins and minerals, but eventually choose to get them all in my diet. However, there are a number of specific supplements that I use prior to hard workouts, weightlifting, and for recovery that I have found work for me. Your mileage, as they say, will most certainly vary.

        In future articles that deal specifically with workout protocols, pre-and post race routine, I will more specifically detail the use of these products.

        I emphasize strongly that this listing is in no way a recommendation for any athlete to take. This is also in no way an endorsement for any company. In the spirit of The Transparent Season, however, this is my full pre, during, and post “stack.”

        Pre, during, and post

        No, I'm not a Hammer Nutrition rep, but their products have served me well. It should be noted, however, that without a foundation of a proper diet, no amount of supplementation can fill the gap.

        Here is the complete list of all the various supplements I use for my pre and post workout nutrition for days at the gym and workouts on the bike — both in the PainCave and out on the road, including all races.

        Hammer® Race Caps Supreme

        Hammer® Anti-Fatigue Caps


        NOW® L-Arginine caps

        Hammer® HEED

        Hammer® Sustained Energy

        Garden of Life® RAW Protein, Vegan, mixed with Califa Farms® Unsweetened Almond Milk

        NOW® brand Citrulline caps

        Optimum Nutrition® BCCA powder

        Optimum Nutrition® Glutamine powder

          The hardware and software

          I have learned that a power meter is so essential to consistent training that I have them on all three of my training bikes. I will coach athletes who only have heart rate monitors, but I badger them — lovingly, of course — to hoard their pennies miserly and invest in one. When a coached athlete sends power files to a qualified coach who knows how to read them, that coach can then prescribe laser-focused workouts. A power meter will make you faster over time than a new spiffy set of bling wheels. Truth. 

          WKO4 software

          TrainingPeaks Coaches Premium account

          Garmin 810

          Kinetic mag trainer with variable resistance 
          I very much hope to invest in a direct-drive smart trainer, such as the Wahoo Kickr or — the Tacx Neo. The ability to punch in the watts you wish to attain during an interval force you into “no-cheat” mode. Additionally, the way the direct drive applies resistance more directly replicates the way you apply power on the road, so now wattage adjustment is required during zone setup.

          Stages power meters on all training and racing bikes:

          Training only: 1993 Pinarello Vuelta, Columbus EL-OS steel with DuraAce 7900 10-speed

          Road racing: 2010 Pinarello FP7, carbon, with DuraAce 9000 11-speed

          Time Trial: modified Fuji Pro Limited Edition, carbon, DuraAce 7900 10-speed

          2005 Limited Edition Fuji Team Pro converted exclusively for time trials.

          2010 Pinarello FP7. Essentially a Pinarello Paris.

          1993 Columbus steel Pinarello Vuelta. Classic frame, modern components. Great for winter training.

          The “Pain Cave”

          Where the magic happens.

          I was trained as an illustrator, photographer, and writer. Those creative disciplines have historically always had a dedicated studio space.

          Now, as someone who works from their own home, I have two “studios,” one for my marketing communications and writing, and another for cycling training. I cannot emphasize enough the advantages of having a dedicated space for your hardest workouts. As I described at the beginning of this article, when you are striving for a new performance level, there is an awful lot vying for your attention. Having a dedicated space in a basement, a garage, or a spare room that is clean and organized and well equipped can help you isolate your focus when the pain is at its maximum.

          Dedicated basement room with carpeting and hung cloth for sound deadening

          5.1 sound system

          41” monitor

          Macbook laptop dedicated to monitor


          3 fans

          Adjoining complete bike workshop with full armament of tools and work stands

          If you ride 'em hard, you'll need to fix 'em.

          All Sufferfest videos*

          Selected Carmichael Training Systems videos*

          Note on the use of videos for training

          Although I use, review, and recommend commercially available cycling training videos in my training and for the training of those I coach, it’s very important to note that each video maps specifically to limiters being strengthened in a carefully designed annual training plan. Nothing is haphazard. You always need to use the right workout at the right duration and intensity at the right time to get the best adaptation. 

          Sam Lowe

          I've been a road cyclist with a penchant for speed ever since my first-ever paycheck holiday. I blew the whole wad on a turquoise Schwinn Tempo with then-new Shimano 105 indexed shifting way back in 1985. I've been a voracious consumer of racing-oriented information ever since. Training, nutrition, bike fit, racing techniques, and all manner of "kit." Between nearly 30 years of riding, racing, and reading about racing, I'm ready to help you get ready to race.