James Wilson is the owner and founder of MTB Strength Systems. He is a mountain bike, strength, and Jujitsu coach based in Grand Junction, CO. He is also the inventor of the Catalyst Pedal. He has pioneered many advanced perspectives on strength training for cyclists, producing content on this topic starting in 2005. Our conversation includes James’ thoughts on how power is most effectively made on the bike, how riders should stand more during training, and a model of tension during riding that is broken into four quadrants. Enjoy this discussion which is not only focused on mountain bikes; the concepts discussed apply to all aspects and disciplines of cycling.
The shoes James uses: www.somfootwear.com
Welcome to the Cycling in Alignment podcast, an examination of cycling as a practice and dialogue about the integration of sport and right relationship to your life.
Colby Pearce 00:25
Greetings and salutations interknots, seekers of information, critical thinkers, those who look beyond knowledge and into truth – which is, by definition, singular in case you forgot.
Colby Pearce 00:42
Today’s episode is with James Wilson of MTB Strength Training Systems. James is a mountain bike coach and he lives in Grand Junction, Colorado. We will unpack all the critical details on our discussion.
Colby Pearce 00:58
If you’re not a mountain biker, and you think you don’t care about this podcast, you might want to hang around because there are some interesting discussions about pedal stroke theory and how James invented a pedal called the Catalyst pedal, which is a little bit different than the average mountain bike pedaling platform.
Colby Pearce 01:16
James also has a lot of content on his YouTube site, and offers a lot of training programs specifically geared towards strength training for mountain bike cyclists. So, go forth and check out his stuff. But listen to our episode first.
Colby Pearce 01:31
I will apologize in advance because I recorded this from home and it’s a little echoey but this is how things roll these days. So you just got to go with it and embrace the content. We did the best I could to control my echoey voice. That is to say my amazing editor Jana she manipulated the buttons and did the things but you can only contain my echo-iness to a certain degree. So there you go.
Colby Pearce 02:01
Without further prognostication, enjoy James Wilson.
Colby Pearce 02:11
All right. Well, today’s guest is James Wilson, the owner and creator of MTB Strength Systems. James lives in Grand Junction, Colorado and he also runs and owns the Catalyst Performance Center where he works with clients in person – well, in a normal year, I don’t know how much you’ve had the opportunity to do that this year. Are you guys still seeing clients one on one?
James Wilson 02:35
Um, you know, with the mountain biking side, I actually own a small jujitsu school – which I use the Catalyst Training Center – I use it for a variety of things – and so one of the things that I do out of it actually is coach jujitsu. I am doing still doing some work with that area, especially with the kids, but, as far as like the mountain bike coaching side the coronavirus definitely had its impact on it. I was actually pretty bummed because I had scheduled a “riding for a lifetime” camp, it’s a subject that I started talking about over the last year or so, and it seemed like a lot of riders were really interested in it. So I was gonna have my first two day riding for a lifetime camp which is really focused on what you need to do to not just ride better today and tomorrow, but for years and years into the future. It sold out super quick, people were super pumped on coming and then, yeah, we all know the rest of the story. So those kind of got derailed, still doing what I can through the internet, which is funny, because I’ve been doing this since 2005, when I put my first website up. So a lot of people were scrambling to try to live in the new reality and I’m like, ‘Man, I’ve been sitting here the whole time, guys. Welcome to the future.’ Like I said though, it’s definitely had some challenges, but I’m doing what I can.
Colby Pearce 04:04
Well, thanks a lot for making time to come on today. I just feel like I found your work through the internet rabbit holes and wormholes and I think we have a lot of parallel philosophies. Your emphasis from what I’ve seen is very oriented towards educating riders about the simple concept that if they train off the bike, and use strength and conditioning to their benefit, it’s really going to benefit their function on a holistic level, on a much larger level and a lot of people I don’t think really have got that message yet. It seems to me that many cyclists think that riding a bike is the only way to be faster on the bike. And my message has been about educating athletes that cycling actually has some pretty serious sports specific compensation patterns. And that those patterns, especially when magnified over time, tend to make you actually a lot worse athlete, rather than better.
Colby Pearce 05:00
What I mean by that is if you’re talking couch fitness, if somebody’s super sedentary and they start riding a bike, they’re going to get fitter, they’re going to become healthier, they’re going to move towards health, right? But then there’s a plateau and then even a decline as cycling starts to down regulate some of the basic things that we need to do to be humans to engage with the surface of the earth. Have strong and stable ankles, for example, have good posture, maintain a good force ceiling, right? Things like that.
Colby Pearce 05:30
And I know we’re speaking the same language here. So I want to unpack some of your ideas and philosophies on that stuff. But I really think that cycling is a sport that can take us away from global health on the whole. And so when we counterbalance that then we – just like you said, you enable principles that enable that sort of actualize or bring to fruition lifetime fitness, lifetime health.
Colby Pearce 05:56
Cycling in particular, it’s a sport that tends to sort of also attract the engineering mind, to a degree. I’ll say the mind that’s very analytical, very type A, accomplish all the things, focus on that more is better kind of mindset, and it points you in that direction, and you sort of end up very, we’ll say, focused and kind of almost puts you in a physical corner, in a sense. Mountain biking is less so in that category, then we’ll say road riding, or maybe track riding or even long distance gravel, where you’re on the bike for 6, 7, 8 hours, kind of really, in one position, doing the same thing. And particular road races tend to have really morph a riders body into a certain shape, and a certain function. And that’s part of the practice of the sport at the very high end. That’s kind of what you’re doing is you’re signing up for that. And then you spend the rest of your life undoing all those patterns. That’s exactly where I’m at. I’ve been racing for 35 years, been a pro for 15 years, now I’m doing things like running in Vibram fivefingers so I can build the strength and function of my foot and my ankle stability, but it’s taken me many years of work to get to that point. (As one example.)
Colby Pearce 07:09
So I like to start off some of my interviews with a kind of a pop quiz, although it’s not really a pop quiz because I put in the questions but tell us what you have for breakfast today, man.
James Wilson 07:18
Breakfast? I had some homemade sourdough bread and homemade kombucha. My wife spoils our family with those two things. I usually have that, maybe throw in an egg, but that’s a pretty common breakfast for me.
Colby Pearce 07:36
Are you familiar with that bakery that’s on the front range here by any chance it’s called Moxie?
James Wilson 07:40
I am not know, no.
Colby Pearce 07:41
So they’re at the forefront of this sort of sourdough movement. They work with local farmers and they only use grains that are of very high quality and also more on the ancient side of the hybridisation crop spectrum. So you know, less refined, less hybridized – which is not to be confused with GMO, sometimes people use those terms interchangeably, but definitely not using GMO – so it’s organic and it’s slow fermented sourdough. They use that sourdough starter and I found that I’m in that perfect spectrum of people where if I eat a ton of really just straight up normal wheat, that’s like white flour, no sourdough, no starter, not fermented, my digestion kind falls off a cliff pretty quickly. But I can have some bread as long as I don’t overdo it. That’s the challenge, right? Because it’s so good, especially if you’re eating your wife’s homemade bread.
James Wilson 08:35
No, man, I think bread gets a bad rap in today’s nutrition culture. Again, the bread that most people are eating is not the same bread that people were eating throughout history. Things like sourdough actually have some health benefits when made correctly. Like anything else, it’s you don’t want to overdo it. I mean, you can overdo drinking water, it’s called drowning. But we don’t demonize water.
James Wilson 09:05
So I think that it’s interesting to hear you say that because I feel the same way; the context for your experience can change and that’s going to change your experience, right? So if you go from eating processed breads all the time and that’s the context of your experience well, then you’re going to go “Hey, man, according to my experience with breads, they’re bad. It’s not good for me. It’s not good for people.” All these things, gluten intolerance and stuff. So you think that that’s it. Like this is it, this is the only experience that I could have. And so getting people to realize that if you fundamentally change something about the experience, like how the bread is made, then you’re going to fundamentally change your experience and that’s going to change your opinions on something like bread.
James Wilson 10:03
Which, ironically, is one of the things I go through with the catalyst pedal, which is the pedal that I invented, because people’s context for flat pedals are pedals that are too small, that only allow you to get a single pressure point of stability into the platform. And when you change that context into a platform that allows two pressure points, it’s a different context, you can’t really draw conclusions as to like, what your experience is going to be when the context is fundamentally changed. That’s a tough thing for people in a lot of different arenas because your experience is your experience, and it is valid. But getting people to understand that there are ways to fundamentally change that experience, whether it’s through – people have had bad experiences like with strength training. One of the reasons that cyclists poopoo strength training is they tried strength training, it didn’t really work for them so riding their bike is the only way to do it. Well, what were you doing? How were you strength training? What was going on? There’s so many things about the context of your experience that play into what the outcome was. It’s getting people to keep a nuanced perspective on things that gets difficult. But yeah, man, bread is not as bad as they say. So, we’ll leave it at that.
Colby Pearce 11:23
Agreed. Well said.
Colby Pearce 11:26
I definitely want to get to your catalyst pedal, I mentioned to you in an email exchange we have that I’ve got a pair of those on my townie and I’m loving them. I think it’s a super cool product. Good for you for going out and getting a pedal made, I can only imagine that was quite a project.
Colby Pearce 11:39
Before we get there, maybe let’s just zoom out and give our audience a bit more context about you. Tell us more about you. How’d you get started in mountain biking? Maybe you want to back that up with your athletic kind of path and journey there? And who have you studied and how’d you end up in Grand Junction? And all those good things…
It’s definitely been an interesting path, you know, looking back, you can see different points and experiences that at the time, you know, didn’t really seem like they made his way, you know, whatever. And then you get down the road and all these things come together and give you, you know, unique perspective on things. And so my journeys definitely, you know, helped me get a little different perspective on things than your average cycling coach. And so I actually started out, you know, I first started working out in my garage, my dad had one of those, you know, Sears barbells sets or whatever with the, you know, the SEMA plates with the plastic coating, and I didn’t know what else to do. So I’m just out there doing, you know, bench pressing curls, what else do you do with a barbell. And so, but in high school, I started taking a little bit more seriously because I wanted to put some muscle on so girls would pay attention to me. And so back then, you know, the early 90s, everything is bodybuilding. And so I still remember like getting all pumped to go, you know, the newsstand and see if the new issue of Muscle and Fitness was out, find out, you know, the new supplement the new routine I needed to do and all this stuff. And so I, you know, got a little bit more serious fostering chain in my junior year in high school, I started to run away. So often I forget one a bit somewhere, I’m Middle High School, I started to run track. And so track was where I first got introduced to using strength training to enhance performance. It was like, Oh, you can do something else with strength training, besides, you know, build big packs and biceps there. Okay, this is cool. And so, I, um, you know, I really got into strength training, like I have an analytical mind with, it’s funny, because I do have that engineering, attitude towards things. And so like, I really was like, Alright, you know, I got to figure out, I remember sitting in the back of math class, trying to figure out the perfect body part split for my workout program, right? I’m not paying attention to the teacher, I’m sitting back there, like, hey, if I put biceps here, and then I put lattes here without coffee, you know, how that work. And, and so, you know, eventually I realized, like, you know, this is not normal, like, my obsession with learning about how to improve the human body through training wasn’t normal. So you know, after a year college and partied my way out, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, um, eventually, you know, year or two later, I let’s be a trainer, man. Like, that seems like up my alley, I really still like working out. You know, I wasn’t running track, but I was still like, trying to be active and you know, running just, you know, trail running and stuff. I ran some cross country, which I really enjoyed. I got certified as a personal trainer, and I was living in Santa Barbara. And that’s where the international sports sciences association was located. As luck would have it, I just kind of wanted these these interesting things. And so the SSA has a tech support line that you can I still think you know, you can call if you have questions as a trainer on your test, why would just go in and ask them and so I met the guys and you know, Charles Staley was working there, the guy who came up with the EDT training system and so I did really well on my test. And so they offered me a position, basically as an intern to come in and work in the tech support department. And so my job was to know basically everything there was to know about training, like if somebody called on the phone and had a question about training or their tasks, or what was in the textbook, like I was supposed to know it. And so like, I ended up working for them, you know, going from an intern, and it’s been worked for them. So for a couple years, like that was my job was just, like, learn everything there is to know about everything in the fitness field. And it was really cool, I got to you know, meet some really smart people and, and, um, you know, it was, it was a really great experience that helped, you know, lay this foundation. But around that time, when I got into mountain biking, and I got into mountain biking, kind of through the back door, I I got a mountain bike to ride to work, because parking in downtown Santa Barbara is atrocious. And I didn’t live too far away. And so I was like, I just ride a bike. So I went to the bike shop. And I wanted to get a mountain bike because I thought rode bikes look kind of weenie, and a mountain bike looks like a BMX bike, which, you know, I wrote as a kid. So I’m like, I’ll get a mountain bike. And so I had fun, like riding around the street, and you know, ride into work and stuff. But I knew that there were trails around Santa Barbara. And I just didn’t know where and so one weekend, I got bored and decided to ride up and down fire road. And man, I was hooked like right off the bat. And you know, mountain biking is cool because it you get like the runner’s high of an endurance sport. But then you get the adrenaline rush of an action sport, right? Like I tell people like I’m an actual sport and endurance sport, got drunk one night and had a baby, like mountain biking would have been the result, right? It’s a really cool and unique blend of these two things. And so I just I love that man right off the bat. And so I was coming from the track background, and just kind of also having the knowledge base that I had, I knew that, well, if I want to get better at sport, one of the first things I need to do is start training for it, you know, what can I do with my strength training, to start enhancing my performance on the bike. And because that’s just what you do in track. I mean, it’s like everybody in track works out, you don’t, you don’t run fast and track without working out. Like it’s just part of the culture. And you know, doing strength training, specifically, I mean, when I say I’m working out to talk about strength training, so I couldn’t find any good info man, this is back in like 2000. And there was literally nothing for mountain bike strength training, like the little that you could find was bodybuilding BS in disguise, it was like, we’ll do leg press and leg curl and leg extension, you know, three sets of 10 on each. And it’s like, this is not how athletes train, like, I don’t know, like how mountain bikers supposed to train. But I know that ain’t it. And so I started, just apply the things that I knew to my own training, and just trying to train for the physical realities that I knew I was experiencing as a mountain biker. And so kind of start coming up with my own training system, and had some other people that were working with me and they were getting good results. And so in 2005, I’m like, well, maybe there’s other people who are interested in this as well. So I put up my first website, and that’s where MTB Strength Training Systems was born, it was basically my my, the, the idea was to create a website where I could share these insights and things with other mountain bikers, because I knew that I was frustrated not being able to find these answers. And so I figured maybe other people would be interested in. So it’s funny man, like, I still don’t know where those first few newsletter subscribers came from, like, How the hell they found the site. But all of a sudden, I had like, 1015 people on this newsletter thing. And I’m like, man, I guess I better send an email out and to my newsletter list. And so, again, this is 2005. And since then, I have sent out like, you know, two to three emails a week, um, you know, for a long period of time creating three pieces of new content a week, because like, I was just working so hard to try to help educate mountain bikers on the importance of, you know, what, beyond strength training, right? Like, you know, I was one of the first guys to start to introduce kettlebell training, to mountain biking in 2005. Like, there was no mama strength training, like, in some ways, I helped create the niche. And I helped popularize and introduce people to kettlebells. And people, you know, they look around today, and they take all this stuff for granted. Right? Like, they don’t realize 20 years ago, there, this information wasn’t there. It didn’t exist. There were no riders, or strength coaches, who are devoting themselves to mountain biking. There’s none. And you know, today we have several, you know, and so it’s great that we see that there’s actually a niche and a place for coaches to focus on mountain biking, but it wasn’t always that way. And same thing with kettlebells like people are like, oh, kettlebells and mountain biking, you know, it’s, it’s like yeah, but at one point there what how people didn’t use kettlebells period, and they certainly didn’t apply. Buying a mountain biking. And so, you know, I got an kettlebell training again, early 2000s. And you have quite a bit of history with that. But, so that was the start of MTB Strength Training Systems. And since then, I’ve had the chance to work with, you know, some of the top riders in the world, some of the top teams, you know, right for a lot of top websites and magazines. And really, like I said, just working super hard trying to help educate Riders on the importance of, you know, good strength, and mobility, and nutrition and mindset. And like, basically, all of these things that you do off of the bike that go into how well you’re going to perform on the bike, and then also, how long you’re going to be able to do this for. And so you know, being able to balance those two things is also something that you have to keep in mind, because one of the things again, I’ve worked with riders, the highest levels, right, like I’ve seen what it takes to win national championships and be on the podium at a World Cup, okay. And the things that you do to your body to get to that level aren’t healthy. That’s just not like you’re sacrificing yourself, you’re sacrificing your health I forget where the saying came from, but it goes where good sport begins, good health ends. And, and in understanding that right that like, you know, these top riders, they may be doing things that and the trade off is worth it for them because they’re paying their mortgage, based on their performance. But it’s not worth it for the average everyday rider who is not getting anything for their, their efforts. And again, it’s it’s, you know, keeping that balance in mind, um, is again, something you got to watch, because people are really enamored when they are into training. They’re what are the pros doing? What are the pros doing? You know, I saw them doing this crazy box jump thing, or they’re, you know, doing this and it’s like, oh, my God, you got no idea, the background that led to all of that. And you know, that they’re a pro and you’re not. And so, um, so yeah, just kind of those two messages, man. He’s really trying to help people understand how those things can help them. But that’s, that’s, uh, that’s, yeah, it how I got here.
Okay, cool. Yeah,
Colby Pearce 22:07
thank you, I, I got three really good lessons, or I’ll say messages that from what you just said. And one of them is that, well, maybe you weren’t saying this explicitly. But I think you’ll agree with me that man, even today in 2000, while it’s 21, hommel, said 20. And strength training, there’s so many coaching programs out there that prescribe strength training, and I’m not just talking I’m talking mountain bike, road, cross track, whatever any discipline of cycling. And the program is just in the freaking stone age’s. It is there still coaches out there prescribing leg presses and hamstring curls? And, you know, knee extensions? Like, come on, you know, so and I’m not here to bag anyone else’s coaching, like you don’t know what you don’t know, there are areas in there lots of things I’m learning about. So I’m not here to to judge another coach and say, You’re a bad coach. That’s not my message. But I will say that man, we can do so much better there. There are programs that are light years ahead of that stuff. And there’s so many that that stuff like programming like that is so elemental. Another point I want to that I heard you say that I want to emphasize is that, like you were saying, athletes, really part of our job as coaches is educated an athlete to think beyond the bike, meaning most athletes or many athletes, I’ll say tend to think about their stress, their training, stress, and they isolate it from other stress. Stress is stress.
James Wilson 23:34
And the other one that drives me nuts is when they separate their writing from their cardio training. Is it flight writing? Isn’t cardio training, it’s like holy crap, man like that. Yeah, so anyways, But to your point, it’s, you know, separating the writing from the other things that they’re doing is not good.
Colby Pearce 23:49
And by that, I think you’ll agree like all things. This is the problem in road cycling, I think this is arguably more endemic, because everybody’s so fixated on power and power meters, and the performance management management chart, which is specifically this chart that outlines your ride stress, which is calculated by your average power for every single ride for the entire year. And you get this nice little graph that shows you how fit you are. And that’s a very useful model, but it’s also very myopic. Because it doesn’t, you can’t track I mean, I can go in the garage right now and annihilate myself in eight minutes with a kettlebell, like, I can put myself into The Hurt Locker, no problem. If I do the right swing, right with the right technique and the right number of reps I can I can dig myself super hard, where I’ll have lasting Dom’s for a few days, maybe even longer if I really nuke it. But that’s not going to show up in a PMC because I didn’t have my power meter on and it won’t even show up if I’m wearing a heartrate monitor necessarily, because depending on the types of reps you’re doing, you may not achieve enough cardiac load to get a higher enough heart rate. And that’s only one example let alone you know the fight you have with your girlfriend or the job stress you have because you just got furloughed, or the income taxes, you’re figuring out how to pay or whatever other stress life stress people have. And stress is stress at all summits. And so people, but athletes, I think, tend to not think this way they get on the bike and throw their leg over the top tube. And they’re like, Well, my coach said that I was supposed to do this really hard mountain bike ride today with all these, you know, standing Hill intervals. And then I’m just gonna go, you know, smashing all these descents and work on my flow and work on my weight distribution, or my attack position, or whatever you got going on whatever your recommendations are. But if you’re smashed if your nervous system is totally fatigued, because you’ve been so stressed out at work, you make it halfway down that trail and the either the workout is ineffective, because you can’t focus enough to really be laser sharp, or worst case scenario, you make a big mistake, and you end up ass over teakettle, and then you’re calling your coach with a broken collarbone from the emergency room or whatever,
James Wilson 25:57
yeah, it’s definitely one of the reasons I’m a fan of heart rate variability, and monitoring your HRV is definitely getting more and more popular, which unfortunately, means that people need to educate themselves and start being smart about what HRV solutions are using, because there’s people out there that just see dollar signs. And you know, so not all HRV solutions are the same. So you know, personally, I use the the Morpheus system, which is Joel Jamison, he had bioforce. So I’ve been using HRV myself personally for, I don’t know how many years, it’s been a long time. And I think that it’s one of the best training tools that you can use to make smart long term training decisions. But, you know, basically, for people that don’t know are a variability. And there’s a lot of science behind this is is the, you know, you have, if you’re seeing like, you know, heart rate monitor, or you know, the ECG, and it’s got a little spike, when the for the heartbeat. And so there’s the distance between those spikes is called the RR wave. And the distance between those spikes is supposed to be random, right? So like when they say that you have a heart rate of 60 beats per minute, they’re not saying that it’s one beat every second, like a metronome. It might be, but that’d be actually really bad. You know, what they’re saying is that you’re averaging over this period of time this many, so you know that the time between the heartbeats is actually variable and different? And so the greater that variability is, what this does is it they found that this ties into your, your parasympathetic nervous system, or in or your, sorry, Your autonomic nervous system, and so you’ve got your, your sympathetic and parasympathetic, which basically your fight and flight responses. And so your, your HRV is a reflection of kind of, you know, it’s like a teeter totter, right? It’s tilted, either one way or the other. And so you’re either tilted towards the the fight or flight or you’re relaxed, or whether you’re towards the fight. I mean, where you’re, you’re stressed or whether the rest, relax, right? And what happens with a lot of people, like you’re saying is they get locked, that teeter totter gets locked over in the stress side? And so without some sort of objective measurement to tell you like, yes, you are, and then it’s really hard for athletes who are used to looking at numbers to justify taking a day off, right? Like, if you feel like crap, will, you know, if you don’t have some objective way to measure, like, you know, is there something that you really need to take a day off for, then it can be tough. And so it by looking at your HRV, and seeing where you’re at, it helps you make smarter training decisions and making sure that you’ve got that, you know, you’re not in the stress response period all the time. And your body’s able to relax, because everybody knows, right, like, you don’t get fitter from training. It’s the recovery from training that makes you fitter. And so if your HRV is always locked in that stress response, and you’re not able to recover from your training, you’re not actually getting anything out of your training. And so, but yeah, HRV is one of these things that I think that it’s just going to continue to get more popular, but I think that if anybody is serious about their training, especially doing it long term, you know, looking at one of these HRV solutions is a, you know, something I’d highly, highly recommend. So, yeah, you seem like you got some experience with HRV. Yeah,
Colby Pearce 29:16
I was I Were A bootstrap for about two years.
Colby Pearce 29:20
And I found it to be a really useful training tool. I think HRV I think it I think you saw you synopsize it perfectly. I think it’s a really useful tool to teach people more about their own intuition. Ultimately, I think it’s the journey for me, the ideal journey for my athletes is to use HRV as a training tool as a learning tool, and then eventually put the sword down and walk away from it. Because that tool should be used to refine your own intuition. You should be able to get out of bed in the morning and do a body scan and internal monitor an internal checklist of what’s happening, you know, feel your heart rate, feel your blood pressure. Feel how responsive you are to little things and understand innately Today’s the day where I can train pretty hard or Today’s the day where I’m a little tired. That’s the ideal for me. But to get there, I think HRV is a really, really useful tool, because sometimes we have to see numbers to learn, to process our own sensations to process our own what’s happening in our body. And that’s, unfortunately, the fact that HRV is a good training tool and exist is a little bit of a sign of how disconnected so many people have become from their bodies.
James Wilson 30:31
Oh, big time. Yeah. 100%, right, about the ultimate goal really being to not have to use the HRV tool at all, to know where you’re at. And so, you know, it just becomes like, some interesting data more of just like a morning routine, but you know, I can sit down and tell you before I take it, like, Alright, man, like, I’m probably gonna be this, and, you know, 90 plus percent of the time I am, because like, you know, you start to associate like, same thing with heart rate, right? Like, this is one of these things that cracks me up is how much people focus on heart rate. And I guess you could also say, the power meters, the same thing, right? And if they’re so focused on it, during training, I got to keep my power here. And I got to keep my heart right here. It’s like, okay, when you’re racing, are you looking at those things? No.
James Wilson 31:18
are you going on? Feel? Okay, well, why are you not training that? Right? Like, there’s a total disconnect, between the way that most people train were there, so numbers oriented, and how you actually perform, which is more feeling oriented, and using the numbers to understand, okay, if I’m feeling this way, this is probably what’s going on. And I can make some decisions, you know, with that knowledge, but you know, yeah, like, being totally disconnected, you know, without those numbers in your face, is not necessarily the goal, like, yes, you’re more informed than someone who doesn’t use the numbers at all. But you’re really not at the end of the journey, yet, there’s still a few more steps that we’d really like to take to realize our potential as human beings, which is to, you know, tap into our own inner wisdom and knowledge or whatever you want to call it, but it’s there,
Colby Pearce 32:10
the model I kind of have in my head is that we’re sort of triangulating between three points. And those three points are heart rate, which is your body’s response to exercise response to load. It’s how your body’s reacting to whatever you’re doing and all the stress summit, so that can be temperature, hydration, calories, total number of hours if you’ve been riding, you know. And load of course, right. Amongst other things, humidity can do it. Even barometric pressure can influence people’s heart rate. That’s one corner of the triangle. The other corner is if you’re using one a power meter, that’s your body’s output. So it’s the external load, it’s the load you’re generating. And then measured externally, it’s kind of the hard line, how much work are you actually doing? The third point of that triangle, which is arguably the most valuable is relative perceived exertion. Internal tachometer, how do you feel because I can look at all the training data in the world on training peaks, or today’s plan, or, or whatever software you’re using. And I can see the heart rate the riders response, and I can see their power their output. But until I have that third data point, which is their sensation, I don’t really have a complete picture. And ultimately, heart rate and power are really sounding boards for the athlete to refine their ability to understand what’s inside. For me athletic practices about primarily two things. It’s about connecting internally with my own body, expressing movement, and connection with nature. That’s one of the reasons big reasons I ride a bike. Not every cyclist identifies with that. Probably more mountain bikers do than roadies. But for me, it’s about connection with nature. And sometimes I’ll go ride for two hours, I’ll stop, get off my bike, take off most of my clothes, or maybe occasionally all of them do Tai Chi in the middle of the forest in the sun, then I’ll put my clothes back on and ride home that’s connected with nature. I know that’s not the way most people ride their bikes, but that’s my gig. But I’ve also been doing this a long time. So But anyway, that like I think those that triangle, the point I’m getting at is that we really those two other data points, those two technological devices are really serving as sounding boards to refine what’s happening inside what’s going on with my body connection with body, finding that flow, that perfect movement, right? That’s, for me, that’s sort of the end goal and competitive cycling can be a subclass of this whole triangular model. And you can emphasize certain aspects of that to will say, maximize your capacity as a competitive athlete. Nothing wrong with that at all. And, and on that point, you mentioned, this is the third thing I took away from what you were saying earlier, is that you said elite sport is not necessarily healthy, right? I think a lot of amateurs missed that point. I really think that people, we tend to glorify the professionals and and I’m not saying that’s unwarranted professional athletes are badasses, like we all want to see, you know, super fast women rip down a downhill trail do amazing things. I mean, who doesn’t want to see that? That’s super cool. We all want to see, you know, the Tour de France climbing a mountain at speeds that are unbelievable. Hopefully, naturally induced speed. We all want to see you know, people do 100 mile mountain bike races and annihilate themselves. Like that’s cool. That’s a neat thing to see. Or, or maybe the Colorado trail or whatever they’re doing, right. Those are amazing achievements. But they’re by definition, myopic. They’re, by definition, singularly focused. And anytime you put all your effort into that arrow point of One Direction, all energy pointing in one dream goal or objective, you by definition, disregard the other aspects of your life that would normally be holistic, you disregard certain aspects of thing, it’s just a law of, I don’t know, call it a law of focus, I suppose it’s like, the more you point yourself in one direction, the more you’re going to have to ignore other things that make you a well rounded human and look after your health. So I think that’s a great point. And I, I agree with you on that, for sure that elite sport isn’t necessarily something that all athletes all amateurs should not necessarily pedestal eyes. I don’t know if that’s a word. I think I just made that.
James Wilson 36:33
No, no, I think it’s, um, and even just like the idea of racing in general, right? Like, I think it’s it’s basic human psychology, it’s, it’s you come into a new tribe, and what, you know, what are you gonna do, I’m gonna look around and figure out the norms and stuff. But among that, you’re going to figure out like, okay, who, who is, you know, looked up to in this environment? Right, who is held up and people, okay, and we naturally want to, okay, well, that must be what I need to do, if I want to be, you know, looked up to in this environment as well. And so a lot of times, it is like the racers and you know, the pro riders that are are held up in the media and all that stuff. And so the message is that, well, if you want to be, you know, liked as a writer, then this is the pathway. And so racing becomes like, I don’t even think that racing is a good idea for most riders, like not the way that they do it. Like, if you want to do it like to have some fun, that’s great. But like, I think that most people miss the point of mountain biking, and writing in general, like riding should be a form of self improvement like that, that it should be a vehicle for self improvement. And you you can be faster on Strava, you can be faster in a race and not have actually improved as a person and not exactly actually improved your health. And so like to your point, like you can be myopic, and what your goals are, and miss the fact that you’re not actually improving, right? Like the the example. You know, I’ve heard a lot of times coaches who you’ve worked with really high level athletes, especially Olympic athletes give is that, Hey, man, you win the Olympic gold, but you got divorced, and your kids won’t talk to you. Like, was that worth it?
James Wilson 38:20
Right, like so there’s these these, these these trade offs? Like you’re saying that when you get so hyper focused in one area, you may not actually be improving as a person. And I think that ultimately, that’s, that’s the goal. Like, I’m not I’m not saying that you can’t do it. Right. But I think that if you’re a pro rider, there’s, you know, it’s a different thing, though, than someone who’s just a regular average, everyday rider who’s being told and given the message like, Hey, man, if you want to, like racing, or this like that is riding, right? Like That should be your focus, like your Strava time should be your focus, like, that’s the thing and, you know, or your internal racing and stuff. Like that’s the you know, it’s, it’s funny, it’s like, Man, what, why, like, you know, I’ll be honest, like enduro racing cracks me up, because it’s like, you know, they’re like, Oh, it’s just like riding your bike, and it says, go ride your bike, like, you can go to that same exact place any other weekend and ride the exact same thing with your friends and do it for free. Right? And so like, why what is with the again, like I understand, like putting a date on a calendar to have that challenge. But I just again, I think that a lot of riders get caught up in this mindset that they have to race. And that racing is in training to be a racer is synonymous with being a writer. And I don’t think that’s the same thing. That’s like saying that you know, being a bodybuilder is synonymous with someone who works out with weights. It’s like men, you can work out weights for a lot of different reasons. bodybuilding may be one of them, right? We saw what happened in the strength training world when bodybuilding became synonymous with strength training, is like Oh, you want to get better at your sport? You do? bodybuilding three sets of 10 on the leg, press leg, Chrome leg extension like that’s how That became a training program given to cyclists was the bodybuilding influence or, you know, the influence of bodybuilding had on the strength training world at one time. And so, you know, we’ve we’ve seen that there’s problems with that. And so there’s other ways we got functional training now and all these other things. So we’ve moved forward. So, you know, but the, I think the same thing, you know, can happen with with racing, where people start to think that racing is synonymous with riding. And they’re not, they’re not, they’re not the same thing. Racing is a form of riding, but man, you can be a rider, and never race. And then like that, then be great, like, have fun, like, do it for your own reasons. So, um, but yeah, man, that’s, I feel that a lot of riders missed that point. I will say like, that’s one of the reasons I enjoy Jiu Jitsu so much, because it’s baked into it. Like, you know, there’s no illusions, like, everyone’s gonna get their butt kicked when they first get on the mat, doesn’t matter who you are, how big you are, what your background is, if you haven’t grappled before you’re gonna get some mashed. And so any illusions of you being great, or are dashed. And so the whole thing becomes about self improvement. And is that journey, you know, your mindset, your nutrition, you know, everything you do is baked into the culture, because, you know, you’re gonna show up on, you know, a couple nights a week, and you’re gonna have to frickin go to battle with some killers. And, you know, and there’s no hiding on the mat, man, you can’t, you can’t, you know, tell people like you’re a great writer and look the part when you’re not really man, you know, and so, it’s a so yeah, it’s, it’s I enjoy that mindset. It’s a martial arts mindset is really what it boils down to, like, all martial arts really kind of have that, that self improvement aspect baked in. But I think that writing really misses, like I have a couple articles on my website, like things I, you know, wish mountain biking would learn from Brazilian jujitsu, or I forget what the exact title is, but there’s things that that cycling could learn from looking at, you know, martial arts and like, how do we encourage people to do this for different reasons other than just racing? You know, how do we give them the mindset to do this for the long haul? Like, again, we give people the impression the man if you’re not, you know, pretty fast after six months to a year you suck, right? And in jujitsu, it’s like, No, no, dude, you’re gonna suck for like three or four years, like, honestly, I I’ve noticed the same parallel really with riding to like, your most riders are not going to be very good. For the first probably like three to four years, it’s going to take about three to four years of riding and training consistently, to get to where you feel pretty confident, in most situations. And but if you have this impression that like, Man, I’ve been riding for a year, and I’m not getting faster, and all this stuff, and you start getting frustrated, the odds of you quitting are way higher. So you know, one of the things that you do in martial arts and Jiu Jitsu, is you start letting people know right off the bat early, like, Hey, buddy, it’s okay to suck. We’ve all sucked, it’s the process just buckled down. It’s going to take you years to figure this out and know what that’s okay. And it takes so much mental pressure off of people to just relax and enjoy the process rather than get all like, hyped up on like, Oh my god, you know, my Strava times my, my, you know, functional power threshold, my, you know, whatever, insert whatever manic thing that drives people crazy. That really keeps them from keep having the view that they need to achieve the goals that they’re looking to achieve. But But anyways, man, yeah, no, I I agree. It can get confusing for people as far as like, what to focus on, when it comes to, you know, pro riders and the information you can get from them.
Colby Pearce 43:41
That’s an excellent point, that I think a lot of riders would benefit from sort of truly embracing the beginner’s mind, which means, same thing, when you walk through, you know, the door of the dojo or the jujitsu Training Center. It’s like, Man, I’ve never done this before. So it’s only my ego, that’s going to tell me that I need to be good at it out of the blocks. It’s only my ego that’s going to be upset or feel embarrassed if I get my ass kicked for the first month or three months or 12 months. And that’s exactly what it is ego I mean, yeah, like, everybody has that little fantasy somehow that they’re going to be the one in a billion. And they walk through the door for the first time and they throw everybody on the mat and smash everybody else or they went and they win their first five bike races easily solo, because they just annihilate the field and there they turn out to be Lance or, you know, whoever
James Wilson 44:38
the outliers outlier. Yeah. It’s not that those people don’t ever exist, right. But they’re the outliers outlier, and we always harbor those fantasies. It’s, it’s funny, I recently got into competitive shooting, and I went out to my first like, steel challenge match. And Dude, it’s funny you say that because I had the same exact thing, man. At the end of the day. My wife’s like, how’d it go? I was like, we’re pretty good, but definitely not You know, all this little fantasy I had walking out there and just being great at it right off the bat. So I just gotta buckle down for the process of getting better. You know, this isn’t the thing. So it’s funny, you mentioned that because I was just like a couple weekends ago, but we all have it, but like, acknowledging it helps you feel like okay, man. Yes, that is what I’m thinking. And so when I’m feeling frustrated, or whatever, or trying to make excuses, like, my sights are off to the left, like, No, they’re not you just suck, dude. You’re just learning. Yeah, exactly. And it’s okay to learn. It’s okay to learn. But it’s the, you know, I think with cycling, too, one of the problems though, is like the culture because it is so you know, you know, it does appeal to the engineering mind. So hey, if there’s a problem, I can find the solution to it. And a lot of times that solution involves technology. So, you know, if you’re struggling to make it up that climb, there’s different tires, there’s different tire pressures, there’s a different frame geometry, there’s a different I mean, there are a million excuses, that you can use technology for it to not acknowledge like, man, maybe it’s just the process, maybe you just need to get better. And I and so I think that’s one of the reasons that people get put on clipless pedals so quickly, because as a culture cycling, we don’t let people struggle. You know, if you if you see someone struggle, you’re the well meaning intention is to try and help them. And and, and there’s certain ways that we try and help new riders like, Hey, man, you know, you’d be more efficient. If you’re on clipless pedals, you know, you’d have an easier time climbing. If you were on clipless pedals, instead of just telling them like, you know what, man, it’s probably gonna take you a while to get your pedal stroke figured out. Like, it’s okay though, like, just, you know, it’s gonna take you a little while to figure out how to keep your weight distributed on climbs, you know, all of these things are skills that you have to learn, that have nothing to do with the technology, but then you take someone and you put them in, like, clipless pedals. And now their focus becomes the the technology learning to use the technology becomes the focus, not continuing the process of learning how to be a rider and, you know, physically, you know, how does that feel like we were talking about, you just mentioned, like, how do I distribute my weight on climbs? How do I hold myself in these positions? It’s, it’s way harder for you to focus on those things, when your focus is on the technology and trying to like, okay, you know, can I get clipped out here? Do I need to pre unclip here, you know, you know, all of these things that I’m, you know, every rider who’s ever rode with clipless pedals at some point has experienced and a lot of people still experience it’s just, I, you know, I compare it to the Emperor’s New Clothes, you know, that little the children’s tell where everybody thinks the Emperor is naked, but nobody says anything, because they think they’re the only one who sees it. I think the whole thing about people really not enjoying their experience on clipless pedals is like Emperor’s New Clothes. Everybody has it. Everybody, you know, has had that experience, but they think they’re the only one. You know, that’s kind of the the impression is they’re like, Oh, you just got to toughen up, you know, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Like, I just dealt with it. And it’s like, No, you know, you did your, your you you had the same thing you had to work through. Right. But like, if people I think it’s one of the reasons that like flat pedals are kind of regained some ground over the last few years, especially in the mountain biking world, is you know, you know, I’ll toot my own horn a little bit. I think the flat pedal revolution Manifesto, which I put out I don’t even know how long it’s been it’s been a long time since I put that thing out. But you know, for years before that, I was championing flat pedals because again the story this is funny man that the the rumor on the internet it’s fine like bike James you know, he’s this dude he’s this guy that exists on the internet. I read all this stuff about bike James I’m like, I don’t know what the hell happened there, you know, bike James, like fell over to stop sign on his clipless pedals and then went off piste off looking to disprove clipless pedals so that I never had to use them and I could just stick with flats that’s the that’s the the story that I’ve read in more than one account of how bike James got to this point. You know, I don’t know maybe by James got that place that way. James Wilson me. What happened was, I was I did have the proverbial fall over the stop sign moment where I was, you know, I spent time trying to learn how to write clipless pedals. And I fell over the stop sign. I was like, dude, I would have died if this was on the trail. So I’m having more fun on my flats. I know that I can at least get as good as this other guy that I was riding with who’s on flats before I needed to get to close puddles and I wasn’t there yet. So I’m like, you know what, I’ll just go to flats. And when I get to the point where I know that it’s it’s my, you know, my pedals that are holding me back now my lack of skill, not my lack of fitness, then then I’ll look at switching so that was that’s how I approached it. And you know, I never really reached that day, but I always thought that I was giving something up, right? Like I believe like everyone else, pushing pulling all this efficiency stuff just for me. It was a trade off. I was willing to make And so what what happened was when I was working, actually with the Yeti World Cup team, when I was coaching Eric, when I decided to start looking into the science behind clipless pedals, because, you know, I’m working with these riders who are using clipless pedals as a strength coach, I wanted to see, well, is there something that I can do with my programs to help enhance what clipless pedals are doing? How exactly are they working? How exactly? Are they more efficient? how exactly are they creating more power, so then I can focus my training program on these things. And everyone acts like you can just throw a stick and hit five studies that prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that clipless pedals are better, and that they produce more power and more efficiency and all this stuff. And then you start looking. And it’s like, wait a minute, where are the studies, like, I can’t find any studies that actually back up these things that I’m expecting to find what’s going on here. And then I started, you know, putting feelers out. And I had people send me studies that we’re pointing in the opposite direction, you know, the more non core studies that showed the pulling up on the backstroke was actually less efficient and less powerful than simply driving hard with the lead leg and laying the trail leg do its thing, right, and, and so like these, the science that I did come across, pointed in the opposite direction of what we would all been told as the industry like that famous little chart, the circle chart that you know, has the leg and it shows, you know, this muscle is activated here, and this muscle activated here, and this muscle activated here. And here. That’s all theory. It’s never like, if you look at an EMG reading of the pedal stroke, it looks nothing like that. But that’s still in textbooks like that still used in coaching programs. No, it’s insane. It’s been disproven by science several times. But it is still this like thing that people take as a given in the cycling world. And so I because it just I don’t know, I don’t like people lying. And so I’m trying to like get the truth out there, I started kind of championing flat pedals. I’m trying to get this information out there. And man, I took a beating. I mean, I’ve definitely lost clients, I have lost, you know, professional opportunities, money. I am, you know, the guy that walks into the party and tells everybody their clipless pedal, God is dead is not the popular guy at the party. Okay, and so like, but that’s fine, I just did, I felt like telling the truth was more important than than just, you know, keeping the status quo. And so, you know, I put the flat pedal revolution manifesto out, you know, several years ago, but like, you know, that conversation and everything is definitely, you know, changed as far as like the value of flat pedals. And especially learning as a new rider, and I think is much more acceptable now, for people to encourage new riders to stick to flat puddles for a period of time, and learn how to ride on flats, when again, that was not the norm. And I got, I got, Hey, man, you got to learn how to use these things may as well start right now. I mean, that was the story I got when I bought my first mountain bike, you know, countless riders had heard that as well. And so, um, so anyways, the I forget exactly how I got started on this, but that is a conversation that has changed. Um, you know, when it comes to equipment and stuff and the value of that equipment for for riders and their improvement, but yeah, yeah, so I think that, yeah, there you go. I think it is something that these things can change with time and information, you know, like we’re trying to get out there. And hopefully some of these other training aspects and things like that can change as well. But yeah, there you go. flat pedals, baby.
Colby Pearce 53:37
you know, I just want to say, anyone who’s really speaking their truth and isn’t afraid to go against the norm. Man, when it’s when when you know, when your soul is telling you like this is, this is what my message is for the world. This is what I have to teach people and you’re not afraid to walk into that party and kill everyone’s flat, you know, clipless pedal gods, like, good for you. And the fact that you’ve lost clients, the fact that you lost financial opportunity professional, you know, opportunities to teach other people and stuff over this disagreement is a testament to the fact that you were gaining ground, I would argue that’s what demonstrates that you were rototilling belief systems, you were challenging people’s ways of thinking. And I’m not saying that every time you challenge someone’s way of thinking that in itself justifies your line of thought and that you are correct. Of course, that’s not true. We can say all kinds of ridiculous things. Fine Line, man, it’s
James Wilson 54:29
Colby Pearce 54:30
Yeah, yeah. But I happen to agree with a lot of your philosophies on flat pedals. And I think in particular, the catalyst pedal, you know, I don’t want to I want to also make sure we spend time Take time to address a little more stuff about strength and conditioning. But since we’re on the catalyst pedal, let’s let’s keep going with that specifically discussion on flat pedals. Look, I agree with you, 100%. I referenced the study you’re talking about in regards to pulling up on the backside of the stroke. I referenced that in discussions with my client All the time when I’m doing fitting, and I’m just gonna, I’m just gonna straight up just tell everybody right now to make this crystal clear if you’ve listened to my other two podcasts I’ve done on how to pedal a bike one on one and 102, which is over four hours worth of me just rambling. If you’re pulling up on the backside of the stroke, in particular at nine o’clock, or if you’re driving up at 1011, and 12, trying to use iliac. So as and rec FEM to drive and unweight your leg and pull up, you are doing it wrong, I’m just going to say that point blank straight up, you’re not increasing your efficiency. At the very best case, you’re keeping it the same, but at the expense of your downstroke your power phase. But most people get less efficient. That stuff that won’t be borne out and all the double blind studies is that you’re probably there’s a really high probability you’re going to pull up harder on one side than the other. And you’re gonna shorten and strengthen one so as more than the other The size is the deepest muscle in the body, it’s the muscle of the soul, there’s a lot of emotion that gets tied into so so so so as muscles are problematic to begin with. But when you overuse it and endurance exercise, you’re just adding, you know, weight onto the problem pile. And then on top of that, consider that the so as is pound for pound, it’s a very strong muscle, but it’s only about take three fingers, and kind of pinch them together, that’s about the thickness of your so as, but it’s probably about almost 30 centimeters long. In irrelevant units, that’s 18 inches, that’s a long, skinny muscle. So when a really long, skinny, strong muscle that passes through, the center of the body goes past several organs and past the pelvis and is attached to something that moves a lot your femur, and something else that moves a lot, your lumbar spine is a recipe for things to get all screwed up. And that’s why therapists try to work on so as problems all the time. Also, the size isn’t like your VMO your your medial quad that big, you know, kind of grapefruit looking thing right next to your knee, a massage therapist can go in there and just crank on that thing when that thing’s tight or has problems. So as not so much. You got all kinds of guts in the way and viscera and pelvic bones and, and such. So it’s a lot harder to get to so so it’s hard muscle to treat, right? So for all these reasons, and actually a whole lot more than I won’t go into pulling up on the backside of stroke is not the best way to pedal a bike. We are humans were meant to push down, we have all this muscle made to push to generate downforce. We are engineered or evolved, depending on how you want to look at it, to negotiate the face of the earth and to resist the force of gravity. And that means pushing down against the surface of the earth. So Cycling is a refined form of that basic motion. So yeah, when we I’ve heard you mentioned this James, one of your hypotheses, I’ll say and correct me if I’m misquoting you or twisting one your ideas around is that basically, one of the reasons flat pedals are so effective is because when people use traditional cycling shoes with a stiff soul and they use a clipless pedal, it changes the relationship of the foot to the pedal in a way that allows for not optimal force distribution. And proprioceptive. We’ll say, Clary, is that a fair way to describe things?
James Wilson 58:26
Yeah, no, I was I was really influenced by the book Born to Run. You know, it’s just part of my strength training background, I really got into the Barefoot training barefoot running thing. You know, I suffered from a knee and foot problems when I ran track and cross country and I remember them getting ready to fit me with orthotics. So like I had, you know, when I read that book, it was like, Oh, you know, I think I’d actually experienced what he was talking about as far as like, Oh, these big, overly built overly cushioned shoes. were causing the problem. And so if I get into the Barefoot training and barefoot running thing that’ll go away. And so I my training facility that I had for six years in Grand Junction, like we were a barefoot training facility, like, we encourage you to come in and work out barefoot, or at least minimalist shoes, like you know, we would not allow those big bulky shoes in the gym to work out in. And so it’s just part of my, you know, my core philosophy. And so I but I remember listening to that I didn’t read I listened to it as an audiobook on a drive to and from California. But I remember listening to it and thinking like man, if running shoes are jacking up our feet and lower body with how they’re with the unnatural interface they’re creating, What on earth are clipless pedals doing to people’s feet, because that is a super unnatural interface for your your foot to have with something with the you know, trying to apply pressure into something. And so I actually did a little research in there. I you know, didn’t find much but one of the studies I found You know, cyclists that were studied had like 80 plus 85% of them had some sort of overuse injury within their career, like it was as high if not higher than running. Right. And again, like running was the, you were able to point like, Hey, this is why all these injuries are because of the foot. And so that was definitely one of my, my thought processes behind flat pedals was a little flat pedals at least allow a more natural interface with the with the bike and with the pedal than clipless pedals do. And so, you know, even before I invented the clipless, or the catalyst pedal, I had had many riders who had, you know, we’re one of the guys was literally ready to quit riding. I mean, this guy rode, it was part of his soul. And he hurts so bad, and he had done all the bike fits all the different shoes, all the different things, but he was, you know, wearing kobus bottles, and I told him, man, you know, just switched flats, just give it a shot, you have nothing to lose, and he did and his pain, for the most part went away, I mean, just, you know, giant change pretty quickly, you know, so now he’s a huge flat pedal, advocate. But there’s a lot of people out there that have experienced this, that when they switch from clipless, pedals to flats, that a lot of the cycling related aches and pains that they’ve had, either go away or get a lot less. And you know, that is actually the taking that a step further, was my idea for the catalyst pedal, because I realized that even flat pedals don’t create a natural interface for your foot with the pedal. And the The problem is, is that what people look at riding a bike, and they go, Oh, that looks like running or jumping. And when you run or jump, you want to drive to the ball of your foot. But the problem is, is that when you’re on your bike, your your foots not coming off the pedal, right, so you’re not propelling your center of gravity through space, the bike is carrying your center of gravity through space. So it’s more like surfing, or skateboarding, or skiing or something like that, right? Who’s not triple extension? Yes, exactly. It’s not triple extension, triple extension is only when you’re projecting your center of gravity off of its base of support, right. So you need your feet to break contact with the ground. So the context of how your feet of this is very important because your your lower leg acts very differently between these two contacts. This is why when you’re in the gym, no one tells you to will drive up on the ball of your foot when you’re doing lunges and squats and deadlifts. Because, you know, when you run a jump, that’s how you do it. So that’s the most powerful way to lift weights. No one does that, because we know you blow knees out and hurt people doing that. And the reason is, is that when your foot is not coming off of what it’s in contact with, it wants to pressure points to create stability and apply pressure into the into what it’s on. And so because the most flat pedals, you know, pretty much everyone but the catalyst pedal is made from this assumption that you only need to stabilize the ball of the foot and create one pressure point, it’s really not a foot position, it’s a pressure point system, right is one pressure point versus two pressure points. And your body is designed to use two pressure points in the in that context. And so when you’ve got a single pressure point, it creates all sorts of problems. So you know, you’re you’re not able to recruit the hips is effectively your calf and Achilles tendon is going to have to create, you know, get tighter, because something has to stabilize your heel, right. And so you also when you have a rotating platform that’s centered or a platform that’s centered on a rotating axis, from an engineering standpoint, it makes no sense to try to use one pressure point to apply pressure into that rotating platform, you have to get it perfectly centered, and it can’t deviate at all. any deviation off of center is going to result in that platform tipping. And so most riders can’t get their foot perfectly centered is too uncomfortable. So almost all riders will have a little bit of offset forward. And this is why you see the toes tipping down when people are pedaling really hard because this is uneven force going into the pedal that platform and it’s rotating the platform forward. Well one answer to that problem. Because if you’re not, you know, if you’re on flat, your foot can come off of that. Or you have to think about how you’re pedaling and model module moderate your force to keep it from, you know, being so much that it tips your foot off. Well one answer to that is to attach your foot to the pedal. If I attach my foot to the pedal, it will take care of that problem. Now I can pedal as hard as I want. I don’t have to worry about my foot coming off the pedal. Another answer to the problem is to stabilize the energy that’s going into the platform so you don’t have that tipping in the first place. And that’s where putting two pressure points one on each end of the platform is the better, more efficient way to apply force into a rotating platform like that IE a paddle, even a clipless pedal even the smallest pedal clipless pedal is a platinum form that you are standing on that’s rotating on a centered axis or centered on a rotating axis. And so like there’s another way to solve that problem. And that is to create the two pressure point platform. And that’s what the catalyst pedal does. And so again, it just, it’s just an extension of this. Look at how is the human body designed to move? Now, how do we apply this to the bike? And while that sounds self evident, and like, Well, duh, that is not the approach the vast majority of the cycling world and cycling coaches take, they have these pre formed theories on how you want to power the bike. And then you’re going to force the body to adapt to these theories. And that’s where the whole pushing and pulling thing came from. And so, you know, again, if I’m designing a machine from scratch, I will have it push and pull. Right, but the human body is not a machine designed from scratch, we have certain ways that we optimally move. And so we have to learn how do we apply these ways to the bike instead of these, you know, cockamamie theories of how would a machine power the bike? And then you know, and so again, like, this is why I’m a big advocate for standing pedaling. Because when you stand up a lot, a bunch of good things happen when you’re sitting down, you’re in the adult fetal position, right? Like, if sitting is the new smoking, like, what is a seated peddling? Right, you know, ball hits a crack, we’re sitting. Yeah, so it’s not good for you, man, put a bunch of tension on your system when you’re sitting down, you know, sitting down to recover is fine. This is where people get me a little confused. They’re like, Oh, you just stand up all the times like no, no, I sit down a lot. But I sit down when it’s a low tension, easy situation to recover. As soon as it’s hard, and I have to start applying tension through the system, I’m going to stand up, because once I get my, my hips and shoulders aligned better my cores in a better position, I’m able to get full knee extension, and I have pressure on the foot. And what this does for the knee is a co contraction between the quad in the hamstring that stabilizes the knee joint, as your hip sweeps the foot through the the end of the pedal stroke. And so what people don’t realize is when you’re sitting down, you’re running a crap ton of force through your knee, without it ever being stable, like truly stable, like it’s designed to be. And so you know, people pay all this money for bikefest to get their knee in just the right position, man, you stand up, boom, knees in the right position. And so learning how to stand up is a big skill. But again, if you have tiny pedals, so that when you stand up, you either have a lot of pressure in one place, like on clipless pedals, which is very uncomfortable, or you have this kind of unstable platform, the most of all the other flat pedals create, where when you stand up, you’re creating pressure and force in the platform, it’s wanting to roll on you, then instinctively, you’re not gonna want to stand up because of the experience is different, like we were talking about earlier, right? Like the context of that experience sucks, okay, but the context of standing up when your foot is stabilized properly, is completely different. And now all of a sudden, you can, you can ride in a way that you couldn’t before, because your foot is stabilized properly. And so now you’re able, as an extension, able to stand up, which puts your body in a much healthier, much more natural position for you to move from on the bike to create power and movement. And then you sit down to recover, and then you stand up to go hard the next time. But this whole culture of just sitting and grinding your way through everything, and only standing up when you absolutely have to is, is really hurting a lot of riders and also holding back their performance as well. So So yeah, man, it’s definitely part of the philosophy and, and is led me in a couple different directions with it.
Colby Pearce 1:08:39
Right, right. Okay, so I just want to rewind briefly and make sure that my audience understands the basic design of the catalyst pedal because you’re the inventor and you’ve got this thing clearly, in your mind, you’ve got a lot of experience with it, but not everyone will quite know what you’re talking about. So the essence of the catalyst is a very long pedal, right? It’s a much longer platform than you would have even with the biggest flat pedals you’ve seen, think about big fat flat pedals that are you’ve seen on downhill bikes or, or maybe just some enduro bikes, possibly, catalyst pedals, what four and a half inches long,
James Wilson 1:09:12
it’s five inches of contact space.
Colby Pearce 1:09:15
So the idea is that you’ve got this long platform and at the front of the pedal, you’re gonna have contact under the metatarsal heads or the ball, the foot and at the rear of the pedal, you’re gonna have at least the first part of the calcaneus on that pedal. So your entire arch is suspended over that flat platform. Is that a fair description?
James Wilson 1:09:34
Yes, yeah. and stabilize the arch.
Colby Pearce 1:09:37
Yeah, stabilize the arch. So it’s a really simple concept, which is based on I think the idea that okay, when you go to the gym, you can you can squat and deadlift, barefoot. And if you have good foot mechanics, good basic understanding of how to properly attention, maybe organize the movement a bit to borrow Kelly starts terminology to apply us Subtle external rotation to the femurs in the hip sockets, for example, so that you’re not prone eating excessively during your heavy lifts, some pronation. supination are natural and part of all movement. So we’re not demonizing pronation but excessive pronation is what can trash knees, trashes backs. So when you push down on the floor, during your heavy lift, when you walk and run on the surface of the earth, it’s primarily a flat surface. Unless you’re running on a trail, it’s basically flat. And this is how the human foot really should air quotes function, it should be able to provide a stable base of support for you to drive load into the ground, whether you’re lifting an object, or squatting. So we break down our cycling into one of our Paul Chuck talks about all sports being able to be reduced into six basic movement patterns right? hip hinge, right, or you could also call that a deadlift, fundamentally, or it really, it’s a good morning, technically, right, a squat, a lunge, a push, a pull and a twist. That’s the six primary movement patterns that we have all sports can be reduced to these movement patterns in different forms, even complex movements like golf, or tennis or surfing. They’re all fundamentally you can break them down to these movements. What is cycling, first of all, Cycling is a hip hinge, it’s a static hip hinge. So if you can’t do a good hip hinge in the gym, if you’re assessed by a trainer and your hip hinge is poor, that’s 101. Man, you’re not going to ride a bike well without a good hip hinge. Secondly, it’s a series of lunges in that static hip hinge position. Third, it’s a pole when you stand up and pull either on the contralateral or hypsi lateral arm that’s fancy speak for same same side of arm or opposite side arm, depending on how hard you’re pulling on the bars, what your cadence is, what the torque is the grade, etc. That’s your third movement patterns of poll. There’s also a static push, or in mountain biking when you’re driving the bike, for example, to pump going down a grade to gain free speed, that’s a pump, right? When you’re stabilizing the bars on a rocky descent or you’re going off a drop. That’s a pump. That’s a push excuse me, right? So we’ve got those four movement patterns. There’s very small amounts of twisting in the torso. Again, when you’re rocking the bike.
James Wilson 1:12:21
Yeah, coronaries twisting. Most people don’t understand how to do it properly. Yes. Yeah, twisting your hips. And you can also put, like, resisting rotation as part of twisting. And so there’s a lot of that on a bike where you’re pedaling. And so you’re trying to resist the rotation through the hips and stuff. It’s just essentially twisting fundamentally
Colby Pearce 1:12:41
James Wilson 1:12:43
Yep. Yeah, exactly. So it’s, I think, yeah, But to your point, like even even a movement, like twisting, is still present in, in mountain biking. And so the basic movement patterns are present in pretty much all of the all sports and things that we do. Yeah. Yeah, it was that wanted to.
Colby Pearce 1:13:02
Yeah, yeah, no, agreed. So. So when we’re talking about this catalyst pedal, what we’re saying is you get this stable platform to drive down in the power phase of the stroke, which I define is from 12 o’clock to six o’clock. So what that’s when the crank is vertical to when the crank is horizontal. And James, you mentioned that there are a couple different ways to solve that problem. And the old school way is to put the axis of rotation or the pedal axle near the ball of the foot. And that makes that system inherently unstable. And I agree with that. The old school solution is use toe clips to prevent your foot from sliding off and then use a rigid platform, turn the shoe into a lever. That’s where the origin of the road shoe came, which is started out as a really stiff piece of leather then became thermoplastic, and then became carbon fiber. And since more is always better, stiffer, means more power, and more air quotes efficiency, which probably I’d be hard pressed to find any science that shows that I’m sure maybe you’ve looked more than I have. But now, I think that’s part of the origin of the problem is that what we’ve done is bastardized, peddling into something that here’s the issue that I have is what are you doing when you ride in a rigid shoe, you are basically fundamentally you’re making certain muscle groups more durable, specifically, all the muscles in the lower extremity from the hips down, including glutes, quads, hams and calves, but when you use a rigid cycling shoe that with a clipping pedal, you are taking away the stress off of all the muscles in the arch, the foot and the ankle.
James Wilson 1:14:37
Yeah, so that affects the rest of everything. Yeah,
Colby Pearce 1:14:41
so the problem comes in the delta between the conditioning you’re doing have all these muscles above that chain, that part of the chain. And then you’re allowing the shoe and pedal and and rigid soul specifically, fundamentally what that is, is a prosthetic device. And all prosthetic devices weaken the body by definition, example. Let’s say you had a friend who gets in a car accident they have a fender bender, and they get whiplash. The doctor to go to the doctor a doctor puts him in a neck brace there where the neck brace for three months. They take it off after three months or their neck muscles weaker or stronger after wearing a neck brace for three months. Obviously, they’re weaker. Because the device the prosthetic device held up their head and did the work of the muscles. So the muscles atrophied. Cycling shoes, stiff cycling shoes in conjunction with a clipless pedal are prosthetic devices. Every time you ride your bike in a rigid carbon shoe, especially a stiff one, your foot becomes weaker, your arch becomes weaker both your all three of your arches, transverse, lateral and medial. The musculature that stabilizes the ankle and keeps you nearer to subtalar neutral under high load become weaker. So as cyclists, the more you ride your bike, the crappier your ankle stability becomes this is why it’s not uncommon to hear people who finish their rode season, and then they take two weeks off, and then they go for a trail run. And they do two things that are not optimal one there used to do in six hour bike ride, so they go for a two hour trail run out of the blocks, not used to the plyometrics of bouncing, not used to the centric load. And their ankle stability is crap, because they’ve been riding around in road shoes all year. And guess what happens? usually two things. One, they sprain an ankle and two, they can’t walk for like a week afterwards, because they’re so sore. So I think I’m not saying that road shoes are all garbage. But I think the problem is exacerbated by the really old hangover from crappy shoe design, which is when you have a rigid shoe, it has a large amount of heel, lift, and toe spring. And that toe spring and heel lift combined to make a really crude way to activate the windlass mechanism to try to give the arch some tension. So just so people know the windlass mechanism is if you reach down to your barefoot right now and pull up on your big toe really hard. What that does is it puts tension on the arch of the foot. And that mechanism is activated when you run and walk because when you run and push off on the ball, the foot, the big toe goes into dorsiflexion or pops up like a dorsal fin on a shark and points up towards your shin. And that activates that tension under the arch. And that mechanism is an important part of how we run and walk through the world. It helps signal a body to engage the glutes, hamstrings, quads in proper amplitude and timing so that when you run and walk, hopefully you can do that with some supple muscle and some efficiency, you’re not just slapping the ground and hamstrings are turning on at the wrong time to rent the quads from firing etc. There’s a natural rhythm to that. So cycling shoes who have a big toe spring, or or automatically engaged dorsiflexion of the toe, or a big heel rise or both. Lock your foot into this almost like a it’s like a V shaped to be exaggerated. When you look at the shoe from the side, your heels raised up like a high heeled shoe and your toes being pushed up in the front. And adapting to that curve of the soul. There’s no standardization for this in any industry. Basically, shoe designers just put it in there now, because it’s the way cycling shoes have been made since 1901. And I’m convinced that a big confounding variable in this equation what I’m really long way to make this point, James is I think you’re onto something for sure. With this pedal, I’ve got a pair of my bike, I’ve used them, I think they weren’t great with minimal issues. I think one of the confounding variables isn’t only the clipless pedal, and the small contactor that goes there in, I think it is how the foot engages with most modern shoes, either mountain bike racing shoes, or road shoes and all those curves screw up the proprioceptive contact what we want, ideally is a dead flat surface and nobody makes shoes like that. Almost nobody
James Wilson 1:19:03
it’s a system like the clipless pedals or a system like you can’t ride clipless pedals without also riding clipless pedal shoes. You can but it’s it sucks from what I’ve seen, so yeah, I’ve had a couple of people forget their shoes and just go for it on like you know regular shoes and actually ride surprisingly well. They surprise themselves like damn, I wrote better than I thought I would on you know, just my frickin flat, you know, my tennis shoes on these clipless pedals and they didn’t quite see the actual point which is like yeah, you can ride a lot better than you think without these magic pedals here, but um, the the shoes are a big part and what’s funny man is I didn’t even really realize that the shoes are made like that. But what’s what in this is points against is just a lot of misunderstanding is which is the crush the process that the foot goes through is what activates that that windlass mechanism. It’s not the position, locking your foot in that position is not activating it. You’re You’re what you’re doing is you’re locking your foot in that position Then it’s getting stiff. Yeah, in so if you’re not, you know, no matter how you’re not able to create pressure, like when you’re running or walking, you’re there the contact with the ground that the pressure that happens with the ground, and the process that your foot goes to is the combination of those two things that trigger the reflex action. Right. And it’s not, it’s not the position of the foot. And you can’t you can’t mimic that or get that pressure like you need in a road bike shoes. So even locking someone’s foot into that position is actually, in my opinion, making the situation worse, as you get further away from how the foot is naturally supposed to work. Yeah, and so yeah, man. And again, like one of the, you know, that is another thing, like when your pedals are too small, your arches destabilized. And that’s really the reason for the flat for the stiff shoes, or stiff soles, and all this other stuff that they tell you is nonsense, like they don’t, they don’t really understand what what is going on here. Well, you have an unstable arch, you have one in that’s just flexing in space. Well, if I put a stiff soled shoe on it helps to mitigate that some. And so that’s what you’re seeing with a stiff soled shoe versus a softer sole shoe on an on a regular clip, or pedal system is the difference in how much flex you’re getting from the arch. That’s where all of the advantages, quote unquote, that are coming from a stiff sole shoe, it’s not levering or positioning for this mechanism, or whatever it is, it’s simply that and so but if you extend the the pedal back, so that it’s supporting the back end of the arch, then you don’t have to rely on the shoe to do it. And so now you’re able to like you can lay down power and flip flops on the catalyst pedal, because you’re not relying on the the shoe to stabilize the foot. And you have this completely stable platform that you’re driving into. So usually, like, you know, riding townies and flip flops in standing up and pedaling hard, feels like suicide for your toes. Right. But like that was one of my big aha moments was when I jumped on the one of the prototypes for the catalyst and flip flops. And I was like, dude, like, this is crazy, like how hard I can pedal. And just play in flip flops and how stable I feel like the shoes have nothing to do with it anymore. Because your foot has a platform that it can interface with properly, and you just let the foot do all the work. And then you can wear a comfortable shoe that is good for your you know, foot like an unnatural, you know, foot movement type style shoe. So like Personally, I use the sense of motion shoes, they’re out of Montrose, actually, they make a you know, a natural, you know, foot style shoe. And so I use their shoes as riding shoes as the other thing, you don’t need a lot of sticky rubber like 510s in trouble. If this tight, you know, people really start to get behind this style of pedal. Because when you don’t have your foot like trying to fly off the pedal from those unstable forces, you don’t need super sticky rubber. And so you can’t continue to just slap sticky rubber on the bottom of half ass shoes and sell a bunch of them because it’s the stickiest rubber around like you don’t need super sticky rubber when when you’re not trying to counteract that rotation or deal with that rotation there. So yeah, man, the shoes, the shoes and the pedals and just the whole system is so unnatural and so bad for your your body and your foot that, you know, you’re one of the main reasons that people buy the clip, or, you know, it’s one of the biggest pieces of feedback that we get from people who use the catalyst pedal is how it takes away and reduces their pain. And you know, again, even even above and beyond, like what just switching or regular flats will do. As far as like men low back pain, knee pain, ankle and foot pain, plantar fasciitis, all of these things that you’re just told as a cyclist are just par for the course for riding. Turns out, they’re not, they’re just a result of a crappy, you know, foot position and foot stability, because the paddles are too dang small. And so you know, has all of these detrimental effects on the body besides that, so But yeah, man to your point, the the shoes play a big role in how your foot is going to function and just, you know, putting your foot in a stiff soul. It’s like tramming in some sort of position that creates stiffness like people stiffness is like it’s fake stability, right? stability is something you spell turn on and off. Right, stiffness is just on and it never turns off. And so what happens is like when your body is experiencing a lot of stiffness, what are creating tension, tension is metabolically expensive. And so if you’re constantly in the state of tension, your body is going to go well, it’s going to be metabolically cheaper for me to just kind of stay in this position, get stiff, and it can seem like stability, but like you’re saying like once you get out of that context, now you start to try to run or you try to walk or you try to do something else. Now you’re It is compromised, because it’s not, it doesn’t have authentic stability. It has this fake ass stiffness in so that in that stiffness creates a lot of pain and a lot of problems, both in the foot and lower leg and further up the chain. But yeah, man, like you know, for your foot, for your mind, you know, that’s what the catalyst pedal is about. But yeah, to your point, though, for people that haven’t seen the pedal, it is five inches long from front to back, but it’s no wider than a normal pedal. So when when you stand on it, it disappears under your foot. And one of the problems that I had always had with the the bigger flat pedals that they have out there is as they get longer, they get wider. Yeah, and so it’d be like four inches, you know, front to back and side to side or more. And you don’t need side stability, one of the things people don’t realize is when you take away the heel pressure point, the foot is trying to find some sort of stability, there is some stability on the outside edge of the foot as well, that is the like the pressure triangle that your foot can create. So your foot will naturally try to roll to that outside edge to try to gain a little purchase and a little stability from this bad position that it’s in. And so people feel this and they go, Oh, I need a wider pedal, because I feel my foot wanting to roll off. Well, it’s rolling off because it doesn’t have a proper, you know, it’s not stabilized properly. So when you get the foot stabilize from front to back properly, it’s not rolling out to the side anymore. And so this is why you don’t need a wider pedal, and you’re able to keep the pedal relatively narrow, so that you don’t have to deal with, you know, increased risk of rock strikes, and all this other stuff that goes along with, you know, widening your pedal. But that was the idea behind the design is you need more links, not more width, and everyone is just trying to go wider and longer, but no one’s really doing it the right way. Because they’re just doing it not really knowing why they’re doing it. And so you know, there’s a very specific purpose behind the design of the catalyst pedal, I didn’t just go to one of the three manufacturers in China that make pedals and say, Hey, I’ll take that one, let me put my logo on that one, and hire a pro rider to tell everybody how cool we are, and sell the same pedal that everyone else is selling. Right? Because I’m 40 man, that’s pretty much like most of the pedals on the market. That’s what’s going on with them, because they really don’t have a core philosophy that drives their design. But, you know, that’s kind of what the philosophy behind the design, the catalyst pedal, for sure is all about foot man, all given the foot that that the foots a Amazing, amazing part of our body if you just give it the right environment to thrive. And that’s really what it’s all about. Like I agree.
Colby Pearce 1:27:38
On the your design point there too. When pedals get too wide, you just destroy rock clearance. It’s amazing how fast it goes. You don’t realize until you have a pedal with no with reduced clearance until you’re bashing stuff all over the place. Right? But
James Wilson 1:27:49
yeah, well, to your point to about body awareness, like we’re naturally aware of the width of our foot. Yeah, and so we’re not aware of things that extend out past our foot. And so you know, you’re trying to remain aware of them, but there’s just a natural awareness that goes to having the edge of the foot and the edge of the pedal coincide with each other. So it again, just for the record, people rock strikes, that’s you and your bad pedaling technique, not the pedals. So stop trying to go to smaller pedals to make up for your crappy pedaling technique. Like learn how to stand up, do a little track, Stan, ratchet pedal, like there’s techniques to making it through rock gardens and technical sections without bashing pedals. But just sitting and spinning at a high rpm and just praying to the mountain bike gods and trying to buy the smallest pedal you can put the odds in your favor. You know, that’s it’s not really a good long term strategy. But But yeah, so just a little side note there. Pedal strikes are something that you can correct yourself. They’re not really an equipment issue.
Colby Pearce 1:28:51
Right? Yeah, I hear you on that. For sure. It’s, you know, back to that concept of connection with nature, right, the whole point of riding and technical trails to find your way through the rocks like water, you know? Yeah, flow. And that’s part of that is pedal position and thinking about where you can ratchet and where you’re going to apply power and where you’re going to ninja around some rocks or do your maneuvers right.
James Wilson 1:29:14
Yep, yeah, yeah, that’s just that’s been one of the, you know, the the reasons that some riders have given like, Oh, you know, I like a really small pedal. That’s why I like clipless pedals because, you know, they reduce my chance of hitting a rock or clipping a rock, and it’s like, Man, you know, yeah, you can have ones that are too big or I think I think some of those oversized eyes flats like we were talking about, like they’re too wide, and like that is an equipment issue. Right. But if it’s within a, you know, certain context, it’s not really an equipment issue as much as it is a technique issue. And so, but yeah, like if you’re switching from clipless pedals to the catalyst pedal, and your usage is sitting and spinning at a higher RPM and trying to like you know, spin and pray as I call it, then you may experience a few more rock strikes. But if with practice and using the different techniques, especially being able to stand up more like the catalyst pedal allows, you’ll find that you’ll be able to learn how to not have that happen. And so you’re able to use the optimal equipment instead of trying to use it to cheat you’re spinning prey technique.
Colby Pearce 1:30:18
Right, right. So one little observation I’ll make about the catalyst that is I’m thinking about doing a Colorado trail trip this summer and I was considering using the pedals for that trip with flat shoes you know, just like vivo barefoot or whatever because there’s quite a bit of hiking bike and stuff. But one little obstacle I’ve got in that path is that when you go from a forefoot cleat position, you know, a traditional position and I never recommend the actual straight onto the ball, the foot even in my road and track fits, we’re talking anywhere from 10 to 20 mils behind the first metatarsal for most riders depending on their bony geometry, their bony landmarks. Even from that position to using a catalyst which is fundamentally it’s basically you’re moving to a mid foot cleat position the axles, pretty much not directly, maybe, but close to under the talus, what you have to do is drop the saddle correspondingly quite a bit. When you change that, because you’re reducing the length of the third lever, there are three levers we use to apply leverage in cycling to the pedals, the femur, the tibia, TIB fib, or upper leg, lower leg and the length of the foot and the level of the length of the foot is determined by where you put that axle under the foot. So as you move the axle back, that lever gets shorter. In order to compensate for that we have to lower the saddle. Well, in my position my situation, I’m a guy who’s written on the road forever, you know, I’ve got a really long cockpit on my road bike, I’m a trackie. I’ve been riding, you know, that horizontal eyes torso for my whole career. So relative to most mountain bikers, I still sit probably with a longer cockpit. And at the moment, I’ve got quite a pile of trek bikes in my garage, I work with them and I work with Travis on some test program stuff, I’m usually riding a large in most of their frames. I’m five, nine, you know, 176 centimeters for reference. So but I ride with a very long extended spine, so I need a longer cockpit than most mountain bikers for sure. I also need a lower bar than most cross country bikes, I’m on the edge with a 29 or or like a stash, you know, that’s a 29 plus bike, it’s got 3.0 tire. So I’m constantly finding ways to try to get my bars low enough so that when I’m on a flowy fast trail, and I need to apply pressure to that inside bar and increase the lean angle of my mountain bike relative to my body angle and drive that bike through and really engage that tread into the trail. The bars have to be low enough for me to instinctively want to do that. And I think some of that is because I’ve been riding road and track for 35 years with a really horizontal torso. So my the point I’m getting at is if I lower my saddle on my bike to move to a mid foot cleat position, I also want to lower my bars but on many bikes I cannot lower my bars on a couple my my cross country bikes right now I’ve already got a negative 20 degree, you know, like a flat for STEM with a zero rise bar. And I’m perfectly happy there even on steep terrain, technical terrain, it works well for me, never ever problem over drops. I’m always just minding my technique and make sure I’m down and back enough so that I’m not doing an ass over teakettle kind of maneuver. And that’s what I found has worked for me. So one hiccup for me is if I change to those flat pedals, my saddles going down and my bars are staying where they are, and I’m losing some of that I haven’t played with that extensively and actual trail riding conditions and I’m just talking out loud for someone who’s taller than me and won’t be an issue because they can just drop their bars in the shadows at the same time. But for anyone under about 175 centimeters. If you’re on a medium frame or smaller. This is going to be it’s the same problem when you use mid foot cleat position on road bikes. road bikes aren’t made for that low of a saddle. For people who do brevets and crazy long road races. Sometimes they change the mid foot cleat position, there’s that company out of Switzerland makes road shoes, a mid foot cleat position drilled, it’s called bio Mac, I believe, you know, Don Lampson makes use of mid foot not to get too far down a rabbit hole, but a lot of people have done it. But the problem is how do you get your bars low enough? So I’m not asking you to have a solution to that. I know you don’t make stems Oh,
James Wilson 1:34:21
well, no, I mean, I’ll be honest with you, that only matters when you’re sitting in the seat.
Colby Pearce 1:34:26
Correct and i and i have unpacked some of your philosophies and a bit of your thoughts on seated versus standing riding and, and I totally hear you you know me coming from more of a roadie side background. Obviously I spend more time in the saddle. I’m not opposed to standing riding at all, I certainly do a fair amount of it on my mountain bike, but when I’m doing a five hour mountain bike ride would be a fair amount of saddle time in there. And I do you know the Front Range here in Colorado have got mount bike rides, where you’re climbing for an hour to get to trails, not gonna sit for an hour continuously again, that’s
James Wilson 1:34:57
where I think people really misunderstand And what I’m what I’m saying as far as like, you just have an internal tension meter. Right. And again, going back to what you’re talking about very beginning by just having that, that body awareness. And so there’s an internal tension meter. And I think it’s gonna change based on, you know, different factors, right, like how fit, you’re feeling that day, your fitness level, the weight of the bike, you know, there’s, there’s a lot of things that that are factors there. But whatever that is, like, there’s a point where you’re like, Okay, I’m starting to get into high tension mode, I’m no longer in low tension mode, I’m in high tension mode, I’m having to create a bit of tension here to keep things going. high tension equals standing up, anything that’s not high tension, sitting down, it’s fine. And so like on a five hour bike ride, even like an hour long climb, it is it’s an interplay between these internal tension levels, because even then, like a, you know, most climbs are not just a steady thing for the whole hour. Right there, these undulating like, you know, easier harder. So it’s like, when it’s a little harder, you’re standing up until easier sitting down, standing up sitting down, right, and so, but when you’re descending, right, so like, when you’re talking about cornering, like you can’t corner properly if you’re, if your butts on the seat. So like, that’s that, you know, that’s kind of irrelevant. As far as like, you know, in fact, lowering your bars might actually make cornering more difficult. And what some people have actually found, one of the pieces of feedback that we get quite often is that people feel like they’re actually able, they’re more stable, and they’re able to corner better when they are sitting down. Because they’ve, their center of gravity is in closer to the bike center of gravity. And so you’ve created a more stable position for for your body overall. But when you stand up, like, you know, all of these, you know, that that doesn’t matter as much. And so, the more in where you’re at in low tension mode, like you know, when you’re laying tension on your body in that mode, it doesn’t matter as much I that’s not high performance, right. So I, I got this little quadrant, you got standing, you got seated, you got high tension, you got low tension, each one of these quadrants has a purpose, right. So like high tension standing, man, that’s like your fun high performance, man. That’s where like, yeah, buddy, this is, you know, we’re getting it either hard climbs, or like, hard to sense like, this is the performance quadrant, right? So standing low tension, this is like the flow and kind of free speed quarter and people don’t realize too, like just because it’s it’s easy right now, doesn’t mean you gotta sit down and spin stand up, pump this roll that like look for all the free speed that the trail has the offer. Okay, see the low tension, that’s great for recovery. Okay, but then you’ve got seated high tension, man, that right there is crap for the body, it is just bad for you and every single way and should be avoided like the plague. It’s not saying that you never got to go there. It’s just your understanding that man, this is not good for me. Like I am laying a lot of tension on my body in a compromised position. And so you know, I’m doing it for you know, whatever, but that can’t be a cornerstone of your writing. And it not have like, you know, long term effects in some ways. And so and you also ride faster, the more like, you know, pro like good riders aren’t better and they stand up more good riders are faster because they stand up more, right? Like you watch he, you know, even pro riders, even you know it all levels and every discipline, they will stand up and fucking lay down. Right. And so they use it. Some people use it more than others, like even even Tour de France. You’ve got guys who stand up more to climb and then they sit and spend like Lance Armstrong style, right. So the there’s no one way to do it. And again, I think that the sit and spin mindset got really popularized through through Lance Armstrong and aka what was his coach? Um, that was Lance’s Lance Armstrong’s, um, strategy. But again, Lance Armstrong was also taking a bunch of EPO. So maybe if you don’t have not taken a bunch of EPO, maybe the sit and spin strategy isn’t best for you. But so again, like looking at, you know, there is no one way to do it. Um, and so the more that you use that standing, pedaling, the less like things like bike fit, and all of that really are as relevant. So I think for most mountain bikers, just your average trail rider, mountain bike fits are not super relevant, right, because you should be standing up a bunch. If you’re going out on an hour, two hour long ride, then you there’s almost no excuse for you to be spending a lot of time in that high tension seated quadrant. Like you can you can use these other quadrants effectively on an hour to two hour long ride. Now again, you’re going on a five hour You know, multi day race like now these things become more important Tour de France, right? A month of writing every day. Okay, now the the fit can become more important because you are going to be spending more In the seated position, you are going to have to fall back on that high tension seated quadrant a little bit more, but it’s all just the context of it. So, so anyways, yeah, man, I think that like once people really kind of understand what I’m saying with it, it’s like understand the quadrants there between it and standing and in the tension levels, and then how to use each part of that quarter. And effectively, it makes more sense rather than, like, you know, I’m not going to stand up and you know, for a whole hour long climb, it’s like, well, no one’s saying to, but you can definitely stand up more than you probably are. And then that mitigates a lot of these other, you know, concerns that people have with well might see height and things like that. So, yeah, I
Colby Pearce 1:40:40
hear you. I mean, I I won’t say I’d say that I think we’re saying the same thing. But I would refine maybe a few statements you made. I mean, we you said mountain biking for a lot of Mount bikers fit is kind of irrelevant. I mean, I’m a bike fitter. So I might have a little hard time with that. But I think it depends heavily on what kind of discipline the mountain bikers engaged in, you know, if they’re just, you know, always low tension seated to get to the top of a hill. And then their whole objective is to have fun going downhill and set downhill columns, which doesn’t make any sense. I don’t know why Strava still calls downhill columns. But anyway, like, then great. That’s your that’s how you enjoy the sport. You know, I’m I’m to borrow a term that Phil guimond posted on Instagram, many moons ago. Like anyone who’s enjoying a bike, having fun doing it, and is doing it safely. They’re doing it right. Like, there’s no judgement for me about how you should ride a bike if you want to only go downhill fast, and that’s your thing. And you could give a crap how fast you go uphill, I’m not gonna think that you’re, you know, not at some level of cycling. That said, For there is a, a somewhat dying, but still existent population of racers who are in that cross country side of things, endurance mountain bike side of things, not enduro, and they’re all about the performance and our long climbs and talking to Breck epic crowd, you know, the break 100 crowd, that type of thing. They what’s the one there’s a Salt Lake City 100 or 50, or something, that type of event. And clearly, those types of riders are going to spend a fair amount of time in that seated high tension. And that’s exactly what you’re just saying, you know, more towards the toward the front end of the spectrum. riders are going to exist more in that quadrant. And I think that then bike fit does, it becomes more relevant, right? Because your your demands of your event are both about descending fast descending, safely negotiating train with flow and balance. But at the on the other end, you’ve got to produce extended times at high power output or high tension, you might say, right, so.
James Wilson 1:42:45
Yeah, yeah, yeah, no, man, I yeah, I totally agree. It’s all in kind of understanding the context for you, and what’s gonna be important, man, and even then, like, you know, a bike fit, like, you know, when I say that, I am referring to a pretty formulaic approach to getting someone onto a bike. And this is something that, you know, I’ve pointed out many times in my, over the years is that, you know, when you’re getting a bike fit, what are you really fitting? Are you just fitting somebody dysfunction to the bike? Right? Like, they can’t bend over and touch their toes? What are we fitting here, guys? Right? So I think that if you’re, if you’re using a bike fit, I think a bike fit is important, right? Because I, you could say what I do is help people with bike fit, because I can you look at how they’re on the bike. And that’s not how you should be on the bike. But maybe the answer is in fixing the person on the bike, rather than having to make all these minute little adjustments to the bike itself. And then again, once you get a rider who has taken care of those things, like he, you know, they don’t have any glaring dysfunctions. And you know, they are in these contexts where they are going to be in these positions, well, then the bike fit itself becomes more and more relevant and more and more important, but I think that the, you know, the, the bike fit gets misused. And unfortunately, there’s, there’s more people out there that don’t, that use bike fits that don’t really understand functional movement, and how to help people move better in the first place. And so they end up you know, you’re not really fixing the real problem, right? And so it becomes a bit of a band aid solution. So I just want to clarify, so like, you know, like somebody working with someone like us, obviously, you know, you know, really well versed in more than just like the esoteric of bike fitting, and you can bring a more holistic approach to the whole process, I’m sure working with you is going to be way more valuable than just like your local bike shop, having some guy who went to the specialized bike fitting school, and you know, you just pay your whatever money and come in, and he just runs you through the formula. Right? Like maybe that’s valuable. Maybe it’s not right, but without some sort of understanding and context. I think that it gets misused a lot. There’s a lot of writers who had benefit more from what On their ability to touch their toes than they would from, you know, really stressing out about the exact position of all, you know, their seat and seat angle and all these things. So I generally tell people, man, find something that feels comfortable for you, and will start adjusting from there based on how you where your movement dysfunctions are and just kind of things from there. But man, like you said, like comfort, comfort is hugely important. So men, somebody can tell you, this is the best bike fit in the world. But man, if you don’t feel comfortable in it, or you really just don’t feel balanced in it, then then it might not be the best thing for you. So, but yeah, man, I think that they definitely have value. But like a lot of things in the cycling world, they can be a little misunderstood. And Miss misused. Agreed,
Colby Pearce 1:45:44
agreed, yeah, you you brought up a really good point, you know, there’s a very popular fitting system out there. And their ethos is to fit the bike to match the rider. Right? And that’s exactly the point you were just getting out why in the hell would I fit a bike to match someone’s horrendous dysfunction, if someone can’t touch their toes, they can’t hip hinge properly, they’re sitting in spa on the bike with a you know, Rainbow shaped Ichabod, crane spine and tons of kyphosis, I’m not going to fit a bike to allow that or enable that, that’s going to send them down the road further of dysfunction. So I, I couldn’t disagree with that philosophy more, it’s completely screwed up and backwards, what I want to do is educate the rider about how they move, how they ought to move better, how we can improve their ability to hip hinge and lunge and how they can have more stable feet and ankles and how their shoulders ought to be anchored in their torso. So they’re not just flopping around in their bars or going all over the place on every descent because they’ve got no core stability, how they need to activate the rotation of the thoracic spine and be able to pull on the bars with proper force, stable force all these things. So when so my perspective is kind of the opposite. It’s like start from the rider. Understand the physiology, look at their limits. Look at how and I tried to use my language very carefully here. Because as someone who see someone and assesses them, what I’ve noticed is sometimes we can get ourselves in a little bit of trouble, you say things to a client, like Oh, your glutes aren’t firing,
Colby Pearce 1:47:17
and then and clients when they take that stuff like glue, and they go, Oh, my glutes don’t work. I’m a bad person. Yes, like, Whoa,
Colby Pearce 1:47:23
is not what I’m saying, Okay, let’s, we have to be very careful about our language, like your glutes are firing, they’re functioning, they’re not dead tissue, you know, your muscles are actually work. The issue is, are they working to the degree that they we want them to, for you to be a functional healthy cyclist and be able to do things like lift a cooler, or, you know, pick up your dog or you know, whatever. So, without going down that rabbit hole too much. It’s like, we have to assess the athlete, look at their physiology, and then look at the bike and then discuss the demands of their event that for me is bike fit physiology of the rider. In contrast to the demands of the event, what do you want to do? What’s your dream goal or objective? Where are you now? Okay, let’s look at the delta between those two points. How do we get you from here to there? What’s required? Are you able to bend over and get that superhero Time Trial position?
Colby Pearce 1:48:13
Do you have the strength to stabilize your shoulders and hands? Do you have a grip strength to hold on on a really intense downhill? Okay, let’s examine that. So
James Wilson 1:48:22
I think that that’s going to be the the future of that is more, you know, people like you start to I was talking with someone earlier, and they’re just talking about how, you know, the different silos that professionals in different fields put themselves in shape like bike fitters talk to bike fitters, and, you know, movement coaches, talk to movement coaches, and doctors talk to doctors, and so, like, it’s it’s guys that are able to kind of cross into many different silos and have, you know, an understanding and ability to converse in these different areas that are able to kind of forge the future of what some of these areas are going to be. sort of thing. So but yeah, man, that’s, uh, yeah, I agree completely. So, ya know, if I have the chance to work with you, man, they should take it, I definitely didn’t want anybody to get the wrong impression as far as that goes.
Colby Pearce 1:49:14
That’s exactly one of the reasons I wanted to have you on the podcast as a guest is because I saw the work you’re doing and the fact that you invented a pedal, and you’re thinking very critically about how to apply force, to a pedal as a cyclist. And you’ve got all these integrated methods using, you know, clubs, and kettlebells, and bands and stuff. And, you know, I think we’re getting pretty long here on this episode.
Colby Pearce 1:49:32
if you’re up for it, I would love to invite you on for a part two, and we can tackle things like kettlebells and strength training and
James Wilson 1:49:41
strength conditioning, get in and out and get in there. So that’s it. And
Colby Pearce 1:49:45
yeah, breathwork, all that stuff. So, you know, it’s a great time, a good problem to have, and we’ve got so much to talk about, and we’re so passionate about our craft and our sport, that we have to have an episode two, so
James Wilson 1:49:58
no, I mean, I’d love to come on. It’d be fun to come on in, and bounce some of these things off in here your thoughts on him as well. But yeah, no, that’d be great. So yeah, just let me know when and, and I’ll be here. Awesome. Well, James, thank
Colby Pearce 1:50:12
you so much for all your time and your energy today. And thank you for your passion for the sport. It’s really cool to see people doing what you’re doing. I appreciate it. And it’s been a great opportunity for me to discuss and learn from you. And that’s why I do this so much gratitude. In the shownotes we’re going to put links to James, his main site, we’re also going to put links to the catalyst pedal, but will you tell us a little bit about where people can find out more about you? I know you’ve got a YouTube channel tell us tell us your resources.
James Wilson 1:50:41
Yeah, man for sure. I mean, the easiest spot to find me is by James Comm. You know, I send out a you know, bi weekly, so twice a week, I send out an email newsletter. So you can go to by James comm and sign up for our free newsletter. And I got all sorts of free resources and stuff for you there on that site. So you can dig around I got some, you know, training programs and stuff but yeah, buy change calm is definitely the best spot to find out more and you know, my you know, YouTube channel, is you just look up by James on YouTube. And but um, yeah, and then the pedaling innovations calm is the website for the catalyst pedal. But again, I’ve got a link there bike, James comm as well. So you can pretty much find out all things about the bike James Empire there at the website. But yeah, the kalispel you can learn a lot more about that I got links to the science and info on that. And it is the only product in the cycling world that comes with a money back guarantee. Like, you know, that’s how strongly we believe in the product like I am. I’m one of you guys, man. I’m a writer, right? Like, I was not a pro rider who was given something throughout my whole career. And then I retired and I got a job with some company giving me stuff and you know, I not to like, you know, disparage that. But people would be surprised at the, you know, the experience that a lot of people who work accompanies have had and how far removed it is, from the average riders experience and just dealing with the frustration of like, oh, man, I thought this thing was going to be great for me and I bought it and it sucks. And I’m stuck with it, I can’t return it or, you know, you need somebody to help and you’re just sitting on the other end of the line from someone who could obviously care less now that they have your money, so we really strive to be way different, like a completely different animal. Um, so yeah, you get you can buy them, try them. If they don’t work for you send them back, no questions asked. We’ll give your money. No problem. And, yeah, we’re, you know, I said, Man, I’m here to just help riders have more fun on the bike. Because at the end of the day, man, that’s really what it’s all about.
Colby Pearce 1:52:50
Well, thank you so much. I’ll reach out and we’ll we’ll get a part to go on and unpack more than nuts and bolts on stuff. But I appreciate you taking time to share all your philosophies and thoughts with me today.
James Wilson 1:53:00
Yeah, sure. Quality, no problem, man.
Colby Pearce 1:53:07
Attention space monkeys public service announcement. Really, technically, it’s a disclaimer, you already know this, but I’m going to remind you that I’m not a lawyer, and I’m not a doctor. So don’t think anything on this podcast to constitute lawyerly or doctorly advice. I don’t play either of those characters on the internet. Also, we talk about lots of things. And that means we have opinions. My guests opinions are not necessarily reflective of the opinions of anyone who is employed by or works at bastok Labs. That includes Chris case of Trevor Connor, or Jenna Martin. What I’m saying is, when we say things, we’re speaking for ourselves or for other people, which would be self evident. That kind of thing disclaimers, basically say things that are self evident. Makes you wonder why we have disclaimers. Anyway, also, if you want to reach out and talk to me about things, feedback on the podcast, good, bad or otherwise, you may do so at the following email address info at cycling in alignment.com. That’s all spelled just like it sounds, which again, is self evident. Gratitude