Do I Need a Cycling Coach?

by Gary Robinson, Colorado Avid Cyclist

Why Have a Cycling Coach?

Just over 5 years ago, I had to have a partial (medial) knee replacement.  Knowing my days of CrossFit were over, cycling became my fitness “drug of choice.”  My surgery was in December, and by Mid-January I was on an indoor trainer.  

Once I was riding outside, I needed a goal.  I found one only a few blocks from home.  The Elephant Rock!   Went for the metric century, a modest goal, and finished it!

Back to the Expo/Party at the finish, and I was on cloud 9.  Lucky for me Bristol Brewery was there and I had a couple tickets for a beer.  Warm Day, 2 pints of Laughing Lab Scottish Ale, what could possibly go wrong?  Because all great and responsible decisions are made after a couple beers that have the effect of four.    elephant rock

I wandered over to one of the other tents, feeling like I could do anything, registered for the Triple-Bipass which was coming up in 6 weeks.  

Several things were evident to me after being away from serious riding for 26 years:

  1. Technology had changed in the 26 years since I had raced bikes
  2. The cycling jersey and shorts are not quite the same…LOL early years
  3. Training methodology had changed even more. 

So, knowing I needed help to train for the “Triple”,  I went to where all the questions can be answered…Google.  Sure enough, a course popped up “6 weeks to the Bipass.”  It paid off, finishing it and immediately training and finishing the Copper Tri, and Tour of the Moon, as well as some other awesome rides.

When I took my step into racing…having not raced in over 26 years, I knew I could not do it alone…I needed a coach for design, accountability, and motivation, as well as to know I was doing all I could do to maximize my efforts.  

In what feels like a short time, I went from fumbling through the Boulder Roubaix, my first race back, to racing with Groove Subaru, and being trained by the 2022 Masters National Champion, Scott Shaw, with Tom Danielson’s CINCH Cycling. scott shaw As I aged…my power levels went up.  Even at Age 60, after a broken kneecap had me sidelined for 7 months, having a coach to work through it, had me breaking PRs in power a few months later. me2

Could I have done that without a coach?  Short answer: No way.  But that is me.  

A coach may not be for all cyclists.  But for those looking to excel at the sport we love, train for a big ride, or even race, it can be so helpful to have someone that can not only design our training, but see things looking from outside of ourselves. It is helpful to have someone that can be honest and hard on us if necessary.  

Here are a few reasons you should consider a coach and what they can provide:

#1 – Accountability

The real reason so many cyclists go the route of hiring a cycling coach really comes down to accountability. Anyone can find a random training plan online; the program most coaches use even sells them, but having the drive to get out the door every day is another story. Knowing someone is looking to see if you completed your workouts is a huge motivating factor for so many people.  

#2 – Direction

A coach can also provide you with the right direction to be moving your fitness in to meet your goals.  When you hire a cycling coach they should help lay out a map of where they want you to go and why. So often people come to me, and they have been riding big miles every week but with no purpose, just lots of long easy rides. That type of riding has a purpose and place but if you are looking to race crits, or a hill climb, like the Bob Cook Memorial, then your training needs to be specific to your goal. 

#3 – Performance

This is likely the most obvious reason you would think people come to hire a cycling coach. A coach should help your performance in a variety of ways including a dialed training plan, on-bike nutrition, and some stress/life management to help you find the time to get it all done. However, once you drill down why most athletes seek a coach, the first two above are the real driving factors.  When it comes to your performance your coach should be able to tell you “why” you are doing a workout and not just because it worked for them. If they can’t clearly define the reason then what will be your motivation to go out there and kill yourself completing it.

#4 – Experience

Chances are your coach will be more experienced than you. It can be worth even tracking down coaches who specialize in specific events such as Unbound Gravel but it isn’t always necessary. Their experience at other events will carry over to almost any race and that time spent helping others prepare for events can help bring you up to a knowledge level of an experienced cyclist and give you a different perspective of your event, training plan, or race strategy. It can sound small but having someone to guide you on exactly what to do the week before the event or carry in your saddle bag can help you rest at ease some race day.

#5- Companionship

Cycling is a unique sport because it can be incredibly social but also isolating even during the same ride. Having someone to talk with about the ride or how training is going is a nice bonus of having a coach. 

How to Hire a Cycling Coach

A few basic thoughts if you are considering searching for a coach. 

First, Once you are ready to give a coach, reach out to a couple different coaches and make sure it’s a good fit. Don’t be afraid to ask for references or testimonials. If they can’t provide you with that it may be a bad sign. It is also worth asking about credentials. But just being fast doesn’t make you a coach!  

Second, Any good coach is going to tell you that your workout is only part of it.  It is fuel, some, and I would argue that it is the most important thing.  You might have the finest tuned race car in the world…but if you put crappy fuel in it, you will go nowhere.  Make sure your coach prioritizes fuel for your body before, during, and after your ride.  

Third, make sure you have a coach that inspires you to love your sport.  My coach made me constantly remember the feeling we had when we were kids riding…and bringing that joy into the toughest workouts and the casual group rides.  It is not all about the race or the long event ride you are training for.  You should feel like you can win every ride or workout do you.  Win your ride.  Even a rest day can be a win.  Your coach should make you enjoy every step of the process. 

So if you are looking to hire a coach, it is an investment of time and money.  Do not be in a huge hurry.  A good fit of a cycling coach is as important as a good fit of your bike.  

Letting you know where I stand

As a disclaimer, if you have followed Colorado Avid Cyclist, you can see that we feature posts and articles from CINCH Cycling.  I have worked with them as my coach for several years and yes, I do believe in their philosophy, training methods, and their culture. I did not find them instantly, It took time.  

See ya out there on 2 wheels, Ride On!



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