What I learned about bicycle positioning from a speed skater

Kevin Saunders, Pat McDonough and Donnie Van Patter at the Baton Rouge Velodrome, 1986 During the 2010 Winter Olympics I saw Apolo Anton Ohno capture a silver medal which puts him in some pretty good company with Bonnie Blair and Eric Heiden. You might ask, "What does ice skating have to do with bicycling?" Well, it is not so much ice skating, but skating in general.

Why Skaters are Like Custom Cyclists

Skaters have an incredible sense of balance and their form is exactly what cyclists would have if their bikes fit! Back in the 1980's I worked with a former World Champion roller speed skater, Donnie Van Patter, who was transitioning to bicycle racing. I learned so much from Donnie about weight and balance and power transfer through the ankles.

I also found out first hand how tough skaters were and was amazed to hear his stories of skate races through the mountains. He could out corner me on a bicycle and could out descend me as well. There was a famous descent in Little Rock Arkansas where we lived at the time that had a 50 mph descent speed with a dogleg turn and a set of railroad tracks at the bottom. Donnie would zoom down that hill on his skates and just jump over the tracks! That part didn't have much to bear on cycling other than it shows how impressive world class athletes are. Taking the tricks of these people and applying it to the rest of the world of bicycle riding and triathlon is my job.

I hope you can take some time and watch the skaters when they compete in the Olympics and look carefully how they position themselves on the ice. Their back is flat, they have perfect balance fore and aft so their glutes and quads share the load and they use a very efficient way of skating "toe down" like efficient cyclists, to continually push out focusing on the big toe. This trick is exactly how I ask cyclists to pedal to minimize power losses through the ankle. We all have much to learn with other athletes as they are using the same muscles to get the job done, but sometimes don't have the same limitations we do.

Thanks, Donnie, for helping me get a foundation in world class positioning that I have been able to leverage to a really cool job today!

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