On Friday I went to have a look at the newly opened environs of The Athlete Lab on Canon Street in The City. It’s probably best to view the website for an accurate description of what exactly goes on there but essentially these are very cycling specific exercise sessions that take place on state of the art static bikes. The bikes are set up to feel like standard road bikes with Shimano group sets and cleats while the front forks and rear wheel (basically a turbo trainer) are mounted on independent supports so that you can get out of the saddle and move the bike around beneath you whilst staring at the screen ahead of you.
The giant screen displays a backdrop of classic bike races in case you were needing inspiration (and it’s bizarre how watching Eddy Merckx attacking some mountain pass or other can have you spinning the wheels a bit harder) but more importantly the screen displays your (and everyone around you) data for the ride which is all based off your Functional Threshold Power output or FTP. In theory that is a number derived from a test that tells your maximum sustainable power output for an hour. All of the sessions at the Athlete Lab are then set up to have you riding at a percentage of your FTP so that in theory, regardless of how fit and strong you become, the session at the end of the season is just as strenuous as the one at the start.
There’s something very ‘Sky’ about suddenly considering your FTP and ‘riding to the numbers’ and so it’s not surprising to learn that Shane Sutton is one of the founders and shareholders of The Athlete Lab. Bottom line though, it’s an excellent, if not entirely cheap, way of getting in a very good session during the week. I walked out of there showered and refreshed feeling very energised for the afternoon ahead. They offer free taster sessions (which is what I took advantage of) and I would urge you to give them a go – they are all very friendly and knowledgable. If you’re reading this outside of the UK, they also have them in Singapore and Syndey – definitely worth a closer look if you’re bored of the usual spin classes or are just looking for an alternative way to be in better shape for the weekend ride.