Episode #72 – Prime Cycling Framework by Jim Taylor PhD

Episode #72 – Prime Cycling Framework by Jim Taylor PhD

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If you take the important mental elements that it takes to be a successful and consistent cyclist and place them in an order from foundation to optimal, then you have Dr Jim Taylor’s Prime Cycling framework. I discuss this framework with a sprinkling of my own experience.

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It’s All About the Mind: The Psychology of Cycling

This talk at the University of California about a toolbox of mental tools for challenging situations is a great way to frame the mental tools that can shape your success in challenging situations. It’s based on the a framework called Prime Cycling. There is an introduction on Taylor’s website found here: Dr Jim Taylor: Prime Cycling.

Prime Cycling Framework – 6 mental areas for a cyclist to ride their best.

The aim of this framework is to help you ride at a consistently high level under the most challenging conditions. Can PC be learned? Yes! It’s about developing skills and creating a mental toolbox for different situations.

This ties together a lot of what I speak about on Semi-Pro. But the strength is also how it places certain mental factors in a hierarchy. So you can go from one level to the next – or take stock of where you are in your preparation for A races, and take the steps in your prep to address these issues.

What race are you competing in?

  • 3. Competitive race – the race against others.

  • 2. Race against the course – the race against the elements and obstacles.

  • 1. Mental race – the race against yourself.

Thinking about a race like this enables you to pull back and look at how you approach each of these factors individually.

I believe that at some level you would implicitly do consider these three. Whether you just focus on one element to get you through – like just following wheels at all costs, or planning to hurt only on the hills, and you know your threshold for them. Or you just want to ride within yourself so you can finish – which may be a lack of confidence. But splitting them out like this means that you can prepare for all three before a race.

Strategies then have more than one element to them. Which can make you more flexible during a race because you have more to call on at challenging times. And this is why Taylor calls it a mental toolbox for different situations.

The pyramid of prime cycling success will break these down in a moment.


Definition: The determination and drive to achieve your goals.

Why is it important? Motivation is everything, life and cycling.

Effort versus goals. Put in the time. Am I doing the work necessary.

The Grind – The parts of cycling that aren’t fun. True champions push harder at this point because they know the work here is the difference. This is something that you experience when you start training seriously – and by serious I mean there will be times when you are riding just to get the hours in. there are ways around this, and if you talk to certain riders they will say if you feel ‘The Grind” you’re doing it wrong. But I believe it’s inevitable at some level. Whether that’s just not being 100% – there is always some type of ailment when you train a lot. It’s not going away in a hurry. Or if you’re riding in the middle of winter on a dead road, and you’re cold and wet and not enjoying it on any level – that’s the grind. And motivation to your why are what will either make you push through or stop at this point.


Take Action

Goals draw you away from the pain, creates emotions that avoid pain. An athlete I coach used the motivation of beating a convicted doper to get him through a long and hard trainer session.

Have training partner – I have experienced this in full effect. If you can get the right person at the right level – whether you need someone better or someone worse than you. The right person can make all the difference.

Identify your greatest competitor – I used to motivate myself in intervals by using the last name of my competitor as the one word that I kept in my head during hard intervals. Looking back now it’s interesting that it had the word ‘hate’ in it. A strong word, but whatever works right?

Ride for the right reasons – Riding for health?


Definition: How strongly you believe in your ability to achieve your goals.

Most important mental factor – Training develops the belief in your ability to complete rides, whether it’s the difference in fitness, distance, or any other variable that you face during a race.


Take Action

Preparation – every ride puts money in the bank. When you hit the line you want to know that you’ve done the most you can do to well in the race. I like to think about this as not breaking promises with yourself. Because once you give yourself a break in the training ride when you drop the wheel, you’re much more likely to do it in a race.

Lose confidence because of pain, loss of focus. Know when this is – This is something I spoken about before. How will you react when you’re dropped on the first hill? How about if you find yourself in a solo break? If you’ve never been in these positions before, and even if you have, these are the moments that can define a race. Know thyself!

Self-talk – what you say to yourself impacts on what you do. Next time you go out for a ride, be aware of what you are saying to yourself when the ride gets hard.


Definition: Amount of physiological activity you feel before and during races.

Range of intensity

Sleep → Terror

Goal: monitor and adjust intensity


Take Action

Control your situations like on a climb you can control your breathing.

Tense hands, shoulders – Think about what your body is doing under pressure. Shake out your arms



Definition: Concentrate on the things that help and avoid distractions that hurt performance.

Quality training – interval training. I talk about this all the time. It’s one of the most important things you can do for making gains in your training. For example I know that I program Tuesdays to be the most important days. So not only when I wake up but when I am in my warm up I concentrate of where my mind needs to be before, during and after efforts.

Things I use to get me through them are lines of thought like: Before: “One at a time.” “Put everything into this one”. “Halfway – it’s all downhill from here”. Last one – make it count.

During: My brain tends to only be capable of one word at a time. Focus! Yes! Push! Harder!

After: Ok get ready. Good – feeling good.

Efficiency – If your mind is drifting so is your efficiency.

Consistent race performance


Take Action

Choose a Keyword – breath, calm, attack. Make it a word that has meaning at challenging times of the race. Breath and calm are if you need to bring yourself down and focus on not going to hard, or blowing all of your energy. Attack is if you need to wind up the tension in your body. it’s important to know how your focus drifts off and how which direction you go.  – put it on your handlebars.

3 Ps – Positive (think positive), process (what do I need to ride well). Present (what do I need to do now.


Definition: Intense states that arise in response to situations that influence thoughts and behaviour.

Common emotions in cycling – fear, anger frustrations anger despair, pride joy elation.

After a long ride you are at your purest!

Emotions impact psychology and physiology. Riding on anger – yes.

Emotional reaction to events on a race – flats, cramps. Remind yourself that there is always something left.

Whoever loses emotional control first, loses.


Take Action

Recognise hot button situations. Step back, get distance, then go back into it.

Bad emotions could be a nutritional crisis. When you start to lose it on a bike, eat and drink something.


Definition: Sensory and emotional experience of discomfort, distress, or agony.

Instinctive mechanism that protects us from death.

Pain is not going to kill us during a ride. It doesn’t help us push ourselves.

Two parts: Physical, psychological

Pain in perspective: It’s not the same as suffering, or serious injury. It’s physical discomfort. We can turn it off. 35:30. Physical discomfort fest.

Interpretation of pain: Normal, means we’re working hard.


Take Action

Relax: deep breathing, loose muscles.

Pain as information: Beginners disassociate with pain, elite associate with pain. Because it gives them valuable information. Body position change, gear change.

Generate positive associations with pain. Enjoy the paincave.




Photo Credit: mnorri on Flickr


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