Leadville Champion, Air Quality, Strengths vs. Weaknesses, and More – Ask a Cycling Coach 322

Keegan Swenson joins us to talk about his Leadville and Breck Epic wins and to help us answer your questions on training with bad air quality, finding your strengths and weaknesses and much more. Tune in now and get faster!

Youtube Live Video:

Topics Covered in This Episode

  • Keegan’s experience at Leadville and the Breck Epic (00:28)
  • How to prepare for long and short events at the same time (26:49)
  • How air quality affects performance and health (41:08)
  • Suspension for gravel bikes (1:02:13)
  • What to carry in a saddlebag (1:04:24)
  • Finding your strengths and weaknesses (1:39:35)
  • Tips for increasing carbs without GI distress (1:47:14)
  • Live questions and answers (1:58:51)

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Moans about air quality, drives two hour to get clean air :roll_eyes:


Great to touch on the subject of air-quality! And nice to hear i’m not allone guiding my training with air-quality :slight_smile:

Fast talk 171 has an excellent deep dive on air-quality and training.

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One thing that I would have as a follow up regards air quality and it was touched on briefly is with HEPA air purifiers. Are there any studies that show they do indeed make any difference, pro or con. Ironically bought one for my bedroom recently and it maybe the placebo effect but the air does feel “fresher” so was considering adding one to my pain cave (if I ever manage to start training again) but would wonder if there is any difference with these.

I was surprised that the discussion of air quality didn’t include any talk about masks. I live in New England where air quality is not an every day issue (though we get 1-2 days a year of western wild fire smoke), but obviously we’ve all learned a lot about masks in the past 18 months. Some of the masks I got for the pandemic are explicitly rated to filter PM2.5, and I’ve found them relatively comfortable to train in. Obviously you have to get used to the feeling of breathing hard through a mask, but it beat the heck out of not training!

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Definitely appreciated the frank discussion of air quality and the normalizing of not training or riding outdoors when it gets in the above 80-100 AQI. I live in Bend, OR and am on a cycling route in town - and I have been dumbfounded this summer seeing people out doing hill-repeats and training rides when the AQI is in the upper 100s or worse. I thought I was being overly sensitive or risk-averse but hearing the “pros” say they take the same precautions was reassuring.

Question: has anyone tried the r-pur sports mask for riding? If this allowed me to feel safe getting out when its in the 65-125 AQI range, I might give it a go.

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Haven’t tried that model, but bought a Respro Ultralight after doing research earlier in the summer. It’s a UK brand but you can still get one cheaper in the US than that R-Pur one.

Either way, not a silver bullet. Despite sports specific design and extra valves, I still find them hot and annoying to wear. I’d be fine with wearing one in the winter, but fire season comes in the hottest part of the year and you aren’t going to have a good time going out and doing hard intervals wearing one of these types of masks.

I found it a little comical no one said I stay indoors and use TR. Instead they are driving 1-2 hours for some clean air. I get it, I enjoy the outdoors as much as the next person, I just found it a little ironic. Seems like there might be a Monday morning zoom meeting with Nate starting off, “Hey, did you guys know we have this exciting product that pays your salaries called TrainerRoad?”


I appreciate the irony but didn’t think anything of it. @Jonathan has been vocal that he does a lot of TR outside workouts and I’m sure Pete and Ivy do too. You don’t have to ride inside to use the TR product.

There was a bit of talk about air purifiers, HEPA filters, and indoor air quality sensors too with obvious implication of using them for indoor riding. I’d be curious to get an indoor sensor and see just how much cleaner my indoor air actually is. It wasn’t until the fires got bad that I started reading my air filters more carefully and noticed that they weren’t rated for PMI 2.5. Swapped them out with MPR 2800 HEPA filters for the rest of the summer.

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I saw an article recently that said that if the pollution is due to the smaller PM2.5 particles there’s no point in staying indoors to work out because those particles are small enough to get indoors. I was like WTF, I’ve been staying inside for nothing? And then I bought an indoor air quality sensor. The filters DO work, I can even see spikes on the indoor sensor when the smoke outside spikes up. But my indoor air quality pretty much stays in the green no matter how bad it gets outside.


There are studies on the effectiveness of HEPA filters. Short story - it is not a placebo effect. Personally, they have made an enormous difference in my indoor training when dust and dander allergens are elevated (I have allergy induced asthma). here is a meta study


I’d love some air sensor recommendations as well.

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I found some information from here:

There are some really poor devices out there (R^2 = 1 is best).

and randomly found this more interesting overview (with pricing):


What are your thoughts on an air purifier in the garage (where my trainer is)? Is it akin to having the air conditioner on with the front door open, that is, will it be overwhelmed by trying to filter out air that is similar to the outside?

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I recently set up an indoor AQI meter to put near my trainer in the garage. I just set it up over the weekend. I wanted to see whether my purifiers were working or whether they were being overwhelmed by the air that gets in through the vents and cracks in the garage. short answer: it works.

Here’s the PM2.5 AQI graph for the last few days.

The blue boxes are when I did workouts with two air purifiers in the garage. No purifiers yesterday; it was rest day (also pretty good air).

Edit to add: I run the Coway purifier that Wirecutter recommends and a cheap Filtrete one I picked up at Lowe’s. I’m pretty sure that the dip on Saturday night was from when I ran the cheap purifier for a while as a test.


So from what I’m gathering from the chart is that the garage follows a similar pattern to outside and reflects the AQI of outdoors, BUT the purifiers are capable of bringing that number down for the time period of doing a workout. I would probably just run it prior to working out, say turn it on half hour before, run for workout, turn it off after. Do you have a big garage that required 2 purifiers? My garage is a small one car, maybe 200 square feet.

It’s kind of interesting. The garage AQI has been reading about 50 lower than outside, but it does generally track with the outdoor air quality.

I have a pretty standard (for the US) 2 car garage, with a small “bonus” area where I have my pain cave. I think the main space is something like 22x22 ft (~7x7 m), and my trainer is set up pretty close to two vents that open to the outside for car exhaust. I’m running two purifiers because they’re each rated for smaller spaces than the garage (360 and 150 sq. ft. I think). I think I could get away with running only the good purifier, but I figure it can’t hurt to run both.

On Sunday it took about a half hour for that big AQI drop. I’m really curious about whether I’ll be able to get things into the “good” range if things get really bad like they were last week (>350).

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Awesome, thanks for the answer.

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Happy to help! I’ll be keeping an eye on this and posting back here if I learn anything new.

I wanted to share one more graph. This is the last week’s work of data from the two closest sensors and the one in my garage (purple line). It’s only a few days, but gives an idea of the difference between outside sensors and my garage.

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I’m curious, did you close those vents? We bought one of those same sensors and found that our garage also pretty closely matches the outside air (kind of disappointing… apparently last year all of those workouts I did indoors when the AQ was horrible outside probably meant that I was just sucking in the same crappy air indoors…). We also bought an air purifier, but haven’t used it yet because our air has only gotten rather bad one day, and once you open the filters the clock starts ticking on them. We figure we should save them for when the air is going to be bad for a whole lotta days.

We moved the sensor to upstairs in our bedroom and have actually been quite disappointed with how much the air just seems to track the outdoor air, even with all of the windows closed. Our place is older, but we didn’t think it was that poorly sealed…