Based in Brewerton, NY, Noel Bonk of BonkWerx is a coach who cares about making you into a balanced, well-rounded athlete. A Zwift user since the beta days, he uses it personally to overcome the challanges of New York’s snowy winters, and uses it with his clients as well.
Noel has also lived the life of the “time-crunched cyclist” and now as a coach works to help his clients maximize their time efficiency. Read below to learn more about him and his coaching philosophy.
Tell me about your cycling background. What sort of riding have you done, for how long, etc?
My interest in cycling goes back to when I was just a kid racing BMX and Freestyle. I got into road racing and cyclo-cross a bit late (in my twenties) after suffering a weight lifting injury. Fast forward the last 17 years and I’ve done just about every event you can do on the bike, ranging from stage races to grand fondos. I do mostly focus on criterium racing though, as they play well into my strengths on the bike. My background additionally extends into 10 years of race directing and amateur race team management.
When and why did you begin coaching?
Prior to coaching I spent the last 15 years running several start-up companies while trying to balance family time and training time. I definitely lived the life of the “time crunched cyclist!” Coaching has always been a part of who I am, and started as a way to give back and grow the sport I love. Unofficially I started over a decade ago by coaching and mentoring friends and teammates new to racing. Officially however, I started my coaching business a year ago and I am currently a USAC Level 2 and Training Peaks Certified Coach. Every day I feel fortunate for being able to do what I love and help cyclists reach and exceed their goals.
Every coach has particular philosophies which define their methods. How would you describe yours?
I believe in creating a balanced well-rounded athlete. This means training my clients to work on all aspects of performance including sport-specific energy systems, bike skills, tactics, strength and mental training.
I like to say I coach with both an art and science approach, using a combination of open communication and feedback as well as analytical data tools. This helps me understand the athlete not only based on their numbers but on an individual level. I use that information to design training that is personal and structured but also maintains flexibility throughout a season.
Do you use Zwift personally, and if so what for?
I was on Zwift as a beta user, but really started to get into it regularly last winter. I live in Central New York which sees a substantial amount of snow and cold in the winter. For me, Zwift has become the perfect partner in helping to beat back the boredom that sometimes occurs when doing longer indoor rides. Based on my schedule I do mostly ride it solo, but I like to jump into group rides and races when training allows.
Also, locally here in NY we are using Zwift to bring our community of cyclists together for some “friendly” winter rides and races. In just a months time we’ve grown our group, comprised mainly of riders from Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse to 400+ members.
How is Zwift a useful tool from a coach’s perspective?
Zwift for coaching opens up all sorts of interesting training opportunities. It’s an excellent tool for keeping athletes motivated and engaged during the winter season or when they don’t have time to fit in a group ride or race. Creating structured workouts on Zwift is also a great way to help athletes stay on track with the proper efforts while maximizing time efficiency.
If you had just one piece of advice you could share with all Zwifters, what would it be?
Plan a weekly ride with friends! Cycling has a huge social element to it, but you can’t always find the time to ride and chat with others – so Zwift is great alternative to stay connected!
“I have been very pleased with the services offered and the personal attention that I have received from Noel. In the past I have had experience working with other professional trainers. I prefer Noel’s approach to coaching as it has been more tailored to my specific needs and cycling objectives and have also found it to be more challenging. He offers core training, strength training and a considerable amount of feedback with weekly Skype sessions and daily personalized reminders via smartphone.”
“This is my fourth season riding under the guidance of Noel Bonk having met when I was virtually a beginner. As I gain knowhow, skill, and fitness Noel understands with knowledge and intuition just what is needed to bring me to that next step. He is a highly organized and prepared “numbers” guy who demonstrates that he can look through the data in the middle of a race or intense training ride to guide his students on the fly. With that said, his training programs are well planned, specific, understandable, and effective. With any question about training, racing, or equipment I know I can count on Coach Bonk.”
“As a father or two young children, my time available to dedicate to training is very limited. Bonkwerx developed a custom training plan that considered my strengths, fitness level, goals, and schedule. I’ve noticed considerable improvements in my performance since my training has started and I’m eager for the racing season to begin.”