Archive for the 'Road Biking' Category

Just Add Water

After cycling for over 12 years all over the country and even Europe, it’s hard to come up with new, exciting adventures on two wheels.  And challenges.  This year’s challenges included The (Double) Triple ByPass in Colorado–10,000 feet of climbing over three mountain passes over 120 miles.  And then repeat in the opposite direction the next day.  I also enjoyed another year raising money towards eliminating Multiple Sclerosis through my friend’s MS150 team.  We ride 100 miles on Day 1 and 65 on Day 2, and raise over $25,000 every year.

But this year also had the added twist of training for triathlons.  Not really knowing how to swim (or run) posed a roadblock to this sport for me.  Last November, I took lessons in the pool, then swam in the local lake with a local tri club. Experience breeding confidence, I was able to work my way up the triathlon ladder (Sprint, Duathlon, Olympic/X-50), culminating in the Ironman70.3 in Austin.  The only snag (and key lesson learned) was overtraining and not conducting strength training on my glutes and hips.  This lead to an IT Band injury that forced me to walk/run the second half of the 13.1 mile run.

Overall a great experience.  And there’s more to come.

Race report from Austin:

Got a good sleep for this. 8:30-2:00. Couldn’t fall back asleep so I got myself off to the start (needed to double check my T2 location again anyway, then take shuttle to T1).
It’s a pretty exciting event. Pro’s. College kids. Relays. And age-groupers.
I was 8th wave and we started in the water (briefing said waist deep–you’d have to be giant to be at the waist between the starter buoys). Boom. Off we went. Did a decent job staying out of trouble and on course (veered off once–still don’t know how, but corrected before the first turn). I was shooting for 42 minutes. So I’m plenty happy with 42:53. 72nd out of 188 or so Age-groupers. Only learned to swim a year ago today. I’ll take it.Austin water

Long run to T1 and muddy. Long T1 time (6:21) since I had to put on a vest, gloves, hat, and sleeves. It was a super windy morning and 50’s? Water was 69–blissful. By time I got to carry my bike through wet grassy mud, my cleats were barely clicking into pedals.

Started up a little slow on the bike, but had to pass hundreds of cyclists the whole way. Very windy and hillier than I expected. Me and some 40 year-old took turns once in a while pacing each other. I went “pretty” hard the whole way. Figured I wasn’t really saving anything for the run, knowing full well it was going to suck no matter what. Was shooting for 2:40, but with some really tough climbs in there and some strong gusts–I’m good with 2:47 (20.13mi/h). Not bad for a hairy-legged roadie. No aero helmet here, son. 18th in AG out of 188ish. Moved from 72nd to 36th by end of bike leg.

T2 was OK at 3:29. I had to peel off all the extra clothes. Forgot to take off my shades, but that’s OK.

austin finish So the run was what I expected (and I had had a chance to run it in late August, so no surprises either). The good news is I managed to squeak it to Mile 7 before the ITB got really bad. But was slow for the start to baby austin medalit. The left was fine (and maybe part of my getting through this). Walked and ran the second half of the course, on and off. The runs hurt. A bit demoralizing at first (when I was the only one on course walking). By second lap, more were walking. I did have an option at the end of the 2nd lap to bail.

I decided to finish albeit in serious pain. Not too shabby for limping the run. Wanted to hit 1:51 on this. Oh well. Better than the 3:15 I was predicting a few days before.

Not the vision when I signed up for this. But, it was a fun experience. Ended up 74th out of 188ish in Age Group with an official time of 6:08:08.

Riding in the Peleton

One of the biggest (and sometimes scariest) adjustments to riding road bikes is riding with other cyclists.  Keeping in mind, we can’t hog the road, we need to ride in peletons, both in recreational rides and races.  Take this quiz to see how much you know about riding in the pack.

Link:  Bicycling Magazine: Group Dynamics

Ready for Launch?

j0289276Sometimes I’m so excited about a ride, I forget to do or bring something.  Not long ago, it was my helmet (didn’t get far fortunately).  Today it was my water bottles (I was 5 miles out before I realized this). 

As organized as I am most times, I’m overly organized about riding.  When I am going somewhere to ride, I always print my checklist. But a casual ride from home-base–not so vigilant.

Just like launching a rocket, it pays to have a checklist.  Or at least do a bike scan and physical equipment check (here’s mine):

Look at each part of your bike to ensure you have what you need.

Wheels:  Did I fill them with air?

Handlebar:  Do I have my bike computer?

Pedals:  Do you have my shoes? (If I’m driving somewhere first)

Bottle Holders:  Do I have my water/power drinks?

Bike Bag under Saddle:  Does it still have a spare tube, tire levers, multi-tool, and CO2 inside?

Then check myself:

Head:  Do I have my helmet?

Hands:  Do I have my gloves?

Face:  Do I have my glasses?

Feet:  Again, do you I my shoes?

Right Jersey Pocket:  Do I have my food (gels, bars, banana) and key to house/car?

Middle Jersey Pocket:  Do I have my phone (usually in a zip lock baggie)?

Left Jersey Pocket:  Do I have my emergency kit?

Emergency kit is a zip lock baggie loaded with: spare CO2 cartridge, Advil/Aleve in a contact lens case, patch kit, spare PowerBar gel, old insurance card, a few business cards (never know who you’ll meet on the road and want to trade numbers), and of course, money (this is how I bought some water today at Mile 15).

Everyone has there own way of staying organized.  Just stick to it so you don’t end up forgetting something important.

What else do you bring?  Feel free to leave a comment that might be helpful.

The Art of Riding in the Rain

j0447867Last month I got the “opportunity” to ride 76 miles in the rain.  I’ve ridden in rain before, but this was an organized ride with lots of riders and a long haul.  Plus, I knew it was going to rain, and welcomed the opportunity to learn from the experience.  Most riders do not plan to ride in the rain, it just happens when you least expect it.

With this in mind, here are a few tips for what to do when the drops start to fall.

  • Just like driving, when the streets just start to get wet, the oil and junk combines with the water to make the road as slippery as it will get.   Once it has been raining a while, the roads are mainly wet, not as slippery.
  • Ride on water like you drive on ice.  When making turns, do not change speeds (accelerate or decelerate); do that before you get to the turns.  Shift as much of your weight on the outside pedal as possible.  Lean your body more than the bike (to keep the bike upright more than usual).
  • Braking distance is obviously affected.  Give yourself extra distance to stop and don’t squeeze the brakes–instead, squeeze the brake levers and release and repeat.  Nice and easy.
  • AVOID THE PAINTED LINES ON THE ROAD.  These wreak havoc on riders.  They are very slick and can easily send you off the road.  Wet leaves are a similar danger.
  • If it looks like rain, pack a rain coat.  You might even wear your booties, if you have them.  Soggy socks suck.  You’ll probably still get water in your shoes, but not as much.
  • You’ll need your glasses to keep rain out of your eyes.  Clear ones are much better, obviously.  If you plan to ride in the rain, think about applying Rain-X to avoid fogged up glasses.  Are goggles over the top?  Maybe not.
  • Keep your distance from everyone.  If you’re riding with someone, you might want to be side-by-side (being right behind them is only fun if you like riding in the rooster tail of water coming off their back wheel).  However, side-by-side is dangerous in heavy car traffic.  Consider riding two seconds following distance, one behind one another.
  • Puddles can be deep and conceal dangerous pot holes (and other things).  Avoid them as best you can.
  • Use lights to be seen better.  A flashing red LED rear light is essential.
  • Make sure you conduct the normal safety check on your bike before heading out.  Is glass hiding in your tire ready to poke into your tube? Do you have a loose spoke or seat post?  A wore chain?  You don’t want to be stranded with a broken bike in the rain.

As far as the actual ride goes, once you get used to the slightly different handling of your bike (within five miles), you start to forget about the rain and just enjoy the ride (as long as you’re warm enough).  It just becomes a constant, like wind or a long climb up a mountain.  Frankly, I was enjoying my 76-miler in the rain so much, I didn’t want it to end.

By the way, I semi-stole the title from a great book I recently read, “The Art of Racing in the Rain.”  Race cars, not road bikes.  Check it out.

Is That Tobacco Juice on My Leg?

So today was a tough training ride.  I had to ride painstakingly slow to maintain a low HR for endurance training.  The reward for 40 miles of this (other than frozen fingertips):  A Tobacco Juice Shower.

Now I’m exaggerating a little bit. It was only on my leg.  Although, it did surprise me when it happened.  And of course, as a cyclist, this is all my fault.

Yes, I was riding on a single-lane road at a slow speed and taking up a few inches to the left of the white line (although as far to the right as possible on this narrower stretch).

Yes, I must have forced the SUV of fellow citizens to slow down as they passed me (only to turn right seconds later into a school parking lot).

And yes, I know that I have a legal right to share the road, but I guess that doesn’t matter.

And I am sure the driver was unaware of a nationwide push to enact a “Three Feet” Law that already exists in Tennessee.  The driver may have forgotten that those few inches between his side-view mirror and my head may be inches I decide to use in the last second to avoid a piece of glass on the road.

With all this in mind, I’m sure the passenger felt it necessary to teach me a lesson in bicycle safety and throw a cup full of tobacco-laden water at me.  I’m sure he was aiming for my legs as just a subtle reminder as to who “owns the road.”  Certainly he knows that if it had hit my face I may have lost concentration and swerved into the lane in front of the next car.  Not sure, I would have learned a lesson that way–maybe my fatherless children would have.

Since it was all my fault, I did not follow the SUV into the school parking lot to apologize for my transgression (after all, I might have been misunderstood and gotten pummeled in the process).

Since it was all my fault, I didn’t go into the parking lot and wait until they left the car unattended and let all the air out of the tires (after all this would ignite their simmering dislike for cyclists and maybe they’d do something worse next time).

No.  Instead I thought, there must be something positive I can do. Since it was all my fault after all.  So I decided to give a friendly wave to every driver who had to wait even a second (due to oncoming traffic) to pass me using a three-foot clearance.  I gave a friendly wave to all of them hoping positive reinforcement would help build a more positive relationship between drivers and cyclists.

I won’t mention the kind of wave I provided my tobacco-chewing friend.

Training for Your First Long-Distance Event

I had someone at the gym today ask me about training for a MS150 ride as a novice cyclist.  This is a great goal for cyclists around here because it is 160 miles over two days (and it usually includes some serious wind and sometimes rain).  It is a very popular ride and benefits a great cause. 

The advice to this cyclist is the same for many who are trying to increase their mileage.  There are some key concepts that MS150 recommends:

Keep Track of your Mileage.

A key part of training is assessing how you’ve improved. Adding an inexpensive speedometer to your bike is a good step. You will want to see how your average speed is improving along with your distance.

Start with Short Rides.

Take a week to work up to a moderate day of 15 miles. Don’t worry about time or speed on these rides. Take it easy and finish the full 15. The purpose is to gain and maintain basic cardiovascular fitness.

Sometimes Double Up Miles.

After working up to the 15 mile moderate day, attempt an endurance day of double the mileage once a week. Try to maintain the same pace established during moderate days, but slow down if it is necessary to make the full mileage. The purpose is to gain distance, confidence and grow cardiovascular fitness.

Do Hills and Intervals.

After mastering the basics, challenge yourself with more advanced training. After warming up with a moderate day ride, find a hill you can climb without totally exhausting yourself. After riding up the hill, recover on the way down, and then go up again. As your fitness improves, add more repeats. The power and stamina developed with hill work will assist you in tackling the larger hills on the route. Interval training works the same way. During a regular moderate day ride, pick a distance (for example, a city block or the space between two telephone poles) and speed up to a sprint. Start with one each ride and then add more and longer sprints each time you ride. Sprint for one lap and then slow down for a recovery lap, repeating the process as needed. Interval training and hill work will improve overall speed, endurance and ability to recover from challenging parts while still riding.

More thoughts from About.com expand on this topic in an article on training for a century ride.

The main principle of training for a century is to increase your mileage gradually over a number of weeks. By doing it that way, you help avoid injury, burnout and over-fatigue. Plus you will also be able to detect any issues with your body or your bike that you want to discover before the big day.

To set in motion your training plan, pick a known date for your century ride and count back from there to determine your start point. This ten-week training plan below assumes you are in shape at the start to be able to ride 20 miles comfortably. That’s a two-hour ride at a very easy 10-12 mph pace. If this is more than where you are, consider a metric century (100 km/62 miles) as another potential goal.

As you prepare, aim for the targets as laid out in the table below to get you ready. It shows the distance of your longest ride each week(typically on a Saturday or Sunday) plus a cumulative mileage total for the week that you reach with your other riding.

Century Training Plan

Week   Length of Long Ride    Total Miles/Week

1                      25                             55

2                      30                             65

3                      35                             73

4                      40                             81

5                      45                             90

6                      50                             99

7                      57                            110

8                      65                            122

9                      50                             75

10             Century Ride                    Yeah!

A Fast Way to Slow Down: Dehydration

water During the dog days of summer, one of main reasons for losing the pace on a ride is dehydration (greater than 1% loss of body weight in fluid loss).  The obvious solution seems  pretty simple:  drink water.  However, there are a few key points the experts agree on that will help you drink the right amount of water (and sports drink).  During your cycling season be sure to consider these guidelines:

  • Drink plenty of fluids while off the bike, especially the day before a long ride.
  • It’s good to know your sweat rate per hour (weigh yourself before and after a ride, a pound lost is 16 fluid ounces). 
  • Counter fluid loss with an similar fluid intake during the ride.  The sweat rate tells you how much, but generally, 4 to 8 oz every 10-15 minutes is required depending on temperature.  If it extremely warm consider drinking 20 oz of cold water two hours before and 8 to 16 oz 30 minutes before (nothing inside of 20 minutes).
  • If you wait until you are thirsty to drink–you’re late in taking in fluids. Some riders set a timer on their sports watch to remind them every 10 minutes.
  • Just drinking water during long rides is typically not enough.  Sports drinks have sodium, potassium, and electrolytes.  For very long rides on very hot days, I carry a CamelBak of water and two bottles of sports drink (one frozen).
  • There is also a needed balance between sports drink and water.  You can drink too much water.  You can dilute the much needed electrolytes in your sports drink (watch out for hyponatremia in very long rides).  I like to alternate between the two until towards the end of the ride.  Then it’s sports drink to the end.  Again, this is for longer rides.  For shorter ones less than 2 hours, it is not as critical.  You can put a pinch of salt in your water or carry salt pills, too.
  • You can drink more than you system can process (not comfortable to ride with a stomach full of water).  Remember your sweat rate.
  • Keep drinking after the ride.  Water and sports drinks are best, of course.
  • Picking a sports drink that works for you is important.  Taste and “after-effects” can have a lot to do with it.  Also be cautious of drinks with fructose.  A sugar high often comes with a crash.

How do you know if you’re not drinking enough during your rides? The tell-tale signs:

  • urinating less during the rest of the day
  • dark yellow urine
  • headaches
  • losing more than two pounds during the ride

Yes, it’s a little bit art and a bit science to find the right balance.  Experiment until you find a good balance.  How you feel at the end of the ride is the best indicator.


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