The riding season is upon us. Let’s get ready to fondo!
When getting ready for a mass start event, especially your first ones, you think about the usual things you need for a ride: bike, shoes, jersey, shorts, gloves, helmet. You think about the things you’ll need while one the ride: spare tubes, pump, maybe CO2, energy foods, water.
There’s two other sets of things that people often overlook when preparing for your first mass starts: things needed before the ride, and things needed after the ride. Now, I typically over-pack for most events, but you know what? For those events where I haven’t, it sucked to go without.
Embrace the path you’ve taken. Make it a conscious choice, and avoid regret for the path not chosen.
“I’ll make up for it tomorrow.”
Simple fact: no, you won’t. I myself have used the “I’ll make up for it” thing. And the next day I push hard, or ride a little further. Maybe I stretch a little longer, or skip a can of Pepsi or three.
But I realized something that changed my perspective, and I think for the better. No matter what I do tomorrow, I cannot change what I have or have not done today. If I ride twice as long tomorrow, it doesn’t “make up” for not riding today, because I’ll never be able to ride “today” again. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
I’ve been riding several years now, and still consider myself a newb (noobie, newbie, noob, and all other variants). Why? Because I’m always learning something new.
When fellow noobians (okay, now I’m just making stuff up) ask me how to get better at specific things, I’m happy to tell them what I’ve learned about intervals, climbing, breathing, form, sprinting, whatever. I almost always finish up with, “Just ride. Put in the miles.”
But I’ve found that there are non-biking things that can really help your on-bike performance. Wait! Wait! Don’t laugh yet, it’s true! Think about it. Cooking the greatest steak in the world doesn’t make for a complete dinner (though admittedly, said awesome steak would be promptly consumed). So, we need to add more to the mix. This will help us be healthier overall, as well as helping to target specific bike deficiencies (yes, I said there are deficiencies in riding… you can shoot me later).
Below are some off-bike things that cyclists often overlook, but have great on-bike benefits.
Still not quite alive after that last hill? Here are some more tips that your legs and lungs may thank you for.
Remain seated. Standing uses approx. 8-10% more energy per pedal stroke than sitting. You’ll apply more force (in direct body weight dropped into the pedal), but you’ll also use more energy to do it. For long climbs, stay seated when possible and use a lower gear / faster cadence to reduce the power required per stroke.
If you have to stand, position your weight correctly. When standing, we tend to lean forward, which can removes weight from the rear wheel. This reduces traction and will cause the wheel to slip/spin under the added pressure of standing. Don’t lean forward. And don’t pull hard on the handle bars while standing and leaning too far back… that’s a nice way to do a wheelie.
When group riding, announce your intentions. In a group, you’ll get lots of riders with lots of different climbing abilities. If you’re going to stand, call “Standing” to avoid hitting a bike directly behind you (bikes tend to shift backwards when you stand on a climb). Use “Slowing” if the climb comes up suddenly. And use “Passing left/right” or “On your left/right” to get around fellow riders.
Also when group riding, add some space on the sides. The steeper the climb, the lower the gearing, and the more bikes will tend to drift left and right. Allow more side-to-side space to prevent clipping.
Here are some things to help get you over that next big climb. NOTE: This won’t make the hill any shorter or the road shallower. But you might not fall over when you’re done.
Study the terrain. If you have a route map, check out the terrain profile before the ride. By knowing how far into a ride your the climbs are, they won’t take you by surprise.
Conserve energy. If you’ve got a climb coming up, ease back on the pace a little to avoid early burn-out on the climb.
Ease into it. You’ll be tempted to hit a hill hard. That works fine for short, punchy hills and rollers. But if you’ve gotta grind it out on a really long climb, you’ll be spent way before you crest. Better to go easy into the climb and if you find you have more to give further in, go for it.
Don’t downshift too far. Some people see big climbs and will immediately shift down to their granny gear. Problem is, you’ll lose most of your momentum because your cadence will be too high. Instead, shift down as your cadence begins to drop. Just remember that each time you downshift, apply a little more pressure to the pedal to up the cadence a bit. If you downshift and keep the same cadence, you’re just bleeding speed and momentum.
Before I begin, I just want to say thanks to Chris Wilcox and family as well as the Tulsa Wheelmen, for putting on an excellent event. Very well organized, awesome course, and great volunteer staff. I don’t think I could’ve asked for a better first race (though maybe an easier one). Second thanks goes out to my fellow riders who made me believe I could do this (at least until I was dropped… more on that later).
[Update: looks like I came in 17th out of 37. I'll take it, and gladly.]
I am not a racer. No no, don’t try to convince me otherwise. I believe I can be fast, and climb pretty well, and my endurance has definitely increased. But a racer? No. I questioned whether I could be a racer until I was lined up at the start of the Cat 5 race yesterday morning. The Cat 1/2s (the super-racers) we coming by in the other direction, a large pack. They flew by us doing at least high-20s, and the column of air that whooshed by was worthy of a semi-truck.
CycleOps Fluid 2: Otherwise known as the bane of some peoples home gyms.
Repeat after me: my trainer is not the enemy. My trainer is not the enemy.
I see it now. You got yourself a new (or used) trainer, set it in the corner of your room, and thought, “Cool, I can still ride when it’s raining.” It sat there, sad and lonely, gathering dust until the first big rain or frigid wind kept you indoors. You thought, “No prob, I’ll just ride the trainer!” You mount your bike, get your shoes on, clip in, and start pedaling. Only… it isn’t anything like you thought it would be.
After surveying over 300,000 drivers in ten of the cities rated as being the least cycling-friendly cities in the country, researchers spent eight months analyzing the collected data. They concluded the reason for the intense dislike of cyclists by motorists came down to a single emotion: jealousy.