The less you weigh, the faster you’ll get up this hill. The less power you generate, the longer it’ll take to get up this hill. Like everything in cycling, it’s about balance.
Start cycling for any significant length of time, and you’ll inevitably hear about “power meters” and “watts per kilogram” and “threshold” (and many other power-related numbers). Now, cyclists are almost by definition numerically obsessed: miles, mph, elevation gain, weight, grade, temp, heat index, weight, wind speed, rolling resistance, weight… the list of metrics a cyclist can follow is staggering. But the more you ride - especially around the “did you just climb that hill at 32 mph” set, the more unavoidable these “power” terms are.
So the questions are: What is a watt? And why is it so important to cycling?
Not everyone gets to be Captain Kirk. In fact, very few of us ever are.
“Listen, here’s the thing. If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker.” Mike McDermott, as played by Matt Damon in Rounders. No, not a cycling movie (yes, cyclists need to watch non-cycling movies too!), but an excellent movie, and an excellent point.
When you go on a group ride, if you can’t spot the weakest sprinter, or climber, or the one with the least endurance, chances are it’s you. Wait, keep reading! That’s not an insult, it’s just reality. And there’s nothing wrong with facing reality. As the group starts to pour on the speed, or the climbing goes vertical, you realize that everyone’s doing well… except you.
That’s right. You’re the sacrificial lamb on this particular ride. Or for my Trekkie friends, you’re the a Red Jersey.
One is not better than the other. Both are amazing feats of engineering, decades of design, and effort.
My wife was reviewing our logs to do our taxes. Being the awesome numbers person she is, turns out she records the beginning and end mileage of my truck each year; I had no clue. From this, I found out that in 2013 I drove a grand total of… [wait for it]
2,884 miles. To answer your next question: no, I don’t know why I have a vehicle.
On the bike for 2013, I rode 5,167 miles not counting the trainer, because well, who does?
Bikes are by their very nature extremely efficient machines. Even the cheapest blue-light special bike from your local big-box store is about 80-85% efficient at converting the power output from your body into forward motion. A decent road bike? 90-95%. A mid-to-high end road bike? 97%+. A high-end Olympic-level velodrome time-trial bike? Over 99% efficient. Insane, right?
All this got me thinking: how efficient are all those miles I rode on my bike versus those I did in my truck? The more I thought about it, the harder this was to answer. See, efficiency isn’t a simple subject. When talking about efficiency, you can limit your scope to just energy efficiency – converting potential energy (in glycogen or gas) into kinetic energy. But doing that, we’re leaving out quite a bit of the overall picture. There’s temporal (time) efficiency, economic (money) efficiency, and loads of other types. Let’s break them down, get them all into similar units, and see where my bike and my truck really land.
As another year ticks down to a close, I’m reminded of how our perception of time changes as we get older. When you’re young a single hour is a significant amount of time. Events are new, and routines to turn those daily events into mundane happenings don’t yet exist for you. You build up experiences – both good and bad – and they all stand out from one another because they haven’t happened before. “Remember that awesome spin out on my big wheel? That was cool!” Life feels long. So much time ahead.
If you own a bike, you will crash. Just a matter of time. If you ride with others, you will witness a crash. Again, just a matter of time. Though you can minimize crashing, you can’t stop it, so best to prepare. Below I’m going to go through a few things to think about when you’re in a crash, and when you’re present at a crash.
There are hundreds of videos and how-to’s online that you can look up on how to change a tire. Thing of it is, no matter how many times you watch it done, you’ll never get good at it until you do it yourself. Many, many, many times.
But this post isn’t about changing the tire itself. It’s about the things to remember when you have deal with a flat. These will keep you safe, and get you on your way faster.
1) Clear the road. By far the most important thing you can do. If you get a flat, don’t just stop in the middle of the street or bike path. And don’t start changing your tire there. Move off the path and/or road. Try to find a level patch of grass (if your bike falls over, better on grass or dirt than asphalt or gravel).
Think of the basic riding skills as a slightly out-of-focus image. A little adjustment, and everything comes clear.
As with any sport, there’s a point at which you have to get beyond the mechanics. Some people believe that when you’re beginning, it’s okay to overlook the details. Focus on the basics and get really good at those. This way you’ll be ready for the advanced stuff later on. But this only works up to a point.
Take ballroom dance. Let’s say you learn the basics. Slow, slow, quick, quick. Awesome. Left hand here, right hand there. Hear the music? Yeah, you’re off, try again. After a while, you start to get the hang of the basics. But then you see someone who’s been dancing for years. Somehow, the basic steps that you’re doing don’t look like the basic steps that they do, even when they’re doing the same steps. You try to compensate – change a little here, a little there. But after practicing so long without all those details, all the nuance, you now have to work against what your body thinks is right.
You’ve got your basics in cycling: pedaling, breathing, keeping your cadence up, don’t sway, don’t bounce. Eyes up (don’t get wheel-locked), and keep your line. But there’s more. And though you don’t need to be capable of doing the “more” portions, it is very helpful to understand them.
After several weeks of posting text messages reportedly sent by bikes on his Facebook account, the Tribunal of International Riding Enthusiasts have placed local cyclist and blogging celebrity Tony Diaz under a 72 hour psychiatric observation.
“We didn’t have much choice,” says tribunal elder Sam Jacobian. “To be a cyclist, you’ve already got to be on the edge of sane. Sharing the road with vehicles ten times your size and twenty times your weight. Flying at break-neck speeds wearing less clothing than a Victoria’s Secret model. But this… concerned us.”
When asked for a statement during visiting hours, Mr. Diaz stated, “Ha! If they think that’s crazy, just wait…”
Fearing a little for our safety, we indicated we would return for a follow-up interview, which remains unscheduled.
You’re about to purchase your travel case, and you’re ready to set off on roads unknown. Do you just throw your bike into the case and drop it off at the airline ticket counter? Do you break down the bike into more pieces than it originally arrived at the bike shop? Let’s go through the process of packing and travelling with (or shipping) your bike.