Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Return of the Fatty

So for whatever reason, i'm getting back into cycling. The real question is to why i left, but that's more about thoughts and feelings than cycling, so i'll spare you the details. This will be long enough as it is.

The goal:
Oh I don't know. . .
Certainly to be faster than I am now. I think I'd like to be competetive in the masters fields (if those are even a thing) and at least present in the Cat3 or even 1/2 elite fields. I'd like there to be some section of some race, somewhere, where I can make people concerned.

The Current Situation:
When I quit cycling to become a grown-up, i had an FTP of 415, and weighed about 185. Not bragging; those numbers aren't stellar, but they're a benchmark of what I was capable of at 29 years old with more or less unlimited time to throw into training. A decade later, with tha kids, a career, pretty much zero exercise, and more than a few cheeseburgers, I'm at 225 and my FTP is somewhere around 315. To be honest, I never ate really well, but I trained very carefully, and I had a higher w/kg at 185lbs than I did at 165 (of course, there are plenty of other variables to that than just weight, but still...)

The Plan:
I think this year is pretty iffy for racing due to tha 'rona, and I THINK if I work at it, I can get close to where I was in a year. Maybe that's naive, since it took 6+ years to get where I was then. But I'm armed with some amount of history this time. My brain definitely remebers how to do it, so maybe my body does too? So that's the over arcing plan: get faster in a year. First thing is to try to get the endurance back and lose some (a lot of) weight. I don't plan to do any FTP intervals until I can at least complete 4 hour rides and I can get the weight below 200. That effectively means as much Z2Z3 as possible. All Z2 all the time would be preferable, but I don't have 'all the time'. If I only have 90 minutes (or less, jeez) to ride, I can do ~Z3 for that long without lasting fatigue, so I'll do that. My longest ride outdoors so far has been ~2.5 hours. It wasn't horrible, but was tired at the end. I'm in Portland, OR now, so indoor riding will be a significant portion of the year. My longest indoor ride is 90 minutes, but I think I can push that up to at least 2hrs in the zones I'm currently riding. Hopefully that will be enough.

So that's pretty much it. Comments and suggestions are welcome. I'm pretty confident in my former periodization plan, but that started with me already in decent shape, and with more or less unlimited time. This time around I need to start from a much lower starting point, and time may become an obstacle to deal with.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

I know this Cat 1...

just because you know some guy with a cat 1 license doesn't make him, or what you think he's said, the final word on anything.   I hate to say it, but plenty of cat 1's are idiots.  Just like the rest of us.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Entry 2.5, Why the system works.

Perhaps a long post for a simple explanation.  Skip to the end if you get bored.

Your body uses a chemical called ATP to make your muscles contract (as well as a whole bunch of other stuff).  At any given moment, your body only has enough ATP for about 8 seconds of effort, so you're constantly replenishing it*1.  While exercising, most ATP production comes from the breakdown of sugars.  The most efficient way to do this is to use oxygen in a process called aerobic respiration.  In this process, a single sugar molecule will get you about 36 ATP molecules.  Anaerobic respiration on the other hand, will only get you 4 ATP per sugar, and will produce lactic acid, which as we all know, hurts.  A lot.  Aerobic respiration is much more efficient, but it is limited by how much oxygen you can pull in, and how fast you can get it where it needs to go.  ATP production from anaerobic respiration is practically unlimited in the short term, but is unsustainable over time due to the lactic acid buildup.  At high intensities, production of lactic acid outpaces your body's ability to neutralize it.  In the very short term, we are limited by our muscles, the force they're capable of delivering to the pedals, and the speed at which they can spin.

As road cyclists (and in particular, those of us who dislike sprinting), we very rarely use more than our body weight, so our legs are plenty 'strong' in terms of how much force they have to deliver to the pedals.  What we're really working on when we train are the first 2 mechanisms: Aerobic and Anaerobic respiration.  It's a weird way of thinking of it, but at the end of the day, the strongest cyclist is simply the one who is the most efficient at turning food into forward motion.

As long as your body has stored sugar and oxygen, Aerobic respiration is superior.   You can get more work done with a limited supply of fuel, and it's relatively painless.  Anaerobic respiration is necessary for energy needed above what aerobic respiration can handle*3.

Ok, so there are two systems, maybe I've gotten too into describing it, but the TL;DR is.  Aerobic respiration is good for sustained efforts below a certain intensity and Anaerobic respiration is necessary for high intensity efforts.

Here's the part related to training though:  Aerobic fitness takes longer to gain, and takes longer to fade than anaerobic fitness.  This is why we spend the bulk of the season on low intensity work, and why we do it first.  You are maxing out your capacity for aerobic gains before moving on to anaerobic workouts.

*1.  Molecular biologists and physiologists will say I'm oversimplifying most if not all of this, but for the sake of our purposes, I think this is fair.  Feel free to clarify if it will contribute.

*2.  Track sprinting is almost a different sport in this sense.  Sprinters are much more focused on pure force strength than any sort of endurance.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Reddit training series entry 2

So here is my interpretation of the standard cycling training plan.  It is not new; most books offer variations on the same thing.  What i've done is to try to condense it into an understandable forum post, rather than a 100+ page book.

Every ride should be broken into intervals.  Every interval should be as intense as you can continuously sustain for the given time period.  As the season progresses from the beginning to end, intervals should get progressively shorter (and therefore more intense).

That's it.  There's no magic, no special tricks.  Devote as much time as possible to training (as opposed to riding), and follow the plan.

Ok, so let's now get specific.  We will break the season up into 7 main periods.  Base1, Base2, Base3, Build 1, Build 2, Peak/Race, and Rest.  With the exception of the last two, there is no clear distinction between periods, just a steady progression.

Base1: (ALL Z2 ALL THE TIME!!)Start with as many hours as possible in zone 2.  20 hours/week or more is preferable, and 15ish is sort of a minimum for this plan to work.  This is not easy.  You should be exhausted at the end of a long ride, but exhausted because you did 4 hard hours at a constant pace, not because you blasted up the hills.  If you go on standard group rides, you'll get dropped anytime the pace picks up, but you'll drop them when they all slow down to talk or be lazy.

Base 2: (Z2/Z3)  Keep the Z2 stuff up on your longer days, but on shorter days, work in some Z3 stuff.   Work some   2(or 3)x30 at or 1x60 into your week.  On your long weekend ride, see keep it well under Z4, but do as much Z2 and Z3 as you can.

Base 3:  (Z3/Z4)  Start working one or 2 Z4 workouts in per week.   Options include 1x15, 2x20, or 3x10. Do Z2 the other days of the week and try not to go so crazy over the weekend that you're tired when you get back.

Build 1:  Z4.  3 (or more)  LT workouts per week plus one ridiculous group ride. (destroy/get destroyed by your friends)

Build 2: (more Z4/less Z5) Work in 1 or 2 Z5 workouts (3x5, 4x4, 5x3, etc.) while keeping the Z4 going strong.  Group rides should start to feel like long races.

Build 3: (less Z4, more Z5):  Just what it sounds like.  Continue the progression.  You're only working on top end here, so count on 1 fun group ride or race per week to keep your endurance on the radar.

Peak/Race.  This is personal, but I prefer to do 2 weeks of intense Z5 with lots of rest in between.  On the race week I'll take it easy and just do some hours of recovery.  Some people like openers.  I don't.  YMMV.

Some things to keep in mind:  You obviously can't do this for every race.  Pick the most important race of the season, set it as your "race", and work backwards to build your training plan.  As a Cat 3, I did this and won 2 major (to me) races on back to back weekends.  If you have an important race relatively early in the season, take a week of rest and start over at Build 1 (or 2, whatever you have time for).
Each period should last about a month, but this means 3 weeks on and 1 week of easy rest.  As the season progresses you'll notice that you have much less interval time (3x5 is only 15 minutes of actual hard riding).  The rest of your riding hours that week should be spent in recovery.  You can't ride too easy during this period, since you really should be wasted from the harder intervals.

This post got super long and I haven't said nearly enough yet.   I skipped the 'why' and just talked about (some of) the 'how.'  If you want to know why this plan works so well, feel free to ask.  If enough people care, I'll throw it into a different post.  Otherwise, I'll ask any questions you'd like and I'll get more specific in the next post.

Credentials:  I started cycling seriously at 25.  Upgraded from Cat 5-Cat 1 in 5 years.  I spent 1 complete season as a 3, but upgraded once/season otherwise.  All of my points came from wins or podiums in RR's and stage races.  All of my good race results came from small group or solo breakaways.  I was decent at TT's, but hated crits and any RR that finished in a pack sprint.  I stopped racing last year to finish my PhD in physics, and now I work a full time job that doesn't permit the sort of hours necessary to race against 1s and Pro's.  I'm not interested in being mediocre at racing, so I now ride for fun and enjoy sharing what I've learned on the internet.

Disclaimer:  You should read The Cyclists Training Bible, by Joe Friel.  Every training book I've read follows the same basic guidelines, this book just happens to lay it out most effectively.  Everything I'll have to say here is a combination of what I've read in this book, what I've picked up by critically reading stuff online, and the experiences of myself and my teammates.  If you think I"m ripping off Friel, I probably am, but he wasn't the first or the only person to have published what I'll be referring to as 'the plan.'  His book also has a lot of what (in my opinion) is just filler designed to kill time and fill pages.  No matter how effective, you can't sell a training plan if it's only a few pages long.  Also, if you have 1 hr of intervals to do on a particular day, but need to do a 2 hour ride, you need to fill the rest with something.  The solution to both of these is the filler that doesn't really make you faster on the bike:  Spin ups, cadence drills, one legged pedaling, all of these sound more interesting than "ride around for an hour but don't go too hard," which is really what they accomplish.

Friday, February 1, 2013

I'm back, sort of... training advice from a has been!

I am starting a series of posts related to training over on Reddit.  Pretty much, I'm sad that I'm no longer relevant to my cycling friends because I don't do it anymore.  I have all of this knowledge and experience that mean absolutely nothing to most people   So in an effort to get people (even imaginary internet ones) to be impressed by me, I'm writing a series of posts about training.  They'll pretty much look like this blog, but should be a little more directed, and possibly more serious.  Since only the coolest of cool kids care about reddit, I'm going to CC all of the posts here too.  The first one isn't very interesting, but I wanted to make sure I could use the language we're all so familiar using without having to explain myself.  Here goes.....

So that we're all on the same page on what we're talking about, here is a list of terms.  Not much advice quite yet, just a framework for us to discuss fitness training in the future.

First let's talk about training zones.  First I'll give a name, and a time interval associated with that intensity.  If you can hold a particular intensity for longer than the max time, your zones are low and you need to increase them.  Percentages are all given in terms of LT power.  You don't need a power meter to play along, however if you can afford it, a power meter (and the correct training plan to go with it) is the best money you can spend in cycling, outside of a simple bike and healthy food.  You use roughly the same percentages for HR or rate of perceived exertion (RPE)

Zone 1: Recovery (0-50%)(all day):  The hard part about Z1 is forcing yourself to ride easy enough in it.  It's very common to creep up into Z2, and then you aren't accomplishing your goal of active recovery.  If you are too tired because you haven't fully recovered or you rode too hard on your easy day, then you won't be strong enough to hit the right numbers later when it gets hard.

Zone 2: Base.(50-75%)(all day)  The biggest misconception about base is that it should be easy.  It shouldn't.  Base rides are very long; and at the end of a 4 hour day, you should be exhausted.  The only difference between base and other types of training is that the intensity is kept as constant as possible.  Instead of the ups and downs of a standard group ride or race, you ride at 75% of your LT the entire time.  This means going super easy up hills and pedaling down them.  You should be getting dropped by groups whenever they go hard, but you should be dropping them when they stop to chat afterwards.

Most people just use base as an excuse to ride easy in the early season.  There is a time for riding easy, but it isn't during base rides.  Also, most people don't have the time required to devote to properly training base.  If you can't throw at least 15 or more hours per week into training, base should be swapped out for endurance and LT work.

Zone 3:  Endurance(75-85%) (30 mins - 1 hour)  This is the point where you first start to notice pain.  Endurance intervals aren't as intense as LT ones, but they seem to hurt just about as much.

Zone 4: LT(86-105%) (10-30 mins);  Lactate Threshold.  Also called anaerobic threshold (AT), functional threshold power (FTP), and Carmaichel might call it CP30 or something.  All of these are slightly different in terms of their definition, and what is going on in your body

LT is the holy grail of cycling.  Of course other things are important, but if you can have 1 thing in cycling, it's a high LT.  LT is the point where the lactic acid produced by your muscles is just barely capable of being cleared out be the rest of your system.  It's what you can steadily sustain for 20-30 minutes.  It hurts.  A lot.  The end of a LT interval leave you gasping and drooling and both physically and mentally exhausted.  Note that all of the other zones are based as percentages of LT.  If your LT goes up, the power at which you can recover goes up, so at a certain speed in the race while others are working a little, you are recovering.  Similarly, when others are dipping into their V02MAX reserves during a surge or hard effort, if you can hold the same speed but stay in your LT zone, you can ride for twice as long as they can before giving out.  Everything done in terms of fitness training is about raising your power produced at LT.

Zone 5: V02Max(106-140%) (10 mins - 1 min)  This is the power associated with a surge or an attack in a race.  It's not an all-out sprint, but it hurts, and you'll need to dip below LT for some time after the effort is over.  VO2 max training is important for 2 reasons:

1.  Surges tend to be when people get dropped in races.  Attacks are how you get away.  You can have LT for days, but if you don't have enough V02Max to get away, then you'll just finish in the pack.  This happens to triathletes in road races ALL THE TIME.  They can drag the pack along all day, but they can't get away or sprint, so they finish 20th or whatever.

2.  Training V02MAX intervals can increase your LT.   I was hesitant to believe this because I don't like the short, searing pain of these intervals compared to the longer, slightly duller pain of LT intervals.  The year I got serious about V02MAX intervals corresponded to a sizeable jump in both V02Max power and LT power.

Zone 6+:(150%+) (0-1 min.)  Anaerobic/Sprint.  What it sounds like.  If you get to the end of a race and you aren't alone, you're going to have to sprint.  Sprint power has little to do with breathing and LT and lots to do with muscle strength.  Track sprinters care about this and almost nothing else, which is why they tend to have huge legs compared to road cyclists, and the majority of their training isn't even on the bike, it's weight training and plyometric stuff.  I'm a horrible sprinter and won't be giving much advice on how to sprint in groups larger than 5.  I'm sure a pure pack sprinter can give you all the advice you need if you're willing to ask.

Intervals:  An interval is simply a stretch of time where you're doing a single effort.  It doesn't have to mean 2 minutes of pain.  It could be a 20 minute LT interval, or a 30 second rest interval.

Intensity:  Intensity refers to how hard you are riding.

Volume:   Volume refers to the duration of your ride.  Most people will measure volume in hours, not miles.  You can tell a newbie to training, because they'll tell you how many miles they rode last week.  A 20+ hour week is impressive.  A 500 mile week (as some bike shop kid claimed to me recently) means you're lying.  Anyone who can actually train 500 mile weeks is measuring their volume in hours.

2x20, 3x10, 4x5x8 etc.  This nomenclature refers to the number & duration of intervals in a given workout.  The first number is the number of intervals done.  The second one is the time duration in minutes.  The third number is often omitted, but represents the rest between intervals in that set.  If I go out and do 3x10's that means I'm riding for 10 minutes, resting, and repeating for a total of 3 intervals.  5x2x2 means 5 intervals, 2 minutes long, with 2 minutes of rest in between.

Power/weight.  (measured in watts/kilo) is a popular metric people on the internet use to compare against each other.  It's often called the eWang, and there's an eWang chart that says which category you should be in based on your W/kg for different time periods.  There a lots of ways to cheat and lie about this number, but if you are honest with yourself, it's a great way to track progress and take into account weight loss or gain when gaining or losing power.  The value commonly accepted as the maximum human capacity at LT is 6 W/kg.  This is the number guys like Schleck, Contador, and Cuddles are capable of in recent years.  Lance (and most of his team) regularly did 7 back in the day....

Please let me know if this was useful or not, and if there's anything in particular you'd like to hear about and/or discuss.  Thanks for reading...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Never. Stop. Sprinting.

Quick rule about racing.  If the finish line is in sight and you're not participating in a bunch sprint, you need to ride as hard as you can until you cross the line.  No sitting up, no thinking you have it, or thinking they won't be able to catch you.  Just bury your head, suffer for another 60 seconds, and leave nothing on the road.  I know it hurts, I know you've been racing for all of 30 something miles (if you're a 4) and you're tired, but you can afford to push just that much harder until you cross the line.  This isn't about pride, and sportsmanship (which are both important), it's about not losing places because you gave up when there was only 30 seconds left in the race.

If you don't ride hard enough to black out just a little, and then you get pipped at the line and end up getting a place lower than you thought you deserved, you don't get to complain about it.  You sat up, dude.  Thinking you were secure in Xnd place caused you to get (X+2)th.  That sucks, but it's entirely your fault.

If you're already in 29th, and sitting up is going to get you 31st, then no problem, do whatever you need to stay upright.  But if you're near the pointy end of the race, never never never let up until the finish line is behind you.  Or you're going to get made fun of.  Anonymously on the internet, and otherwise.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Feed Zone Etiquette

So any bike race longer than 50 miles is going to have a feed zone in it.  This is an area where riders can pick up water bottles and throw away empty ones while racing.  This can lead to some dangerous situations, so here are a few rules to try to keep people from hurting themselves.  My wife, who is every bit as judgemental as I, is gracious enough to spend hours at a time driving to feed zones and waiting for me to ride by them.  She is quite adept at feeding me, and has contributed enough wisdom for me to produce 2 sets of rules: 1 for the feeders, and another for the cyclists.  I'll start with the cyclists.

Besides basic human decency, there's a reason for this:
The "volunteers" aren't doing this out of their love for racing.  There is often an organization that does this in order to raise funds for other sports teams, to which the race promoter makes a donation, or payment, or whatever.
This means that the people handing you bottles are members of a high school lacrosse team, or a bunch of soccer moms.  They are most likely doing this for the first time and are learning as they go.  If you make the experience unpleasant by yelling at them, they aren't going to want to do it again, and we'll all suffer a new crop of clueless rookies next time.  These people can't tell the difference between you and Lance Armstrong, so be nice to them, and they'll appreciate it.  Say "thank you" if you can breathe.  If you can't, say it to someone after the race.

Get to the right side of the road.
Feeding from the left is against the rules, and it's dangerous and stupid.  Throwing/catching bottles is also dangerous and stupid.  If you want a bottle, get as far right as you can without hitting anybody.

Slow down.
Especially if you aren't climbing already.  Missing a bottle at 25mph sucks for you, but it sucks a lot more for the 50 people behind you who have to dodge it.  Don't be the guy that caused the crash in the feed zone.  Plus if your first bottle ends up on asphalt, you have to slow down and try again anyway, or get nothing.

The ideal feedzone situation goes something like this:  You anticipate it, and get to the front of the group on the right side of the road.  You throw your existing bottles where they will be easily found, but won't hit anybody or anything (like my wife or her parked car, douchebag). Grab the first 1 or 2 (depending on what you need) bottles and get to the left side of the road as safely as possible.  I tend to hold the first bottle in my teeth while going for the second.  It's easier than trying to put it in the holder while watching where you're going.

Granted, this isn't how it's going to be every time, but if you REALLY want your feed, this is how it should be done.  Otherwise, you need to be ok with the possibility of missing it, and it will be nobody's fault but your own.

For the Feeders:
My wife has been to almost as many bike races as I have, and she's gotten to know the way that feedzones work.  There is always 1 person who thinks they're in charge, but they often have no clue what they're doing.  Here is what you need to know, and don't listen to the bossy idiot.

Right side only.
Again, it's the rule, and its unsafe any other way.

If it's cold outside, sometimes people don't want to stand in the middle of the road for hours waiting for riders to come by.  A cooler or a stack of bottles on the shoulder acts as a place holder.  Respect it.

Hold the bottle by the top nipple thing, and let it hang straight down.  This makes it easiest to grab, and least likely that you'll be holding onto it when they grab it.  This does make it easy to knock the bottle out of your hand and onto the ground, but if this happens, it's the cyclist's fault, not yours.

Stand Still.
Don't run.  Don't move.  Don't swing your arm and try to match speed with the cyclists.  Trying to get a bottle from a moving target is way harder than a stationary one.  Plus you're running and looking back at the cyclist, and not the other feeder you're about to slam into...

If you're neutral, say so.  If you aren't neutral, say the name of the team you're supporting:
Otherwise, I'm going to try to grab the bottle, you won't let go, it'll end up on the ground, and nobody will be happy.

I think that's it. 

Feedzones are hectic.  Riders anticipate them for as long as volunteers are sitting around waiting for the riders to show up.  The entire ordeal lasts only a few seconds, but has the potential to ruin somebody's race.  Just keep in mind that we're all doing this for fun, and that staying calm and being prepared are the best ways to promote success.  Freaking out is only going to make everything worse.

Monday, July 11, 2011


So I feel the need to explain how bottles should work. 

We aren't Pros.  We wish we were, but nobody is handing us bottles from a team car, so the small euro-style bottles aren't very useful, because you're going to run out of water.  The added weight of the slightly larger bottle is inconsequential.

There are 3 types of acceptable bottles:
The gold standard:
These are cheap, easy to find, have a wide opening at the top, and are completely interchangeable as far as the tops go.  They're the most popular bottles in the (american) bike racing scene for a reason.

Also acceptable are the Camelbak bottles:

 These are almost as good as the standard bottles, except that the nozzle is harder to clean, harder to operate, and it leaks.  It also seems to have a lower flow rate than the standard bottles.  These are also more expensive, which is a problem I'll discuss below.

My favorite bottle lately is the Specialized Purist:
 The nozzle is removeable and easier to clean, but the best part of these is that they're designed to not absorb flavors, odors, or mold.  They stay clean longer than any others.  The only downside is that they cost $10 each.  That isn't a lot of money in a world where a good wheelset can cost over $2k, but let me explain why this doesn't work.

When you go to a bike race that's longer than, say, 50 miles, you need to get more water during the race.  This is done in a feed zone (hey I should do a post on feed zone etiquette).  Anyway, when you get to a feed zone, you chuck your bottles, and pick up a full one from a generous volunteer, a teammate who has already dropped out, your wife, or your mom.  The thing is, you get whatever bottle you get, and you don't get your old one back at the end of the day.

At the end of the race, often you can sort through a big bin of used bottles and take a few home with you.  The honor policy here is that you don't take more than you threw away, but it stops there.  There is absolutely no guarantee that you get your own bottle back.  That means when I'm picking through the bin, I'm going to find the nicest/cleanest bottle I can, and be on my way.

If you want to buy the super cool $10 purist bottles, good for you.  But if you take them to a bike race and chuck them at a feed zone, chances are slim that you'll ever see them again.

Buying water bottles is like buying into communism.   You aren't buying a specific bottle as much as you're buying admission into the bottle system.  The best thing to do in this case is buy the cheapest bottles that will get the job done, and those are the gold standard.

A few other notes:
Clear is the only acceptable color.  Clear blue, clear grey, or clear whatever are also fine.  An opaque bottle makes it impossible to tell how much is left in it, and makes it really hard to see mold growing on the inside.  You should be washing your bottles with a brush after every use, but lapses happen, and should you leave an inch of perpetuem in the bottom of a bottle for a week, mold is going to be there when you get back.  You're going to want to see it so that you can scrub it out.

Small bottles are acceptable for short races and recovery drinks.  They aren't very useful in a road race if it's going to last longer than an hour or so.

I think that's it for now.  Please, keep buying those Purist bottles and discarding them at feed zones.  Just don't ask for yours back if you see me with it at the next race.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Nobody cares about cadence.

Nobody cares if you mash or spin, what matters is how fast you go. If one focuses on going as fast as they can (for the particular time interval involved), their cadence will figure itself out.

You should definately experiment and see what works best for you.  Just understand that what works best for you has nothing to do with anybody else.

In general, mashing will make your muscles work harder, while spinning will make your cardiovascular system (lungs/heart) work harder. You should be able to find a balance where both systems are working as hard as they can at a particular cadence for a particular effort.

Interesting (to me) anecdote: I live at altitude, in Denver, about a mile up.  I've found that when racing at sea level, my ideal cadence is higher than it is at home. This doesn't happen naturally, but with a little bit of conscious effort, I can eek out a little bit more power per effort by shifting down and spinning faster than I usually would. My explanation is that the higher oxygen content at sea level allows my cardiovascular system to do more work, and shifts that ideal cadence to a slightly higher number.   I admit that this might all be in my head, but I'm pretty sure there's some truth to it.

So don't talk about your cadence like there's some magic way that changing it is going to make you faster.  Don't tell me that I need to change mine.  Especially if I'm faster than you; I don't need your advice, you should be reading mine.  Train more, train harder, train as fast as you possibly can, at whatever cadence it takes.

That is all.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dear Pathlete,

There are 7 people in this state that are faster than me on a flat road.
And you probably aren't one of them.

So pass me or don't, but if you're gonna blaze by, don't get all offended when you get tired and I have to make the choice to re-pass you or sit awkwardly behind you as you get weaker and weaker.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

How to change a flat.


So I ran into some guy stopped on the side of the road and asked if he needed any help. (see "don't be a douchebag"). He asked for a pump because he thought that his wasn't working. As it turns out, his pump was fine, his new tube was just leaking air for the same reason the old tube was. His rim strip had slid over and the exposed spoke hole was slicing the inside of his tube. I figured this out, and fixed it happily, but this guy had already wasted his spare tube so i gave him mine. I'm happy to help people who need it. I don't expect everyone to understand how rimstrips work. But i do think that its pretty simple logic that if something is puncturing your tire, you should investigate the cause of the puncture before repeating it.
There is no such thing as karma, but there is such a thing as being a sucker and giving an incompetent person your spare tube. I'm glad I'm not the incompetent one, but a bit embarrassed to be the sucker. Next time: No tubes for you!

Friday, February 4, 2011

It's only January!

Oh my god.  Some of us have to race in February.  If i'm faster than you ALL SEASON LONG, you don't get to complain about how fast i'm riding just because of the month.

I've been doing base since October, so don't tell me how hard to train and when to do it.  Apparently I'm doing something right.  Perhaps instead of giving me advice,  you should reassess your own ideas about training.

that, or:

Harden the Fuck up.

Science: It works, bitches! Part 1, Pressure.

So people have been complaining about the use of  Bars as a unit of pressure.  I actually think that it's quite useful, and has more meaning than the arbitrary "psi" that is the standard (at least here in the USA).

"bar" is a unit of pressure equal to 1 atmosphere.  If you're sitting at sea level, atmospheric pressure is pressing inward with about 14 pounds per square inch of surface area.  It's also pressing outward with the same pressure, which is why you don't feel anything.  If you suck the air out of a beer can for example, and it collapses, it isn't because the vacuum is pulling the sides inward from the inside.  There's nothing inside the can to pull.  It's because atmospheric pressure is pushing the sides inward from the outside, and there is no longer and equal pressure inside to balance it out.

  If you inflate a tire to "1 bar," what you're doing is putting twice as much air into the tire than if you had just left it open to the atmosphere.  The difference in pressure between the inside and outside of the tire is 1 atmosphere worth.  2 bars would have a difference of 2 atmospheres between the inside and outside.

Now imagine you have a tire inflated to 2 bars at sea level and you launched it into the vacuum of space.  The difference would be that in space, there is no atmosphere to press back in against the air in the tire pressing out.  This would add 1 additional bar of pressure to the tire.  So 2 bars at sea level is 3 bars if you launch the tire into space.  This is why some people think it's a good idea to deflate tires if you're flying on an airplane.  This actually doesn't matter much, because airplanes are all pressurized to about 8000 feet, so even though you're flying at 30,000, you only have to deal with the pressure at 8000, which is about 4 psi of difference.

That's all.  I'm certainly not going to tell you what pressure you should inflate your tires to.  I'm simply suggesting that if someone decides to recite their pressure in bars, that you trust it as an acceptable unit of measure, and continue on with your ride.  Until it goes uphill.  Then you ask them to explain how atmospheric pressure works and attack.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My favorite book of the year!

I read about 2 books per year, so my favorite one doesn't hold much weight, but nontheless...

Last year "Racing Weight" by Matt Fitzgerald changed my life, and this year, it's Winning: The Psychology of Competition, by Stuart H. Walker.

It's written by a real doctor who got into competition later, not the other way around.  He talks a lot about the internalized Child, Parent, and Adult.  This is useful for just being a better person in everyday life, as well as being a better racer.

In races, I see people who lose all the time because they're psyched themselves out of it.  They make bad decisions, or they justify losing before it happens, thus ensuring their loss.  Personally, every time i've gotten dropped in a race, I had the excuse ready way before it happened.  "I shouldn't have done work back there", or, "I should have gone to bed earlier last night", some stupid reason.  What' i'm really doing is pre-loading my excuse, then fixating on that excuse until I convince myself to quit.  This book talks about it, and a lot of other psychological factors that play into competition.

He also talks about people who say they "just do this for fun, so you should lighten up" have weak egos, and they're lying to themselves so that they don't feel as bad when they lose.

So take that, bitches.  You know what I do for fun?  I kick your asses.
Or maybe I get my ass kicked, but it's still fun as long as I respect the people doing the kicking.

The author is an Olympic level sailboat racer, so all of his anecdotes are about sailing, but if you can enjoy the stories for the lessons he's trying to convey, it's really quite enjoyable.

That's it.  Cameron, I'm interested to see what a real psychologist has to say about it, and Jordo, I'm interested to see how someone like you (very much the opposite personality of me) responds to it.

I hope you read it, and I hope you enjoy it.

For those that are taking notes, the  list of required reading is now:

The Rider
Race Weight
Winning: The Psychology of Competition

If cycling has consumed a major portion of your life, you'd really be happier having read these.

Monday, September 20, 2010


When you ride a bike, you cover a lot of ground.  Unless you're riding underwater or riding across the Australian outback, you're likely to encounter a lot of people too.  Some of them may even be cyclists, but most will just be walking or driving cars.

Here's the thing.  The general public HATES us.  They think we're a bunch of assholes who run lights and get in the way of their miserable commutes and don't pay taxes.  Except for the last one, they're mostly right.  So it would go a long way in cyclist-everyone else relations if we were to simply wave as we passed.   Not like a "hi we're friends and I want to talk to you" wave, but more of a "I respect your right to be here and hope you would do the same for me" wave.  Wave at cops, wave at pedestrians, wave at 60 year olds on hybrids.  Especially wave at kids.  When they hit 16, they really need to know that we're humans, and our lives have slightly more value than that text message they just received.

So wave.  Let them know we're people too, and that we aren't all douchebags.  We have a lot of bad relations to atone for.  Don't be a douchebag.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Back to the Rules: Don't Ride, Train, or don't complain.

Overheard at the end of a race recently:  "I don't know what happened, I do 150 mile rides all the time"

I don't care how much it impresses the people at your office, riding a kajillion miles is not that hard.  You just sit on your bike and pedal all day.  You don't have to do it particularly fast, and it never really hurts.  Well not the way it hurts when you're getting dropped because you can't put out 400W for another 2 minutes.  Racing a bike is not the same as riding a bike.  Sure the physical motions may be the same, but they are entirely different worlds of pain.  This is what separates us from the pathletes, the pretend tri-geeks, and the group riders.  When the purpose of riding your bike is to race it, everything changes.

Most racing puts incredibly huge demands on your body for relatively short periods of time.  An attack may last a few minutes, a hill may last half an hour, but that's pretty much it.  Crits are even worse.  You sprint out of every corner, gasp for air between them, and then sprint super duper hard one more time before it's all over.  Going out and riding all day is not going to prepare you for this type of racing.  Racing me on the path isn't going to either.

Learn to train, or just do whatever you want and be slow.  Those are your options, but don't think that any racer is going to be impressed by your 500 mile week or your bike trip up the coast.   Riding up lookout in 19 minutes is WAY more impressive than the 6 hours you rode yesterday.  Try it sometime and you'll see why.  Plus, I guarantee that anybody who can do a 20 minute lookout would beat you at a double century, they just have better things to do.

Monday, September 13, 2010

What I'm thinking...

A follower recently suggested that I post about what's going through my head during a race.  There was also a link to a few (well written) examples.   I'm not sure this is the best thing for me, however.

It would have been a great idea before I upgraded.  I  used to think things like "conserve here, attack here, suffer here and you can win," etc.  Now that I have (get) to race against the best cyclists in the hardest state to race bikes, all I ever think of is "hold the fuck on" for as long as I can.  Last weekend, this was intermittently replaced by "do some work for your team," but it went right back to "hold the fuck on,"  and then straight to "oh crap there they go" and then "suffer alone, don't lose too much time, you MUST beat Jon Moro or your life is worthless."

I often wonder how much more I'd be able to suffer if Bjarne was back in the team car screaming at me.  At the time I think there is no possible way I could have hung on, but after the fact I continuously think "Really?  REALLY? You couldn't have gone ANY faster?"

Next year I need to work on losing some serious weight, and gaining some serious mental toughness.  I could have held on longer, maybe even until the end, if I were being chased by a bear or something.  Maybe I just need to visualize bears.  Or tape a picture of Jens with his face on the ground.  He never gave up until he was unconscious.  What would Jens do?  He would suffer way more than my miserable self ever has.

But that's for next season.  For now, all that's on my mind is cupcakes, donuts, cheeseburgers, maybe even a beer, and some long fun rides without any concern for LT or V02Max.

But underneath that, I'm already planning next year's training/racing/dieting/suffering.  It'll suck horrbily, but it's going to be great.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Steamboat Springs Stage Race: Racing against the pros.

Since the rules thing has apparently gone out the window, I suppose I'll use this blog to write an extended race report for the past few days.  I spent Labor Day Weekend in Steamboat springs, and competed in a 4 Stage race.  This is my 4th race as a Cat 2.  My previous 3 have ended in:  dropped on the 2nd of 9 laps at Salida, dropped on the 4th (maybe 3rd?) of 8 laps at Air Force, and ended up in the winning break of 8 at the Primal Crit, but sprinted on the wrong lap.  Riding in the p12 field is RIDICULOUS out here, but I really love it, and I hope I can continue to improve and become more of a player in these races.

Stage 1 wasn't actually a stage but rather a 10km prologue TT.  It was windy, and mostly flat with a 3-ish minute hill at the end.  My time of 13:16 was good enough for 27th place, and put me :57 behind the winner, Peter Stetina.  Just for a comparison, 31st place in our field would have won the SM3 time trial by 4 seconds.

Stage 1 for reals.  Circuit race, 4.5 miles, 10 laps but 11 times up the hill.  The very first hill was enough to start shedding people. I got dropped on the 4th lap when Stetina launched an attack that made my head spin.  I knew it was coming when he dropped back from the front in order to slingshot himself forward, but nothing could prepare me for the subsequent acceleration the entire pack made to try to hang on.  WHen it became obvious that I wasn't going to catch back on after the descent, I sat up and waited for the inevitable groupetto.   Through awesome luck I was caught by a group of 3 strong, determined chasers.  I worked as hard as I could, but I was lucky that the others in the group were considerably stronger than I.  We managed to catch the main field halfway through the final lap.  I got dropped on the final 3-ish  minute climb almost instantly, but was only a minute or so down from the main pack.   There was a group off the front by many minutes too.  I've never been so happy for an almost pack finish.  It was great.

Stage 2.  Road Race.  70 miles.  The first  50 were rather boring, but I'll take it.  There was a group of 3 off the front that had 3 minutes just after the first feed zone.  Some teammates and I went to the front to reel some of it in.  By the bottom of the hill we had put 40 seconds into the break, but I paid for it when I fell off about halfway up the hill.  The group did eventually catch the break, and I caught up with 3 others for the trip home to the finish.  2 of us were willing to work, but the other guy got a flat, so I just TT'ed all the way home, dragging whoever was willing.  I ended up losing about 5 minutes on the group, but only 1 place on GC.  Not horrible, and I'm telling myself that it was better for our team leader that I worked to catch the break instead of defending my 23rd place on GC.  It was nice to be useful.

Stage 3, the Crit.  Oh God.  Holy Shit that was fast.  At one point there was a break up the road.  I tried to bridge my team leader up to it, but when I was about halfway there, some guy from the bridge group attacked.  The teammate was able to hold his wheel and make it up to what was eventually the winning break, and he got 2nd.  I spent the rest of the day sprinting as fast as I could just to stay in the peloton, but I managed to do it, and finished in the pack.  At a few points in the race I was hanging by a thread, but it ended up ok.

All in all, a great race.  I'm sad that there isn't any racing until at least February, but I'm also glad to take a break, eat some donuts, and regroup for next year.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Descending, time to get serious.

I wrote this article for a friend of mine who can climb way faster than me, but keeps getting dropped on descents.  That's a crappy way to lose a race.

Overview:  The entire outcome of a turn will be decided before the turn is initiated.  Your entry point and entry speed into the corner determine if you'll make it through, and how fast that will happen.  Everything depends on setting up the turn correctly.  The second half of a perfect turn is bliss, because all the work has been done, and you just get to ride it out in triumph.

Brake Adjustment:  Make sure that your brakes are centered so that both pads hit the rim at the same time.  Also make sure that the cable tension is such that you can almost make the brake lever touch the handlebar when you're squeezing as hard as you can.  Your hands can apply less force when they're extended, and more force when they're almost closed.  This ensures that you have the most braking power available.  Lots of people (and bike shops) like to make brakes super tight, but then all of the braking action happens when your fingers are extended, and relatively weaker than if they were closed a bit.

Braking:  Try to do 95% of your braking before the turn even starts, and use mainly your front brake.  Always be in the drops, stay low, and shift your weight  as far back as you can while braking.  When you hit your brakes, your center of gravity shifts forward, putting much more weight on the front wheel than on the back.  The extreme of this is the endo, when your back wheel lifts up and you go flying over the handlebars.  If you're low in the drops and have your weight shifted backwards, this will never happen on a road bike unless you hit something like a curb or another cyclist, or are going down a VERY steep hill.  What this weight shift DOES do, however, is take a lot of weight off your rear wheel, giving it significantly less traction.  This will cause it to skid with much less applied brake than it would take to lose traction on the front.  The fastest possible stop that could happen is when you hit the front brake so hard that your rear wheel is just about to lift off the ground.  In this scenario your rear brake is completely useless.  In real life, we don't do this, but mentally know that your front brake is doing almost all of the work, and squeeze it accordingly.  Just feather the rear brake as necessary.

If your rear wheel starts to skid, it your bike will try to swing around you, sometimes called fishtailing.  If this happens, you need to let go of the rear brake completely, and the front brake partially, until you regain control.  Then fully squeeze the front again and be cautious with the rear.  Your momentum wants you to keep going forward.  Since your front wheel is providing most of the stopping power, all of the mass behind the front wheel (you) will have a tendency to want to pivot around so that it can keep moving forward.  Your rear wheel keeps this from happening, but not when it's skidding.

The first thing we're going to practice is hitting the brakes SUPER hard while riding down the hill in a straight line.  The goal of this is to understand what maximum braking feels like.  The goal again is to apply as much front brake as possible, and some rear brake, but not enough to make it skid out.  While practicing, you may lock up your rear wheel to get the feel for what it takes, and how to control the bike while it’s happening, but that’s not the goal when actually descending.

Brake sharply before the turn, then apply minimal brakes through the turn to keep from accelerating due to the hill.  Your speed should be slowest at the beginning of the turn, and you should accelerate or maintain that speed throughout.   If you find your self needing to decrease your speed during the turn, you entered too fast.  There is a concept in auto racing called the Traction Circle.  A tire can only apply so much force to the road before it starts to skid.   A tire is just smooth rubber, so it doesn't know which direction the force is being applied.  The end result is that a tire can apply maximum traction in the forward direction while braking in a straight line, or maximum traction in a sideways direction while turning, or some non-maximal combination of the two.  As a result, the theoretically quickest way through a turn is to apply maximum brakes in a straight line, then turn as sharp as possible without braking through the turn, and coast or accelerate out of it.  Our task is complicated just a bit if the turn is on a downhill section, so what we'll do is slightly different.  You can continue to brake through the turn, but only enough to maintain the proper speed.  You should do all your slowing down before you turn in.

Again, momentum wants us to keep moving forward in a straight line.  If you apply too much brake during a turn, you may lose traction, but more likely is that your bike is going to want to straighten out, and push you into a wider turn than you had anticipated.  This can cause you to cross the yellow line, or even ride off the road.  It's a really weird feeling, and it sucks.  Don't brake hard while turning.

Choosing a Line:  If making a right turn, you should start on the left side of the road, dive in and just brush the white line in the very center of the turn, and drift out to the yellow line on the left side as you exit the turn.  The sideways force required to change direction is directly related to how sharp of a turn you're trying to make.  The purpose of choosing a good line is to make the turn as wide as possible, this requiring the least amount of force and allowing you to get through it as fast as possible.  The point on the inside of the turn, halfway through, is called the apex.  You should aim for this point when turning in to a corner.  If the turn gets progressively sharper, you need to do something called a "late apex,"  where you choose your target point deeper into the turn.  Conversely, if it starts sharp, and then gets wider, you can apex earlier for maximum speed.  Not really important right now, but worth thinking about.

This is the best line through  a 90 degree turn

Learn when to initiate a turn:  Practice diving into corners at different points.  If you turn in too early you’ll reach the inside of the road before the apex.  If you turn in too late, you’ll never reach the apex and you’ll be forced to the outside.  Both of these will result in you having to take the turn slower than you could.  Knowing when to turn in is very specific to the conditions of the turn, but knowing the consequences of turning in too early or late will allow you to learn as you go.  If done correctly, just as you reach the apex of the turn, the road will open up in front of you, allowing you room to drift back to the outside edge without any abrupt braking or turning.

Look Ahead, where you want to go.  Don’t look at your front wheel or directly in front of it.  Your balance and the balance of your bike are important to cornering smoothly.  Your head controls your balance, so point it where you want to go.  Staring at your front wheel will make you very twitchy, and can lead to dizziness and vertigo.  Not good things when you’re trying to control your line at speed.

Weight Balance:  During the turn, keep your weight low and a bit forward compared to normal riding. Stay in the drops, and sit near the front of your saddle, or hover just over it.  Keep your pedals horizontal, and your knees bent.   Our bikes are designed to put more weight on the rear wheel than the front. This makes them more stable for normal riding, but for descending, you want to weight both wheels as evenly as possible.  This means you need to shift your weight forward a bit.  I've heard that you're supposed to drop the outside pedal, and put all of your weight on it, but keeping the pedals even allows you to use your legs to absorb bumps in the road, which I'm a big fan of.

Countersteering:  Know that it exists but don’t worry about it.  Countersteering is the subject of much debate on the internet and otherwise.  It is a physical truth but you don’t really have to think much about it.  The idea is that in order to make a right turn, for example, you must first turn to the left a bit.  Try this:  As you’re riding down a wide, straight, safe road, push your palm forward against the right handlebar.  The bike will twitch to the left, but you’ll end up turning right to keep your balance.  That’s all you need to understand.  While cornering at speed, don’t think about your handlebars turning at all, just look where you want to go, lean, and your bike will follow.

Flat Cornering:   A lot of this stuff isn't applicable to crits.  With crits, I think it's more about pedaling as much as possible than it is about coasting through turns with the right line.  I'm not good at crit cornering, so I'll stop here.

What we're going to do is this:  Once you find out how hard you can slam on the brakes while going straight, we'll start cornering.  You'll approach the corner, hit the brakes, glance at your speed, follow the correct line through the corner, and glance at your speed on the way out.  You will then progressively build speed by repeating the corner over and over.  As you get more familiar, you can brake harder and later, and also carry more speed through the corner.  Lookout has 12 corners that require braking:  Starting from the top:  2 right hand turns that can be taken at 30mph.  The first set of switchbacks can be taken at 25, as can the second set of switchbacks.   There are 2 left turns near the bottom that can be taken at 30 and 35 mph respectively, and then the final left which you can take at 25 or so.  Obviously you can't memorize every turn in every race, but you can get a feel for how fast you can take a corner by looking at it.  By training yourself to eek every bit of speed out of the corners that you’re familiar with, you’ll gain confidence to solidly descend on corners you’re less familiar with.  If a race has many laps like the one at steamboat, you should get progressively faster on each descent as you learn where to turn in to each corner, and how fast you can afford to take it.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Mountain Biking.

Mountain bikes are a whole world of money and time I don't have.  I'm already about to lose my job from all the training I do on the road.  How anybody with a semblance of a job and/or a relationship can mountain bike AND be decent on the road is way beyond me.

What I don't get about mountain bikes is how ridiculously expensive they are.  Strange I know coming from a guy with a bike that would retail for like $8k.  But a road bike, if ridden ideally, isn't going to crash.  Of course disaster can strike.  Road bikes seldom crash, but when they do, it's costly.

The first (and only) time I rode a mountain bike, I had good fun, but I crashed like a gazillion times.  I've been told that if you aren't crashing, you aren't learning/progressing/having fun/whatever.  I imagine that as I progressed, I wouldn't crash any less, I'd just be doing it at higher velocities, and I 'd be breaking a lot of shit.  Hydraulic brakes and carbon everything just don't make much sense when a stray branch on that "wicked" descent can snag a brake line, cover you in oily goo, and subsequently snap your carbon frame like a Haussler'd front wheel.

I have respect for people who can do things on a bike that I can't.... i just don't get it.

and yea, I know this doesn't really follow the "rules" format.  Honestly I'm running out of rules.  There really aren't too many of them, just a ton of violators.  Suggestions?


Sorry for the lack of posting lately.  I've been feeling a little burnt out, plus I upgraded recently so I'm feeling a lot less superior than I used to.  Rest assured, I'm still riding, and still making fun of you behind your back on the road, and publicly on the internet.

 Today's rule is worth rementioning
I don't care HOW HOT is is outside, don't wear sleeveless Jerseys.  Just don't.  And cycling caps aren't helmets, they just aren't.  You don't look cool, and you're not the old school pro you're apparently dressing like if I'm passing you up the hill.

That is all.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Race to win, loser!

I don't know who emasculated the entire Colorado Cat. 3 peloton, but I suspect that this is happening in other places as well.  Nobody wants to work.  Nobody wants to win.  It's like there are 75 people at a bike race, and their only aspiration is to not lose.  Ricky Bobby anyone?  If you're not first, you're last.

Of course you can be all sorts of other things, 2nd, 3rd, but most people are content with 45th or 23rd, as long as they didn't do too much work to get there.  That's fucked up, and it's a waste of your time and money.

Here's a secret.  You have to work if you want to win a bike race.  If you work and someone else gains a little from it, good for them, but you still have to work if you want to win a bike race.  More on this later.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cost heirarchy

If your bike is worth more than the car it's riding on top of, that's admirable, maybe.

If your roof rack is worth more than the bike that's sitting on it, you're an idiot. 

Put it in your trunk.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Rule: Learn to do your own maintenance

So there a a few different types of shop mechanics:

Those who think it's a job:
Horrible people, these.  An entry level mechanic makes minimum wage, has absolutely no clue what they're doing, and is likely in it for the shop discount.  Good deal for him, bad deal for you.

Those with an agenda:
These people love bikes, and think that everybody should get rid of their car and ride a steel bike with 700x32 tires and racing is stupid and anything newer than 6-speed is stupid.  They often know their shit, but not with new equipment, and they despise you for making use of technology that's any newer than the printing press.  If your mechanic wears a cycling cap indoors that looks like it's a bazillion years old, this is probably his category.

Mountain Bikers:
MTB suspension and braking systems require a fair amount of expertise, so anybody who is skilled at fixing a mountain bike should be able to handle anything that goes wrong on your road bike.  The issue is that they don't care about your road bike, and they're likely too buzzed to get it done in any reasonable amount of time.

The ex-pro mechanic:
The guy that's been in the industry forever.  He probably worked on Sean Kelly or Andy Hamsten's bike back in the day.  They race masters, and simply love working on bikes.  Somehow, they are at a place in life where it's ok to work at a bike shop full time.  They keep updated on new equipment, and can fix anything with anything.  These guys are awesome, but they're few and far between, and the shops that they work for are going to be pricey.  They're also probably quite busy, so anything more complex than a tire change is going to take your bike out of commission for a week or more.  You don't find these guys at performance, or your local trek/specialized concept store.  Actually, if you think your mechanic is like this, you're probably wrong and you're probably getting overcharged for shoddy work.

Unless you have way more money than time (if you do, please accept my jealousy), you don't have any use for a bike mechanic.

With a modest number of tools, you can do 99% of what a shop can do, and you can do it better.  What bike shops have in terms of experience, you can more than make up for with the fact that you actually care about your bike.

You do care about your bike, don't you?

Ok the tools you need:
A set of allen wrenches, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8mm Here's a cheap set.
Chain tool, Like this one
Cassette removal tool, and chain whip 5 bucks, 12 more
Cable Cutters (wire cutters will NOT work for this)nice ones will make your life a lot easier
Rags, You can figure this one out.
Your chain lube of choice ,  Everyone has one, this is mine.
Grease, you can get a 1lb tub from an auto parts store for less than $5
A phillips head screwdriver, you know what those look like
A set of needle-nosed pliers, those too.
A bottom bracket wrench, like this, but they also come with shimano cranks (bet the shop didn't tell you that!)

Ok that looks like a long list, but aside from building wheels, this will accomplish EVERYTHING you'll ever need to do to your bike.  Check out the www.parktool.com website for tutorials on how to fix or adjust anything on your bike and you're good to go.

Knowing how to ride a bike is great, but understanding your machine makes you a true journeyman.  It also gives you the power to help others should the need arise.  So stop wasting your money and losing your bike for weeks at a time, and learn the tools of your craft.

Want to know how to do something specific?  ASK!  I can tell you how to do it, or I can point you to a website that does it better than I would.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Earphones: Do I REALLY have to say this?

Ok, so I get that Triathlons are boring, and I get that training for tri's is also boring.  That DOES NOT mean you should shut out the outside world while you do hot laps up and down the bike path.  Commuters: same shit.  I know that you don't know how to ride a bike anyway, and that's okay, I'm happy that you're swerving down the bike path instead of swerving into me in your SUV, but do you really need to complicate something you apparently struggle with already by removing one of your senses?

Road cyclists, you have no excuse.  One of the purposes of getting on the bike is to escape from the constant drone of technology.  The other is to suffer.  Of course there is also an implied goal in there to make it home without getting run over.  Listening to music inhibits all of these.  You might as well be driving your car or sitting in front of your computer at work.  And the suffering:  music distracts from it.  You really shouldn't short change the suffering.

I'm not buying your "it's not very loud" or "it's only one ear" bullshit.  Even turned off completely, earphones block a fair amount of outside noise, and I have no desire to make myself blind in only one eye.  When you are cycling, it's best to assume that every single other person is both completely unaware of your presence, meanwhile they are trying to kill you.  If you were being hunted by ninjas in big lumbering SUV's, would you not want to hear them coming, and at least brace for impact?

And then of course there's me.  I have to somehow get around your path swerving bumbling beach cruiser, road bike with clip ons, or whatever.  Trying to predict when to pass is a lot like watching plinko, and it's not made any easier when my "on your left" falls on deaf ears.

To sum up, just don't do it.  Of course if a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to run you over, go for it, but if it's in a place where me, or anybody else can tell that you're trying to block us out, we're all going to think you're a douchebag.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I see people breaking rules all the time.  For this particular offender on my way home yesterday, his "ride super fast and try to drop the guy in matching kit whilst looking backward erratically" speed was strikingly similar to my "riding with no hands while trying to fish a camera/phone out of my backpack" speed, so he got documented.
Don't do this:

Of course this guy is breaking all sorts of rules (backpack, non-functioning blinky light, dork disk (not pictured), hairy legs, MTB jersey,  1980's bike shorts with neon yellow and purple stripes.  All of those would be forgivable since he obviously isn't a roadie, he's a commuter, albeit a commuter desperately trying to drop a roadie. . .

But under NO circumstances should ANYBODY be allowed to rock the back gap.  Just don't people.  The LAST thing I want to see on my leisurely ride home is your hairy, sweaty assback.  It's only made worse by the part where you're desperately trying to stay in front of me, and my mandated recovery wattage isn't enough to drop you.

Related note:  Don't try to drop people on the bike path or on city streets.  It's stupid, unsafe, and worst of all, it makes you look desperate.  If you want to race, you know where to sign up.  If you want to be competitive with other cyclists on the road, even that has a place, but that place is on the training hill, not on your commute home.  Definitely not on mine.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Cycling Caps part Deux:

Ok, so upon reader comments, and careful consideration, I rescind my previous judgment on cycling caps.

The goal of this blog is to explain the rules as they are, not to make them up based on my own judgment or opinions.

I stand by my previous statements though.  Cycling caps are mostly useless.  What about a flippy bill keeps your head warm?  I have plenty of cycling specific beanies for their sweat-wicking and head-warming properties.  And I've never once thought to myself "wow, I really wish I had a diminutive bill on here to keep me warmer."  When it's raining, I'm less worried about water from the sky, and more worried about the crap coming from the wheel of the guy in front of me.... but I digress.

The new verdict: Cycling Caps = Ok, but proceed with caution, and be prepared to defend your decision.

Make sure you look more like this guy:

And less like this guy:

And whether you decide to rub a cap or not... riding without a helmet is still retarded.  Period.

Boonen pic stolen from http://joshcunninghamcycling.com

Friday, May 7, 2010

Cycling Caps: Nope.

On friday morning, I received my first comment from someone I don't actually know.  That's rad, thanks!  To end my brief hiatus from complaining blogging about cycling, I will answer your question:  No, cycling caps are, sadly, not allowed.

My problem with these things is twofold:
1.  I don't think they actually serve any useful purpose. 
You should already be wearing a helmet and sunglasses, so why do you need a tight fitting cap with a short/flippable bill?  Their wicking properties are practically nonexistant, as are their sunblocking properties.  The bill is big enough to get in the way, but not big enough to actually do anything useful.  The one possible exception is that I've heard that these things can keep water out of your face if it's raining.  I don't believe this, but haven't disproven it either.

2.  Douchebags wear cycling caps.
Hipsters. Euro wannabe riders.  That bike shop mechanic with hairy legs that swears he rides 500 miles a week on his fixed gear but is at least 20 pounds overweight and obviously painfully slow.  People with way too much facial hair.  All of these people think it's okay to wear cycling caps, so why would you want to be associated with them?  You don't.

I've tried to like them.  I've perused the entire catalog over at walzcaps.com, but I really think that they are better left to people you don't want to associate with.  And Ivan Basso, who can really do whatever the fuck he wants.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Required Reading

I think a lot of our problems would be solved if everybody who thinks they know how to ride a bike was forced to read The Rider, by Tim Krabbe.

Cycling is about Suffering.  Suffering, and some strategy, but mostly suffering.  The strongest riders are the ones who suffer the most, everyday.  The riders who win the race are the strongest riders who are willing to suffer, and if they don't it's because someone else suffered almost as much, but had better strategy. 

 I think that if everyone were required to read this book, we wouldn't have to have discussions about why street sprints are stupid, and why crits are to bike racing what pizza hut is to Italian food.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Riding Fast: Know when to hold em, know when to chill the fuck out.

If you want to ride socially, you're going to have to go on a few group rides.  Here is how most of them work:  A bunch of guys all ride somewhere and then all hell breaks loose and somebody wins.  Today's rule involves the "all ride somewhere" part.  If you show up to a group ride for the first time and a bunch of guys are talking to each other about their favorite brand of taint cream, or how many calories they're allowed to eat on this ride, that isn't your cue to go to the front and hammer your fat argyle clad ass off.  We are NOT impressed with how strong you are.  We ARE all pissed that you've strung us out single file on a busy city street where we can no longer talk about our favorite flavor of nair and instead have to ruin our fun conversational warmup ride to chase you around.  This is only made awesomer when we get to the real part of the ride and you get dropped like a plinko chip with a helmet mirror.  Then we spend the rest of the ride complaining about the fatty that had to show off on the ride to the ride.

Moral of the story:  If you're new to a group ride, don't show off.  Especially don't show off if you don't know when you should be going fast.  ESPECIALLY don't show off if in the first 10 miles of an 80 mile ride.

That's all.  Thanks.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Helmet Visors: We aren't savages

I really need to get quicker with the camera.  I spotted a guy on Lookout this thursday riding a Ridley (newer, don't know which model) with Reynolds deep carbon wheels and a helmet with a VISOR, yes a visor.

I know you're fat and slow, but if you were fast, you'd know that you can't wear a helmet visor while riding in the drops because you need to look up through the space that the visor is taking up.   Since you are trying to give the appearance that you are fast, you need to remove the visor.

Helmet visors are for mountain bikers.  We are NOT mountain bikers.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Carbon Wheels: I don't want to see them.

I think the most common faux pax to happen on the bike path is when some guy with more money than skill decides to buy fancy wheels, that he then decides to train on.

Here's the deal:  Carbon wheels are light, fragile, and awesome.  The purpose of them is to make you a very small percent more aerodynamic, and thus faster at speed.  The only time you need to be 1% faster is in a race, so you DO NOT NEED THEM while riding on the path, or going up lookout about as fast as one of those paragliders comes down.  Riding ridiculously expensive wheels when you aren't racing is really just a big red flag that tells us all that you aren't fast, and like to waste your money trying to impress us.

Don't tell me about how "it's your money" or you'll "ride what you like."  A better use of your money would have been a powertap and decent training wheels, or better yet, a cycling vacation so you'd actually BE fast, and not just be a tool who thinks they look fast.  The ONLY reason to ride deep carbon wheels on the bike path is so that others will see you on them.  You want to impress us, not give us fodder for ridicule, so leave the zipps and reynolds at home, until you're actually ready to race.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Quick frustrated note

I don't care how "sexy" your bike is.  If it has a squeaky, grinding drivetrain, that trumps it all and makes your bike worthless to me.  The same thing goes double for fixed gears.  Just because you only have one cog doesn't mean you don't have to keep your chain clean.  The intermittent squeak of a poorly kept fixed drivetrain is very distinctive, and just thinking about it creeps me out. 

Silence in a drivetrain is nirvana. 

Just trust me and clean your bike every now and then.  If you have a rediculously expensive or "customized" whip, then pay someone else to do it.  I don't care, I just don't want to hear you from 3 blocks away.

On Modesty, Part 2: Equipment

Anybody who has taken music lessons at some point should be familiar with the phrase: "Those who can, do, and those who can't, teach."  In cycling, those who can't, buy.  And buy we do.    If you can't impress your friends by destroying them up hills at races, you can always impress them with cool shit, and here's how you do it:

It's important to have a complete package.  I'm talking about that guy in boulder with the Trek Madone whatever.0 with Di-2, full assos kit, and no helmet.  I see that and I think anybody who can buy a $900 rear derailluer really should invest in a decent helmet.  Similarly, an awesome bike can be ruined aesthetically by having one yellow tire or dirty bar tape.  Just be mindful.

There's sort of a tipping point with bikes after which they become "dentist" bikes.  Serottas and newer orbeas are like this.  I don't care if it cost $7000.  If the head tube is 2 feet long and nobody in the pro peleton rides one, it's going to be hard to impress the group.  Cervelo is quickly going this way too, especially since they are so loved by triathletes, and the rich fat guy spillover has been forthcoming.

Newest and greatest is always good, but mix it up.   Campy can come off as pretentious, especially if it's written on clothing, and not on shifters.

The goal is go get stuff that people will recognize as awesome, but not as overdone.  This can be a moving target, so be careful.   Look, BMC and Time are pretty cool, but Pinarello and especially Colnago are too dentisty.  It's hard to get away with anything american, so avoid Trek, bontrager etc.  Specialized has managed to lose some of the american stigma by sponsoring every team under the sun, but Cannondale still reeks of NFL and NASCAR.  Somehow, high end carbon wheels are okay, Zipp, Hed, and Edge are all cool.  I don't quite get why, but that's how it is.  Somehow Giant bikes are allowed too, especially the newer ones with the gigantic downtubes.

There are a few bikes out there made by companies that specialize in Tri bikes that are NOT allowed.  Guru, Quintana Roo, and Argon 18 just aren't going to fly with road cyclists.  They may make a decent frame but we just don't care.

Friday, February 19, 2010

On modesty, Part 1: Fitness

Ok, cycling is a group sport and we all want to be accepted, if not admired by our peers.  We look up to professional cyclists because they are ridiculously strong, and we recognize that their ability to suffer and their physical fitness are way above ours.  We also would like some of that admiration to be given to us, because we suffer too.  Like the Lemond quote about it never hurting less...  although I feel like Jens has felt more pain than any of us ever have or ever will, and he just keeps on destroying.

But I digress; nobody is going to admire your efforts unless they know about them, so it becomes necessary to inform your peers of your achievements so that they can tell you how cool you are.  Nobody appreciates boasting however, so it becomes tricky business getting your awesomeness across without being a dick.  Above all, don't be a dick.

Really, you should let your riding speak for itself.  If you do well in a race, news will get around.  If you do well in a race that nobody knew about, then bragging about it is just going to get you ridiculed.  We admire strength and suffering, not the will to show up and fork over $25 when nobody else did.

If you can't do well in races, then your next best chance for ego stroking is group rides.  The key to these is to do the best you can but only expect people to care on the day of the ride.  This week, nobody cares if you won the group ride sprint last week.  So if you win it this week, soak it up.

Don't tell us all how you dropped a known stronger rider.  There is a reason they are stronger than you.   Bragging about it makes you look desperate.  Nobody cares if you put in "big miles" on the trainer this week or did intervals so hard that you puked.  First off, we don't believe you, and secondly, plenty of people faster than you found some way to get fast without puking, so you should too.

If you can't shine in group rides or races, you really should just not be a dick.  Not being a dick can go a long way, and most of us would rather ride with a nice guy than a slightly faster guy who can't shut up about how fast he is.   This goes for girls too, if not especially.

Really, the keys to the clubhouse just come from being safe on the bike, and being cool.  "Being cool" involves congratulating other riders' achievements.  A lot of these rules can be broken without ill consequences if you're just an otherwise nice person.   Be safe, train hard, ride well, and be cool, and we'll all want to be friends with you.

Next post is about how to get recognition without fitness:  buy cool shit!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What you can and can't carry with you on the bike.

We wish we were all getting paid to do this, and were getting followed by our directors sportif in Audis with spare bikes mounted to the roof.  In reality this isn't the case, so we need to be prepared for the inevitable mishaps that are going to happen when you ride a bike over road debris for 90 miles at a time.

Minimalism is the acme of the competitive cyclist, but worse than being the dork with the seat bag is being the dork who has to borrow (and never return) a tube from the guy who was smart enough to bring one.

A (very small) seat bag is acceptable, indeed recommended, if you are riding without a support car.  This seat bag should have at least:

1 tube. ( a new one please, carrying along patched tubes is embarrassing.  I'm embarrassed to be with you if you're too cheap for a $3 tube.)
1 tire lever (1 more is acceptable)
1 inflation device (CO2 or a micro pump)
1 small multitool is acceptable but not necessary.

That's it.  Your seatbag should look like a small, tight pack under your seat, not a huge swinging testicle.  You don't need another tube in case your first replacement needs replacement.  You don't need a spare tubular (triathletes do this, and they don't know how to change tires in the first place... odd. )  You don't need a new set of spokes, a torque wrench, or a frame pump.  Your goal is to be able to get yourself home with the most likely mishaps taken care of, not to be a rolling bike shop.

You do NOT need a mirror of any kind.  Not on your helmet, not on your sunglasses, not the impaling weapon that mounts on your handlebars.  If you are incapable of turning your head or using your ears to get a sense of your surroundings, stay the fuck away from me and any other bikers you see.

If you are riding with somebody who doesn't know the rules, you should give him(her?) your spare tube, but feel free to be as smug as you can about it.  Don't expect to ever see your tube returned, but you can hold a grudge if you'd like.  As with any of the rules, just make the offender feel as awkward as possible, and you're doing the right thing.  We all thank you, good sir (madam?).

Friday, February 12, 2010

Slow = dangerous.

I wish I were able to make this post witty but I can't.  This is just how it is, so I'll try to keep it short.

Group rides are supposed to be fast.  Especially flat ones.  If the ride gets slow, people bunch up, and weak inexperienced morons start riding too close to each other.  This leads to unnecessary contact, some hairy moments, and possibly crashes.

If the pace stays high, then the weaklings are just hanging on for dear life in a single file line behind you.  It's much harder to lock handlebars with someone if there is nobody riding next to you.

I've crashed on the bike twice, and both times were because some moron though it would be a good idea to move up through the field by sprinting on that crack on the side of the road between the asphalt and the curb.  Granted that the people tho do this are just morons, but if the pace were faster and we were strung out, then they would either be to weak to move up, or atleast they would have some space on the road to try to sprint around us.

In a race, there's a lot of other stuff to worry about, but in a group ride;  Keep it fast.  If others don't want to keep it fast, then attack.  If they catch you, and slow down, attack again.  It's really the safest way to ride a bike in a group.

That is all, maybe I can think of something more entertaining later.