July 4, 2015
Ted King - Tour de France 2015
"Pain is just the status quo"
by Ted King
Square peg, round hole. That's the opening week of the Tour de France. I often use that same analogy for the unfolding of the hard nosed northern Belgian Classics -- most notably the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix -- but it's a fitting description for the first of three weeks racing across France as well. Like a children's game, the square peg doesn't fit into that round hole.
The aerial images are deceiving. The helicopters flying above offer a perspective on the peloton painting it in a serene, almost poetic manner. Like cream poured into a cup of dark coffee, there's rhythm found somewhere amid the indescribable blending and forming of the peloton as it flows down the road, especially as the pace picks up in the closing kilometers. From above, acutely sharp corners appear as soft, sinuous turns; roundabouts are like a stone in a stream where water coolly, flows around nearly unobstructed. The race itself, though, is anything but serene.
Just like in Belgium in early April, there are 190 riders fighting tooth and nail, risking that quite literally, to obey the simple team orders: ride in the front. The first two or three rows are the safest places to be in the bunch. Here, you're safely behind the very nose of the peloton as those hardworking souls (ahem, that is frequently my line of work) churn away at the front generating a draft for those behind. Beyond those first fifteen or 20 riders, and with every position lost thereafter, the dangers increase in the general scrum. Wheels touch, elbows bumps, cracks exist in the road, and at one point or another inevitably crashes happen and one will find himself "on the floor" as we say.
The Tour is no different -- especially with the Tour de France actually starting in the Netherlands and venturing into Belgium before dipping back into France. The roads are a touch wider than the Northern European ancient cow paths suitable for farm equipment, but the message is clear: Be at the front. Protect your leader. No excuses.
I'm often asked, "Are you just always in more and more pain, racing day in and day out like that?" The short answer is yes, that the stress and soreness of racing is cumulative, so you're fresher on day one than you are on day two, three, and four, but I then emphasize that growing tired is cumulative up to a point, so it's just a matter of how long it takes each person to reach that line. Three weeks is an impressively long time to do anything -- think where you were three weeks ago and you might struggle for an answer. The pain induced by racing eventually hits this plateau, different lengths of time for different riders, so rather than a continual painful downward spiral for three straight weeks, it might take seven or ten days or two weeks, but then you're just at a dull equilibrium. You're no longer losing your freshness or your springy pop, you're just at status quo.
Cycling is a sport steeped in tradition so the opening week of the Tour is characterized by intense speed and sprint victories. And why? Because it's always been that way perhaps? Why not open the race with intense mountains to really whittle the field down? That cumulative, tired state would be reached sooner in this case and presumably fewer accidents would happen in the mayhem of the final moments of the race as only a few riders are left to fight it out. Sure the NASCAR-loving, crash-seeking audience would be turned off with this format, but I trust that the answer comes back to tradition and "that's just the way it's done" is a reliably accurate response. Furthermore the sprint heavy week one offers a chance for the speed demons to shine and don cycling's most coveted prize, the yellow jersey. (That said, the drama of crashing tells a story as much as the mountains do, so those making money from the Tour's television rights have a say in the format of the race. I don't think we'll see an end to opening stage drama and subsequent road rash or more anytime soon.)
So buckle up NASCAR fans, strap on your helmet bike racing fans -- or just find your perch on your couch -- it's Tour time!
August 27, 2014
5 Fall Running Tips
by Dean Karnazes
Fall is a time to flourish. The colors are changing, the leaves are falling, the days are getting shorter, and the air is growing crisp and clear. Yet even as things darken, there is a particular vibrancy abounding as nature prepares for the intensity of the approaching winter season.
I've always enjoyed fall in California. We typically have a nice heat wave this time of year, which brings with it movement and energy. There is a power in the air giving way to the liveliness, and force of transition and changes yet to come.
Running in the fall can be invigorating. The lungs fill with the first hint of dryness. The skin feels cool. Things evaporate quicker. Mornings grow dimmer and evenings take on a distinctive hue. Many runners turn to the treadmill at this time. But not all. Some are hardy souls that brave the elements and embrace the adversity that comes along with fall and the changing season.
If you’re the outdoor type, below are five tips to help you make the most out of your Fall running experience.
1. As the air grows cooler, proper layering systems become essential. Consider arm sleeves or a shell over a wicking undergarment on colder days.
2. Fall tends to bring with it dryer air. Moisturizing lip balm can help prevent cracking and dried skin.
3. Set your clock an hour earlier to compensate for shorter days. This will help minimize the sting of time adjustment.
4. With the sun lower on the horizon, consider wearing a visor or cap to help shield your eyes or invest in a pair of photochromic glasses that automatically adjust to changes in lighting.
5. Remember safety concerns. With less daylight available be sure to wear a reflective vest if running in the early morning or late afternoon/evening, and always wear identification (i.e. Road ID).
Hope those are helpful, and let autumn commence!
May 30, 2014
Things to Consider When Getting Your Kid on a Bike
by Will Black, GM, Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop
Getting your kid on his or her first bike is both joyous and nerve wracking. With many types and brands of bikes available, the uncertainty of your child’s ability/desire, and predicting your kid’s growth patterns, the task can be daunting. Here, I’ll try to distill it into a stress free process that will get you the right bike without tears—yours or your kid’s.
Before we begin, a recommendation: We highly recommend buying your bike at a proper bike shop with a service department. This ensures that the bike was built correctly. And after the purchase, you can get adjustments made easily and conveniently. We get plenty of ill-built bikes from non-bike shops that we have to make rideable.
The Bicycle Progression
The Learner Bike
A first bike used to mean training wheels. Unfortunately, these can actually be counter-productive to learning proper balance. In recent years, trend has gone to balance bikes. These bikes have not pedals, and your kid learns by walking, gliding, coasting, and eventually riding on their own. In fact, if you have a pedaled bike, we advocate removing the pedals and treating it like a balance bike for learning. Brands like Strider and Skuut have some great options.
A Real Bike
A first “real” bike can be as simple as a one-speed coaster brake model, which is normally the best option for anyone just getting started. From there, you can get a bike that has both the coaster along with a hand brake, which will allow them to get comfortable with the idea of a hand brake-only bike.
The Big Kid Bike
Once your kid has mastered the beginner’s version, you’ll know what he or she is into—speed, distance, trails, etc. You can then choose from geared road or mountain bikes.
Steps in Bike Buying
Choosing the Bike
Let’s assume that the bike you are choosing is for a kid who has mastered the basics of riding. Above we’ve covered the value of a balance bike.
What kind of riding will your kid be doing? Is it going to be ridden around the neighborhood on the sidewalks? Maybe some dirt trails? Are they the daredevil type that will build ramps and jumps? Maybe a little bit of each of these. Each of these type of activities has a purpose-built bike, but the primary activity will dictate which option you should go with. If it’s a little of everything, a hybrid-style geared bike with wide wheels and upright bars will be a good all-rounder. Your bike shop can steer you towards road bikes, bmx style, or mountain bikes depending on your kid’s style of riding. The majority of kids’ bikes we sell are mountain bikes due to their toughness, versatility, wide tires/wheels, and gearing.
The next step is to figure out the wheel and frame size that works best. While the most common thought process is to get a bike that they will grow into, you have to do this within reason. If the bike is too large, it may be unwieldy and difficult for him to ride comfortably as well as safely, and in the long run, may discourage them from riding at all.
My best advice with regards to picking the correct frame size is to rely on your bike shop professional. They will be able to work within your desire to get a bike that may be a bit big, while still making sure that it can be ridden safely.
Before putting wheels on the ground, get a helmet. Perhaps the most important thing about the helmet is to make sure it’s habit. So, anytime your child—or you—gets on a wheeled vehicle, the helmet goes on, no matter how short a ride. Be consistent and it’ll be habit. You will want to make sure it fits properly and again: a professional salesperson should be able to help with this as well. Once they have tried on the helmet for the overall size, make sure that you also get the straps adjusted for fit as well.
From here you might want to purchase a lock, especially if they are going to be using the bike to get to and from school.
Rules of the Road
Finally, it is imperative that your child knows the relevant rules of the road before they head outside of your yard or driveway. They should be able to recognize and follow traffic signs and signals, and follow them rigorously. They should also know and use widely-used hand signals, such as turning, before they sally forth.
Following these simple steps will provide your child with many fun filled days riding and exploring their ever-expanding world.
SideBar: Teaching Your Kid to Ride
For the beginner, we think we’ve got the best method for teaching.
1. Start with no pedals. Either take your pedals off the bike, or get a balance bike.
2. Lower the seat. The kid should be able to be flat footed on while seated.
3. Find a grassy area with a very mild slope.
4. Let the child walk his or her bike down the slope and repeat.
5. Progress to a trot or run.
6. Using momentum, have him pick his feet up and coast.
7. Continue this until she can coast easily.
8. Move it to the hard surfaces.
9. Add the pedals, raise the seat, and ride!
May 29, 2014
Five Things I’ve Learned as a Pro Cyclist
by Ben King
(Ted King and I enjoying an American style brunch in Italy)
1. How many calories in almost everything edible. As an athlete, it is important to fuel and replace the energy you burn in training and racing. Diet is as important a part of training as the effort you make on the bike. I set a rule for myself in Italy -- where I base during the season -- to ride at least three hours to earn a pizza. A calorie burned is a calorie earned, though some take that tenet liberally. Chris Horner infamously prefers to eat a cheeseburger rather than pasta, and favors a Snickers over a gel during races. In general, it is important to get your calories from foods supplying a rich variety of nutrients. As a rule of thumb, naturally-colorful food contains more vitamins and minerals.
2. How to manage mechanical breakdowns in the boondocks. Anything from fixing a stripped seat bolt with a stick and a coke can, to stuffing a flat tire with enough leaves to get home, or patching a hole in the tire with a folded dollar bill. I’ve run into many of these tough situations, and learning to deal with it myself has definitely been part of becoming a pro.
(Planes, trains, taxis, you name it. All the tickets it took to get back to Italy after a race.)
3. How to pack. We live out of our suitcases for weeks at a time at training camps and races. We travel with bikes, accessories, race and training kit and enough luggage to last months in Europe. All that baggage also makes you an expert at packing -- we can play Tetris with bags, boxes, and bikes to fit a seemingly impossible amount of luggage into any space.
4. Learn to live in close quarters. I'm not married, but I've learned how to live with someone. You wouldn't believe how small our hotel rooms are at some races. Sometimes there is barely enough space to separate the beds with our luggage on the floor. After days of intense, high-stress racing, it is important to unwind in the hotel room. Some guys are super-organized. Some keep their suitcases like a bird's nest. Some like a quiet time and space to read. Some like to watch music videos. Some take a nap, and stay up late. Others are busy with space legs and foam rollers before an early bedtime. Sometimes I need to pay attention to the daily program and make sure we move on time, and sometimes my roommate has the schedule drilled down. Everybody has their own quirks and routines. It is important to respect the common area, know when to talk, and when to give your roommate a sense of privacy. It takes flexibility to share such intimate quarters with another person. Of course, in the life of a pro cyclist, everything is easiest when you're friends with your teammates.
(Jens Voigt has been a pro for a long time. He knows how to rest. )
5. How to rest. We are either training with our heart rates sky-high, or plopped on the couch trying to bring it down. There are a number of inactivities that immobilize me after training. Playing guitar, reading, writing, and binge-watching TV enforces my down time -- but it doesn't matter what you're doing, as long as you aren't moving. The closer you are to horizontal, the better for recovery. When I turned pro, I no longer had to set an alarm for training or to clean up and run to class afterwards. The new freedom to “rest hard” was the biggest change in my training and has made the biggest difference in my racing.
May 22, 2014
5 Group Ride Mistakes to Avoid
by Peter Wilborn
In principle, there are good reasons that cyclists have always ridden together: it is faster, safer, and more fun. But these days, instead of orderly and elegant formations, group rides too often devolve into chaotic and unsafe hammerfests.
Here are five common mistakes to avoid when riding with others:
1. Do not surge
A group ride is not a runaway train. The point of riding as a group is so the peloton can cheat the wind, with riders in the front cutting through air resistance for the benefit of those behind. The art is in rotation, with those in front peeling off to let fresher legs take over.
Your job up front is to maintain the peloton’s speed, not to increase it. But on almost every group ride, at every level, the rider in front lets his ego take over, puts his head down, and hauls away. While it may feel great to be the one that puts the hurt on others, you will splinter the group, send the wrong message down the line (so the next guy tries to go even faster), and ruin the ride.
2. Do not gap
This is the biggest problem with lots of rides, from no-drop rides (in which folks are allowed to catch up at some point) to Tuesday-night-worlds: riders on the back have to pedal their legs off to hang on.
Word to the wise: if you cannot hang on and are regularly gapped (hoping only to catch back on at the next stop), the ride is too fast for you. If you can admit that, and find a slower group, you will enjoy the ride a lot more and actually realize the benefit of riding with others.
3. Do not overlap
This is especially a problem with novices. They are told to be close to the rear wheel in front of them, but out of nervousness, inexperience or insecurity, riders often try to ‘catch up’ to wheel in front. And instead of holding a consistently close distance, they overlap their front wheel with the rear wheel ahead of them.
The unavoidable happens. When the rider in front peels of to the right (or tries to avoid a road obstacle by moving to the left), the wheels touch. We all know what happens next.
4. Do not tap
This one takes practice, even for pros. When there is a road imperfection, for example, the natural reflex is to tap your brakes to get control over your bike. But tapping brakes slows you down quickly and without warning, causing others behind you to run into you unless they also brake. Like kids playing “Telephone,” the message down the group dangerously amplifies. So, lay off the brakes unless necessary.
5. Do not be too proud to learn (or to teach)
Group riding is an art, and takes practice. Just because you are fit (or because you splurged on fancy wheels), do not assume that group riding comes naturally. Take time to practice, seek out advice from the more experienced, and admit that there’s more to learn.
Every ride should have a leader or two. And it’s their job to lead, to enforce the rules, and to teach. If cyclists are to be respected by drivers, a good place to start is to respect cyclists with more knowledge and to respect those who need some.
Peter Wilborn is a founder of Bike Law, a national network of bicycle lawyers. Since 1998, he has represented cyclists and cycling clubs in bicycle-related legal issues, from injury cases to the organization of bike clubs and advocacy groups.
His article "The Lost Art of the Group Ride," has been downloaded over 75,000 times and prompted discussion around the globe about deteriorating etiquette on recreational rides.
May 20, 2014
Why Roadies Should Train With A Mirror: 5 Tips for Competitive Riders
by Bob Mionske
Have you ever used a mirror? If you’re like most roadies, probably not.
Mirrors are not for everyone, but I’ve been using a mirror every day for years, and I think a significant percentage of competitive cyclists would be grateful if they gave one a try. Bicycle mirrors come in many forms, but the two basic types are those that mount to your head via your helmet or glasses, and those that are connected somewhere on your bike. On my bikes, I use a sleek and aerodynamic bar end type that no one even notices.
There is some disagreement about the usefulness of mirrors, but mostly I hear that from riders who have not even tried one, or who haven’t given it enough time. So I would suggest that if you fall into the majority of roadies who haven’t used one, try one out for yourself. I think for many, it’s going to be an eye-opening experience once it finally clicks. Using a mirror takes some getting used to, so I would suggest giving it a week or two before you decide whether they are for you.
There are many examples of why mirrors make riding safer, but here are 5 reasons a mirror helps a competitive rider (whether you officially race or just race other riders you encounter on your route). Of course, you might fear that using a mirror means you are now entering Fred-dom, but fear not. If you win the ride, you are no Fred!
1. Three is not company: Roadies spend a lot of time training, and need easy miles as much as they need hard ones. So you are on a training riding with a friend, chatting away, and well before you would have heard the car approaching from the rear you see it in your mirror, call out ‘car back’ and you single up, allowing the vehicle to pass seamlessly before you regroup.
2. The Magic Gap: You are feeling good and want to push yourself with some hard efforts, but just before you get started a quick glance at your mirror lets you know a rider is bearing down on you. Since you are in the mood to mix it up and today is a hammer day, you slowly accelerate without giving away your increased effort, thereby continuously holding the rider at bay and leaving him bewildered and looking for a new coach.
3. Don’t Be a Gnome-Looker: You are overtaking another rider or group of riders. Of course, you give a friendly wave as you roll by. But now the race is on and you are the rabbit. Instead of continuously pretending to look with interest at the yard gnomes in front of the homes you pass in order to obtain information about your chaser(s), you simply glance at a small reflective surface and know exactly what advantage you have, and gauge your efforts accordingly.
4. Shark Attack: You are on a tough climb and the hammer is down. You get a gap on the group and hope you can hold them off until the top and gain all the glory. Of course, you are going hard, but because it is a climb you know not to dig too hard too soon. Doing so will mean blowing up and losing time. Knowing where the nearest chaser is will take energy and give away your concern. Then the sharks will smell blood in the water. Some climbs have switch-backs that provide a good view behind without ‘looking’ back, but this climb is not curvy. Having a mirror on board means one quick peek gives you all the info you need.
5. Cracking Eggs: The other rider you are exchanging pulls with is killing you. You are not sure how long you can take it. Every time he comes through he accelerates and it is starting to break you. Nevertheless, you match him pull for pull but also realize you can’t keep it up. But then you notice in the mirror that he takes longer and longer to get into your slipstream after you come around him and you see he too is suffering but not letting on. So now you know what to do. The next time you come through you give it everything you have and bam! He cracks.
Bob Mionske is a former U.S. Olympic and pro cyclist, a nationally-known cycling lawyer based in Portland, Oregon, and affiliated with the Bike Law network. A prolific advocate for the rights of cyclists, Mionske authored Bicycling & the Law in 2007, and has continued his advocacy on behalf of the rights of cyclists with his Road Rights column in Bicycling magazine.
May 16, 2014
Five Great Cycling Rivalries, But One to Top Them All
by Graham Watson
How does one define traditional cycling rivalry when the most famous ones often involve a teammate rather than a cyclist on an opposing team? I grew up as a cycling photographer while watching Hinault and Lemond at loggerheads in the 1986 Tour de France - and to this day that rivalry is the most potent I think I've seen. There have been others, of course, examples like the Visentini-Roche battle in the 1987 Giro, the famous Museeuw-Tafi-Bortolami spat in the 1996 Paris-Roubaix, the bitter Simoni-Cunego fight in the 2003 Giro d'Italia, and most recently the Wiggins-Froome pantomime in the 2012 Tour de France.
What made the Hinault-Lemond one so powerful was that the media and fans who followed those two Tours started taking sides, so explosive was the battle, so divisive would be its result. What was then a massive French entourage stood by their idol Hinault, who'd given them all so much to enjoy for so many years. Ranged against this mass was the rest of the world, led by the American and English-speaking followers, and backed by the Dutch, Belgian, Italian, and Spanish media. The French loved Hinault for his Gallic arrogance, and for constantly belittling this upstart American.
Lemond's supporters hated the Frenchman for the way in which he seemed to be bullying their man, for saying one thing but doing so blatantly the opposite. What was at stake made the rivalry even greater - a potential sixth Tour win for Hinault, a first-ever for Lemond, and with it for the new world of cycling such a victory would bring. Only Lemond knew the enormity of the fight - to concede to his virtual boss and wait another year for his chance, or to take on the sport's most formidable opponent.
Both then and now, almost thirty years on, it was hard to imagine how the two even managed to speak to one another, let alone take dinners in the evening as part of the same team. If their psychological battle was tough enough, the physical one was even worse, with Hinault attacking unannounced whenever he felt he could take an advantage. He'd already beaten Lemond in the Prologue TT that kick-started the Tour. But as the three weeks wore on, Hinault's awesome strengths began to desert him -- to the point where he was forced to watch as Lemond danced away from him at Superbagnéres, aided by another American on this team, Andy Hampsten.
Looking back at it then, only a proud man such as Hinault could survive such humiliation, and he managed it by racing as hard as he could each day, forcing Lemond to his limits while all the time playing to his beloved public. The culmination of that so-spicy 1986 Tour came at Alpe d'Huez when Hinault and Lemond rode side-by-side to the finish after Hinault had attacked on the previous climb to draw one last ounce of pleasure out of their personal battle.
That this day provided me with my best-ever cycling image is neither here nor there; I remember it more for the overriding feeling that Hinault was still dominating Lemond, was manipulating the degree of pleasure Lemond would get by winning - and was, of course, influencing a still-adoring French public. Certainly, the Frenchman couldn't bear for Lemond to win, but he somehow managed to turn it around as if he'd helped Lemond win - something we all knew wasn't true. Yes, I've seen many rivalries in this business, and they all help to make our sport so great. But that 1986 Tour produced the mother of all rivalries.
May 14, 2014
5 Things I Learned from Crashing and Living with a Head Injury
by Alison Tetrick
Even with all the freedom and power that cycling can offer, there is still the looming undercurrent of potential danger and risk involved in such a challenging sport. After a violent crash in a professional race in 2010, I sustained a broken pelvis and a traumatic brain injury that knocked me unconscious and suffering with seizures. Fortunately, I was wearing a Road ID, and my dad actually arrived at the hospital before I arrived by helicopter. It was my first broken bone -- and my first private helicopter tour.
I focused my recovery on the broken bones, without realizing the mental, chemical, and emotional changes that had occurred within my brain. I suffered another head injury in 2011 at the Pan American Games, which lead me to my lowest moments. Yet at these times of darkness, I was able to truly rebuild and work with a neuropsychologist, my team doctor, and my family in order to appreciate my reality and begin the long path of healing. This healing is a daily process, and I still monitor my progress and development. Cyclists are at a huge risk for head injuries, and science is only beginning to understand the long-term effects of multiple impacts. Although I have returned to racing in full force with some incredible results, having a head injury is a battle I still fight daily. Who I am is forever changed, but I hope to become someone even better. Here are some of the most important things I’ve learned:
1. Recognize vulnerability. I am not invincible. This was a hard lesson to learn, but now I realize how precious life is. Each day is a gift, and it is our choice how we make the most of this blessing called life. Wearing spandex and looking like a superhero on a bike does not make me invincible. I may still have some super powers, but I would like to keep the ones I have.
2. Never take my mind for granted. You don’t realize how fragile your brain is until you injure it. I lost the ability to read for a year and struggled with emotional volatility, clinical depression, and impulsivity. We tend to overlook the importance of our properly functioning brain in our regular activities. You don’t realize how much you rely on your mental capacity, your regulation of emotions, and decision-making skills until they are gone. Never take your mind for granted. We only have one of those, and it is a beautiful thing when used to its full purpose.
3. Using trauma as an opportunity. You may have heard of baseline testing for concussions and this is a process I highly recommend for you and your family. I worked with a neuropsychologist in order to assess my cognitive and mental abilities and create a treatment plan. I highly suggest you become aware of the dangers of concussions and how you can prevent and treat them appropriately. This treatment made such an impact that I applied to graduate school, and I am currently studying neuropsychology in order to further unravel the fascinating relationship between neuroscience, psychology, and the mind. I serve on the advisory board of the California Concussion Coalition in order to deliver a more personal story to the continuing education credits that high school coaches and teaches are required to attain. After losing some of my cognitive abilities initially, it has been a rewarding experience to continue to learn, grow and develop, as well as invest in my future and hopefully yours as well.
4. Everyone has a daily battle. Suffering from a head injury or multiple impacts is not a wound that is easily visible when healed or damaged. It can be a daily battle that you fight for the duration of your life. Although it is difficult for my family to see persistent changes in me from my injuries, I can’t fixate on who I was -- I can only be the best person I am today. It is frustrating to realize limitations and changes, but having an injury does not define you, just like being an athlete does not define you. We all have different battles that we fight, and mine is no different. It is my responsibility to take the proper safety precautions, like wearing a Road ID or avoiding dangerous situations. I encourage you to hold each other accountable if an unfortunate accident occurs, watch for signs of a concussion, and seek medical help. You don’t have to fight your daily battle on your own.
5. Trust internal power. That being said, I am not here today only because of medical professionals, or the support from my family and loved ones. There was also an internal power from within me that made me want to fight through the darkness and hopelessness. And not only survive, but overcome. Know that no matter your injury or your situation, you are strong and capable. Be patient, because the recovery process may be longer than anticipated and healing requires time. It is in these moments you find your grit, and you learn more about yourself than you ever intended. I am stronger because of it, and I can use this impact to make an impact. Perhaps it is truly the suffering that forms us. It has been 4 years, and I have just only begun to realize that this too…was a gift.
May 9, 2014
Do all Bicycles Weigh Fifty Pounds?
Five Tips For Protecting Yourself From Bike Theft
by Bob Mionske
Have you heard that all bicycles weigh fifty pounds? It’s because a thirty-pound bicycle needs a twenty-pound lock, a forty-pound bicycle needs a ten-pound lock, and a fifty-pound bicycle doesn't need a lock at all. Well, maybe that was true before we had easy access to cargo bikes, e-bikes, and other heavy-duty bikes, but today?
And what about your sub-twenty pound bike? Do they even make a 30+ pound lock, or should you bring along a couple of 20 pounders, just to be safe? And doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of having, you know, a lighter bike?
Well, it is just a quip. But in the arms race against bike thieves, it can seem true, with the strongest locks getting really hefty.
And even then, we’ve probably all seen the videos of a “bike thief” cutting locks with power tools in broad daylight, in full view of indifferent big city passers-by. So even with a couple of the strongest locks you can buy, what’s the point? Should you just resign yourself to the inevitable?
No. It’s actually not as bad as it can seem. Sure, up to 2 million bikes are stolen every year, with the annual haul from bike theft in the $50 million neighborhood (making the take from bike theft higher than the take from bank robbery, according to the FBI). But that doesn’t mean that your bike has to get stolen, or that you can’t take steps to protect yourself. In fact, with these five tips, it’s actually easy to protect yourself from bike theft.
1. Document everything. Create a file for your bike; include your Bill of Sale (you should always have one) and make sure you have your bike’s make model, color, and serial number in the file. Take some photos of your bike, including photos of distinguishing characteristics that would help identify the bike as your bike, and place the photos in your file. If your change your bike’s appearance over time, photograph the changes as well. Every time you have your bike serviced, put the service record in your bike file. What you are doing is creating a record of ownership of this particular bike (and do this for each bike you own).
2. Do you have insurance? If you have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, be clear about what is covered by your policy. If your policy covers theft of your bike, and you want “full replacement value” if your bike is stolen, you have to specify that in the policy. Otherwise, the policy will only pay you “depreciated value,” which, after a few years, amounts to zero. If your bike didn’t cost much to begin with, you should consider replacing the bike “out of pocket” instead of filing a claim, because filing a claim may raise your premiums. Save the “full replacement value” and stolen bike claims for bikes that would cost more to replace than you would be comfortable paying out of pocket.
3. Do you have a lock? If the bike will be out of your immediate possession for even a moment, you should lock it up—even in your garage, or back yard. Most bike thefts involve a bike that was left unattended for “just a minute.” The second most common thefts occur with bikes that are poorly locked with cheap locks or bad locking technique.
You don’t need the best lock available, but you do need to have a good lock—one that can’t be easily cut with a pair of bolt cutters. If you’ve never cut a lock before, you would be surprised at how easy they are to cut. Cables? Quick work for a thief with a fresh bolt cutter. Padlocks? Like cutting butter. Get a good quality u lock, or a heavy-duty chain and lock combination, or plan on losing your bike at some point.
4. Do you know how to use your lock? Because if you don’t, even the best lock in the world won’t help. First, never, ever lock your front wheel to a bike rack and think your bike is locked. As Hal Ruzal says, there’s a reason they call them “quick releases.” It’s not uncommon to see a forlorn front wheel locked with a stout u lock to a bike rack, with the rest of the bike missing, courtesy of the neighborhood bike thief.
Instead, lock the bike frame to the bike rack. There are different ways to do this; some people lock the seat tube to the rack, while the late, great Sheldon Brown
recommended only locking the rear wheel through the triangle. Loop a thick cable through your front wheel and the u lock, and if you want to ride home on something other than the seat post, consider locking your saddle too.
Is that all? No. You also have to be careful about what you lock your bike to.
5. What if your bike is stolen anyway? Chances are good that you won’t have your bike stolen, because thieves prefer to take all the low-hanging fruit laying around. Why waste time trying to break your lock, when there’s a perfectly good bike right next to yours that has a cheap lock, or a poor locking technique? Or better yet, no lock at all? With all of those easy pickings, your bike will probably be left alone.
But suppose that, despite your best efforts, your bike gets stolen? The first thing you will want to do is report the theft to the police. They will want a description of the bike, including the serial number. Remember that file you started at the very beginning? Now is when you will need that proof of ownership. Nearly half of all stolen bikes are recovered by the police. But the police will not return your stolen bike back to you unless you report it stolen, and can prove that the bike is yours.
If you file an insurance claim on your stolen bike, you will need a copy of the police report. But if the insurance company pays on your claim, and your bike is later recovered by the police, it now belongs to the insurance company, and if you want your bike, you will have to buy it back from your insurer.
May 6, 2014
My Top Five Races
by Ted King
If this were Jeopardy, Alec Trebek would read from his card, "Southern California's Santa Monica mountains, the foot of the Spanish Pyrenees, the majestic, sand-swept hills of Dubai, Taiwanese mountains cloaked in fog, the foreboding winds of Flanders, the cobbling together of France’s Paris to Roubaix (which, curiously, does not run from Paris to Roubaix), the seasonal rejuvenation of a spring thaw across New England, and the spectacular green countryside meeting the craggy Rocky Mountains of Colorado's Front Range.”
The answer, in Jeopardy's question format, would be, "Where has Ted been in just these early months of 2014?"
I don't take this opportunity to see the world courtesy of my bicycle for granted, not even for an instant. With an amalgamation of teeth-grindingly hard work and just a modicum of luck, I’m indescribably lucky to globe trot the world, do what I do, and see what I see. This being professional cycling though, I’m not a paid tour guide, nor a pro grand fondo'ista. Pinning a number of my back and jumping into the thick of races is my job. So despite where I’ve been working in 2014, I now present unto you my Top Five Races.
I've been professional in this business for eight years years and have raced at some level or another for a dozen. With upwards of 100 race days per year, there are times when it can feel old hat, so I actually rarely get anxious before a race. I therefore surprise even myself in the days leading up to my first Tour of Flanders when the nerves caught up with me. I don’t know if it was the deluge of messages, emails, texts, phone calls, and well wishes that poured in from around the world; perhaps it was the hundred thousand people watching the race first hand with the youthful excitement of kids waking up on Christmas day, plus the nearly 800,000 more who line the 250-odd kilometers start to finish. Maybe the heritage of the race that offers cycling tradition unlike any other, but the Tour of Flanders is a true Monument.
You’ll never forget your first grand tour. It’s a funny thing, a three week race — no matter the racing you have in your past or the training you’ve done to prepare for it, a grand tour is a beast like no other. The 2009 Giro d’Italia marked my first grandy and it was spectacular. With my teammates on the Cervelo TestTeam, we came away with five stage wins (mind you, many teams finish the month with zero), a place on the final podium, and stories to tell for a lifetime. The Italian tifosi bring the race to life and provide an animated passion for cycling you’ll find nowhere else in the world. The Giro put Italy on my global racing map for the very first time, which continues to serve me to this day.
From amateur then to collegiate to domestic pro and ultimately international professional teams, you’re representing a proud sponsor, a school, a supporting company, or major corporation. It’s rare to have the opportunity to represent your nation, so the 2010 World Championships in Melbourne, Australia (although Geelong would argue otherwise) were a humble honor. It was my second year of international racing, so to travel to the other side of the world for an enormous one day race, then to suit up in red, white, and blue with “USA” emblazoned across my chest? That was a day I will never forget.
It’s our Super Bowl, World Series, World Cup, and the entire Stanley Cup playoffs in pedals across France in July. Heck, let’s throw in a dash of Cirque du Soleil and Oktoberfest to paint a truer picture. In a sport with very few guarantees - besides that it’ll be really freakin’ hard - racing the biggest spectacle in the sporting world firmly plants the Tour de France among my top five. If you followed my 2013 Tour, you’ll remember that I fell on some hard luck; I also fell on a pile of racers splayed out on the road in front of me and in doing so broke my scapula and separated my shoulder very early in the Tour. Four days of bone grinding pain later, I missed time cut by a cruel seven seconds and prematurely exited the race. That experience left me indescribably hungry for more.
Cycling is a philosophical sport, so please let me wax poetic for just a minute. For me, life is about relationships. It’s about your roots. It’s about remembering your past: what collectively brought you where you are today, and the direction you’ll steer this ship you call life. As a freshman in college and not yet racing myself, I watched my brother win the first of his three collegiate national championships. That was something of a life-changing head-scratcher where I thought, Hmm, I share those same endurance genes. Maybe I’ll give this sport a
whirl. I soon found and immediately fell in love with cycling at Middlebury College in the heart of Vermont’s Green Mountains. Despite snow, wind, and Vermont’s infamous mud season, that area is ingrained into my cycling psyche. My first multi-day race, the Green Mountain Stage Race, always fell on the first weekend back at Middlebury in the fall and continues to race across those same training roads where cycling became part of my life.
I make my living on a bike, but for many reasons, I have a deep personal connection to each of these races. You may not ever have a chance to wear a Team USA kit or race in the Tour de France, but your connection to your own rides is what counts. For me, I’m just looking forward to what’s in store for 2014. If you want to follow along, you can find me on Strava.
May 3, 2014
The Five Best Climbs
by Levi Leipheimer
If you're a serious cyclist, these are the five climbs to put on your must-do bucket list. These climbs are worthy of being described as epic, legendary and brutal. I've had the fortune of riding all over the world, which made picking just five difficult, but these all have something special that makes all the suffering special.
1) Pine Flat,
Sonoma County California
Home is where the heart is, and I'm proud of what Sonoma County has to offer. I picked Pine Flat because it's the most popular and arguably the most scenic climb in Sonoma County. But the truth is, there are at least 20 different climbs that take between fifteen minutes and an hour to climb in the Mayacama Mountain Range, which extend through Mendocino, Sonoma and Napa counties. Those 20 different routes include, in some cases, both sides of the climb -- but many are small, one way or dead-end roads with little or no traffic. The landscape and the views are truly the reason why Sonoma County is known as a cycling paradise. I spent thousands of hours training on these climbs over a 17-year period and they never got old. Even today in retirement, I keep coming back to these climbs -- and Pine Flat especially -- because of the landscape and the views, but also because they’re so inspiring that they keep me pushing myself.
2) Mont Ventoux, France
Arguably the most famous climb in the sport, Mont Ventoux stands alone, high above the fields of Provence. The "Bald Giant" can be described as legendary, epic and literally breath-taking. It has created champions, and taken a life. I raced up it many times, including an individual time trial during the Dauphine Libere, but the best ride I ever had up it was the first time. I was training all by myself, with a chance to see something I had watched on TV for years and dreamt about. It lived up to the expectations: Ventoux can be seen for miles and is psychologically daunting during the Tour de France. You couldn't ignore the inevitable suffering that awaited. Images of the moon-like landscape on the upper half of the climb are infamous, but most people don't realize how hard the lower part is. The road is straight and steep. You don't have any reference to how high you're climbing, because the deep forest blocks your views. It's also protected from the wind, so on a hot day, it feels like an oven. Once you break the tree line at Chalet Reynard, the road eases up and the wind cools you off; unfortunately there's less oxygen to fuel you. As you round the last bend to climb the final 100 meters, it kicks up one last time and makes the summit seem to recede forever.
3) Rettenbachferner, Austria
The Rettenbachferner is the least well-known on the list -- but that's only because it's in Austria and the sport's Grand Tours haven't showcased it (I suppose the Giro could reach it). This climb is as brutal as they come and reaches higher than any other on this list. Topping out at 2700m (9000ft) at gradients approaching 15%, it has that rare combination of altitude and steepness. The first half of the climb is mostly in the forest as it climbs out of the town of Solden. But once you pass through the toll booths, it's above tree line and you can see the remainder in front of you as it switchbacks up the side of a cliff. The road ends at the Rettenbach Glacier and the famous Solden ski area, which routinely hosts the opening races of the FIS Alpine World Cup. I did win on this climb, but that's not the reason I listed it. The Rettenbachferner is the one epic climb that most cyclists haven't heard about. It's the one you go and experience without having seen it on TV a hundred times first. In a way, it is the climb you get to discover for yourself.
4) Angliru, Spain
I like to think the engineers who built the Angliru made a miscalculation and halfway through construction they decided to dispense with engineering, and just shoot to the top in the shortest route possible. Used a handful of times in the Vuelta since the late 90s, the Angliru is 14km long. The first 7km are pretty normal, a stiff 8% or so. But halfway up, the road tilts to around 18% (give or take 5%) -- and it stays there..for punishing 7km more. There is a particular section with about 3km to go where it becomes absolutely ridiculous: the road is the width of a sidewalk and it's a steady 25%. Racing up the Angliru is the only time I’ve had trouble keeping my front wheel on the pavement. Part of what made me include this on the list was the view, which I only saw as we drove down after the stage. Asturias is one of the most beautiful regions of Spain. It's lush with rocky peaks and deep canyons. Descending out of the usual fog that surrounds the Angliru is as epic as it gets.
5) Aubisque, France
Climbing the Aubisque gives you a sense of the history of cycling and the Tour de France. There are three sides to it (two of them via the Col de Soulor) and they're all beautiful. But the most legendary route is the western ascent up through the small village of Eaux Bonnes. This is where many battles have taken place that decided the overall of the Tour de France. It's the most challenging side as it is 20km long and seems to take forever -- no matter how good you feel. The reward to climbing it is the section along the top that connects the Aubisque to the Col de Soulor. This section is narrow and harrowing. The road is extremely small and takes you through a few dark tunnels that are permanently wet from the weeping rocks they cut through. And you don't want to overshoot a corner and launch over the short rock wall into the abyss below. I've raced over the Aubisque in thick fog with no idea what was around the corner -- only the knowledge that thousands of riders in past Tour de Frances had successfully navigated their way on the same road. The Aubisque is what the Pyrenees are all about, daunting and mythical.
May 1, 2014
Coast Like A Pro
by Bob Roll
While there is a ton of information about “pedaling like a Pro,” there is precious little about another important part of bike riding: not pedaling.
Yes, that’s right -- I’m talking about coasting.
I think a lot of cyclists would be surprised to know how much time is spent coasting during their rides. If you are curious to know how much time is spent coasting, just listen for the clicking sound of your freehub while you aren't pedaling. Once you’re aware of just how often that freehub is clicking away, you’ll realize how much of cycling -- especially with others -- involves coasting. And believe me, there is an art to it.
I wasn't a very good coaster when I started as a pro. I was always battling to move up through the peloton and wasting crucial energy before the critical moments of the races. When I was a new pro I was mystified by how effortless it seemed for the seasoned pros to maneuver themselves to the front of the peloton. But it finally dawned on me: they were world class coasters!
They could sense the forward momentum of the peloton and moved into the slipstream of other riders who were making huge pedaling efforts to get closer to the front. Thus they used considerably less energy to arrive at the ideal place in the group at the crucial moments of the race. When you multiply this skill by the hundreds of accelerations per day of racing and stack the three weeks of the Tour de France on top of that, you get an idea how important good coasting is to the top pros.
Most people coast along with one leg straight down, feet at six o'clock and twelve o'clock. But the more aerodynamic -- and faster -- position is to coast with your feet at three o'clock and nine o'clock. Coasting in this position also engages your core, creating a more balanced stance from which you can begin to pedal sooner and react to attacks.
In this coasting stance, you’re more able to react to imperfections in road surfaces, and are better prepared to react to unexpected obstacles. Feet in the three and nine o'clock position is also a more balanced and powerful stance when sudden emergency braking is required -- making it an important safety measure as well!
There is one time during a ride while you are coasting that a more vertical pedal stance is ideal, and that’s in the apex of a corner taken at speed. At those moments, your outside foot should be closer to the six o'clock position.
Unless racing Le Tour is in your near future, you probably won't need to develop perfect coasting as much as the pros, but used properly, coasting can lead to better energy management, and better safety. This is my invitation to all riders to be safer, more alert and more efficient -- by thinking of your riding in the most comprehensive way possible. Each and every ride you do is a chance to listen, look, learn and have a blast...enjoy them!
October 23, 2013
Keys to Successful Hydration
by Vinu Malik
"Vinu is a 7-time Kona and 36-time Ironman finisher. He also happens to be the mastermind behind, and CEO of, FuelBelt, the world leader in hydration belts and running
It was back in 1997 when I found myself in the middle of my 13th Ironman race and falling apart yet again on the run. Dehydration had been my nemesis and I had spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out how to address it. In those days, the only hydrating I would do in my training build up was running by the house several times to pick up a pre-filled water bottle in the mailbox. Other options included hiding bottles in the woods or looping past convenience stores. All of my runs were strategically planned for this, but in the end, it was more miss than hit.
It was mid-way through the run of that 1997 Ironman that I realized I had completely missed the mark on both my nutrition and hydration fueling- again! That is how the launch
of the FuelBelt came about. I designed a comfortable way to transport my nutrition and drinks while training which provided me with a consistent source of electrolytes and hydration. I found
that nailing a fueling plan really is the 4th discipline and should be a main focus for any endurance athlete. Once I developed a successful hydration plan, the guessing was over, and I was
finally able to achieve the results I thought were possible. I went on to qualify for the Hawaii Ironman 7 times and have raced the Ironman distance 36 times.
Now, I often get asked the question, ‘What was the difference between finishing an Ironman and becoming a qualifier for Hawaii?” And I can honestly say that much of the answer was in
my approach to training and nutrition. Before, I never had a plan for training or nutrition. Without a clear plan, I was no different than a boat without a rudder. I may make it
back to shore, but not exactly where I wanted to be.
I have three basic steps I followed that might just make all the difference for you too. The first two are not hydration or nutrition related but are worth mentioning
because of the importance they played in my success.
Be consistent in everything you do with your training, nutrition and sleep. Training is all about putting one block of training on top of another. Before you know it, you've built something
spectacular- your own fitness! The way to stay consistent is to have a plan, pay attention to the little things, and avoid injury.
2. Strength Training and Flexibility
These two components are very important to long term health and success at long course racing. Spending time in the gym helps you keep form late into a big race where you're trying to hold a good pace through the finish. Flexibility is another big area- especially the older you get. It's very important to find a balance between all the sport specific training, the strength training and also finding a way to stay flexible.
3. Nutrition and Pacing
Nutrition is a discipline that is often overlooked and is tied directly to pacing. Get your nutrition wrong and your speed slows, and then you'll find yourself struggling. Stay on top of your nutrition and you'll hold form longer and go faster. Practice makes perfect and it's important to use the same products you're going to find on the race course. Keep it simple and use the same nutrition you can expect to find at your next big event.
A few years ago, I had a unique opportunity to have some intensive testing done at Gatorade's Sport Science Institute (GSSI) in Barrington, IL. On day one, they did a battery of tests using scales and hyperbaric pods to measure my body mass index, resting heart rate and blood pressure. On day two, I ended up riding 56 miles on a Computrainer in a heat chamber where the heat and humidity were equal at 87 degrees. We were trying to mimic the conditions in Hawaii where I would be racing the Ironman World Championships in just 6 weeks. The lab techs took about 8 vials of blood from my arm during the ride. Separately, I had several urine tests done intermittently and wore a face mask the entire time to measure VO2 output.
Once I was finished with the bike, I ended up running a total of 18 miles on a treadmill- all in the same heat chamber. It wasn't very fun, it wasn't pretty, but when it was all said and done, I walked away with an insightful review of what my body would require in such a hot environment. In other words, the lab techs at GSSI prescribed a hydration and refueling strategy that I could use in Hawaii for the biggest race of the year.
The plan was to drink three 24oz. bottles of Gatorade's Endurance Formula (the drink on the course that year) per hour for the first 2 hours, then scale that back to two 24oz. bottles per hour for the next 3 hours. I followed that up with more of the same drink on the run course. I went on to set a personal best that day and felt better than ever. I did the work, I was consistent and I paid careful attention to my hydration and nutrition plan. There were no surprises and I felt in control all day long. I ended up averaging about 400 calories per hour and GSSI came up with an appropriate fueling strategy that had me abandoning the typical 24 gels I would normally use on race day.
Nutrition is part art and part science. Everyone is different and everyone reacts to different products available to them. Keeping things simple is a good rule to follow. You need
to be able to adapt to the unexpected on race day as things can go sideways very quickly. If you're not prepared to adapt, your day can be over before it even starts. Long course
racing is all about problem solving. The more you prepare, the better off you'll be.
August 22, 2013
Becoming an Ironman
by Coach Jimmy Riccitello
Coach Jimmy spent more than 20 years as one of the world’s top professional triathletes and provides a glimpse into
what it takes to train for an Iron distance event. Learn more about Jimmy
One of the questions I’m often asked is, "How much do I have to train in order to finish and/or do well in an Ironman-distance event?"
It’s a tough question to answer because each individual has different abilities, time availability, and goals or expectations. Consequently, those wanting an answer specific to their needs and goals should seek the knowledge and guidance of a reputable coach. By reputable, I mean a coach who addresses an athlete’s individual needs and goals, and structures the athlete's training around their time constraints, due to real life issues such as family, work, and athletic background (and who actually listens to and gets to know the athlete so the coach understands the athlete's relevant real life issues).
My typical answer to that question, considering that I will not be able to get into individual needs during a general Q&A session is, "A lot, but probably less than you think." With that in mind, here are a few guidelines based on my experience as both an athlete and a coach that will give you a good idea of what you’re in for regarding time commitment should you decide to toe the line in an Ironman-distance event.
Consistency is Important
Consistency is relative to the realistic amount of time that you have to devote to training. When talking with a coach or planning your training routine, it’s a good idea to underestimate your time availability. We all get fired up at the notion of a new goal, and over-committing is a common mistake made by excited Ironmen-to-be.
Developing a realistic training routine – one that will allow you to complete the sessions and reach the benchmarks - goes a long way towards ensuring success. Meeting training goals week after week equals consistency over time.
With this in mind, it’s best to build rest into your training routine at regular intervals so that your body (and mind) is more likely to absorb training stress. I like to prescribe a "recovery" week every third week of training.
Skipping a day or a few days due to illness or injury is – more often than not - helpful at ensuring consistency over time. In other words, it’ s better to get back to 100% as quickly as possible, versus pushing through an illness or injury and ending up even more sick or injured, or being subpar for weeks or months instead of a few days.
Specificity is Important
Remember what you are training for. Unless your name is Craig Alexander or Leanda Cave, you are going to be moving for 10-17 hours. That’s a long time. With this in mind, the meat and potatoes of your workout routine should be centered on long days, and those long days should be scheduled on weekends or your days off (of "real" work).
You are not training for a stage race, such as the Tour de France. Therefore there is no need to fret about cramming multiple days of massively long workouts into an already crowded workweek or family week.
You are not training for the Fifth Avenue Mile. An Ironman distance event is an aerobic event – VERY aerobic. Even a sprint-distance triathlon is an aerobic event, but that's a story for another day.
Therefore, during the final 9 to 12 weeks of Ironman-distance training, you should do most of your workouts at an effort level similar to what you will maintain on race day. The intensity of your shorter, mid-week exercise bouts (in the final 9 to 12 weeks of training) should rarely exceed tempo (comfortably hard) effort.
More is Better...relatively speaking
Before I explain, let me give you some background on why I feel this way. (And remember that "more" is relative to your time availability.)
When I was a student in the University of Arizona (Go Cats!) College of Architecture, I was introduced to the quote "Less is more", popularized by architect Mies van der Rohe, a proponent of minimalist design. When it comes to design and art, I agree with Mies. However, "Less is more" has become the motto for people who believe or want us to believe that there are shortcuts to success.
When I hear coaches tell aspiring Ironman distance athletes, "Less is more", I feel compelled to paraphrase a quote Inigo Montoya from "A Princess Bride" who said, "You keep using that phrase. I do not think it means what you think it means." I prefer not to sugar-coat what it takes for an athlete to complete an Ironman distance event and like to encourage athletes to extend their boundaries and comfort zone.
Going back to what I said earlier – the weekends or your days off should be the cornerstone of your training. Push the limits. Gradually increase the duration of your once-weekly long ride and run until your race is 2 to 4 weeks (depending on how much training you've accomplished) away. You are less likely to incur an overuse injury cycling than running – so the duration of your longest training ride can progress up to or beyond the time you plan to spend on the bike course.
For the run, however, you have to be careful since the possibility of an overuse injury from running is risky. Whether your anticipated run time is 3 hours or 6 hours, I rarely recommend the duration of an athlete’s longest run be greater than 2-2.75 hours. That’s about as specific as I’m willing to get in the midst of generic guidelines!
Hard Work Pays Off
Stick to your plan and strive to do as much training as possible considering your time availability and athletic background.
To summarize and generalize, remember that you're training for an event that happens on a single day, but that single day will be a long one. Don’t stress over cramming mega hours of training into an already crowded workweek. Focus instead on cramming a lot of training into the weekends or your days off. Build up to a single weekend that contains a ride of 6 to 7 hours and a run the following day of 2 to 2.75 hours. Even for those who struggle to squeeze in an hour a day (with a rest day) during the workweek, you are still getting 12 to 15 hours of weekly training time for your peak week of Ironman training if you are able to devote a good chunk of weekend time to training. So you will have to train a lot, but you can get by on less than you think – if you are consistent.
To those of you who have more time to devote to your workweek Ironman training routine than 1 hour per day - find a coach who says, more is better ... relatively speaking.
June 27, 2013
Ted King - Tour de France #1
"It's a bike race in France. I think."
by Ted King
With a slight tweak on a tongue-tied Austin Powers’ introduction, allow myself to quote... myself. One year ago I found myself left off our team’s 2012 Tour de France roster. Last year’s Tour raced around Belgium for three days before trekking to France for the duration, at which point I stated, "I'm therefore going to hold out on my inaugural Tour de France by waiting until we stick exclusively to France – dabbling in other European countries obviously sullies the authentic Tour experience."
This was of course said in jest, but the essence of the statement is there. Having not made the 2012 Tour team, that became my carrot; my sole goal moving forward in 2013 was the Tour de France. And now, just about 365 days later, I received the nod of approval. I’m thrilled to be going to my first Tour.
My cycling upbringing doesn’t rank as normal among my Pro Tour colleagues. While most of my teammates have hilarious dated pictures of themselves next to what appear miniature bicycles already on their paths to racing by the wee age of eight, nine, or ten, growing up in New England those similar photos of me have ice skates or skis strapped to my feet. At that age, the bike was a mode of transportation to blast around the neighborhood with friends or ride to the local convenient store for a soda and penny candy after school. Racing bikes was the farthest thing on my mind through my entire youth. The Tour de France? The true extent of my knowledge could at that point be summarized as, "It’s a bike race in France. I think."
When my older brother Robbie started riding in high school I absorbed it at arm’s length. However, the way younger brothers tend to gravitate towards their older siblings, by the time I got to college and watched him win a collegiate national title, I figured that I too shared some of those genes conducive to pedaling a bike and soon caught the cycling bug.
I rode because I loved to ride and did so without grandiose expectations. I had success in the collegiate ranks and while my friends were donning suits and ties to attend job interviews during senior spring, I was found sending out race resumes... but mostly just riding my bike. Eventually I was picked up by a new domestic pro team and embraced the bachelor lifestyle that came with it. Couch surfing and living host-house to host-house, every day was an adventure.
Three seasons later and with results tallying up, I found myself the top ranked American on the domestic racing circuit. Perfectly happy with my situation and presumably anticipating another year in America, I was not expecting the phone call from a European director asking me to join their team. I was floored, flattered, terrified, and excited. I leapt at the chance and joined the Cervelo TestTeam.
For me cycling has always provided an element of immediacy. I trust you find a similar level of catharsis in the simple pleasure of riding a bike as I do. The perfect ride with good friends, ideal weather, no traffic, and on your favorite roads is as head-clearing as anything the world has to offer. But entirely too often we dwell too hard on the past or drive ourselves mad stewing on future expectations.
The snub of the 2012 Tour could have easily done both of those things for me. It would have been easy to wallow in self pity for not having made the Tour, just as easily as I could have rested on my laurels to be perfectly satisfied with the status quo of almost there, but just not quite, never quite striving for more. Neither of these seemed like good options though.
First, I went to the Dolomites, because I had the time and resources to do so - one of the most amazing places on the planet to ride a bike. Next, I took a soul-searching philosophical glance at where the bike has taken me. From the collegiate ranks to the espoir national team to success in America and onto virtually every race I’ve ever wanted to do overseas: Paris-Roubaix and Tour of Flanders, Paris-Nice and the Giro d’Italia, national championships and the World Championships. For each one of these chapters of my cycling life I am tremendously appreciative. More so, I’ve embraced each one, each race, each adventure for exactly what it is. Living in the moment provides the richest awareness and gratitude for the immediate task at hand so that I pour myself into it with everything that I’m capable.
There are very few guarantees in cycling, so it’s difficult to know where those two wheels will take you. For me, the next step on my cycling journey is the Tour de France for which I’m absolutely thrilled. On one hand it’s the product of an incalculable amount of hard work and dedication, and on the other - especially from my vantage point ten years ago where I wasn’t yet even riding a bike - it’s still an humbling surprise. Every day is an adventure, so whether you’re racing a Grand Tour or taking a grand tour around your favorite training ride, embrace it for what it is.
March 30, 2013
Roll Call, Fan Q&A
by Bob Roll
Bob Roll opened up the phone lines to our social media followers and allowed them to ask some of their most burning questions about cycling, wine, relationships and more. Bob picked a handful of questions from the over 150 entries. Enjoy.
Q: Have you been able to find anyone to ride with you yet? – Mike H.
So far no luck. I'm hoping the Wienermobile
will come through for me, or at the very least I’ll score some tires that will hold air. I plan on investing in tubeless tires or flat-free tubes the next time anyone agrees to ride with me.
Q: What is the most important piece of training advice you were ever told? -Drew V.
The single most important piece of training advice I ever received was given to me by Mike Neel. He said, 'ask yourself what you want, not how you feel'. His point being that if I asked myself how I felt, I would invariably answer "exhausted" and return to the couch ASAP!
Q: I’m doing the Vineman Triathlon in July this year. It’s near Napa. Which wineries should I visit afterwards? – Paul B.
Wow, that's a tough one because there are so many great Napa wineries. I suggest you try ZD Winery and ask for the "Bobke Special Tour" from Dustin. Some other great options are to take a tour of either the Beaulieu Vineyards or the Charles Krug winery. Both are quite lovely. Mmmm, Krug. Now I’m getting quite thirsty.
Q: I've seen guys warming up for a time trial with straws sticking out of their nostrils. What's going on there? – Albert R.
I believe you are referring to the cotton balls or cotton stubs that are soaked in menthol-type product, like Olbas oil. They are placed in their nostrils to, allegedly, stimulate the bronchial passageways so they will up "open up" a bit more, allowing for a slight uptick in oxygen absorption. Of course, there is zero scientific evidence to support this. Signed, Dr. Bobke.
Q: When you are covering a race, did you get to ride much? –Chip L.
Believe it or not there is virtually no time whatsoever to go for a bike ride during the races. Our work hours are packed from sun up to sun down and riding has to wait until the races have ended.
Q: In the last year or so there have been a lot more accidents involving pro cyclists. How can we keep all cyclists safer? – Lori E.
The eternal conflict between drivers and cyclists will surely never go away. And the fact that some of the world's best bike riders have also been involved in accidents is further evidence that accidents can happen to any of us. What can we do while riding? Be hyper vigilant, be visible and keep your head on a swivel. And of course, ride in a safe and predictable way. Here's a good video from Road ID about Riding in Traffic.
Q: How do the pros handle the "call of nature" during a race? Do they just hold it? – Peter H.
Nature breaks are best executed while you are still on the bike. Of course this technique requires some skill and perfected timing. In an ideal scenario, a rider would move to the right of the peloton on a long, gradual downhill so that they can relieve themselves without drama or mentally scarring a spectator. This, of course, is to be avoided if at all possible. Alternatively, there are times when the peloton agrees as group to stop for a natural break. An even better and safer option is to train your body to hold your water until the race is over. I never trained myself to do this so I perfected quite a few flying pit stops in my day. Nowadays I just find a restroom.
Q: If you could have one superpower what would it be? -Bruce B.
If I were to have a superpower it would be to fly. Then I wouldn't have to worry if United was going to cancel my flight, which is nearly always nowadays!
Q: What's the best way to improve my drafting technique? Are there drills? -Celeste H.
The very best way to improve your drafting technique is to race on a velodrome. Track racing is fought out in such close quarters that you must ride within microns of the bloodthirsty lunatics who are breathing down your neck. Or, you could just get a lobotomy like I did when I bought my first bike. Kidding. I highly recommend watching this video by Road ID about
Riding in a Paceline.
Q: What is the essence of the bond between cycling, wine, and relationships as you see it? – Darren Z.
Great question, as these are the compelling elements of my life. I ride so I can enjoy the occasional indulgences, and after indulging I feel the need to ride in an effort to empty the toxins…so to speak. And of course once the toxins are cleared it seems like a reasonable time to indulge once again. Clearly this is a vicious cycle and underpinning it all is a powerful devotion and communion with my loved ones, without which nothing else has any value. When all of these elements come together harmoniously I feel balance, which is the essence of 'la dolce vita' and my eternal striving.
Q: What is your favorite Spanish wine? - Katie P.
My favorite Spanish wines include, but are by no means limited to, anything by: Raul Perez, Benjamin Romeo, Alvaro Palacious, Pingus, Vega Sicilia, Aalto P S, El Nido, Alto Moncayo, and of course Scala Dei. Seems to me that peseta for peseta the Spanish wines are tough to beat.
Q: Do you still wear that skull ring and where did you get it? – Jean P.
I bought my skull ring in 1984 at the Castro Street Fair in San Francisco. Since then, I have lost it three times and have had it repaired twice. So, I only wear it once in a blue moon. I'm hoping to get a copy made but at this point I'm even afraid to send it away!
Q: What are your top 5 places for a family with young children to view Le Tour de France? – Craig L.
#5. Mt. Ventoux. Your wife and kids will hate you for dragging them across France to the monster of Provence, but will cherish the adventure all their lives.
#4. Alpe d'Huez. Ditto on why.
#3. Corsica. The first three stages of the Tour de Franc take place on the island of Corsica this year and promise to be a rollicking good time amongst some of Europe's most scenic backdrops.
#2. PARIS baby, yeah!!! It's always a great stage and the traditional finish of the world's greatest race. Plus, there are 50 million diversions for your kids while you enjoy a glass of vino and another Cavendish stage win!
#1. The best place to watch le tour is your living room so as not to miss any of the brilliant commentary or Road ID commercials. (kidding ...go to France and have a blast... Trust me!)
June 28, 2012
Three Great Run Workouts
by Pro Triathlete Kelly Williamson
All too often we have to spend time on the road whether we like it (family vacation) or not (work trips). But just because you are on the road doesn't mean you have to neglect your workout. Below are 3 simple run workouts that you can take on your next trip you, wherever your travels take you!
The "Out and Back"
This workout is a great addition to your normal training but serves as an excellent workout to take on the road. Ideally, the progressive tempo effort will be 20-40 minutes in length and should match your current fitness level and time constraints. Check out the structure below and give it a go.
- Warm Up: Depending on the total time you have for your workout, give yourself a 5-15 minute easy warm-up. Immediately following the warm-up you'll complete the out and back route, so get ready.
- Out Route: Once the warm up is complete, mark your start point and then run out from that point for 10-20 minutes at what feels about like half marathon race pace/effort, which is slight slower/easier than your 10k pace. If you have never done a half marathon or 10k then put your effort at a 5 on a scale of 1-10, with a 10 being an all out sprint and 1 being walking pace.
- Back Route: Once you've hit your "out" time marker/location, your goal is to then run back to the start point in less time than you went out in. Thus, if going out in 15 minute your goal is to come back in less than 15 minutes.
- Cool Down: Once you've completed your Out and Back routine, take 5-15 minutes to cool down and do some light stretching.
Helpful Tips for the "Out and Back" workout:
- "Back" Route slower than the "Out"? Captain obvious says that you probably went out too fast, so slow it down a little on the "out" next time.
- Back Route is faster than you anticipated? If you return to your spot over 1 minute faster than you went "out", it means you were a little too conservative on the way out. So speed it up a touch next time.
- The Well Balanced Routine: A really well done out and back progressive Tempo will have you coming back to your start location about 30-45 seconds faster than what you went out.
The Descending Fartlek Set
Need to knock out a quality speed session but you don't have access to a track? Aside from having a funny name, the descending Fartlek Set is an excellent speed workout option. This routine runs through two to three sets of 3 minutes on followed by 3 minutes off, then 2 minutes on followed by 2 minutes off, and lastly 1 minute on followed by 1 minute off. Your total workout will take between 30-60 minutes (including warm up) and your goal is to gain speed during the "on" efforts of the set as the duration decreases in time. Thus, the 2-minute effort should be faster than the 3-minute effort and the 1-minute effort even faster than the 2 minute.
- Warm Up: Spend about 5-15 minutes warming up with a light jog. Then do two to three sets of 3 minute on-3 minute off, then 2 minute on-2 minute off, 1 minute on-1 minute off.
- Set Structure & Effort: A "set" is comprised of a 3, 2, and 1 minute effort with equal recover time. Start the 3 minute effort at what feels like a pace you would hold for a mile repeat type of effort, or slightly harder than 5k race pace effort. This is roughly a 7 on a scale of 1-10. Make a mental note of what the effort felt like, or what the pace was. After your 3 minute rest period, begin your 2 minute effort. During that 2 minute effort, try to push your effort 5-10% harder than the 3 minute effort while holding steady. Take the same strategy and apply it to your 1 minute effort. Jog 4-5 minutes easy between sets.
- Cool Down: Cool down 5-15 minutes or as much time as you have.
Helpful Tips for the "Fartlek" workout:
- The key here is getting faster as you go so err on the conservative side for the first set and then try to push it from there.
- Jog as easy as you need to between intervals so that you can complete the next effort appropriately.
- If doing these over varying terrain, i.e. hills or on a trail, focus more on effort than pace and really work to improve effort on each subsequent interval.
Need to pack a lot into a 30-minute run? Or stuck in a place that doesn't have much opportunity for a run of any distance but has a few hills? No problem. You can use a hill workout to achieve either, or both, of these objectives. In this routine you, you'll need to find a hill that's 50-300 yards (or meters) in length and mark your start and end points. Once you have done that you'll run your intervals over the same stretch of road and time yourself for each interval. Given what's appropriate to the kind of training you've been doing, I recommend doing 4-10 intervals followed by a 5-15 minute cool down.
- First Interval: Run your first interval at a pace that feels a little harder than your regular mile repeat pace. Adjust your speed to the incline of your hill. The shorter your hill, the harder you should run. Take note of the time it takes you to get to the top or finish point and take an easy jog back down to your start point. Rest for roughly twice as long as it took you to go up.
- Intervals 2-10: For the remainder of your intervals, run between the same start/finish point as the first and try hard to finish each interval in the same time, or slightly faster, than your first interval. Ideally, you'll get a little faster as you go!
- Cool Down: Following the completion of your routine, cool down for 5-15 minutes and take time to stretch.