Local BMC racer

In case you haven’t heard local guy (Marietta/Athens) John Murphy has had a really good season with OUCH which culminated in the US National Crit Championship.
This season he signed with BMC and is now team mates with George Hincapie.
I raced with John Murphy for several seasons, and he is a unique indiviual with a keen sense of humor!
I got a chance to chat with him at the Winter Bike League ride on January 2nd, and something that stuck out that he said was… ‘you gotta take the good with the bad’. It was apparent that he realized this related to life more than just cycling. He is a grounded young talent, I look forward to his continued success in the peloton.

Picture of John Murphy with his new BMC squad.

Wrist ID or Ankle ID?

I currently have the Road ID that I wear on my ankle, but because of the cold weather here, I wear it with an extra layer of clothing over it. I’m concerned whether or not someone would notice it on my ankle if I did have an accident.

Do you have ICE in your phone? In Case of Emergency #?

Do you have a Road ID or similar?

If so, where do you wear it?

They all laughed when I entered my first race

They all laughed when I entered my first race, after all, what did I know about racing? I was just a bike shop employee that did the shop ride when I felt like it.  I was curious what it was all about.  It seemed so cool, like, I don’t ride bikes, I RACE….. so, I paid my entry fee and pinned on my first race number onto my jersey.

My first race was the West Oak criterium in Marietta, Ga.  It is about a 1 mile loop that has 2 right hand turns and 2 gradual curves, but otherwise open 2 lane roads.  I was anxious, and totally unprepared for what I was about to experience, yet a co-worker was telling me “this course is made for you.”   I heard the words, yet had no idea the meaning of them.  How could a course be ‘made’ for someone?  I’ve never even raced before.  It’s not like I’m Lance and it’s Paris Mt. or anything.

We all lined up and I had no idea what was about to happen when they said ‘Go’.  The group started off with a slight burst of speed and man, I was ready,  I pounded on the pedals!  I easily bridged up to the 10′ gap, then had to jam on the brakes……. (hey, it was a category 5 race, it’s expected!)

The pack wound it’s way around the course with much trepidation.  Everyone on pins and needles about what was going to happen next.  Luckily not much happened other than we ticked off the laps at a snails pace.

As we raced the course I seemed to move all around the field.  Someone would spook me with a swerving maneuver and I would stop pedaling and grip the hoods of the handle bars anticipating having to grab a hand full of brake at any second.  My senses were on high alert!

The referee finally rang the bell for 2 to go….I was telling myself: ‘okay, be ready’.  Although, I didn’t know know what I would be ready for – I had never been in a race before –  I had no clue what would happen. Still around the course the group went, swerving…. pedal, brake, pedal, brake.

As we were going through the back side of the course a larger rider than myself started leaning on me – uh oh, I thought….. he is about to fall, and is trying to keep his balance…. so I leaned back.  I felt more pressure, so I leaned and equaled the amount of push onto me….. I was looking at the wheel ahead of me – no room there, to the right was another rider – no where else for me to go, I had to hold this guy up so he doesn’t crash.  Suddenly he barked something, stopped leaning on me and took off in front of the leaders…… what was that all about I wondered?

Around the course we went, ‘1 to Go, 1 to Go!’  The pack was whipped up into a near panic, a frenzy of emotion and anticipation filled the air…. what to do, what to do?  The pack wobbled through the last right hand turn.  I was starting to grip the bars and my mind was going crazy about what to do next – I had no clue.  I wanted to just take off and ride away from everyone….my body was ready, and my eyes were searching for an open space – my brain was screaming ‘GO, GO!’ but we were going into the chicane and the gap on the right was closing fast…. 1 person ahead of me, a guy next to him, and a guy on my right….. no where to go, I was boxed in.
‘GO, GO!!!!’ my inner voice was panicked!  Nerves were on HIGH alert, ‘YOU MUST GO NOW’…. and yet I could do nothing but sit behind the wheel I was on.  Slowly, painfully, the chicane changed, and the space on my left opened up.  We were within 300 meters of the finish line at the top of this roller.  My inner voice was screaming: GO, GO!  I stood up and with all the pent up anxiety, I jammed on the pedals!  I cranked on that bike, twisting the handle bars, torquing the frame, pushing the boundaries of spoke tension.  Head down, and I went.

I crossed the line and slowed down, my heart rate was high, but I barely noticed….. was that it?  Are we done?  What happened?

I didn’t raise my arms.  there wasn’t a salute.  no pointin to the sky.  I was baffled.  It didn’t sink-in until I was back with my friends – I WON!   Me.  I was a winner.  WOW.

I never got anything for that Win…. well, nothing tangible.  What I did get was a lesson – even though ever fiber of your body is screaming GO, the Win goes to the person that sprints at the correct time.  It’s all about TIMING!  And from that win, started a BIG spark for racing, and the timing of many more sprint Wins.

Timing your sprints takes practice, don’t get frustrated, gain knowledge and keep practicing on group rides and in races….. A common thing I hear amongst Pro12 riders that are pack finishers is that they wished they had spent a little more time in a lower category figuring out how to get that ‘W’ that has now eluded them.

Something I suggest in coaching is for them to get that ‘W’ in several different ways -> Sprint finishes, from a break, and solo in front of the field.

Why compact cranks can make you weak

A slow growing trend these past few years has been compact cranks…..now they seem to be everywhere.

I’m shocked to see that new Time Trial bikes are being sold with compact cranks.  I mean these TT bikes are made to put the rider in the most Aero position possible, and the rider is about 75% of the non-aerodynamics on the bike.  This is all done so that said rider can now pedal the bike as Fast as possible…. yet, the cranks they are putting on them are for climbing?  Why are they cranking on your chain like this?

It is all done in the name of Marketing and Sales!  When you look over the specs of a fancy new bike, you check many things, frame/fork, manufacturer, components, wheel-set, WEIGHT.  And this is where the compact cranks come in – the total weight of the bike.  By putting on compact cranks, they are able to save about a half pound (220 grams) from a bike with a 39/53 chain rings….marketing at it’s least finest – tricky.  Only later will you find out that the ‘lightest’ TT bike you got may have compact cranks on it – and the makers have done this b/c they know this will be a selling point for many Tri-athletes that are very meticulous about their bike purchase.  Yet, in the long run, it’s not ideal for the rider.

Are compact cranks Good?  Yes!  Are compact cranks Bad? Yes!


The problem that I have with Compact cranks is that it gives you a bail out gear….and most riders use it – way too much!  So, what happens? in your training you are allowing your body to ‘bail out’ on many climbs and sections that instead you should be pushing 1 larger (harder) gear and challenging your legs more.  It is part of the ‘on the bike strength training’. Don’t believe me? Ever ride single speed? Remember how tough the climbs are? Now guess why they will make you stronger. You will have gained strength through using a single gear to climb.

Guess what happens with compact cranks in the long run.  You bail out more and more, therefore, your legs begin to loose strength, and you are only be able to spin up climbs.  You can look at gear ratios all day, but if you can’t spin that gear, you are off the back of the pack, and always spinning does not strengthen you legs. Only by stressing the muscles AND allowing adequate time for recovery do you strengthen.

This became overly clear to me when I was able to out ride a guy doing 3 gap, yet I also outweighed him by about 40 .lbs (HEY, it was height and Muscle :).  He should have walked away from me!  As I chatted with him I was able to find out that he was indeed on compact cranks and attempted to spin up each climb b/c ‘he didn’t feel he had the leg strength to push a larger gear…..well, I guess by now, because of the compact, he didn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I think compact cranks can be good when used properly.  In the off season and base season, there would be nothing wrong with compact cranks and being able to maintain a lower Heart Rate while going over hills.  I myself have stopped on hills to lower my Heart Rate before during base building.

Another excellent reason for compact cranks is if you are going to be doing more climbing than you are used to in a short period of time…. if you are from a much flatter area and are suddenly going to the mountains with a training camp, a compact will give you a bail out gear, just in case.

say you are going to Europe to watch a big stage race – compact cranks will make your rides much more enjoyable and less painful.  Plus, if you are doing multi-day ride in the Mountains, recovery and less fatigue in your legs can be achieved with more spinning up the climbs using compact cranks.

Now if you already have compact cranks on your bike; no need to rush out and replace them.  Actually during the winter, they maybe good to be able to spin the legs.  But especially in the spring and summer months, don’t ‘bail out’ every time the road points upward, and you will see your ability to go up that killer climb in a larger gear after a few weeks!

Want to know how to get stronger on the climbs?! Download my ebook ‘Drop Pounds Gain Watts’

Get the Program that
~Pro Cyclist Tim Henry (former West Viginia, Jittery Joe’s, & rider/director for Team Type 1)

~ Pro-Cyclist Daniel Holt Track National Elite Points Champion & Team Type 1 member

~ADIDAS sponsored Pro Runner Jennifer Feenstra – 2nd place at Canadian national Marathon 2010

~Georgia Chain Gang Jerome Rossetti and Tony Myers used to get into the best shape possible before the 2010 RAAM – Race Across America. They finished in 7days!

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How to tell if your shifter cable is going to break

It happens fairly often…. you are out on a ride and you or a friend has a cable that snaps & all of a sudden you are riding home in the smallest cog you have.

I went out for a couple hour ride last week, but it got cut really short. Luckily, I noticed the signs of what was about to happen and I was able to pedal back to the house before it actually did. As I opened up my rear shifter, I could see that about half the cable was frayed. Several more shifts and it would have snapped, leaving me riding home in the 39/11.

Cable fray

My bike had been shifting nearly flawless for many rides. Suddenly on a ride, I am having to over-shift to get into gear. The gears were requiring a little extra input from me….. so I stopped made a slight barrel adjustment to the rear derailleur. That seemed to fix it for the rest of the ride. Next ride, I noticed that once again, the rear shifter was requiring more input, and the gears were ‘ghost shifting’ or wanting to shift with out any input from me. This was happening in several different gears, so I knew this was no coincidence. I stopped at the top of the next climb, grabbed the rear brake level and held it all the way open, looking into the small hole that the shifter cable gets installed through. Sure enough, I was able to see a several strands of cable that were fraying. Being only about 4 miles from the house, I turned around and headed back.

Getting the rest of the cable end & cable out of the shifter is not a task for most – take it too your local bike shop. I spent about 30 minutes getting that sucker out of there, then luckily I had a spare cable (well, I usually do for races and trips) and I re-installed and pre-stretched the new cable. Once again, I head out the door for my ride.

If a cable does break, another way to get home is to adjust the limit screw of the rear derailleur so that the chain lines up a couple of gears higher on the cog. If you know how, you can set the limit screws so that you can be a couple of gears higher than the smallest. Usually on road bikes it is on the very back of the derailleur, and if you tighten the bottom 1, it will push the chain higher on the cog (rear gears). Each cog higher it can be adjusted the easier it will be to spin the gear it is in. This will at least give you 2 gears to ride back with. However, if you know the signs, this can be avoided!

How to get rid of Cement Legs

When I first started personal training, suddenly I found myself standing for several hours a day. I was a young guy, so that didn’t seem to really bother me. However, it effected my cycling greatly! My wattage, training strength, and racing abilities were suffering….. it was like I was pedaling squares. But this was the opposite effect that I was looking for – I wanted a flexible schedule to train so that I could be a stronger racer!

Basically what was happening is that a lot more blood was pooling in my legs that what I was used to. I was in the early part of the race season – April – and this was having ill effects on me.

It took me a couple weeks of figuring out how to counter-act the required number of hours that I now had to be standing all day. It was mainly trial and error that I even figured it out. What I started to note was that by Sunday, I would begin to feel like my usual self on the bike. But that made sense, because I was working Monday thru Friday and training and/or racing on the weekends.

What I had to do was ‘spin-out’ my legs every evening after work.

Whether I went out and cycled mid-day or not, at the end of the day, I had to spin. Even if it was a day off the bike, I would go down stairs and spin on the rollers for 15-20 minutes. I wouldn’t do a hard ride, I would just get on the bike and spin an easy gear. I normally didn’t even get my Heart Rate over 130 or so – I would just get the blood pumping some. The difference that this made for me was huge. I felt like my old cycling self again and not someone that had trouble holding the race-pace.

An added benefit to spinning out the legs was that to occupy your mind, you can do spin-ups and ILT’s. So your spin will get faster, smoother and more effective with less loss of energy all at the same time.

The muscles of sport

Have you noticed in your latest cycling catalogs there are now stability balls and bands for sale – what do they have to do with cycling!? LOTS! Many people have now heard the word “core” and core training, but what does that have to do with cycling, group rides, and racing? Again, LOTS!
Think of your core as being the center structure based upon which all movements start from. When you have to quickly adjust to changes, bunny hop, shift in the wind to remain upright… etc. etc. all these require that the core is engaged, strong and stable.

But, what is the CORE? The core is more scientifically referred to as the lumbar pelvic hip region, and is essentially your trunk without your arms or legs – however your muscles and tendons have a lot of connections and extensions that go past just the trunk area into the legs.

The transverse abdominus is a muscle in your core that is the first muscle (in the body) to fire in response or preparation for movement. If you have a dysfunctional timing sequence (weak core), then the chance that you have lower back pain is great!
We train our clients on how to better engage their core muscles to get the most out of the body!

This information has many effects on you as a cyclist.
If your core is not engaging properly, then you may feel pain in your lower back. The interesting thing is that your back may be stronger than you think. In fact it may just be overloaded because your abdominal muscles are not doing their fair share of the work, and the lower back has to do extra to support your spinal column.
Try pedaling with your abs pushed out for 30 seconds, then try pedaling with your abs pulled in for 30 seconds – big difference.

Check out my post on how to get six-pack abs.

What those bands and stability balls are supposed to be used for is strength and stability in the core. There are dozens of exercises and even more variations of each exercise to suit all ability levels!
Check out some variations in the Video section.

Get more info on 4 things for stronger cycling:
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Why knees are painful

I got weak knees.
– Really?
Yes, if I’m not careful they hurt.
– You knees hurt because your knees are weak?

This may not always be the case for everyone, in fact really it is the tight leg muscles that equal knee pain! As long as your knee pain is not from trauma, such as an accident, then it is from tight muscles and muscle imbalances.

If muscles are too tight and weak, then you may feel pain in your knees, the cause can be doing activities out of the ordinary for your body, an increase in activity, or overly used leg muscles (repetitive movements, such as cycling and running). How many pedal strokes per mile? We will figure you pedal with an average cadence of 90 RPM’s and you ride 20 miles in an hour – a good average speed. 90 revolutions X 60 minutes = 5,400 revolutions of EACH leg for each hour of cycling. How many hours does it take you to do your longest ride – how long do you take to stretch and assist your muscles in recovery afterward? (beer does not count here!)

Remember the quads and hamstrings have many tendons that hold the knee together. Often times when these muscles get too tight they pull on the tendons. Think of your muscles as rubber bands and your tendons as strings – as you pedal the rubber bands can stretch and come back easily, but as the rubber band tightens they then pull on the strings which can not stretch. This in turn causes friction in the joint, which causes pain.

photo by Jay Bergesen www.flickr.com/photos/jaybergesen/

The best cure for this is NOT to mask the pain with BenGay, cortisone shots, knee braces – but to loosen up the tight muscles that are actually causing the tightness. Muscle length tension relationships are essential to muscle recruitment, meaning that if your muscles are too tight then that muscle is not firing on all cylinders and you are not performing at your optimal.

The tighter a muscle becomes, the more inactive it tries to be, causing other muscles to engage more to compensate. When this happens the chance of an injury occurring is increased. Injuries take months to recovery from. So, what is the number 1 way to keep improving in any sport? Prevent injury!

Stretching, massage, and self myofascial release are ways to prevent this from happening.
Massage and myofascial release are the best ways to loosen up tight muscles and stop the pain.
Check out my increased Flexibility program.

Snow and Ice weekend

Snow and Ice this past weekend in Atlanta.  This being fairly rare means that many people raced, ahead of the storm, – to the stores to grab what little bread & milk that was left on the shelves.  Then to blockbuster/netflix to rent a half dozen movies to entertain themselves.

Atl Snow Days
Snow Day

As I went out for a mid-day hike on the local ‘rails to trails’ Silver Comet it appeared that not many people were willing to get out.  The only other footprints were of a couple local kids and a couple runners.  Too bad because the after math of the storm that rolled through made for a beautiful day.  Sure it was chilly out, but I was able to layer enough clothing that it didn’t seem bad at all.

Because of all the ice on the roads I decided against the ‘skinny tires on Ice’ routine.  Finally on Sunday I headed up to Sixes rd.  I was surprised by the number of people that I saw at the local Mt bike trails on Sunday!  I think that I saw as many young kids as adults out.  Maybe everyone was cooped up too long.  I rode with some other friends and no one was complaining of the cold.  It was a really great day out, even though the temps were below freezing.  The right gear can make the difference between enjoying the outdoors and avoiding it.

I actually broke out a pair of tights that I haven’t worn in many years.  I usually wear 2 pairs of bibs and 2 pairs of knee warmers.

I am a little disappointed that I have not had a chance to try out my new Neofleece combo scarf that I got at REI.  I justified getting this after the WBL ride & a below freezing ride on fixed gear ride on the Comet.

Apollo snowMonday I got out over to Kennesaw Mt. and did a hike/run of about 7+ miles.  This was good for Apollo also, the running pace is an endurance pace for him.  So he can get more mileage with out having to go nearly as fast as when I’m on the Mt bike.  Running is a great way to increase your dogs mileage and endurance for when you 2 do go Mt biking.