Hill Repeats

Hill repeats, how we love to loathe them. If you are lucky, you start off at a steady pace and the Mountain teases you into thinking it is going to be a good day….. then as your heart rate begins to catch up to the effort your putting out, the Mt. truly let’s you know what kind of day it is going to be – on the Mt’s terms, not yours. Sometimes the mountain allows you to climb with less effort than previous, but this time of year, the mountain has it’s advantage and may take this opportunity to show it’s authority as Mother Nature and her companion, mean ole Mr. Gravity.

Yet, you must pedal onward, knowing that the steepness of the Mt that you climb is not just taking you to the top, but is taking you to a stronger point in your fitness. Your legs feel the next upward pitch that causes you to grind away on the crank arms ever so slowly. This is the pain that the mountain inflicts in the normal cyclist that wish to over come the grade and bask in the view from the pinnacle.

Good day or bad day, the fact that you are on the Mountain battling and so many others are not can confirm your commitment. If you start off to hard racing to get to the top, then sometimes the Mountain can really take the wind out of your sails. Caution can be the better part of valor as you climb up the first 1000 meters. The mountain will cause you to settle into a more humbling pace if you miss-judge or underestimate her. The cyclists on the descent smile and nod at those still battling the upward slope, for they know, not only the anguish the mountain is putting on your body, but that once down to the bottom, they themselves will turn around and battle against their own machines to take them to the top.

Your legs scream from the lactic acid being built up from each pedal stroke, which is not spin, but a MASH. Seated climbing is usually the par, until the grade rises at such an angle that the mind convinces you that maybe standing will be easier…. but only briefly, then HR stands with the body, and you flop back down giving the legs what seems like only a brief moment of relief. The mountain can be deceiving, for some stretches you can feel a brief relief, then you turn the bend, and the suffering is there again. The body screams to stop, but the mind must overcome! You must continue and remember that your goal is not at the top, but in the grind of the uphill battle against gravity.

Upward you ascend, slowly, but steadily, knowing that in the end, the mountain will win again, but you will come away a stronger person both in cycling and in mental fortitude for being there this day!
Burnt Mountain
Climbing hills and mountains develops sport specific leg strength to cycling, which if a base fitness aerobic level has been developed and the workouts at a gym have been followed, the body will respond with greater performance and wattage output. As this strength is developed it will allow the rider to be able to ride along with other riders at the same weight/speed, requiring a lower effort so therefore a lower heart rate.

Hill Repeats:
To do these efforts, I try to use a steady climb of about a mile in length. Keep a cadence of around 65-70, and keeping as much pressure on the legs as possible for the whole climb. Speed is not what you should use to gauge your fitness on this effort, use the gearing that you are able to climb the Mt in. By keeping a lower cadence you are using more muscle to climb than Heart Rate. The adaption period is 6-8 weeks of consistent work on the hills.

Want even more information on what it takes to be a Stronger Cyclist? In this e-book I will tell you what I did to loose 10 pounds and Gain 20 watts in 3 weeks.

Purchase my new instant download e-Book
4 Things for Stronger Cycling!Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.

Could you bike commute?

Freedom from the grind: Become a bike commuter

Since you’re reading this, you have a bike. Are you commuting on it? Get away from the dangerous assumption that commuting by car is the way things ought to be. It isn’t.

Many of us first tasted freedom riding to and from grade school. We dropped bikes when we started to preen in junior high, and gave up for good when we were given the option of moving a few tons of metal between home and high school. Burning fossil fuel to move 6,000 pounds, one person and a small bag a short distance just doesn’t make sense.

If you take the energy stored in a gallon of gas and convert it to food calories, many cyclists could get over 900 miles to the gallon. What does your car get? The cost of operating a bike is pegged at three cents per mile, while driving a car solo costs 70 cents per mile.

There are other benefits, too. Riding means you don’t have to commit the absurd act of driving to a gym to work out. Transit doubles as exercise, a twofer that saves time and improves health. Commuting means you’re in control; no more sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic. You can also eat more and enjoy it. Gobble that leftover donut down; consider it re-fueling after the morning ride.

Parking options improve, too. Bicycles almost always get the rock-star spot while the poor chumps in cars circle for several minutes looking for parking — another environmental disaster and huge waste of time.

In today’s fast-paced world, time is valuable. Luckily, for most short trips — whether to the market, quick errands or work — riding can be comparable to driving. If you can manage 15mph, five miles can be completed in 20 minutes — with almost no time spent stuck in traffic. Between walking to the car, traffic lights, finding parking and walking to the destination, that five-mile trip in a car can easily run beyond 25 minutes.

Leave the rush hour traffic behind

Anyone with a bicycle can be a commuter. If you have only one bike, then you’ve got your commuter ride right there. Converting an old bike is becoming popular, and there are a number of ways to improve your ride for the task. As in racing, lighter is better — but not at the cost of reduced durability or the potential for extra maintenance.

If there’s one essential for commuter bikes, it’s bulletproof tires. Tires that have Kevlar or some other impenetrable layer reduce the likelihood of flats. While carrying a pump, extra tube and tools is always a good thing, flatting when late to work sucks. The right belted tires may mean the only flats you get result from riding the tires under-inflated. Many of these tires have thick treads, so they can last a year or two depending on how far and how often you commute.

The best commuter bikes are simplified, with the gearing appropriate for the ride. If it’s a hilly route, make sure you have extra-low gears so you don’t have to huff and puff to get where you’re going. With a flat ride, consider using internal gearing, a single speed or a fixed-gear in a ratio that is easy to pedal.

The fix is in

Fixed-gear bikes are becoming pretty hip these days, offering certain advantages when the conditions are right. They’re light because the chain is short and there’s only a single cog and chainring. You can also get away with just one brake in the front. The rear wheel is generally bolted on — making it harder to steal — and the same can be done to the front wheel. And you’ll never space out on the morning ride because the direct drive attached to the pedals means that when the wheels are rolling, the pedals are turning.

If you’re a newbie and you’re lusting after a new fixed gear, get one with a flip-flop hub and two handbrakes. A flip-flop hub allows you to switch from a fixed cog on one side to a freewheel cog on the other. Schwinn re-released their popular Madison model, and Swobo also has a stylin’ fix called the Sanchez.

Older bikes can be converted to fixed gears or single-speeds, whether they’re designed for road riding or mountain biking. The rear dropouts (where the back wheel connects to the frame) determines whether it will be an easy job or one requiring a savvy mechanic. Devices such as the Surly Singleator are available if you want to turn your freewheel into a single-speed.

Extra accessories for commuters

What lock you need depends on where you are and how long you’re staying. Sometimes, a cable is all you need for a deterrent; other times, a U-lock is needed for its security. Ideally, get something light enough to carry and always lock your bike when leaving it alone — even for a minute. Many companies are happy to accommodate bikes, providing bike lockers or secure storage areas.

Fenders keep clothes clean and dry on damp rides and can be a welcome accessory for commuters. They don’t have to be heavy and made of aluminum. Many are made of plastic and designed to be attached and detached quickly.

Every commuter should have at least one blinking light. Most are designed to clip onto clothes, or come with quick-release brackets that make taking them on and off bikes a breeze. A red blinking light for the back is essential. A white blinking light for the front is useful for alerting oncoming traffic.

Most commuters will find a bag or rack is a good investment. Using a small bag forces you to be efficient and take only the minimum, but not everyone has that option. While some believe messenger bags are the way to go because bike messengers carry all sorts of stuff, what they don’t realize is that messenger bags are designed for carrying large, oddly-shaped objects short distances. They’re not always comfortable when fully loaded over longer rides. Backpacks designed for bike commuting usually are long and narrow so the bag doesn’t easily shift when riding. They often have a back padding system to minimize sweat, multiple compartments and optional hydration bladders.

The big question

Is it best to ride in normal clothes or riding clothes? Most commuters base their decision on the distance covered. The big break seems to be at five miles. Less than five, many opt for street clothes — use some kind of band to keep pant legs from getting greasy or caught on the chain. More than five miles and it’s time to get changed.

And thus do clothes beget the sweat discussion. A shower at the destination, especially if it’s work, makes things easy. But there’s always dressing in layers, riding easy, and doing a quick manual spritz in a sink.

The hardest thing about forsaking your car for a bike is the first ride. It won’t feel right. But the more you commute, the easier it gets. Before you know it, you’ll be contemplating riding to work in the cold, the rain, the snow — anything to stay away from driving. It’s addictive. Luckily, it’s the good kind of addictive.

By J.P. Partland
For Active.com
May 03, 2007

How to prevent cold toes while cycling

It’s that time of year when cyclists are starting to get anxious to be riding outside.
Pro racing has already started in Qatar, and next with Oman. Even though all 49 states have snow this past weekend, you can bet that spring is just around the corner. Hopefully you have been at least putting in some gym time and riding the trainer. But are you about to go insane from being inside on your bike?
Ready to do some of your intervals outside. This will help you keep those toes warm on these chilly days!

Firstly, here is a post that I wrote about starting off warm before getting on the bike. At the WBL this winter, I even went into to Sunshine Bike shop and took off extra layers to warm-up. Then as everyone was about to start, I put the layers back on & started the ride.

To make sure I can feel my toes for a cold ride I start off with a pair of heavy wool socks. There are several brands that make wool socks and the difference b/w wearing wool versus a regular cycling sock is huge! Defeet probably make my favorite wool sock, although I have gotten a nice pair from a outdoor store also.

Next, I will put on toe covers on my cycling shoes. The reason that I add the toe covers is that it is usually the toes that actually get cold, so an extra layer over them is usually quite welcome! This layer is a good buffer, but not really enough for a below 40 degree day.

shoe covers
shoe covers

And lastly I will put the neoprene covers over the toe covers and shoes. This creates a 3 layer barrier from the cold. With 3 different layers it is easier for you to make any adjustments to changes in temperature, however, I have found that if it is cold enough for all 3 layers, I usually don’t need to adjust anything.

Now get out there and ride!

local BMC racer at Qatar stage 5 finish

Local rider, John Murphy ‘BMC’ ‘@jpmurph8’ put in a strong effort with about 2KM to go, but ended up getting swallowed up by the hard charging field. The chaos ensued as he was coming back into the group, as Taylor Phinney ‘@taylorphinney’ had a close call, almost taking a spill @5:35.

I’m a big fan of these late stage efforts for the finish. The chase group has to organize or someone has to sacrifice themselves for the rider to get caught. Often the rider is caught, but when it works, it is a Solo win ahead of a break-away!
So great to see a local rider doing well in a Big stage race!!

Polar heart rate monitor support fail

I’ve had several heart rate (HR) monitors since I started racing over a decade ago. And I’ve liked features of some and didn’t like features on several of them.

The worst problem that I had with other HR monitors was that the chest strap would not pick up under power lines. And since 1 of the sections that I used to like doing intervals on had a brief climb, then a long gradual uphill, I would do intervals on that section of road that was also slightly busy. After a year of being disappointed by the chest strap not picking up my HR it seemed that the best brand was Polar. I thought man, if I had a Polar HR monitor, I would always have a read out.

So, finally I dropped over 100 bones and got a Polar F6. Life was good. The chest strap picked up everywhere. Although the features are a bit more than I needed, it was just a short learning curve to figure out how to use the features that I wanted, and I didn’t have to mess with any extra’s.

I’ve checked out better HR monitors that have cool features, but I only want to know what my HR is, how long the timer has been going (intervals) and how long I’ve been on the bike (time). Although the numbers were slightly smaller on the HR feature – because when you are pushing LT +5 it gets hard to see straight!

After about a season of riding/racing the F6 HR monitor stopped working. I searched around to see what could have happened. I adjusted the strap & it would work some, then nothing. It became aggravating, but I realized that it must be the battery on the chest strap that has gotten weak, and was no longer working.

I asked several places about what to do and found out that Polar only has 4 service centers in the USA….. so, I hustled down to the postal non-service and shipped my chest strap and watch to Michigan.
It’s been about a week. And when I checked the mailbox, I didn’t expect the box to be from Michigan. In fact it took me a couple minutes to figure out what I would have coming from Michigan, then it dawned on me, the HR monitor had already gotten back to me! Sweet!!!!

Or so I thought…. I opened up the box and pulled out the contents that had been packed in styro foam. Out came the chest strap and the elastic chest band. Then I pulled out the watch that was packed in bubble wrap. I opened it and realized that the scratches that it had endured were still there – bummer.

Next I pulled out the yellow sheet – the bill. I scanned over it – it got checked out – $13 ok. They determined the chest strap wasn’t working (even though I noted that on the return form) they packed up a new chest strap – $30!??!! shipped it for $7 !?
Grand total – $50. Now granted I allowed them to charge my card to expedite the process, but for sure I didn’t think that it would be HALF the cost of a brand new one.

“Dear Polar, next time I will be more careful which chest strap I purchase so that I don’t grab my ankles attempting to get a new battery!”
….but for not a whole lot more than $50 and I could have gotten a brand new HR monitor – 1 that I haven’t scratched the watch lens yet! Those scratches will be a reminder of my aggravation with Polar’s customer no-service. I will be pedaling in anger due to Polar.

Polar has high marks in the functioning category – their chest straps seem to always pick up in any conditions. Their watches take time to figure out how to scroll through and get to the feature you want, but once you get over the learning curve it either gets easier or you don’t use it.

Although I would get another Polar HR monitor, I would make certain that it had replaceable batteries for the chest strap – batteries cost about $3 and I’ve replaced many of them in all the other brands. Also, I would not get more features than necessary because it seems challenging to scroll through the watch features to get what you want out of it.

Slow Rider ahead

I got a chance to ride with someone that was a bit slower than me. I knew this ahead of time and was looking forward to the ride anyway. Often I enjoy going at a slower pace….why some folks have trouble with that, I’m not sure why
Ask the Pro’s and most coaches and they will tell you that a big thing about training is that when you go hard – you have to go Very Hard! and when you go easy, you have to go Very Easy!!

So, I’m out Mt biking with a friend, and as we got going, I was able to cruise on the downhills and hit some of my favorite sections with some good speed. This was due to me being able to keep momentum, and being focusing on gaining more momentum from the terrain.

I was able to ride along at an easy pace, yet still hit some of my favorite sections w/ some pretty good speed. So, the downhill sections that I like so much were pretty much taken at the same pace, as I looked for different lines to take & different sections to challenge me.

I came into the climbs with a much lower heart rate than usual. I was able to take it easy on the climbs, which allowed me to have power in reserves for the steepest uphill sections and the same for the technical sections that require just a bit more finesse and strength.

Later I realized that I had more time to look for other technical spots that I usually was going by before I realized that it was there. I tried different techniques and/or lines going into or out of those sections. Heck, in 1 spot I did a wheelie to shift my front wheel into a different line – I would not have the time to do that if it was a race-pace ride.

I always seem to have more Fun than expected. Just a relaxed ride. So, the next time you go out with a friend that maybe a little slower than you, have fun with it – at their pace, they will get to enjoy the ride more also!

I Hate Race Wheels

I hate race wheels and those that show up to the local group ride with them.  But I also love it when they show up to the local group ride with them.  And this is why…..

When I’m out training, I will ride hard and if it is an aggressive group, I will attempt to bridge the gap or work to pull everyone up to the break.  I will attack when I can and make everyone chase!  I will get caught, but that’s not the point.  I’m training.  Some of those guys with their super aero race wheels caught me – good for them.  I have worked hard and battled the wind. Whether solo or with the break, I have pushed my body.  And they have also.  But I have dug a little deeper, dealt with a little more pain.  I have battled the elements of wind, strength, and resistance more than they have.  And in order for your body to become stronger you must occasionally overload it!  (I say occasionally because more important is the recovery from the overload).  The idea is to come back harder, faster, stronger next time!

The difference is what happens on race day.  They show up just like they did for the group ride.  Not me.  You think I was fast and worked hard before?  I’m getting psyched up because  I’m putting on my Race wheels now.  Now my bike is lighter, and it is rolling with less effort.  This is not only drastically changing the amount of resistance of my bike, but it is effecting me mentally.  I’m amped up now, I can feel how much smoother my wheels are – I’m at the same speed with less effort.  I’m going over hills with less effort, and I’m coming out of corners with less effort.  I’m saving my matches until the decisive break goes, or until the final sprint happens.

It’s race day and now because of all the training I’ve done, my bike, body, and now my mental attitude is ready.  The race hasn’t even started yet, but I’ve already got the edge to win.  Race wheels are great, but do yourself a favor and save them for the Race.  Use an non-aero, heavy wheel-set for training. 
My race wheels have racing tires on them that have better grip and are lighter and maybe more prone to puncture, but the day before a race, I will take them out and make sure everything is shifting and properly aligned – this way I’m not stressing about this at the last minute before a race.

Riding on race wheels will bring an extra feeling of excitement about racing and isn’t that a big part of what racing is all about?

Eskar Specialized Tire review

Last spring (’09) I was handed a Specialized Eskar Mt bike tire to test ride. As I looked the tire over, I was pretty stoked, I like big butts and Fat Tires! And the eskar doesn’t disappoint on the Fat tire, it is a 29″ x 2.3 with approx. weight of 730g. I got this bad boy set-up on the Felt 2Niner comp – with the Rock Shock Tora 318 air Fork with about 180psi. Why the Tora? Because that’s what I got!

I like Specialized’s website that states: “When you have a bike with 150mm of travel, you better have a tire that can handle the trail” -True, but what if I have 50mm of travel? I’m a regular guy that likes to put a beating on anything under me. And since I can go to nearly any race and decide that day if I want to ride clydesdale or not (I’m about 195 lbs. ), this tire will definitely be put through the paces! My riding style tends to be somewhat aggressive for a cross country rider, I like the lean fairly hard in corners and make the tires do what they should.

I mounted the tire with a tube, and didn’t have any problems. I pumped in awe as I saw the size of the big boy. I like a Fat tire on the front wheel! Especially if you have 1 that gives you traction control in the turns. You see I don’t mind if the rear of my hard tail washes out some, I can usually handle that. But if your front tire washes out – you can be meeting mother nature close up before your hands are off the bars.

Tire Fat
The Fat Tires

I like to run Fat tires up front for traction and a smaller tire in the rear because that’s where most of my weight is, so I want a smoother tread that rolls easier. Since there is not as much weight up front, I don’t mind sacrificing smoothness for traction when it counts.

Terrain used on:
So far, I’ve been to Pisgah, Ft. Yargo, Bull Mt areas, Stanley Gap, local Atl trails systems, and several rides in the North Ga. area. And in all the conditions that can be found in these areas – dry, wet, cold, hot and humid!

I definitely run the air pressure in my tires a little higher than most everyone that I know and have read about on forums, so when I saw the recommended PSI of 35-65, I usually run my 2Niner tires around 40 PSI. Much less than that, and I tend to pinch flat on the hard tail….again, clydesdale. But with that said, for me running about 40, that eskar soaked up several missed timed jumps, awkward landings, and the general shenanigans that I put it through. I had several landings that were more ‘thud’ like than anything, and I would hold my breath waiting to hear that hissing sound – but it never came from the eskar, it soaked up all the aggitated hits that happened with out complaint. I like Fat tires!

Hard Pack:
I usually ride fairly hard pack terrain because I’m in Georgia. Most of the time we enjoy warm weather to ride. In fact 1 of the rides that I did was a 50 mile ride that was mainly in fire (gravel) roads and this tire was good about soaking up the rough sections. It took the roughest section around for me to think the tire was not fat enough – but this section is notorious around North Georgia for being a section that rattles the brain.

I have also taken the eskar on some road sections b/w trails, and although I wasn’t attempting any twisty sections, the tire is noticeably nobby, both in feeling and sound going down the road. But still it was stable, and handled like a knobby would.

Loose Pack
Inevitably while I am out we are going to be going fast enough into a turn and get in a corner that has loose dirt before you know it. When it happened, at most I would get a some slight slippage before the tire would grip again….I wasn’t attempting to ‘bust’, but there were definitely situations where I was going fast enough to be slightly out of control – kinda like controlled chaos. Seemingly the tire would slide just a few centimeters before regaining control.

Wet and Mud:MudFelt
I raced the 12 hour relay race at Yargo on May 2nd. When the thunderstorm hit, I was mid-lap, I had just fixed a rear flat a few miles back, and I was hammering on the pedals to regain lost time for the team. The conditions didn’t effect the eskar at all. The handling was predictable. Even when I was pushing the front end to hard into a corner, the eskar was very subtle about slipping, giving me enough feedback so that I didn’t push anymore. But it never slide out from me and that’s an important thing.
However, I felt that it would run out more easily on wet roots or rock.

This fall/winter in Georgia I was on the trails after some heavy rain fall that we have been getting. The eskar didn’t miss a beat. In fact, I think it excelled in these conditions. I even went out for a snow/mud ride where I was chasing a buddy of mine, I had more trouble with movement from the rear tire than I did the front. In other words the rear wheel was causing me to slow down before the front tire was in corners.

I was thoroughly pleased with the Specialized eskar and the handling that it has. If your like me and enjoy having a Fat tire up front that will give you extra grip, then I would suggest the eskar.
Because I did run the eskar up front (I think as it should be) I didn’t notice any great tire wear – even after several road sections that I have taken it on.
If I had raced more this year, I would have set it up tubeless – but since I wasn’t racing much, I didn’t because I like riding this tire!