Mountain training

posted on March 27th, 2011 in Cycling, Cycling Tips, Ride Reports, Strength Training by Stephen

So after I got the results from my VO2 Max test, Tony & I went over what the prescription to increase those numbers would be. I’m not a fan of Time-Trialing. But I am a fan of being a Strong cyclist. So, to get the training started I went to the North Georgia mountains and did a ride known as the gaps – well, a variation of the gaps. Climbing the mountains will allow me to get my Heart Rate in my zone for the prescribed period of time and allow my legs to increase strength by climbing these mountains!

I drove up and parked at the Turner’s Corner store and headed up Neels Gap – aka Blood Mt. I haven’t ridden my bike in the gaps for at least a year now & it showed on the first ‘warm-up’ climb. I seemed to be in my largest cog almost as soon as the climb started. There is no cheating the Mountain, The mountain can make a bad day worse.

I was hoping that after the warm-up/re-introduction to climbing that my legs would loosen up and feel good for the 1st actual climb – Nope… wrong again. I basically played mental games against my body, for about half of the climb up the mountain – brain saying we have to keep doing, keep pedaling, at least get to the top…. the body was on defense. Stop, hold it right here, I need a break.

I was suffering and I was hurting, and honestly your reading this blog and this test was part of what kept me going to the top. Each subtle relief in the terrain is a test – do I take a relief from the pain, or do I keep my heart rate at the prescribed intensity?!

I wanted a 12×25 cassette to make the climb more bearable – I usually always start my training season on that cassette then switch to a 11×23 later in the season as my legs no longer needing the 25. And my brain was angry for not finding it this morning, and the body was paying the penalty.

Out of the saddle through the hairpins, flop back down in the saddle on the straights. I keep my Heart Rate between 165 & 170 for the duration. The body is again in conflict, it is burning fuel & creating lactic acid & now must flush it out as fast or faster, as it is creating it. This is the prescribed workout.

Slowly I dragged myself upwards until I could see the sign for the AT (Appalachian trail) – only a 1/4 mile to go. I get to the top and soft pedal as I catch my breathe and check out the view.
Aw, the Mountains are calling me!
I hydrate, and ingest some fuel as I debate going home or pushing on to climb another gap, taking me further from the car. I finally decide to attempt the next gap, Wolf-Pen. This is a climb that is always tough for me. For me it is a little deceiving. At first the switch backs seem to allow for some acceleration, but the next section feels a little steeper each time. The uphill sections keep my heart rate maxed out. Slowly I make my way to the top.

There is a section on this climb that always ‘seems’ like it should be easier than it is – but today, although it is tough, I am taking it steadily. Slowly crawling my way up. There isn’t much speed involved, but that is ok, I’m going purely off of Heart Rate today. 1 switch-back at a time.

Top of Wolf Pen Gap

If you watch old stages of the Tour De Georgia, about the only reason you know this is a climb is they are out of the saddle…. not me. I’m in anguish in these hills, however there is the other side of the coin today, the downhills will be my REWARD!
After reaching the top, and take a brief break, I turn around and descend what I just finished climbing.

Thanks to my buddy ‘HillBilly’ for the video:

Now, I still have 1 more climb to make it back to the car, back up Blood Mountain. On this climb, I am feeling better, the body is working more with me, but I also feel fatigued. I do what I can, and stay in my target HR range and make my way to the top.

Although I can feel the fatigued setting in, I am trying to keep up with the gel & hydration. The legs are responding fairly well, and this climb actually seemed easier than I had thought it would be. This is only the 2nd or 3rd time I had climbed it in this direction. It seems to kick hardest early on, then mainly level off more than the other climbs. With a little speed to keep the HR up, I can now kick little with each incline – then settle back into a decent pace.


View 3 Gap! 2011-03-23 1 in a larger map

After the final descent I do a little exploring on some roads that were fairly early in the ride. I always seem to be curious what is around the next bend.

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new bike check list

posted on November 23rd, 2010 in Cycling, Cycling Tips by Stephen

So you just bought a new bike – now what do you check to make sure that everything is set-up correctly on the bike? Bicycles mainly come in boxes with ‘some assembly’ required (and metric tools). Usually handlebars, pedals, and saddle, seat posts all have to be assembled before the bike goes to the show-room floor or out the door.

Always have a qualified bicycle mechanic check over anything you are unsure of or have questions about!

Here are some Top Things that I would check when first bringing your bicycle home or before that next big ride:

1) Front Brake caliper! Stopping when you want to is important.
The Big reason to specifically check the front brake is that if it gets loose, unlike the rear brake, when the brake is applied it may come off the bike. Because of the placement of the front brake and the rotation of the wheels, if the brake nuts are too loose, when the front brake is applied it will come off, the rear brake would stay because the wheel would hold it too the frame. Both are bad situations, but the front is worst case.

Most road bicycles have a 5mm nut on the back-side of the fork. Simply twist the handle-bars to 1 side. Use the allen wrench to tighten the nut. Straighten up the handle-bars, then re-align the brakes so that neither side of the brake pads rub the wheel when it is turning.

2) The pedals… are they properly tightened?
This is a good thing to check occasionally. Because the pedals are built on an axle that allows rotation to happen with out the axle turning, you should occasionally check that A) the axle is tight on the crank. and B) that the pedals are rotating smoothly.

Some pedals require a 15mm pedal wrench, some pedals require an allen wrench on the inside of the crank arm where they attach to the brake. The pedals should be tighter than ‘snug’ but not so tight that you can never get them off.

3) The stem and handlebars: if they are loose, you will lose control!
I hold the front wheel with my legs and gently twist the handle-bars. If the wheel puts pressure on my legs and the handle-bars don’t twist to the side, then that is good. If it moves, I recommend having a mechanic at your local bike shop tighten it for you since this adjustment also is the headset adjustment and having that improperly adjusted will result in damage to your headset.

Next I grab the brake/shifter levers and gently apply down-ward pressure. If they stay in place or the rear wheel raises up, then that is good. If they move, then re-adjust to the proper cycling position and tighten the screws to torque of the stem-clamp.

4) Hubs (the very center of the wheel that allows the wheel to turn) are often over-looked in newly built bicycles.
What is amazing is that if your hubs are too tight or too worn out you can actually feel that in the frame close to the hubs. If your hubs are too tight, then you will pre-maturely wear out the hubs, basically trashing them. Having the hubs too tight is a big energy sapper. It would be like cycling with the brakes on. Have the mechanic at your local bike shop adjust them properly.

5) Saddle: The main contact point on a bicycle.
If the saddle is too loose, it could fall off. This could cause a crash or cut on the lower body.
Seatposts are made more differently now, so if you have any concern about adjustment or how to tighten check with you local bike shop.

6) Seat Post:
If the seat post is loose, then it could ‘drop’ or most likely sink during a ride.
If the saddle is too high, it will put extra pressure on the back of your legs because of the foot and knee extension required to reach the pedals.

If the saddle is too low it will put pressure on various places on the front your legs (quads).

7) Wheel Skewers: If your skewers are loose you could loose a wheel while riding, or have a wheel shift with in the frame causing it to rub either the frame or the brakes.The front and rear wheel are both held on by skewers or ‘quick releases’. On 1 side there is a nut, on the other side there is a handle. Pull the handle and the skewer will loosen, push the handle towards the wheel ‘closed’ and it will tighten. The big adjustment is with the nut, the minor adjustment is with the handle. While the handle is in a straight line from the skewer, I usually tighten the nut until I feel tension on the handle just as I start to close it, then just push the handle the rest of the way.

These skewers should be more than snug tight, but not so tight that you can not get the skewer loose when you want.

If the front or rear skewer are just loose, then your wheel may not fall out, but you will most likely rub your brakes as you ride. And turning may be affected, as you lean the bike it will suddenly shift to 1 side or the other because the axle isn’t snug in the frame of the bicycle.

The front quick release would have to be very loose in order to come off because of the ‘tabs’ that prevent a loose skewer from allowing the front wheel to fall out. Pro teams often file down these tabs so that they can change a front wheel flat during a race much faster – you probably won’t have that issue, so I recommend keeping the tabs. I can remember many instances that I have to re-tighten a front skewer that was loose. The tabs prevent the front wheel from dropping out of the front fork of the bike…. imagine cycling along, lifting the front wheel or hitting an unexpected bump and suddenly your front wheel isn’t there – It is a very bad accident.

Rear skewers are less likely to cause such a bad accident, but if your rear wheel comes out it will be very damaging to your bike.

Again, always have a qualified bicycle mechanic check over anything you are unsure of or have questions about!

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No US Pro Race Radio

posted on September 19th, 2010 in Cycling, Ride Reports by Stephen

I was at the 2010 USPro race in Greenville, SC. While I was there I found out that the officials did not allow race radios. So the team directors could only talk to a rider if the rider slowed down so their team car could pull up beside him, or the driver was able to pull up beside the racer along a section of road.

Normally the team directors have instantaneous communication with their team members and direct information from race officials about time gaps, and where team members are along the road – besides this, they will also get information about upcoming obstacles and odd situations that the racers may encounter.

During the 2010 USPro race a young up and coming cyclist Ben King racing for the Shack, was in a 3 man break almost immediately, and on the 3rd lap, almost as soon as the climb started up Paris Mt. King pulled away from his break a way companions. It would be the last time he would ride with another cyclist that day. He climbed up Paris Mt, then through downtown Greenville, SC. Up Paris Mt again, before starting the final 3 laps on the finishing circuit in a Time Trial position.

I was chatting with different people and everyone seemed to agree that the pack would start to heat up, and a team would come to the front and reel King back in. I saw BMC come to the front. BMC had what appeared to be 4 riders in the next break, including George Hincapie, and Levi Leipheimer. Several teams kept the pace high in attempts to reel in King, including BMC, Kelly Strategies, Garmin Transitions – yet they were unsuccessful in reeling in the solo break-a-way rider King. In fact King seemed to hold his 2 minute lead around most of the downtown circuit.

King held a 2 minute gap against riders from 3 different teams. Would race radios have changed this?
Most USCF racers are not allowed to use radios, citing ‘too distractive’. Is this a sign of future racing – No race radios? Will this make for more exciting races?

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