You Can’t Judge A Road Biker By His Bike
It’s a story that has been told a thousand times. As we gear up for charity rides, group rides and spins out on our favorite stretch of land, we begin to size up the riders around us to figure out which wheel we want to grab onto to and who we need to watch out for in terms of sketchy riding. We check out their bike, equipment and how they interact with other riders. We watch as they clip in and take those first pedal strokes. We read the sponsors on their jersey and shorts wondering if they are just rocking another team’s kit or are they actually part of the team itself. Are we fast enough to hang with that group? Too fast for the other? It is a routine we fall into as cyclists that is completely natural as we prepare to hit the road with riders we have never spun with before. However, 9 times out of 10…we can not judge a road biker by the quality of his bike.
You Can’t Judge A Road Biker By His Bike
If there is one aspect of the pre-ride dance that has always held true it is one universal truth.
You can not judge a road biker by the quality and expense of his bike.
While you may think…he is on an XYZ bike, so he must be consistent and fast…you are often times going to be wrong. At the same time, discounting riders on older, less expensive bikes can bring you a surprise as after the start, they completely rip your legs clean off.
We all like new parts and bikes, but the quality of your bike does not dictate how you ride on the road. It also does not make you an authority on anything. Respect on the road is earned through experience and track record. Typically, the guy that is running their mouth the most about parts and how great all of their stuff is…is the guy you want to watch out for while the guy in the corner keeping his mouth shut with calves the size of tennis rackets is about to show you how to ride a bike.
There is nothing wrong with having the best the cycling industry has to offer (I am a self proclaimed parts junkie), but…at the end of the day…it is about how you ride the bike you brought and not what bike you are riding. You don’t have to be the fastest or pull the paceline the longest, you just have to get out…enjoy the ride and obey the rules of the road. When you work on holding your line and working well in a paceline, that gets noticed much more than which model bike you are riding that day.
Enjoy your bike and your parts…and put them to use on the road.
Image by ah_blake
Century Road Bike Ride: Tackling Over 100 Miles On A Road Bike
Tackling your first ever triple digit mileage bike ride or taking on a century road ride that is drastically different than rides you are used to can be an interesting challenge.
For many, the achievement mark of a 100 mile ride is a stepping stone they must take in their cycling career…for others…it is a way to get involved with the sport through large, organized activities (like charity bike rides) for a cause during the year. Either way…if you are working up to a long mileage road bike ride, century road rides are a great way to test your abilities and get more involved with the sport. So you have picked one in your area…what do you need to do to get ready for the road bike ride and how do you need to tackle the distance once you get there.
Preparing For A Century Road Bike Ride
In all reality, about the only thing you can really do to prepare for a 100 mile road bike ride is to put in some miles. I typically do not recommend that riders take on a century unless they have completed 60-70 mile road bike rides without too much issue. The last 30 miles on a century tests your will to keep the legs moving in a way that you really can not experience and overcome without some miles on your legs already. Before you take on the 100 mile route, get out with friends and complete 60-70 mile road bike rides to test your ability to go the distance. If all feels good (or you are just fearless)…go for it…
Luckily, all century road rides also leave you with mileage options (typically 20′s, 40′s and metric century/60′s mileage options), so you can be apart of the event even if you aren’t taking on the 100 mile. Additionally, century road rides are really well supported with SAG stops that provide nutrition and fluids to get you from point A to point B. If you get into trouble…help is not too far away. This makes century road rides the perfect avenue to test your distance abilities.
When you are ready get everything you need on a road ride and suit up for the long haul.
Century Road Rides: How I Ride The Distance
Everyone has their own strategy when it comes to century road rides. If you are shooting for a sub 4 hour on flat courses or sub 5 in the mountains, chances are you already know exactly what you are doing, so you guys are not really the focus here. The following tips and tricks for century road rides are how I personally attack the 100 mile ride.
Keeping Hydrated: Take In Fluids
I start every century ride with two bottles of water. The goal is to consume at least a bottle an hour during the entire ride. Towards the end of the ride, I normally take in more than that as stops at SAGs permit. The trick is to start drinking while you are getting ready and during the beginning stages of the ride when you feel like you really do not need to take in a lot of fluids. If you get to the point where you feel dehydrated 50 miles in, you are working from behind the 8 ball and that can get you into trouble. Two bottles…in most centuries…will get me to the SAG at around mile 50 which works out perfectly with the rest of the plan.
Once I have taken down the two bottles of water, I fill up one bottle with the drink mix provided at the SAGs to get sodium and one bottle with water to take care of my water craving while riding. From that point, I drink at least a bottle an hour and stop at one more SAG based off of that consumption/need.
Getting With The Right Group: Tear Off The Beginning Miles
On most century rides, I am not trying to tear off my best time possible. While there are groups that are trying to hit a time limit, 90% of the riders on the ride are trying to get to the finish in one piece. Now…as you already know…riding in a big group creates a lot less work on your end, so getting with a good, fast group from the very beginning can help you count down the beginning half of the ride much quicker with less energy expended.
When I start a century, I try to find a fast, organized, experienced group to latch onto for the first 50-60 miles. A lot of times, this group is averaging faster than I can sustain for the whole 100, but for the first half…I can use them to get to the first stop quickly. If you are comfortable with pulling (how to pull a pace line) and feel that you can do so without wasting yourself for the rest of the century, get out front and pull your own weight being careful not to waste energy you might need for the rest of the miles. Otherwise, just stick in the pace line (pace line tips) and let the others do the work for you.
Once you have let the strong group pull you for the first half of the route, refuel and find smaller groups you can work with to get to the end. If you have the muscle left, you can also try to stick with the smaller, faster section of the group that just broke up as well.
Nutrition: Keeping The Fuel Going
During long road bike rides, you are going to be burning a ton of calories and releasing a lot of salt. I always carry several packs of Margarita Cliff Bloks (3x sodium) to keep hunger at bay while also replenishing the salt in my body with something that is easy to eat while I pedal. At sag stops, an orange and bananas keep the legs moving throughout the ride. On most SAGs, you will also have sugars (cookies, crackers, etc) and other salt based foods, so you will have to test out what works best for your stomach/body. I generally do not like to eat anything to heavy so the fruits work the best for me.
Manage Your Fitness: Taking Care Of The Motor
Before you hit the century road bike ride, study the course and the overall distance (some are in the high 90′s in mileage while some others stretch into the low 100′s). The elevation change at the end and final miles are going to be some of the hardest, so you need to take that into consideration as you hammer out the rest of the route. Always be sure to keep enough in the tank for the end and focus on clean pedal strokes to get the most forward motion with the least amount of effort.
Century Road Bike Rides
Century rides can be a great experience or a complete disaster depending on how you deal with the ride. By keeping these things in mind as you hit the road, you can insure that you get the most out of the experience and figure out your own style of long distance road biking. In the end, these rides can be a great way to give back to a cause by participating in charity bike rides and spend time with new and old friends.
Image by Jon Wick
The Roadie Attitude: Killing The Cause
Over the past couple of weeks, I have heard a couple of stories of roadies and drivers going at it because of actions taken on the road. While this is a super sensitive subject amongst cyclists, each of the stories involved a road cyclist that was in the wrong and they took it among themselves to attack the driver with words and flying water bottles.
The Roadie Attitude
In my mind, there are two different kinds of road bikers.
- The Typical Stereotype Roadie – The typical roadie is the stereotype that goes along with road cycling. The typical roadie has a negative attitude, believes they are never wrong and firmly believes that the road is only for cyclists and cars should just go away. The typical roadie finds enjoyment out of confrontation with drivers as they feel it is their right to yell and scream at anything they feel is wrong. As dumb as this sounds, there are cyclists who really do believe this to the core and it is where the stereotype comes from.
- A Road Cyclist - A road cyclist obeys the rules of the road (or at least most of them) and realizes that the road is primarily used for motor vehicles. By taking extra precaution, the road cyclist is aware of their surroundings and heads out on rides to get the most out of the sport and is not looking for a fight.
Important Note: The category you fall into has nothing to do with speed or whether or not you race. It has been my experience that most road cyclists can rip the legs off over confident stereotype roadies.
Sharing The Road: It’s A Two Way Street
If you have been road biking for any length of time, you have been buzzed by, cussed at, flipped off or any combination there of. It isn’t a pleasent situation and it can sometimes be dangerous if drivers are not taking proper precautions. I hate it has much as you do, but it is part of sharing the road with drivers as it is typically a very small percentage of drivers that decide to be an ass.
Just like those few drivers that decide to take it upon themselves to show their true colors, there are those road bikers that feel they own the road and the rules do not apply. They can swing wide on turns without looking, blow through stop signs (don’t worry…I’m guilty of this one too) and run red lights (something I do not do). When called out on their bad actions, these road bikers take the defensive and blame the several thousand pound car for their mistakes.
Sharing the road is not a one way street where road cyclists get to enjoy breaking the rules while the drivers have to be held to the high standard. It is just as much our part to represent the sport of cycling in a positive manner as it is for the drivers to make safe passes and be aware of cyclists on the road. With every bad experience a driver has with a roadie, they apply that same experience to other road bikers, so your bad attitude is now affecting us all.
When you clip in and head out for a ride, you are not only representing yourself, but other road riders to drivers you come in contact with. It is already hard enough to get rights of cyclists protected in some cities, and…by taking matters into your own hands…you only make things worse for the rest of us. As cyclists, we need to take the higher road. We need to be the ones that set the example of what behavior should be represented on the road. Will there be drivers that will never get it? Of course…but it is our job to protect our safety and the safety of other cyclists by not fueling the fire.
When you take to the road, remember that you are representing the sport of cycling and your actions can negatively affect legislation and outward appearances of road cyclists in your area. Of course…if you are an ass to drivers on the road…you probably stopped reading this article a long time ago…
The Key To Getting Faster: There is no replacement for consistent miles
Our bodies are well oiled machines that rely on muscle memory to get the job done. Some of those actions are automated and others are conditioned over time to perform a certain task. With road biking, it is no different. If you are wanting to get faster on the bike, there is still no replacement for consistent miles over time to increase your speed and the distance you are able to ride in a day.
Your Body: What Happens With Consistent Riding
When you get in consistent mileage on your road bike (note: doesn’t have to be blazing fast miles…just consistent), there are several things that happen that drastically increase your fitness and speed.
- Your Pedal Stroke Cleans Up Dramatically – When you put in consistent miles on the road bike, your pedal stroke starts to clean up significantly making you much more efficient on the bike. Increased efficiency equals increased speed and milage without as much effort, so this goes a long way in improving your overal ride quality. Through muscle memory because of repetition, your clean pedal stroke spins without any extra brain effort as your muscles just fall into a rhythm. To increase your efficiency, practice correct pedaling form.
- You Strengthen Your Riding Muscles – This should be obvious, but you do not use the same muscles while you ride that you do during other activities throughout the day. Even when you do use some of the same muscles, you are not conditioning them for the low impact, high repetition that road biking demands. Just like with any sport, you have to condition your muscles over time to perform at their best. Even if you are not racing, you have to get out and ride to condition your muscles so that every ride doesn’t feel like you are pedaling up hill both ways with a 40 mph headwind in sand on every ride. This constant conditioning is also what will increase the distance you can cover in one ride.
- You Get More Comfortable On The Bike – The more miles you put in…the more comfortable you are going to be on the bike…plain and simple.
- Your Body Builds Up Over Time – When you are on the bike sporadically, your body never has time to build on the last ride to make you stronger for the next. It is like you are starting from ground zero with every ride. When you start to stack rides throughout the week (while also giving your body adequate recovery), you start to build off of each ride. Over time, you will start to watch your average speed climb and your distance longer with less effort without really noticing the difference outside of stat checking. Your body is building up with the consistency.
Short On Time? Tips On Finding Rides In Your Area
No everyone has a ton of time left over during the week to get in consistent riding. Ideally, you would want to be on the bike 3 to 4 times a week (two weekday rides and one to two weekend ones) to really stay consistent, but life obligations can railroad that quickly. Here are some ways that you can get in the consistent mileage during the week and fit it into your busy schedule.
- Find A Weekly Night Ride – In my area, there are several weekly rides put on by bike shops or organizations that you can count on the same day every week. It becomes a part of my weekly schedule and is a lot easier to plan around if I know it is coming. If you get in touch with your local bike shop or advocacy group, they can point you in the right direction.
- Find A Lunch or Early Morning Route – By using MapMyRide or Garmin Connect, you can search for routes out of your driveway or next to your office that you can get out and hammer in about an hour. With the convenience of being extremely close to where ever you are during the day, these quick rides in the 15-25 mile range can be a lifesaver throughout the week as they do not take up a huge portion of the day. When you match those routes up with a Garmin Edge 705 or 605, you can hit up new routes solo with turn by turn directions.
There are workout programs and spin classes for those that like to hit the gym throughout the week that helps your riding, but there is still no replacement for saddle time. If you really want to be more consistent on the bike…you have to put in the consistent time and milage.
Image by mikewarren
Road Riding Tip: How To Pull The Paceline
If you have been on a road bike for more than 5 seconds, you already know that you can ride faster with less energy exerted in a paceline. By sharing the wind resistance among multiple riders, the pack can move forward, faster as a whole than one at a time. In an organized pace line, riders take turns pulling the group over the course of the ride to insure proper pacing and energy release.
However, there are certain things that you need to take into consideration when you pull up front into the wind that even a lot of experienced road cyclists do not do and it causes problems down the line. So here are a couple of things to consider:
- Any small change in speed is magnified down the paceline. If you go 3 mph slower suddenly, riders far down the line are hard on the brakes to prevent rear ending the rider in front of them.
- Momentum is everything. If momentum breaks or you sit up, same theory as above takes place. You are smashing everyone together down the line.
- Riders 5 back and longer can not see what is coming up. Calling out road obstacles, turns and other changes in normal straight line riding is always the responsibility of the rider in front of you, so that starts with the rider that is pulling the group.
- No one likes a jackass in the paceline…keep your ego at bay.
How To Pull The Paceline on a Road Bike Ride
As mentioned above, any small changes you make while pulling (speed, turns, momentum) magnifies significantly down the line, so here are some tips to make sure that your pull goes well and you aren’t cussed out as you make your way back through the rotation.
Keep Your Speed Consistent
Consistency is key and it all starts with speed. When you are pulling a paceline, you need to try to keep as consistent a speed as possible regardless of elevation changes. Now, if you hit a large climb or steep downhill, all aspects of the ride are going to change dramatically. But, if you are on the rolling hills or flatlands, you have to keep that speed constant throughout the mileage you decide to jump out front.
- Right before the lead rider pulls out to give you the headwind, pay close attention to how fast the group is riding. When that rider pulls off, do your best to keep that constant speed so you do not disrupt the group. You are going to have to put in some extra energy to fight the headwind that was blocked by the rider, but try to make sure not to pull away from the group or slow down at all. Make everything a smooth transition.
- There are going to come up against rolling hills and other features of the road that will require more effort to keep a constant pace. To combat this, keep a higher cadence while pulling to be spooled up and ready for any elevation changes. A lot of riders like to sit in harder gears, but when changes in effort come up, they end up changing speed suddenly because they were not ready for the change. By keeping a higher cadence, you are able to smooth this out easier.
- When you are pulling, keep pedaling and do not sit up. By keeping the motor spooled and aerodynamic, any changes in wind direction or force will not have as drastic of an effect on your speed.
Call Out Everything
When you are pulling the paceline, you are the front line of defense against upcoming turns, cars, changes in pace and obstacles in the road. It is better to be over cautious than assume, so call out everything as you ride through hand gestures (pointing at holes in the road) and vocally calling it out (car up, hole, dog, etc.). Also be aware of what is going on behind you by listening to the rear of the line. Those riders are going to let you know when cars are passing or there is a wreck/mechanical that needs to bring down the paceline.
Important Side Note: If you come up to a turn that is unexpected or too tight to take at speed, pass the turn and come back for it. If you are leading and have to get hard on the brakes to make the turn, you will wreck everyone behind you. It is better to pass and come back than take the risk.
Smooth Transition Out
There is no rule for when you are supposed to get out of the front and move your way back into the line. Typically, you want to stay out front long enough to pull your own weight but not so long that you start bringing down the speed of the ride. When you feel yourself start to blow too much energy or you see the average speed start to slow when the terrain hasn’t changed, it is time to get out from up front. If you waste everything you have pulling, you are just going to blow up anyway so it is better to be safe than alone.
When it comes time to pull out, smoothly pull out of the line to the left and start to work your way back down the line. If the rider behind you pulls in behind you (they might think you are trying to ride around something), simply wave them forward with a hand gesture to let them know you are pulling out.
Be sure not to decrease your speed too much as you are going to have to match the speed of the line to pull back in without getting dropped or disrupting the pace. If you are pulling back into the line midstream, wave to the rider that you want to pull in front of so they can make a gap.
You Do Not Have To Pull Every Road Ride
Pacelining is a group effort. By pulling your own weight and taking a pull, you are adding to the strength of the group, but…pulling is also not for everyone. If you are with a strong group that you know you are going to have difficultly keeping up with, sit back in the line and let the stronger riders hit the wind.
Image by Keisuke Omi
Have a Coke and a Smile – Extra Road Riding Energy For The Last Climb
Are you looking for a cheap way to get some extra energy for those last climbs on your road ride? Next time you have a store stop, have a Coke and a smile. Over our last road ride last weekend, a friend of mine reminded me of a riding tip that actually produces real results and it all centers around having a Coke and a smile.
I actually first learned about this trick from some marathon runner friends of mine. During their extremely long runs, they would have their supporters hand them Coke during the run for extra energy. Now, they obviously couldn’t handle the carbonation at that point in time, so whoever was giving them the Coke during the run would shake it up to make the Coke flat before consumption.
Now…you can’t exactly pack a cold can of Coke in your jersey pocket and head out on your favorite long ride. However, most long rides include some sort of store stop where you can pick one up, drink it and go about your ride.
What Does A Can Of Coke Do For Your Riding?
While it may seem off the wall at first, Coke contains caffeine, sugars and calories that your body needs during hard, strenuous road rides. This extra jolt during a ride can make those remaining climbs easier on the body and legs as you grind up the hill.
While you ride, your body is burning a massive amount of fuel. Typically, the simple sugars and carbs that we love so much get burned off quickly with a nice result of increased energy. But…the reason we should not eat too many simple sugars is the same reason we can not rely on them to last the entire ride…they burn off quickly, so you need a more sustainable energy source inside your body.
But, this leaves the door open to refuel your body with some more of these simple and complex sugars in the middle of a ride and add a nice little pick me up with the additional caffeine. If you think your stomach is going to have a hard time with the carbonation, you can shake up the can (use caution when opening) like the marathon runners to get rid of some of the pressure.
Is it all in the caffeine?
In an article by Peak Performance, they outlined the benefits of using Coke as a sports drink:
So why is Coke so popular with athletes? The research shows that Coke’s carbonation is not especially troublesome during exercise (and most athletes de-fizz it anyway). Coke’s carbohydrate can keep muscles working as glycogen levels plummet, and if Coke is mixed half-and-half with Gatorade, for example, which some athletes do, the resulting mixture possesses a carbohydrate content of about 8.6-8.7 percent, which is within the optimal range of carbohydrate concentrations.
But, no doubt the real appeal of Coke is due to its caffeine (as mentioned, a 12-ounce slug of Coke has between 30 and 45 mg of caffeine, slightly less than the increasingly popular Mountain Dew). As regular readers of Peak Performance are aware, caffeine has been shown to be performance-enhancing in a variety of different studies, and it continues to vie with creatine for the position of the hottest legal ergogenic aid available to athletes. In the past three years, research has shown that caffeine can jazz up 1500-metre running performances, improve interval workouts, heighten 100-metre swimming times, bolster sprint-cycling ability, broaden the endurance of experienced cyclists and even rev up 10-K running performances.
Will this energy be long lasting over the course of 40 miles or so? No…probably not…but it might get you over that mid-ride plateau that can sometimes zap the life out of a road bikers legs making the ending stages harder to handle.
So next time you hit up a store stop…have a coke and a smile…
Coke image by Brother O’Mara
Charity Bike Ride: Road Bike Rides For A Cause
A charity bike ride, like the 24 Hours of Booty for the Livestrong Foundation, is a great road bike ride where you can put in long miles without the worry of getting lost or left out in the cold. With multiple mileage options and a wide variety of road bikers, charity bike rides give road bikers a way to get involved and enjoy the sport of cycling. Every city in just about every country in the world has their own form of a charity ride or at least one near by.
Why Should You Ride A Charity Bike Ride?
If you are new to the sport of road biking or are looking to increase your mileage limit for your road rides, charity bike rides are a perfect way to increase your fitness and test the limits of your riding with very little risk. Typically, if you are going to try your first century (100 miles or 160 km) or metric century (100 km or 62 miles), you are going to want to try to test your legs ability to go the distance on charity bike rides for several reasons (that you end up paying for with the entry fee):
Charity Bike Rides Are Well Supported
When you ride in an organized charity bike ride, about every 25 miles (if you are doing the century or metric) has a sag stop where you can refill bottles with water or other electrolyte drink, eat a snake (fruit, bananas, cookies), get a goo or two, use the restroom and get ready for the next leg of the ride. Unless you plan store stops into your long un-supported rides, you are never going to have pit stops as good as they are on organized road rides.
Charity Bike Rides Have Medical Support
While you are riding a charity bike ride, (I did the Hospitality Highway Century 2 years running) there are automobiles that sweep the course to make sure everyone is ok. If you get into redzone trouble, help is just a phone call or wave of the hand away, so you can get help or get picked up for a mechanical easily and quickly.
Charity Bike Rides Give Back To A Great Cause
By participating in a charity bike ride, you are giving your money and effort into raising awareness and funds for a good cause. With 1,000′s of road bikers showing up to some of these events, every rider counts in the push to make our sport and the cause better in the long run. Even when most events are now ranging around $45.00 to enter, at least you have a good idea of where that money is going and you end up getting a t-shirt out of the deal.
Where Can I Find Charity Bike Rides In My Area?
The #1 best place to find a charity bike ride in your area is your local bike shop. If they do not already have fliers available, just ask the guy behind the counter and he can point you in the right direction. If there are any local, organized cycling groups in your area, one of the board members will know and you can also check their forum site to see when the next organized charity ride is going on in your area.
Anti Cycling Groups On Facebook
Over the past year, I have noticed an increasing trend on Facebook and other social media…lashing out at cyclists on the road. Now that everyone has a voice through fan pages on everything from sleep to your favorite website, there have been some antagonistic fan pages towards cyclists and road bikers setup on Facebook. These fan pages advocate and encourage hateful dialogue towards those of us that like to share the blacktop with cars and other motor vehicles. In some cases, they are actually promoting retaliation with their cars and projectiles out the window to discourage riders from hitting the road. In the road biking and general cycling industry, what can we do to combat this attitude and make it better for everyone involved?
Anti-Cyclists Fan Pages On Facebook
Before we get into that, let’s take a look at some of them and what they are saying.
There’s a perfectly good path right next to the road you stupid cyclist!
Whenever I see a cyclist. It just pisses me off. especially road cyclists! I am glad their are more people with the same values as ME!
even worse there is a whole bloody path there why ride on the 2 inches closest to the road!!!!!!!!!!
Not all. Just 90%.
- Feel they need to use the walking path when there is a bike lane 10 feet away.
- Think it’s OK to block traffic and cause a hazard making cars slow down because they feel entitled to do so.
- Are too stupid and ignorant of the law to ride WITH traffic.
And thanks to the a-hole that was s…o important he could not wait for traffic to move and flew by my stopped car hitting the side view mirror. That’s hit and run boy.
I’ll think about sharing the road when you follow traffic rules.
Ur not Lance Armstrong, stop biking on the road
A+ to whoever made this.
this is too perfect
What Can We Do As Cyclists On The Road?
First, forget about posting on these pages. You just getting into an online argument that no one wins. You can no combat keyboard courage. I think it is as distasteful as you do, but you are not going to change people or change the page by getting your blood pressure through the roof by arguing with idiots.
These pages – and the comments on them – do bring up an interesting point that I have been thinking about for quite sometime. I see a lot of road bikers run red lights, run stop signs, stop traffic and do other “I own the road” maneuvers that really do not help our cause. If we are going to expect motorists to respect us on the road, we really need to respect the same laws of the road as everyone else using that piece of blacktop that day.
I am as guilty as the next rider of running stop signs…I’ll admit it. But that does not mean it is right. Just like with anything, there is a shed of truth in some of the comments left on these types of hatred pages. If we are really going to expect people to change their attitudes about road bikers, we need to set the tone by obeying the same laws of the road and lead by example.
There are always going to be those drivers that think it is funny to run riders off the road or throw things out of their car. We have all been there (the cyclist not the asshole driver) and it sucks. But…we just need to be more aware of our surroundings and try to limit our exposure to the idiots in this world. There will never be enough laws, enforcement or awareness to fix stupid.
As you get out on your next ride…think about what you can do to improve the image cyclists have on the road. You never know…you could be converting one driver at a time over to our side.
Image by biblicone
Losing Weight Where It Matters
Road biking is all about efficiency. The more power you get to the ground and the less weight you have to move to generate speed…the easier riding is and the faster you will be. The entire industry in road biking is centered around weight and how you can become a faster rider through decking out your road bike with the latest and greatest in lightweight components. While that shinny new Dura-Ace or Campy rear derailleur might look really cool on your bike in the parking lot waiting on your regular ride, where can you spend that money you work so hard for and actually see a sizable return on your investment on the road?
Losing Weight On Your Road Bike The Right Way
So you have a bike that needs to go on a diet. Before you jump in and dump a load of cash into new parts, there are a couple of things to consider during this journey into weight weenie stardom.
- Every Little Bit Counts – As you continue to upgrade components or look at buying a new bike, little weight differences over multiple parts add up. So as you look at a 100 gram difference, realize that if you save that five times throughout your bike component purchases, you have saved over a pound off your total weight (453.59232 Grams in a Pound).
- Noticing It While Riding Is Tricky For Some Parts – Getting that ti or carbon water bottle cage to shave some weight is really more of an impulse, bling buy. The trick is shaving the weight where you will actually notice the difference while riding.
Where To Start Spending Money On Road Bike Components
Keeping those two things in mind, there are 3 areas you should start in if you are looking at shaving serious weight off your road bike but actually be able to feel the difference on the road.
- Wheels – Rotating mass is probably the #1 place to start if you are looking to shave weight that will actually affect your riding. Not only do they have some serious ability to drop the grams quickly, but that feeling is multiplied on the road as you are having to actually rotate that weight with your legs on the bike. The more you shave off the weight with the wheels, the faster you will accelerate and get to speed. Nothing changes the way a bike rides quite like a new set of high-end wheels. But…many riders will forgo this option in place of a new component set. Regardless of bike, this is one investment that will pay for itself time and time again as you move wheels from bike to bike. Now…be sure to keep in the back of your mind that they still need to be durable enough for your riding style (don’t get the lightest ones you can find if you are 240 lbs and a power hammer rider).
- Frame - By switching frame materials or going to a higher end road bike frame, you can drop a drastic amount of weight and improve your ride quality at the same time. Newer carbon frames are going to have a better ride at a lighter weight than their aluminum and steel counterparts. Your frame is also the largest part of your bike (outside of the wheels), so any change in this department completely changes how your road bike feels (only in regards to weight) while riding.
- You – That’s right…you! This also happens to be the cheapest upgrade you could ever make. It is time to start eating right and riding more. It is much more beneficial to lose 10 pounds off your body than 2 pounds off your bike and it will not cost you several thousand dollars. I see riders all the time dump thousands of dollars into their road bikes looking for that extra bit of speed, but if they would just lay off the calories and get into better shape…it wouldn’t matter what bike they were riding.
As you starting looking for ways to increase your speed on the road, those three areas are where you need to start to squeeze that efficiency out of you and your bike.
Scale Image by D² Imaging
The Anatomy of the Efficient Pedal Stroke
There is one common goal among all aspects of cycling that will make you a better rider almost instantly…cleaning up your pedal stroke will apply more power to the wheels no matter what discipline of riding you call your own. The fact is that every rider should focus on how they can more efficiently transfer the power from their legs to the cranks –> chain –> rear wheel –> tire –> ground.
What does a more efficient pedal stroke do for you?
- Faster over longer rides
- Strengthens muscles in the legs that improve balance and technical riding ability
- Faster with less effort
- And a whole host of other immeasurable benefits…
The Typical Beginner Pedal Stoke
The typical beginner pedal stroke is best explained by looking at a square. After a little bit of ride time on their new, shiny clipless pedals (and some personal interaction with the ground!), the rider starts to realize that they can get more power to the rear wheel by pulling up on the backside of their pedal stroke as they push down on the front. This creates a pull/mash technique as you can see by the illustration above. Many seasoned road bikers are still using this pull/mash technique to this day because they haven’t taken a serious look at how to create more power using their current fitness level and energy. That is why making a conscious effort to increase certain aspects of your cycling is so important.
What is wrong with the pull/mash square stroke technique?
While the pull/mash stroke is more efficient than and mash/mash (only ever pushing down), you still have tons of dead space in between motions that you could be transferring power to the rear wheel. This waste is time and energy that you can never get back during your ride. During the corner parts of your pedal stroke, you are wasting time and energy without applying any power to the chain line. The key is figuring out how to use all of your pedal stroke to generate energy to the rear wheel to create more power for the same amount of exertion on the road.
So what should I be doing while pedaling?
As you start to analyze how you are pedaling on the trail, you need to picture, in your mind, circular movements. Makes sense right? Your already pedaling in circles…you just didn’t actually realize that you were pedaling squares. Some of the best advice I was given while improving my pedal stroke was to imagine sweeping the bottom of your stroke with your feet.
By sweeping the bottom of your stroke (pulling backwards immediately following pushing down in a smooth motion), you are getting rid of one of the corners of the square…the bottom, right corner and turning the bottom dead space into power. In turn, by getting rid of the bottom, right corner…you are effectively removing the top, left corner in the process. Your concentration is on creating power at all stages of the stroke and you are now sweeping the bottom and pushing the top. While I am pedaling…I mentally visualize small circles as I sweep and push. The mash/pull comes naturally already as it should for you because your body is already trained to create power in that direction. You are now training your body to create power in the dead areas of your stroke to become more efficient.
The more efficient you are with your pedal stroke, the more power you are generating…which equals faster times and averages for the same amount of energy release. You are also strengthening the other muscles in your legs for increased stamina in other aspects of riding. Also, the pull/sweep motion keeps that tension on the chain line delivering power to the rear wheel at all times.
To properly deliver the sweep on the bottom of the pedal stroke, you also need to consciously force your foot level on the bottom of the stroke. Naturally, your body wants to pedal heals up toes down. This exaggerates the pull/mash tendency that you are trying to avoid. As you sweep through the bottom of your stroke, keep your foot level throughout the bottom 50% gradually pulling up with the rear while focusing on the next rotation. There is not one part of your stroke that should feel forced or sharp. Just one constant circle that delivers raw power.
Pace Lining Tips for Road Bikers
Drafting is a key part of road bike riding. For many road bikers, pulling in that rear wheel of the rider in front of you can be a nerve racking task that gets the heart racing as you blow down the street at 25+ miles an hour. In the beginning, it almost seems unnatural to get that close to another rider’s bike.
Even the most experienced road bikers sometimes fall victim to multi-bike pileups due to a pace line gone wrong (just watch any local crit and you’ll see at least one). So…how can you pull in that rear wheel of another road biker and keep it there without irritating everyone around you or leaving your skin on the blacktop for the street cleaners?
Pace Lining Tips for Road Bikers
Drafting on a road bike will save you upwards of 35% of efficiency to help you ride faster and use less energy doing it. It is a necessary part of long distance cycling and group rides, so you need to get comfortable in the pack.
Getting comfortable in this position is not always an easy thing to do. Even now, there are certain riders who make me extremely nervous in a pace line and I do my best to just get the hell away from them whenever possible.
- Start With Riders You Trust – If you are just starting with pace lining and drafting on the road bike, practice with riders you trust and know their riding characteristics. Do not jump in with a bunch of road bikers that you hardly know and expect to predict their actions while you are trying to figure out your own. Go on several group rides with 6 or so close riding friends and get used to the rotation.
- Call Out Everything – Getting out of the line? Something in the road? Car up? You need to call out everything in the pace line to insure that riders in front and in back of you know what is going on. The majority of pace line accidents are caused by riders not giving other riders in the pack a heads up on what is happening. If you are about to slow down…let someone know…”SLOWING!”
- Do Not Sit Up In The Pace Line – I see it time and time again. One rider sits up and causes chaos behind them. If you need to sit up or slow down your speed, get out of the line first and then sit up. Even small speed changes in the pace line cause drastic affects down the line.
- Keep Calm and Collected – The riders that I want to stay away from the most are those that look nervous or can’t seem to keep a straight line. In one case, a rider actually swerved with every pedal stroke in a pack of 50…it was crazy! While in a group or pace line, keep your bike straight and your demeanor calm.
- Pull Your Own Weight – The natural progression of pace lining is to rotate the work around all of the riders for a maximum output at the minimum exertion. This means at some point in time, you are going to have to face the wind and pull. Now…this is not something to take on if you are not ready for it. If you are already maxing out in the line, it is probably not a good idea to pull out front and slow everyone down, or – even worse – blow up and have nothing left for the rest of the ride. Pull your own weight on the ride, but only if you are ready for that responsibility.
It is really that simple. By following some simple rules, you can prevent being “that guy” on the road. Even some really fast road bike riders end up being “that guy” a lot, so if you want to have good riding rapport with other riders, follow the rules and pull your own weight…and everything else will just fall in line.
Image by megabeth
9 Must Bring Items for Every Road Ride
Just like any other cycling related journey, road biking has a list of must bring items for every ride. Road biking creates a unique situation that does not apply to mountain or commuter biking. With road biking, your storage space is extremely limited, so the size and weight of the items that you bring with you on your ride has a much larger impact than they would with other disciplines of cycling. On a typical road bike, you are confined to the use of a saddle bag and jersey pockets to store all of the necessary items for your road biking journey. As we set out on our road biking ride of the week, what items do we need to make sure we have at all times?
9 Must Bring Items for Every Road Ride
Identification – ID is probably the most important item that you will carry with you on your road ride. Recently, a family member of ours got in a bad accident while riding alone. He was not carrying his ID with him, so the paramedics and hospital technicians had a hard time finding out who he even was. Do yourself, your family and your help a huge favor and keep your ID with you at all times. You never know when you might need it. Another option: Look into www.RoadID.com
- Credit Card or Cash - On road rides, carrying a credit card or cash with you on a ride is a necessity. With numerous gas stations, shops, etc. on your route, these items can get you home in the event of a technical or get much needed hydration/supplement in cramping and over training situations.
- Tube – This is pretty self explanatory. Do you really want to be stuck 20 miles away from the start point with a flat tire? I don’t…so I carry a tube with me on all rides.
- Air Pump – A small air pump is always a great backup to CO2 and it is a lifesaver when your CO2 has run out. In many cases, your CO2 cartridge will not completely fill your tube, so a small air pump will top it off.
- CO2 – CO2 cartridges provide a fast fill in a small, light package.
- Tire Lever – Generally, I have been able to remove and install tires without the aid of a tire lever, but many times…this comes at the expense of my finger tips! New tires and certain brand tires are much harder to work with on the side of the road, so carrying a tire lever is always good practice to help you with that annoying roadside flat change.
- Goo or other Electrolyte Supplement – Have you ever been out on the road and felt your muscles start to twitch? It is time for some electrolytes and fast. I try to keep 1 or 2 goos in my jersey pocket during the ride to help my body during periods of over exertion.
- Keys – Unless I am leaving from the house, I always need to carry my car keys with me so I can get home after the ride. Typically, I remove the car key from the ring and lock the keyless entry/other keys in the car during the ride. This cuts down on the amount of weight and mass I have to carry in my small storage availability.
- Cell Phone – Unlike a lot of mountain biking rides, you will probably have cell phone service during your entire road ride. Carry a cell phone with you at all times in case of an emergency.
Unlike the 14 must have items for every mountain biking ride, the road biking “must have” list is very compact, lightweight and only contains the absolute necessities. With the size and weight constraints we encounter with road biking, it is more important to carry the bare essentials that will get you through the days ride.
What do you head out with on your regular road rides?
700cc Road Bike Tube
Saddle Bag Full for Road Bike
Saddle Bag Mounted
Blue Competition Cycles Nx7
Co2 and Pump for Road Bike