Tuesday, December 23, 2008
I attended my first spinning class at the Recycle Bicycle Shop last Thursday. There were five of us on stationary trainers with an instructor. The hour long workout was great and it was fun to be there with other riders who are interested in really staying in shape over the winter. I was the only one without a "modern" bike - I had my blue 1984 Gitane. And, it worked just fine.
Since, I'm stuck indoors I've been doing more training and contemplating something the instructor mentioned in our class last week. We were doing an extended "time trial" interval. For those who don't know much about cycling, a time trial is the rider versus the clock. You ride as hard as you can for a specified distance. During the class the instructor wanted our cadence (pedal revolutions per minute) between 70 and 80 and a consistent heart rate. I found through the entire 15 minute interval that I was riding a pace of 80-90 for a cadence and had a consistent heart rate of 170-180.
There are two types of riders: mashers and spinners. Mashers keep a consistent lower cadence while pedaling but tend to push a higher gear for a little more power. A spinner has a higher cadence and creates less power, thus having to use more revolutions to create the same kind of speed.
I found I wasn't comfortable in the class with the lower cadence because I have trained for years to instinctively ride between 90 and 105 revolutions per minute. The only difference with the higher cadence is your aerobic conditioning and lung capacity come into play a lot more. I guess my aerobic conditioning must be okay since I don't feel too stressed at the higher rpm's. At a lower cadence more lactic acid in the thighs which just makes for a more uncomfortable ride.
All this thinking just reinforces in my mind how individual this sport is. You have to do what feels right for your body type. So, for now I'll continue spinning and work on my aerobic capacity so I can ride faster, farther and longer next year.
Monday, December 15, 2008
I have been reading on Bike Forums about folks in the Seattle and Portland metro areas that were commuting today on their bikes - some with studded bicycle tires. I have a new admiration for those that commute through these real cold spells. And, I pray they all stay safe and avoid any injuries, or death like the rider in Kent last week who was struck by a car. I guess I'm always more cognizant of my own personal safety and, if the roads are bad enough for a car, I'm not about to be out on my bike.
Enjoy this time of comfort indoor. We'll soon be back outside fighting the Ellensburg wind and getting in better shape each day.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I'm not talking about this to gloat but to make the point that after each of these harder, faster rides I have to take the next day off to recover. My legs feel heavy and I need time to feel alert and ready to go for another ride. Fortunately, I haven't had to take more than that one day off at a time this year. The second day after the harder ride, however, is usually at a moderate pace. It's all about staying in tune with your body and not pushing yourself past reasonable limits too often.
This article from Bicycling Magazine helps put some perspective on "comebacks" and help give you motivation to train hard, but smart.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Most fans think it's just steroids or human growth hormone from the baseball, football and occasional track athlete scandals that are found in media reports. But, this problem includes so many more drugs and substances that are just plain dangerous.
My only hope is that one day we can wake up as a society and realize how detrimental these substances are to athletes. But, the almighty dollar, or euro, beckons and, I agree with Grewal, until an athlete serves some prison time the problem will just be ignored.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
The best options - they're free - are to start jogging, power walking or hiking. In some communities there may be weekly, sometimes daily, open gym time for volleyball, basketball or other fitness activities. Our local college allows people to work out during the noon hour for a small amount of money. I'll even add some log splitting and snow shoveling during the winder just to get extra activity for my body.
Another great option is joining a workout gym. Not all are for the gym rats who stare at themselves in the mirror during their entire workout. Ellensburg alone as The Gym, Jazzercise, Anytime Fitness and Curves. And, if you are a CWU student the new Student Union Building has a fantastic gym. The old Ellensburg Racquet Club on the Vantage Hwy is run by the city and has a small weight room and racquetball and tennis courts. Finally, the city pool also has a small weight room, several different lap swim times and water aerobics classes. All of these have their own unique features. The advantage is to figure out what activities you like to do in order to stay fit during the cycling off season.
Finally, in our area there is also the classic winter sport of skiing. Both downhill and cross country skiing are available. Add in some snow shoeing and there's plenty to do to keep your morale and fitness at high levels.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
The training aspect of cycling, just like any other sport, is the most important phase of the sport. This is where you build the foundation and improve on your overall fitness. Consistent training prepares you for races and recreational rides. It gives you the mental toughness to withstand fatigue and lactic acid accumulation in the muscles on a hard ride. Consistent training allows your body to slowly acclimate to new stresses and learn how to recover much more quickly than if your training was intermittent.
I was watching highlights of the 2002 Tour de France while riding on my trainer yesterday evening. The preview of the first mountain stage of the race showed scenes of Lance Armstrong riding in the Alps on wet roads and low overhanging clouds in February getting a feel for the individual climbs in the that year's Tour de France. As he is climbing up a steep incline his team manager told him he could only go so far and then would have to turn around. Armstrong said, "Why?". His manager replied, "because there's three meters of snow on the road". The next scene shows Armstrong eating a banana in the back of a car and saying he felt he needed to ride more. So, he headed down the mountain 10 kilomters (6.2 miles) and turned around to climb back up.
In his book, It's Not About The Bike, Armstrong writes about riding in February and March for 100 kilometers or more, reaching the summit of a climb, and not liking how he road that day. He would turn around and do it all over again, sometimes spending 8-9 hours on his bike.
This is the type of commitment many of us don't see professional athletes put in. I train as often as I can and target at the peak of the summer to ride between 130 and 150 miles a week (one day the life of Lance Armstrong). Videos like the ones I watch and Lance Armstrong's book have me highly motivated. Some days I will lift weights for 30 minutes in the gym, then do 30 minutes on the treadmill and come home in the evening and get 45 minutes in on the bike - on a good day. Sometimes it is just 45 minutes on the bike, but it's a very hard workout. I always take a day off every three days or so.
I cannot wait to "hit" the hills in the spring. There are so many good ones around here and I I love climbing them and feel that is an area where I excel as a cyclist. Hills are also one of the best ways I can improve my overall performance. They are not nearly as demoralizing as fighting 20 mph winds.
So, motivate yourself to train hard and reap the benefits in the spring when it warms up and the roadways beckon.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
I was asked once, what do you think about on your rides? Well, here's a sample:
- .5 mile - "holy crud that wind is really blowing hard - how far can I make it"
- .75 mile to 3 miles - "that tailwind sure makes this feel easy"
- 3 miles to 4 miles (turning back into the wind) - "ugggghhhhhh!" and "I have really got to figure out that vibration in my shifter"
- 4 miles to 11 miles - wind is at my back, why think
- 11.2 miles - "&&##*@ what's that big, Rottweiler looking dog going to do?"
- 11.6 miles - "gees, another dog" followed by "come on legs, sprint harder"
- 11.6 miles to 17.82 - "man, am I ever tired of this wind" and "why am I doing this?"
Ok, so maybe I've cleaned it up a little. Seriously, cycling is a great time to contemplate things going on in your life, day or even on the current ride. While you're body may be hurting from the ride itself, your mind has the luxury of clearing itself out or working through problems.
Unfortunately, the dogs were not a problem I wanted to deal with today as I tried to figure out which pedals I will go with on my Bianchi as my current ones seem to have a problem and may be at the end their natural life. I was lucky the Rottweiler looking dog dragging his leather leash behind him only wanted to sniff my bike as I went by. The fat, yellow lab had other things on his mind. Lucky for me he was fat and slow. After that encounter I tried to figure out why I am suddenly having so many encounters with dogs. Are there more people home at the time I'm riding? Are dogs just getting let out to roam more? Do people just not care? Or, maybe, all the dogs were possessed during the last full moon and brainwashed into chasing cyclists every time they see one. I'll just continue carrying a couple of rocks in my pocket for the ones I do know about and hopefully avoid those that are surprises.
I wondered why all but one of the vehicles that passed me on the Vantage Hwy moved over to the left of the lane of travel, if not completely over the center line, when they passed me. That one vehicle was a big blue Dodge Ram 3/4T pickup with matching canopy. I was over the fog line and riding on the 18 inches of shoulder and there was no oncoming traffic. Yet, he still passed with his mirror just a couple of feet from my head. I decided to give the driver the benefit of the doubt and thought maybe they felt they had enough room. Then, again, maybe it's one of those drivers who doesn't like cyclists and just doesn't care about moving over. I finally quite worrying about it and, like a good male, let it disappear from my brain.
So, that's the extent of my mental activity today interspersed with yelling from my thighs and lungs to stop. My legs may be tired, but my brain sure feels good right now.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
We're not officially at winter yet, but the temperatures sure make it feel that way. We woke up this morning to misty rain with fog and the roads were real wet for five miles on the way into town when we took the kids in town for their annual Christmas shopping trip to buy presents for each other. Once in town the sun was shining and the roads were drying out real well.
As we came home I was waffling back and forth - ride on the trainer or go outside for a ride on the wet roads. The temperature was mid-40's when I got home and I decided I had to hit the road and take advantage of these days before the snow comes. The bike can always be cleaned.
So, down to the end of the road I went with the bike in the back of the car. We live at the end of a 1/2 mile gravel road and I don't ride the road bikes on it. The layers were on - tights for the legs, three layers up top, heavier booties on the feet, the light fleece gloves and the ski ear band. Eight miles into the ride the ear band came off. It was just too nice and I was starting to heat up.
The fleece coat adds a little more resistance to the ride and that's not all bad because it makes you work harder. Around here all the roads gouphill heading out of town. While it's a gradual incline it can zap the energy after 8 miles of climbing. In the heavy wind those climbs are even worse. I added four sprint intervals during the last 8 miles and ended up averaging 18.1 mph over the 21.5+ that I did. The sprints took a lot out of me and really hurt but I know it is all for the best for long term conditioning.
Tomorrow will be a day off, or an easy ride on the trainer, so I can avoid overtraining. Years of bodybuilding training taught me how important it is to work hard while taking your body to the brink of overtraining without doing so. It wasn't until I got into my 30's that I got smart and stopped lifting weights for an hour and a half to two hours per workout, four to five days a week. My workouts shrunk to no more than an hour and three days a week to allow plenty of recovery to the muscles. Yesterday's leg and ab workout was over in 40 minutes and I added another 30 minutes on the trainer in the evening before an attack of low blood sugar shut the ride down.
I treat my cycling training very similar. I will usually ride for three days and take one off and then start again. I don't have a formal training plan at this time - hill intervals, sprint interval, sustained rides at X% of the maximum heart rate - I do what my body tells me feels right. This has kept me from developing any injuries this year and also kept me reasonably healthy. I treat my shorter rides like a time trial and then seek out the bigger hills to ride, averaging 10-12 mph up most of them, including the long ones.
My legs feel heavy from the sprints this afternoon. It's nothing a hot bath and gentle massage can't help. Then I'll sit in front of the wood stove, close my eyes and do some positive mental cycling imagery before my nap.
- Fairview Loop - head east on Vantage Hwy to Fairview and turn left. Go north until the Fairview makes a 90 degree turn on Thomas Rd. West until the road 'T's at Wilson Creek. South on Wilson Creek to Alford and turn right. Alford will turn into Look Rd and then 'T' at Sanders where you can turn left or right to get back into town. Route distance is approximately 21 miles.
- Fairview/Hungry Junction Loop - do the same route as before but turn right on Hungry Jct. Road off Look Road. Turn left on Reecer Creek Road and then a left on Airport Road, Bender Road, Dry Creek Road or University Way will get you back into town. When I go to University Way on my ride the approximate distance is 25 miles.
- Thorp Loop - I will head out Hungry Junction Road and turn left on Hwy 97 and then right on McNanamy road and a right on Hwy 10. Head west on Hwy 10 to the top of the first large Hill and then take a left to head down the hill into Thorp. After going through Thorp go over I-90 and follow the road past the Ellensburg Golf Course and back into town at the west interchange. From my house the loop is approximately 33 miles.
- A decent out and back ride for me is to head northwest on Hwy 97 to the top of the large hill and back home. Distance is 39 miles.
- A good hill training ride is to head south on No. 6 Rd (take Vantage Hwy from town first) and then right on Thrall Rd. Take the southbound onramp to I-82 and ride up and over Manastash Ridge to the next exit and come back. From my house this is a 45 mile ride.
- The west side of the valley around Ellensburg also has some great roads to ride including Manastash, Cove and Robinson Canyon. You can do out and back rides and circular routes. One of the best hills to train on is what we called Shusshuskin Ridge when I was in college. Head out from McDonald's in Ellensburg on Damman Rd (past Carey Lakes) and, instead of turning on Manastash Rd, go straight on Umptanum Rd until you get to the top of the hill. In college we would ride 20-25 mile and then head up the hill, coming down at 50+ mph with no helmets. Yep, we were young kids and common sense wasn't necessarily present.
- I've even done interval training on the steep hill on Hungry Jct Rd - 5-6 sprints up the hill and then continued whatever ride I was doing.
- Heading north on Reecer Creek Rd and tying into some of the other cross roads will provide some good routes also, but I haven't ridden there much to give you any good routes.
- As a training ride this next year I'll take Hwy 97 and turn left at the 'T' intersection on Hwy 970 and head west toward Cle Elum. Then turn south (left) on Hwy 10 and ride back into Ellensburg.
- A training ride I'll use next year to get ready for the 7 mile I Made the Grade ride is to head east on the Vantage Hwy and then back on I-90 and ride the 10-12 mile ride out off the Columbia River at Vantage and back to our house.
- Some friends of mine like to ride the John Wayne Trail from Thorp to Cle Elum and back. This is a great ride for mountain or cyclocross bikes.
- Another of my friends rides are Hwy 97 to Red Top mountain and then down to the Teanaway River Rd.
- If you like climbing you can ride the Old Blewett Pass road - up, down and then turn around and do it all over again.
Friday, November 28, 2008
WAC 478-116-605 Bicycle parking and traffic rules.
RCW 43.43.390 Bicycle awareness program
RCW 46.61.770 Riding on roadways and bicycle paths
RCW 46.61.758 Hand signals
A search can be done here on the state website.
You should note that there are specific regulations for individual campuses around the state - I saw CWU, UW, EWU and Everett Community College in my quick search.
This year indoor training is a must. I am fit and getting leaner (the best indicator being I haven't had to buy new pants) and have some goals in place to keep me moving forward toward my bucket list.
There are a lot of different options for training. Much of the technical documentation seems to revolve around heart rate training to ensure optimum results. Let's face it, I'm in my 40's, and I can't afford all the elaborate heart rate monitors and fancy training equipment to really make me feel like an elite athlete. I have a used magnetic trainer sitting in my office and I have to get off the bike to adjust the resistance. I am training for my personal well being and attitude. While I would like to be faster and stronger I also accept that I'm past my peak of athletic performance.
So, this winter to keep myself occupied and help the training go faster I invested in some Tour de France videos. I watch these while riding and the time zips right by.
My training consists of a warm up and warm down of approxiately 5 minutes each. After the warm up I will shift a couple of gears and increase the intensity. About 15 minutes into the session I start interval training consisting of my 52-13 or 52-14 gear and a hard pace for 3-4 minutes. I will then shift back down to the 52-21 or 42-17 for 4-5 minutes and then start all over again. There are usually 4-5 repetitions of this cycle. My non-interval days usually consist of riding in the 52-21 and 52-19 gears with rpms in the 80-90 range for 30 minutes or more.
Am I training optimally? Probably not, but it works for me. After three weeks of this I felt very strong when I went out for a ride on Monday of this week. In other years I would work hard for a month or more in the spring to play catch up for not training during the winter. I'm determined to not lose any of my newly discovered aerobic fitness this spring.
You can find a lot of training information on the internet including: Bicycling Magazine , Bike Forums Training forum, Velo News and numerous books and instructional videos like Spinervals. Simple searches on Google can provide a wealth of information. Just tailor your workouts to what makes sense for you and your goals. If your own indoor trainer still doesn't work for you think about joining a gym and taking a spinning class.
Finally, I definitely utilize weight training during the off season. For many years I have been involved in bodybuilding training. Unfortunately, my body is a little too heavy for my bicycle riding at around 165 lbs. (I was 120 lbs soaking wet when I graduated from high school 25 yrs ago). My goal is to continue leaning up and hopefully be at an optimal riding weight of 150-155 lbs by next summer to allow me to tackle hills a little better.
My weight workouts have moved from moderately heavy (I'm an old guy remember) to lighter weight/higher repetition for cycling. This will maintain some muscle strength, while consciously allowing some muscle tissue to get smaller, and thus, let me carry less weight on the bike. I split the workout into three days a week - Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Monday is chest/shoulders/triceps with most of the focus on the triceps and trapezius muscles of the upper back that tie into the neck. These muscle groups take a lot of stress while on a bike so strengthening them helps alleviate some of the fatigue while riding.
Wednesday is back/biceps day with good emphasis on the lower back. Again, I am resisting temptation and using lighter weights with repetitions up to 20-25.
Friday is leg day consisting of high repetitions of leg press, wide stance squats, leg curls for the hamstrings and calf raises. I do 5 sets for the quadriceps, 5-6 for the hamstrings and 5-6 for the calves. Today's workout lasted 45 minutes and provided enough time to get on the trainer in the afternoon.
Now, go have a great workout for you heath and mind.
- I Made the Grade - Lewiston, ID - 18 mile ride with a 7 mile, 2,000 ft climb at the end. I rode this in 1984 and have always wanted to do it again.
- Manastash Metric Century - beautiful ride in Ellensburg WA the first Saturday in October
- Seattle to Portland - in one day (I last rode this in 1985 and would like to do it again)
- RAMROD - Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day - my dad's favorite one day ride
- Winchester Century - starts around Lewiston, ID
I also will look to join a club and do some time trials.
I have had situations, just like you get anywhere, where vehicles have turned left in front of me, failed to yield, etc. Most of the time it's just drivers not paying attention or expecting a smaller cyclist to be where I was.
I try hard to obey all the rules of the road which helps keep drivers calm. I always ride as far to the right of the road as safely possible, and if I am in the middle of the road, I move over well before a vehicle reaches me. I stop at stop signs and traffic signals and I signal at all intersections. I don't ride on sidewalks and I stop for pedestrians. These are small steps and if every cyclist did this some of the animosity toward us from drivers would subside.
The only other encounters I've had on the road that are unexpected, funny and stressful is cattle on the roadway. I've encountered a single cow and a bull on the same road and location but different times. Both turned out ok when the cow went to one side of the road and I went to the other. Just this past Monday I had to wait for a 150 head cattle drive. It was humourous to watch the cows 'freak out' when they encountered this weird thing straddling a bicycle on the side of the road. They just couldn't quite figure out what I was.
I am also very lucky to live in a place where the vast majority of roads are paved. Many have a chip seal (seal coating) over them, but they are paved nonetheless. It is such a luxury to be able to train on lesser traveled roads instead of main arterials and highways.
I had a couple of people in our local gym ask what I do to stay warm so I thought I would write about it. As with many outdoor activities I find layers are important. I'm not rich, and don't believe in credit card debt, so I make do with what I have and what I have accumulated over the years.
For the feet I have some lightweight velcro shoe covers from Performance Bike (bought 11 yrs ago or so) and some heavier neoprene booties also from Performance Bike. I have some circulation issues in my feet from minor frostbite when I was in college so I'm more conscious about protecting them. The first day this week I used the heavier booties and my feet were very comfortable. The second day I used the velcro shoe covers and by the time I got home the toes were a little cold and tingly.
For the hands I have a lightweight pair of full finger fleece gloves and, what I call, neoprene penguin gloves. These gloves have a spot for the thumb and then two slots for fingers so you end up with two fingers in each slot. It's like a modified mitten. I used the penguin gloves on the colder ride this week and found that I had to remove them after 8.5 miles and a 20 mph avg because my hands were sweating too much.
For the legs I have moderate weight tights which, so far, seem to work fine. I sweat a lot when I ride because I work pretty hard at it. Because of that I go lighter on the upper body than most people probably do. I use a long sleeve polypropylene shirt under a bicycling jersey and then a lightweight polar fleece jacket. I still sweat a lot but at least I' not overheating.
Finally, for the head I'll use an ear band (actually it's my wife's from skiing) to cover my ears. I haven't used a full face stocking hat yet because I figure if I need that it really is too cold to be out riding.
I haven't spent a lot of money on these clothes and I'm still very comfortable. I don't care about being fashionable - just practical and warm. There are many options and each rider needs to select what they think is the best for them.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Here is my current collection of bicycles.
1980's Raleigh Grand Prix
My dad bought this bike for my youngest brother in the mid-80's
It is all original except for the tires and brake levers - Suntour derailleurs and stem shifters, 27 X 1 1/4" tires, Suntour 6 spd freewheel 14-30
This bike is next on the overhaul list.
A friend and I have completely overhauled this bike and it's in great running order.
I bought this from the original owner who is a professional bike mechanic. He had advertised it as a fixed gear bike but was willing to put it back to it's original condition for me. I hope to use this as a time trial machine in the future.
After clean up
Bottom bracket area after clean up
Head tube before clean up
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
In 1984 I decided to register for the 5th annual I Made The Grade ride in Lewistion ID. This is an 18 mile ride that culminates with a 7 mile, 2,000 ft climb. I rode an old blue, heavy bike (again I can't rememer the make) and, with very little training or bicycle gear, finished with a time of 1 hr and 10 minutes, 12 minutes behind the winner. That ride got me hooked.
In September, 1984 I left home to attend Central Washington University in Ellensburg, WA. I was really eager to continue riding but didn't have a bike. That changed at Christmas when I received a new 1984 Peugeot PSV10N. This was the ultimate bike for me at the time - Super Vitus 980 tubing, French Stronglight cranks and Simplex derailleurs and weighing all of 21 lbs. I rode the heck out of that bike and registered for the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic in 1985, finishing the 176 mile ride in one day.
The Peugeot stayed with me after graduation when I moved to the Seattle area in 1989. However, after "cutting my teeth" on back country roads with little traffic, I had no desire to ride in the Seattle area. So, for six and a half years the bike stayed in storage. In 1995 we moved to Spokane, WA and I began riding again. My goal was to train for the cross state Cannonball ride which my dad had participated in a couple of times - 276 miles in one day. As 1996 came to a close I realized my old Peugeot was going to begin costing me some money in upgrades and repairs. I had a few of the repairs done and then talked my wife into letting me buy a new (more modern) bicycle - a 1997 Bianchi Trofeo. It was a little heavier, and not a high end model, but I was on a budget and didn't mind. I trained hard in 1997 for that Cannonball ride only to crash out five minutes after the start, damaging the rear derailleur hanger and ending my day.
I continued riding until we moved back to the Seattle area in 2000. Again, I was too chicken to get on a bike while living there. In September, 2002 we moved back to Ellensburg and I commuted to work from April to the end of October in 2003 (20 miles roundtrip) and in the spring of 2004. However, in 2004 I changed jobs which required me to be on the road daily and not in town.
The bike riding took another hiatus until this year when I finally realized that my health and peace of mind were more important than letting my lack of riding gnaw at the back of my mind. I made a concerted effort to ride 4-5 days a week and have discovered new energy, excitement and something I can be passionate about for the first time in quite a few years. My dad probably goes crazy with my frequent phone calls to talk cycling.
The difficult thing I have had to accept is I'm getting older and I never took it upon myself to try bicycle racing and find out what I could do with that sport. I have trained as a 'loner' much of the time - riding the roads by myself and trying to keep motivated on those long, quiet stretches of road. I started an informal group ride this fall and found that it was really enjoyable to have the comradery and conversation while riding. I have seen other lone riders around our area and have a desire now to try and unite those that want to and have larger group rides and eventually look into forming a cycling club for our community.
Cycling has quickly become a strong part of my identity. And with that I am planning to do more organized rides as time permits (including returning to Lewiston, ID for I Made The Grade) and hopefully meeting more people in the area who enjoy cycling as much as I do.