Thursday, September 8, 2016

#10WeeksTo100 - Week 5 Getting Your Riding Gear In Order

For my first years of cycling in the early `70's, while growing up in rural Michigan, figuring out where to find cycling gear was as big a challenge as learning what you needed.  I started with magazines and books on cycling, where they touted the value of wool (for everything, it seemed) and the need for a quality chamois (whatever that was?).  Nearby Ann Arbor had a few shops with the good European stuff; thankfully, for my paperboy/dishwasher budget, Cool Gear came along to offer some good (and not so good) shorts and jerseys in cotton and nylon, that I used for my first few seasons.

However, my first true cycling gear came only after I survived an 80-mile charity ride in cut-off jeans and a tank top.  That tank top left me with second degree sunburn across my neck and shoulders,  and shedding skin for weeks.  As for the cut-offs,  I bought my first pair of cycling shorts my next trip to a bike shop, and never did more than ride to work in jeans again.

Many of the challenges you face on longer rides are made easier by gear designed for the job.  The right cycling gear keeps you comfortable for hours in the saddle, protects you in changing weather conditions, and is light enough to always have along.   You will course want the basics, like cycling shorts,  jerseys and gloves.  However, over the years I found a many other items that I consider essential for my longer events.  The right gear requires a moderate investment, however it can be acquired over a couple of seasons.  You will also find that with proper care, quality cycling gear will also give you many seasons of service.
You have to be ready for any weather on event day.
TOSRV 2014

Body and Bike Contacts Points:  Most novice riders concerns about aches and pains on long rides are from the bike/body contact points, and this the gear you should look into first.

Hands: Start with a quality cork style handle bar tape, and add gel pads underneath.  Most cyclist will will also use a quality pair of padded cycling gloves.  (Bike fit and technique also make a difference in hand comfort.)

Saddle:  As you ride greater distances, a firmer saddle may be more comfortable.  If you are riding a road bike, a wide padded saddle may actually be worse for comfort and interfere with efficient riding. If in doubt, a bike fitter can help you with a saddle choice.

Shorts: You should have at least a two pairs of quality cycling shorts. Since you need to wash them regularly, it is good idea to have at least 3 or 4 pairs. Plan on wearing our your best pair for the longest days (and you can also use your older and “economy” shorts on your shorter work out days).  If you buy a new pair for an event, be sure to wear them for a couple of workouts prior to the big day to avoid any surprises.

Shoes: Novice riders frequently overlook the importance of cycling footwear, which provide both support and proper alignment.  Even if you are not ready to "lock-in" with a pedal system (SPD, Look, Speedplay, etc.) for proper position, an entry level cycling shoe offers more support than a running shoe.   The more you plan to ride, the more important your foot position on the pedal and pedaling technique will become.

Eye Protection: All day exposure of your eyes to bright light and wind will leave you a feeling tired before your body is physically tired. A quality pair of wrap around glasses will also protect your eyes from dust and insects while you are riding.   If you wear prescription lenses (like me), you will find options  available for you.

Dressing for event success:  Along with cycling shorts, you should consider the following:

Jersey:  A good jersey has it all, handy pockets for snacks, breathable fabric, a zipper that let’s you adjust for climbing (and descending!) and a cut designed for riding comfort.

Wind Jacket/Wind Vest / Arm Warmers / Knee Warmers: Ideal for a cool morning start, these lightweight accessories turn your summer wardrobe into 3-season wear.  The can be easily removed and will fit in a jersey pocket or a generous seat bag or rack trunk.  Tip: Dress your core for conditions at the rides mid-point, and then add easy to remove layers for the early hours, especially in cool weather.

Rain Gear: If you are on a point-to-point ride in temps below 65 degrees, hypothermia is a very real concern if you are caught without proper rain gear.  You can find lightweight rain jackets that will pack in jersey pocket, ideal for traveling light.  A touring cyclist on extended trip may want something little heavier that can be use both on and off the bike.

Protect Your Skin: Any time you ride longer than an hour you should use an "sport" rated sunscreen, and re-apply at least once during the day.  Be sure to protect your arms, the back of neck, the top of head, and your nose.  And don't forget having sun protection for your lips form the sun and wind too.

While not required, the right gear will make much easier to enjoy the event, no matter what Mother Nature throws your way.   It can also help to insure your event is memorable for the right reasons, and ready to prepare for your next big ride.

Week 5 of the #10weeksto100. 

Continue to Week 6: Training Aches and Pains

The series is intended as mentoring, rather than athlete specific coaching. The being the case, these are broad, general guidelines of a riding style and philosophy. You can find the series intro here - Preparing for Your First Long Ride or Century

Friday, September 2, 2016

#10Weeksto100 - Week 4 - Your Bike is Your Training Partner

Anyone can do 100 miles on any bike – once.

I have written about my annual pilgrimage to Ohio for TOSRV many times (here, here and here). It a ride that started in the early 60’s, and its peak, drew close to 6,000 riders. It became the standard on which so many other Midwest bicycle events were based. While it is struggling now (like many similar rides), it still draws 1,000 to 1,500 riders every year.

Spring Training in Michigan
One of the most amazing things is to see riders who have returned year after year on the same bikes they rode in those early years. You will still cold steel Schwinn World Travelers, and similar “bike-boom” bikes from Peugeot, Raleigh, Motobecane, Fuji or Nishiki, to name just a few. And these are bikes that have been maintained, not restored.

Of course, you will see hundreds of riders, both old hands and novice, riding the latest and greatest carbon super bikes. Whatever you are riding now, the important thing to keep in mind is that almost any recent entry-level road bike is likely to be equal in every factor but weight to any pre-1990 pro racing bike. And if your bike was in the $1,500 to $2,000 range, they are probably even better than what a pro rider had access to just a couple of decades ago.

Your success (and fun) in endurance riding requires a well-maintained bike, that shifts reliably, and with wheels and tires in good condition.  Your bike should be properly fitted to you for riding efficiently and in comfort. If you have those basics covered, you have a bike for your century ride. While there is no denying the benefit of a lighter bike, the marginal differences are not great enough to prevent you from having a great ride on the bike you own now.

And just like preparing your body, be sure your bike is ready for both your training and your event. During a 10-week training plan, you will easily cover 700 to 1,000 miles, so your bike will require some routine maintenance (lubing the chain, and airing the tires), as well as the possibility for new tires and other service parts, before your event.

Here are the basics you should be sure of:

Tires: Any time during the training plan is good time to check your tires. Check for wear, cuts and stone chips in the tread. Have you had flats before with your current tires? If you have had more than a couple of flats, you may want to consider replacing them in the weeks leading up to your event. (Frequent flats could indicate worn tires, or a rim strip problem, both issues you want to resolve.)

Wheels and Brakes: Do both your wheels spin smoothly between the brake pads, without side-to-side movement? Wheel problems can magnify over time, so if you suspect a problem, have it taken care of by a professional. Wheel issues can also lead to braking problems, and this is a good time to have that resolved.

Shifting: The more you ride, the more you will shift. The more varied the terrain you ride, and the more varied the weather, the more you will shift. Using your bikes gearing to maintain a steady, constant effort is critical part of successful (and fun) endurance training and riding. A bike that does not shift smoothly will hamper your developing a smooth riding style, and will be even less fun to ride when are fatigued.  This is especially important if you heading to hilly terrain. Be sure to test the entire shifting range of your bike, to know it is ready for those hills you can’t find near home.

The Fit: Bicycle fitting the art and science of positioning the saddle, handlebars and shoes for proper comfort and pedaling efficiency. While you will have some aches and pains, riding should never be consistently painful. Look for more on that in later in this series.

If aren’t sure about the condition of your bike, or how to judge it yourself, a bike shop is your best resource. Take you bike by your favorite shop (or ask riding friend for recommendation), on a weeknight evening (not a Saturday in the Spring) and ask their service department to evaluate the condition of your bike with an eye on your big event. Be sure to mention you preparing for a distance event; a good service department will listen to your questions and point out things that could create issues for you down the road.
At the park in Portsmouth - 1 century down, 1 to go - TOSRV 2013

Week 4 of the #10weeksto100. 

Continue toWeek 5: Getting Your Bike Gear in Order

The series is intended as mentoring, rather than athlete specific coaching. That being the case, these are broad, general guidelines of a riding style and philosophy. You can find the series intro here - Preparing for Your First Long Ride or Century