Wednesday, June 7, 2017

#10weeksto100 - Week 10 - Ten Tips from Experience

So I have covered the #10weeksto100!  Your final week should be focused and relaxed riding and getting some extra rest.  Here are my final 10 tips for the big event, and

1) Pack the Night Before
You are going to be a little nervous, so lay everything out, and be sure it all makes it to the car.

2) Ride Your Plan, but be ready for the unexpected
You can’t control the weather, and other things that can happen.  Each ride is unique, and chance to learn what to do, or what to be ready for,  the next time.

3) It’s Okay to Bail f You Are Not Ready 
Don’t turn two weeks of recovery into a lost summer by riding through a nagging joint pain.  Learn from the mistakes, and try again later in the season or next year. Each event you ride is more training and more experience for the next time.
It all comes together!  2016 Rollfast Gran Fondo start.

4) Your Ride Will be No Better Than Your Preparation
If you haven’t trained while riding at 18 miles per hour, you will not finish the ride at 18 miles per hour.

5) It Is Better to Ride Smart, Than To Just Ride More  
If your preparation consists of lots of long slow rides - you will get very good at long slow riding!

6) Learning to Ride Faster Will Help Relieve Seat Pain!
Fast Riding techniques (standing, changing hand and back position, weight on arms), can all reduce saddle pain.

7) Riding with a Group Is More Fun
Casual group riding can be a good incentive, but should not be confused with the skills required to ride pace lines and drafting.  For those skills, find a mentor or experienced friend who can coach you.  Riding in a fast group is much more than just being fast.

8) Clean Your Bike Before Your Event
Maybe it is just one of my athletic habits or superstitions, but I always clean my bike the day or night before a big event.  It is also a very good way to find and eliminate any surprise maintenance issues.

9) Always Clean the Kitchen Before Leaving for a Training Ride
Yes, I started doing this about 5 years ago, and my wife REALLY appreciates this gesture.  But the real message is keep a balance in your life, and make sure you have the support of your family.

10) Always Have Fun
Along with balance, remember that while the goal may be challenging, and conditions on the day of the ride may tougher than you expected,  you should always be enjoying the ride.




Week 10 of the #10weeksto100. 

 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

#10weeksto100- Week 9 - Be Visible, Be Predictable, Be Aware

I will admit that safety was not a topic in my original outline for #10weeksto100.  Rather than an oversight, my safety habits are so in grained that I do, to some extent, take them for granted.  As I reviewed this series, I realized that the novice riders this series is intended for is going to have many concerns and questions about safety as they begin to ride more and expand their riding territory.

Let me start by saying, this is not intended to be a comprehensive, all-you-need-to-know safety article.  What I have tried to put words is what I believe to be is a bicycle safety framework.  Just like your training miles, use these practices to build your foundation of safe riding practices.

With friends on the Wabash River Ride - Lafayette, IN
There will always be safety risks in cycling. On a bicycle, you are relying on the combined interactions of your balance, the road and other environmental factors; as a result, the vast majority of cycling accidents and injuries are from falls, with no other vehicles involved.  At the same time, social media tends to magnify the horrific incidents, while overlooking the year-over-year trend of fewer accidents per miles ridden (with participation also increasing) over the last 10 years.   Any fatality is one too many, yet cycling remains an inherently safe activity, with many health benefits, for over 100 million Americans every year. For cycling, as in life, your best outcomes result from knowing the risks, and doing what you can to mitigate them.

Searching web, you can find hundreds of articles and with dozens of rules for safe riding.  But how do you distill them down to what is important? As with successful training, safety works best when it becomes a habit, something done as second nature.  After years of riding, training as a safety instructor and talking about bicycle safety in hundreds of different settings, I believe Be Predictable, Be Visible, Be Aware are three best habits for riding safety.

These should be a framework for every interaction you have on the road.  Each relates to the many rules and best practices you will read about for safe cycling, and distills them down to basics you can remember and make second nature

There is no better illustration of these habits in practice than riding through an intersection, where your predictability, visibility and awareness are all brought into play.
Predictable: Am I positioned where a driver would expect to see me?
Visible: Am I going to be visible to a driver?
Aware: Have I looked everywhere a vehicle might be?

Here are some more insights on how you can put them into practice.

Be Predictable.  Following the rules of the road is a critical safety practice for a cyclist; not only because of the implied protection, but because it will place you where another motorist is expecting to see you.  The illusion of safety by “cheating” in traffic is that when you are behaving unexpectedly, other drivers may not see you, or be able to anticipate what your next move is going to be so they can react accordingly.

Another aspect of being predictable is to signal your intentions.  This starts with the use of hand signals to indicate you are turning or changing lanes.  You are also predictable by where you position yourself in the road, for example, using the indicated turn lane at an intersection.  Again, being where other vehicles expect a vehicle to be is half the visibility challenge.  Finally, obeying traffic signal and signage is another way to being predictable, in that motorists will see you has a vehicle behaving correctly in traffic.

Be Visible. Research indicates that cyclists are safest when motorist are aware of them at 400 yards (roughly a ¼ mile) or more. At typical driving and riding speeds, that would give the motorist at least 25 seconds to notice a cyclist and react appropriately.  The risks to all road users from Distracted Driving makes the steps you take to insure your visibility that much more important.  For road cyclists, being visible has both active and passive components.

Riding with a few friends - RAIN 2016 
For active visibility, bicyclists have always been required to use a headlight and taillight when riding between dusk and dawn.  Now, through recent developments in batteries and electronics, reliable and inexpensive Daylight Running Lights are available for cycling.  Used on the front (white) and rear (red or red/while strobe), these lights are typically visible up to a ½ mile or more in daylight.  Safety studies have already shown that daylight running lights reduce accidents for motorcycles and automobiles.  My personal observation, since I began to use daytime lights in 2016 (and the anecdotal evidence of dozens of cyclists I have spoken with) indicates these lights make a difference driver behavior.  Daylight running lights start about $50 for the taillight, and twice that or less for a complete set.  I have covered them in more detail in this blog, Time to Light Up.

The passive components of visibility are clothing and road position.  Bright, contrasting colors, especially on your legs and arms, helps motorists to recognize a bicyclist.   Most cycling clothing today, especially if intended for cool or foul weather, includes reflective panels or piping.  Just remember that you cannot rely on reflective materials (and reflectors) alone for riding at dusk, dawn and in between.

Road position goes together with predictability and is also a part of insuring your visibility. Riding too close to the edge of the road moves you out of a driver’s line of sight, and has a result, you can be lost in the road side clutter of signs and mail boxes.  If you are new to cycling, or have not had any safety training, moving into and with the flow of traffic can feel quite intimidating.  These are riding skills acquired through time and experience, and you can find some very good resources on road position from the League of American Bicyclists, including their informative Ride Smart videos.

Be Aware.  When on your bike, your awareness of what is going on around you is just as important as your visibility and predictability.  This starts with the surface beneath your wheels, because defects and debris in the road can result in an embarrassing spill or even serious injury.  Next, you need to be aware of the other road users, not just motor vehicles, but other riders and pedestrians.  It is also important to be alert for the unexpected, be it a loose dog coming out a yard, or low hanging branch over a trail. Awareness also includes how you interact with drivers, and what else you bring along for the ride; music,  “ride” technology and that "other stuff" that might be on your mind.

Riding in traffic, it is important to trust, but verify that you have been seen. While I ride with a helmet mirror, I rely on glancing back to make eye contact with a driver before making any move in traffic. This is especially important for a left turn or other lane change.  Making eye contact is also important at 4-way intersections and in roundabouts.  If I am not certain I have made eye contact, I will wait before committing to my next move.  Making eye contact with a motorist is one of the best ways to be sure you have been seen.

Awareness also requires you avoid too many distractions.  While working out to your favorite music is great in the confines of a gym, riding with headphones can isolate you from sounds and warnings from vehicles, and more importantly, other riders when riding in groups.  You also want to avoid information overload on your handlebars. Speed, distance and elapsed time are the basics most people ride with, yet the latest bicycle computers and phone apps can provide up to a dozen bits of information.  While riding, avoid studying the tech on your handlebars to the point you are not paying attention to the road and traffic.  Configure the displays for a few basics, and use download tools to study results after the ride.  It is also important to use common sense when dealing with calls and texts.   Distracted cycling can be just as dangerous for you (and other riders) as a distracted driver.

Your safety in riding on the road also requires that you be mentally fully engaged in riding.  You must be careful about zoning out and concentrating on your workout (or a life/work problem) to the point that you ignore what is going around you.   Stay focused on the complete riding experience, and give your mind a break from that other stuff in your life.

One last bit of awareness is to know where you plan to ride.  While you have a right to bike every road, not every road is right for riding.  Reach out to your local cycling community for good training routes, and the “outlet” routes to bypass higher traffic roads.  These exist in almost every community.  If you are new to cycling, you will soon be amazed about all the alternative routes you never considered during your routine driving for work and errands.

My hope is that you find Be Visible, Be Predictable and Be Aware as helpful tools for your cycling safety.  I believe incorporating these as habits into your riding every day can tie together the skills and knowledge you gain through you own experience and research.  The most important thing for you to remember is you are responsible for your safety, and you should never rely solely on the actions and intentions of others.

Please be safe out there, and please feel free to contact me if you have questions on this topic.



Week 9 of the #10weeksto100. 

 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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

#10Weeksto100 - Week 8 - Drink, Eat, Repeat

Aside from bikes and gear, there probably isn’t any topic brought up more in bicycling than food and drink. From the best recovery drink, the highest energy snack, or the best post-ride burger, brew or ice cream, bicyclists are almost as obsessive about food as they are their gear. Endurance cycling events are also unique in that some can require a full meal to complete; food you almost have to consume during the event.

"Eat before you are hungry.

Drink before you are thirsty,"




That is one of the earliest bits of commonly shared cycling advice, written over 120 years ago. While the choices and options have changed, it remains true today. During a long ride or event, if you dig too deep into your body’s energy stores without replenishing, it will diminish your enjoyment as you work through the “bonk” to finish. And if you fall behind in hydration, you put yourself at a serious health risk, especially in warmer weather.

Prepping my on-bike and sag bottles for RAIN 2016 
This is also why most important add-on equipment for your endurance training and riding are two water bottle mounts on your bike. Two bottles provide you with 40 ounces or more of fluids, enough for riding 2-3 hours. You may also want insulated bottle, like the CamelBak chill, since cool water is easier for most riders to drink. If you are not comfortable drinking from while maintaining your pace, you may want to consider a hydration pack. With a pack, single action brings the drinking tube to your mouth, and you are back to both hands on the handlebars in just a second or two.


For the novice, the duration of the ride is your best guide to eat and drink. As your workout time increases, you will need to plan accordingly. Workout intensity, on the other hand, impacts what you can choose to eat or drink; the harder you are attempting to ride, the simpler your foods should be, and you rely on smaller, more frequent snacks. Here are the three time frames you should consider for your training and event ride.

Rides up to an hour – Fluid Replenishment is Your Primary Concern
These are your weeknight and recovery rides. Yes, even on these shorter rides, drinking is important, especially in warmer weather. It’s also good practice if learning to drink while rolling is a new skill for you. Your goal is bottle per hour, and for these shorter rides plain water is fine. Most people start with enough stored energy for a 60-minute workout, but carry one energy gel, which has about 25g of carbs, just in case, for example, if you are riding after work and before dinner. A tip from experience: eating a full meal within an hour of finishing an intense workout will help your recovery.


Rides up to 2 or 3 hours: Time to think about Carbohydrate Replenishment
You need be ready with a bottle each of water and sports drink, as your rides go over an hour. You may start the ride hydrated, but make sure to start into your first bottle during that first hour. While you can get some carbs from an energy drink don’t depend too much on sugary drink, your first solic snack should come after an hour. Fresh fruit or an energy bar a good choices her. Rather than calories, learn to think in terms of carbs, and your goal is to take 30-60g of carb per hour. Bars have more carbs, about 45g, but take more effort to eat on the go. Sport Gels are an easy alternative to bars, but be sure to try them during training; don’t add something new to your diet the day of the event.


Rides of three hours and longer: Keeping the Body’s Pantry Stocked
As your rides get longer, you have to keep drinking and keep snacking. It’s important to be adding both water and sport drink with both carbs and electrolytes, and be drinking at least a bottle an hour. You also need to 30-60g of carb per hour, from fruits, energy bars, and real foods. Digestion can get harder as rides get longer, so eat more solids at the beginning of the ride, and rely on gels for quick energy in the last third of the ride.

On these longer training rides and your events, your challenge is keeping up with the demand for energy. If you wait to long to “re-fuel”, it can take 30 to 45 minutes for your body’s metabolism to catch up. This is what experienced riders call the “bonk” or “hitting the wall”. In most cases, you just start to feel lethargic and your legs feel empty, at it’s worst, you may even feel light headed. With experience, you can learn to ride through the bonk, but if you find yourself feeling “out of gas” you may need to take a short break off the bike to let your body catch up. As little as 10 minutes off the bike will put back on an even keel and feeling ready to move along.

There are also a couple of good reasons to make eating and drinking a habit while working out. First, your event will be a change in routine with event day excitement, in surroundings and more riders, and this can leave your forgetting to eat or drink . And later in the event, you may just get bored with the warm drink in your bottle, or taking one more bite of energy bar. Freshen your bottle at the next stop, or hit a convenience store or sag for a different snack; but just know the consequence of not eating and drinking are much worse than boredom.


On a final note, as novice rider, don’t be too concerned with special energy drinks and food items. A banana is still one the best foods for cyclists while riding, as are most fresh fruits, and a quick shop bottle of Gatorade is still reliable drink for a thirsty, tired rider. Your goal for these first rides is to learn the basic eating and drinking habits that allow you to enjoy and finish your ride. Over time, as you may find the need for more sophisticated drinks and snacks, as you challenge yourself more or ride with more challenging goals.



Week 8 of the #10weeksto100. 

 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

Saturday, February 25, 2017

#10WeeksTo100 - Week 7 – How to find the time

Depending on what else you have going on your life, finding the time for endurance training may feel like as big a challenge as your event. While the 10-week, 1,000+ mile training plan I have outlined can appear daunting to a novice rider, it is built on a balanced mix of distance and up-tempo rides that can be worked into the most hectic of schedules. You should also keep in mind that over training is that the most common mistake for many novice riders!   Here are some helpful tips for staying on track and dealing with the pitfalls of your endurance event preparation.
Riding into the Portsmouth TOSRV Mural - a TOSRV tradition
of mine.

Training Scheduling Tips:
  • The first step to training time management is to add your workouts to your calendar. Adding them to your calendar shows you are serious, and lets you spot and adjust for conflicts.
  • Don’t forget to block out some extra time before and after each workout for getting ready and putting things away.
  • It is also a good idea to start your calendar blocking out the same riding time for the entire calendar period. If you finish early, you have spare time in your calendar to take care of the stuff that life throws your way.
  • If practical, schedule your long rides to start the same time as your event. As mentioned previously, this helps you know what to expect from your body the day of the event.
  • A regular outing in a fixed time slot will help you build consistency, and makes scheduling easier over time. Just remember you can be flexible when conflicts arise.
  • As you ride faster, your distance will increase for the same time on the bike. Getting a few extra miles in for the same amount of time can be very satisfying and show you’re making progress in your training.
  • If you have only 2 hours on a weekend where the plan called for 3, increase your intensity for the time you have. Here again, workout quality is just as important as quantity.
  • Save time by staying organized. When you put away things after your ride, leave them prepped for the next. Don’t loose workout time looking for gear or a taking care of a problem left over from the last ride.
  • If your situation allows it, bicycle commuting to work is a great way to find extra training time and miles. While you can’t always do your speed work out, commutes can be recovery or base miles days.

What if life gets too crazy? Here are some important thinks to keep in mind throughout your training and riding.

It’s supposed to be fun, not a chore. Yes, you have to ride, but time on the bike should be your reset time. Leave your troubles behind for an hour or two, and enjoy the moment. Another reason to not bring work along for the ride is to stay focused on your riding environment and staying safe. Riding in traffic or in a group is not the time to try and solve a work issue.

Your training can still be successful on 3 rides a week. Two weeknight rides and single long weekend ride can keep your preparation on track, especially if you make one of your weeknight rides an up-tempo ride, and you are still able to incrementally increase weekly long ride.

Quality can make up for quantity. When time is really tight, don’t under estimate the value of a short intense workout. At one hectic time in my life, I would take an hour before work and ride a couple of miles to a nearby river bluff climb, where I would just ride up and down the winding 3/4 mile hill 8 to 10 times, before heading home. This is just one way to pack a great workout into an hour or less.

Listen to Your Body. A stressful workweek can leave you just as fatigued as a series of hard workouts. This is again where learning to balance work, life and riding is important.

Be Realistic in Your Expectations. Where you need to cautious is when your schedule results in missing multiple scheduled rides or prevents you from incrementally increasing your long rides. The concern is that if you try your event with too little preparation, you risk an overuse injury that could have a long lasting impact on your riding. If you do find yourself cutting back miles week after week, consider adjusting your event goal accordingly. Remember, you are into cycling for a lifetime, not just the next event.

And finally, share some of your riding time with family. I have been fortunate to have a spouse who loves to ride, and we do lots of miles together, even though she does not like to ride the distances I do. Your rest and recovery days can be a great opportunity for relaxed riding with you non-competitive family member.

Learning to balance life, work and riding is all part of making sure you have fun. Learning these habits will prepare you for success for in your first event. And these are the habits that put you on path to a lifetime of fun, fitness and fellowship through bicycling.




Week 7 of the #10weeksto100 series. 

 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

Sunday, February 12, 2017

2017: It's Time to Light Up

It is more important than ever for bicyclists to take steps to be seen. On a daily basis, society’s tacit acceptance of distracted driving needlessly put bicyclists, pedestrians and other motorists at risk. Some trends in cycling, like all black clothing, and minimalist gear on lightweight bikes have also tended to minimize our visibility on the road. However, the latest improvements in bicycle light technology now make daytime running lights readily available for all cyclists. I want to encourage every bicyclist who rides on streets and roads to consider using daylight running lights for the upcoming riding season.

One of my Bontrager Flare R taillights.
Daytime running lights for bikes, both taillights and headlights, are designed to be visible up to half mile or more, in bright sunlight. The daylight taillight I now ride with provides an intense, focused light with an intermittent flash pattern (dot-dot-dot-dash-dash), visible of almost 2/3 of mile in bright sunlight. What does the mean for a car and bike interaction? A car driving at 50 miles per hour travels the length of a football field (100 yards) in about 5 seconds. If you ride with a taillight visible for 2/3 of a mile, that is almost 12 football fields. That means a driver may be alerted to your presence up to a minute before they overtake you. And after almost a full season or road riding with the Bontrager Flare R, I believe it is changing driver behavior. And other cyclists I have talked to have seen similar changes.

While riding with a daylight tail-iight for my commuting and recreational road riding, I have seen overtaking drivers giving a full lane when passing, and waiting to pass when the view is obstructed or when there is oncoming traffic. We have not had a high speed close pass since using these lights. And I have seen the same change in driver behavior while riding in rural and urban situations.

I have almost always had an LED taillight on my bike since they were introduced over 20 years ago. I did this because I do a lot of early morning and late evening rides. I would also ride with my taillight on when riding on tree-shaded roads, in fog and rain, or if traffic seemed heavy. (I have also tried to stay as up-to-date with my lights for my early morning and evening bicycle commuting.)

One experience that was a revelation about daytime running lights came while bicycle touring across Illinois in 2014. Road availability left me with a 10-mile stretch on a shoulder-less, 2-lane state highway. I had a typical AA taillight on my bike, but before I started rolling, I decided to take my “emergency” headlight, which had a strobe mode, and strapped it on my panniers facing overtaking traffic. I was riding ready for that close-pass, expecting it not out of malice, but just because that is what happens on rural highways.

But in those 40-45 minutes, almost every single car and truck, probably over 50 vehicles, gave me a full lane, or well over 3 feet in passing. Yes, that is what motorists are supposed to do; and I never let my guard down, but it was just a relief that I never had a mirror off my shoulder, a blaring horn, or felt the need to dive for the shoulder. Anecdotal, yes, but making an effort to be more visible seemed to pay off.

I will admit, I did not change behavior immediately after this experience, but I did start using the lights I had more frequently, though none I had were daylight rated (most LED lights for night use are a between 15 1o 25 lumens), and I looked into some upgrades. In early 2015, Trek’s Bontrager brand introduced the Flare R Taillight, designed specifically with a daylight riding mode. I purchased my first one in the spring of 2016. We began using it on our tandem and we soon added a second for our household of bikes, so that I wasn’t juggling between my commuter, road bike and the tandem, and to have two fully charged for longer rides (including RAIN and a fall century). I will probably add a third, trying a different brand, this spring.

I have also decided to now use a daytime headlight, for forward visibility; however, I am not riding with a simple strobe. I have a Bontrager headlight, the Ion 700, which has a daylight mode with a dot-dot-dot-dash-dash pattern like their taillight. The impact on driver behavior is not as dramatic, but as we approach intersections, cars are giving us a second look. Living in Carmel, we ride a lot of roundabouts, and I believe the headlight helps us safely navigate our way through those.

While there is not yet an industry definition of a Daytime Running light for bikes, the characteristics to look for include:

· At least 50 lumens, with red for taillights
· An irregular or varying flash pattern
· A runtime of 3 hours or more in daylight mode

Expect to pay $40 or more; the Flare R is $60. Most are USB rechargeable, and in daylight mode, the Flare R will run over 5 hours on a full charge.

I mention the Bontrager line, because that is the light I currently have experience with. One other note is that John Burke, the president of Trek Bicycle, tasked his engineers to come with better daytime visibility solutions, and that is discussed on the Trek website (http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en_US/daytime_running_lights/). Trek/Bontrager is offering both urban and rural/road daytime running lights.

Two other lights that receive good reviews for daytime taillights are the NiteRider Solas 150 Rear Bike Light, and the Cygolite Hotshot series.  The website Bicycle Light Database (www.bikelightdatabase.com/)  is a pretty good starting point if you are looking for more information on other lights that will work as daytime running light solutions..

I know that many will be skeptical, and not see the need, or want another complication to the joy of simple riding. However, alerting drivers that we are out there, and taking serious steps to be visible, will be good for all cycling. I was also reminded about another group that was skeptical about making changes for safety. In the late `60’s, just a few years before I started riding, I recall my Dad complaining about having to add the first Slow Moving Vehicles triangles to all his farm and construction equipment; but almost immediately, there were a fewer tragedies in the local news, and if anything, farm equipment uses even more safety lighting today.

Daytime running lights will not replace the need for vigilant, common sense riding skills, or the need for every driver to respect the rights of cyclists. But they certainly are a tool that helps. This is NOT to say we, as law abiding cyclists, are responsible for these incidents of careless or reckless driver behavior; however we need to take every step we can to protect ourselves, our family and friends. Please consider riding the roads and streets with daytime running lights this season.

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