Wednesday, November 27, 2013

It's Beginning to look a lot like Christmas - perfect gifts for the cyclist you love

Sure it can be hard to buy a cycling appropriate gift for the cyclist who has everything, and it's tempting to just purchase a cycle shop gift card,but if you want the cycling enthusiast in your life to know that you care enough to learn about their passion, there are some things  a cycling enthusiast just can't have to many of. Tires need to be inflated before every ride so....
Right at the top of the list is a tire floor pump.  I personally own 4 of these currently, I have one in my truck, 2 in my shop and one in my cycling studio. 1 of the pumps in my shop is worn out, but I'm a bit of a pack rat and can't seem to bring myself to throw it away.  Besides,,, as you probably just figured out, pumps wear out.
Another item that cyclists will consume on a yearly basis and that is pretty generic, in regards that you don't need to know what kind/size of bike they have are tire repair stuff.  The only thing that you need to worry about is that the chuck they have will fit the CO2 cartridge.  Do they use threaded cans or not?  Easily solvable by just getting  them the whole kit!  You can't have to many of these,,,at least I can't because it seems that I am always loosing elements of it even with an underseat bag on each bike to safely store them in.  I currently own as many different CO2 delivery systems as there are stars in the sky.... well at least planets in the solar system.

Another item that I seem to have a plethora of, except when I need them are cycling caps.  Sure I know they look goofy when worn without a helmet, but on a rainy day they are a lifesaver to keep the rain out of your eyes.  On cold sunny days that visor and extra little bit of warmth goes a long way too.  Plus these little gems let people know that you are totally legit, when you use them in the proper way and can offer an explanation as to why they are special and helpful, while you sip our Americano at your fav java stop.

A lot of cyclists like to be able to look behind them to see what is going on without turning around, kind of like you do in a car when you look in a mirror, OMG it's a little cycling mirror that fits on your totally cycling specific eye protection or mounted right to your helmet.
If your cyclist wants to stay in shape through the winter Christmas might be the time to get them a trainer to help them keep the cold weather pounds off while they watch  Walking Dead every week, or for that Breaking Bad marathon over the holidays.  Right now is a great time to score a deal for you and give them something that will give them miles of enjoyment Nice Trainer to Buy - click here

I know I may be stretching it a bit here, but if you want your cyclist to never forget your gift, here are some choice items that I highly recommend by Gore!  I have a bunch of their gear and even though it is a bit pricey compared to some other brands, I have not only never regretted the expenditure, but when I bought cheaper (not cheap, just less expensive) the difference in the value for the money has always impressed me and at the end of the day, been a huge improvement on my cycling experience.

A cycling vest is always a nice addition for any rider who rides in changeable weather conditions.  Sure to keep the core warm while allowing the arms to breath freely, a great gift if the cost of a winter jacket is to salty for your budget.

Finally the perfect stocking stuffer is stockings!  Wool stockings to be precise!  Wool is breathable, the new blends are very comfortable and wool retains 95%  of it's insulating properties when wet, making it the perfect cold weather selection for all cyclists!!  I love my DeFeet Woolie Boolies and my smart wool! (smart wool gloves are awesome too, on or off the bike!)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Only for the elite cyclist


You don't need to be able to destroy the field at Flanders to benefit from bike handling skills that are typically only proliferated to riders who race

In fact anyone who rides with a group can benefit from a wide variety of drills that improve your ability to keep from making contact with the ground should disaster....or some less that attentive rider should strike when riding with a group.

I'm not going to paint some. Fuzzy picture that learning theses skills and doing these drills may not 
Put you on the ground while you are learning , but I can promise you that it is better to find yourself down on the grass in a controlled environment with no loss of skin. Than out on the road I traffic when you could have avoided it with a few basic simple skills

I just came from a coaching clinic (totally geared towards racers) where we did some things that were real eye openers to me.

One thing that I teach in basic road safety is not to overlap wheels, to communicate (signal turns, verbally indicate when you are stopping or passing)

All that said, in a race situation most of the time you will not get this kind of courtesy, so this clinic that included aspiring high level coaches, high category racers, pro level and even world champion riders, we did a drill to demonstrate what to do if you should find yourself in the heinous situation of a wheel overlap and the rider you are passing takes out your front wheel...... I would like to mention here that  have never in thousands of miles of riding ever had anyone hit my front wheel, but  I of course did the drill because it seemed to have a lot of value.  The first thing I learned in the first drill where we were supposed to ram the shell of the rider in front of us head on is that IT'S A LOT HARDER TO HIT A WHEEL INTENETIONALLY. THAN YOU WOULD THINK!
We were supposed to ram the tire of the rider I front of us and seperate using only our body weight, we were not allowed to used the brakes, plus we were doing this on a grass field which made the landing padd softer but made the execution of this drill a bit more difficult only a road bike

Next thing that I learned was that when you contact wheels in an overlap situation you drive the wheel into the bike that you are in conflict with to gain separation.  The second time I did this I ended up on the ground. BTW don't just grab your buddy and go out in a field and try this, we had some build up to this to aid in being able to execute

After my one contact with the ground, I was able to pull this move off successfully pretty much at will  5 or 6 more times without incident.  Which brings me to the real world application that I go t when riding back to the hotel.  Remember when I said in the more relaxed atmosphere of a group ride you should be able to count on the people around you communicating with you their intentions?  I.e. Right turn (hand signal or verbal) slowing, passing.  And how I had never had anyone clip my front wheel ever?f. Well we were just riding casually back to the hotel (18-20 mph) when the guy at the front of the group without warning suddenly turned right in front of the guy in front of me, forcing him to slow suddenly and turn right to avoid collision And right across my front wheel, as is suddenly found myself boxed in on his right with no where to go as I had been closing at the time because....I made the erroneous assumption that the guy in front (who has likely been riding longer than I have been alive) was going to use the hotel driveway and not cut suddenly into the grass without warning.

So. Three things went wrong here, neither rider said slowing or signaled, I totally understand why #2 guy that I actually made contact with said nothing, he was just reacting, to my credit I did yell "hey!" Just before we hit, but failed to say "on your right" mainly because I really had no intention of being on his right any more than he had intended to have to stop or turn right.  The meat head on the front however had no excuse other than the fact that he was from California :) Just kidding Californians.... or am I :)

Here's the great news, I was able to use my new skill and did not end up on the ground with some new road rash and possibly worse.  All because I didn't overreact and even learned a new adaption to the drill. Turns out it even works a littl e better if you can drive into it if separation is not immediate.

All's well that ends well. Once we got our adrenaline under control, we had a good laugh and a new appreciation of what  we learned and are going to soon be teaching other riders.

To learn more about this and experience some great drills to make you a better everyday rider. Follow this blog and/or join my meetup group so that you will get notice when I start doing clinics in the spring.  Join my Meetup here

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Rules - Part 2 - Heavy Traffic

One of the most important elements of road and group riding safety if dealing with traffic in a safe and courteous way.

In the thousands of road miles that I have logged, I have discovered some easy and effective ways to interact with motorists that also seem to endear them to my groups cycling presence on the road...keeping in mind that there will always be idiots out there that you can not please no matter what.

First of all the law - I am not going to address all of the Indiana Law, just the things that are applicable to this post.  But you can find it in it's entirety at the following section or by clicking here Indiana Bicycle Law
IC 9-21-11
     Chapter 11. Bicycles and Motorized Bicycles

 Roadways; rights and duties
Sec. 2. A person riding a bicycle upon a roadway has all the rights and duties under this article that are applicable to a person who drives a vehicle, except the following:
        (1) Special regulations of this article. you can read about by clicking this link mostly deals with how many people on a bike, hanging onto motor vehicles, etc....
         (2) Those provisions of this article that by their nature have no application.
As added by P.L.2-1991, SEC.9.
Notice that the sign says, "Share the Road" not "Share the Lane" but the picture shows a bike and a car that look like they are sharing a lane.  This is a problem as many motorists interpret it like the picture.  Recently in Delaware they addressed this by changing the sign to more adequately reflect the intent of the law.
If you have ever had a car squeeze by you with oncoming traffic, you are likely well aware as to why this "Lane Sharing" is a bad idea.
In Marion County they have a 3 foot rule, but cross county line road into Johnson County and there is no such law.  However the state law which entitles the cyclist to a full lane actually covers this. No body would think it was ok to pass a motorcycle with a car in the same lane simply because of the safety factor.
But since motorists are not educated about this they tend to not think about cyclists as another vehicle and look at them more like they do pedestrians.  Which brings us to another point, It is not legal or safe under any circumstances for a bicycle to be ridden against the flow of traffic on the wrong side of the road.  Bad Idea period. Even if you are riding at a slow pace, say 10 MPH you have increased the closing speed of your bike with any motor vehicle by 20 MPH verses traveling in the proper direction and you offer the MV no opportunity to fall in behind you to follow until it is safe to pass.  Bad Idea to do this.
IC 9-21-11-6
Lane use restrictions; riding two abreast

     Sec. 6. A person riding a bicycle upon a roadway may not ride more than two (2) abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.
As added by P.L.2-1991, SEC.9.

Keep in mind that there are more laws pertaining to bikes on the Indiana law books, but we are only dealing with these here.  Plus local statutes can be more restrictive but tend to be in the cyclists favor.

Ok, so as a cyclist what does this mean to you and what should you do?

These are some things that I actively teach cyclists
  1. Take the lane - do not ride as far to the right as you can all the time.  This is not the best place to ride in the road for visability purposes and it encourages cars and trucks to try to squeeze by at inappropriate places and SHARE THE LANE with you which is not a good idea - and under Indiana law, you are allowed the full lane
  2. Be Courteous - try to manage traffic.  If you can help them to pass, do it. Make the stop sign hand or wave them by if it's safe.  This will demonstrate to the motorist that you are paying attention, being pro-active in helping them get down the road and builds good will in general with people who are not idiots (you can't please everyone - some people just have a chip on their shoulders. If you have the opportunity, get over in a turn lane to let them pass
  3. Be Friendly - extend the left hand of friendship in a friendly wave.  This not only endears you to most people passing you, but it serves to keep them at arms length as well.
  4. Don't Ride more than 2 abreast - and if a vehicle is passing you, single up.  You don't have to, but it gives you more room if a motorist should try to crowd you.  The downside of this in a large group is your passing profile will double in length -
  5. The Solution - if you are in a large group, break it down into smaller bundles of 4 riders. and separate so that the car can leap frog by your group.  Also help them out by managing how they pass, either by waving them on or moving to the center and motioning them to get behind you if they do not have enough room to continue passing.
What can you do as a motorist?
  1. Stay Cool - I know it may seem like it takes forever to pass (feels the same to me sometimes when I am trying to help someone get by)frequently my groups will end up catching impatient drivers at the next stop sign or stop light, usually just the ones who passed at inappropriate times and then blared the horn at us as they passed and waved at us with one finger.  This has to be embarrassing for them....I'm embarrassed for them!
  2. When it is time to pass - stand on the gas and get by, it is not safe in most cases to slowly pass a line of cyclists and while they will likely appreciate the gesture (we realize you are just trying to be safe) it actually increases your exposure to oncoming traffic and to the side of our bikes
  3. Don't blare the horn as you pass - do I really have to say why? If our group is trying to help you pass this is really not called for and if you come across a group of discourteous riders, it still serves no purpose
  4. Do lightly tap on the horn as you are approaching the back of a group - this serves to alert the group that your are approaching, friendly and just trying to help,,, not startle the crap out of them.
Let me know if this sparks any questions and I will do my best to address those in future posts.  I also intend to do a You Tube video relating to this topic that I'm sure none of you will want to miss.

Until next time, tailwinds to you all


Monday, November 4, 2013

The Rules - Part 1 - Communication is Critical

I am going to start this series that may or may not be without a break. (I have several posts that I am working on with diverse topics

But I had a request yesterday to talk about group/ road cycling and the rules.

Cycling on the road and in groups can be very safe and enjoyable, just by following some simple rules but while the rules are all simple and likely will make sense to you, there are a lot of them, so this will likely take a few posts.  If you don't understand something or have questions, feel free to post a comment or message me and I will hopefully give you a reasonable answer :)

Many of you may know that I am on a quest to change the face of cycling in the following ways
  1. make cyclists more courteous and safer users of the roads to enhance the experience of not only cyclists, but the motorists what we share the roads with (notice that I put share the road, not the lane - this is what I think that those share the road signs should say)
  2. help cyclists to interact with each other in a more efficient way to further the cause for number 1 and that is what I am going to focus on today.
If you have been on a group ride with me, regardless of whether it was on a bike path or road way, you were likely delighted to hear my pre-ride safety speech that has the following elements.

One of the first things you learn when riding with me is that a bicycle has all the same rights and obligations on the road as a motor vehicle in Indiana.   Meaning that bicycles are entitled to a whole lane and are allowed to ride 2 abreast legally. (re: share the road not the lane)  So bicycles are required to stop at stop signs and stop lights as well.  All that said, there is such a thing as courtesy which relates to helping traffic get past in a safe manner when the opportunity presents itself (more on that in a later blog) Also keep in mind that if you don't live in Indiana, the laws will likely vary a bit, mostly as regards to not impeding traffic flow of motor vehicles on the highways and byways. If you are traveling to another state to do a ride, it pays to spend at least a few minutes studying the laws, so that you can be aware and interact safely with traffic at your destination.

I also talk about communication and this is the cornerstone of safe road/group riding and that is what we will deal with primarily in this article.

I have had riders learn all of the communication and safety rules and then go on an organized group ride with SAGs, safety talks, police support etc... and then be amazed that none of the riders will talk to each other.  I'm not talking about "how's the weather on your side of the lane", "nice bike", pleasantries in general, but safety communication.

Repeated Warnings
The following communication should be repeated when you hear it so that the people all the way to the back of the line will have ample warning that something is happening that they need to be aware of and that they need to acknowledge.
THIS IS IMPORTANT - Do this even if you think it is ridiculous,,,it's not....Do this with all of the following communication IT IS IMPORTANT!

- Slowing or Stopping - When you are stopping or slowing on your bike, you may not be aware that you do not have brake lights!  So first of all when you are slowing, stopping, using the brakes for any reason or if you just stop pedaling and find your self loosing speed, the correct thing to do is sing out, "Slowing" or "Stopping" be sure not to mumble.

- Car Back - this means that you have a car either coming up behind the group or following and waiting to pass.  Repeat this Even if you are the very first one in line on the front of the group - it lets the people behind you know that you heard.  The same goes for the next signal

-  Car Up - this lets the people behind you know that  #1 they should be alert not to stray across the center line (you should avoid this anyway) #2 if the people behind you in line are trying to help a car behind to pass, the group, they will know that it is not safe and will take the appropriate action. Again repeat "Car Up" even if you are the last person in line, it lets the people in front know that you heard.

- Car Passing or Passing - this alerts people in front that they now have a car passing the group, so that they can give a friendly wave as the car passes (more on this later, it is very important to wave)

- Car Right or Car Left - indicating a vehicle that is at an intersection or driveway looking to enter the roadway

- Right Turn, Left Turn or simply Turning - while we do encourage and demonstrate hand signals (more on that in another blog) I also encourage people to call the audible.  Everyone needs to acknowledge the turn, for the same reasons listed above :)

Non- Repeated Warnings

- On your Left, On your Right or Passing - This should be used any time you are passing another cyclist and you should repeat it multiple times if you are passing a line of cyclists so that the other riders are aware of your presence and do not pull out into you possibly taking out your front wheel and sending you rolling down to the pavement.  You should also give this warning when passing pedestrians of any variety for the same reasons.

- Social Interaction - If 2 riders are having a conversation, do not feel obligated to repeat everything that they say.... on the other hand always be sure to stop your conversation to further the cause of important conversation for the purpose of safety by repeating warnings (i.e. slowing, stopping, car up, car back etc....)

This is what I start all riders with who are new to my groups.  Up next time; hand signals, road courtesy, and more group etiquette.

Until next time, safe riding!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Full Metal Zipper - Cycling Clothing Revealed

So I am frequently asked about clothing for cycling and get questions from non cyclists like - why do you guys always wear Lycra?  Why do you wear stuff on your head that makes you look like a bug? What's up with those shoes that make you go Clop, Clop , Clop?

All valid questions from people who don't put in road miles or spend an hour or more on a trail bike.

But I am going to cover a few things in this article that are totally relevant to people who actually do ride and will answer for those who don't ride at the same time.

First let's deal with "why wear Lycra"  I prefer to call it technical clothing as the purpose is to wick moisture away from your skin.  This does 2 things
  1. it aids in the evaportitive cooling process to keep you cool when it is hot and helps you to dry out quicker should you become drenched in sweat
  2. it keeps you dryer when it is cold outside, so on the other side of the coin helps to keep you warm.
Going a little further with the skin tight shorts, I know that there are people who are simply embarrassed to wear said shorts but let me tell you now that these shorts are far and above way more important to the comfort and well being of your nether parts than any large padded seat that you could ever possibly imagine.

But in order to fully enjoy the benefits of this magical clothing you must first be aware of how they work and how you should wear them.

The most common mistake that people will make with these is to wear underwear underneath.  This is a big NO NO!  These shorts are the underwear.  There is a chamois built into them that must fit to your skin in order for it to function properly.  It provides padding that no seat can compare to and it performs a wicking function to keep you dry in areas that are prone to chaffing.

If you do not think the look is flattering to your looks, WEAR THEM AS UNDERWEAR!  You can wear just about any kind of clothing over the top of them (perhaps something more stylish) and these magical shorts will still function as intended.
Wear your baggy shorts over the top and no one will be the wiser,,,, except that nosy coach who cares about your comfort on the bike and will ask you what you are wearing underneath :)

These shorts are the most important and first part of cycling apparel that you should invest in.  DO NOT THINK THAT A PADDED SEAT is going to make your rear end comfy. The only solution is a good pair of bike shorts.

Next on the agenda is a cycling jersey.  I know people who resist and try to wear cotton T-shirts on top, but I am here to tell you that is one bad idea for the following reasons.  Number 1 that shirt is going to get wet and stay wet, which will make you miserably sticky in the summer and freezing cold in the winter.  Plus the fact that T-shirts pack no storage what so ever and do not have a full metal zipper.

Why is said zipper so important you ask?  Because it allows you to better regulate your body temperature in both warm and cold weather.  So do not be tempted to buy a jersey with a partial zipper as you will limit your ability to stay cool, dry and warm all at the same time. (not to women, sports bras are a good idea to take full advantage of this zipper vent)

The second thing about cycling jerseys is the tech material, just like the shorts, they wick moisture away from you skin and help to keep you dry

The third thing is storage, men's jerseys have 3 large pockets in the back that are great for stuffing a plethora of handy items like your cell phone, first aid kit, glucometer for diabetics, snacks, extra water bottles, layers you need to shed in route, tire repair stuff.  Women's jerseys will frequently have a couple of not near as functional pockets as will sleeveless triathlon jerseys.  In the case of the tri jersey this is understandable as you have to swim in this jersey, but the women's???? come on, wake up women's jersey designers and start making jerseys that fit women and also have adequate storage!!
For this reason alone, women may consider wearing a men's jersey.  I stuff so much stuff in my jersey pockets that I often look like a hoarding hamster!

The next thing to consider is gloves.  Start with the fingerless model.  These are very important on hot rides as they will keep you from slipping when you do get sweaty.  I resisted wearing gloves for a long time as I thought they were just a vanity accessory, until a few months in I got very sweaty on a ride and could hardly hang on to my handlebars.  I personally like the Gore gloves as they fit very well.... like a glove :). they don't ride up between my fingers when I wear them for long periods of time and have convenient little loops to help remove them when I am ready.  There are a number of good gloves, but Gore happens to be my favorite!

Socks, should be technical but don't have to be cycling specific as running socks will frequently work very well in cycling shoes and have many of the same properties as cycling specific socks.

These are the basics, feel free to ask any questions or make any comments as you see fit.

The answer to a lot of questions on what to wear can be found here The Rules #14 - 18

I will be doing a cold weather specific clothing expose in the very near future, with cold weather approaching and all

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Getting Started in Cycling for anyone

I started working with complete novice cyclists in 2009 with my wife. 

At first I did not realize that she was a complete novice as I made the mistake that a lot of coaches make by not asking enough questions. She told me that she had ridden bikes as a child and my next wrong assumption was that she had ridden like I had as a child.... at least on some level.

My intial assessment on our first ride, opened my eyes to a lot of things that have since helped me to help a lot of beginner and some not so beginner cyclists.  In this post, I am going to share a few of these lessons with you.

If you are more experienced and think some of this is ridiculous, please keep in mind that what is now obvious to you may not have been in the beginning, so please use my experience to help beginners over some hurdles that are really easy if only we give them a little help and encouragement.

The first thing that I am going to address is seat height and stand over.
Seat height should be adjusted for the length of your legs to the pedals and not to the ground. In other words when you stop your bike for stop signs, stop lights or any other reason, get off the seat and stand over it.
      Like This

Not Like This
This does a number of things for you
  1. allows you to have your seat at the proper height to get a good leg extention
  2. makes you more stable when you stop
  3. gives your butt a break from sitting on the seat
  4. you can take your hands safely off of the handle bars with out danger of falling
  5. you can use said hands to get a drink or eat a power bar
  6. you will look like you totally know how to ride a bicycle
So if you seat height seems to high for you because you can't sit on the seat of your bike when stopped, then it likely is closer than you think.
On the other hand if you can sit comfortably on your seat while placing your feet flat on the ground, you are definitely to low and will suffer the following consequences
  1. cycling will be a lot harder for you than it needs to be and will not be as fun
  2. you will be at risk of injury due to placing excess pressure on your knees
  3. you will be less stable while riding and more likely to have an untimely meeting with the ground - read - Will be in danger of falling
  4. you may be hungry and thirsty all of the time if this set up causes you to not feel comfortable letting go of the handle bars with one or more hands
  5. you will totally look like you do not know how to ride a bicycle and run the risk of becoming a laughing stock....
This is a good place to start even though I know that it will be a bit elementary for many of you.  But we definitely need to lay down a solid foundation for all of our future cycling brothers and sisters.
Please feel free to leave comments, with questions, topics or products that you would like for me to pontificate about in future blogs!