Wednesday, December 31, 2014

4 ways to beat the heat this winter!

So the weather outside is frightning what are some options to sitting on the couch in front of the tube waiting for the spring thaw.

If you have bought a trainer in winters past and found that it just gathers dust and you can not possably force yourself to get on it and ride, allow me to offer a few options that may just have you riding all winter on a regular basis and coming into the spring stronger than ever.

If you live in the Indianapolis area here are 4 ways to make the most of your off season!

#1 you can stop by Performance Bicycle in Castleton 3 days a weekj (mon, tues and saturday) for a free Cure Chasers cycling spin on your own bike and trainer class.  You can find more information about this either at or at the Indianapolis Beginner and Intermediate Cycling Meetup group.   We have between 10 and 30 people who ride together on a free workout lead by USA cycling certified coaches.  They are a lot of fun and not getting bored is the key to success with an indoor trainer.

#2 you can join a Computrainer class.  I personally have a studio, but I am not the only game in town as Shea Rankin has the cycling studio in Carmel and Marion College also offers this type of training with their power base classes.  This type of training is not just for racers but is for anyone who wants a quantitative way to take their cycling to the next level both in and out of season!  If you want more information feel free to contact me either through this blog or visit my website to see the advantages that this type of training offers.

#3 if you have some cycling friends and a little bit of indoor space (a lot of people will put a heater in their garage)  set up some regular sessions with 3 or 4 friends and you can get some great workouts while socializing with your cycling besties!  One twist on this is to have videos that you ride along with to give some structure to your workouts.  A couple of good suggeastions are and spinervals.  One way to keep it interesting is to take turns providing the videos.  

#4 you can always join a healthclub and do spin classes, the downside to this is particularly at the first of the new year arriving to class and finding no bikes available. The bikes are all different so your level of rexistance will vary from class to class. So to me this is a last resort.  I like having people get used to the controls on their own bike, having the same fit and resistance as you go through your workouts is a  plus as well.  Another alternative in Indianapolis is nebo Ridge Bike shop in Carmel as they off classes on kurt kinetic trainers if you don't want to jump in with your own trainer and want to kick it up a notch over the Y or LA fitness spin classes.

Remember that keeping in the saddle during the winter is going to make your next season and your overall fitness much more consistent, along with keeping your general feeling of health and well being at it's peak!

Coming up next, some ways to get outdoors during the cold winter days!

Keep on pedaling!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How to Climb Hills better - Don't be a Hater - like it, love it, want some more of it!

I used to think that mental attitude, PMA was a very metaphysical thing and that when you pursued difficult endeavors it was like mind over matter.  In other words simply willing your body to go to that next level.

While there is something to be said for that idea, it is only one piece of the puzzle.

Mental Game Coach John Ellsworth says - train your mind to focus on productive thought

Up your mental game with Coach John
What I do know from my experience is that I can learn to love just about anything at this point in my life by no longer giving in to "being a hater"

I think most of us have probably been at a point in our life where, we hated work, no matter what it was.  House work, home work, doing the dishes, football practice, reading, just about anything that does not elicit instant reward with out going through a lot of effort.

Not like the the things that come easy  in life.  Such as Eating ice cream, sleeping, watching TV, playing most games, you get the idea

I was no different, growing up I wanted to play football, but hated the practices and the conditioning that was required as a prerequisite.  I loved to have money, but hated almost every minute of what ever I had to do to earn it,  whether it was delivering newspapers, working in my parents office, putting up hay at the horse barn, or my various food service jobs.  I was a prisoner of not knowing how to apply the principle of   love conquers all. 

Then when I was about 22 a funny thing happened.  One day I just woke up and realized, that I was going to have to work the rest of my life and there was simply no way around it. 

I made up my mind right then, that I was just going to make the best of my job work hard and try to make the days go by as fast as possible.  

I was working my way through my final year of college and had just been married, so I had a pretty full schedule.  I spent my days working for a tree service dragging and chipping brush, plus using a chain saw and at night was doing my final year at Purdue.

A funny thing happened on the way to graduation.  I not only started looking forward to going to work, through rain and sleet and dark of night, but I also started to love the work that I was putting into studying.   I thought for a long time that this conscious decision to love my job was a one trick pony that only applied to my employment and did not at the time realize what had actually happened.  All I knew until recently was that I loved to work no matter what kind of job I had, I could get up, not dread going and work all day almost without ever watching a clock. I loved to study loved to learn and was constantly teaching myself new things and didn’t put the 2 together

 A few years later, my wife picked up bodybuilding as a hobby.  I had lifted weights in High School because I had to if I wanted to be on the football team, but I had never ever enjoyed it.  It was a lot of work and it hurt.

But I wanted to spend time with my wife and do things that she enjoyed, so I joined the gym with her.  I started out slow, but went to the gym very consistently and before long, I was not only getting great results, I was actually looking forward to going to the gym.  In fact, this was the only thing that would actually make me watch the clock at work, because I could not wait to get to the gym and put my self into serious pain and muscle burn.  I even learned to enjoy the muscular soreness that would follow hard workouts.  I thought to myself,,, this is weird and I would not have believed it,  had it not actually happened to me.

 For a long time, I thought this must be like drinking black coffee or beer.  It was just something that you had to develop a taste for.

Then 4 years ago, I started bicycle riding.   I was only doing this for a Juvenile diabetes fundraising ride and I planned to only do it for a year.  I had never liked bicycle riding all that much in the past, but I bought a decent bike, had the fortunate accident of having my speedometer set to kilometers thought I was riding really far and fast and was having a ball.

Once again, I made a love connection.   I sort of realized what had happened but still was not quite understanding the process of what was causing me to love things that I had previously hated and all of the pain or discomfort that is associated with them

 That was when the skies opened up and I had my epiphany at Indiana Urology  but I was sitting in the waiting room and I saw this Runners World magazine and on the cover I noticed an article called “Learn to love Running”  I was intrigued. I had always passionately hated running.

So I read the article and the upshot was that the trick to learning to love running was to look forward to your runs, don’t work to hard at first and your body will start a hormonal surge of chemicals called endorphins.

Our bodies use these chemicals to help us to adapt to stressfull and painful situations for the purpose of survival, and as a side effect can cause you to look forward to and actually enjoy those situation. - WOW!!

A light bulb lit above my head and all of a sudden the mystery was revealed. It’s the endorphins and they are triggered by love. I thought what the heck, I’ve always hated running, but I really need to give this a try. If it was possible to trick myself into liking something that I had previously disliked, in order to improve my health, I might not only be on to something, but what a great thing to be able to share with others if I could teach them to do the same.

Guess what?  It worked and now I feel like I can’t live without running.  I have applied the same principle to swimming with the same result.  I believe that I can do this with anything.

My next step is to share this with others, who for one reason or another hate their job, want to get in shape. Want to learn how to play musical instrument, want an education

But hate the work involved to get what they want.   The list goes on.  It literally can work for anything that you currently hate.  Ask anyone who I coach or who rides with me.  Don't say I hate hills or you will get corrected!  You love hills and you need to tell your body that so that it can get with the program.

This principle can be applied to just about any process that is required to reach an objective. In fact the best way to reach any objective no matter how large is to learn to love the process that will get you there!

 This is not nano tech people the Beatles really got this one right , “ All you need is love”

 Learn to love and you can do the impossible, Through Love, I can now conquer all things, at least the mundane ones.
If you have a cycling subject you would like me to write about or if you have cycling questions feel free to post here or contact me.

I live to help you learn to  love all things cycling!


Thursday, September 18, 2014

7 Things Beginners need to know to climb any Hill

I thought with the Hilly Hundred approaching and with a lot of people planning to do this for their bucket list, it was an opportune time to do this post.

Most people think that the secret to climbing hills lies in fitness, bodyweight and power. After all there is no substitute for training.  My approach is to make this training more approachable by making it progressive resistance training and doing it in a way that allows increasing overload instead of impossible overload.
In other words if you have a goal to bench press 300 lbs as a beginner body builder you would not start with a 300 lb bench but would progressively work your way up.

On another note, even though these tips are intended for beginners, some of these tips are things that many top pro hill climbers in the world know and use.

The first thing that you need to know is that having the right equipment is key!  Don't think that you have to run out  an $18,000 Specialized S-Works + McLaren Venge,

#1 it helps to have the right equipment - First we need to talk about terminology and what impact that  will have on your ability to climb any hill, without getting off your ride to push it over the summit.  Road Bikes of any variety are better than Cruisers, Mountain Bikes (for road hills, great for mountains and off road hills), Hybrids and the like.  While it is not necessary to have top end brand new bicycle,  a road bike almost always offers a weight advantage.  This is very important when you are fighting the planet Earth's gravitational attraction.

Some important terminology
Cassette - the gears on the rear wheel of your bike
Chain ring - the gears attached to the crank arms that are attached to the pedals - Bigger gears in front.

Which brings us to
#2 use your gears - you want to get in the smallest gear on your chainring and the biggest on your cassette as soon as possible when faced with an epic hill.  It may seem ridiculously easy for the first few pedal strokes, but rest assured that if you are climbing a hill of any significance, you will need the energy that you saved on the bottom to go over the top.

#3 go slow at the start - so you are pedaling in your easiest gears (if you look down while you are riding your chain will be as close to the frame as it can get) but you don't need to go as hard as you can in that gear.  Save your energy for where you are going to need it.... later on in this same hill.
When I tell people that they need to go slower, the typical response is, "If I go any slower, I will fall over!"  That's because you only went slow after you were out of gas, go slow at the start and you will not run out of gas!

#4 Stay Seated - climbing out of the saddle should only be done because you need a short rest for the muscles you use while seated or the hill is so short that you can power over it.  On long climbs it will cause you to blow up,,, unless you are very lean.  Note to strong burly guys, you may get away from this on less than Cat 5 climbs, but once the climbs are categorized you will likely blow up no matter how strong you are.  It is a power to weight ratio thing and if you fight gravity, gravity will win. Skinny people can ignore this part - still more efficient to stay seated most of the time, but skinny people will never believe me :)

#5 Pace yourself - Hill climbs of significance are not sprints for most of us, so we need to pace our energy output, so that we can stay on the bike the whole distance.  If it is your first time to climb a major hill, start out slow and stay slow until the top of the hill is with in easy striking distance, then (if you really have a lot of gas left in the tank), power on over the top!

#6 improve your pedal stroke - I could easily spend a whole post talking about this. If you are not clipping in, I only have 6 tips for you,,,, just kidding.  The idea is to have a smooth pedal stroke and one way to develop this is by practicing high cadence pedaling.  90 and above, if you one day find yourself pedaling at 130 rpm and your butt is rock solid in the saddle, you have arrived. If this is not you and you live in Indianapolis, come out to some Cure Chaser Cycling rides (indoor or outdoor) myself or one of our other coaches will be happy to help you get started towards a better pedal stroke.

#7 when you get tired scoot back in the saddle to use a different muscle group, when those muscles are tired, scoot forward. Refer to rule #20 The Rules

If you are training for the Hilly 100 come on out to our Blue Tuesday ride and get some vertical in before you show up in Elletsville next month.  You won't regret it.

We meet in the parking lot across from SouthWestWay Park 8400 Mann Rd, Indianapolis, IN
This week we will be starting at 5:45 and the maximum length of the ride is 2 hours. It is an out and back course and we all start and finish together.

We will be moving the start earlier as we continue to loose daylight, if you plan to come out be sure to have lights on your bike just in case. You can find the full details including what to bring Here

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Is Indiana BIcycle Friendly?

I know I promised that the last post was the end of the series, but lets call this and addendum.

In 2013 Indiana was ranked 37 among bicycle friendly states by the league of American Bicyclists.

The Criteria for this ranking can be found at the following link Bike League of America Friendly State Attributes

In particular what I am dealing with today is legislation and enforcement. A major part of that is the legislation and how Indiana compares to other states in this matter.

The NHTSA (the National Highway Traffic Safety administration) Says that,
"Bicycles on the roadway are, by law, vehicles with the same rights, and responsibilities as motorized vehicles."

Let's see how states above Indiana on the list rank on this aspect.
Much better, safer and more clearly
Stated than "Share the Road"

#1 Washington
Riding on the Road - When riding on a roadway, a cyclist has all the rights and responsibilities of a vehicle driver (RCW 46.61.755).

I will call the following Full lane states
The following states on the list pretty much mirror Washington's laws-  Minnesota, Wisconsin, Delaware, Maryland, Utah, Illinois, New Jersey, Vermont, Illinois, Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada, Texas, North Dakota and Indiana   .
 Then there is #5 Oregon - which has a pretty extensive and explanatory manual on recommended road use by cyclist, but made it impossible for me to find exactly what their laws are. 

Some states require cyclists
to stay as far to the right as
The can, but not Indiana
I will call the following right lane states because
 It looks like they are a stay to the right as far as reasonably possible state along with Tennessee, Michigan, California, Massachusetts, Maine, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York (also requires the use of bike lanes when provided - if you have not seen this video click here and check it out , Mississippi, Louisiana, Missouri, Wyoming . 
The following states seem to be on both sides of this issue with the initial statement being on par with the NHTSA but then adding stipulations that encourage lane sharing.  Not only ambiguous but potentially dangerous. #6 Colorado , Ohio (extremely ambiguous), Iowa, Florida.
#37 Indiana - funny thing right up there on this mark with the top 5 and should be no further down that list than 18 by this criteria alone.

So Kudos to Indiana and great job on doing the right things in the legislature!

I know there has been a lot of  hoopla about needing more bike lanes and bike paths to make Indiana more bike friendly but legislation is Better than Bike Lanes, after all great cycling laws do not need to be repainted every few years and if enforced are more effective in my opinion.
The problem seems to be with people who are ignorant of what the laws and rules of the road really are.  We seem to have people on a regular basis who want to instruct us that we need to ride single file on the road.  Not in Indiana, we are able to ride 2 abreast just like motorcycles do.

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.
This is actually safer for all parties concerned because, it cuts the distance that a car needs to pass us in half and makes us more visable to cars approaching from either direction.

It also forces motor vehicles to use another lane to pass, instead of tempting them to share the lane and squeeze past cyclists, throwing caution to the wind and passing despite double yellow lines, blind corners or approaching the top of a hill. 

The whole reason the double yellow exists is because either
#1 visibility is limited or
#2 there is access from side roads that may make passing dangerous

My belief is that education of both motorists and cyclists will make Indiana a more bicycle friendly state in a couple of important ways.

First of all motorists will be less hostile to cyclists on the road and informed motorists are a lot less likely to hang out on the wrong side of a double yellow line (i.e. no passing zone) so they can yell, "Don't you FN people realize that there are cars out here!" - "You need to be on the sidewalk." - "You need to ride those FN bikes single file, so I can pass." - the last meaning so that I can squeeze by while faced with oncoming traffic. The people that do this would certainly not be classified as "Bicycle Friendly Hoosiers"  But they are mad because they just don't know any better,,,,,  at least that is my thought :) in all fairness, this is really the minority of the drivers out there, but they are unfortunately the ones that stick out, just like cyclists.

Second, if cyclists them selves are more aware of and more compliant with the law, they will be more likely to use the roadways properly.  In my neighborhood, I see lots of people riding bikes the wrong way on 2 way streets, using the sidewalks and the road interchangeably, not signaling anything and generally behaving in an unpredictable manner.  Last night, we had a cyclist pass us and then blow the 2 way stop sign that we were slowing for at a busy intersection.  He didn't just roll through, he went full speed and I couldn't tell that he even looked for traffic. This sort of behavior does not breed "Bicycle friendly behavior from motorists"

Double Yellow means no passing,
even if you can squeeze by
Third education can set the stage and diffuse the situation before it even happens, with proper interactions by both cyclists and motorists.  If everyone is behaving itself, it will create an atmosphere of social justification and people will likely go out of there way to behave.
You can learn more and ask questions about Indiana Bicycle law at a great web site provided by Caress Law Group at the following link
I promise some reviews and none legal stuff is on the way, I have just been busy riding while the weather is good!

See you on the Road!


Coming up!
The care and feeding of your hydration system
what to look for in cycling gloves
How to tell if your bike fits

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Am I Average?

This is a question that has plagued mankind since the beginning of time! 

Am I average and what does that mean?

Great news, at least for cyclists who have been confused when they show up for a ride that advertises and average speed of 18 mph and find themselves pedaling at 25 mph in places just to hang on to the back of the group.

Here is something that I can certainly guarantee you.  18 mph average, never means top speed.  So if this is your maximum comfortable top speed on the flat, you are likely looking for a group that rides more on the order of 14 mph average.

Then you also need to take into consideration the type of terrain that you will be riding on.  If elevation gain is on the order of 1600' for a 32 mile ride then, 14 mph average takes on a whole new meaning.

Your speed may vary
If you are one of those cyclists who has shown up to a ride that lists and average speed that seems to be quite manageable, only to find yourself dropped and left for dead surrounded by native people who produce offspring with their close relatives, today is the day that I help you sort out this mystery!
First of all - average speed on a bicycle is not like average speed in a car on the interstate. 
Most of us are familiar with this average, because we live with it day in and day out most of our lives, but when joining your first group rides on a bicycle, the idea that a 55 mph average means you are pretty much driving at 55 mph does not translate to a 14 mph average on a bike.
  1. The first difference is that it is rare to find the place where your pace will not vary as a result of the terrain (small to large hills) or necessary stops (for stop signs, traffic and depending on the length of the ride, food and water/fuel)
  2.  The second difference is that the accelerations can actually hurt physically, unlike stepping on the gas in your car when you leave a stop sign or go up a hill, there can be pain involved to match the group as they accelerate. 
  3. The difference in speed to arrive average speed will vary a lot more as a result.
For a couple of examples
  • I did a ride 32.5 mile ride with an average speed of 15.1 mph - there was 1600 feet of elevation gain and I had a top speed of 42.6 but I also had time where I was under 5 mph.  So elevation gain played a factor in my average. 
  • By comparison, I had a 21 mile ride with an average of 21.7 mph - but there was only 250 feet of Elevation gain.  My top speed was only 31.6 and I spent a significant portion of that ride in the neighborhood of 18 mph.
Training Ride in the flatlands of Indiana
Average speed 16 mph - pretty steady stuff
So if a ride says that the average is 18 mph average, it is not unreasonable to assume that speeds will in fact approach 25 - 30 mph even on a relatively flat course.  So don't get mad and accuse the training ride organizers of false advertising. (poor way of communicating ride difficulty, but a totally accurate description of what that ride is going to deliver as far as how long it takes to do the course)

If you have been on one of the hundreds of rides that I have organized over the over the last few years and read the descriptions, either on line or in email, you will notice that in most cases, I do not post and average, but rather a difficulty level, proper bike to ride, along with a distance.  A lot of this has come as a result of hearing people complain for example, "They say that ride is a 20 mph average but when they hit 25 I just had to let them go.  What a bunch of jerks, they should ride the advertised speed."  I hear comments like this all the time still and see that people equate average to "speed limit"
Remember these are not the same.

Also, I tend to grade my rides Beginner, Advancing Intermediate, Intermediate or Advanced.
Beginner - Rides start at 8 miles and last for less than one hour - but can be as long as 17 with an hour and 30 minute duration. Any kind of bike is allowed and we do our best to keep this group together.  As riders get more fit, we will split into 2 groups with myself on the back and an more experienced rider that knows the route with the front. We are teaching the essentials of traffic safety at this level and verbal communication skills for a group.  (i.e. slowing, stopping, on your right, on your left, car up, car back, wave at all passing motorists, etc...) on topic, you can see that average speeds in these groups are 8 - 11 mph - These rides are always done on relatively flat terrain.

Advancing Intermediate - These are people who have decided that they want to kick their fitness, speed and or distance up a notch.  At this point we want to see nice Road Hybrids or Road Bikes as it is essential to have good equipment to keep up with the group.  I encourage close formation riding to take advantage of drafting.  There should be a lot of verbal communication at this level.  We will start extending the distance up to 30 miles and incorporating rollers into the rides. (Rollers are hills to the uninitiated, but to experienced hill climbers, they are not significant climbs.  What makes them rollers is that you can generally take a lot of advantage from momentum as they are straight descents on straight roads that you can see the bottom and up to the top of the next roller.  Hence you can roll through them with some effort) 
A Couple of issues that riders at this level typically need to over come is the fear of straight line speed and fear of following more closely in a group. Typically we will do rides of 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hour 15 minutes duration so you can see that the Average speeds in this group will approach 14 mph.

Intermediate - At this point your have become a dedicated roadie and understand that road riding really requires a road bike (not a hybrid of any description)  Not that you still don't have other types of bikes as we all know by this time that the formula for the proper amount of bikes to have is N+1 (with N = the amount of bikes that you currently own) and if you are married to a non cyclist the adapted formula of N+1<D (D= the amount of bikes that would result in a divorce)
By this time you are likely much more in tune with what an average speed means on a ride.
You talk to people who have ridden with the group and try to know what the course looks like in advance.
You are also aware that just because you can ride up to 20 mph, that does not mean that you can average that under any circumstances.
Likely you are doing rides in the 50 plus mile range and have your sites set on doing your first Century Ride or Hilly Hundred.
Riders in this group will typically be able to average 16-17 mph on flatter courses (faster in groups, because you have become a dedicated wheel sucker by now) and 12 - 13 on something that is pretty hilly but with a distance of less than 35 miles.

This is me topping  a 7 mile Cat 2 climb
In Death Valley, CA about 1 hour to
Complete - 7 mph average
Advanced - you have started to develop a reputation as being crazy with non-cyclists and the first 2 groups listed here.  Another moniker that you are likely saddled with is "serious cyclist"  or "CIBA rider" (CIBA is often saddled with an undeserved rap of being full of unfriendly racers type, serious cyclists)  I find this to be a result of not understanding Average, but also it often just takes one person to leave you with that idea about any group.  CIBA is a great organization and the leadership is populated with very kind and friendly people dedicated to making the cycling experience better for us all.
Regardless - this advanced group can mean a whole lot of different things from Category racer to someone who does a Century ride every year (not necessarily at break neck speed)
At this point you have an idea what you want to get out of your cycling experience (i.e. just stay fit, meet really great people, do a 500 mile ride in 2 days, etc..) it's all good and  the variety of people that I meet while in the saddle is one of the things that keeps me coming back for more.
Riders in this category, know what average means and are only reading this post to humor me.  But suffice it to say that they will likely do relatively long rides in excess of 15 mph and depending on their mind set may go all the way up to infinity :)

If you are interested in expanding your horizons, are a cyclist at any level, currently live in the Indianapolis area, I would like invite you to join my cycling meetup group at Indianapolis Beginner Cycling Meetup Group If you aren't from Indy, and happen to be in the area we would love to ride with you.

I know the name of the group is technically the Beginner Cycling Meetup, After all our focus is to get people on their bikes, confident in their abilities and hooked on cycling!  We have been very successful and as a result have added all of the above categories to our meetups.


Lots of great informative articles coming up!  Subscribe to my blog today so you don't miss a thing!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Share the Road, not the Lane - Part 3

I got started on this subject as a result of several incidents that happened last month.  As a prolific cyclist, I generally will see interactions that are less than optimum between cyclists and motorists on a weekly basis.

Me and My Ford Ranger
See, I don't always wear my Stretchy Pants &
I do drive a Motor Vehicle
Keep in mine, I am a motorist too!. So I do see both ends of this, and I do not think that more bike lanes or bike trails are the answer as some times this only seems to escalate the conflict while diminishing the safety all at the tax payers expense.  I have had motorists express that they feel that bike lanes are a waste of their tax dollars as they have no intention of ever using them. 
I would like to point out that I could say the same thing about school systems for the same reason,,, but I do agree that bike lanes are a waste of money here in Indiana because we already have laws in place that make them unnecessary - but that will be the subject of another blog.

I would like to point out that my groups ride primarily in rural areas (We do frequently have to ride out of more populated areas to get to less traveled parts of the country.  This is mostly due to parking issues) Incidents with motorists (i.e people yelling at us to get on the sidewalk - not legal or safe in most municipalities - swerving at us, laying on the horn, waving at us with one finger, etc.... ) tend to happen no matter where we are and are in the minority.  But that does not excuse the behavior of that lower crust of society, particularly when it occasionally puts my riders in danger. Surprisingly a lot of Motorcyclists seem to be in this group.  Many people don't seem to realize that all of us on "bicycles" in our tight clothing also drive cars and some of us ride motorcycles as well.

Todays subject is unsafe behaviors by motor vehicles.  One of the unsafe behaviors that we frequently observe is passing when it is not safe to pass.  For example on blind curves, double yellow lines, with vehicles approaching (I particularly do not want to share the lane when the passing vehicle is having to negotiate both myself and oncoming traffic - formula for me to get hurt)

Just last week, I had a young driver (whose father obviously was instructing) pass me on a double yellow (it was a safe enough area, but he cut in before he was clear of me and nearly took me down)  Way to go dad!

The following incident happened last month to a friend of mine on a rural road out near Coatsville, IN (you can see the area in question on google maps at )
"On July 13th at approximately 7:30 pm, my 10 year old son and & I were riding our bikes on a county road.  This is locally known as Heritage Lake Drive in the Heritage Lake Community in Coatesville, Indiana.  This particular drive is 8 miles long and is a no passing zone.  We were riding single file when a car approached from behind travelling approximately 25 mph.  The speed limit on this road is 35 mph.  There was a car approaching from the front when the car behind decided to pass my son & I.  The car towards the front was forced off the road by the car passing us.  The car passed us with less than a foot of clearance.  We were on our way to pick up my van from a mechanic who lives nearby and relayed the incident.  Both he and his wife pointed out the house where the vehicle that illegally passed us belongs. 

We attempted to call the non-emergency line at the Putnam County Sherriff’s Department, which went unanswered.  The next day during normal business hours, I again called the non-emergency line.  I was told that I needed to call the Property Owners Association office to report the incident.  When I persisted to try to report the incident, I was directed to call the Putnam County Sherriff’s dispatch line.  I called the dispatch line and reported the incident.  The dispatcher who answered the call asked if there was any property damage.  There was no property damage to my knowledge, so the dispatcher explained to me that there technically was no “incident”.  I then asked the dispatcher what my rights were when riding my bike in Putnam County.  At that point, the dispatcher asked for my name & phone number so he could have a deputy return my call regarding the incident.  I did end up calling the Property Owner’s Association office and they made note of the incident and told me that they would make the property manager aware of what occurred. 

At our Property Owner’s Association Board meeting, my wife explained the situation to a deputy who works security at the lake.  My wife was told that if an officer did not see the incident, no incident occurred.  We have recently had several acts of vandalism at the lake (egging, ringing doorbells at 2 AM, and mailboxes being destroyed) that were not observed by the police, but are still being investigated.  The police officer also indicated that in her personal opinion, she did not feel that it was “safe” for a 10 year old to ride his bicycle on Heritage Lake Drive.  My son rides responsibly, with his helmet, and has participated in many group rides on roads that are 50 mph and more frequently travelled than Heritage Lake Drive."
I am very disappointed in a number of things that happened here.
  1.  The lack of interest/response by law enforcement - they could have at least pretended that they cared - they could have at least given the alleged offender a strong talking to or lacking that gumption, sent him a strongly worded email.
  2. The fact that law enforcement in this case seemed more concerned with property damage than a threat to life a limb
  3. This particular deputy's obvious disregard of the fact that the "10 year old" was supervised by an adult and the fact that Father and Son were acting safely within the law, while the motorist in question was doing neither. I could make the case that it is not safe for a 10 year old to be riding in a care on "Heritage Lake Drive" when there is the risk of being run off the road by oncoming traffic.  Seriously? This woman works security for this community? Again, at least act like you care instead of trying to ignore the issue and put in lame opinions.
After all of that is said, I do see plenty of Cyclists who do not ride safely as well. Here are some common transgressions I observe
  • Riding the wrong direction as if you are a pedestrian.  This is extremely unsafe as walkers and runners can easily step off the road as a car approaches, but especially when there is a curb, this is not practical for a cyclist, it is a very dangerous practice and illegal.
  • Running stop signs, I understand the urge to roll a stop sign and conserve momentumm, but we are doing this for fitness as well as fun so at least put your foot down. I see plenty of cars roll stop signs as well but that does not make it safe.
  • Riding unpredictably in general.  I see cyclists riding around bike trails (not on but in the street on the wrong side looking like they are going to get on a trail only to swerve away at the last instant! What's up with that?
I will be addressing safe riding in some future installments, but my opinion is that the majority of cyclists who are hurt and killed is a result of the above. (plus not wearing helmets) I believe this group to typically be low mileage cyclists with little to no group experience.

In my opinion, cyclists who ride safely and are extra alert for faux paux by motor vehicles avoid a lot of grief, but can only account so much for their safety when motor vehicles pull dangerous and illegal stunts.

What is the answer to all this? Education!

Put the effort into educating motorists and cyclists alike as to what is legal and acceptable behavior and I believe we will not only have safer highways for cyclists but for everyone who uses them.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration encourages all road users, including motorists and bicyclists, to respect each other and foster a safer transportation environment. Bicycles on the roadway are, by law, vehicles with the same rights, and responsibilities as motorized vehicles.

Be nice to each other :)

Until next time,

Happy trails and safe riding!


coming up
 - Why greenway trails and bike lanes are not the answer in my next segment
-  What is average?
-  3 for 3 don'ts
and much more

Got a topic you have questions about, send me a message or post in comments and I will do my best to give you a solid answer

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

All about Bicycle Helmets

Consumer reports helmet video
Today, I am taking a break from my Share the Road not the lane Series to talk about, what is the absolute most important part of your cycling gear, the helmet.

I get a lot of questions about what the difference is in cycling helmets, what to look for in a helmet and why they vary so much in price.

For me the most important thing about a helmet for a new user is Comfort!

....what??  I know that many of you are likely gasping with surprise that I didn't put how well it protects your head at the top of my list.  There are 2 reasons for this.
  1. Virtually all helmets are going to give you a reasonable amount of protection or else the manufacturer risks liability if the product they recommend to protect your head fails to do so.  Examples of the amount of risk assumed by helmet manufactures can be illustrated by the Greg Bedan vs Rawlings when in 1981 a Johnson County Circuit Court jury in Indiana returned a $5.8 million judgement yesterday against Rawlings Sales Company, over a spinal cord injury sustained while Greg was wearing one of their helmets.  That was a lot of money back then and the suit was over a failure to warn that the helmet would not protect against spinal cord injury.
  2. If the helmet is not comfortable, you are a lot less likely to adopt it's use all the time.  A helmet owner with a comfy helmet is a happy helmet wearer.
So what makes a  helmet comfortable?  A number of things
But this is the one that saved my
Head at Mount Mitchell
  • In my opinion the first thing is fit.  If the helmet has great adjustment, you should be able to be comfortable in all circumstances.  If you are wearing a hat underneath (BTW there are 2 reasons to wear a hat under your helmet) #1 if it is raining - your want to wear one of those funny looking cycling hats to use the specially designed short brim to keep the rain out of your eyes. #2 as an additional head warmer.
  • Second is maximum venting.  The more your helmet lets the wind through, the better, as far as I'm concerned.  You can always put a cover over your helmet to block the wind when it gets colder, but if it is hot, you can't very well ad to your vent space.  A great helmet will be much cooler than a cheaper (not so great helmet)
  • Finally, weight.  If the helmet is very light and does not feel like it is even there, if becomes so comfortable, you will likely forget that it is there.
The most expensive helmets I have personally owned were the Giro Ionos that I paid $179.95 for and the Belt Volt (about $180) By the way - the Volt is discontinued and can right now be found for as little as $70!! a steal at that price, I just bought another one!

You can find some really good videos on proper helmet fit on the right side of the page at the following link for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety - Bold and Italic
"Less than two percent of motor vehicle crash deaths are bicyclists." Which is good news - per 100,000 miles driven, a bicycle is much safer than a motorized vehicle - and I am doing my part to make it even more Safe!
"The most serious injuries among a majority of those killed are to the head, highlighting the importance of wearing a bicycle helmet. Eighty-nine percent of bicycle deaths are persons 16 and older, so helmet laws should include adults. Helmet use has been estimated to reduce head injury risk.
Ninety-one percent of bicyclists killed in 2009 reportedly weren't wearing helmets."

Wearing a helmet my seem like an inconvenience to many people, but I can tell you that my helmets have saved my noggin on many occasions (both on bicycles and motorcycles) and this is mandatory gear in my book.

So find a helmet that you like and enjoy wearing, even if it costs a few dollars more and you will not regret it!


Next time - Part #3 on Share the Road - Not the Lane - Real life examples

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Share the Road, not the Lane - Part 2

What are the rights and duties of a cyclist?

I found this really instructive video about the Rights and Duties of a Cyclist and while they are saying the laws and rights apply nationally, I have not personally found this to be the case.  The good news is that this is fully in line with Indiana Law (again, we are a lot more bicycle friendly than we get credit for here in Indiana - but I will be posting about that as well.

While this is a YouTube video that was originally posted by The League of American Cyclists, I found it at a great local advocacy group.

Some things that I think this video illustrates very well, is that as cyclists we need to control the lane.  This means when it is not safe for motorists to pass, we don't allow this as an option.  It is totally with in our rights according to Indiana law.

That said, we can still be courteous and make room for a car to get by when it is safe to do so.  Some notable examples are
  • When on a 2 lane but the lane is really wide we can get to the right, but be sure to leave room if you are squeezed and don't forget to wave
  • shifting into a turn lane to allow traffic going straight to get clear.
  • Waving the traffic by when it is safe to pass
  • Waving as they pass to keep them at arms length and to be friendly, possibly diffusing some frustration.
  • Be aware of what is going on around you - watch for cars approaching from the back
  • acknowledge their presence
That's it for today, but I've got some more really great installments coming up!

Next time a real life story from someone that I know!

Keep those cards, letters and questions coming!

See you on the road soon I hope!


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Share the Road not the lane

Today I am writing about something that is a focus of every single ride that I lead. This is stuff that every single person who rides bicycles or drives an automobile on Indiana roadways should know.

That subject is how we as cyclist should interact with traffic and the fact that education not bike lanes are the key.

First of all let’s look at the law in Indiana (keep in mind that this varies from State to State and I would like to ad that Indiana is one of the more friendly cycling states as far as the law goes)

IC 9-21-11-2
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:
(You can find the full code at this link but the exceptions boil down to bicycle specific stuff, like hanging on to street cars, carrying packages, Bells, but no whistles stuff like that)   This means (and I have verified this with several members of the Indiana State Police) that:

A cyclist has the right to the whole lane of a roadway in Indiana with the only lane restrictions being –
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 . Clearly cyclists are allowed to ride 2 abreast in Indiana, just like Motorcyclists. (Apparently in bike lanes or on bike paths, you can ride more side by side?)

I will frequently experience motorists who are ignorant of Indiana Law chastising me and my groups for riding 2 abreast (usually while passing on a double yellow or at some other illegal and dangerous place) the only reason that I can see for the angst I sometimes experience from these motorists is that they are frustrated because they cannot share the lane with me and have to wait for oncoming traffic to clear before they can pass.
It seems that motorists are aggravated by cyclists presence on the road because of the perceived delay that is caused by having to negotiate their way past a group (or a single) cyclist.
I have in fact timed the delays my group causes at some of the predominant bottle necks that we ride on a regular basis. (I call them bottle necks because these are places where it is difficult for motorists to pass the various groups that I lead – even when we are trying to help them – more on how we help motorists get past our groups later)
The typical delay in the bottle necks ranges from 1 minute 30 seconds up to 5 minutes – which I realize can seem like an eternity as I am a motorists to and have had to wait behind school buses, mail carriers, garbage trucks and farm tractors for this length of time on numerous occasions.  These are both extremes in the bottle necks but I have seen both of the places that this happens take this long once in a while.
I have seen motorists aggravated by delays as short as 5 seconds as well, and this is way more common than seems sensible. (If you are wondering how I know what these intervals are, I have a timer on my bicycle computer (speedometer) that displays in seconds, minutes and hours.
I realize that the average attention span of an adult is supposed to be about 8 seconds so I guess that this is par for the course.
The result is drivers who make potentially dangerous moves on cyclists with no thought to the possible consequences.
I believe that this is in part due to the “Share the Road” signs like this that dot the country side.

Looking at this sign you are givin the impression that it is ok to squeeze by a bicycle in the same lane, even if you have oncoming traffic.  It looks like you are being told to share the lane!   It seems that motorists believe that this mean bicyclists are supposed to squeeze to the right as far as they can to allow motor vehicles to squeeze by and save those precious seconds that they lose slowing down and waiting to pass bicycles.
This is not what Indiana Law says.  It is also AN EXTREMELY UNSAFE DRIVING PRACTICE.
Here is an example of a sign that communicates what the above signs try to communicate without confusing the message
This is why I encourage riders in my groups to do a few things to mitigate this risk.
1.    Ride towards the center of the lane when single file.- yes it’s legal, you are more visible and less likely to end up in an accident because you had the squeeze put on you.

2.    Be aware of traffic coming up behind you and interact with them to help them pass safely

3.    Communicate back to front and front to back about approaching traffic. I require people in my group to yell “Car Back” for traffic approaching from the rear (everyone must repeat this so that we are sure everyone hears – all the way to the front) we all yell “Car Up” when we see oncoming traffic.  Plus “Passing” When being passed.

4.    We interact and work together with vehicles to communicate it is safe or not safe to pass.  If the front rider of the group sees that it is safe to pass, that rider will windmill their arm, signifying come on by.  If the back riders are hearing “Car Up” they place their hand back palm displayed in the universal “Stop” sign, to hold them up until passing is again safe.

5.    If our group is too long to allow passing the entire line at once, we will double up and break up to shorten the distance needed to get past. This is an important concept to understand – a double line of cyclists takes up half the distance on the road and is therefore easier to pass.

6.    When cars pass us, we extend our left hands and wave (all fingers extended) this is not only a friendly gesture that can sometimes diffuse the frustration over a few seconds waiting, but it also keeps vehicles at arm’s length (for me that means a little over 2’) and that generally means a car will give me 3’ instead of 1’
All of this is no guarantee that you will not have conflict between a cyclist and a motor vehicle (there are idiots on both sides of the windshield) but it will mitigate that amount of conflict that you experience as a cyclist or a motorist.
With all the talk that Indiana is not a bicycle friendly state, because we don’t have more bike lanes and greenways (more on that later)  It seems that if we would just respect, educate about and enforce the laws that are already in place, Indiana proves to be one of the most cycling friendly states that I have ridden in.

Until next time, Happy Trails!


Coming up!

More on “Sharing the Road, Not the Lane”
How to clean your water bottles,
Supplement Reviews
The Trouble with Bike Lanes



Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Polar Bear Pedal - tips for those of you braving the cold

This Saturday marks the 3rd annual Polar Bear Pedal here in Indianapolis and to those of you who are braving the early morning cold, I salute you.  I would like to join you, but previous commitments to leading Saturday morning spin classes have me inside all day (whew) 

The temperature is likely to be hovering somewhere south of 30 degrees Fahrenheit at 10 am Saturday morning when the pedal commences.

There are 2 ways to approach this type of ride.  The first is my preference because I don't like to carry a bunch of extra junk with me, but it requires a lot of advance preparation, so that you can arrive at the ride ready to ride immediately instead of standing around waiting for the start.

This strategy will work with most cold weather rides and the major difference from the second approach is in the layering and planning for the reduction of said layering.
If you are wondering why I am starting with the way most of you are not likely to do this, it is because you will just do some extra stuff to keep from turning into an Ice cycle before the ride starts.

First of all I try to dress just warm enough so that I will be cold at the start and maybe wonder if I should have brought more clothing, then you know that you have planned perfectly. 

Remember the trick to staying warm is to not get so warm that you sweat and you do this by unzipping initially just as you start to feel a little perspiration.  This may initially be to cool due to the phase change caused by evaporative cooling, most people wait a little too long and will suffer this initial evaporative effect.  Tough it out for a few minutes though and everything will be just fine!

So my strategy for my minimalist approach is to wheel up to the start line with plans to see the front already rolling, so that I don't even have to stop. Since I rode to the line, I am already warm and there for do not have to ride a bit harder to get initially warmed up, prompting some people to make comments like, "What's your hurry?"

With this strategy, for any just below freezing ride down to as cold as 25, I start with some good base layers
  • a base shirt with no zipper
  • arm warmers
  • leg warmers
  • Bibs or bike shorts
  • full zipper jersey
Next the peripherals
  • balaclava or some sort of head cover
  • gloves - should be a bit on the loose side and can be as simple as work gloves with cycling glove worn underneath or wool liners, up to nice lobster claw mittens. Just be sure that they are not too tight.
  • toe covers, whole shoe covers and/or winter shoes
  • Wool socks
Layer 2 is
  • winter jacket - it's good if it's bike specific because it will have wind protection of some sort built in - but it must have a full zipper to facilitate temperature control
  • tights - can be the runner variety and they are to be worn over your shorts
Layer 3
  • Wind Pants or you can wear rain pants, but unless they are a really good pair they don't tend to stay together in the cold
  • wind vest - one with large back pockets is handy as you warm up and shed some layers - likely with the predicted temps and brevity of this ride, you will not get to the shed a layer part
Finally - performance enhancing materials
  • Hot hands - chemical air activated hand warmers to be worn inside your gloves you can buy them here
  • Toastie Toes - same type of chemical warmer but with adhesive, should be adhered to the bottom of your wool socks you can buy them here

If you show up right as the ride is rolling out you can be already acclimated and avoid the obvious questions, when you are trying to get warm at the start, i.e. "What's the big hurry?"

A couple of fine points here, Leg and arm warmers should be on the very bottom of everything you wear.  Nothing sadder than seeing someone show up with their underwear on the outside,,,, unless they are some sort of cycling super hero. Also depending on whether you are riding with clips or not will dictate what your footwear looks like.
The Wool socks are a given. Wool is a great insulator and retains 95% of it's insulating properties, even when wet.  So should you accidently let those feet sweat, your toes should still stay toasty.  If you are using clips, I recommend winter cycling shoes, but in the event that you do not have time to invest in that at least have toe covers and don't forget your chemical warmers, adhered to the bottom of your wool socks.
If you are riding on platform pedals use something like what I have pictured to the right.

Head gear should also be layered.  The hat is a nice start, the balaclava will keep your ears warm and can be rolled down to fine tune your head temperature. The helmet..... well it protects your noggin obviously, but this is the time of year to wear a cheap one that is not ventilated as well, so as not to be designed to keep your head cool.
Finally, the rain cover is also a great wind block and will definitely keep you from getting brain freeze while you ride.  See handy illustration with handsome model below.

Ok, so I realize this is a lot to take in, but I still have a few more things.

I can't stress enough how important it is to layer, stay warm enough not to shiver, but not so warm that you start producing moister to cool yourself back down. 

Use those zippers to properly manage your body temperature, adjust early and don't be afraid to adjust often.

If you have insulated water bottles, fill them with hot water before you leave.  I rather enjoy warm electrolyte solution, but if you just take plain water and don't sweat, you will be fine on this length and type of ride.

But remember, just because it's cold, doesn't mean that you don't still need to drink and keeping that beverage hot, makes that a lot more pleasant proposition.

Finally, if you insist on showing up early, wear the same stuff with some sort of outer shell to keep you warm until the ride actually starts.  Just be sure to wear a backpack too, so that you will have a place to carry that pre ride warm up layer.

Also, even though this is a big event, there will likely be a lot of first timers there, despite the fact this is a cold weather ride.  So be sure to give yourself extra room to react to anything that they may do.

There may be snow and ice still on the ground on Saturday, so be prepared.

I'm sorry that I have a previous commitment leading an indoor spin class in a toasty 70 degree environment or I would be right out there with you guys.

Ride safe, have fun and let me know if you have any questions about anything I have covered here or anything that I have left out that you feel the need to know.

Start the New Year ride season off with an awesome ride everyone!