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!