1. From the Top: What’s Better: Lower Weight or More Power?
2. News & Reviews: The Insidious Nature of Fat
3. Question of the Week: What Do You Do When You Feel Bad Starting a Ride?
4. Ask Coach Fred: Should I Go Home if I Feel Blah?
5. Sponsors: Cycling Products from our Sponsors
6. Jim's Tech Talk: ebay Tips, Part 1
7. No Problem: Comfort and Safety in Spring Training
8. Scott's Spin: The Fix is In
9. Cadence: Women on Wheels: How to Ride with Someone Faster or Slower
10. RBR eBookstore: The Best Cycling Bookstore on the Internet!
ON SALE NEXT WEEK: Performance Cycling Past 50, the final eArticle in Coach John Hughes’ terrific 4-part “Past 50” series. (Click his name to see all 15 of his RBR titles, all meticulously researched, topical solutions for roadies of all stripes.)
A recent question from a Premium Member to Coach Fred Matheny seemed like the perfect topic to share with all our readers. It’s the age-old question of what’s better, losing weight or gaining power?
Scott L. wrote the following:I have been racing since the 80s and still racing hard. I race the masters 1-4 50+ field. We always have a very strong field with a mix of local and national champs. I have gone to camp with some of these guys and can hold my own. But on race day I will be doing OK until someone puts the hammer down on a steep hill. I am 55 years old, 5'10", 158 lbs. The riders who are getting away are 5'10", 140 lbs. My question is, should I drop the pounds?
This is a great question. Of course if you maintain your current power output, losing weight will make you faster up steep hills. It's a simple matter of physics. But physics is never simple when applied to the human body for a couple of reasons. Here are some of the pitfalls:
First, losing weight often means losing power too. We usually assume that if we lose weight we've lost fat. But we almost always lose muscle mass, too, and it's that muscle that allows us to generate a certain amount of power. So if you lose 10 pounds but also lose 25 or 30 watts, you'll climb more slowly rather than faster.
Also, losing weight is hard. I'm assuming that with your extensive racing history, at 158 pounds you're carrying very little fat. So getting down to 150, let alone 140, would involve losing some muscle and perhaps compromising your performance.
Additionally, there's a psychological cost to losing weight. If you use a lot of self-discipline to lose weight, you'll have little left for training or, more importantly, to really hurt yourself on those steep hills and perhaps be able to keep up.
And short, steep hills require a big explosion of force, which is hard to accomplish if you're underfed, low on psychological energy and compromised in terms of muscle mass. (Coach David Ertl’s Pedal Off the Pounds is a great resource that offers two weight-loss tracks: whether weight loss alone is your goal, or whether losing weight and simultaneously training to improve cycling performance is your goal.)
Most riders who want to lose weight combine dietary restriction with increased mileage. But riding more miles invariably means reducing intensity. And it's training intensity that you need to handle those short, steep hills.
So first you need to determine if you have excess fat to lose. This is best done with a body fat analysis available at most human performance labs at universities or at private clinics. If you are carrying extra fat, then you can safely lose at least some of it and still maintain your power.
Then if you decide to lose weight, it would be helpful to use a power meter and keep close tabs on your power output, especially in the short and intense efforts you'd use on the steep hills you mentioned. You can chart your power-to-weight ratio and stop your weight loss program when the ratio stops improving.
If you don't have a power meter, your times up training hills will work just as well since climbing is not affected much by wind resistance.
If you determine that you're already at a lean body composition, you should work on power development, especially for the length of time required to get up the hills where you usually get dropped. Intense hill repeats in training aren't much fun but they are effective!
A personal note: I was a 205-pound offensive lineman in college, lost 40 pounds when I started racing here in Colorado in the 70s and did well. But I wanted to get lighter and dieted to get there. I was able to get down to 150 and win my division of the Mt. Evans Hillclimb -- but I was so exhausted (and very, very hungry!) that I had little success the rest of the season.
So losing weight is a double-edged sword -- and you want to be very careful not to cut yourself up in the process of making yourself better.
Interestingly, for the last couple of years I have been struggling to get up to 150 -- losing weight is no longer an issue; instead I have to eat like a sumo wrestler to keep from vanishing all together. I attribute this to age-related muscle mass loss in spite of weight training, as well as the increased mileage I am able to rack up now that I'm retired.
At any rate, weight goes hand in hand with power production, and when given the choice between being lighter and being more powerful, I think I'd opt for the power.
Enjoy Your Ride!
Editor & Publisher
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I always hope the usefulness of the information in each weekly issue is value enough to justify the $24.99 "subscription/membership" price. (Of course, a Premium Membership locks in myriad other great benefits, too.) Personally, I think it stacks up pretty well against some other cycling pubs I subscribe to -- and that RBR remains in a league of our own when it comes to useful "how-to" info for roadies.
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A fascinating article in a recent issue of Outside magazine chronicles the insidious nature of fat. It’s not just an inert blob inside your body; visceral fat, the kind that forms around our aging midsections, produces a range of proteins, at least one of which has been linked to cancer, and is associated with diabetes, heart disease and accelerated aging. Nasty stuff, indeed.
Scientists view fat as a single endocrine gland, according to the article, that exerts wide-ranging control over the body – often fighting against muscle. “For a typical North American, their fat tissue is their biggest organ,” says James Kirkland, M.D., director of the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging at the Mayo Clinic.
Just as fat was long thought to be neutral, muscle was considered a passive organ that did what the brain told it to do. But muscle is now known to be one of the most dynamic systems in the body; when it contracts, it undergoes huge changes at the cellular level. And its mortal enemy is fat.
In sedentary people (even those who aren’t obese), fat works its way between muscle fibers “like the marbling in Wagyu beef,” according to the article. “Worse, fat infiltrates individual muscle cells in the form of lipid droplets that make the cells sluggish. According to Gerald Shulman, M.D., a prominent diabetes researcher at Yale, these pools of fat, which occur in both the liver and the muscles, block a key step in the conversion of glucose, leading to the insulin resistance that’s a prerequisite for diabetes.”
This is the reason some people of normal weight, but who lead sedentary lives, are still at risk for diabetes. “It’s not how much fat we have but how it’s distributed,” Shulman says. “When the fat builds up where it doesn’t belong, in the muscle and liver cells, that’s what leads to Type 2 diabetes.”
Its role in fostering disease aside, fat effectively crowds out muscle in the body; the more fat, the less muscle. And the less muscle, the fewer mitochondria. These are the powerhouses of cells, and they’re most plentiful in muscle tissue. Most fat contains almost no mitochondria. This goes to explain why it is that the fatter a person gets, the more difficult it becomes to burn off the extra fat; they lack sufficient energy-producing mitochondria.
“There’s a growing body of evidence suggesting that healthy muscle may lead to a healthier liver, a healthier gut, a healthier pancreas, and a healthier brain,” says Nathan LeBrasseur, a Mayo Clinic scientist who specializes in muscle tissue.
Click to read the full Outside article on the insidious nature of fat.
I read a recent story by the traffic columnist in the Atlanta Journal Constitution (it’s a testament to your city’s traffic if the daily newspaper has such a columnist!) citing a study showing that hands-free texting applications for cars were actually MORE distracting than texting the old-fashioned way!
Is it any wonder, then, that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued its first set of voluntary guidelines "that encourage automobile manufacturers to limit the distraction risk connected to electronic devices?”
According to an MSN.com article, “the guidelines recommend that automakers develop infotainment systems that limit the time drivers have to take their eyes off the road to two seconds for each input (for, say, finding an address using a navigation system) and 12 seconds to perform an overall task (such as inputting a destination and routing to it).
“The new guidelines recommend disabling specific operations unless the vehicle is stationary and shifted into park. These include manual entry of data for text messaging and Internet browsing and the display of text for Web pages and social media content. They also discourage playing video ‘and communications like video phoning or video conferencing.’ Of course, many automakers already limit these -- and more, such as certain navigation functions -- while a car is in motion.”
The article cites some sobering statistics about the overall distraction risk inherent in certain mobile phone-related uses (texting, Internet surfing, checking email), as well as the declining (yet still quite high) percentage of drivers age 18 to 29 who regularly perform such tasks while driving. Click to read the full MSN.com article.
Another story on auto tech caught my eye for a different reason: it specifically aims to increase cycling safety by enabling London truck drivers to receive both visual and audible warnings alerting them of intersections and stretches of road with heavy bicycle traffic.
Navevo, a satellite navigation company, is working with Transport for London (TLC) to produce Navevo’s ProNav HGV Cyclist Alert software, which it dubs the first of its kind in the world.
The software uses traffic data for the London road system from TLC and the Department of Transport “to map out areas where cyclists and lorries are most likely to encounter one another in the London area,” according to a Gizmag article.
“When a HGV driver approaches one of these high-cyclist traffic areas, an audible and visual alert appears in the form of a warning symbol as well as a 50-meter (164-ft) ‘warning zone’ circle around the area on the map.” According to Navevo, there are currently 100 high-cyclist-traffic areas currently mapped on its software.
“A navigation system is something a driver is likely to be listening to as they approach a junction and so it makes perfect sense to also alert the driver of the risk of cyclists, reminding them to be observant and drive safely,” said Navevo CEO Nick Caesari. “The safety of drivers, cyclists and other users of the road is a concern for everybody and we are proud to lead the navigation industry by launching this “world first” safety feature, which we believe could significantly contribute in improving road safety and reducing the number of incidents involving HGVs and cyclists.”
Let’s hope this is one piece of auto tech that actually finds widespread use.
I know this for a fact. At age 45, after a bike crash left me with a separated shoulder (the mildest separation on the diagnosis scale), osteoarthritis made quick work of it in effectively destroying my acromioclavicular (AC) joint.
A recent ArthritisToday.org article labels that particular type of osteoarthritis as Post-traumatic OA. The numbers are not good for us aging folk who suffer injuries along the way: “Researchers have determined that 10 to 20 years after traumatic injury to the knee – such as an ACL or meniscus tear – about 50 percent of patients will develop OA.”
And “12 percent of end-stage OA [with little or no cartilage left, severe joint pain and loss of function] in the hip, knee and ankle is due to injury,” notes Joseph Buckwalter, MD, professor and head of orthopaedics and rehabilitation at the University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City.
Understanding this and the other various distinct OA subtypes – called phenotypes – aids in earlier diagnosis and better therapies for individual phenotypes, according to the article, which also discusses the roles of obesity and age in OA.
Age isn’t the only risk factor in OA, but it is the greatest risk factor. “Aging does not directly cause OA, or everyone would have it at a certain age, but 50 percent of people older than 65 do have it,” the article says. “Genes, prior injury or other factors increase the risk, and aging itself contributes to the development of OA because of the changes that occur to the joint over time, says Richard Loeser Jr., MD, program director of both the Translational Science Institute and the Sticht Center on Aging at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C.
“There are other factors involved in actually causing it, such as obesity, joint injury and genetics,” he says. “The [aging-related] changes in the joint contribute to its development.”
Click to read the complete ArthritisToday.org article.
Premium Member Russ Starke wrote to ask us if we had any insight into how to find better some "Garmin 800 for dummies"-type resources for him and other users stymied by what he described as “lousy documentation and arcane settings” when trying to map and use courses on the 800. “By the number of articles and discussions online, I am not alone,” Russ said.
So I reached out to Rob Kortus, who wrote our review of the Garmin 800. Rob, whose company makes our great JerseyBin waterproof cycling wallets, is an avid cyclist who loves his 800. He sent us a few links to resources that we’re passing along as a service to any other readers who may be flummoxed by the 800.
Here you go:
Of course, if you have other suggestions, feel free to share them with fellow RBR readers on the Community Comments page.
We’ve added three new videos from saddle expert Joshua Cohen to our site: a 2-part video on saddle pain (causes, how to deal with it, and how to avoid it); and seat comfort for cyclists (focusing on the interplay of anatomy and saddle design, with clear descriptions – using skeletal props – that show how different positions on the bike affect comfort, blood flow, etc.)
These videos can be found in our Health & Nutrition section on the website: http://www.roadbikerider.com/health-nutrition (in the left-side navigation under Health & Nutrition Videos).
Don’t forget that we also have a great series of Riding Skills Videos on the site at: http://www.roadbikerider.com/riding-skills
The biggest news might be the physical meltdown of the defending champion, Canadian Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), who lost 20 minutes on the first big mountain stage and appeared physically spent and struggling for answers afterward.
"I'm obviously disappointed for yesterday and the stage before that. Clearly something is not right but I'm trying to move through it and see what happens day by day," he said. "I want to honor the race, honor race number one, my team, the fans and all my supporters."
Struggling, too, is defending Tour champion Bradley Wiggins, whose stated goal of winning the Giro-Tour double is on the ropes. He’s sitting 4th, 2:05 back, after losing time on the final climb of Stage 10.
Meanwhile, his Sky mate Rigoberto Uran, is one spot and one second ahead of Wiggins after winning the stage. Cadel Evans (BMC) looks to have perhaps regained his Tour-winning form and sits in 2nd, 41 seconds back of Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), who has held the maglia rosa for the past three stages.
Tour of California
Peter Sagan(Cannondale) continued his winning ways, taking Stage 3 in a group sprint for the 9th TOC stage win of his young career.
In the GC, Janier Alexis Acevedo (Jamis-Hagens Berman) holds the top spot after the Columbian climber stormed to a Stage 2 win on the final tough climb of the day. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) is well-positioned in 2nd, at 12 seconds back, with Philip Deignan (UnitedHealthcare) 27 seconds in arrears in 3rd.
The finishing stages Saturday and Sunday should be especially fun (and beautiful) to watch, as the penultimate Stage 7 features a 500m, 17% final stretch up the aptly named Mt. Diablo, while the finale features a crossing of the Golden Gate bridge and sojourn up the coast past Muir Beach, Stinson Beach and Point Reyes National Seashore.
June 15: Jackson County Brevet
This ride, which meanders through some lovely countryside near Braselton, Georgia, benefits Aplastic Anemia & MDS International Foundation (AA&MDS). Aplastic Anemia is a very rare and very deadly bone marrow disease that receives almost no funding for research, and the treatment has not changed in 25 years.
RBR is supporting the ride for the 2nd consecutive year. John will be joining in the ride, so look for him if you’re there.
COMING NEXT WEEK!: "Performance Cycling Past 50," the last title in Coach John Hughes' fantastic "Past 50" Series!
Highlights of your responses to last issue’s Question:
Yesterday I scheduled an interval workout having four 5-minute efforts. But during the warmup and on the first interval I felt tired and that ruined my motivation. So I went home. Was that the right thing to do, or should I have gutted it out and completed the workout? -- Barry A.
It depends on why you were so blah. If you have felt overtrained and lacking motivation for some time, heading for the couch was definitely the right thing to do. Stay there until you feel good again. Then continue to rest a couple more days just to be sure.
Chronic fatigue will reverse your progress -- and the fun of riding a bike -- faster than almost anything.
But if during the first interval you were merely having trouble getting all systems fired up, it's best to do at least the second hard effort. Sometimes you feel bad on the first interval, but once your body catches up with the intensity you're demanding, you perk up.
If you do feel better after the second interval, continue with the planned workout. If not, pack it in. By having done 2 intervals, you'll already have gotten much of the benefit from the session.
Why do I say that? We know from weight-training studies that the first set or 2 provides the stimulus for most of the improvement gained during multi-set workouts.
So if you do 5 sets of bench presses, for instance, much of the benefit occurs during the first set. The second set stimulates a significant amount of the remaining improvement possible from the session. Each of the final 3 sets contributes a progressively smaller amount.
It's a pretty safe bet that something similar takes place while doing interval workouts on a bike. The first interval is the biggie. The second is well worth doing, but remaining intervals are subject to the law of diminishing returns.
Of course, cycling is an endurance sport and rewards those who can repeat hard efforts many times, whether they be sprints, hill jams or short time trial-like efforts. So there is more benefit in multiple sets for riders than for weight trainers.
If you feel fine, do all of the repeats in your scheduled workout. But if you feel puny, managing just 2 repeats garners a large percentage of the possible benefits without causing a lot more fatigue.
Coach Fred Matheny has decades of experience as a competitive racer and cycling coach. He is the author of 13 RBR eBooks and eArticles.
JerseyBin Waterproof Storage Pouches - Trim Bin (left photo, with phone) and, by popular demand, Mid Bin (right photo, with phone) clear vinyl storage pouches that keep your mobile phone and other valuables dry and safe on rides year-round. The new Mid Bin fits iPhones in larger cases and many other larger phones. (However, JerseyBin urges users to take their phone out of the case before placing in the Bin.)
Lightweight RBR cycling cap - RBR’s high-quality Walz Caps 3-panel logoed cycling cap in moisture-wicking 100% circular knit polyester. Lightweight, breathable and stylish.
Wool RBR cycling cap -- RBR’s high-quality Walz Caps 3-panel logoed cycling cap in 100% wool, with a moisture-wicking band. Soft, comfortable insulation for year-round riding.
Road riding and beautiful road bikes have to be two of life’s greatest passions. And when you first get into cycling, everything’s wonderful. But live the roadie lifestyle long enough and you’ll likely suffer the frustrations and hassles a lot of veterans complain about.
Such as, the maddening, ever-increasing pace of technology that makes almost-new, cutting-edge road bikes seem obsolete only a couple of seasons after you cleaned out your funny-money account to purchase them. Or the way components, clothing and accessory prices have jumped five-fold in half as many years. $500 shoes, $300 helmets, $85 tires. Really?
And if you even had the bucks to keep buying the latest and greatest, how can you get over the guilt of tossing hardly used components and gear into cold storage just to keep in step with all those must-have innovations, features and benefits they keep coming out with faster and faster?
These issues bother me as much as they bother many of you, judging from my email. But I have a recommendation, something that works for many roadies, including me. It’s called ebay.com. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. I believe it’s the largest online auction in the world and, as long as you have an Internet-connected device and a credit card, you can take advantage of this amazing modern marketplace.
Disclaimers: I make my living from bicycle shops, and I know that some of them feel that ebay is stealing their business. I don’t agree at all. I think it helps them and the bike industry, too, in many ways; a lot of which I explain here. Also, I realize that craigslist.org is a free and local alternative to ebay; however, in my experience with both, ebay is more reliable and safer. You do pay a percentage of every sale to ebay, but to me it’s worth it.
ebay is on my mind because I’ve been using it a lot lately and because even though it’s been available for many years now, I keep running into cyclists who haven’t used it or are afraid to.
So here are some simple ebay tips and suggestions so that you understand how helpful it is, and especially so that you appreciate how it can help with many of the annoying roadie issues I mentioned and let you keep enjoying your cycling and changes in technology, not stress over it.
As ebay and Internet technologies have improved and advanced, it’s become super easy to use ebay. Once you set up an account with ebay and PayPal (the financial side of ebay), and also set up one with the United States Post Office, you have a seamless way to buy and pay for things and can print postage and ship boxes right from your mailbox, or hand them to your mail person.
And with a PayPal account, people can buy your items and instantly put the payment in your account. ebay makes the transaction almost automatic, and even prompts you to print the shipping label so that you’re ready to ship the item as soon as you’ve packed it. You can even have the Post Office send you boxes if you don’t want to pick them up.
Tip: Using free Priority Mail packaging, you can ship lots of typical bicycle parts quickly and at reasonable rates. It helps to have a scale to weigh packages to ensure they meet the requirements for whatever size package you’re using. The packages are self-sealing but I recommend having a tape gun and tape to ensure the best seal so your parts arrive safely. Also get some bubble wrap or stock up on recycled newspapers and wrap things carefully.
This might be ebay’s greatest trick. It’s wonderful for finding those key parts that the companies no longer offer and your local bike shop sold out of years ago, such as an 8-speed STI shift lever or a certain seat you loved but wore out and need to replace. Or for me, a rare axle I needed to repair a 1970s Maxi-Car hub. After calling all over, I finally found it from an ebay seller in Paris.
Just remember that every day, new stuff is offered for sale. So, you sometimes need to patiently search for a few weeks to find it. Yet, it’s amazing what turns up if you keep looking. Also, there are ebay sites in different countries and it’s easier than ever to purchase from them since you can pay with your PayPal account -- no wire transfers or checks needed. I’ve discovered that some things I can never find here are common on ebay France or UK.
Tip: This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to get distracted searching foreign ebay sites and forget you’re not in the U.S. anymore (or the U.K., or Canada, or Australia, or wherever you may be!). Be sure to pay attention to the money symbols. You may be bidding in pounds or Euros. Don’t assume it’s U.S. dollars. And carefully check the shipping price since that will be higher from abroad, etc. Also, check to be sure the seller ships worldwide. Not all do.
Once you start finding obsolete parts to fix up your favorite bikes, you’ll probably realize (as I did when I started using ebay), that almost everything has value to somebody. And once that light bulb goes off, you may get motivated to dig through your storage bins to see what you can unload.
It still amazes me what sells, even used items that seem worn out to you or trashed might hold real value to someone else. Sometimes it’s the small parts they are interested in, not the whole component.
If you’re not sure whether something has value or not, a good test is to search for the item you’re thinking of selling. If you can find it -- and it’s probably there -- you can watch it until the end of the auction to see whether it sells and what it sells for.
If an item has received bids, it’s a pretty good indication that there are buyers for it and that you could sell yours, too. Sell enough old stuff like this and even if you don’t get very much money for it, the money you make turns into a nice little nest egg eventually. Plus, there’s a great feeling knowing that your old bike parts went to good use instead of sitting there collecting more dust in your attic or garage.
Next week, in part 2, I’ll give tips on finding bargains on newer road gear and some tactics for buying and selling. Share your own ebay tips on the Community Comments page.
Jim Langley has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for 38 years. At RBR he's the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop and moderator of the technical forums on the Premium Site. Check his "cycling aficionado" website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim's streak of consecutive cycling days has reached 7,058.
We continue our Spring Training Series with a few tips for added comfort and safety on your long Spring rides.
Stand and shift positions. To prevent crotch numbness and undue tenderness during long hours in the saddle, stand frequently and sit in slightly different locations. Dwelling in one position and grinding away for hours is a recipe for discomfort. Use every hill and turn as an opportunity to stand for at least a few seconds.
Use long rides to test clothing for events. Although 2 brands of shorts may have padded liners that are comfortable for a couple of hours, one may start chafing as time wears on. Only by trying them on long training rides can you discover which pair is crotch nirvana and which is purgatory.
Likewise for food and drink. The same thinking goes for sports drinks and energy bars. Food or drink that tastes fine in typical conditions may gag you when it’s hot and you’re 4 hours into a tough century. If you have to force yourself to eat and drink certain products, it’s guaranteed you won’t eat and drink enough.
Should you carry a cell phone? If you have one, why not? It’s light and compact enough to tote in a jersey pocket or seat bag, and it can be a lifesaver if you fall victim to a mechanical problem on rural roads or get injured when you’re riding alone. However, some riders consider cell phones a crutch whose presence discourages self-sufficiency and makes it too easy to give up on a tough ride and phone for a lift home. It’s your call.
TIP! Even a cell phone that’s out of service can be used to call 911 in an emergency. If you have an old phone that’s no longer in use, charge it up and take it on rides. You can’t use it to call home when you bonk with 30 miles to go, but you can summon medical help if you become hurt or sick.
Solo, or group rides? Finally, is it better to ride long distances solo or with a group? It’s much easier to control the intensity of your workout if you ride alone. Groups or training partners are fun, but you’re governed by their pace. By yourself, you can ride at the right effort for your goals.
I recommend a mix. I do some long rides solo so I can accomplish exactly what I want. When I go with a group, I treat it as a social ride. I still get the saddle time I need, even if the intensity isn’t optimum. It’s also a chance to refresh bike-handling skills in a bunch.
TIP! One way to animate group rides and make them more like actual events is to play games that simulate competitive situations. For instance, send one rider up the road. When he has a one-minute lead, chase him down by forming a fast paceline. When he’s caught (don’t forget to spray him from your water bottle!) roll easily for 10 minutes, then send another attacker to try his luck.
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In the university town where I live, everyone under age 25 seems to be riding a single-speed, fixed-gear bike, usually with no brakes and a flat handlebar chopped so short that there's barely enough room to grip it.
Let's see: can't coast, can't stop, can't steer. Am I the only one who thinks this is a bad combination? (Although the idea of thinning the student population is enticing.)
Sure, I see the appeal of the fixie. It's simple and elegant, and you can make those cool stops by skidding the rear wheel. Add a shoulder bag, scraggly hair and a pierced eyebrow, and voila -- you, the outlaw bike messenger.
In fact, one winter long ago when I was in college, I converted my 10-speed into a fixie. I'd save my gears from slush and salt while polishing my spin on downhills and buffing my quads on uphills. I considered removing the brakes, but that icy patch outside the dorm convinced me otherwise. (Hey, I didn't get a C+ in Logic 101 for nothing.)
By the end of that winter I was a strong, supple rider. Too bad I had to take 2 months off to let my knees heal.
My next encounter with fixed-gear bikes came years later, on the velodrome. On the minus side, I nearly did an endo while trying to coast across the finish line. On the plus side, I once won a 3-man match sprint because I couldn't do a trackstand and my opponents were laughing too hard to chase me down.
But I digress. If the good Lord had wanted us to ride fixies on the road, He or She wouldn't have given us the modern derailleur.
Or was that Tullio Campagnolo?
If you enjoy reading Scott Martin, the eBook Spin Again contains 181 of his witty, sometimes wacky, and occasionally heart-felt observations on road cycling.
By Sarah Bonner
Riding with a friend or a group with varying abilities can be frustrating. You might share your passion for cycling with a friend or partner, but your abilities might be mismatched. Whether you want to ride with a slower friend or join a faster group, here are some tips to get you on level ground.
1. (Mis)match your rides. Aim to balance the speed of your rides. If you want to ride with a group or someone who is faster, ride with them on their slow day when you want to do a fast ride. Hopefully, since they have to ride slow and you are supposed to be riding faster, the speed of the ride will balance and satisfy both riders.
2. Hill repeats. If you’re always waiting for someone at the top of a hill, stop waiting and start riding. Go back down the hill or just halfway and climb it again. You won't be sitting around waiting, and the extra climbing will make you more tired, so you might not have to wait on the last few hills. If you're the one being waited for, suggest this strategy to the faster rider.
3. Slipstream. If you‘re the slower rider, take shorter turns (or no turns) on the front in the wind. If you’re the faster rider, let the slower rider sit on your wheel for as long as they need to or for the whole ride. The energy savings for the slower rider in the slipstream, combined with the extra effort of the faster rider who is pulling on the front, should help even out the disparity between the cyclists. This strategy works in a group setting, too. Just make sure everyone knows if you won’t be taking a turn at the front.
4. Communication.The most important factor in cycling compatibility is communication. If riders know what to expect, they won't be irritated when they are forced to wait or feel bad if they are holding up a group. Before your ride, talk about distance, speed, route, where you will congregate if you split up on a hill, and whether or not you feel strong enough to do some work in the pace line or if you'll be sitting in for the whole ride.
5. Relax. Whether you are the faster or slower rider, remember that everyone had to start somewhere. Don't stress about having to wait for someone or making someone wait. Every rider was a beginner and every rider, no matter how fast, has been dropped. Just relax and enjoy the ride!
Sarah Bonner writes for www.WomensCycling.ca, which contributes the Women on Wheels column that runs each month in RBR Newsletter.