RBR Newsletter

It’s All Uphill from Here

By Stan Purdum

The road out of Ithaca, New York, heading west, goes steeply uphill for two miles, and I had just climbed it on my saddlebag-laden bicycle. I was on the final day of a cycle tour of the Finger Lakes region of New York, and was pretty pleased with myself. Here I was, no longer a young man, and in my judgment at least, I was riding as well as I ever had.

Or nearly so, anyway. The long pull out of Ithaca had given me reason to reconsider the state of my cycling fitness.

I’d come to the hill late in the afternoon after having already ridden 60 miles that day. The 50-plus pounds of camping gear on the bike hadn’t bothered me much for most of the tour, but on that long ascent, I had more than noticed it. In fact, I hadn’t been able to actually pedal the entire way up the hill.

The first half-mile or so consisted of a heavily traveled narrow city street with no shoulder. With the abruptness of the incline and no room for vehicles to pass me as I labored uphill at what I knew would be a crawl-pace, I’d decided to walk the bike on the sidewalk until the street widened. So my assault on the slope started as a trudge.

Once the sidewalk ran out and the street became a road with a hint of a shoulder, I mounted the bike and began puffing upward. Even after that, however, there were occasional sections that bounded so sharply upward that I was forced to dismount and push the bike through them. Nonetheless, by the time I finally reached the top, I had pedaled the bike more than I had pushed it, and I was feeling good about myself.

Ah, the Perspective of Youth

I was also feeling pretty tired, though, and after pumping through a few more miles of what was now smartly rolling terrain, I stopped at a crossroads corner to mix up a sports drink and replenish myself.

While I stood there gulping Gatorade, I noticed a bicyclist approaching rapidly on the intersecting road. The rider noticed me as well and wheeled to a halt in front of me, speaking a cheery hello. Seeing that she was an attractive and obviously fit young woman, I straightened up and wiped the weariness from my face. I’m a married man and all of that, and I was way above the woman’s age bracket, but no male rider wants to look like a winded fool in the presence of a shapely, lycra-clad female who wasn’t even breathing hard from her efforts.

She then began asking about my tour, explaining that although she raced in competitive cycling, she also planned to ride a tour, having finally talked her husband, who didn’t normally cycle at all, into touring with her. I answered her questions about my route and gave her some equipment recommendations.

Eventually, I mentioned the hill I’d ridden and asked if she’d come up the same route. I was prepared to brag a little about my accomplishment, but her response quickly scotched that. What she said was, “No. I rode up another way that is actually steeper and longer.”

“And you didn’t have to walk any of it?” I asked.

“No,” she said. “I ride it quite often.” Then, letting me down easy, she added, “Of course, I’m not hauling saddlebags.”

Finally, she wished me well on my continued journey and said, “I guess I better get moving before I cool down too much.” She flashed me a bright smile, and with a couple of strong strokes on her pedals, shot off down the road.

It was probably a good thing she left when she did. I couldn’t have kept my stomach sucked in much longer.

Stan Purdum has ridden several long-distance bike trips, including an across-America ride recounted in his book Roll Around Heaven All Day, and a trek on U.S. 62, from Niagara Falls, New York, to El Paso, Texas, the subject of his book Playing in Traffic. (Both are for sale in hard copy format in the RBR Bookstore; click the links for more info.) Stan, a freelance writer and editor, and Methodist minister, lives in New Jersey. See more at


Sand, Wind, Heat, Rider Protest Cancel Tour of Oman Stage

In professional golf, there’s a time of year – after all the major tournaments and the year’s points championship have been decided – that is known as the “silly season.”

During that time, tournament golf still is played, but often it is in far-flung locales in Asia and the Middle East.

Pro cycling is somewhat similar, of course, with a sort of “silly season” of its own that includes races in the Middle East, as well, during the late winter. Some of these tune-ups before the Spring Classics begin include such races as the Tour of Oman, co-owned by Eddy Merckx and put on with help from the ASO, which organizes many of the world’s biggest races, including the Tour de France.

But this year’s ToO turned out to be the opposite of silly, as conditions very unlike those riders face in Europe effectively shut down the race for one stage last week, as reported in Velonews.

Riders Call a Strike

After a sandstorm forced the start of Stage 5 to be moved 85 km from the original starting location, temperatures of 104F (40C) met the riders at the new starting point.

It proved to be too much to take, and after the re-start, riders stopped for a “peletonial” chat under a bridge and decided that conditions were unsafe to continue. They called it a day and retired.

“The steepness of the downhill and the temperatures were too much, the tires and wheels couldn’t release the heat enough,” said Tom Boonen.

“It’s life-threatening when you’re going 90 kilometers an hour and the tire explodes. You don’t wish that on anyone. We stopped under the bridge and we talked about it. Guys were scared in the neutralized section when we weren’t riding hard. If you race, the speed is even higher, the braking’s harder, and the heat’s worse.”

Merckx disagreed, saying the heat would not have been a concern if the riders had actually been racing.

‘It was only 38C [100F], that’s not so hot’

“It was only 38C [100F], that’s not so hot,” he said. “The problem was that the riders came down in a bunch and everyone was braking. If they would’ve been racing, coming down one by one, the problem wouldn’t have occurred.”

Of course, as the race’s co-owner, Merckx had more than just the riders’ safety on his mind. We was worried about the future of the race.

“The City of Muscat is angry,” Merckx said. “The roads were blocked for so long, the city wanted to cancel tomorrow’s stage, but as the situation is now, it’ll continue. If they would’ve been there for five minutes longer, the city would’ve canceled the [final] stage.”

The UCI is putting together protocol for race organizers to follow in the event of severe weather (whether it’s the hot, windy, sandy conditions in the Middle East, or snow, ice and cold in Europe) – something Boonen and other riders applaud.

And something, it seems, organizers and race owners like Merckx will grudgingly have to abide.


West Coast Ports Back to Business: Bike Parts Delayed Up to 2 Months

After nine months of labor strife at the 29 West Coast U.S. ports through which goods from across the Pacific enter the American market, a new deal has been reached that ends the discord.

However, for many bike makers and bike parts suppliers, there remains a backlog of two months or more because of the lingering labor issues.

What this means for consumers is a shortage of some bike parts, supplies and possibly the dream bike they ordered.

It could also mean higher costs for some goods still on the shelves in their local bike shops and retailers, as supplies dwindle through the spring, with new shipments not expected until summer.


Diet and Exercise Poll Results

Two weeks ago, we featured a column by Coach David Ertl, A Cautionary Tale: How Cycling Saved My Life, in which Coach Ertl recounted discovering he had heart disease (a 90% LAD blockage, requiring a stent), and his belief that cycling and eating a good diet had helped keep him from suffering a worse outcome from his blocked artery.

Over the past 2 weeks, we have posed Questions of the Week related to David’s article. First, we asked, Do You Feel That You Eat Right and Exercise Enough? Which we followed up with, What Type of Diet Do You Eat?

I’ll leave it to you to judge yourself, and our readers as a group, from the results, below. You might also find Dr. Gabe Mirkin’s column How Red Meat May Increase Heart Attack Risk” of interest. It appears today in the Cadence section.

Do You Feel That You Eat Right and Exercise Enough?

16% − Yes. Definitely. I really focus on doing both to stay healthy.

41% − Pretty much. I do a good, not great, job at both.

6% − I do a decent job of eating right, but exercise is hit or miss.

26% − I do a decent job of exercising enough, but my diet is hit or miss.

6% − Honestly, I do not do well at either most of the time.

4% − No. Definitely not. I really need to improve at both.

What Type of Diet Do You Eat?

11% − Typical American meat and potatoes

29% − Mediterranean or similar

10% − Vegetarian/vegan (any of the various types)

2% − Gluten-free

24% − Whatever is put in front of me

3% − Weight Watchers or similar

4% − Atkins or similar

16% −  Something else entirely


A Sampling of Recent RBR Product Reviews

ISM Adamo Breakaway Saddle

Cyckit Aeroclam Underseat Bike Storage

Compass Barlow Pass Extralight 700 x 38 Tires

Wahoo Fitness KICKR Indoor Trainer

Magellan Cyclo 505 Computer

Selle Anatomica X Series Saddle

Fly6 Combination Tail Light & HD Camera

LifeBEAM Optical HR Sensor Helmet

HubBub Helmet Mirror

Giro Attack Shield Helmet

Rotor QXL Rings

Truvelo 24 and 33 Wheelsets

Click to learn more about the Tailwind Nutrition Endurance Fuel!
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Click to see details and to purchase the HubBub Helmet Mirror!
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Click to learn more about the LifeBEAM Helmet with Built-In Heart Rate Sensor!
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Click to learn more about Freewheeling Adventures Bicycle Tours!
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Visit for Great Cycling Gifts and Gear!
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Click to learn more about the Aeroclam underseat bike storage!
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