Beginner Cyclist

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  • A Cautionary Tale: How Cycling Saved My Life

    My eBook Pedal Off The Pounds (POTP) is filled with tips on healthy eating. While the eBook if focused on eating for weight loss, most of the suggestions are designed for healthy living as well, including heart health. When I wrote the book, I based it on the diet that I have come to eat and live by. I walk the talk. It has helped me stay lean as I have gotten older. And I was hoping it would keep me free of the diseases of civilization: cancer, diabetes and heart disease. So I was shocked recently to learn that I had a blocked coronary artery!

  • A Primer on Atrial Fibrillation

    It was a warm picture perfect day in early October and a group of us were going to do hill intervals on Pebblebrook Road. This road has about 350-400 feet of steady elevation gain over 2 miles, and is about 10 miles from my home. As I rode to meet the other riders I was having trouble catching my breath and attributed this to mild seasonal allergies and the fact that I had not used my inhaler prior to the ride.

  • Am I Fast Enough to Race?

    I want to race this season but I don't want to come in last. I can ride 19 mph for hours and can cover 21 miles in an hour at an all-out pace. Is this fast enough to hang with the main pack, or should I even bother? 

  • Bee Stings, and How to Deal With Them

    Bee stings while riding are an unfortunate, largely unavoidable, and nearly inevitable nuisance at the very least. At worst, they can cause extreme swelling and discomfort. Because they happen more often than we would like, and are potentially dangerous, it's helpful for all riders to refresh our memory on what to do if we're stung.

  • Can an Inclined Treadmill Improve Cycling?

    Could you settle an argument? I don't have a trainer, so I walk on a treadmill for an hour. It's set for a 12-degree incline. My friend says this workout won't help my cycling, but it maxes my heart rate and I believe I can tell the difference when I ride. Who's right?

  • Can Clipless Pedals Cause a Muscle Strain?

    I just got clipless pedals and now I feel like I strained my groin. It's very sore when riding or walking. I have been trying to pull up with the new pedals to help round out my pedal stroke, so maybe that's the problem. Any suggestions? 

  • Can I Get as Fit by Riding a Tandem?

    My wife and I just did our first tandem ride. She doesn't normally ride, so I presume most of the wattage came from my legs. The climbs were tough and my heart rate reached over 85% of max. I slowed my cadence to 80 rpm to make it more comfortable for her. She had fun, and I felt I had a good workout. Is this going to be an effective way for me to train?

  • Can I Train Twice a Day Effectively?

    I'm reading your Basic Training for Roadies with great interest because I have the time constraints that you address. Unfortunately, home and work often limit my training to just 30-45 minutes per ride. My high school coaches loved two-a-day workouts. Can I get fit if I ride twice each day but only 30 minutes at a time?

  • Can I Train Well Even With a Job and Family?

    Although I've been riding competitively for years, I have trouble balancing my training with my wife's schedule (she also rides), the demands of our 4-year-old son, and my job. My typical training week includes one long weekend ride, a recovery ride and two short tempo or interval sessions. That's all I can manage. And our son brings home colds, which are impossible to avoid. Can I improve under these constraints? I want riding to be fun, not like a job.

  • Can Pedaling Style Cause Calf Cramps?

    I'm a 39-year-old former competitive athlete, still in decent shape from speed- and power-oriented sports. I'm also new to cycling. My progress is being stalled by calf cramps, and I've been told that it's because I "ankle" too much when I pedal. Is that straining my calves? 

  • Can You Simplify Heart Rate Training?

    I've been trying to calculate my heart rate for different training zones. I'm confused. Some authorities say to base the percentages on max heart rate while others say lactate threshold should be used. One book says to figure max heart rate using the "220 minus your age" formula, while another says I should get a lab test. Can you simplify this mess?

  • Causes of Saddle Pain, Part 1

  • Causes of Saddle Pain, Part 2

  • Cleat Placement on Cycling Shoes, Part 1

    This is the time of year we ramp up our mileage to get ready for the big rides to come later in the season. It’s also a common time to buy new equipment for the season, such as new shoes or new clipless pedal systems. If our cleats aren’t positioned correctly on the shoes, it can cause inefficient pedaling, pain or, worse, even knee injuries.

  • Cleat Placement on Cycling Shoes, Part 2

    In Part 1 of this 2-part series, we covered finding an efficient, safe, neutral cleat position using a four-step process, and explained some different cleat positions for different types of riders/riding. We’ll finish up with a look at cleat positioning for recumbents, cleat angle adjustment, ankle clearance, marking your cleat position, and a few additional bonus tips.

  • Climbing Tips for the Road

  • Clothing is Key to Enjoyable Winter Riding

    Elizabeth Wicks, 71, lives in the central Massachusetts area just north of Worcester and has been a record-setting endurance cyclist for 20 years. She rides year-round and logged 5,500 miles in 2013, 5,700 miles in 2014 and 5,824 miles so far in 2015 (aiming for 6,000). Knowing that Elizabeth is an avid winter rider, even in the harsh conditions of the Northeast, we asked her to describe how she prepares for and rides in the winter. There are some terrific lessons here for all of us recreational roadies.

  • Clothing is Key to Enjoyable Winter Riding

    Elizabeth Wicks, 71, lives in the central Massachusetts area just north of Worcester and has been a record-setting endurance cyclist for 20 years. She rides year-round and logged 5,500 miles in 2013, 5,700 miles in 2014 and 5,824 miles so far in 2015 (aiming for 6,000). Knowing that Elizabeth is an avid winter rider, even in the harsh conditions of the Northeast, we asked her to describe how she prepares for and rides in the winter. There are some terrific lessons here for all of us recreational roadies.

  • Cycling Sports Medicine Tips from an Expert

    Andy Pruitt’s name has become synonymous with sports medicine for cycling. As director of the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine in Boulder, Colorado, Pruitt has made a career out of treating world-class riders. He has served as chief medical officer for the U.S. Olympic Cycling Team and is an elite athlete in his own right, too. He lost his lower leg in a hunting accident at age 14 but still wrestled and participated in track, eventually winning 12 high school varsity letters. When he took up cycling he earned a category 2 ranking in able-bodied racing and was twice a world champion in disabled cycling. We've got a sampling of Pruitt's cycling wisdom.

  • Dial in Clothing Choices for Enjoyable Winter Riding

    By Elizabeth Wicks  Elizabeth Wicks lives in the central Massachusetts area just north of Worcester and has been a record-setting endurance cyclist for 20 years. She rides year-round and logs 5,000 to 6,000 miles per year, riding year-round. Knowing that Elizabeth is an avid winter rider, even in the harsh conditions of the Northeast, we asked her to describe how she prepares for and rides in the winter. There are some terrific lessons here for all of us recreational roadies.

  • Dictionary of Cycling Lingo

    These definitions and explanations will improve your understanding of road cycling (and help you figure out what that guy in the peloton is chattering about).

  • Do a Quick Check After Falling

    If you or someone you're riding with falls – even if it's just toppling over after failing to click out at a stop or for some other silly reason – take a minute to check the rider and the bike to make sure everything is OK. Here's a short checklist.

  • Do a Quick Check After Falling

    If you or someone you're riding with falls – even if it's just toppling over after failing to click out at a stop or for some other silly reason – take a minute to check the rider and the bike to make sure everything is OK. Here's a short checklist.

  • Do Toe Covers Really Work?

    I'm a beginning roadie although I have been a marathon runner for many years. I think I've done everything right in making the switch. I went to a reputable shop, got a good bike fit and bought clothes and accessories. But one item that some cyclists wear has me stumped. Do "toe covers" (for lack of a better term) actually keep feet warm?

  • Does a Layoff Raise Maximum Heart Rate?

    My max heart rate is usually right at 160 bpm. I did some heavy training for eight weeks (sprint intervals, hill intervals, long rides), then took six days off. No riding or other exercise. Now when I do sprint intervals, my max HR is about 10 beats higher than before my break. Is this caused by the layoff?

  • Does Cross-Country Skiing Work for Cycling Training?

    I live where the snow starts flying in October and ends in late June. I cross-county ski to retain my aerobic conditioning, but do you have any suggestions on how to keep my legs in cycling shape, too? 

  • Does Fatigue Depress Heart Rate?

    I race in the 45+ masters division and use daily bike commutes for training. After a day or two off the bike, I can stay above my lactate threshold heart rate for long intervals. However, after commuting 30 miles per day for a few days, it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve a high heart rate. Is this normal? Or is it old age? 

  • Does Stationary Recumbent Riding Help Road Bike Riding?

    The gym in my office building has a stationary recumbent. Does using it provide the same benefits as riding outside on my road bike?

  • ECOS Emergency ID System

    ECOS EID Tags.web If you've ever crashed on the road, or stopped to help a fellow rider who has, you can easily understand the value of readily accessible personal identification on road rides. First responders need to know your name, your emergency contact info, any medical conditions or drug allergies you may have — and the list goes on.

  • Happy (Cycling) Wife, Happy (Cycling) Life

    I think we've all heard the old saying, Happy wife, happy life. It goes both ways, of course, and you don't have to be married to want to do what you can to please your significant other. If your spouse or partner doesn’t share your passion for cycling, it can cause some friction from time to time. But I’m sure there are many of you who wish your spouse or partner would share your love of cycling, for a variety of reasons – from mitigating that occasional "friction" to enhancing your relationship to paving the way for doing tours and cycling vacations together, and more.

  • Happy (Cycling) Wife, Happy (Cycling) Life

    By Sheri Rosenbaum  I think we've all heard the old saying, Happy wife, happy life. It goes both ways, of course, and you don't have to be married to want to do what you can to please your significant other. If your spouse or partner doesn’t share your passion for cycling, it can cause some friction from time to time. But I’m sure there are many of you who wish your spouse or partner would share your love of cycling, for a variety of reasons – from mitigating that occasional "friction" to enhancing your relationship to paving the way for doing tours and cycling vacations together, and more.

  • Helping New Road Cyclists Get Started

    If you've been in this sport for long, you've probably seen it happen. An enthusiastic person shows up for his (or her) first ride with the local club. He's a bit intimidated by the lingo he overhears, but that's nothing compared to his anxiety about what to do and how to do it once the ride gets underway. Before long he's trailing behind, spooked by the interplay of bike wheels and feeling as wanted as an IRS agent in a Super Bowl pool.

  • High Cadences, Used Appropriately, Can Save Your Legs

    By Coach Fred Matheny  I think I was recently reading that the best cyclists have a cadence of 110 rpm. This seems very fast (at least for me). I am probably in the 70-90 range. Do most riders do better at higher rpm? Is there benefit to sometimes powering up hills at lower rpm? I asked a question earlier in the year about maintaining cycling shape while doing bouts of backpacking. The advice I received was very good. The first ride after getting back is slow and heavy but after that it comes back quickly. Thanks.

  • How Can a Heavy Sweater Avoid Cramps?

    I sweat beyond belief. Sweat runs off my face and drips like a worn faucet. Then I cramp badly, even though I drink a lot. What do you suggest?

  • How Can a Large Guy Climb Better?

    I'm 6-3 and 245, down from 280. I played football in college 15 years ago and took up cycling because I wanted a lifelong sport to replace the thrill of the gridiron wars. Because of my size, I do okay on the flats but get dropped immediately on climbs. I know I'll never be a great climber, but what can I do to improve?

  • How Can a Small Guy Ride So Strongly?

    I began riding last year and recently met my first professional cyclist in person. He's a good climber on a small U.S. pro team. I'm astonished at how small he is! He looks skinny, emaciated and weak. But I know he can ride circles around me even though I'm an athletic 6-footer and 190 pounds. How can such an unimposing person put out so much power? I want to climb like him!

  • How Can I Exercise While Traveling?

    I travel for my job. Do you have recommendations for exercises that don't require weights?

  • How Can I Find My LT Without a Lab Test?

    I'm 50 and my max heart rate is 170. I want to determine my lactate threshold so I can train at that level, but I'd rather not spend money for a lab test. Is there a simple way to determine LT? I want to ride well in the district 40K time trial.

  • How Can I Find Training Time and Energy?

    I'm a mail carrier who walks six miles every day. Also, I'm taking two night classes. I want to start road racing this year, but I come home exhausted and barely have time to study, let alone ride. What do you suggest?

  • How Can I Get Better at Riding Rollers?

    I recently bought a set of rollers for indoor riding. Although I can balance while in a doorway so I can brace my arms, I wobble a lot. How can I get steadier? 

  • How Can I Get Fit Fast for an Upcoming Event?

    I confess – I didn't ride very much during the winter. But I want to get in shape for a metric century on the Memorial Day weekend. Is there any hope? Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Don't panic, Calvin. You and everyone who had a less-than-productive off-season can gain sufficient fitness for a big spring event. If you want to do a 62-mile (100-km) ride then, let's assume that you have 9-10 weeks to prepare. That's enough time if you start now. Here's how.

  • How Can I Get Fit Fast for an Upcoming Event?

    By Coach Fred Matheny  I confess – I didn't ride very much during the winter. But I want to get in shape for a metric century on the Memorial Day weekend. Is there any hope? Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Don't panic, Calvin. You and everyone who had a less-than-productive off-season can gain sufficient fitness for a big spring event. If you want to do a 62-mile (100-km) ride then, let's assume that you have 9-10 weeks to prepare. That's enough time if you start now. Here's how.

  • How Can I Get Used to Clipless Pedals?

    You'll really like clipless pedals once you learn the "twist out" style of release. It will become a reflex.  We've got some tips to help you shorten the learning curve.

  • How Can I Hang On During Hill Jams?

    I can stick with the weekend group ride most of the time. But the route includes five short hills, and when we hit them the pack goes berserk. The mellow pace is replaced by mad sprints to the top. I'm usually 30 meters off the back and have trouble catching up before the next hill. How can I stay in contact?

  • How Can I Hang on During Hill Jams?

    I can stick with the weekend group ride most of the time. But the route includes five short hills, and when we hit them the pack goes berserk. The mellow pace is replaced by mad sprints to the top. I'm usually 30 meters off the back and have trouble catching up before the next hill. How can I stay in contact?

  • How Can I Improve My Breathing?

    When I'm riding hard and breathing heavily, I notice that occasionally I can open my lungs more than normal and take in more air. On those breaths I feel great. For the next 5-10 seconds my breathing slows and isn't as labored. If I could duplicate that feeling on every breath, my cycling performance would take a giant leap forward. How do I work on this skill? 

  • How Can I Improve Seated Power?

    As my mileage increased this spring, I noticed I felt stronger when out of the saddle but was not improving while seated. Are there specific things I should work on to improve power in the saddle? 

  • How Can I Judge Riding Intensity Without a Device?

    I'm confused about how to judge riding intensity if I don't use a heart rate monitor or power meter. Can you give me some advice? 

  • How Can I Keep Bees Out of My Helmet?

    How do I stop bees from flying into my helmet vents and stinging my head? 

  • How Can I Overcome My Fears of Riding?

    I have been reading your Newsletter for a while. I am a novice at biking and want to get better but am having a hard time. My problem is that I learned to ride a bike as an adult and somehow I struggle getting comfortable on the bike. I forced myself to ride on roads (prefer trails), I have done a couple of short triathlons and I have taken a couple of biking trips in Europe (one trail and one road). This year I have another trip planned but I find myself still a nervous wreck even though I find biking fun. 

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