Never mind the fact that I’ve been riding on a trainer for the last five months, i figured that i’d worked hard enough that I’d just pick up where I’d left off last season. Um, oops.
I went out for a 36 miler (56k give or take) yesterday thinking I had the ride in the bag, easy – last year I’d have chewed that ride out barely breaking a sweat, that was an average weekend training ride. While there’s no doubt I’m in better shape this year going into the season, I am not in riding shape yet and it’s thrown me for a bit of a loop.
So I’ve been able to ride outdoors for the last four days and yesterday’s ride was the longest (by more than double) since last October but I still expected to fly through it. I was doing just fine for the first 28 but I started feeling hungry at about 29 – I’ve been through this enough to know that if I’m feeling hungry on a ride I should have eaten something miles ago. Being all the way across town I figured I’d just roll the best I could until the inevitable happened. At mile 32 the wheels came off and I was reduced to four minute miles heading into a rough wind almost all the way home.
Ah well, it was still fun – 36.2 miles in just a shade over two hours, but I’ve obviously got some work to do.
On a brighter note, I did get to wear my new Specialized RBX Pro cycling shorts on the ride – not one hot spot, no soreness. They’re amazing.
I make no bones about my enjoyment of riding my road bike fast. I ride with plenty of guys who are faster, but I like to go as fast as I can. To do this more efficiently, I have my bike set up so that my head is lower and my body cuts into the wind better. The engine (you) is most important, obviously, but the setup of the bike is crucial as well.
I have heard of a lot of people wishing they could go faster but they tend to plateau somewhere between 16 and 18 mph. If my bike were set up differently, with the bar level with my saddle, I’d be willing to bet that 18 is about as fast as I could go… To illustrate, we can use my wife’s new bike (as it came) compared with mine… Now, keep in mind here, my bike is a 58 cm frame and Mrs. Bgddy’s is a 56 – her bike is smaller than mine.
Now, Mrs. Bgddy’s bike hasn’t been properly fitted yet (that happens tomorrow), but you can see how the rise on the top tube would effect posture – her head tube stops at the top of my stem. In addition, she’s got what looks to be about a 30 degree rise in her stem where mine is flat. Also, look at the height of her hoods compared to mine – in fact, her drops are only a half inch below my bar top. This change in posture, while infinitely more comfortable, would severely limit the ability to generate speed. By sitting upright the rider turns their body into a sail to catch the wind.
Now it must be said, the notion that the setup on my wife’s bike is more comfortable is conventional wisdom, not mine. I find the more aggressive posture more comfortable. My mountain bike is set up like my wife’s new road bike and I’d take my road bike set up over the dirt bike any day of the week and twice on Sunday for road riding but that’s just me…
Choosing between the two setups for your first road bike (or your next) if your desire is to push the limits of your top speed is a no-brainer, tell the folks at your bike shop what you want so they can set you up properly – for speed with the saddle well above the bar top. If you’re only comfortable sitting more upright, get the bike set up like the gray one, just understand that your average speed will suffer.
Now, I don’t know the reason that I find the lower position more comfortable – to be quite honest I set my first road bike myself and I wanted to be fast so I set the saddle at the right height and slammed the stem – from there I did the best I could to learn to be comfortable in that position. Now that I caught the speed bug there was no way I was going for the suggested comfort position. So there is a question of necessity – did I become more comfortable in that position because that’s how I rode? Plausible, but I really don’t care what the why is – to contemplate/speculate on this would be akin to contemplating/speculating on the viscosity of chocolate milk: Who cares, it tastes good!
Now, for the ladies (and remember, I’m an ignorant sexist so cut me some slack, eh?): If your goal is to ride fast you will have to be your own advocate at the bike shop and this will not be easy. The default position is that ridiculous upright posture. When you go in for a fitting, tell them this: “I am not buying this bike so I can discuss the finer points of an hour-long, ten mile ride with the girls at the knitting club, I want fast so set it up right”. That should do, and remember this: women, generally speaking, are more flexible than men… Take advantage of this at the fitting and tell them to “slam that stem”. You can always raise it if you don’t feel comfortable after a month or two of getting used to the position.
I’d bet I inadvertently broke a rule or two there from the male/female Guide To Talking Tuna handbook, but that’s because you’re too sensitive, not because I’m sexist. Suck it up and relax a bit… You’re too angry and I’m just trying to help you get what you want. 😉
One of the greatest blessings when it comes to a 150-200 mile per week cycling schedule is that I’m hungry all of the time and I have to eat more than I’m used to in order to keep from withering away. Yesterday morning I woke up absolutely famished and it took me a second to remember why… First decent ride of the year. This morning, starving. Second decent ride of the year.
While I love being able to ride my bike on the trainer through the winter, because it does allow me to stay in some semblance of shape, there is nothing like putting in an hour on the roads after work. I went from burning about 400 calories per our to about 950 by simply taking my bike off of the trainer and letting the rubber hit the road and the results are immediate – I’m hungry. Oh how I missed that.
I have a lot of family things to take care of today so I’m only hoping that I can get out this afternoon but tomorrow, after we take Mrs. Bgddy’s bike it to get it fitted to her, I’ve got a long-awaited 35.5 mile ride planned and the forecast will be close to perfect for this time of the year – mostly sunny and 55 (F). Thank goodness, it’s about time.
This brings us to an important truth when it comes to diet and exercise… There is an ongoing debate about how to eat, what to eat, how to exercise and where to exercise. This group supports certain foods, that group a specific exercise regimen – the list is endless and they all purport to have “the best way”, claiming if you just do what we say, the weight will just fall off. The truth is most of them are correct in some way or another but the problem lies in whether or not you will participate. The best diet plan in the world is useless unless we stick to it and while burning the most calories possible is important too, if you don’t get out to get your sweat on, a workout routine that we won’t stick to is just as useless. What works is what we will stick with.
I am an unabashed supporter of cross training – cycling and running – to stay fit. The two give the body everything it needs as far as stimuli goes – in other words, a good mix of high impact and low impact aerobic exercise (it is well-known that impact related activities strengthens bones and joints while the addition of the low impact of cycling means that one can exercise every day). As far as weight loss goes, I dropped a half a pound’s worth of calories in two days and all in less than two hours (total) simply because I went for a bike ride. There is a question, of course, about how far one could ride if they’re starting out overweight and one would obviously have to work up to a decent distance (15 miles a day would do) but there are a few factors that cannot be ignored: First, a person can ride almost anywhere – without having to travel to another destination to begin the workout. Simply wheel the bike out the door and you’re ready to go. Second, depending on the type of biking we’re talking about (if I were going for weight loss I’d stick with a mountain bike), it’s relatively inexpensive unless you want to go all in. Even if you were to buy a decent high-end entry-level mountain bike ($500-$600), if well maintained it will last more than a decade – you’re looking at an investment of around ten dollars a month, gear included (this estimate is high, there is no doubt that a decent bike will last two decades easy if well taken care of). You can’t beat that with a stick.
Imagine that, history repeating itself.
I wrote about picking up a new pair of cycling shorts a couple of weeks ago. I got them on sale at my local bike shop so I could justify affording them, though I still spent more on those shorts than I did on my saddle.
I rode all last season on $35 specials, my new shorts retail for $150.
So after my first outdoor ride in them, here’s the skinny:
If you can afford them, they’re worth every penny. If you’re going to get into long rides (100k +), they’re something of a necessity.
With the cheaper shorts, which work great up to 20 or 30 miles, I developed minor hot spots after ten or fifteen miles. These hot spots, after a hundred miles, become raw spots – not bad enough to keep me from riding that far, I just figured the raw spots came with the territory – but I definitely needed a nice stock of Aquaphor to stay on the road. With the expensive shorts there are no hot spots, riding is noticeably more comfortable.
To be clear here, I rode a bit more than 5,000 miles last year and I got along just fine with the cheaper shorts. I enjoyed cycling almost as much as breathing and I certainly plan on putting in just as many miles this year. The only difference will be that I do so more comfortably on the long rides this year. My plan being to use the cheap shorts for training rides less than 50 miles and the expensive shorts for Tuesday club rides and planned rides over 50 miles.
In short, they are that good. if you can afford a pair or two buy them, I can’t imagine you would be disappointed. If you can’t, the cheap one’s work just fine, ride on.
Eventually I’ll get around to picking up a middle of the road pair and comparing the three.
Oh, now that is more like it!
It’s amazing what will pass for a great day for a bike ride after you’ve been cooped up all winter… It was a spot sunny while I was getting my road bike ready for the road and on the way home from the office… Just sunny enough that I was quite giddy to get out.
By the time I’d gotten home the sun tucked behind what looked to be tens of thousands of tightly packed clouds – a glimmer now and again was all that could penetrate them. The wind, which was brisk earlier in the day, picked up considerably, 20 mph steady from the WNW. I didn’t care – with temps finally above freezing there was no way I was sitting at home.
I won’t get too deep into the details, I only went sixteen miles, but into that wind it was tough – and gloriously fun at the same time. I decided early to just take it easy and enjoy the ride. I got stopped at every stop light and stop sign along the way and enjoyed every second. I finished with plenty of legs left.
On a final note on those $150 pro cycling shorts… Worth. Every. Penny.
The day that I’ve been waiting for has finally arrived; Time to pull the road bike off of the trainer, change the rear tire, give it a wipe down, lube the chain and head for home with her. Today, with the exception of a possible cold snap, will be the first day of the cycling season (at least for me). The forecast for the next ten days, with the exception of one day of rain and one cool day, is for sun and 40-50 degrees (F).
I’d be silly to call these ideal conditions, but we’re 27 days later for the start this year and I’m tired of riding on the stinking trainer so while I’d wish for 50+, I’m calling 40+ good enough this year.
This is, of course, none too soon. This winter, as far as my standards for cycling go (which are quite high by some standards, admittedly), was almost a full two months longer than last winter and it’s got me itchy to get out on the road on the road bike. I love my mountain bike, but the road bike is so much more comfortable and fast that I find myself missing it unless I’m riding on a trail.
Here’s to hoping for good weather!