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Daily Archives: September 20, 2019

The 10 Worst Things to Do On A Road Bike in a Pace Line, Riding with the Big Dogs

If you aspire to ride with the fast people in your local cycling club, this list is for you. Riding with the slower crowd, you have a little more leeway as your habits go. People won’t be as worried about aero-bars or the flow in the pace-line, or who pulls and who sits in. When you get too fast for the lower groups and want to jump a level to the faster folks, there are some things that you’ll need to know to be accepted into the crew.

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  1. DO NOT stop pedaling when you’re up front. This includes all downhill sections in which you do not reach escape velocity (40+ mph, give or take)
  2. DO NOT open a hole up for someone who just took a turn up front two bikes back of the front because you’re “tired” or you don’t want to pull. This is one of the biggest dick moves in cycling – even more so than even the ass-drop*, which you surely deserve. You’re in a race? Hey, do what you have to do. If you’re on a club ride, though, do some of the work, or ride all the way at the back, or ride with a slower group. If you don’t respect those you’re riding with enough to pull through, don’t expect them to respect you enough to let you hang.
  3. No aero-bars in the group unless you’re up front. You may get away with that with the 15-mph group, but you won’t when you get off the porch and ride with the big dogs. We won’t allow it – you’ll get run out or berated till you drop (or, see the ass-drop*). Don’t take this too personally. It’s a self-preservation thing and remember the aero-bar rule of thumb; those who think they’re good enough to ride in the aero-bars in a group are half as good as they think they are and twice as stupid.
  4. DO NOT ride unpredictably. When you’re hurtling down the road at 30-mph, there’s no time for sight seeing; 30-mph is a big deal. You’re traveling 44 feet (13-ish meters) per second. A lot can happen in a second, my friends. The point is, riding predictably is required when you’re bar to bar and wheel to wheel. Erratic riders will likely get told to hold their line or asked if we’re playing “hide-and-go-draft” or “dodge the draft” (not to be confused with draft dodging, of course).
  5. Don’t blow a snot rocket without leaving the line to do so. If you cover someone with snot, it will come back to haunt you – and deservedly so.
  6. If the group you’re riding with is a little too fast for you and you do have to suck wheel, don’t interrupt the people doing the work. When they come off the front, open up a gap for them, let them fill it, then get on the new wheel. You’re there at their pleasure, don’t abuse them for letting you sit in.
  7. Don’t sit in behind the strongest guy in the group if you’re one of the weakest. You choose the weaker guys to hide behind because the stronger guys will hang up front longer, thereby wearing you out prematurely.
  8. DO NOT attack on the hills if the rest of the group isn’t. When you’re the weaker link, the tendency is to believe that everyone behind you wants to go faster than you’re capable of going. Again, be steady and predictable.
  9. DO NOT ride in a way that leaves those behind you in the ditch, in a crosswind. What this means, if that last sentence didn’t appear to be English, you have to look out for the rest of the group. This isn’t about riding where you feel comfortable. You ride where the group needs you. When you’re stacked up in echelon and the wind is in the group’s face, you have to ride where others will get a draft off you. If you don’t, scorn will be piled on you, and deservedly so.
  10. The last, and most important item in this list isn’t a “do not”, it’s a “do; do treat those around you like you give a f*** and your ride will go a whole lot better. If you act like you’re the center of the universe, you’ll find yourself riding alone… the center of your own universe.

That’s a fairly decent “what not to do” list, but that leaves us with one last bit of information to deal with. The ass-drop.

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Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I don’t think I’m going to give that one away. You’ll know it when you see it, though. I’ll promise you that.

And if you see it, it’s likely because you’re an ass. Don’t be one.

The TempoCyclist commented on one that should have made the list… Actually, it’s two different situations, same jerk. The guy who sits in the draft the whole ride, then charges off the front on the hills. Only slightly worse is the d***hole who sucks wheel all ride to take the City Limits sprint. Don’t be that frickin’ guy!

Cycling Legs; What They Are and How to Get Yours

The most valuable things I’ve acquired in all my years of cycling, other than happiness, contentment, and exceptional fitness, some awesome bikes, of course, are my cycling legs.  They’ve been just as important as the bikes I’ve chosen to ride.

Back in 2012, when I was just a pup, one of my friends mentioned that it would take about three years of solid, heavy miles to attain my “cycling legs”.  I didn’t know exactly what he meant back then, but I sure know now…

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This photo was taken at approximately 24-mph.  My friend, Doug, having just come off the front after a 2-mile pull, is obviously no worse for the wear and my friends are looking quite comfortable.  We’re 50 miles into a 100 mile day, after riding 100 the two previous days.

If we had to define “cycling legs”, it’s when one acquires the legs needed to put in the miles one wants to put in, without having to worry about the ability to complete a difficult ride (or several in a row).

For instance, after the four-day tour mentioned above, I didn’t take the day after off.  No, I went for a ride with my friend, Mike.  It was certainly an easy pace and we didn’t go very far, but we were out riding nonetheless (37 miles at 17.5-mph).  The day after I turned in a 21-mph effort on Tuesday night for the club ride (though I dropped off the back after 11-ish miles because I didn’t feel like working that hard – we were above 22 for the average when I dropped).  I didn’t take a day off till it rained that Friday.

That’s having your cycling legs.

So, how does one acquire them?

Well, that’s a little easier said than done.  Going all the way back to 2011, my first year on a bike, I put in 1,820 miles for the year.  Not near enough to begin working on my cycling legs.  2012 was much better at 5,360 – really, that was the first year that mattered.  2013 I barely broke the year before with 5,630.  2014 was the year I really took off, though; 6,000-ish (I didn’t keep any records that year, so I guessed low – 2015 was 7,620 and 2016 was 8,509… I’d say I guessed low by about 1,000 miles, give or take).  It was the three years in a row, north of 5,000 miles, that really got me there.

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Cycling legs are half physical and half mental.

The physical part of cycling legs is simply getting the miles on your saddle to get your body prepared for the regular load we put on them as cyclists.  That’s the easy part, and I felt different once I got my legs under me.  Now, I’m particular about what I’m feeling – I pay acute attention, so I knew within a month of when I hit my stride.  I didn’t hurt the same after a big effort.  I tended to recover a lot faster from hard efforts and could expect more out of my legs.

The mental side of cycling legs is knowing that if you go out for a 100k (or some other distance) ride, you’ll make it back home.   It isn’t “hoping”, or “speculating”, it’s knowing.  Not only that, it’s knowing how hard you can push yourself before you crack.  There are some extenuating circumstances, of course.  Maybe you bonk or you cramp up… but even in those situations, you know you’ll be able to spin home without too much trouble.

There’s one word that really encompasses the whole gamut; experience.

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I’ve been there, done it, got the t-shirt and worn it out – now I use it to clean my chains.  That much experience.