Friday, November 28, 2008

All I Want For Christmas...

Well it’s December 1st now and ’tis the season. Cyclists are often accused of being a picky and a breed that’s difficult to shop for. So true. Here are the top 10 gift ideas under a couple hundred $$$ that you can be asking your partner for Christmas.

1. Bike Box/Bag. You’ve always wanted one but get no immediate gratification from it so you’ve always put it off.

2. Pro Tool Kit. Because your tools are from Home Depot and aren’t made of carbon fiber.

3. Gear Bag. You can’t live without a cycling specific one.

4. Road To Roubaix. Can’t wait to see this on. Buy it here.

5. Mini Pit Kit. Perfect for those road bikes that never want to see mud.

6. Carbon Hand Pump. An indulgence that we rarely buy for ourselves or always lose.

7. Mad Alchemy Embrocation : The thicker you go, the more the PRO

8. Crank Bros Multi-Tool.
Never have to phone your partner again to come and get you.

9. Campy Cork Screw.
You’d never buy one of these for yourself. Only justifiable as a gift.

10. fyxomatosis Tee . Coming soon …hopefully before Xmas.

(11) Shewee - If I were a woman I’d definitely want one of these.

Electronic Dura-Ace

I’m sure you’re read all the reviews about the new Electronic Dura-Ace.  I’m not going to repeat those reviews, but I was lucky enough the other week to get to take it for a test-drive.  Let me tell you I was damn impressed.  I had all the usual questions like "how long does the battery last", "what happens when the battery dies", "how do you adjust it", "how much more does it weigh", "what happens when it rains", etc.  I’m sure they have had all these questions a hundred times before and had a logical and satisfactory answer for each.  The true test was how it actually worked.  Amazing is all I can say!  The ergonomics of it were much improved over the old Dura-Ace, the shifting was spot on and quick, only 30g heavier than the traditional Dura-Ace and it was very modular from a maintenance point of view (and all cables were connectorized for easy replacement).

A couple cool features that they don’t advertise much.  First, the front derailleur automatically trims slightly while the rear derailleur is shifted so that you’ll never get any chain rub.  Second, there are some quick easy adjustments you can make if you put another rear wheel on and you need to fine tune the rear derailleur to that cassette.

From their answers regarding battery power, it seems that they’ve thought this through.  They claim that the battery will last approx 1000hr of heavy use, but more than likely 3000km of regular use.  You’ll be able to notice that the battery is running low by a slower response of the front derailleur.  There is also an LED indicator showing approx 500kms left of battery life.  If by chance the batter does get very low on power, the front derailleur functionality is the first thing that it drops.   People seem to be worried about the battery dying all at once leaving them in their 53×11.  This isn’t any more likely than it is now on your traditional cabled system.

Everyone I spoke with who tried the new groupset was extremely impressed with how it rode.  My only concern is the price - ~$4000.  Mind you, this is the typical outrageous Aussie price they were quoting, but it will be expensive nonetheless.  I don’t imagine that busting a shifter/brake or a rear derailleur will be a cheap replacement exercise either.  Most bike shop mechanics aren’t really going to know what to do to do if it is malfunctioning because of electrical problems.  The obvious fix will be to replace. That could get ugly.
I would also suggest to Shimano to have a second release come out in about a year or two.  Doesn’t have to be major overhaul. This would be more of a marketing strategy for them.  Cyclists are not early adoptors of new techology (those would be the triathaletes).  Cyclists are always cautious and skeptical about first releases.  SRAM Force is a good example.  Releasing RED a year later was very intentional from a product management perspective.

I hope this works out for Shimano and that SRAM and Campy follow suit.  It’s time for some real innovation in this space instead of just throwing more carbon into the mix.

Sorry - not much of a Cycling Tip in there, but I just had to talk about it!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

How to Win Bike Races Even if You Are Out Numbered!

Thanks to David Heatley from Cycling-Inform for this excellent tip. At Cycling-Inform they can help you set out a training plan that can incorporate where you are at in your cycling career with specific attention to the style of riding and racing you intend to do. It can be done remotely and is specifically geared for a busy cyclist that has to fit their training around family and work commitments.

Cyclists frequently face situations where
coming into the last closing kilometers of the race they are outnumbers by far better sprinters. It’s the scenario of a the little climber coming into the final lap of a criterium with a bunch of burly sprinters, or the big guy trying to figure out what to do a few kilometers out from an uphill finish. The best way to improve your chance of winning is to look for an opportunity to attack at a time that doesn’t suit the other riders around you. If you’re with sprinters, go early. They won’t want to waste their sprinting power chasing you so they’re likely to look around to see who else will go after you. If they wait too long, you win.

For the big guys trying to win uphill finishes, use your power advantage on flat ground before the climb to push the little climbers over their limits. Keep attacking them, because they know they’re only hope is to stay with you until the climb, where the advantage shifts to them. But if you break them before they even get to the hill, you’ll have a time gap to exploit and hopefully they’ll be so spent that being lighter isn’t enough to help them beat you.

What if you are not an extremely fast sprinter? The best plan get to get to the line with as fewer riders as possible. The least people to content with in sprint to the finish line the better. But it’s still almost as difficult as winning a bunch sprint as winning from a small breakaway group. Even though your competition is much reduced in number, you're still going to need a rapid jump and nerves of steel to play out the final few kilometers of the race. No sense in getting to the finish after managing a wicked breakaway only to not have a plan for the sprint and end up being beaten by the handful of riders you broke away with.

Whether you're part of a small breakaway or part of the bunch your ideal scenario is one where you get to contest the finish alone and that means dropping all the other riders that you are with. This will be hard if you're still in the bunch as it speeds to the finish because the pace will likely be extremely high! Winning a race like this can be done though. What you need to be able to do is to hold an extremely high speed for over a kilometre and then launch your winning attack.

Your goal of course when beginning your attack is to go like a bullet so that no one has the chance to hold your wheel and draft you. Make your move as smoothly as possible to disguise your speed as much as you can. You'll need a little luck on your side as well.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dealing With Road Rash

Stinging showers, rolling over in bed and nasty pussing aching hip sticking to the sheets and wakes you up in agony. I've been quite fortunate throughout my cycling career not to have had too many crashes. Therefore I'm happy to say that I'm no expert on dealing with road rash. I am familiar with the pain of it and have my own way of dealing with it that may or may not be medically sound. It does work though and here it is.

The first thing to do is take two to four 200mg ibuprofen with food 45 minutes prior to cleaning you wound. The maximum dose is 800mg every six hours and no more than 2400mg in 24 hours. It’s especially helpful right before bedtime so you can get some sleep. (I got this information on ibuprofen dosages through various internet searches. Once again, I'm not a doctor so you may want to confirm with your GP what your personal tolerance is.)

Clean the wound with mild antibacterial soap and a washcloth and plenty of water. Only scrub hard enough to get the gravel out to prevent it from tattooing your wound. Abrasive scrubbing is unnecessary because you risk damaging tissue and delaying the healing process. After the wound is clean, gently pat your road rash damp-dry.

In terms of covering the wound up, I use this second skin product called Opsite. It's breathable, quite resistant to showering, and heals wounds in about 1 week. You just need to place it over the wound without putting any ointment on it and let the wound heal inside. It will get disgustingly moist and smelly underneath, but it "retains wound contact with the natural wound exudate which contains vital nutrients for growing cells, and white blood cells to prevent infection". It's like like miracle skin. You never get a scab with this, so you can be out riding the same day, if you aren't too sore.

Check your wounds daily for increasing redness, swelling, pain, pus or foul smelling drainage. These are all signs of infection and you should seek medical attention. If it’s been 5 years since your last tetanus shot, go to the ER. There's no glory in dying of lockjaw.

There is also good article from a qualified emergency medicine physician here on how he likes to handle road rash. In the experience of qualified road rash victums that I've tried myself, the Opsite method above is the best for superficial wounds where just the top layers of skin are taken off as in most road crashes.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Getting It Past The Boss

I'm sure that I'm not alone here when I state my conundrum.  I go to a bikeshop and make a impulse purchase on a new set of wheels or whatever my cycling related need of the month is.  The problem is getting that bike part that you got a such great deal on home and past the wife.  Here are the following techniques I've come up with to help soften the blow:

- Buy online and get the goods shipped to work.  This way you can ride to work and slowly, one by one, put those new parts on the bike and ride home like nothing ever happened.  Then you can bring those old junky parts home one day and when your wife says "where did those come from?", you can say "ahh...just some old crappy stuff that John gave me".

- Say you successfully smuggle the new parts back home and camoflauge them in with the rest of all your bike junk in your spare bedroom.  This may not be the end of it.  What do you do when the credit card statement comes in and there's that damn $1000 purchase on there. Having a secret credit card for this has obvious advantages, but not worth the risk if you're caught.   I sometimes try to get a friend to order the stuff for me to save on shipping costs and to avoid this problem all together.  Alternatively, you can blame most of the charges on a riding mate saying to your wife "most of the purchase were Andy's.  Just a couple tyres are mine and we went in together to save on shipping".  Blaming a riding buddy can come in handy on many occasions, such as why you were home 3hrs later than you said you'd be. 

- Plant the seed early.  Tell your wife that the new set of wheels that you want are gonna be $5k, so let's start saving.  This initially sets off an explosive reaction, but you've done nothing wrong, so you're not in the doghouse quite yet.  At this point she's stressing about this extremely expensive set of wheels that you're going to whine about until you get.  When you finally go and spend $2k on a set of wheels, this looks like an amazing deal.  This technique can work magic sometimes.  Use sparingly.

- Sometimes desparate measures need to be employed.  This is when you buy the wife a gift that's just as expensive and lavish as the new Calnago frame that you just bought.   This will now cost you $12k, but if you can find one of them at a really good bargain you might be a bit ahead of the game.  A vacation to Cuba where you both can go and you can use your new purchase would be a good choice.

These are just a few of the ways I've come up with to get those stupidly expensive bike parts past the accountant of the house.  I'd be interested hearing your strategies and tactics in the comments section.  ;-)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Magnesium For Cycling - Part 2

Magnesium, the promised elixir?
Last week I asked Dr. Sipser about what all the hype was about Magnesium in all these sports drinks.  Will it make me faster?  Is this the magic pill I’ve been searching for?  Judging by its entertainment value it had in high school chemistry I just had to find out more about this.  See part 1 here.
The benefits we’ve discovered with using magnesium for cycling are immense and science is uncovering more all the time about how magnesium in concert with calcium cause proper muscle contraction and just as importantly-relaxation or ‘de-contraction’. In Lance Armstrong’s last Tour ride, the team Chiropractor Dr Jeff Spencer in conjunction with their team nutritionist used a magnesium salt solution in their drink bottles to minimise lactic acid build-up. The water tasted foul so they needed to find an alternate source and that is why and what i now use in practice for my patients. The second instalment of this topic is below.   Enjoy.

Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity of magnesium in humans

Another study looked at lung function and in particular whether dietary antioxidants might protect lung tissue against reactive oxygen species-induced injury, adverse respiratory effects and reduced pulmonary function. Healthy, non-smoking freshmen students who were lifetime residents in the Los Angeles or the San Francisco Bay areas of California completed comprehensive residential history, health history and food frequency questionnaires. Blood samples were also collected and forced expiratory volume (lung power) measurements were obtained. Using a statistical technique called multivariable regression, the researchers showed that the higher the intake of dietary magnesium, the more positive the lung function (indicating healthier more elastic lung tissue).

A third study published just a few months ago examined the effect of magnesium supplementation on inflammatory markers in patients with chronic heart disease. The study, conducted by Israeli researchers, compared the levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein in patients given 300mg a day of magnesium citrate with a control group given no magnesium. The result showed unequivocally that the extra magnesium produced a significant drop in C-reactive protein levels, indicating reduced inflammation, so much so that the researchers commented that ‘targeting the inflammatory cascade by magnesium administration might prove a useful tool for improving the prognosis in heart failure.’

Optimising dietary magnesium intake

Magnesium is well supplied in unrefined whole grains, such as wholemeal bread and whole grain cereals, and also in green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, peas, beans and lentils. Fruit, meat and fish supply poor levels, as do refined/sugary foods. Contrary to popular belief, milk and dairy products are not particularly rich sources of magnesium. Magnesium is a fairly soluble mineral, which is why boiling vegetables can result in significant losses; in cereals and grains, it tends to be concentrated in the germ and bran, which explains why white refined grains contain relatively little magnesium by comparison with their unrefined counterparts.

Implications for ‘Budding Lance’s’

The latest research on magnesium and lactate adds further weight to the evidence indicating that a healthy magnesium intake is vital for both endurance and anaerobic performance. In the longer term (and perhaps more surprisingly), it appears that an optimal magnesium intake may also be essential for antioxidant protection and for the correct regulation of inflammation, both of which are desirable for athletes, young and old. In my recently released book, 7 things your Doctor Fogot To Tell You  I cover more on this topic and how to fuel your body better.

For more information check out

Keep Churning.
Warm regards,
Dr Warren Sipser B.Sc.(App Sc.) B.App.Sc.(Chiro) MCAA MACC


Monday, November 17, 2008

Beginner Climbing Tips

Some people hate climbing, some people love it. I used to hate it but have learned (and trained) to love it. Or some aspects of it anyway.

There are a few different types of climbs:

#1 The short "power climbs ": These can be fairly steep (10-12%) and suit strong and heavy guys.

#2 The long and gradual climbs : These are about 6% and don’t necessarily separate the pure climbers from the guys like me. They aren’t easy yet they aren’t hard enough to really spilt up a group. During these climbs you still go fast enough to benefit from drafting and the forces of gravity aren’t large enough to penalize the heavier riders.

#3 The long and steep climbs : Where the pure climbers tend to shine.

If you’re reading this and looking for tips on climbing, then you probably don’t fit into the category #3. I won’t even touch on how to keep up in these types of climbs. Let’s be clear - genetic ability, proper training, and optimum power to weight ratio (6-7 watts/kg) will determine if you are a true climber. For example, a guy like Lance Armstrong can generate almost 500 watts over a 40 minute period and he’s less than 70kg!

What you can do:

If you want to improve your climbing (#1&2), the easiest way to do it is by simply doing more hills. That’s it! Get off the flat stuff and choose hilly rides two or three times a week. Mediocre climbers often head for the flat roads.

Spin those legs at a higher cadence. Swallow your pride and get a 27 tooth cassette if your having problems pushing the 23 up those climbs at over 80rpm. You’re knees will thank you for it and you’ll climb faster than if you’re pushing big gears.

Mark off intermediate goals. It can be a long way to the top of a 10km climb. It can be mentally excrutiating. Break the climb off into smaller goals and tell yourself that you’ll maintain your pace until the next turn. Once you’re there, set another goal. Just as using a high cadence breaks the effort of pedaling into smaller chunks, mentally breaking down the climb makes it more manageable.

Weight - For example, if a 75kg rider loses 4kg while maintaining the same power output, then he/she will save 2 minutes on a 3km climb. Need I say more? If you want to be a better climber, reduce your weight as much as possible so that you’re not loosing power.

Position - This is very individual. On average, when you stand up during a climb you use much more energy as well as slow down (because you usually reduce your cadence). Smaller riders can often stand with less penalty because they have less weight to support. That’s why a guy like Armstrong will climb while standing more than a guy like Ulrich. Also, keep a relaxed upper body. You see most of the best climbers with their arms and shoulders relaxed while their hands are loosly gripped on the tops of their handle bars. Muscle tension in these areas expend energy that’s better spent on turning the pedals.

Breathing - You might say that I’m digging deep for things to say when I bring up breathing. But consider this analogy. If you’re doing 5 chin-ups where little effort is required, you won’t need to focus on technique. However, if you’re trying to do 20 then its a different story.You need focus and technique to minimize your energy and maximize your effort. When cycling and especially climbing, focus on breathing. Its the key to self monitoring your effort and developing your maximum potential. Breathing is so important that it deserves a write-up on its own.

Training - This also deserves a blog entery all of its own but good climbing obviously requires specific training for specific elements of fitness. The first and most important training advice is to get out and hit the hills!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Yearly Recovery Periods

Here in Australia we're lucky enough to be able to cycle all year round. The winter here is road season and the summer is track and crit season. What more could you ask for???

The downside of this is that if you're motivated enough to jump from season to season of never ending cycling heaven, burnout can easily creep up on you. You can prevent this by setting some rest periods throughout the year before burnout occurs . The temptation is that sometimes you'll be riding really well and feeling fit and you won't want to stop. This is the trap and this is exactly what will happen.

There are three of different types of rest periods that I try to stick to:

1. Schedule a rest week after every 4 weeks of training. This rest week doesn't necessarily mean no riding. It means that your ride 2 or 3 times that week and don't kill yourself doing it. Your body needs this break even if you are feeling good.

2. Schedule a rest week after the second 4 week period of training (i.e. do a 4 week period, rest week as above, another 4 week period). At this stage I will usually take the week completely off the bike. I'll try to change things up a bit by doing a bit of surfing, running or swimming. Don't worry - you're not going to loose any fitness in this time. This rest week can come in handy to get caught up in work or personal things that you've been neglecting.

3. After about 4-6 months of continuous training (along with those breaks mentioned) take 3-4 weeks off the bike. Missing this rest period is often where the fine line of progression and overtraining is crossed. Since we're not forced to get off the bike because of foul weather here in Australia, I have been guilty of continuing on through this time fearing that I'll loose all that I've worked so hard to gain. I've gotten caught into the trap of riding harder and longer because I feel like my performance is diminishing. This is classic overtraining. You probably will lose some fitness in this time off but you'll be better for it in the long run. Sometimes you need to take one step back in order to get two steps forward. This is a good time to take that yearly vacation with your wife and do something that she likes to do. Cycling can be a selfish sport and this is a great time to give back and show her how great of a guy you are!

Creating a training plan with these rest periods scheduled far in advance while you're thinking objectively is extremely important. When creating this plan you can see a macro view of your racing/training year and you'll know exactly when your important events are and when you should take a break. Overtraining is an easy trap to fall into and it's difficult to see for yourself if you don't have a coach.

On that note, I'm off for a two week vacation in New Zealand. I'll try posting tips while away but they may not be every day (and they may not be about cycling either!).

Using Magnesium to Peak Your Performance

In the last couple of years there's been a number of sports drinks that have been marketing the benefits of Magnesium.  I've understood the basics of the more common electrolytes found in these drinks, but wanted to know what this new Magnesium craze was all about.  Well, I didn't have to go much further than asking my good friend and Chiropractor, Dr. Warren Sipser.

As a keen cyclist and performance enhancing Chiropractor, I am always searching for improved ways to better my own scores as well as those of the athletes who seek my care. Chiropractic offers athletes and 'weekend warriors' the opportunity to function at their genetic maximum by removing any interferences affecting their nerve systems. It is the only profession that focuses on the delicate relationship between the performance of the nerve system and how the spine can interfere with normal function.

In my next article I will cover some ground breaking scientific studies about heart rate variability and why it is the brain and not the heart that will actually cause you to ride stronger and faster as well as recover more quickly.

Today we are going to begin a 3 article odyssey on the amazing benefits of magnesium and why the secret is now out.

While not all magnesium is created equal, a highly soluble, good quality form can aid enormously in not only your power and stamina, but also your recovery time. For more information about which types, feel free to contact me.

A key nutrient that we often overlook is magnesium. It is the agonist and antagonist to the much publicised calcium and both are needed for active muscle contractions and relaxations.The mineral magnesium is something of a 'Cinderella' nutrient. Most sportsmen and women know that it's required for health, but few really appreciate its importance for sport performance.

Current studies show that we do not ingest enough magnesium in our diest and we have declined to less than a half of those recorded at the end of the 19th century and are still falling.

  • A study of male athletes supplemented with 390mg of magnesium per day for 25 days, which resulted in an increased peak oxygen uptake and total work output during work capacity tests
  • A sub-maximal work study, which showed that magnesium supplementation reduced heart rate, ventilation rate, oxygen uptake and carbon dioxide production for a given workload
  • A study on physically active students, which showed that supplementing with 8mg of magnesium per kilo of body weight per day produced significant increases in endurance performance and decreased oxygen consumption during sub-maximal exercise.

A magnesium shortfall also appears to reduce the efficiency of muscle relaxation, which accounts for an important fraction of total energy needs during exercise.
Very recent research has indicated that magnesium supplementation could enhance performance in a hitherto unrecognised way – by reducing the accumulation of fatiguing lactic acid during intense exercise.

The researchers concluded that 'magnesium supplement may positively affect performance of sportsmen by decreasing their lactate levels'.

All of this sounds really important and the studies that I have summarised below from a great article on magnesium lends credence to it's importance in overall physical, mental and emotional well-being.

What is magnesium and why does it matter?

Pure magnesium is the second most abundant mineral in cells after potassium, but the 2oz or so found in the typical human body is present not as metal but as magnesium ions (positively charged magnesium atoms found either in solution or complexed with other tissues such as bone). Roughly one-quarter of this magnesium is found in muscle tissue and three-fifths in bone; but less than 1% of it is found in blood serum, although blood magnesium is used as the commonest indicator of magnesium status. This blood serum magnesium can further be subdivided into free ionic, complex-bound and protein-bound portions, but it's the ionic portion that's considered most important in measuring magnesium status, because it is physiologically active.

The researchers concluded that not only did supplemental magnesium help suppress lactate production, but that it also somehow increased glucose availability and metabolism in the brain during exercise. This is important because scientists now believe that the brain and central nervous system play a large role in determining the degree of muscular fatigue we feel; higher brain glucose availability could in theory translate into lower levels of perceived fatigue.

OK, so now that we have covered the first step about it, keep posted for the 2nd and 3rd installments which will cover when to use it, how to use it and why it boosts recovery time.

For more information check out

Keep Churning.
Warm regards,
Dr Warren Sipser B.Sc.(App Sc.) B.App.Sc.(Chiro) MCAA MACC


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Rubber Gloves - All Sorts of Uses

Another good tip from Jeff Bolstad.  
For the past couple of years, I’ve kept a stock of nitrile gloves in my race bag and I keep thinking of new uses for them, mostly related to the hideous climate that I live and ride in. For instance, I love hot balm on the legs on chilly days and in the rain, but the stuff is murder to get off your hands (assuming that you have a sink and soap to try, which you often won’t at race venues). Rather than risk rubbing it in my eyes, I’ll use a pair of gloves to put it on. The same argument applies to chamois cream and greasing your chain for the rain.

On those same wet days, which are often also cold days, a pair of rubber gloves worn over long-fingered gloves will keep your hands warm. Buy them in a color to match your kit and a size larger than you would usually use so you can fit them over gloves. I prefer black.  Something like this:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Our Friend Lactic Acid

Lactic acid has gotten a bad rap. We're always cursing it when we put in too big of an effort and then blame all our pain and suffering on it. You know what? It is actually our friend. Lactic acid is a fuel, not a caustic waste product. It’s responsible for helping create more ATP (ATP transports chemical energy within cells for metabolism) and is more efficient at traveling between muscle tissue than glucose (the sugar ATP is made from.)

Every time you move lactic acid is produced. It is constantly produced in and reabsorbed into our muscles all day long. However, when we engage in very intense exercise, also known as anaerobic activity, lactate is produced faster than the ability of the tissues to remove it and the concentration begins to rise.

During the process of our bodies breaking down glucose as fuel for our muscles, the glucose gets broken down to lactate and hydrogen ions are released. You know what though? It’s actually the hydrogen that causes problems! The hydrogen ions causes pH to fall and creates a state of acidosis, which then leads to the pain and discomfort you always blame on the "lactic acid". BUT, the lactic acid then tirelessly works in our favor again by helping to carry the hydrogen ions away where it gets removed in the liver which then converts the lactic acid back to glucose. A thankless job...

I've missed quite a few important details in the whole process in the intrest of keeping it short and sweet. You can find those details here

The best thing you can do to raise your tolerence is train yourself to increase your lactate threshold. By performing regularly at levels with the increased amount of lactic acid, your body will adapt and be able to handle the load. This is best done through interval training, and maintaining sub-threshold intensities for extended periods of time (8-20 minutes) and typically 85-90% of your maximum heart rate. As an example, maintaining 80-85% of your max. HR for 8 minutes helps to gently and efficiently ‘push’ your lactate threshold up to higher levels.

I'll write about an easy method to test your lactate threshold HR or power output in a future post.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Your Chain in the Rain

Most of us won't even think of going out riding when you know that you're gonna get drenched. However we've all driven hours to an event and it starts pouring cats and dogs as soon as you arrive. I have to admit, I've DNS'd some of those races before, but there's many more that I've reluctantly started. Lubing your chain properly in these conditions to have your drivetrain running smoothly will give you one less thing to worry about.

There's two common types of lube - wet and dry. Dry lube tends to suit most conditions. Compounds that reduce friction, such as Teflon, is suspended in a carrier fluid that penetrates in-between the links. Once it's applied to the chain, you should wipe off the excess on the chain and the Teflon will be left inside the links. Wet lube is more like a traditional oil. It will last longer in wet conditions but will attract more dirt and road grime.

On the days where you know you'll be riding in the wet, greasing your chain will keep your drivetrain working smoothly in the worst downpour, even if it is a pain to clean afterwards. Oil your chain as normal (with WET lube), but instead of wiping off the excess, seal it in with a layer of grease. This is a job better done with a rubber glove than your hand. This will keep your drivetrain running and shifting smoothly in the worst of wet conditions.

Friday, November 7, 2008


A couple years back when a fellow cyclist in Melbourne got hit by a car there was this campaign to have an "ICE" number programmed into your mobile phone. ICE means "In Case Of Emergency". This is the number for emergency response workers to call from your mobile if you've been seriously injured in an accident. The paramedic can look through your mobile phone address book, if it's not locked with a password, and notify your nominated contact (spouse, parent, etc).

As usual, these campaigns die off until another tragedy occurs. I haven't heard anything about ICE in a long while, but this may serve as a good reminder. Paramedics are trained to look for this number if a mobile phone is found so you should definitely have one.

We never go out in the morning expecting we'll get in an accident. They just happen. We all know someone who's been hit by a car. I've only been hit once by a car and it was horrifying. I hope my ICE number never needs to be used, but it is there just in case.

Happy Friday :-)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

New Site

I've created a new domain name and a new site for this blog. I'm extremely happy with the feedback I've received and the number of hits in recent weeks. fyxomatosis put a tiny link buried in one of their posts and I've seen a massive spike in traffic ever since. If you haven't visited fyxomatosis yet I highly recommend that you do. I aspire to have the creativity and design ideas like Andy has one day.

I'll keep posting on this site for the next couple of weeks, but soon I'll be directing all traffic to This new space will give me more flexibility to do what I want, how I want. It's also more search-engine friendly.

Thanks for reading.

Building A Training Plan

You can train haphazardly and hope to have top form on race day or you can follow an organized training plan building up to your peak event. With a proper training plan your probability of success is far greater. The difference between these two training methods is not motivation or amount of work. It's all about hitting your peak form on the week of your big event. Without a coach, designing your own training plan for the entire season can be a little overwhelming. To simplify the process Linda Wallenfals has broken it down into a few easy steps (I've changed this slightly to make it shorter).

Set Goals: What do you want to accomplish this season? Be specific with the race date and distance. "Get strong" or "Do well at all crits this season" is not a concrete, time-specific goal. "Win club champs on April 20th" is a perfect example of a goal. Your goal should be both challenging and realistic. The goal must be one you have passion to achieve. Once you have your goals, you have a focus for your training. Spend time and thought on this step as it establishes the foundation for everything else.

Evaluate Race Demands:
Race demands largely dictate the nature your training should take. The majority of your training plan should reflect the specific demands of your chosen goal event. Endurance events will emphasize aerobic fitness and tactical preparation. Short, fast events will require a larger volume of short, fast training.

Establish Calendar: Using a calendar, mark down your A-priority event. Count back from that date to figure out how many weeks you have available to train. 8-12 weeks is a reasonable amount of time. Mark on the calendar all other information you have about your schedule between now and race day such as days or weeks you cannot train and lower priority events.

Periodize: Divide the weeks you have available to train into focused periods. The best way to do this is to work backwards from your A-priority race day. Label the week of your A-priority race "race week." Label the one to two weeks prior to that "peak week." Continue working backwards on the calendar and divide the rest of your time up into blocks of 3 or 4 week periods. Ideally you will end up with about 4 3-4 week periods, a couple of peak weeks and a race week. Now you have a basic overview of your season.

Recovery Weeks: Every 3-4 week period should end with a rest and recovery week. The workouts should be light and short in your recovery week. Training volume should be about half of regular training weeks.

Daily Workouts: Now you're getting down to the important details about the training you will be doing on a daily basis. Start designing your training week by scheduling two to three key workouts for the week and then fill in the less important sessions as time allows. This is the most complicated part of the program where paying for some good coaching advice will pay big dividends. See Crowie's training pyramid

Follow the Plan: The best coach in the world won't be successful unless his/her advice is followed. Stick to your plan and you'll get the results you desire. Be patient. You don't need to be flying when everyone else is. Chances are that they'll burn out by the time you start to peak.

Keep A Training Diary: Check back on it to make sure you are actually following your plan. Be accountable to it. It will make you realize how many workouts you actually miss, and how far off the mark they are to the original plan. Keep watching the data to make sure it is heading in the direction you planned.

Training randomly and doing what you are in the mood for every day can be enjoyable. There should be times of the year that are set aside for this. If daily enjoyment is your goal then riding based on your mood may be the right plan for you. If you are goal focused and would rather strive to do well during a few parts of the season, then I highly recommend you create a training plan.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Race Conservatively, Train Aggressively

Success in road racing is all about being ready for brief explosive efforts lasting only a few minutes or seconds. Break-aways, cross winds, sprints, gaps and climbs will determine the race outcome. You have to be ready for these moments by having enough energy left to initiate or respond to the best of your ability. By the time a key move goes up the road you won't be able to respond if you're pulling everyone around the course and you are completely spent.

This is exactly why you need to race conservatively. In order to be successful with the moves that you either follow or create, you need all of your energy. You have a limited bucket of energy and you have no idea if the guy next you you has the same size of bucket.

The opposite holds true for training. Train aggressively! When you're doing your intervals or group rides (when appropriate), you need to try to spend most of your energy doing the types of things that will lead to success in races. Give it all you got! There is no consequence in burning all your matches during a training ride. It will only help your body adapt to those short bursts of effort that will be required during the winning moves of a race.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

How To Look PRO

For a while now I thought it would be fitting and humorous to write a column on all the intricate details that need to be taken care of in order to look "PRO".   Let me warn you, this isn’t a pick or choose kind of thing. It’s all or nothing. You either live by these rules or you don’t. For example, if your legs are cleanly shaven, your bar tape is sparkling white, your bike is free of trinkets… BUT you’re wearing a replica Tour de France yellow jersey with the sleeves cut off, you might as well be wearing underwear under your shorts and have a number sticker pasted to your helmet from a triathlon you did six months ago.

I didn't write this but I thought it was definitely worth posting. I got this from PezCyclingNews.  Below are the 13 most important rules to remember. Some will actually improve your riding, others will simply make you look good and the rest are just down- right snobby and elitist.

Helmets. Face it, helmets just aren’t cool. Nothing looks more pro than the tour rider cruising down the boulevard wearing nothing but a broken-in cycling cap. However, concussions and drooling out the side of your mouth are really lame, so wear your helmet. But for heaven’s sake, take it off when you walk into the coffee shop! Are you afraid of slipping and hitting your head on the counter? When worn, the helmet should be tilted as far forward on your head as possible and never at an angle. Cockeyed helmets are a sure sign of an amateur.

To look cool, take off the helmet and slip on your cycling cap the moment you arrive at your destination. To look Euro-cool, make sure to always wear your sunglasses on the outside of your helmet straps so the television cameras can see the brand logo on the ear pieces. And please, no neon colored helmets! White is the only acceptable helmet color.

Legs. We’ve all been asked a million times, why do cyclists shave their legs? Our answers range from aerodynamics to massage to wound care. But we all know the real reason. It makes us look smooth (in more way than one)! So whip out the shaving cream and the Bic and mow the lawn.

For the ultimate in cool, roll up the cuffs of your shorts for that extra 1/4 inch of tanning space. To look Euro-cool, always wear a pair of the ultra-cool Pez cycling socks. And please, no gym socks!

The Kit. Your jersey must match your shorts, which must match your arm warmers, which must match your socks. But under no circumstances should a replica pro team kit or a national/world champion kit be worn unless you’ve earned it. The only acceptable team kit is your own club kit. Retro wool kits are sometimes acceptable, but even that is iffy.

To look cool if you don’t belong to a club or a team, wear a stock Castelli or Assos kit but don’t mix and match. To be Euro-cool, wear the kit of an obscure European amateur team, but only if you have a story about how you spent the winter riding with them in Majorca to go along with it. Please, no century jerseys (I’m going to take some heat on that one), nothing with cartoon characters on it and never, under any circumstances, go jersey-less. Especially if you are wearing bibs.

* And a special note for women. As much as the guys on the group ride might like it, a jog-bra is not an acceptable substitute for a jersey. Wear the bra, but please throw a jersey on over it. It’s hot. You’re hot. But shorts and a jog-bra is just not.

iPods. I should say MP3 players, but let’s face it, an iPod is the only cool on-board music system. Of course legally, I have to recommend against wearing headphones out on the road, but since you’re going to do it anyway, here are a few guidelines. Never wear headphones on a group ride. Headphones on a group ride say two things. 1) You people are good enough to ride with, but not good enough to talk to or even listen to and 2) I’m not concerned with my own safety and I’m even less concerned with YOUR safety. There’s no faster way to become disliked by a group of cyclist than by showing up on a group ride with headphones, even if the music is off.

To look cool, remember that the smaller the headphone, the better. No 1985 walkman ear muff headphones please. Ear buds are the only acceptable iPod accessory. To look Euro-cool, make sure you are listening to an obscure independent British punk rocker or electronic group. And please, no Kraftwerk!

Clipping out. Hard to believe, but this one actually deserves its own paragraph. One of the easiest ways to determine the experience level of a cyclist is to see how early they clip out before coming to a stop. A novice rider will clip out as much as a block before a stop sign or red light. A real beginner will clip out a block before a green light, just on the off chance that it might turn red by the time they get to it.

To look cool, let the bike come to a full stop before clipping out. To look Eurocool, never clip out. Track stands are the only acceptable way to wait at a red light. And please, no basket-clips and no mountain bike shoes on the road bike! Wearing sneakers or mountain bike shoes on the road indicates that you intend to spend more time with your feet on the ground than in the pedals. You’re a cyclist, darn it, not a pedestrian!

The Friday Ride Hero. Although getting dropped on the hard Saturday group ride isn’t cool, there are actually more ways to look un-cool on the easy Friday recovery ride. The best way to look un-cool is by pushing the pace over 19 mph or by doing your intervals off the front of the ride. Friday rides are for recovery and socializing. You’re not going to impress anyone by ramping up the pace. Unfortunately, messing up the pace is just as easy to do on the hard group ride and this is where things get really complicated. Sprinting at the wrong moment, setting the wrong pace up a climb or pushing the tempo at the wrong time can draw just as much scorn as pushing the pace on a recovery ride. Get to know the etiquette of a group ride by doing it at least two or three times before even thinking about getting to the front.

To look cool, show up to the Friday ride with a cup of coffee from an independent bohemian coffee shop and sip on it throughout the ride. To look Euro-cool, skip the coffee and blueberry muffin after the ride in favor of an espresso and a croissant. And please, never order any drink that has whip cream spilling out over the top of the cup. You didn’t ride hard enough to burn off 20 grams of fat and 600 calories.

Group Ride Etiquette. Have you ever seen a pro team on a training ride? Side by side, shoulder to shoulder, quietly zipping along. Then, there is the club ride. You actually hear it before you see it. Slowing! Right Side! Stopping! Rolling! Hole! Then you see it. 25 riders spread out over an entire city block, three, sometimes four, wide. Weaving, swarming cars, running stop signs. Keep your group ride cool with the following four rules of thumb. 1) Never ride more than two abreast. 2) Never allow more than six inches distance between your front wheel to the rear wheel of the rider in front of you. 3) Maintain a distance, no more than 12 inches from your shoulder to the shoulder of the rider next to you. 4) It only takes one person to call things out. This should be the person at the front of the pack. Ideally, a little point of the hand is all it takes to indicate obstructions or turns. It shouldn’t take two dozen people yelling at the top of their lungs to make a ride run smoothly.

To look cool, keep the group tight, wheel to wheel and shoulder to shoulder. To look Euro-cool, only ride with other cyclist wearing the exact same kit. If this is not possible, make sure there are no more than three different kits in the pack and that there are at least three riders wearing each kit. And please, never swarm cars at stop lights or steer a large group of riders through a red light. It’s just not cool.

Carbon Wheels. Carbon wheels are for racing! Never under any circumstances should they be brought out on a training ride. Training wheels should be strong and heavy with lots and lots of spokes. Carbon wheels say to the group, I’m not strong enough to do this ride without my $2,000 feather weight wheels. If you have the money to tear up a carbon wheel set on the road, then you’d be better off spending it on a coach who will get you fit enough to keep up with the group ride on regular training wheels.

To be cool, ride with Bontrager flat proof tubes. They’re about four-times as heavy as regular tubes and they just about double your rolling resistance. To be Euro-cool, don’t tell anyone you’re riding with them. It’s enough to know for yourself that you can keep up with those weenies even on a 22-pound bike. And please, no deep dish carbon clinchers. Carbon wheels are race wheels and clinchers are for training. Tubulars are the only way to go on your carbons.

Ornaments and Accessories. This one is simple. No stuffed animals or figurines mounted to your handlebars no matter what it signifies to you. No mirrors on your helmet or your glasses. No reflector strips taped to your bike. No giant flashing lights (LEDs are ok).

To look cool, ride without a saddle bag. Put one small tube, a tiny pump and a tire lever in your middle back pocket. To look Euro-cool, ride without a saddle bag and with nothing in your pockets. This is cool because it means you must have a team car following you with all your supplies. And please, don’t plaster the stickers that came with your shoes or your glasses all over your bike unless your sponsorship contract with those companies specifically dictates that you must.

Cat 4 Marks. Otherwise known as a chain tattoo, this is what we called them back in the day before Category 5 existed. Nothing gives away a rookie faster than a black streak of grease on their calf. The experienced rider can actually get through an entire ride without rubbing up and down on their dirty chain.

To look cool, CLEAN YOUR CHAIN! To look Euro-cool, take your chain off once a week and soak it in degreaser along with the bearings from your bottom bracket and your headset (you old timers know what I’m talking about). And please, it’s one thing to get grease on your leg. It’s another thing to get it on your hands, your jersey, your face!

Shorts. MEN: there are many rules regarding shorts. First of all, they don’t exist. Forget about them. The only acceptable garments to wear are bibs, no exceptions. But please, throw out your bibs when they start to wear out. Enough anatomy is revealed by the skin tight Lycra, we don’t need to see a transparent butt panel. And this may seem obvious, but the jersey goes over the bibs!

To look cool, wear bibs, enough said. To look Euro cool, wear bib knickers or even bib tights. And please, don’t wear underwear under your shorts!

How to Dress for Weather. If the temperature is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, you must wear knees or better yet, full leg warmers. If you go out of the house in 50 degree weather with bare legs, it doesn’t mean you’re tough, it just means you’re an idiot. In the summer, no matter how hot it gets, you must never wear a sleeveless jersey. Tan lines are the proud mark of a real cyclist. If you must get some additional ventilation, cut a vertical line along the inside seam of your sleeve with a pair of scissors. Not only will this help you stay cool, but it says, “my sponsors give me so many jerseys, I don’t mind wrecking one.”

To look cool, if you need to keep the sweat out of your eyes, wear a cycling cap, not a sweat band or a bandana. To look Euro-cool, just don’t sweat. And please, no arm warmers with a sleeveless jersey!

When to Dress. Believe it or not there are a whole bunch of rules regarding when to get dressed for a race or a ride. In general, the less time you spend in your chamois, the cooler. If you are riding to the start, you should get dressed just before you leave the house. Don’t eat breakfast or walk the dog in the morning in your full kit! The neighbours think you’re goofy enough for cycling as it is! If you are driving to the start and it is less than a 45 minute trip, it is ok to wear your bibs under a pair of regular shorts, but not your jersey or your gloves and especially not your helmet. Also, make sure the suspenders on your bibs are hanging down, (preferably on the outside of your street shorts) and not over your shoulders. If it is longer than a 45 minute drive to the start, you must bring all your cycling gear in a cycling specific duffle bag such as a Specialized or Rudy Project bag. Brown paper bags or shopping bags are never acceptable.

To look cool, wrap a towel around your waist when you change. Changing skirts are practical, but not very cool. To look Euro-cool, make sure it’s a white, thread bare towel taken from the cheap motel room that you and five teammates crammed into at your last stage race. And please, no bare butts in the parking lot. Once again, we see enough through the skin tight Lycra.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Flying With Your Bike

It's been a great weekend. My cycling team just got back from a race in sunny Noosa. Getting there and back entailed packing our bikes properly for air travel. There were 5 of us and we each packed our bikes in a different way. Of course, everyone thought their way was the best. Here's my perspective on the various methods:

Cardboard Bike Box: This is the way I packed my bike. I went to the local bikeshop where they are always happy to give me a free bike box. I took off my pedals, handlebars, both wheels and derailleur to store the bike safely and securely. You should always put your wheels in wheelbags to make sure they are protected and don't scratch the frame.   The pros: the cardboard box method is cheap, disposable and lightweight (some airlines can charge up to $15/kg of extra baggage weight). There's also heaps of room to put extra gear in the pockets of space. The cons: the box can get quite beat up in transit and sometimes even emerge with holes in it. I was once on a flight where it was raining heavily upon arrival and the box got drenched while sitting outside on the tarmac. My gear was delivered on the luggage carrosel piece by piece since the box had been reduced to mush while sitting out in the rain.

Hardshell Case: The pros: this method is definitely the most protective way to pack your bike. However, my fear is that the better the box, the more wreckless the luggage handlers will treat it. Most of these cases also have wheels and handles that make it easy to manuver around the airport. The cons: the hardshell case can be very expensive to purchase ($500-$1200) and are usually extremely heavy, making your excess baggage fees more costly than your airline ticket itself. They also usually require quite a bit of disassembly of your bike, and there's not much room left over for the rest of your gear (helmet, shoes, pump, etc).

Softshell Case: A couple of the guys had softshell cases that worked quite well. The good softshell cases hold their structure through the thickness of the padding so that they can stand upright by themselves. Pros: They often have a set of wheels on them so you can lift up one side with a handle and easily drag them through the airport. There was very little disassembly of the bike to fit them into these cases. Just put your wheels in some padded wheelbags, put the bike into the bag, and you're ready to go. The softshell case is also very light so you can easliy meet your weight restrictions. Cons: Again, the fear that some blantantly wreckless handling of the bikes could lead to serious damage. I've seen how baggage handlers chuck pieces of luggage around and I'm not so sure I'd trust all my carbon bits to that type of abuse. I think the derailleur and chainrings should be removed or very well padded if using one of these cases. However, asking for a Fragile sticker at check-in along with the appearance of a softshell case looking much more delicate may curb the desire for the baggage handlers to treat it too badly. Wishful thinking perhaps...

Softshell Case with Cage: One of the guys on our team had a great softshell bag with 4 wheels. Inside the case was a metal frame to attache the front and rear dropouts (when the wheels were removed). The Pros: The case is very light-weight, has lots of padding and protection, and holds the bike easily with next to no disassembly. This particular case also had a comforable shoulder strap. You can get these bags for less than $300. The Cons: The fact that the walls of the case are basically a softshell, there's still the possibility that the bike could get damaged if the baggage handler is having a bad day.

Verdict: In my opinion the Softshell Case with Cage wins the best travelling bike case award. It's relatively cheap, carries the bike with minimal diassembly, is reasonaly well protected with the cage inside, is easy to roll around, and light weight. I know quite a few people who have used these types of cases for years without a single problem.