Part 2: OK, you now can survive a race, hopefully you learned to draft and conserve so you can see the finish line with the rest of the herd. If you came into racing with a strong cycling background, it is possible that you won races, went right to the front of the pack, towed everyone around and still won. This is good and bad, good cause it is fun, bad cause you probably didn’t learn much so you might still be the same skill level as when you started. This can come back to bite you now that you are riding up at the next level.
For normal people, you spend time getting strong enough to survive, now you want to try to go for a mid race prime (prize) or see if you can finish in the top 1/3 of the results. You have enough strength and skill to survive, now you just need to use it smartly to best the others in your group. This is where reading the pack really comes to the fore. Here are some basics to live by:
1. Only move up when it is slow and try to find a wheel to get you up the pack instead of doing it yourself.
School of fish. Pack of wolves. Flock of birds. Surfer on a wave. When you decide to race your bike, you are assigning yourself to this kind of obedience and lack of control. Group think, primitive reflexive response to the flow and changes of the herd and conditions. You know what I am talking about? Then maybe you haven’t raced, cause when you decide to ride with a group of riders without the formality of pacelines or ride leaders, chaos ensues and the rules of how you thought you should ride your bike are out the window, and you need to become “subject to the herd”.
The good news is that once you learn the subtle art of riding with the pack, you will enjoy it and find much satisfaction from being able to fly along at twice your normal speed for hours on end, rocketing over the hills and dales of the country until the next climb starts. You will be able to take advantage of the turbo speeds, and launch yourself to the stratosphere of bike speed and performance, there is no other way to fly. The bad news is that not everyone makes the jump to good pack riding, and some of you will give up long before you ever accumulate enough skills and experience to truly enjoy the experience. There is always racing Time Trials, Triathlon, Mountain bike and Cyclocross, so don’t worry.
One of the joys of riding a bicycle is using this machine to get exactly the most amount of speed from the energy you put into it. When we teach our hill climbing bootcamps or private lessons, one of the biggest things we teach people is how to shift correctly to maintain momentum, utilize all your cycling muscles at the right cadences and to be smooth so you don’t strain yourself with sudden changes. This is the art of cycling. Using the bicycle as a machine to propel you smoothly to go faster with less effort.
Here is an example of what I am talking about. As I was riding to work, going down a steep hill which led into an uphill, I had to keep it in my big ring and my cadence slowly dropped as I was going through the bottom of the hill, and starting to go upward. I then started shifting with my right shifter 2 gears at a time to make it easier, pedaling as I went, with the goal of keeping my cadence around 80 rpm and applying pressure to the pedals to carry speed
We just finished our annual pilgramage to the best riding in the state of Washington, Lake Chelan. You could argue that the Mount Rainier area has the most epic climbs up beasts like Chinook and Sunrise, but you can’t swim there. You could suggest that Orcas island or any of the other San Juan islands are the best, but the roads are narrow and the only good climb is Mt. Constitution. Bellingham and Olympia have their magic, as does Seattle and Tacoma, but true cycling paradise is east of the mountains where the air is dry, the roads are smooth and the traffic is light.
Here are my reasons why I love our Chelan camp:
1. Warm dry weather, some days I feel like I am in Mexico.
2. Wide shoulders and light traffic.
3. The road quality is nice, often smooth.
The place many of feel the bike the most is in the hands. Depending on how forward you are, you might have 5-50% of your weight on your hands, and every bump, seam and pothole is felt in the hands. Have you heard of Bar Phat? Double thickness tape or ergonomic inserts under the bar tape? Choosing the right handlebar tape can make the difference between happy hands or numb and unhappy hands and upper body.
Bar Phat gel under your tape absorbs lots o road vibrations
The first order of business is being sure you have the correct width of handlebar, and that your brake levers are set up correctly. If you are over-reaching or your bars are the wrong width, it is like holding a uncomfortable push up for hours as you ride and can quickly lead to shoulder, neck, upperback and lower back pain.
We have a number of different handlebar tapes to match your riding and hand size, from oversized gel infused cushion grip for big hands or rough roads to thin very sticky tape if you have a ergonomic carbon bar of small hands. Of course the orientation of the brake levers and placement of the handlebars are paramount to a proper fit.
At Cycle U we do fittings daily from both stores with either Craig Undem or Colin Gibson, both Specialized trained elite fitters with years of experience. Even if you only want help in picking out the right saddle or to troubleshoot some pain you are having you can walk into either store or call/email us to set something up. All of our fittings are good for 1 year, and if you buy a saddle or stem from us as part of one of our fittings, you get 30days to try it and if it isn’t the right one you can return it and try another choice. Get fitted, get comfortable and Get Ready to Ride! More info CLICK HERE