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Specialized Spotlight: The Cobble Gobbler

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In 2013, Specialized launched a new seat-post to help riders handle any rough terrain they might encounter on a daily ride. They wanted to create a design that would increase comfort, while retaining the performance of other carbon seatposts. The result was the CG-R, otherwise known as the Cobble Gobbler.
 
The technology behind Specialized’s suspension seatpost is pretty straightforward. A carbon leaf-spring absorbs large impacts, while a Zertz gel insert tucked into the bend smooths out the finer vibrations.The end result is a seatpost that comes in at 200 grams, with 18mm of vertical cushion – keeping your body in the most efficient pedaling position over roots and bumps that would have launched you off of a rigid seatpost. The CG-R is an elegant solution to the paradox of comfort and performance. It sacrifices neither, allowing for impact absorption without a large loss of pedal power. This make it desirable for long rides, commuting, and even for the cyclocross and gravel racing scene.

There are however, a few caveats to the praise I have for this seatpost. First, the distinct look of the spring takes some getting used to. It grows on you, trust me, but at first you do take a moment to think to yourself, “that looks… different.” Secondly, 18mm of flex is a lot when you consider potential efficiency loss in watts. If you are a racer, or rider that lives to get the most power out of his bike, the CG-R is not going to be as stiff as some of the SL carbon seatposts available. Third, the price tag of 200 dollars is not cheap, placing the CG-R above the S-Works carbon seatposts in price. That being said, for what the seatpost was designed to do, it does its job well.

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I have been riding this CG-R for the last two months on my Allez and my Crux. Even after many hours in the saddle, I still have the moments where I am astounded by the subtle suspension of the seat-post. I still feel the road, I feel the cracks, I feel my tires as I corner, I feel my bike as I put power down to accelerate just as I do with any rigid seatpost. Then I hit a bump, a pothole, a cobble road (thanks downtown), and am able to sit through the jarring impacts, and best of all feel relatively comfortable. Sure, some obstacles will still throw me, some impacts will make me wish I had lifted off the saddle for that bump, but for the majority of road imperfections, I just grin and keep pedaling.

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It’s Never too Late to Learn to Ride

Learning to ride a bike at 61 raises some concerns: will I be publicly humiliated? How hard will it be? My head will have a helmet, but what about the rest of me?

Drawn to the forests, mountains, and ocean waters of the Pacific Northwest, I’ve lived a reasonably active life since my arrival in Seattle 22 years ago. Biking, however, has not been part of me outdoor profile.When my wife and long-time sea kayaking partner had to stop paddling because of leg pain, I thought that biking would make up in land miles what we were giving up in nautical ones (she has no problems pedaling). But that meant learning to ride, something I’d avoided for countless years out of fear and ignorance. I had always wanted to ride, but my wife’s situation clinched it: spending time together out of doors was too precious to lose. Recalling a conversation I had some years back with a woman who had learned to ride as an adult with Cycle University, I signed up for three 90-minute one-on-one lessons.

Lesson 1

My instructor, Colin Gibson, a tall, trim athlete with an impressive racing record, immediately put me at ease with his infectious good cheer. After some discussion about my experience (zero) and goals (ride a bike without falling) Colin started the process with a bike fitting: making sure that the bike I would train on was the right size and configuration for my body type. Riding a poorly fitted bike means using more energy than necessary, and could lead to injury.

Moving outdoors (in public view!) it was time for the basics: starting and stopping a bike. What’s natural for experienced riders turns out to require some conscious coordination for newbies. Body posture, brakes, and pedal position need to work together seamlessly to start the bike moving, and to bring it to a stop without falling. It seemed like a daunting proposition at first, but with Colin carefully scrutinizing my attempts and following on foot closely enough to prevent mishaps, I eventually was able to move the bike a short distance and bring it to a safe stop. No prizes for elegance that day, but none of the passersby seemed to care or notice. Whew!

Lesson 2

About a week later, Colin had us at a shoreline park in West Seattle, where there was ample space to build on the previous week’s lesson and add to my (limited) skill set. The park wasn’t within view of the street, so that bit of anxiety was alleviated. After a review of start and stop basics, it was time to master turning the bike. Apparently the world is lacking in bike pathways that move in a straight line forever; one must learn to turn the bike occasionally. Moving the bike a longer distance felt great, but up ahead was a chain link fence that meant a turn was necessary. The first two attempts were less than successful. Nothing serious happened; but people would have stared had anybody been around. After getting the low down from Colin on what I was doing right and what I needed to change, I gave it a go. Sure enough it worked, the bike arcing to the left and then heading back to my starting point. Turning again, I went towards the fence once more and made another left. It seemed I could go on this way for a while when Colin reminded me that I should learn to perform a right turn as well. I saw the logic in that, and went on to do so.

Next up was attempting to move the bike in a figure eight pattern. Seemed easy enough, but that maneuver eluded me that day. I had better luck when Colin suggested using some nearby speed bumps to practice the proper body and pedal positions when encountering a bump in the road. Not a bad day, overall.

Lesson 3

This was it, the final lesson, and time to ride a bike on a trail along with pedestrians and other cyclists. Colin chose the Alki Trail in West Seattle, a long, mostly flat pathway that offered some grand views of Puget Sound and the Seattle skyline. After a quick review, we were on the trail, Colin following closely enough for me to hear his cautions, suggestions, and encouragement. It soon became clear that biking requires your full attention. The trail seemed to be full of nothing but tricky obstacles: people walking their dogs, cyclists of all abilities, children emerging from parked cars, joggers wearing ear buds (with their backs to me!), Scuba divers prepping their gear, stop signs, and active driveways. Colin, ever vigilant, coached me along, and I learned to use my brakes to adjust my speed and call out as I passed (mostly) on the left. We rounded Duwamish Head, at the northern tip of West Seattle, and continued on for a total of three miles before stopping to rest and admire the view. My body told me I’d just done something new, but I was elated. On the ride back the trail was just as busy, but what I remember most was the sun shining, the water sparkling, and a refreshing wind.

It’s been a month since the last lesson, and my wife and I are on our bikes routinely, going farther with each ride.

I’ve discovered that there are many adults who’ve never learned to ride, and multiple approaches to teaching them. The advantages of group lessons are cost and camaraderie. For me, the one-on-one method was the best for my learning style. Choose a method that suits you, learn to ride, and commit to improving by riding. When taking lessons remember to wear clothing that’s comfortable but not too loose, and bring a full water bottle. I found visualization helped me prepare for a lesson. Learning to ride as an adult won’t be as hard as you think, people will admire the effort, and you’ll be too happy to mind a little soreness.

On your left!

Sal

 

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Dean’s Letter: Go Crazy for Cyclocross!

I love Cyclocross because it is the most fun kind of racing. No matter how I end up finishing a race, I always get an amazing workout and my “hair blown back” as my friend Toddy T used to say. Cyclocross is never boring. It is slippery, arduous, thrilling and tricky. Often I am riding so hard I can barely breathe – and I love it. Like downhill skiing, it is you against the course. There are always one or two rooty or rocky sections of each course that I mess up on. Maybe I didn’t position my bike right and got knocked off my line, or crashed and had to run to catch up. But from those mistakes, I learn. I love the feeling of finally getting it right, nailing it through a tough section without losing too much speed. It’s a great feeling to make up ground on another rider because I found a faster way through a turn.

Our Cross Bootcamp started this week, and I love it because it gets my head back into the game of Cross and starts the fitness gains I want to make through winter. I actually become more fit through the winter because of cross, and tend to get a bit out of shape in the spring. When Cross Bootcamp starts I know my downtime is over. It feels good to begin pushing my limits again, and I am excited to see our junior racers out there doing the same. It is very inspiring to see our kids braving the elements and giving it everything they have on the course. Their efforts have motivated me to get back into racing cross seriously. We plan to go to Austin TX this winter for the national championships, giving me the chance to see how I stack up against the other 50 year olds. Here is a video of me in my last race last year at Enumclaw if you want to get a feel for what cross is all about.

This is early for most “normal” people to think about cross, but a good time to start dipping your toes in the water if you are just starting. If you want to join us in September or take an intro class from us in the next couple months I hope to see you. Lots of people jump on the band wagon in September or October when we have more classic Cross weather. Join us and get on the program, your body, bike handling skills and mojo will be glad you did.

Coach Craig

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Stepping Stones to Success

This time of year I struggle to fit everything I need to into my busy schedule, including cycling. It can be a challenge to keep myself in shape during the months leading up to Cyclocross season, but I know if I can keep myself going strong until Cross Bootcamp begins I will race well. Our Cross Bootcamp really takes care of the rest of my preparation, with rides four days a week. The constant schedule really helps me get into the rhythm of training. It becomes second nature to complete the rides, pushing myself step by step towards my goal. This inertia helps me avoid my natural laziness, and keeps me from taking the easy way out. When I coach someone, I look for the same kind of “automatic” training. A workout plan that becomes a regular habit, while giving the rider set “stepping stone” achievements to help them reach their goals.

If we are 6 months from your target event, there will be a few “stones” to step on in your preparation. Your training plan might look like this:

Your goal is to ride the RAMROD, a 152 mile trek around Mount Rainer with 10,000 feet of climbing. Starting in March, we will create “stepping stone” benchmarks working up to RAMROD. Your first step might be to ride a hilly century in March at your target pace. Next you might pick a hard ride at the end of May or in early June, like the Chelan Century. From March to June, you will be training to ride the Chelan Century. Your only goal is to finish the Century at your desired pace for RAMROD. Working up to a large event with stepping stone goals like this can help you both mentally and physically. By the time you hit RAMROD, you know you will be able to tackle the long climbs and distance. There will be less stress on you to train up quickly, as you will have been working up to your goal for the past several months. This technique will help you immensely, and works the same for all our main coaching disciplines: Triathlons, Cyclocross, and road races.

As you prepare for your final events of 2014 and look towards 2015, think about how to bridge your fitness to your target with “stepping stone” events as your training focus. Find a way to support yourself with intermediate events and training so you don’t have to do all the heavy lifting right before a big event. This is where our teams, classes and bootcamps come in. Meeting each progressing goal with teammates, in a class with newfound friends, or in a bootcamp with your coach cheering you on can motivate you to reach the next step. Our classes and coaches will provide you with the stepping stones to make sure you are ready on race day. You just have to make the leap.

Many of us have big events to finish in the coming months, so I will leave you with my key to motivation in a long race. The key is visualization. Find a good memory of you finishing an event. It could be this event last year, or a similar ride. Savor it, see yourself powering through, getting into your stride over the hills and through long straightaways. Remember your hard work, and the pride and camaraderie of crossing that finish line. Imagine yourself meeting last year’s goal time- no, beating it! Then see yourself wait for it…this is the key… enjoying your time after the finish. The hot afterglow of a long ride,  a cool drink and your teammates and friends. You have worked hard for it, and once you visualize your success, that positive expectancy will draw you to your best finish yet.

Yours on the suffering line, and loving every minute of it!

Coach Craig

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Safety First: Tips for Hot Weather Riding

Summer is finally making an appearance in the Pacific Northwest, and those participating in outdoor activities need to be thinking about sun safety. Hot weather riding is more demanding on your body than riding during cooler temperatures. Summer riders need to be aware of hot weather hazards including dehydration and heat stroke. Luckily, these are preventable with the proper preparation.

Follow these basic tips and you’ll be ready to roll!

1. Keep dehydration at bay by making sure you are drinking regularly. Stop and refill your water bottles when you can. Cycle U West Seattle always has a water cooler available just inside our entrance for a quick fill up. For those who don’t like to make extra stops to re-fill bottles along the way, you can use larger 24 ounce bottles and consider packing an extra bottle in your jersey. However you choose to do it, make sure you are drinking regularly and that your bottles don’t go dry during your ride.

If you tend to not feel thirsty during rides (I know you camels out there!), this does not necessarily mean that you are not at risk for dehydration also. Regardless of if you feel thirsty or not, you should plan on taking in water every 15 to 20 minutes as a rule. This simple precaution can save you a big headache down the road!

2. Keep up on electrolytes. When you sweat a lot, you’re losing a lot of salt and other electrolytes. If your electrolytes drop enough, you will be at risk for cramping and delayed recovery time. Additionally, if you drink too much water without any salt, you may be at risk for hyponatremia, a medical condition that occurs when you develop a sodium imbalance at a cellular level. (Note: this does not mean you should dump table salt in your water!) To prevent salt deficiency, you can simply add in an electrolyte mix to your water. There are many available for purchase at Cycle U and other sporting goods stores, including the very popular Nuun.

3. In case of an emergency, make sure you have identification on you and let others know where you are heading. This goes for riding anytime: It is always a good idea to let people know your riding plans, and to keep identification on you at all times. Whether you take a wallet with you, or you choose Road ID www.roadid.com, make sure you are being a responsible and safe cyclist.

4. If the weather looks too hot for your cycling comfort, one option is to ride early or late. Head out in the morning before the heat of the day, and end before it hits. Evening rides can also be very pleasant but keep an eye on visibility! Long summer days make later and earlier riding possible, but always be careful riding before dawn or after sunset. A front white light and rear red light are required by law for riding in the dark. It is always a good idea to ride a route in the daylight before tackling it under twilight conditions. If you are safe about it, a sunset or sunrise ride can be a beautiful thing!

5. Last, but not least, know your limits. If the weather was hotter than anticipated, and you don’t deal with heat well, maybe you shouldn’t do the 70 mile ride you were planning. Use common sense and be realistic.

Happy (hydrated) Riding, everyone!

Coach Vanessa