Fear Not! Motivation is Here to Stay

You all trained hard during the winter and early spring with us in the ICE classes, and once the weather started to improve, the streets beckoned to be ridden and we set you free to ride out on your own. Some of you could not wait for the opportunity to attack the road after months of indoor training. For others, facing several months with a loss of class structure is a daunting and anxiety-ridden undertaking.

You may be saying to yourself, “I love riding my bike, but I know I won’t keep it up, I don’t have the self-discipline to make myself train and ride on my own.” Being someone who has faced this problem at various points in my life, the message I want to give to you is, “Fear not!”. Even for those most doubtful of riders, there is hope.  Your best defense is in preparation. You need to equip yourself with a set of tools to carry with you in your ‘imaginary tool box’. By preparing yourself, it is possible to steer clear of motivation issues altogether. If problems do occur, the tools you developed will allow you to take them in stride and steer you back to a positive and productive direction.

Your question now may be, “What are these tools?”.  The easy answer is, there are no set tools that will work for everyone. Ultimately, each individual will have to do some sorting and ‘trying on’, in order to find an effective combination. That being said, I will let you in on several important tools that I have found have helped many people, including myself.

Allow for bad days, and remember, there IS no pass/fail.   

You’ll be doing yourself a favor by allowing for an occasional day of low motivation.  Everyone has bad days and days where you just really don’t feel like doing something! If you are too strict and unforgiving with yourself when you fail to go out for a ride one day that you have planned, then it could ultimately discourage you from training in the future. When you’ve been training hard and on a regular basis, sometimes you need a moment to re-charge mentally – give it to yourself!
On a similar note, I have seen people not even want to try because they are just afraid they will let themselves down, and that fear of failure keeps them from trying in the first place.  Forgiveness and the willingness to try, even and especially when you’re not perfect, are some of the most powerful tools you can keep in your imaginary toolbox.
Whenever I’m tempted to bail on a workout because I, ‘just don’t feel like it’, or, ‘it’s not sunny out’, I remember who I’ll be letting down by skipping out on my ride – me.  It helps as well to remind myself how much better and accomplished I feel once I complete a workout.

 Have a goal. 

 This does not need to be a competition you are looking to train for, it could be a grand fondo event at the end of the summer. Your goal could be to get your fitness to the point (or just sustain your fitness), so that you can keep up with a weekly group ride.  Or you could simply have the goal of keeping fit by commuting over the summer by bike to work.
Whatever it is, when you have some goal to gear your training towards, it will give you a kick in motivation.  Make sure you let your friends and family in on your goal, spread the word, all these people can help support you and keep you on track.

 Find a buddy.

 When you have a like-minded friend, you can train together and help keep each other on track. Plus, it’s fun to train with friends!

Keep a log

Keeping a log can be helpful for motivation.  Writing down all of your training allows you to visually track progress. When you see in front of you how much you’ve completed, and you get to see your continuing progress, your sense of satisfaction grows as well. Your journal is a reminder of the commitment to yourself and your endeavours. Online ride-tracking resources are available and one of  the most popular is www.Strava.com, a site that allows you to download rides tracked from your Garmin device or smartphone, directly online to your own free account. Strava has the option of making your rides public on their website, allowing you to add a competitive element into your ride documentation by comparing your ride times with others.

 Get a coach

I’ll let you in on a secret: coaches aren’t reserved for an elite few. There is no qualifier in whether you can work with a cycling coach or not, and they are a HUGE help for those serious about not only maintaining fitness, but improving fitness as well. Coaches can bring an entirely new perspective to your sport, and can find ways to continually change things up or keep things fun.  It’s all about YOU with coaching, and talk about a motivator – coaching will undoubtedly help keep you on track.

You can find out about Cycle University’s Coaching options online on our coaching page.

I encourage you to try out some of these pointers, and find what works for you! Your ideal strategy may be a combination of things.  Knowing how I work as an athlete (I’m naturally lazy!), has led me to find that I benefit from working with coaches, involving myself in a like-minded community, AND having goals I’m working towards! Fitness is a continual work in progress, and remember, EVERYONE struggles to keep on track once in a while!


Good luck!

Coach Vanessa


Juniors Summer Update!

We are excited to announce the expansion of our Cycle U juniors team!  For the past few years we have had a small but dedicated group of young riders racing for CycleU, and the time has come to expand the team and take our program to the next level. With new sponsorship and the creation of a nonprofit team foundation, we are looking forward to making CycleU a major presence in northwest junior cycling.

We focus on developing riders of all ability levels and coaching for all-around success, not just race wins.  With weekly team rides, a strong presence at the northwest mountain bike and cyclocross races, structured training options, and support from parents and sponsors, we have worked to create a team that values community, teamwork, and being active.

Our primary focus is cyclocross racing in the fall, mainly because cross is so incredibly fun.  Those who have never raced a bike before can jump right in and still have a blast, and experienced racers can push themselves to the limits.  We have found cyclocross season to be a real rallying point for our team: nearly everyone participates in the racing, families and teammates congregate in our team tent, and the atmosphere is perfect for spectating and staying all day. We’re  We run weekly practices year-round, and during the spring and summer months many of our riders also race road, mountain, and track.

We welcome all riders ages 7-17, regardless of their cycling experience.  Our team ranges from beginning riders to those competing at national events.  Kids who love to ride but who aren’t interested in racing are also invited to be a part of the team and ride with us.   We will have a few meet-the-team events throughout the summer, including group road rides and a free kids cyclocross clinic!  These rides are open to everyone and we would love to see you there.  Cost for all coaching and support is $200 per year along with generous discounts on products and services.

For more information feel free to contact coaches Lizzy Peterson (lizzy@cycleu.com) and Craig Undem (craig@cycleu.com) or sign up online.


Safety First: How to Adjust Your Brakes

For those of us not riding bikes with a fixed gear, brakes are probably the most important component on our bikes to have properly adjusted. Whether you are a racer, daily commuter, or sunny day rider, we all have to be able to stop safely and, if the situation calls for it, quickly. Fortunately, adjusting brakes only requires a few wrenches and a little know-how.

Brake adjust 1

The first step for any adjustment on a bike is to check the condition of your equipment. If your equipment is in poor condition properly adjusting your brakes can be difficult, if not impossible.

Are your cables or housing rusted, corroded, fraying, or broken? Replace them. Check the wear of your brake pads; if you can no longer see the wear markers it is time for new pads. If your brakes do not open and close properly, or if they are bent at all it may be time to replace them. If there is any doubt as to the condition of your equipment please stop by your local bike shop and ask an experienced mechanic to make sure your bike is safe to ride.

Start with the basic checks: Are your wheels in the dropouts? If the wheel does not look centered in the brakes, check to see if your wheels are fully in the dropouts. If you notice that your brake levers are hitting the bars when you pull them check if you have an open quick release. Once these checks are done we can now start with the adjustment of the brake system.

Adjusting the position of your brake pads

Brake pad position is very important for a properly adjusted brake – if the pad is too high it may make contact with the tire and cause a flat. If the pad is too low, you risk having the brake pad go into the spokes, which is bad. Both situations can cause uneven wear on the brake pad, which make perfect positioning of the brake pad difficult if not impossible. The ideal position for the brake pad is about 1mm down from the edge of the braking surface and parallel to the curvature of the rim.

Brake adjust 2

To adjust, pull your brake caliper closed so the pads are touching the rim, and manually position the brake pad into the correct position. Once the pad is in the correct position, tighten the screw holding the pad to the brake arm. The pad will sometimes want to rotate with your tightening motion but this can be prevented by pulling harder on the brake lever so the pad stays in the same position, or by holding the pad in place as you turn the screw.

If the pad is perfectly parallel to the brake surface the pad may oscillate creating a very unpleasant squeaking noise when you brake. This this can be corrected by toeing-in, or angling the brake pad so that the leading edge makes contact with the rim first. To do this you can stick a small shim, such as a piece of rubber, under the back of the pad and repeating the steps above.

Centering your brakes

Centering your brake calipers allows for both brake pads to make contact with the rim at the same time. This is important in ensuring that both pads wear at the same rate, and that an equal amount of force is applied to the rim at the same time. A poorly centered brake caliper can force the rim to flex to one side under hard braking potentially upsetting your brake pad placement and affecting the handling of the bike.

brake adjust 3

If the brake is visibly not centered with one pad being closer to the rim than the other, loosening the brake-mount nut and using your hand to move the brake caliper into the proper position and retightening the brake should solve the problem.

brake adjust 4

For cantilever brakes this process is a little different, and the centering is done by adjusting the tension on the springs for each side with the tension adjustment screw. By turning the screw clockwise you increase the force of the spring pulling the arm away from the rim, so if the brake pad is too close on one side, loosen the adjusting screw by an 1/8th of a turn on that side and then tighten the screw by an 1/8th turn on the other side. Keep repeating this adjustment until the brake arms are centered.

Adjusting Cable Tension

Having the right amount of cable tension in the brake system is crucial for the brakes to generate enough stopping power to be safe. If you have too little tension, your brake even if they make contact with the rim will not be able to generate enough force to stop you, and too much tension on the cable makes it so you won’t have enough leverage when pulling your brake levers and you won’t be able to use the full power of your brakes. There are two simple ways to adjust cable tension. One utilizes the barrel-adjuster on the brake or next to your levers  for minor adjustments. The other uses  the cable clamp on the brake itself where you can make large adjustments.

brake adjust 5

To adjust your brakes first loosen the cable clamp bolt, letting all of the tension out of the system. Then reset the barrel-adjuster by screwing it all the way in and then out two full rotations, to allow you some fine adjustment capabilities later on. Next, with the quick release closed, hold the brake caliper so the pads are about 2mm away from the rim and pull the cable through, tightening it into position. The most important step is to check the brake levers. Are they too tight? Can the wheel spin freely when the brakes are not being squeezed? Are your brake levers hitting your bar? If yes to any of these questions repeat the steps above and hold the calipers closer or further from the rim as is necessary. Once you have the tension set to the right amount, double check that all the bolts are tight.

You should check your brakes frequently to make sure they are operating properly, and that you can generate enough force while braking to lock both wheels. Once learned adjusting your brakes is a quick and easy process that will benefit you throughout your cycling life.

by William Dawkins

William Dawkins has been in the bicycle industry for four years as a mechanic and a racer, and is a wonderful addition to the CycleU team.


Dean’s Letter: CycleU now Offering Yacht Services

With summer sun comes some of the greatest outdoor sports: cycling, boating and camping. Summer riding is some of the best of the year, with only a few months to soak up the sunshine. Hit the dirt for some sweet single track, rip the pavement for long hot epic rides (just got back from a great Chelan Century of heat and beauty in “little Italy”) head out to watch some Track racing at the Velodrome (or maybe borrow a bike and try a race) go to some local road races and get on a ferry to explore the San Juan islands with my bike and a few friends. There are so many fun things to do, I find the hardest thing is finding time for all my adventures.

It turns out that even the rich and famous have this problem too. Head Cycle U mechanics Erick, Ryan and I had a great little adventure servicing 20 bikes aboard one of the nicest private yachts in the world, the Vava II.  Owned by Ernesto Bertarelli and given to his wife as a gift, this sleek vessel was a treat to see. While on the yacht, we all got a fascinating glimpse into how the rich and famous really live. I have friends with money, and they tell me that the rich have the same problems as you and I, just with more 000’s behind them. My experiences on the Vava II confirmed this for me. I think the owner’s biggest challenge is to decide what to do with all his toys. Like me, he struggles to find time to do everything he wants, just on a bigger scale!

The Vava II is just one big floating toy chest with all the adventure, fishing and biking gear you could dream of. An ultra-modern yacht with stone and marble on raw teak everywhere, the level of opulence was impressive. There was even a deck for a pool, a deck for a Jacuzzi, and plethora of boats sitting on a huge “beach” platform off the back of the boat. It was a floating palace taken straight from a James Bond film.

Ernesto Bertarelli and his family know how to live! Just like you and I, he loves being on his bike and on his recent trip to Hawaii he rode every day. Unlike most of us, he has 20 bikes to choose from!  Somehow it comforts me that someone with all the means in the world chooses cycling over everything else.

Good luck fitting it all in, C U on the road!

Coach Craig


My Quest for a new Mountain Bike


It’s been around 13 years since I got my Specialized Stumpjumper mountain bike and this spring I finally made up my mind that it wasn’t worth repairing any more.

Besides, it has 26” wheels and that’s so last year. The last 4 years I raced it I was running it as a single speed on the East Coast. That’s right, just one gear. There is something very pure about having two speeds; go, or don’t go. I made many good memories on my Stumpjumper, but that didn’t change the fact that it was time for a new bike.

The search came with some constraints: budget, ride characteristics, and weight.

I wanted to keep the same competitive geometry of the Stumpjumper in the next bike I chose. The Specialized Rockhopper and Hard

rock didn’t have the geometry or the level of components I was looking for. The Stumpjumper FSR is lots of fun, has great shocks and can climb as well as it can descend, but it was a little more suspension than I needed. The Epic and Stumpjumper hardtail were more my speed with their cross-country oriented gearing and suspension. Unfortunately, both the Stumpjumpers and the Epic were way outside my budget.

What is left in the mountain lineup from Specialized? The Crave! (formerly Carve) With geometry very close to the Stumpjumper hardtail I found it well suited to my needs, and it was much faster than my old rig.

The level of components on each bike was a large deciding factor for me.  No, I’m n

ot a weight weenie, (Okay, I am) but I was looking for something that I didn’t feel would drag me down.  I went back to my roots; single-speed.

Specialized offers the Crave in an “SL” model: Carbon fork, single speed

aluminum frame.  My size (15.5″) with all stock parts weighed in at 21lbs 11oz, respectable for $1300. I decided to go tubeless (everyone should) and I trimmed the weight to 21lbs, getting rid of more than half a pound by doing not a whole lot.

My first real ride on the Crave was in Hood River, Oregon. Verdict: AWESOME.  I look forward to racing it.

By Reinout Schooldermann