All Cyclists Welcome: Lessons from Hawaii

I was fortunate enough to spend this past week in Hawaii, and observe a unique mix of professional and recreational cycling on the Big Island. My first day in Hawaii I noticed the sheer number of cyclists populating the road. I dodged badly adjusted beach cruiser rentals along Kona’s main drag and watched beat up hybrids ridden by tanned locals.  And, something I hadn’t expected to see; carbon fiber everywhere, riders tanned bronze and powering along the asphalt like the heat was nothing.

The first time someone rode by me on an S-works bike with carbon racing wheels I waved like a maniac and yelled a compliment. he moved past me so quickly I heard his “Thanks!” from a good distance away. The second time I was surprised- I rarely see two top-of-the-line fiber bicycles in Seattle on a good day.  After a few days I realized about half the cyclists I saw were preparing for something big. I hadn’t expected to see this many when the next Iron Man still months away, but there they were. Big events are rarely televised with a focus on the years and months of grueling work that going into a major race. In Kona, the preparation was already evident. In addition to all the shiny red fiber we saw, one of our trip leaders met a group of triathletes on an early morning swim at Hapuna Beach, readying themselves for the race ahead.

It was inspiring to see all the effort that goes into race preparations, and the dedication it takes to become a top athlete,  but I also found myself quietly impressed with the cycling skill of many locals. Our vans passed one man loaded down with panniers and various cargo strapped to his rack.   A few miles ahead we took a short detour. By the time we returned to the messily unpaved road he had passed us. The next time we saw him he was lounging at the end an unmaintained jeep trail with his bike beside him. He waved casually at our group when we caught up to him.

Seeing triathletes, tourists and locals share the same road reminded me of one the most important lessons in cycling:  you don’t always need to be the fastest on the road to enjoy cycling. I saw even the youngest locals getting in on the fun of open roads. There were kids on bikes just going everywhere and anywhere along the wide open stretches, no older than ten or twelve with no parents in sight. Living in the city, we often forget what it can be like to be able to travel freely for miles without passing another human, stoplight, or having to avoid a “bad area.” No matter where or why you cycle, freedom of the road is enjoyed by all.

By Linnea McCann, Editor


Bike Fitting – The Cycle U Advantage

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Spring is just around the corner, which makes it the perfect time of year to dial your position with a bike fit.  For 2014, we are excited to have two certified Body Geometry Fit Technicians in Craig Undem and Colin Gibson.  What sets us apart from other fitters?  In short, experience and methodology.  Craig and Colin have more than 20 years of fitting experience between them, and both have completed training in the Body Geometry (BG) fitting methodology.

BG Fit combines an extensive pre-fit assessment of strength, flexibility, and range-of-motion with precise measuring tools that allow our fitters to rapidly test different positions.  Below are a screenshot of DartFish video capture software, which we use to give clients feedback on the changes we make, along with a link to a short video about BG Fit.  If you want to step up your game, then ensuring that your bike matches your body should be high on your priority list, so check out our services and let us know if we can answer any questions!

Steve Fisher Dartfish Before_After

Contact craig@cycleu.com or colin@cycleu.com for additional questions.


Ten Years, Eleven Lessons for Success

Wow, what a ride! 10 years ago I wanted to create something more than just another coaching group. I wanted to create a unique space not only to teach people how to ride, but how to live and ride well. I originally thought I would only be teaching racers, because they are the ones pushing the limits of cycling. However it was in those looking to improve their riding I saw the most progress, the most excitement to achieve.

It has been that commitment to encourage love of riding at all skill levels, and the community which has grown out of it that has made Cycle University what it is today. Because of all the help, encouragement, and support you have given us over the years we are in a position to truly improve cycling and get more people riding, racing and loving the sport as much as we do. You guys really rock!

When we started, I had no idea it would get this big and no clue it would be so hard. The lessons I learned training as a racer have served me well as I faced the challenge and rewards of growing a company. When I read the 11 traits of a champion from the Hot Tubes team out of Boston, I realized that the reason we succeeded is because we applied these same traits to running Cycle U.  Here they are (with Toby’s permission):

11 Traits of a Champion

1) Calmness: Champions demonstrate a stoic calmness that allows them to focus on the task at hand.  No prima donna outbursts or ridiculous demands on friends or trainers; Just calm commitment.

2) Self-Assured: Champions, the really great ones, never really boast.  They have a quiet  assuredness that transcends talk, and they seldom distract themselves with such foolishness.

3) Aggressiveness: Champions are very aggressive.  Strong moves are indicative of the outstanding athlete. Whether made by design or by instinct, moves are not made frivolously, only at times when they greatly increase chances of success.

4) Tenacity: Certainly one of the primary traits that all champions show is tenacity.  They just keep on coming whether in training, a race, or another part of their lives.  Adversity is only a step in the process rather than an impassable hurdle.

5) Not afraid to fail: To a degree, we are all afraid to fail. A champion seeks to overcome this and is willing to risk it in spite of the possibility of catastrophe.

6) Patience: Champions realize that patience is an integral part of success. Patience is not just a trait, it is a tool that champions use to a definite advantage.

7) Self Direction: A champion is not self-coached or self centered, but knows where he or she is going and will use the best means available to achieve that end.

8) Consistency: Champions demonstrate a great deal of consistency, both in temperament and performance.

9) Inward Focus: Really great champions seem unconcerned about whom they are competing against.  The riders in a particular event only provide a standard by which they will apply and measure themselves.  A champion competes against their own abilities and limitations. The champion does not look outward, blaming others for a loss, but rather inward to areas that can be improved for the future.

10) Willingness to suffer: Champions do not wish to suffer any more than you or I, but accept the pain of  athletic  suffering as part of their endeavor. They force more out of their bodies than other riders do, especially when the going gets tough.  Much of this sport, at all levels, is decided by a mental commitment that allows the body to react accordingly.

An eleventh attribute that is harder to define but is equally important is the realization that racing is not a hobby, but a lifestyle and its lessons are applicable in all aspects of life. Ultimately, a bicycle race is just a bicycle race, lives are not saved, the homeless are not housed. Champions recognize this and understand the lessons of racing and training are really only valid when applied to our lives as a whole.

This is the attitude that brought Cycle University to success and something that I hope we have been able to share with all the riders who have joined us in our journey. Thanks for all your support and I look forward to seeing what we all can accomplish the next 10 years and beyond!

Craig Undem


Cold Weather Riding

It may be cold, but winter weather doesn’t always mean riding indoors. The winter months are traditionally the time to pick up the mileage and build a base for the rest of the year, and we know that long rides are most fun when  they’re outdoors!  For those of you looking to get outside in between trainer sessions, here are a few tips on staying warm and happy when riding in the cold.

Bundle up:  As a rule of thumb, a wicking base-layer, an insulating layer, and a wind- and water-resistant shell make a good layering formula.  Adjust for the temperature by wearing heavier insulation or adding another thermal piece altogether.  Tuck a wind vest or another light layer into your jersey pocket to give yourself extra options while out on the road.

Happy feet:  Unhappy toes make for an unhappy rider—put on some shoe covers to keep out the cold. Shoe covers range from small toe covers for mildly chilly to heavy-duty neoprene booties for freezing temperatures.  Plus, they’ll keep your shoes sparkly clean on rainy days.

No sweat:  De-layer a bit before beginning a climb or a hard effort.   Getting sweaty and then riding in the cold leads to windchill and long, chilly ride home.  Pick a base layer that wicks away sweat, and don’t hesitate to take off and put on layers throughout the ride.

Eat more: When it’s cold out, your body needs to devote some extra energy to keeping you warm, meaning you’ll be eating more than normal on the bike.  In general you’ll want to eat about 0.3g of carbohydrate per hour per pound of body weight to keep feeling strong.

Drink water:  You won’t feel as thirsty as you do during the summer, but hydration is just as important during winter riding.  Shoot for 20 ounces of water per hour and sip at regular intervals.  Keep your bottles from freezing by adding some electrolytes to your water, or keep them in a jersey pocket.

Be safe:  Watch out for ice, not only where you’re riding but also where cars are driving.  Pick dry roads and keep in mind that temperatures will drop as the afternoon goes on.

Happy pedaling, and have fun out there!



Stretching for Cyclists

Cycling and Stretching

As cyclists, we have a lot to gain from consistent stretching.  Our muscles work at a limited range of motion—confined by the length of our crank arms, our legs are never entirely bent or straightened.   Furthermore, cycling is a sport in which all of the muscle contractions are concentric, meaning that the muscle fiber shortens as it contracts (as opposed to eccentric contraction, where the muscle lengthens as it contracts). And if we ride about 10 hours a week spinning at 90 rpm, that’s 54,000 pedal strokes: a lot of repetitive motion!   As a result, cyclists are especially prone to tight muscles and the accompanying biomechanical problems.

This is where stretching comes in.  When was the last time you skipped stretching after a ride?   It’s okay, we all do it sometimes: it’s so tempting to spend that extra 20 minutes doing more miles, it’s easy to forget about it post-ride when all we want is a shower and a snack, or it’s just not that exciting.  But it’s never too late to change, right?


Benefits of stretching

-Injury prevention:  Tight muscles put strain on the skeletal system, sometimes even pulling joints out of alignment.  Regular stretching will ensure that the muscle is getting stronger, not tighter.

-Recovery:  Stretching promotes blood flow to the muscles, bringing in fresh nutrients and flushing out waste products.

-Glycogen storage: Research has shown that stretching triggers glycogen synthesis in muscles, topping off their fuel supplies for the next hard workout.

-Get aero: Flexibility is often the limiting factor when it comes to bike fit.  The more flexible your hips, hamstrings and lower back, the more aero you can get.

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