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Who knows what tomorrow shall bring…

I taught a private lesson this week to a new rider, someone who is very tentative on the bike.  We started with the basics on the stationary trainer.  How to stand up on the pedals while coasting and going straight, this might seem very basic, but I always tell clients that I can find people who cannot do what they can do, there are many who cannot even balance on 2 wheels! We all have our “next challenge” and whether you have been riding 2 months or 30 years, there is always something new to work on and master.

Coasting was a new skill and it took some time to get comfortable with it, check.  Done after 20 minutes of practice and some changes to make the bike fit better.  #2, Braking, how to shift weight back and really stop quickly, and then get a foot down.  Not that easy, key is to start without being clipped in so you can put either foot down quickly.  

We went on from there eventually adding clip-less pedals and tackling hills, but the thing that struck me, and that usually suprises me is how many small things you must master to really enjoy cycling.  It is a technical sport, but once we master it we forget it was ever a problem and often end up on a plateau where we stop learning.  

Where are you at and what do you need to work on to get to the next level?  What are you focused on improving this season?  Going faster downhill?  Cornering more confidently, tackling steeper hills, riding no-hands, bunny hopping, jumps, some kind of new genre of cycling, standing up and jamming up VERY steep roads or trails, drafting off of a good rider at speed?  Pick an area and focus on it, spend time working on it and soon you will step up to the next level and love cycling even more.  There are always challenges to keep you sharp and progressing.

Spin to win,

Coach Craig

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Oh to climb like a god

To climb, to reach, to strive valiantly…to come up short again and again…to push yourself to your limit and hold it there, balancing on the precipice of sanity and cruelty, to exercise your demons and blast away your fears of death and challenge the almighty to take you if now be the time, to go into the void of your soul and find a way to keep pushing when nothing in you wants to continue.  To give everything that you have, and watch as others dance by and take the prize from you without effort or toil.  Then the next to find you have the grace, the gift, the favor to be the one at the front, setting the pace, driving the machine toward the summit and able to respond and then push back on your limits again and again to a place beyond your mind and fly with the Angels toward the heavens and taste the heat of the sun as Icarus did…and yet not be burned…to fly, to be free of the chains of this devilish coil and taste the sweet refreshing dew of the high and hallowed mountains, having bent them to your might and courage and resolve as you scaled heroically the peaks on your life on a bicycle.

Hmmm, I get kinda emotional when I think about climbing, what it really means to me.  I just finished our first night of Hill Climbing boot camp and I am reminded that I was fortunate to start my riding career in Steamboat Springs, where climbing was what you did on a bike.  When you live in the mountains, you learn how to climb.  I remember my first time getting to the top of Rabbit Ears pass, I felt like I had found a new world, the summit meadows of freshly melted of snow, the quiet deer grazing and still little ponds of pure mountain water, it changed my soul and MAN do I miss it!  

I usually make the climb from the Crystal turn where we park up to Sunrise or Chinook or both, but for me Chinook is the best climb between here and Colorado.

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Why Lake Chelan is the best place to ride in Washington State

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.

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STOKED! on cycling

Do you remember when cycling was exciting and new? When you got that little rush of excitement when you were gearing up and heading out to tackle a ride?  Getting stoked on cycling is as easy as trying something new, and these days there is no shortage of new stuff to get excited about.  The gear, the clothing, the electronics, the disc brakes, the fat bikes, the gravel.  There are hundreds of splinter-cell cool things going on in cycling right now besides the traditional Road, Mountain, Cyclocross and Track, so pick one and get after it!  You don’t have to race, you can just try out something new. 

You have to be stoked and a little “in love” with the whole thing or it won’t keep you working. That is what keeps me coming back and finding fresh excitement for something I have done non-stop since 1985.   I have been through 3 year obsessive phases in road racing, mountain bike racing and cyclocross racing, and that only got me to 1997.  If you are starting off this season and not feeling the “Stoke” then you need to mix it up.  Show up to a new ride, sign up for a new event, or try a different kind of cycling to keep it fresh and challenging.  The cool thing is that when you come back to what you first loved, in my case Road cycling, it is fresh once again years later like returning from a long around the world trip to your home.  Get out there and get stoked!!! –  Check out Meet Up to find new things, here is our page to get you started that lists all our rides and clinics for the summer:  Meet Up-Find cool groups or events to try near you

 

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The Art of Descending

Do you fear going fast downhill on your bike? Is 30 miles per hour on a downhill with nothing but your lycra and a lightweight foam helmet to protect you too fast? Would you like to learn the secrets of going faster downhills?  Because I started my racing career in Colorado where the big mountains are part of every good ride, I developed my downhill skills more than most Seattle riders. When I returned here I won races by being able to descend better than others, and since becoming a cycling coach full time in 1997 I have taught people with histories of crashing how to regain their confidence, new racers how to corner for criterium wins, and new riders descending fundamentals that make cycling fun and safe.

At Cycle University we teach the three basics of good descending.  First, learn to stop quickly so you have confidence that you can quickly bring your speed down if you need to. Second, in corners, place all your weight on your outside leg–really stand on it. Third, keep your head up and look where you want to go, not at obstacles. Since # 1 and 2 are a bit technical for this article, let’s start with #3, which really has nice meaning beyond cycling as well.

One of my favorite cycling metaphors is what I call the “Clear Path”. It is a proven fact that what we focus on grows in size and importance our minds. It is the same when we are riding a bicycle; where we look and whatever we focus on is where our tires will go. There are many obstacles that try and grab our attention, the little rocks, the big poles on trails, the sticks in the bike lanes, manhole covers, cracks in the pavement, cars. We need to identify these obstacles, but our focus must change from the obstacle (the problem) to the Clear Path through the obstacle (the solution). Many people get stuck looking at the rock. They see the rock, guardrail, car that pulled out and say “oh no!” and keep staring at it as they run into it. It goes against human nature, but now is the time to begin placing your focus on the CLEAR PATH leading you safely through any danger or fears on the roads.

A related challenge is in the high mountains where there is a large drop off at the edge of the trail or road. Obviously there are dangers from riding fast with exposure to big falls, but you will be safe if you put the blinders on and only focus your gaze on where you want your tires to go (with a little practice). Look more ahead, as far as your sight will allow, then alternate your gaze back to the ground in the next 10-20 feet ahead to check for small obstacles to maneuver through (further ahead if you are going faster) and back up. The specific way you want to do this is with your head UP, and your eyes moving up and down scanning the road for the Clear Path instead of your head bobbing up and down. Let me explain.

I learned this key piece of good descending as a pro mountain biker. In my first 24 hour race in Capitol Forest, Olympia Washington in 1994 I was on a 4 person team and we were battling to stay in first place, each riding about 1 hour before the next one went with only a 3 hr recovery. I had a headlamp for my night rides (24 hours means you see how far your team can ride in 24 hours non-stop) and the descent was slick and rutted with a slippery clay surface. I had come from road racing and was still crashing a lot and learning how to ride off road at race speed, and there was a section of slick switch backs. Because my single head light gave me only about 3 feet in diameter of vision and I was forced to keep my gaze ahead and up to anticipate the big turns, I was totally in the dark about what was going on right in underneath and in front of me. I had to FEEL the trail and learn to trust my ability to stay upright.  It was amazing! I rode this part of the trail faster than I had during the daylight, and at the time I thought it was because I was getting too tired from using the brakes (pre- V-brake days) and was in the “what the heck” kind of mood just letting the bike go a bit and not trying to micro manage my treads. I was only partially right.

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I later learned what a coach in California had discovered working with mountain bike students. When you look down, your inner ear cannot balance you. This coach has students ride over logs looking up the whole time with chin parallel to the ground and has had great success. Your inner ear will help keep you upright, so keep your chin up to let your body naturally help your balance and control. I still use this technique to this day, and teach it in our most popular road class, Road 201. Here are some other hot tips for better descending.

-Relax, breathe and stay loose. Elbows bent, butt slightly off the saddle. The bike responds better to a relaxed body.

-Start wide and turn in toward the apex of the corner, all the weight on the outside leg.

-Don’t go faster than you can safely brake in time to avoid what is out of sight.

-To stop fast lean way back behind the saddle and hit the brakes hard.

We recommend you join us for a class or private lesson to see these skills taught by a trained coach who can give you specific feedback to improve your technique.