Blog, Training, Uncategorized

The Art of Climbing – Unlock your best

I have dedicated the last 15 years of my life to help people improve their cycling, and climbing is almost always at the top of their lists of challenges.  Every rider I work with needs to improve their Climbing, from Century rides, Gravel Grinders, Cyclocross to RAMROD to STP, it is the focus for most riders.  I was lucky to learn to climb early when I moved to Colorado and began racing road in the mountains, everyone who races there is a great climber.  My 2nd race was the Mt. Evans hillclimb (highest paved road in US over 14,000ft) and when I was a pro mountain biker I won a WorldCup medal for 3rd place with the best in the world racing up Mammoth Mountain, so climbing has been my cycling “thesis” and major area of study since 1987.

Climbing requires more than just fitness, I have coached some of the fittest riders around and often is is more subtle techniques like mental “fueling”, pedal stroke or fueling correctly that makes the biggest difference.  Climbing will test you and *can* bring out the best in you, it can also allow you to find ways to give up early.  

If you are trying to unlock your best climber, start with where you are with your fitness now and accept your ability and limitations as starting points.  You have a pattern of how you climb, and if you want to improve there are a number of things you can look at BESIDES your training/fitness level to be sure you are climbing as well as you can:

1.  Pedal stroke optimization

2.  Breathing techniques for steady and hard climbing

3.  Posture and hand position

4.  Bike fit to allow full power

5.  Pacing tools to fit terrain

6.  Shifting smooth transitions and cadence

7.  Standing skills, recovery and full-gas

8.  Fueling precision 

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Dressing for the Winter

Living in a cool and wet climate and being a cyclist don’t always mix.  After 6 years of spending nearly my entire winter training in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve finally found what works and what doesn’t when it comes to dressing for the weather.

In Seattle, from November to March we tend to run into three types of weather; cold and wet, cold and dry, and not so cold and wet.  Finding the balance between being comfortable and warm without overheating or freezing can be a challenging balancing act for even the most experienced Pacific Northwest cyclist.  This post will share the knowledge I’ve gained over the years regarding clothing choices and hopefully encourage more people to brave the elements this winter.

Cold and Wet

Although we’ve had some mild winters in recent history, it’s not uncommon for my rides to be in 40 degrees and rain.  After years of trial and error, I have really nailed down the clothing choices that work for me.

Cold & Wet

Cold & Wet

From head to toe, my cold and wet training gear is as follows:

Wool cycling cap with a small brim

These are great for keeping your head and ears warm and also protecting your eyes from the elements should you need to take off your cycling glasses.

Cycling glasses with rose or yellow lens

I like the rose and yellow lenses because they give your eyes UV protection while brightening up the road making it easier to pick out obstacles and hazards.

Neck Buff

I love neck buffs, they’re just one more barrier between you and the elements and can easily be pulled up over the nose and mouth in really cold conditions or when you get stuck on a grimy and gritty road.

Thin wool 1/4 zip long underwear

I remember learning in Outward Bound when I was a teenager that “wool warms and cotton cools.” Wool will continue to keep you warm even when it’s completely saturated.  I have never overheated as a result of wearing a wool baselayer but I have certainly frozen when I haven’t worn one.

Fleece long sleeve jersey

The fleece long sleeve jersey is a must-have for many conditions.  I recommend getting it as tight as possible to not allow cold air to sneak in.

Rain Jacket

I am lucky this year that I have the Castelli Wind jacket with the windshear technology to keep me extremely warm and dry.  Many companies also make great rain capes which allow access to your pockets.

Heavy Neoprene Gloves

Using neoprene gloves in the rain has been a revelation for me.  Keep in mind that they only keep you warm when they’re wet so taking them out on a cool dry day is not recommended.  If I’m going to be starting a ride in the rain, I will often fill them with warm tap water and dump it out before I start the ride to ensure my hands stay warm.

Bib Shorts

Make sure whatever shorts you’re wearing have a solid rubberized and tight gripper to ensure they won’t ride up over leg warmers.

Fleece leg warmers

I much prefer leg warmers over knee warmers, I’ve personally never overheated on a training ride because I didn’t have 6 inches of exposed calf.

Wool Socks

I pretty much always wear wool socks if it’s under 60 degrees.  Again, my feet have never overheated due to wearing wool rather than synthetic socks.  There are tons of companies who make thin and warm wool socks which won’t make your shoes too tight.

Neoprene shoe covers

Much like the neoprene gloves, these will keep your feet warm even when wet.

Cold and Dry

Cold and dry conditions are some of my favorite winter riding conditions.  However, even when the sun is shining it can still be very cold and it’s important to dress appropriately.

Cold & Dry

Cold & Dry

From head to toe my cold and dry gear is almost identical to my cold and wet gear with a couple of key changes.  I would wear this in dry weather under 40 degrees and would stay comfortable down into freezing temps.

Crewneck wool baselayer

I have found that when it’s cold and dry the neck buff plus the high collar of my Castelli wind jacket are enough of a barrier to the elements.  Having the crewneck wool baselayer is generally enough to keep me warm.

Winter gloves

I prefer to use the Castelli Estremo glove for these cold and dry days.  They keep my hands toasty warm without having to use chemical hand warmers.

Not so Cold and Wet

Riding in wet weather when it’s in the mid-50s and higher can be really tricky.  It can be easy to overheat but starting and stopping or getting stuck in the wind can still chill you to the bone.  My trick has always been to wear layers that I can easily adjust or shed if need be.

Not So Cold & Wet

Not So Cold & Wet

There are still a lot of similarities between this outfit and my cold and wet and cold and dry outfits but still with a few key changes.

Traditional cycling cap

When it’s not so cold that you need your ears covered a traditional cycling cap can keep the rain and wind out of your eyes without being too warm.

Thin sleeveless baselayer

I LOVE the Castelli sleeveless seamless baselayer for these conditions.  It gives me a small extra barrier but the contoured mesh design is super breathable and comfortable.

Short sleeve jersey

When the mercury starts creeping into the upper 50s to low 60s, a tight fleece jersey can be overkill.  I prefer a traditional full zip sleeveless jersey.

Fleece arm warmers

Arm warmers are so nice in these conditions because they can be pulled above the wrist for additional cooling or shed all together if conditions change or warm up.

Wind Vest

I like a thin wind vest to just add one extra layer of protection against the wet and wind without overheating me.  Also, since I still go out in my wind/rain jacket in these conditions, should I start to overheat, the wind vest gives me options of small layers to shed to be able to keep warm.

Thinned-out neoprene glove

Much like the thick neoprene glove that I wear when it’s cold and wet, a thin neoprene glove will keep your hands warm but allow for increased dexterity.

Other Tips and Tricks

There are a few other little tricks that I use to help stay comfortable during long hours in the saddle.

Extra gloves

When a ride starts out dry but could cool down or get rainy, throwing an extra pair of gloves in your pocket is always a good idea.

Toe warmers

You can find the little stick-on toe warmers at most outdoor stores.  When it’s cold or wet I like to stick a pair on the outside of my shoe over the vent in the toe and then put my shoe covers on over.  Doing this covers up that vent and keeps my feel from getting cramped by having to put a toe warmer inside the shoe.

I also use the toe warmers rather than the hand warmers in my gloves.  In this case I just leave the paper on the sticky backing of the toe warmers and slide them into the back of my gloves.  I find these stay warmer longer and are less bulky than the hand warmers which are more meant for skiing and other snow sports where you don’t need to hold a handlebar.

Waterproof wallet

This is actually a nice thing to use year round (pro tip, don’t ever pay for a gas station bottle of water with a sweaty bill, it’s gross).  I use the “Witz See It Safe” on all my rides.  It holds about 6-8 cards and a little cash and is smaller than your iPhone.

Shedding Layers

Don’t under-dress just because you’re worried about having to schlep around unused clothing.  If I run out of pocket real estate on a ride, I will just shove unused clothing up the back of my jersey.  I’d rather ride with a clothing hump on my back than be stuck 30 miles from home without enough clothing.

Rain-X and Anti-Fog on your glasses

I use both Rain-X and goggle Anti-Fog on my cycling glasses to ensure I can keep them on even in the pouring rain.


Use your front and rear lights when riding on roads shared with cars.  It’s just safer.  However, when riding on the trail, make sure to switch your lights from “blink” to “steady” to be respectful of other pedestrians and cyclists.

Thanks for taking the time to read my tips and tricks for winter riding.  I hope it encourages more people to brave the elements and enjoy the outdoors year round!



by Craig Undem

OK, I am a bit overweight. Some of you may look at me and say “Whatever dude, you are fine,” but I know it and I can feel the difference, not just in the 10 extra pounds, but in my energy levels as well. I am on a see-saw with my eating. I LOVE to eat for pleasure, in fact it is what originally motivated me to get into cycling, bread, pasta, cookies, pizza, I rode enough that I could eat whatever I wanted. Now that I don’t ride as much, I can feel the difference in my energy level and stamina. I know I need to eat better.

I am constantly on the look-out for inspiration to stay on the healthy diet path. Sometimes I just find myself enjoying bad food, and eventually it catches up with me. I notice it the most when trying to get up in the morning. When on a good diet I can get out of bed and rock-n-roll all day long. Right now that is not the case.

I was watching TV this weekend and began watching this skinny guy on PBS talk about diet and the miracle power of…you guessed it…whole natural foods! He hit it right on, and the best part is that he is a real Doctor with studies and research, not a bike coach with subjective data. He talks about the how nutrient dense foods can work miracles on overall health and are saving people from a life of medications and surgery.

I have noticed that some people don’t lose weight even though they eat 500 fewer calories than they burn each day, and maybe this is why: their nutrient value isn’t high enough. This is also consistent with the Alkaline vs. Acid diet I have mentioned in past newsletters: the doctor’s recommendations are pure Alkaline. Check this post from his site about high-nutrient diets:
This also explains some of the hunger reactions I have had when my diet isn’t good. Initially I wanted to title this post RUN LEAN: LEARN TO BE HUNGRY TWICE A DAY AND GET LEAN. But if my calories are not nutrient-rich, then the hunger is like a wicked addiction because my body is starved for not just calories, but nutrients and energy as well. He talks about the power of vegetables such as mushrooms and onions to fight cancer and the “miracle” cures of people on all kinds of medications who no longer need them once they switch to his diet. Since watching his show I have been re-inspired to eat more onions, mushrooms, garlic, peppers and other vegetables, and I notice the positive difference.

I also like how he treats vitamins: just take a good quality multi and Omega 3/6 oil and you will be fine if your diet is good. Nothing crazy, just good quality diet and basic vitamins.

I see myself and the Faculty of Cycle U as not just your mechanics, salespeople, coaches and assistants, but part of your health team. We love sharing tips that help us, and we hope they help you. We just updated our mission statement, and I think it reflects why we don’t just talk about carbon fiber or peak power profiles or lots of supplements. We want everyone to be healthy, not just fast.


Getting on Track for Next Season

by Adrian Hegyvary

Winter is often the time of year when cyclists take a step back from their training, think about the season, and plan their approach to the following year. During this time it’s important for athletes to determine their strengths and weaknesses, and figure out how to structure the following year to address those skills. For many riders, one of the most beneficial modifications to their season is to integrate track racing into their training regimen.


There are three crucial skills that track hones more than any other type of racing: pack positioning, leg speed, and maximal power output. Many track races can be thought of as the key parts of road racing without all the filler—the final minutes of a race, the crucial splits, etc. without the miles leading up to them. And considering that each night you go through these scenarios multiple times, race skills and tactics get pounded into your head like no other discipline.

Three events that can improve your racing are scratch races, points races, and miss-n-outs. A scratch race is the simplest of all—you race for a set number of laps and the final sprint decides the race. But what’s special about this type of race on the track is that everything happens so quickly that there is little time for thinking and immediate decisions and responses are crucial to success. There are also different ways to win—waiting for the sprint and keeping the race together, attacking and sprinting from a break, or lapping the field (sometimes multiple times) to ensure a placing.

Points races are similar in that they demand constant attention to pack position, but differ in that a wider range of tactics can be employed to race successfully, sometimes simultaneously. Points races are over a set distance but also have intermediate sprints—usually every 5 or 10 laps. The first four riders across the line at those sprints receive points (5, 3, 2, 1) and the person with the most points at the end wins. Because there are several “finishes” throughout the race, you have numerous opportunities to try different tactics and catch your competitors sleeping, but consistency is still rewarded.

Miss-n-outs are the most tactical and difficult races to ride at first. In this event the last rider across the finish line is pulled from the race each lap until only three remain. After one neutral lap, the three riders sprint for the win. Miss-n-outs demand constant attention to what your competitors are doing, and racers frequently have to anticipate one another’s moves in order to remain at the front of the field. Though this skill doesn’t have a parallel in other types of racing, it teaches quick thinking and rewards riders who can “read” a race well.


Finally, the physical demands of track racing compliment any training regimen and create strong, well-rounded cyclists. Because you have just one gear, leg speed is a crucial skill for a track racer. Simply putting on a huge gear doesn’t make you race faster, because it becomes so difficult to accelerate that you won’t make it to the front of the race for the finish. Thus, track finishes are frequently decided at cadences well above 140rpm, a number most road riders would never even consider racing at but does great things for coordination, and ultimately your overall sprinting ability. Similarly, because most track races last just a few minutes, riders build their maximal power output with frequent race efforts lasting between 30 seconds and 3 minutes. These intervals are the ideal duration for developing VO2 max, and that fitness translates perfectly to the important parts of road racing, mountain biking, cyclocross and triathlon—the start, the short hill, the crosswind, the crucial field split, the final laps, etc.

The best way to start track racing locally is through the Marymoor Velodrome’s introductory track class and Monday night racing. Information can be found at For riders who are interested in pursuing track racing at a higher level, or those who already race on the track and wish to further hone their skills and training, Cycle University will offer intermediate-level track classes designed to take your riding to the next level. Information can be found at, or email for details. If you’re ready to take your riding to the next level, be prepared to get on track this coming season.