Archive for the ‘Technique’ Category

The Mechanics of Cycling — Building a Relationship With the Boys in the Back

Thursday, November 5th, 2009
Brandon Dryer is my favorite mechanic at my favorite Portland bike shop. He keeps my Seven running as perfectly as it did the day he brought it to life.

Brandon Dryer is my favorite mechanic at River City Cycles, my favorite Portland bike shop. He keeps my Seven running as perfectly as it did the day he brought it to life. Though the rest of the mechanics, the sales team and the fitters are all top-notch, Brandon is the real reason I’ve bought so many bikes from this shop over the past decade.

I get it. Price is important. But when shopping for a bike, if you really want to save a few bucks, shop around, figure out which bike is right for you, then buy it from the shop with the best service department in town. Even if the purchase price is a little higher, you’ll come out ahead in the long run.

The reason is simple — most bike shops will do minor repairs and adjustments for free. And a really good mechanic is able to do things like get a derailleur perfectly dialed in or a wheel trued in a matter of minutes. They can find and eliminate mystery noises that drive you batshit crazy. In essence, they can help you maintain oneness with your machine.

If I have to spend an extra $50 on the purchase price of my bike to have a really well-maintained bike that I might own and ride for the next 5-10 years, so be it.

What’s more, if you buy a bike (or tire or tube or computer or whatever) from a good shop and something is broken or not quite right, a good shop will simply swap it out with a working replacement. They will deal with the manufacturer so you don’t have to. Try that with an online bike store and let me know how you make out. Service like that has value.

Joshua Hutchens is my other favorite mechanic at my other favorite bike shop. He is also the owner. He likes sexy women, but he REALLY likes sexy bikes.

Joshua Hutchens is my other favorite mechanic at Cyclepath, my other favorite bike shop. He is also the owner. He likes sexy women, but he REALLY likes sexy bikes.

If you are someone like me who rides a lot, is hard on equipment and appreciates the sound of a perfectly silent bicycle, it pays to build a relationship with the guys in the back with the grease on their hands and the smiles on their faces.

The majority of bike mechanics are passionate about what they do. If you share their passion and treat them with the respect and reverence they deserve, they’ll go way out of their way to help you time after time after time.


Getting to know your mechanic

Building a solid relationship is pretty easy. Here are some of the things I’ve found that work well:

 Say “thank you” when they help you out
Let the shop owner know how much you appreciate their help
Name one of your bikes (or children) after them
Give them beer

Since some mechanics spend years or even decades at the same shop (or they actually own the shop) continued patronage is another great way to go. And since the perfect equation for the proper amount of bikes one needs is always N+1 (where N= the number of bikes you currently own), continued patronage is an easy thing to accomplish.

Cross Training With Shannon

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Shannon’s indoor cycling/cross training program has begun. It rocks. Read more about the experiences of yours truly on her blog.

Adding strength training to indoor cycling makes for one hell of a challenge

Adding strength training to indoor cycling makes for one hell of a challenge

Danny Macaskill is Very Good at Riding Bikes

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Kind of ironic that it takes a lot of balls to do this kind of riding and that this kind of riding puts one’s balls at tremendous risk.


Packing and Getting Ready for Cycle Oregon

Monday, August 24th, 2009

moving6pfIt is hard to believe that Cycle Oregon is just around the corner. It is. You can — and probably should — check out “The Big List.” This list is the one the Cycle Oregon recommends. In my opinion, it is overkill. If you took all the stuff listed, you’d probably go over your allotted weight limit for baggage.

Keep in mind that this ride is really well supported. Mechanics can be found in camp and on the road. There is no need to carry a giant tool kit, chain lube, etc. Similarly, food and water are plentiful on the rides and in camp. Two water bottles *should* be enough for most days, but if you are a heavy drinker, you might want to have a hydration pack as well. There is also a medical tent so you don’t need to go overboard with first aid kits, etc.

It is highly recommended that you segment your things in multiple large Ziplock bags to help keep them organized and dry. I also put some things like my sleeping bag and a few other odds and ends inside a river-runner’s dry bag inside my duffel. I have a hard plastic “shoe box” that I keep breakable or small things in so they aren’t crushed in transit.

Plan for your duffel to be sitting in a puddle in the rain at some point even if it never happens. Your duffel should also be marked on the ends for easy identification. When you arrive in camp, they are in a huge pile and they all look similar. If you have riding clothes for each day, then cool. If not, you’ll need to hand wash. Fun, fun, fun. Bring stuff for hand washing if that is your bag.

Keep the clean clothes you plan to wear home in your car rather than drag them along with you all week. There will be showers at the parking lot.

Below is the checklist I use:

Bike Stuff
Bike + tools, repair stuff, pumps, etc. Include your front wheel.
Bike shorts
Knee and arm warmers
Cold weather/rain gear (booties, jacket, long tights, etc.)
Bike shoes
Water bottles (3). Hydration pack if you use one regularly (water on road is plentiful)
Gels or energy drink stuff (there is plenty to eat/drink on the road)
Non-riding clothes
A few changes of warm weather/cool weather clothes (undies, pants, socks, shirts)
Jacket for rain and jacket for warmth
Synthetic long johns (at the very least for sleeping in the very cold)
Winter hat (also for sleeping in the very cold)
Baseball hat
Shoes and sandals
Camp Stuff
Tent w rain fly
Sleeping bag (I also take a liner in case it is really hot or really cold)
Pillow (optional – you can also use jackets and stuff)
Big  huge air mattress with battery-powered pump
Ground cloth
Headlamp (or flashlight)
Hard plastic “shoe box” to keep things in that might be crushed when packed in a duffel bag
Pee bottle (Gatorade bottle – avoid midnight trips to the blue room)
Bike stand
Sponge (to clean out tent or soak up spills)
You should be clever enough to figure out the basics (toothbrush, etc.)
Chamois lube
Prescription meds
Benadryl (use as a sleep aid – very helpful)
Baby wipes (keeping your junk clean between showers is a very good idea)
Desitin Creamy Zinc Oxide or Bag Balm (for healing your ’tain’t)
Chap stick
Sun block if you use it
Something to charge it all with
Pen and paper
Flask and whiskey

Bike Safety — A Racer’s Perspective

Friday, August 14th, 2009

This video was shot via helmet cam during the Portland Twilight Criterium. The insight below comes from Robert Burney, a seasoned Portland rider and racer. This gives you a good idea of what it is like to ride — as well as crash — in this type of race.



This video was filmed with a camera attached to the racer’s helmet and shows where is face is looking. The racer has peripheral vision although this camera does not. I am sending this out to everyone to reinforce several ideas we have discussed on our rides:

1.  Ride a straight line, even if you might bump over an obstacle. It is safer for you (and the people near you) if you verbally tell them of the obstacle. We should all pay attention to the road in front of us and steer around obstacles, but we must do so in a controlled manner. Abrupt motions create additional hazards.

You can see what can happen at about 1:20 into the video. At that point someone throws a tennis ball into the pack as they round a right hand corner. Several riders try to dodge the ball and cause a crash on the left side of the road. Had they ignored the ball and ridden a straight line, the crash probably would not have happened.  that crash.

2.  Watch what is happening ahead of you on the road and try to leave an escape route for unforeseen emergencies. At about 3:19 in the video a racer crashes on the left of the screen, ahead of the camera. The rider with the camera does not see it happening in time and has no place to go when a bike flips out into his path. Although the rider crashes (and it may look scary through the camera), he is able to continue the race after a ‘free lap’.  Most of the other riders were also able to continue.

3.  Riders who have crashed should be watched. Note how dazed this rider is for the next few minutes of the video. He even inserts an editorial comment making fun of himself.

4.  Check all equipment after a crash. It is best to have a rider who has not crashed do this for you. This rider forgot to check his rear wheel and it was rubbing the brakes for the rest of the race.

5.  Always wear a helmet. Check to see if the helmet broke in the crash. If the helmet is broken (as was this rider’s helmet), it may be wise to stop the ride and get a lift home.  If there was enough road shock to break the helmet, your brain may have suffered shock causing slowed thinking for a time. Buy a new helmet if yours has taken an impact — helmets are designed to withstand only one crash. Destroy and discard the old helmet.

6.  Look where you are going, not where you are or where you have been. Early in the race the rider is watching where he is riding, but late in the race, when he is very tired (and after he has crashed), he starts to look down at his front wheel. We have all done this sort of thing when we get tired in a pace line or on a climb. When we get tired, our reaction time is worse as well.

Remember that when you look down, you can’t see what is happening ahead of you and it is much harder to react to circumstances you do not see coming.

This is a great video despite the rider crashing.  It gives a great feeling for riding at 28 miles per hour in a pack of riders, plus we get to learn from another person’s mistakes instead of making our own. Mike Sheppard, Darroll Batke, Shari Shanks and I have made all of these mistakes (and more) when we were racing. When we suggest things in our coaching rides it is with the hope that riders will be able to learn better skills (without checking to see for yourself if pavement is still tougher than human skin. Note to self: pavement is still tougher than skin).

Robert, feel free to send stuff like this any time.


Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Is anyone surprised this was made in Portland?

Great Videos by Chris Carmichael — Lots and Lots of Cycling Info

Thursday, July 30th, 2009
Not just Lance's coach -- he's now your coach too!

Not just Lance's coach -- he's now your coach too!

Chris Carmichael is a cycling coach. He isn’t just any cycling coach, he’s Lance Armstrong’s cycling coach.

Chris is part of a pretty cool Nissan Web promotion that features free info from all sorts of experts on different sports.

Chris is the cycling expert and he has a series of video “channels” that focus on all sorts of topics including:

  • Skills
  • Endurance
  • Strength
  • Gear

They are short and they are useful. Alas, they can’t be embedded. However, you should check them out.

The “Natural Break” — How Sweet It Is

Monday, July 20th, 2009
They don't really show this on Versus, but yes, the peloton does sometimes stop for a gang-pee

They don't really show this on Versus, but yes, the peloton does sometimes stop for a gang-pee

I really like to watch bike racing, particularly the Grand Tours. I like to share this passion with others. Since this sort of racing is very complicated, people unfamiliar with the sport have a lot of questions.

Inevitably, one of the questions people ask is what happens if someone has to take a whiz or, as they call it in cycling, a “natural break.”

These photos alone should provide enough information to satisfy most folks. If not, you can check out this video of Trent Lowe in all his glory. It is worth watching just to listen to the commentator. One thing’s for sure — Trent does not suffer from stage fright. I’m sure his sponsors are glad to know this video is all over the Internet.

Of course, sometimes the peloton doesn't stop -- but where there is a will, there is a way

Of course, sometimes the peloton doesn't stop -- but where there is a will, there is a way

For those who thirst for even more knowledge, the Fat Cyclist blog has posted a set of “how to” instructions that address the finer points of letting it fly while riding. Sorry, ladies, I don’t think this technique will work for you.

For the record, decorum would suggest that these techniques are best saved for professional riders who are actively racing. Even then, it might be worthwhile to hold off until T.V. cameras to be pointed elsewhere. Team Fartlek riders prefer to dismount and find a toilet, blue room or bush. We are, after all, a civilized bunch.

Paceline Riding Tips

Friday, July 17th, 2009
Military cyclists know about staying in line and orderly

Military cyclists know about staying in line and orderly

Paceline riding tips from Bicycling Magazine:

When carried out properly, a paceline is an effective tool for a group ride: It enables cyclists to share the work of pushing through the wind. When performed poorly, the formation becomes counterproductive. “Most people are never taught the proper way to ride a paceline,” says Ray Ignosh, a USA Cycling expert coach based in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. “So they make the same common mistakes that eventually become habits.” Whether you’re riding in a single or double formation, try these tips for taking your pulls and pedaling in line.

KEEP THE PACE The number one mistake riders make is picking up speed when they get to the front, says Ignosh. “Some guys just want to show off; others are well-intentioned—they just aren’t in tune with their effort and feel like they’re supposed to take a pull, so they pull.” As you’re riding through the line, pay attention to the group’s average speed and effort. When you get to the front, do your best to maintain those levels. The goal is to keep the pack together, not blow it apart or shell riders off the back.

MICROADJUST It’s nearly impossible for everyone to put forth equal amounts of effort, especially on undulating terrain. You need to make adjustments along the way to prevent what Ignosh calls the Slinky effect, where the line alternately bunches together and becomes strung out, with big gaps. “It’s better to make two small undercorrections than one big overcorrection,” he says.

“Think of it like driving: You don’t slam on the brakes, then hit the gas; you moderate your speed.” To do that in a paceline, try one of these techniques:

Soft pedal: If you feel like you’re getting sucked into the rider in front of you, take a light pedal stroke or two to adjust your speed accordingly.

Air brake: An easy (and safe) way to trim speed is to sit up and catch some wind. It’ll slow you down a notch without disrupting the rhythm of the line.

Feather brake: Gently squeeze the brakes while continuing to pedal. You can scrub speed while shifting up or down as needed to alter your pace.

DON’T STARE Focusing on the wheel directly in front of you is a natural instinct when riding in a line, but it gives you zero time to react should something go awry. “Keep your head up and check about 10 meters down the road,” says Ignosh. “Look through holes in the leading rider—over his shoulder, under his arm or through his legs—and ride proactively instead of reactively. This will help keep the line moving smoothly.”

EASE OFF THE GAS Rather than accelerating when you pull, try to ride in the line at a steady pace and decelerate as you pull off and drift to the back. “This provides the right work-to-recovery ratio without all the punchy surges that tend to blow the weaker riders off the back,” says Ignosh.

SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE Pacelines are designed to share the workload, so limit your pulls to a few minutes to stay fresh and give other riders a chance.

CONSERVE ENERGY If you feel tired, sit out a few turns until you’re ready to take another pull. Simply open a spot for riders to rejoin the line in front of you, or come to the front and immediately pull off and drift to the back. You’ll do the pack a favor by staying with them rather than working yourself into the red and falling off the back, which makes the group slow down to let you catch up.

Additional nuggets from the River City Website courtesy of Go Go Velo.

“Paceline Basics – A “paceline” is the basic formation used to cut through the wind so that you can rest when riding in a group. Try to remain about ten inches behind your ride partner’s rear wheel. This takes practice, but is well worth the effort to learn because of the energy savings offered. Relax and watch your friend’s shoulders rather than his rear wheel. Be sure to talk so that he knows you’re back there. He should point out or tell you about road hazard coming up, too.

Be careful not to let your front wheel come up and overlap your partner’s rear wheel because if he has to swerve, he’ll knock your wheel and you’ll crash.”

The only thing I’d add to this is beware of standing up. When you do that, your bike can thrust backwards a little into the wheel of the person behind you. If you are going to stand, let the people behind you know.

Below are diagrams of various types of pacelines.


Basic Riding Skills — Effective Shifting

Thursday, July 9th, 2009
Shift smoothly AND with maximum style

Shift smoothly AND with maximum style

Shifting a bicycle is easy, but shifting it well — so you aren’t throwing your chain, putting undue stress on your drive train and making HORRIBLE grinding noises as you change gears can be a bit more of a challenge. Here are a few articles I’ve found to make the learning process a bit easier:

This one is from an old-school mechanic and is rather amusing.

This one provides a little more deal (and talks about cross-chaining and trim).

This one is for the layman.

This one covers a lot of other basic skills as well.

Read them all.