Back in the Saddle Again – Looking Under the Hood

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Well, it’s now been a few weeks since I’ve been riding consistently again and I definitely notice & feel the difference.  My bike fit adjustment, although small, has helped quite a bit.  My lower back appreciates it!  But I know it’s important to incorporate more stretching and massage into my weekly routine.

IMG_3252I meant to get a VO2 test shortly after getting back on the bike, but you know how scheduling goes when your juggling work and family!  This would have given me a snapshot of my baseline fitness in what I considered to be my “out of shape” state.  By the time I got to my test today, my fitness was certainly much improved from that first ride back in June.  I shouldn’t have waited so long but at least I know where I stand today.  I’ve heard a lot of our customers say, “I’ve got to get in better shape before I get that VO2 test.”  For some reason that is the way many people view a VO2 test, but it really is the complete opposite.  The goal of the test is to see where your fitness stands right now.  Then, you can utilize the numbers to guide your training starting the very next day!  Unfortunately, I don’t think the term “VO2 test” is very good.  Actually, it’s usually called a VO2 Max test.  It sounds too scientific and does not convey why it’s beneficial.  Some people use terminology such as “metabolic testing” or “physiological testing” but I don’t think they are much better.  I use the term “fitness test” but that tends to get people nervous – who wants to test their fitness?  What if I don’t measure up?  What if I’m not in as good a shape as I thought? (probably the reason people think they need to “get in shape” before the test).   First of all, that’s not the point!  And second of all, I would say who cares?  It’s not like anyone is going to post your results to Facebook!!  The purpose of the test is not to see how your fitness stacks up against others – it’s to help YOU get better, no matter where you are in your fitness journey.

Whatever you call the test, I like the analogy of a car engine.  Your body is the engine that powers the bike so you are essentially “looking under the hood” to get an engine diagnostic check.  I think of the heart rate as the tachometer.  You can only rev the engine into the red zone for so long before something bad happens.  Our red zone is when our heart rate goes above our Anaerobic Threshold.  We can handle this red zone for only so long before our body just gives out.  The key to becoming a better cyclist or any sort of endurance athlete is to raise the threshold before you hit your red zone.  This can be measured in terms of heart rate and power output (wattage).IMG_3254

Most people think of a VO2 Max test as someone running or cycling to complete and utter exhaustion while wearing a funny looking mask.  It looks worse than it really is.  The test starts out with an easy warm-up and you get used to the mask fairly quickly.  Every couple of minutes, the power is ramped up 20-25 watts until you hit your Anaerobic Threshold and go a little beyond.  And here is something you should know:  you do not need to go to complete exhaustion!  This is also known as a VO2 Submax test.  The most important data is gained BEFORE hitting your maximum effort – that being your Anaerobic Threshold and training zones leading up to it.  For most of us, those are the key metrics to help us train smarter.  Some additional data IS gained if you do go to complete exhaustion, but it’s not required.  For today’s test, I went above my Anaerobic Threshold but opted not to completely max out.  The test itself only lasts 15 – 20 minutes but the process takes about an hour including a pre-test Q&A with the Exercise Physiologist as well as body fat and resting heart rate measurements.

Hopefully I’ve conveyed here that first, the purpose of the VO2 or “fitness” test is not to see how fit you are compared to others.  It’s to see what YOUR engine looks like TODAY, so you can train better TOMORROW.  And second, the test itself is fairly quick and not as tough as it might seem, especially since hitting your maximum heart rate is not required.  If you want to, go for it, but it’s not necessary for the vast majority of us.

In my next “Back in the Saddle” series blog post, I will talk about the test results and most importantly, how to USE THE TEST RESULTS.  Those who can benefit the most are actually the recreational to enthusiast cyclist and those just starting an exercise program – think recent couch potato!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back in the Saddle Again – Bike Fit Revisit

IMG_3176Well, it’s been about 3 weeks of consistent riding since I jumped back in the saddle again after a long layoff.  Actually, in one of those “life gets in the way” moments, I was trying to figure out how I was going to maintain my consistency when I had a vacation week:  which included dropping my daughter off at summer camp in the San Jacinto Mountains plus attend a remote cub scout camp with my son in East San Diego County.  Although I do mostly ride road, the only way I was going to get some miles in was to bring a knobby tire bike!  So I brought along the BMC CX01 demo cyclocross bike that you may have seen at the shop.  A ‘cross bike is a popular choice for those who have done our “Strade Marroni” shop rides which includes a mix of pavement and dirt.  It was a nice change of pace to ride off-road.   Although I was only able to get in about 37 miles, there was hardly anything flat and it was mostly dirt, which means expending more energy controlling your bike on the rutted and oftentimes sandy trails.  So all in all, I was satisfied with my accomplishment for the week!

Once I got back home, I knew it was time to revisit my bike fit.  It’s been a couple years since Barrett Brauer, ARB’s fit specialist in our SoCal Endurance Lab gave me a Retul fit.  I have mostly been riding the same model bike, Pinarello’s Dogma, during that time so I’ve kept the same setup since then.  However, after the long layoff, my body was giving me signals that I was perhaps in too aggressive a position.  Also, as my bike gets rented out from time to time, the saddle height gets adjusted and when I put it back, I had experimented going up a little because I thought I needed a little more knee extension.  My body type is such that I’m more leggy – in other words, I have a slightly shorter torso compared to longer legs.  Going up on my saddle was giving me even more of a drop from saddle to handlebar, and this wasn’t good for my finicky lower back.

A new bike fit was also a good opportunity for me to get into a new pair of shoes since I had worn out my previous pair.  It was time for me to try the new Shimano R321.  What I really like about these (as well as the Shimano RP9 – one model below) is that they are meant to be custom-molded to your own foot.  The shoes are heated in the Shimano oven for a couple minutes and then placed on your feet.  With shoes on, you place your feet in a plastic covering and a pump essentially “vacuum-wraps” your shoes so the upper conforms to your foot.  Once this is complete, the shoes cool and you can actually see how the shoe is now patterned after your own foot!  Barrett then took the time to accurately place the cleats on the shoe based on the location of my metatarsal bones.

Now it was time to see if I should make some changes since my last bike fit.  Even though I plan to stay on my Pinarello Dogma F8, we opted to go with what we call our “Bike Finder Fit.”  This means that instead of doing the fit process on my own Pinarello bike, I was put on our recently upgraded automated size cycle by Purely Custom (formerly Guru DFU).  This is kind of like starting with a blank slate.  If you are in the market for a new bike, once the fit is completed, we’ll find the 3 to 5 bike brand/model/sizes that fit you best.  For example, one manufacturer’s size 56 in a given model may be an ideal fit for you.  But another manufacturer’s size 54 in a certain model may also fit you really well.  That’s why you can never just say, “I ride a size 56.”  It really depends on each manufacturer’s bike geometry.  Once we find the 3 to 5 bikes that are a really good match for you in terms of fit, then it comes down to what you like in terms of the bike’s riding characteristics.  Are you looking for something stiff and fast or maybe something a little more forgiving and compliant?

IMG_3190Before jumping on the size cycle, Barrett conducted a body analysis to test my flexibility as well as look for any imbalances and rotational/alignment issues.  This gives him an idea of what type of position will best suit you on the bike.  Barrett utilized the Retul 3D motion capture tool to measure the angles of my body as I was pedaling the size cycle.  This is what we call a dynamic fit, as opposed to a static fit.  In a static or “basic” fit, you are not actually pedaling your bike while being measured.  And the measurement tools are not as precise in a static fit.  An impressive amount of body angle data is generated after a few short pedaling sessions.  And the platform was rotated so that angles on both sides of my body were measured.  As Barrett looked at the numbers, he wanted to see if anything in particular jumped outside the typical normative ranges.  However, even if you are outside a normative range, it does not automatically mean an adjustment is warranted.  This is where Barrett works with each person as an individual, taking into account their unique body type, previous injuries or problem areas, and riding goals.  The main problem area for me is lower back discomfort.  Part of this stems from a fractured vertebra I sustained about 12 years ago.  The other part is that I am just getting older and stiffer and need to improve my flexibility!  This is where an off-the-bike core conditioning and flexibility routine could really help – a topic for another blog post!

Barrett started my fit position to match exactly how I was currently riding my Pinarello Dogma F8.  Right away, he could see that I was on the very edge of the normative range for knee extension. IMG_3201  This as a result of me increasing the saddle height ever so slightly.  So, as I was pedaling the size cycle, he lowered the saddle.  I noticed the difference immediately.  This brought me back within normative ranges AND felt great.  Noticing that I still had a significant amount of saddle to handlebar drop and that I was putting a bit too much weight on my hands, Barrett raised the handlebars slightly.  This also made a positive difference.  Fortunately, I have a little room left on my bike’s steerer tube to raise my bar slightly and this will no doubt help my lower back on those longer rides.  My saddle fore-aft position was already solid and in the end I only needed a few small adjustments but they made a noticeable difference.  Some fit sessions will require more back & forth than others.    Barrett will take his time and make sure that each adjustment made works for that particular client.  There is never one prescribed fit, take it or leave it.  It’s always a collaboration.

I am really looking forward to taking my new fit out onto the road.  After all, that will be the ultimate test.  And if for some reason something doesn’t feel right, Barrett always offers a complimentary follow up fit session to make any necessary tweaks.  As I ride more and improve my flexibility, then at some point I could likely get into a more aggressive race-oriented position.  This would make me more aerodynamic and faster.  Something to visit down the road.  But next up for me is to evaluate my current fitness level and this means a visit to Saul Blau, our SoCal Endurance Lab’s Exercise Physiologist.  Stay tuned!

 

Back in the Saddle Again – First Ride

Cycling became my adult athletic pursuit once my childhood days of team sports such as baseball, basketball and soccer were long gone.  It pretty much has been since I graduated college back in the early ’90s.  I’m what you call an enthusiast, or nowadays can be termed the “Gran Fondo” rider.  I’m not into racing simply because I don’t want to go down like a domino and break my collarbone in a criterium – I’ve got a wife, three kids and a business to run!  But I admire those who train to compete in amateur bike racing, especially those Masters guys who also have families and a career.  Probably like the majority of cyclists out there, I enjoy both the group ride and solo rides.  The midweek or weekend group ride is more social and forces you to step up your game, lest you get dropped.  Fear is a powerful motivator!  The solo training ride helps clear your head from stressful days.  Over the years, my riding consistency has waxed and waned depending on what was going on in my life.  Invariably something would come up, like the birth of a child, a move, a new job, etc. that took me away from my weekly riding routine.  Soon a few weeks would go by and I could feel all that hard-earned fitness slipping away.  And then weeks might turn into a few months.  Since my non-cycling spouse liked that fact I was around more to help around the house, I figured it was good that I took some time off.  But I would get restless, missing my fitness and time outside.  All the time, I knew that getting back on the bike and into a new routine was GOING TO HURT.

IMG_3003So it was that one of those life interrupters came along at the end of 2015 – this time a local move.  But add to that my volunteering as an assistant baseball coach for my son’s Little League team and my riding time went to nil.  Before I knew it, it was nearly halfway through the year and I had hardly ridden my bike.  Fast forward to mid-June and the baseball season was now over (Little League must be the longest and most time intensive of youth sports!) and we were for the most part in our new house.  So on June 21st, the second day of summer, I decided to get back in the saddle again.  Can’t you hear those Gene Autry song lyrics?  Or Aerosmith?  At lunch time, I hopped onto the shop’s demo Pinarello Dogma F8 – which just so happens to fit me :-) – and decided to dip my toe back in the water.  One of my favorite short rides from the shop is the Newport Back Bay Loop.  It’s scenic and fortunately, pretty flat.  No serious climbing for me as I ease my way back!  The first couple of miles and I’m thinking, “this feels pretty good.”  But as I jumped on the bike trail and headed towards the coast, a nice 10 mph headwind smacks me in the face and suddenly I see my average speed start to drop.  And now it was starting to hurt.  I tell myself not to get hung up on what the Garmin says and just go at a comfortable pace.  I’m not going to get back to my previous fitness overnight, it’s going to take some time and consistent riding.

I finished that ride feeling more tired than I wanted to admit but happy to have completed that first ride back – it’s more of a psychological barrier than anything.  It was much easier to go on my second and third ride that week having completed the first one.  Clearly my bike fitness has a ways to go, but it was nice to get the sensations of getting outside and spinning those legs again.   Going through this process is giving me the chance to utilize some of the services we promote regularly at ARB Cyclery – in other words, to become a customer of my own shop!  Having been off the bike for awhile, it’s definitely time for my bike fit to be re-evaluated.  Some changes could be made to help me ride a little more comfortably until I can improve on my fitness, strength and flexibility.  The subject of my next blog post in this series will be my visit to the SoCal Endurance Lab’s Senior Fit Specialist, Barrett Brauer.  After that, I’ll pay a visit to the SoCal EL’s Exercise Physiologist to find my current level of baseline fitness.  Stay tuned!

 

Saddle Demo at ARB Cyclery

You are probably excited when getting a new carbon bar, or even a new carbon stem. But there doesn’t seem to much love for our old friend the saddle. For many people, bicycle saddles are just ‘there’. They exist for you to sit on so you can ride your bike. Even with the new carbon shelled and railed saddles, they just don’t seem to generate the same level of excitement as other components. More often than not, people use whatever saddle comes with the bike they purchase. If it’s initially a bit uncomfortable, they attribute it to a “break-in period”. This is true in some cases, but that doesn’t change the shape or the cutouts of the saddle which are areas that often play a more important role in saddle comfort than padding density. It’s like your desk chair. It usually isn’t the most comfortable thing to sit on, but you just deal with it. When you start thinking about it, why should you just “deal with it”? You spend so much time in it, it would be a worthy investment to make sure you aren’t hurting yourself.

ARB Cyclery Saddle Demo
ARB Cyclery Saddle Demo

Other times, it seems like I overhear people saying that they chose their saddle because they liked the way it looked or the color matched their bike better than other saddle options. OK, that might just be me. But the more I find myself riding, the more importance I place on my comfort instead of aesthetics. It is common to fall into the trap of getting a saddle for a great price without taking comfort into consideration. The mentality is, “if I can save some money on that saddle, surely I can deal with any discomfort it will bring”.

It’s understandable. Saddles aren’t cheap, and you might just have to deal with the saddle you buy if you’ve spent a good amount on it. Similar to shoes, you don’t really know how it will work out for you until you actually use it. So when you think about it, is that deal actually worth it in the long run? Fortunately, we have a saddle demo program right here at ARB Cyclery! As mentioned in a previous blog, I came from riding a full carbon saddle with no padding. It looked really slick and catered to my desire for weight reduction. It was quite literally a pain in my ass. I knew I had to switch to something else after going on rides with the other guys from the shop, but I had no idea where to start. Being on the small side, the only thing I was sure of was the need for a narrow saddle. But in today’s saddle market with hundreds, if not thousands, of options, picking a new saddle is quite a daunting task. I don’t like committing to a purchase of an item I don’t know much about, and reading the hundreds of subjective reviews online were doing nothing for me. It just made things even more confusing.

Utilizing the saddle demo program allowed me to test multiple saddles. I figured out that I was more comfortable on a saddle with a channel. I figured out I needed a medium amount of padding. I figured out how much flex I preferred in the saddle shell. Prior to testing out the actual saddles, I had my eye on the Selle Italia SLR saddle simply because of the look. Then I actually tried it out, and decided there were better options for me. I finally ended up choosing the Fizik Antares VS, and it is by far the best fit for me. I’ve done a metric century on this saddle and my rear end was thankful. And as a bonus, even though I put aesthetics behind comfort this time around, it looks damn fine. I was also pretty close to going with the new Brooks C15 saddle, which looked and felt great. It’s styling is certainly a very attractive feature, and it felt more comfortable than it looked. The rivets add a level of class to it that would have matched my titanium frame quite well, but the feel of the Antares came out on top.

My Fizik Antares VS with carbon rails
My Fizik Antares VS with carbon rails

Everyone is going to be different when it comes to saddle. There is only so much advice that we can give you, and a recommendation from me may not do it for you. The best thing you can do is to come in yourself and demo new saddles! If you mention this blog post when you come in for a saddle demo, you will also receive a Zjay’s Saddle Sore Soother (while supplies last)! We want to make sure you have a comfortable experience. Your butt will thank you for it.

 

Why Enve?

Bicycle components are a very personal thing. Everyone develops their own taste and preferences. Some value form over function. Others don’t mind having mismatched parts as long as they are comfortable. I used to focus heavily on weight, and others are die-hard fans of a certain company.  I could never be satisfied in purchasing a stock bike. I needed to have a say in what components were going on my bike. Every bike I’ve owned after my first road bike has been custom built with carefully selected parts to match my aesthetic and functional preferences.

Many of us here at the shop have our bikes built up with Enve parts and wheels. If you take a look at our shop manager’s new custom Mosaic, you’ll see that it has been fully equipped with every part that Enve has to offer.

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There is a lot of name recognition around the brand. Their products are recognizable even with their new stealth logos (which I think are badass), but you may be asking us why we all choose Enve. It certainly looks clean and aggressive on a bike, but there are many more reasons beyond that that make Enve a top choice for many bike builds.

First of all, Enve wheels are designed and built right here in the USA. What that means to you as a consumer, is better quality control. Out of all the years our store manager has worked here, he never received a warranty issue regarding the brake track with Enve wheels. For a carbon wheel, that’s quite the accomplishment. And when the odd issue does pop up, Enve’s warranty department is pain-free to work with.

Enve is also constantly improving their product designs and coming up with innovative ideas. Take for example, one of my personal favorites, Enve’s built-in bar end plugs. They work seamlessly, and provide a clean finish to the ends of your bars. enve bar end plugIts little details like this, combined with a super comfortable bar shape that really pushes the product above other options. When you look at Enve’s wheels, they are undergoing constant revisions and improvements. The new brake tracks for one offer better braking than previous iterations and is something we except to see constant revision generation after generation. Enve’s new front and rear rims differ in depth and shape as well which was proved to improve handling and drag. Instead of drilling spoke holes in the rim, Enve molds those in to provide extra strength and durability. Not only that, but you can choose which hubs you want your wheels to be built with. DT Swiss? No problem. You want to match your hubs to your Chris King headset and bottom bracket? They can do that. Enve’s dedication to aesthetics also resulted in their own specific Garmin stem mount which looks super clean as it attaches directly to the stem face plate.

However, you won’t really be able to understand how great the wheels are unless you actually ride them. Luckily for you, we have Enve 3.4s in stock for you to demo! This way, you have the opportunity to experience and enjoy the wheels before you decide to commit. Personally, the next upgrade for my titanium ride will be upgrading my aluminum wheels to carbon ones, and I don’t have to look any further than these Enves. If you’ve seen the new carbon Enve hubs, you know how excited I am.

How does that saying go? “Once you go Enve you don’t go back”?
That sounds about right.

 

 

 

Belgian Waffle Ride

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The Belgian Waffle Ride, or BWR, on its Facebook page and in numerous requotes, bills itself as “the most unique cycling event in the country.”  This is generous euphemism.  Unique is a loaded word in this case.  In this instance, what unique really means is “ungodly hard.”  So, for the sake of accuracy, we can re-write that phrase to read, “the most ungodly hard cycling event open to amateurs in the country.”  I added that part about being open to amateurs because I have no doubt there are some pro level races, single day, that are pretty hard, and we want to compare apples to apples.

Let’s go over the bullet points:

  • 146 miles – more than last year
  • Over 13,000 feet of vertical gain – more than last year
  • 40 miles of bona fide off road riding – more than last year

Michael Marckx, the founder and chief organizer,  in some of the verbiage he is fond of using to “promote” the ride, doesn’t hide the fact this ride is a challenge, and it can be distilled down to a single word to describe what is in store for the participant: dread.26080866004_816b2af2c4_o

Having done this event, this year and the three years prior, what is my takeaway?  How might sharing my experiences be an instructive exercise for those contemplating making a serious stab at attempting the most unique cycling event in the country?  With that in mind, I’ll catalog what went right and what went wrong, both the result of just plain bad luck, and the mostly self-inflicted kind.  Ok, it will be mostly the self-inflicted kind. In fact, a more apt title might be: How Not to Prepare and Participate in the Belgian Waffle Ride.

Step One -Early Preparation:  As in, you actually have to train.

Familiarity breeds a certain kind of creeping complacency. I’ve done this ride the last three years, and actually felt pretty good last year and put in a decent time.  “Meh. I’ve done this ride before. I can handle it.  How hard can it be?”  Well, quite a bit it turns out, especially if you don’t put in the appropriate time to train. As intimidating as I make this ride out to be, it really is quite doable for most cyclists.  However, you can’t take riding 146 miles for granted.  That’s a long time to be in the saddle, and sadly, my 50 mile weekend rides weren’t quite sufficient to prepare me for riding..well…more than fifty miles, which is about the time I started to fade during BWR.  This made miles 50-146 quite interminable,as in, looking for a quiet shady spot on the side of the road to just crawl into the fetal position.  I was actually hoping for a mechanical that would give me the excuse to quit.

Last year, I did some longer rides all the way back in January, which gave me a good head start.  The earlier and better you prepare with some longer rides will ease the pain come event time – and you don’t have to ride a 146 miles in training, but please!..something a little more than fifty will help.  

As haphazard and as abbreviated as my training was, I did do one or two things right.  I have a short, steep hill near my home, and I’ve taken to the habit of giving a maximum effort in the saddle to climb up near the top.  It takes about thirty seconds, and I recover for another thirty seconds and try it again.  This helped in one very specific section of BWR, which specifically were the short, dirt climbs.  I was actually surprised what I could clean on skinny tires and inappropriate gearing, and I think having that short term power on those grinding sections is an area I thought I improved over last year. So I’ll take that as a small accomplishment.

Having the Right Equipment – or – Don’t be Stupid.

Riding BWR, or any any serious road ride that combines lengthy off-road sections requires its own type of unique equipment choice.  There’s an optimal bike I have in mind when it comes to rides like this, and I thought my equipment choice came pretty close the last two years. For example, last year I rode a titanium frame with compact gearing with a 28 max cog in back and 28mm wide tubeless tires running latex sealant.  That worked reasonably well. Titanium is my favorite material for rides such as this because it’s virtually indestructible, has a more compliant, “springy” type of ride quality that makes those off-road sections a little more tolerable, fun even, and simply requires a rinse off to have it looking nearly pristine again – no paint chipping.

The Guru ti bike has since moved on, so I tried my luck with my stiff carbon road bike with standard gearing, as in a 53/39 chainring with a 25 tooth max cog in back.  In other words, stupid gearing.  The only way my bike set up would have been sillier is if I had ridden a time trial bike with a straight block rear cassette and a 55 tooth front chainring.  It was the difference between riding and pushing my bike up the short steep climbs.  There were still some that I was able to clean, which was actually quite fun and surprised me, but that came at a cost, too, once my lower back began to throb at that aforementioned 50 mile mark.  

I did get the the tire choice right – sort of. In this, my fourth BWR, I’ve not gotten a flat tire, which is pretty remarkable, and is a combination of a little good luck (even I get some of that) and some sensible tire choices. This year, again, I ran my favorite combo of Hutchinson Sector tubeless tires with latex sealant.  No flats again this year, which was fortunate considering I lost my saddlebag on one of the dirt sections.  Nevertheless, I did run a tire pressure of about 90 to 95, which was just too high. I wasn’t sure what I was thinking here.  Normally, I would have run 80-85.  I suppose I was just in a hurry.

The big downside to riding road bikes in the dirt is just the lack of traction when making turns at any kind of speed when it’s loose.   Running high pressure with slick tires on loose dirt made the already treacherous handling a ready made scenario for me to wind up in a crumpled head on the side of the trail after having washed out.  Lesson learned the hard way, again.  It wasn’t until the Sandy Bandy section that I just pulled off to the side of the trail and let air out of the tires.  This actually helped tremendously on the rest of the off road sections.  So, check.  Another lesson learned.

 

As a bonus, we listed some more detailed info on how
our staff members’ bikes were set up!

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Raffaele

  • Bianchi Oltre XR1
  • Panaracer Gravel King  28
  • Standard cranks    11-28 cassette
  • If you could do one thing differently next time: “I would wear chamois cream. 100% chamois cream. “

Jason

  • Guru Praemio
  • Sector 28 Tubeless Tires
  • Compact cranks    11-32 cassette
  • If you could do one thing differently next time: “I used 3T Ergosum Carbon bars this time. I would switch to FSA short and shallow bars for more comfort next time. “

Tony

  • BMC CX01
  • Challenge Strada Bianca Tires
  • 1 x 11  40 tooth       11-36 cassette
  • If you could do one thing differently next time: “I would double wrap my bars next time and bring muscle relaxers. Thank you Double Peak for cramping my legs. “

 

 

Cycling Nutrition Explained

Doughnuts

Food is great. Everyone likes food, and it’s pretty simple. You eat when you’re hungry right?
That’s what I thought when I embarked on my San Diego to Los Angeles ride with my friends. (If you missed out on that adventure, you can read more about it here). Long story short, we greatly underestimated the amount of food we needed. That could have been avoided with a little more planning. But, more importantly, I now know how important it is to eat before you start getting hungry. Chances are, if you’re riding super long distances and you start getting hungry during the ride, it might already be too late.

At a glance, nutrition seems to be pretty simple and intuitive. You walk up to the shelves and you pick up anything that looks appealing just like you would at the snack isle at the supermarket. Salted caramel is my personal weakness, and I used to just pick up a random product based solely on the flavor. But if you ever spend a little extra time looking at all the different options, you start to realize there are so many different types of nutrition, and each package seems to be covered in marketing speak. It’s certainly hard to decipher and understand, especially if you’re still relatively new to cycling. However, once you understand the differences and the specific uses for each type of nutrition, you can make sure you’re eating the proper stuff in any given situation.

At this point, you might be thinking, does it really matter what I’m eating as long as I’m eating? Well, it depends on the length of your ride. If you are cycling for under 2 hours, it probably doesn’t matter too much if you are grabbing a gel, bar, or chew. However, when you start spending a lot of time in the saddle on a ride, your ability to digest food decreases as blood is being diverted away from your stomach to other parts of your body. What this means is that 4 – 6 hours in, you’re not really going to want to wolf down a harder to digest power bar at that point. I know I’ve felt funny before eating super-dry bars near the end of  a long ride and I just dismissed it as a consequence of last night’s Taco Bell binge dinner.Osmo Nutrition Preload Hydration

Here’s my personal timeline example of what I’d be eating if I were to spend 4+ hours on the bike.

  1. (Optional) For certain rides, you may opt for pre-workout nutrition. Think of pre-workout nutrition as a preventative option. If you know you’re going to be working super hard on a ride, a pre-workout supplement can certainly help you feel better during your ride. Osmo Preload Hydration would be my go-to choice in this category. They recommend you take a serving the night before and another serving 30 minutes before your ride. If you’re not a huge fan of breakfast like me, something like this will help me stomach food a little easier earlier in the ride.
  2. Skratch-Labs-Matcha-and-Lemons-2-300x214Water is boring don’t you think? As a kid, I was always a huge fan of Gatorade and other sports drinks such as Propel. Flavored water just helps me drink more so I tend to find it easier to stay hydrated. Osmo makes a during-exercise hydration mix, but I personally prefer Skratch Lab’s pineapple flavored hydration mix. This power contains electrolytes among other useful nutrients that plain water simply does not have. Skratch labs also has a matcha + lemon flavor that I’ve been itching to try as it is naturally caffeinated. This is a big plus for those super early sunrise rides. Naturally, with two bottles, you can always dedicate your second bottle to just water.Rip Van WAffle
  3. As I mentioned previously, if you need to eat, eat before you get hungry. And if you’re going to eat your solid food, you’re going to want to do that in early stages of your ride. Any bars of your choice would be a good option here. Personally, I love the Rip Van Waffles. I became addicted to Stroopwaffles back when I was first introduced to them years ago, and I was thrilled to see them as an option for cycling nutrition. Alternatively, it makes a great compliment to your morning coffee as well.
  4. Chews would be next on the list. These are going to be easier to digest than your bars, which are relatively dry and harder to digest. Chews do tend to get pretty sticky, so it is recommended to take it with a generous amount of water. Shot bloks were the first chews that I’ve ever tried and I’ve generally stuck with them. They also come with a caffeine option, so if you need that extra kick to get you through your ride, that makes for a good choice. However, I’ve been meaning to try Glukos gummies. I’ve heard that they’re a bit lighter than the Shot blocks which I might actually prefer a bit more.
    Glukos
  5. At this point, you’ve probably been on your bike for a decent amount of time. Stomaching a bar at this point would make my stomach super uncomfortable. The best option at this point would be to take a gel. Gu is my go-to option in terms of flavors. However, these gel shots are still pretty thick and water helps assist you finish off the pack. Again, Glukos seems to have come out with a “light” version gel. The Glukos gel is much more like a liquid, making it easier to consume.
  6. Now that you’ve finished your ride, time for recovery nutrition – pizza and beer! Or doughnuts? You were probably waiting for the part where I tell you its ok to eat 5 doughnuts after your ride. I don’t condone that type of eating, but I’m not going to tell you you can’t do that. Personally, I have a habit of frequenting dirty fast food establishments after a ride, but that tends to be more for the recovery of my soul. Actual post-ride nutrition is high in protein. As mentioned before, Osmo makes specific nutrition for each stage of your riding. If you’re more of a one type does all kinda person, Glukos is the way to go. You can use their powder pre, during, or post-workout.

Each of you will probably develop your own preferences for specific combinations / flavors, but this list should provide you with a starting point for proper nutrition.

 

 

Titanium Bikes. They’re Something Special.

Mosaic

There is a certain feeling of excitement that you get when you are searching for your next bike. But sometimes, you might not even know you’re on the search for a new bike. Imagine yourself, innocently scrolling through your Instagram or Facebook feed trying to find out what your friends have been up to. Then, out of nowhere, BOOM. You get hit in the face with the nicest looking bike you’ve ever laid your eyes on. You try and scroll past it and pretend that your heart rate hasn’t raised. Deep down, you already know it’s too late. One Google search, and before you realize it, you’ve spent the entire night watching YouTube reviews on the bike, hoping for some form of negative criticism that will steer you away from committing to the purchase. But secretly, you’re hoping to hear just how amazing it is.

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Foundry Chilkoot Ultegra

However, once you’ve actually decided that you’re ready to make that next purchase, that is when the excitement really starts to crank up. I went through this entire experience when it came to buying my Foundry. I remember seeing a picture of a super nice, custom, titanium road bike on social media and it blew me away. Coming from a carbon bike that I had purchased without enough knowledge about fit, sizing, and geometry, I vowed to do it correctly this time. My carbon bike was super light and looked pretty darn cool, but the harshness of the ride made riding any distance over 25 miles a real chore. For me, having ridden aluminum, carbon, and steel, I knew my next bike had to be titanium. I wasn’t quite in the market for a full blown custom bike, so I kept my eye open for a company that carried stock geometry frames. I’m pretty particular on how the bike looks, and I’ve always favored slightly larger diameter tubing. When I stumbled upon the Foundry Chilkoot, it was everything I was looking for. The frame came partially painted in a simple white which I love. As an added bonus, the Foundry logo is relatively small and low-key. For me, I just wanted something that would stand out from the usual crowd of bikes, but I wanted it to do that in a more subtle manner.

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Closeups of the Foundry

The company offered the bike as both a complete build with Ultegra 6800, or as a frameset. Because I wanted to compare how the titanium bike rode vs my carbon bike, I decided to go with the frameset so I could swap all the parts over. This way,  I had a more realistic comparison between the two frames’ riding characteristics. Being the aesthetic nut that I am, ordering the frameset only also allowed me to have white cable housing instead of stock black thanks to the Pro Build done here at ARB Cyclery.

While I kept the same SRAM groupset and wheels, I ended up making the switch to a full Enve cockpit to match the Enve fork that comes with the frame. Granted, this doesn’t make it a perfect comparison to my old bike, so keep that in mind. Watching the bike being built in the stand gave me the same feeling of excitement that I had when when I was a kid on Christmas Eve. The sense of giddiness you get on new bike day is unforgettable.

The first ride I had was amazing. I know there is a lot of marketing speak behind the handling characteristics of different frame materials. You hear things like “aluminum is harsh” and “titanium is whippy”. Whippy? That doesn’t mean anything to me. Based on my personal experiences of my bike, I can say that one characteristic of titanium frames is it’s dampening capabilities. I’ve ridden both bikes on the same stretch of road, and there is a noticeable difference in road feel between the two. On my carbon bike, I can feel the texture of the road much more than I can on my Foundry. Everything feels softer, and the little vibrations I could feel on my carbon bike were gone. My titanium bike is comfortable. I don’t put out enough power to comment much on power transfer or frame flex, but I certainly didn’t feel like there is a loss of power. As a long term bike, for me, this bike is perfect. Its comfort really stands out on rides longer than 25 miles, and I don’t have to worry about things like corrosion or about cracking my frame in the event of a crash. Riding a titanium really is something special. It is special in the way it rides, and it is special because it is different from most of the bikes out on the roads.

Mosaic
Our store manager’s custom Mosaic being built!

Now, for those of you who are truly looking to get a one-of-a-kind bike, you can go with the custom route and get a bike made just for you. No more trying to match a frame to your needs. Instead, your needs dictate the frame that you will get. ARB Cyclery is proud to announce that we are now a Mosaic Cycles dealer! Mosaic offers fully custom bikes tailored to the bike that suits your need! Paired with bike fitting that we provide here at the shop, you’ll end up with a titanium beast that was designed just for you. Receiving your Mosaic will certainly have you feeling like you once did on Christmas Eve. If one thing is for sure, it’s that a titanium bike is worth buying.