The Crash

If it’s been a little quiet from ARB Cyclery this summer (i.e. you haven’t seen our e-newsletters hit your inbox), this blog post will help explain.  And speaking of blog posts, it has been a while since we last posted!  We hope to be more consistent through the rest of 2017.

If you’ve been cycling long enough, there is a good chance you’ve “hit the deck” at some point.  Sometimes you get by with just a few scrapes and bruises.  Other times, it’s worse.  The dreaded broken collarbone is one of the more common cycling injuries resulting from a crash.  And, of course, there is no shortage of stories of road cyclists getting hit by automobiles.  Either it’s happened to you or you know someone who has been hit.

Technical Singletrack in Sedona, Arizona

I’ve never been one to think of cycling as a particularly risky sport.  Of course, the rider has some say in this.  If you race criteriums, hammer in large, fast group rides, regularly do climbs that feature harrowing descents, or ride lots of technical singletrack, you up the ante.  Then there is always the debate about which is safer, road cycling or mountain biking.  I’d venture to say there are more falls and injuries in mountain biking.  However, mountain bikers will always fire back by saying at least we don’t have to worry about getting hit by a car – which, in the worst case, can lead to death.  Yes, this is true, but I’d say the odds are low when you consider the number of deaths per cycling miles ridden.  Of course, one life lost is one too many and we need to do everything possible to make cycling safer.  It is also true that you take a risk everyday just by getting into an automobile.  Bottom line:  there is risk in many of life’s activities that people find enjoyable.

I’ve been road cycling on and off for about 26 years, not counting my childhood.  That adds up to well over 25,000 miles (based on my estimations) and in that time, I had never really crashed.  In other words, nothing I didn’t get right back up from.  In 2004, I decided to give mountain biking a try and that’s when I suffered my first crash of any real consequence.  On a ride from Point Mugu State Park in Malibu, I crashed on some singletrack, suffering a small compression fracture of a lower vertebrae.  Fortunately, no surgery was required and after a short hospital stay and a few weeks in a back brace, I was pretty much recovered.  So, I thought, why not just stick to the road – much safer than those unpredictable rocky dirt trails!

Mt. Tantalus Drive, Honolulu, Hawaii

Then came the summer of 2017 and a one week family vacation in Hawaii.  I was able to get a “hall pass” for one day of cycling on Oahu with a native cyclist who knew the best places for road riding on the island.  We rolled out and cruised some of Honolulu’s city streets before my guide led us to the base of a popular local climb, Mt. Tantalus Drive.  Strava shows it as a 4.5 mile climb at an average gradient of 6%.  It feels like you are climbing up into a tropical rain forest with some amazing peekaboo views of downtown Honolulu below as you round various switchbacks.  Of course, I had never done this climb before, but more importantly, I had never done the descent before.  Of course, I wasn’t thinking about that – I just wanted to get to the top!  As we turned around to descend, I started to realize the road had some damp spots from rains the night before.  So as I picked up speed coming into the first corner, I wasn’t as aggressive as I’d normally be.  And unfortunately, this put my line too far to the outside, causing me to go off the edge of the pavement.  Trying to get back on the pavement, I could not keep my balance and I hit the tarmac hard.  Just how hard, I was about to find out.

Laying on the road, I was ready to get back up, but as I tried to roll over onto my back, I realized something was wrong.  I couldn’t move without severe pain in my left leg.  I now knew this was serious.  And, I felt a little embarrassed in front of my cycling guide – how did I manage to mess up going around this corner?  And then something else dawned on me – I just really messed up our family vacation.  Someone wasn’t going to be happy.  Eventually, an ambulance arrived and I was off to the hospital.

After some X-Rays, the verdict was in – a broken and fractured femur.  (I also injured my left shoulder which wasn’t really noticeable at that point.)  I was brought in for surgery almost immediately.   I was going to get a titanium rod put into my leg so my femur bone could heal properly.  When I woke up, my doctor said he was very pleased with the surgery and that I now had a long recovery process ahead of me – somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 months.  Of course, the first two weeks was going to be the hardest.  For that, I refer you to this very accurate blog post of another cyclist who suffered a broken femur!  You can start reading from the part:   Week 1:  Standing on my own Two Feet. Just.

Richie Porte, GC Favorite, TdF Stage 9 Crash

After one week in the hospital and another in a rehab hospital, I was allowed to fly home.  By then, I was still using a walker to get around but I soon graduated to a cane.  In those first few weeks, I spent a lot of time in bed with the TV on.  One good thing was that it coincided with the Tour de France.  It was always something to look forward to each day.  This year, I could really empathize with every rider that crashed.  In the very first stage, Alejandro Valverde went down on a wet time trial course breaking his kneecap.  And then, probably the scariest scene in the Tour came when G.C. favorite Richie Porte went down going over 40mph on a descent in Stage 9, fracturing both his pelvis and clavicle.  When I saw pictures of each of them in the hospital, I knew exactly what they were going through.

Fast forward to today and I can even hobble around without the cane.  I am doing a lot of outpatient physical therapy and am now starting to feel a lot more normal in terms of everyday functioning.  But, it will be a few more months before my leg is near 100%.  It probably won’t ever be exactly as before, but I hope to get close.  During this time period, unfortunately, our Store Manager of five years, Tony Lederman, left to take another job in the bicycle industry closer to his home in San Diego.  We wish him the best as he moves on to another chapter in his career.  I am now back in the shop a bit more often and you will still see many of the other familiar faces at ARB, including Jason, Jesus, Barrett, Bruce B, Les, and Danilo.

Hello Trainer!  I’ve never been a big fan of trainers because I much prefer to do the real thing outside.  Isn’t that one of the reasons we live in Southern California?  But now I’ll do my best to embrace it as the indoor trainer is a great way to rehab and get back lost fitness.  If you come into the shop, you might see me on the Wahoo Kickr doing some rehab.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to get back outside on the bike come fall!

 

 

Support Your LBS (Local Bike Shop) This Holiday Season

1f3a86accee2fe2c100fcd335c801563
The LBS never goes out of style!

Times, they are a changin’!  Over the past several “Black Fridays,” headlines indicate the rapid growth of online sales over the flat or declining sales at brick and mortar stores.  It looks like the traditional rush to the mall for holiday shopping is gradually fading away in favor of shopping in your PJs.  And certainly, there are many advantages to that!  While the nature of shopping habits are changing, we’d like to put in a plug for the good ‘ole LBS.

Shop from your PJs on your LBS’ website

If you are shopping for a cyclist on your list, strongly consider buying from your local store, either in-person or on their website.  Yes, most local bike shops do have an extensive selection online, offering you the convenience of shopping in those PJs while enjoying a cup of hot chocolate.  You can always choose in-store pick-up to save on shipping.  Besides the convenience factor, probably the number one reason to shop online is price.  While your LBS may not have the lowest prices around compared to some websites, there is a reason for that.  Part of what you are paying for when purchasing at your LBS is the personal, one-on-one service you are getting from knowledgeable sales associates who are passionate cyclists in your local community.  Now, if you don’t think that service is very good, for whatever reason, then by all means shop elsewhere.  A store has to earn their stripes.

When I say “Service,” what do I mean?  A lot!  If a shop is doing it right, that means you having the ability to walk into a store and ask questions about bikes and accessories from a real live person who is knowledgeable and friendly.  Their years of experience can help you avoid potential buying mistakes.  They live and ride in your local community as opposed to somewhere else in the country or even overseas.  Even if you call or email the store, that sales associate knows you can come by the shop for a personal one-on-one visit anytime, and they hope you do!  If someone is hundreds of miles away, they know that’s not happening.

pbs_careers_associate_photos_03
Nothing replaces one-on one human interaction

One of the complaints I hear from time to time is that the local bike shop just doesn’t have the product selection.   And it is true that the in-store selection is not going to compare to a web store.  However, that local store’s website most likely does have that “endless aisle” selection you may be looking for.  Because a local bike shop cannot realistically carry so much inventory, one of the services they do provide is a curated product selection.  Let’s face it, one of the problems consumers face today is TOO MANY choices.  The LBS is spending the time to bring in what they think are the best options for its local customers among the seemingly limitless number of options available.  This is usually based on personal experience using the products themselves!  So a good LBS has curated a selection they believe to be the best products out there, saving the consumer time and money!

bike-accessories
A curated selection

If you decide to make a purchase at the LBS instead of an out-of-state or out-of-country online seller, or an auction site, some additional service you get from the price you paid includes the following:  First, it means knowing you bought from an authorized dealer.  This means the store and the manufacturer will stand behind the product according to the warranty.  Should there be any issues, you just come back to the store and talk with a sales associate in person to handle the issue.  No endless phone tag with a remote company, who may not even be authorized dealers of the product.  If they’re not, you are out of luck.  There are a lot of websites out there participating in the “gray market” who are not authorized to sell a brand’s products or may even be selling knock-offs, so buyer beware.

The price you pay at an LBS also includes the showroom experience.  In addition to your interaction with a real live human being, you get to touch and feel the product in a pretty cool environment.  Many shops have a place for you to hang out, read the latest magazines, watch some races or videos, and enjoy a coffee or espresso.  When it comes to bikes, there is nothing like the test ride and a proper bike fit.  You are taking a real risk on your purchase if you skip those two services.

byronfit2
A good bike fit is essential to cycling enjoyment

If you do purchase a bike at the LBS, the price you pay typically includes some nice perks worth real money – such as a free tune-up, free bike fit, complimentary adjustments for the life of the bike and sometimes a nice discount on all future tune-ups.  Every bike shop is a little different in this respect so see what they offer.  Also, be aware of the difference between cost and price.  If you add it all up, you may be surprised to realize that the overall cost from purchasing at the LBS is actually lower than that great deal you got for a bike online.

Another service included in the price of a bike at the LBS is the bike build.  While not all LBS mechanics are the same, in general, you will find a much higher quality bike build from your LBS than the online retailer or certainly big box store.  You will usually have to complete a portion of the bike build yourself on shipped bikes (or bring it to the LBS who will charge a build fee).

article-2263075-16f66b71000005dc-979_634x381
Have your bike built and cared for by a professional

Contribution to the local community is also a service which is part of the price charged by the LBS.  Is that worth something to you?   While this may seem more nebulous, it’s real.  Amazon and other remote online sellers contribute nothing to your local cycling community.   First and foremost, your LBS employs people in your community.  And therefore when you spend dollars locally, more of those dollars stay in your local economy, compared to spending them with an out-of-state or out-of-country remote seller.  But beyond that, most local bike shops organize regular shop rides, support organized charity rides and put time and dollars towards improving cycling infrastructure in your community.  Often they work with schools to get more kids riding bikes (safely) and contribute their time to get people in lower income areas on bikes.   The list could go on and on as each bike shop is a little different.

4589862271_2ba41681a0_b
The LBS advocates for bicycling infrastructure in your community

One of the initial appeals of buying online was the sales tax savings.  This has dwindled in recent years as many of the larger online internet retailers also have some sort of “physical” presence in multiple states, such as a warehouse.  In addition, more and more states are compelling online sellers to charge sales tax even without a so-called physical presence.  As these cases continue to go through the courts, it is more likely Congress will pass a federal internet sales tax law (different bills are pending) that will eliminate the sales tax advantage currently enjoyed by many online sellers.   No matter your view on taxes, the sales tax theoretically supports the people of the state you live in.  And even factoring in the sales tax, the overall value proposition you get at the LBS when you consider all the SERVICE (as outlined in this blog) built into the price you pay, is usually better at the LBS!

Hopefully, I’ve made a compelling case for shopping at your LBS for all the cyclists on your list this holiday season.   Sometimes, when comparing only price tags, consumers don’t take into account the overall value they are getting for that price.  It is not an apples to apples comparison.  The benefits I’ve described for shopping at your LBS are not spelled out on a price tag.  In the end, the LBS must earn your business.  If the bicycling consumer does not see the value of the LBS that I’ve outlined above, then ultimately some will go away.  Consumers vote with their dollars.  There is no doubt that “Cyber Monday” will continue to grow and at some point, we will reach some equilibrium between online sales and bricks & mortar sales.   This means the LBS has to adapt and continue to find ways to enhance their value proposition.

Why You Should Participate in the Ride 2 Recovery – OC Honor Ride

R E C O V E R I N G from Become Films on Vimeo.

There are many great walk, run and bicycle charity events that you can participate in these days.  All the causes are worthy but with so many events, people have to pick and choose what they do.  So in a way, each event is competing for ridership, but nobody wants to look at it that way.   ARB Cyclery is hosting the 4th Annual Ride 2 Recovery – OC Honor Ride on Saturday, October 29th.  We would never tell someone to participate in our event over some other worthwhile charity ride.  Again, all the causes are worthy, and event participants will make their own decisions on what charities to support.  But let me tell you why we chose to partner with Ride 2 Recovery and why we’d love to see you come out and support this cause on Saturday, October 29th.ride-2-recovery-logo

Despite the nuttiness of the current election year, I think I speak for the entire crew here at ARB Cyclery when I say we feel grateful to be living in the United States of America.  And to be clear, this is not any sort of political statement – just an acknowledgment that we have freedoms here that you don’t find anywhere else on earth and that we shouldn’t take them for granted.  Hopefully, we can all agree on this, no matter your political persuasion.  And we all know that freedom isn’t “free.”  Thousands of Americans have sacrificed their lives to help us remain a free people.  You may not have agreed with certain wars in our country’s past or agree with what we are doing now, and that doesn’t make you unpatriotic.  But there is no doubt we would not be a free nation today if it weren’t for the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform in the past, as well as today.

The people in our military freely volunteer to defend our country, and it doesn’t matter who is President or whether or not they agree or disagree with a particular mission.  They go voluntarily because that is the promise they made.  Some pay the ultimate sacrifice, and many come home severely injured -physically, mentally or both.  In many cases, their lives are altered forever, and they deserve the support of all Americans, regardless of political views.  So supporting Ride 2 Recovery is one small way ARB Cyclery can give back to the veterans who have given so much for our nation.

While every organization that helps our veterans is worthy of support, Ride 2 Recovery (R2R) does it in a special way.  It uses cycling as its primary form of rehabilitation and healing.  Wow…. when I heard about this, I knew immediately that ARB Cyclery had to get involved.  Everyone here at ARB Cyclery has a passion for cycling, or else they wouldn’t be here!  Most people who ride regularly want to share with others what cycling has done for them – hoping they also catch the “bug.”  The benefits are numerous – health & fitness, connection with the outdoors, time to unplug, environmental, social, challenging oneself, increased confidence, and much more.  If you feel cycling has positively benefitted your life, then who better to share that with than those who we owe such an enormous debt of gratitude and desperately need our help– a wounded veteran.

On Saturday, October 29th, let’s take a pause and forget about all of our differences this election year and support our fellow Americans by giving the healing power of cycling.  You will literally be helping to save lives.  Click here to register!

If you would like to see the entire documentary, Recovering, there will be a screening at the shop on Wednesday, October 26th at 7:30pm following our shop ride.   The documentary will also be shown two separate times following the Orange County Honor Ride on Saturday, October 29th.

Smart Cycling Helmets – Smart or Not?

bp4-handlebarsEach year I go to the bicycle industry’s annual US trade show in Las Vegas (known as Interbike), I’m always looking for the next technological innovation that will truly stick.  There are always many new products unveiled at the show but all too often they don’t become widely adopted.  Sometimes these new products try to solve a problem that doesn’t exist – at least in the minds of most consumers.  Take for example the BP4 handlebar design presented at the 2014 show.  Sure, there may be legitimate data supporting the design, but for some reason, I don’t see these becoming mainstream.  But hey, I could be wrong!

Other products are ahead of their time.  For instance, Mavic came out with the first electronic groupset known as Zap in the mid-nineties.  It took nearly two more decades before Shimano’s electronic Dura-Ace Di2 became commonplace in the market.  Last year SRAM took it up a notch by introducing their wireless electronic shifting groupset known as eTap.  Electronic shifting hasn’t supplanted mechanical, but it’s definitely here to stay.

For the longest time, electric bikes were hyped at Interbike, but I hardly saw any on the road.  After several years, they are finally starting to catch on – but still at only a fraction of the entire US bicycle market.  In the road market, it seems like even proven technology takes a while to be accepted.   After years of being fully embraced in mountain biking, the benefits of tubeless tire technology and disk brakes now appear to be gaining some real momentum in road cycling.  Will there come a day when most road bikes come spec’d with tubeless tires and disk brakes, like carbon frames and integrated brake & shift levers?  Time will tell.

One technology that I found intriguing at Interbike this year was something called the smart helmet.  It seems like everything is becoming “smart” these days with our rapidly evolving wireless computing technology.  The ubiquitous smartphone has allowed us to connect to almost anything–wirelessly!  In cycling, think heart rate monitors, power meters, cadence sensors, not to mention our location on the globe.  Well, why not the helmet?   It makes sense.  Obviously, the primary function of a helmet is safety.   These new smart helmets feature technology that can sense a major impact.  If this happens, the associated app automatically sends a message to your designated emergency contact.  That’s pretty nifty technology.

earbudsBut here’s where it gets a bit more controversial.  How about built in speakers and mics for listening to music without earbuds or talking on your cell phone?   Let’s take cell phone communication first.  One of the reasons I ride is to disconnect from the electronic world!  Of course, I keep a phone in my jersey pocket in case of emergency, but I don’t take calls while on a ride.  So now I have a smart helmet and all I have to do is push a button on my handlebar to take an incoming call – is this a good thing?   We’ve all heard of distracted driving.  What about distracted cycling?  My guess is that talking on the cell phone while cycling will not become a trend, even as this technology evolves.  However, I suppose it is nice to have the option.  And a “walkie-talkie” function, another feature of these helmets, could really come in handy on group rides. livall

I think the most fascinating feature of these smart helmets is the ability to listen to music without earbuds.  Many states, including California, have laws against cyclists wearing two earbuds – one is okay.  But I know there are many who would argue that from a safety standpoint, no music is best.  The chief selling point of the helmet makers is that you get the best of both worlds – music to BOTH ears while still being able to hear the ambient traffic noise around you.   I do like listening to music while working out but I rarely do it while cycling.  Music coming through one earbud just isn’t that good, and I’ve always had trouble with keeping earbuds in place!  So I was eager to try one of these new smart helmets.

I came home from corosInterbike with one of the new Livall BH-60 road helmet models.  It was pretty easy to sync up to my iPhone, and before I knew it, I was listening to my playlist while riding with no earbuds!  I have to say, it was pretty cool and put a little pep in my ride.  The audio quality was solid, and I could still hear the ambient traffic noise around me – but no doubt that was compromised somewhat.  So I kept thinking that despite enjoying the music, wearing this helmet wasn’t the “smart” thing to do.  Then there is the fact that I have to charge not only my cycle computer and lights but now my helmet!  And there is always the occasional glitch like the playlist repeating the same song over and over again in the middle of a ride!  Do I really want to stop and have to fiddle with my iPhone to fix those things?   And finally, there is the aesthetic factor.  Let’s face it, who wants to wear an ugly bulbous helmet, especially us roadies?   The Livall helmet isn’t exactly sleek, but it could be a lot worse.  And surprisingly, with the built-in technology including a rear light, it’s not that heavy at only 280 grams.  Another helmet coming to market soon by Coros looks a bit more aero (similar to the shape of the Specialized Evade), and I look forward to trying that one out in a month or two.

I’d like to hear your opinion.  What is your take on these smart helmets?  In 5-10 years will everyone be wearing some sort of smart cycling helmet?   Would you like to see these helmets at the shop?

BMC Roadmachine 02 Review

I have been thoroughly enjoying my titanium Foundry for the last six months. (If you missed out on the original post about titanium bikes, you can read about that right here).
Not too many things have changed since I first got the bike. The external cable routing has kept my shifting and braking smooth and reliable, and my bike has not given me a single issue yet. I did end up swapping out my Mavic aluminum wheels. I opted to go for a set of Enve SES 3.4 clinchers with Enve’s brand new carbon hubs which only further improved my ride quality. Crazy, I know. If you told me when I first got the bike that it would be possible to make my bike ride even better, I wouldn’t have believed you.

Needless to say, when BMC dropped off the new 2017 BMC Roadmachine at our shop, I knew I had to try it. I came off of a carbon bike onto my titanium bike, and I wanted to hop back on a carbon frame to compare the differences after riding titanium for so long. This would also be my first time riding disc brakes, so I was curious as to how they performed in comparison to rim brakes on carbon wheels. With all of the hype surrounding disc brake road bikes, I wanted some first-hand experience on them so I could come to my own conclusions about them.

The Roadmachine is touted to be a one-bike-does-all kind of bike. I like to think that my Foundry can accomplish the same thing, but the Roadmachine actually does much more. It does so by drawing technology off the BMC TeaIMG_3311mmachine, Timemachine, and Granfondo. “On paper, the Roadmachine is a disc brake road bike with good tire clearance, officially up to 30 or 32mm tires depending on the model; an adaptable head tube designed to accommodate wide range of handlebar heights; geometry that combines short chainstays (410mm) and a high-ish bottom bracket (71mm drop), with relaxed front-end geometry (head angle varies with size, but fork offset is adjusted to maintain a long-ish 63mm trail dimension across all sizes).”

I was excited to take the Roadmachine out on this week’s Wednesday Worlds ride. This was the ideal ride to test the Roadmachine out because I have lots of Strava data from previous rides that I could use for comparison. First things first, I swapped my pedals, lights, and saddle back over to the Roadmachine which was followed up with making the necessary saddle adjustments. Once that was done, I was ready to roll. I weighed my Foundry without all the gear and pedals, and IMG_3316it came in at 15 lbs and 13 oz. Not too shabby considering I didn’t even build the bike out to be super light weight. However, I wanted to take the Roadmachine out for its ride first before weighing it; I didn’t want to be biased on the ride thinking about the weight difference. My initial impression rolling out on the bike was that I expected it to be a lot harsher. Instead, it seemed pretty close to the comfort that my Foundry provided, but I wanted to wait until the end of the ride before drawing any final conclusions. The post-ride soreness, or lack thereof, would dictate whether or not the bike was truly comfortable.

Once the ride really started picking up, I began to realize just how smoothly the bike rode. It was incredibly stable at speed, and handled super well. It wasn’t twitchy, and even when the bike rolled over larger cracks and bumps in the road, I didn’t feel like the bike wanted to jerk around or throw me off. Granted, I did notice that the bike was slower to get up to speed than my bike, but I also had to keep in mind that this particular build was still running aluminum wheels, and a disc brake setup in inevitably going to be heavier than its caliper brake counterpart. Funnily enough, my ride with the Roadmachine ended up being my fastest Wednesday Worlds ride. While that may or may not have to do with stopping due to someone’s flat and then furiously playing catch-up for the remainder of the ride, it shows that this bike really doesn’t hold you back in any way. As for stopping power, the brakes were great. There was plenty of brake power and modulation, and while we didn’t have any descents on the Wednesday route, I feel that they would inspire confidence. Although for someone that weighs as little as I do and doesn’t ride in super mountainous areas, traditional caliper brakes are honestly more than enough for me.

I finished the ride with no soreness in my shoulders (which is the first place I would usually start to feel uncomfortable), and I felt pretty great on it. After moving the pedals and the rest of the accessories off the bike, the Road Machine weighed in at 19 lbs and 7 oz. It made sense that it was a little slower to accelerate in, but a decent carbon wheelset could probably come close to bridging the gap. I can truly see the Roadmachine being the one bike that you could have, especially if you consider a Roadmachine 01 (which is closer in specs to my Foundry). And while I think I would still prefer the quick snappy feel of my Foundry and the classic look of titanium, the Roadmachine makes a great option.

If you happen to fit a 54cm BMC, be sure to stop by the shop and arrange a demo ride!

Back in the Saddle Again – Looking Under the Hood

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!