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!

 

Why Massage at a Bike Shop?

Sports-Massage3When asked to contribute to this blog, I was at a quandary on what to write.  There are so many things I want to share that my brain temporarily froze from overthinking!  So I decided to start by introducing myself and explaining why I would choose to have a massage practice in a bike shop.

My name is Ngoc (sounds like “knock”) and I love massage and bodyworks – actually I love all types of manual therapies that allow me to explore my body potential to its max.  I enjoy receiving massage and introducing people to massage therapy as a tool to relieve pain and tension, and to maximize potential.  I chose to be part of the bike shop because whenever I come into the shop, I am astounded by the positivity and openness that greets me.

There is an internal strength and determination to always be better that I admire greatly in everyone who steps into that bike shop.  I enjoy seeing the friendly competition around me, and I also like that there are great friendships being developed and great support to be had.  I feel like I am always contributing and am always at the front line of the action.   I would not have all this if my practice was elsewhere.

Read more…

New Year’s Resolution – Dirt & Gravel

Dirt and Gravel Road Bike RidingFinding motivation during the winter can sometimes be tough for a cyclist. It is extremely easy to lose a couple of weeks of riding due to family obligations, the holidays, the endless amounts of food, and less daylight hours. Thankfully, I was able to find my spark while riding on dirt & gravel with a few coworkers and friends.

Until recently, I haven’t had the opportunity to ride off-pavement with my road bike but it was a blast! It was a nice change of pace not having to share the road with cars. Riding on the fire roads and gravel trails gave me a sense of freedom that I haven’t experienced since I first started road cycling. Instead of navigating our suburban roadways, while being cognizant of auto traffic, I had to navigate around deep sand and horse manure!

Most roadies are reluctant to try riding on dirt or gravel.  The neat thing is that you don’t need a new bike.  With the proper setup and introduction, it can be safe and beneficial to any road cyclist.  Your overall bike handling skills will improve and you’ll get a sense of what it’s like to ride in one of the Spring Classics!  Think Paris Roubaix or the Strade Bianche. I would recommend trying places like Peter’s Canyon or Irvine Lake to start. Instead of running my typical set up of 23mm Vittoria Corsa tires, I ran the 25mm Vittoria Pave. The wider tire helped with traction and puncture resistance.

It is important to find trails that don’t have any steep pitches and are hard-packed enough for road (albeit wider) tires. Trails with steep gradients and/or those that are too rocky, rutted, or sandy call for either a cyclocross or mountain bike.

New scenery has really helped re-ignite my enthusiasm for cycling. I was looking forward to every ride rather than treating it like necessary training miles. In fact, I’ve been cyberstalking local cycling legends on Strava to come up with new riding areas! My goal is to find new trails and dirt sections on a weekly basis. I feel that my renewed passion for riding will pay dividends during the race season!

So, my New Year’s Resolution is to add more variety on the bike. I’m glad to have found a new aspect of road cycling that will let me explore new avenues and diversify my normal routine.  For 2015 at A Road Bike 4U, be on the lookout for new shop rides that will incorporate dirt & gravel riding.  Trust me, you’ll love it!

Massage Therapy for Cyclists – A Weekend Warrior’s Experience

Massage Therapy for CyclistsYou’ve probably heard that massage is beneficial for cyclists but always thought it was just a luxury for the pros.  Well, I decided to see for myself.

I ride about 50 – 100 miles a week, probably typical for your weekend warrior cycling enthusiast.  I noticed that after ramping up my mileage and becoming more consistent, my leg muscles always felt tight, even when I stretched and did not ride on consecutive days.  Basically, my legs never felt loose and supple.  I felt this hampered my progress and it also just felt uncomfortable.

In addition, over the past few years, I’ve noticed some nagging lower back pain on rides over 20 miles.  It was starting to get worse and I needed to address it.

Expert Massages for Cyclists
Fortunately, ARB’s SoCal Endurance Lab had just partnered with Ngoc Tran, CMT, a massage therapist specializing in sports and injury.

Ngoc’s knowledge of the human body’s musculoskeletal system is truly amazing.  She has introduced me to muscles I never knew I had.  Ever heard of the multifidus or psoas?  I hadn’t, but it turns out these are quite important for cyclists.

And make no mistake about it, these massages are not what you get at a luxury hotel or on a cruise ship.  When working on tight muscles, sometimes it can feel a little painful.  It’s not like that the entire session, but as Phil Gaimon of Team Garmin-Sharp once said, if there is no pain, you probably aren’t getting much out of it.

After about 10 sessions over 6 weeks, I’ve seen noticeable improvement.  My legs don’t feel like “lead weights” anymore.  I feel fresh each time I get on the bike.  Yes, I’ve gone on a streak of setting new Strava PRs and I think the fresh legs have something to do with that. My back pain has significantly lessened.  It is now limited to just the tougher climbing sections of the ride. So, there is still work to do and flexibility to gain, but I am definitely feeling better and better on the bike!

If you want a more scientific explanation of how massage benefits cyclists, check out this recent article in Bicycling Magazine.

Take Care of Your Components, and They’ll Take Care of You

Tips To Preserving Your Drivetrain

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When you invest in a bike, it is important to learn to use the equipment that comes with it. You will enjoy your ride more, and you will extend the life of your parts. Shifting is just as important as anything else, so here are some tips to help you improve your riding.

For starters, we recommend reducing applied pressure on the pedals during shifts. Drivetrains have been improved over the years so that they will still shift even if there is too much pressure on the pedals. But by simply easing up on the pressure a bit, the shifts will be smoother and your chain, cogs and chainrings will last longer.

Before we get into proper shifting, it is important to keep your drivetrain clean, lubed and tuned up to extend its life. We have chain cleaners for sale in the shop, such as Motorex Bike Clean, to help you get your chain clean and keep it that way.  See our recent blog post on this topic!

Every six months or so, it is a good idea to inspect your chain and measure to see if it has been stretching.

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Pick a chain pin on the top side and measure to any pin 12 inches away. Links are exactly one-inch long, so you should be able to measure exactly 12 inches between two pins. Be sure to measure center-to-center on the pins.  If the measurement is 12 1/8 inch or longer, it’s time to replace the chain.

Remember: cogs wear out at about the same rate as the chain. If you put on a new chain, you will eventually run into skipping cogs – which is at best annoying and at worst dangerous!

On The Road Tips:

Shift Before Hills:

Even though the hardest place to put less pressure on your pedals is when you are struggling to get up a steep hill. Try changing gears before the steep part of the hill so you can make the shift with out stressing the chain and pedals.

Front Shifts:

Remember when you are shifting the front derailleur that the chainrings are significantly different in size! This means your derailleur has to work hard to move the chain from one to the other. If you can add some finesse to this shift, you are much more likely to get a clean, smooth shift. And, you’ll eliminate problems associated with high pressure shifts such as having the chain come off.

There are three or four set spots (shift ramps/shift gates) on the chainrings to make it shift. The chain (while moving forward) needs to contact these ramps to be pulled up onto or down over the chainring. It is very important to hold the shift until the chain comes into contact with a shift ramp. When the chain is under load (meaning there is force on the pedals) this is the only spot where the chain will shift. Ideally, shifting should be done with little load on the chain. When the chain is under load the derailleur will just flex and laugh at you instead of making the shift happen. When there is no load on the chain the derailleur will be able to move it.

Getting Your Chain BACK On:

Usually, you can shift the chain right back onto the chainring if it falls off. This is usually impossible when climbing a hill, as you will lose momentum and have to stop. However, any time you are riding and you can coast for a few seconds, you can almost always get the chain back on by gently pedaling and shifting the front derailleur to move the chain toward the ring.

(When a chain comes off repeatedly, something is wrong and you should have us take a look at the front derailleur adjustment.)

Stay tuned to RoadBikeOC for more cycling tips!

Is Your Bike Looking A Little Grimy After The Santa Ana Winds?

Take Care of Sticky Shifting and Chain-Muck by Following These Few Cleaning Tips!

Cleaning your chain
Instead of the old fashioned kerosene or turpentine in a bucket method for cleaning your chains, use a degreaser such as Motorex Bike Clean and Park Tool’s CM-5 Cyclone Chain Cleaner. Put the Bike Clean in the tool, snap the tool on your chain and backpedal your way to a clean chain.  Be sure to re-lube with Motorex Dry Lube after the chain is clean and dry.

Clean Chain

Keeping your chain clean
When your bike chain and gears aren’t too dirty, use a brush such as the specialized brushes contained in the Park Tool Brush Set BCB-4 to quickly clean your chain and gears.  This set has a selection of thin, stiff-bristled brushes that will fit into small places and can be used “dry” to remove the heavy stuff, or moistened with a bike safe product such as Motorex’s Bike Clean degreaser to do a more thorough cleaning job.

Cleaning your drivetrain
Give a speed degreaser like Motorex Easy Clean a shot for cleaning the rest of your drive train. Easy Clean will spray on & clean the chain, cassette and chain rings in just seconds.  ARB Tip:  If you are maintaining your bike on a sensitive surface, cover it with cardboard or newspapers so it will not become soiled.

Cleaning your cogs
Clean your cogs easier and faster than ever with Finish Line Gear Floss, a microfibre rope for your bike. This tool is perfect for cleaning those hard-to-reach areas. Its microfibers attract and hold grit and grime for an easy cleaning job.

Lube Tasks

The Chain
Keeping your chain lubricated is one of the ways to ensure ease of pedaling, ease of shifting, and to prevent squeaking. To keep your bike running right, keep your chain clean and well lubricated at all times with Motorex Dry Lube.

The Derailleurs
Your derailleurs work hard with every shift of your bike, and are key to keeping your drivetrain wear to a minimum. By lubricating your front and rear derailleurs at the pivot points with Tri-Flo lubricant, you can keep shifting both quietly and smoothly.

The Brake And Shift Levers
The working parts on your brake and shift levers also need to be kept clean and lubed for optimal braking and shifting. Apply Tri-Flo to the pivot points while running your levers through their range of motion. Also, apply the Tri-Flo or Motorex Bike Grease 2000 to the adjusting barrel threads.

Detailing Tasks

Give your bike a wash
After a long ride, or a long winter in storage, your bike needs a full wash. Washing can be fast and easy with the right product. Motorex Bike Clean will quickly break down the dirt and grime that accumulates on your frame and components.

Revolutionize your cleaning with brushes
A sponge or rag can do the job, but cleaning becomes much easier with the right set of brushes designed specifically for the task of cleaning your bike. Park Tools Brush Set BCB-4 will make cleaning the frame, wheels, tires, and hard to reach places a cinch.

Make your bike shine like new
A polished bike not only looks amazing, but it even seems to ride better. Modern frames and components are made to shine. Beyond aesthetics, polished frames and parts stay clean longer as they resist dirt and moisture. Be sure to use a carbon safe product such as Motorex Bike Shine.

Other Tasks

Cleaning Your Caliper Brakes

It’s important to keep the rims clean of any rubber deposits from the brake pads and clean of grime and dirt, too. A good degreaser is perfect for this task. After the rims are clean, check your brake pads. Glazed, hardened or dirty pads can cause a loss of braking power and squeaking noises. Clean them by scrubbing off any debris and hardened glaze with sandpaper.

Cleaning Your Disc Brakes
Disc brakes offer impressive stopping power, but to maintain this power, you have to keep them clean. Motorex Easy Clean will easily remove both dirt and glaze off the rotors. Just be sure to replace the pads if they get chipped or contaminated with grease and grime.

If you don’t have the time to maintain your bike just bring it in and the ARB Service Department we will give it the TLC it needs!

Ride Faster and Finish Stronger by Increasing Core Strength

Core Training Exercises To Get The Most From Your Ride

You know how important it is to have strong leg muscles when cycling, because they provide the most tangible source of power. If you have strong leg muscles, this is how you are able to start every ride strong and get up to a nice riding speed. Soon though, you find yourself getting back aches, and feeling tired in the saddle.

The problem is, “You can have all the leg-strength in the world, but without a stable core you won’t be able to use it efficiently,” says Graeme Street, founder of Cyclo-CORE, and a personal trainer in Essex, Connecticut.

Your abs and lower back are the vital foundation from which all movement, including your pedal stroke, stems. What’s more, a solid core will help eliminate unnecessary upper-body movement, so all the energy you produce is delivered into a smooth pedal stroke.

It only takes about 10 minutes to complete this intense routine designed by Street.

Dimity McDowell of Bicycling.com and Street say that if you do this routine, in this order, three times a week you will create a core that lets you ride faster, longer, more powerfully – and finish stronger than ever.

1. Boxer Ball Crunch

What It Works:Transverse abdominus, obliques, lower back

A. Lie with the middle of your back on a stability ball, your knees bent 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head, but don’t pull on your neck.

B. Squeezing your belly button toward your spine, lift your upper back off the ball. Keeping your shoulders off the ball, trace a clockwise oval with your torso. Apply pressure with your lower back to keep the ball still through the entire motion. After 15 clockwise ovals, trace 15 counterclockwise.

Why It Works: Despite the straightforward motion of the bike, your body moves in three directions: forward as you head down the road, vertically as your legs pedal up and down, and laterally as your hips and upper body rock side to side. “This fluid, circular exercise builds control,” says Street, and that helps you minimize lateral torsion and wasted motion.

2. Power Bridge

What It Works: Hip flexors, glutes, lower back

A. Lying on your back, bend your knees and place your heels near your glutes. Arms are at your sides, palms down.

B. In one smooth motion, squeeze your glutes, raise your hips off the floor and push up from your heels to form a straight line from shoulders to knees; toes come off the floor slightly. Hold for two seconds. Keeping your toes raised, lower yourself three-quarters of the way to complete one rep. Do 20 repetitions.

Why It Works: In addition to stretching the hip flexors, often extremely stiff in cyclists, the bridge strengthens the link between your lower back and glutes.

3. Hip extension

What It Works: Lower back, hamstrings, glutes

A. Lying with your hips and stomach on the stability ball, put your hands on the floor directly under your shoulders, and extend your legs with toes resting on the floor.

B. With a straight spine and shoulder blades back, as if you’re trying to make them touch, lift both legs off the floor, keeping them straight. If possible, raise them slightly higher than parallel to the floor. Hold for two seconds and lower. Do 20 reps.

Why It Works: This movement builds backside strength, for added efficiency on the second half of the pedal stroke.

4. Plank

 

What It Works: Transverse abdominus, upper and lower back

A. Lying on your stomach, place your elbows under your shoulders with forearms and hands on the floor.

B. Lift your hips off the floor, keeping your back straight and abs tight, and rest on your toes. Aim for 60 seconds.

Why It Works: The plank builds the strength and muscular endurance you need to ride powerfully in the drops or in an aero position long after others have surrendered to the top of the handlebar.

5. Transverse Plank

What It Works: Transverse abdominus and obliques

A. Lie on your right side, with your right elbow under your shoulder, forearm in front for stability, and stack your left foot on your right. Raise your left arm over your head.

B. In one motion, lift your hips to create a straight line down your left side. Lower your hips a few inches off the floor; do 10 to 15 reps, then switch sides.

Why It Works: Strong obliques improve your stability in the saddle, letting you take on hairpin corners with more control and speed.

6. Scissors Kick

What It Works: Transverse abdominus, hip flexors, inner and outer thighs

A. Lying on your back with legs straight, place both hands palms down under your lower back.

B. Pushing your elbows down into the floor and pulling your belly button toward your spine, raise your shoulders off the floor and look toward the ceiling. Raise your leg 4 inches off the ground and scissor them: left leg over right, then right over left. That’s one rep. Work up to 100.

Why It Works:  A comprehensive movement that connects key cycling muscles, the kick also builds inner-thigh muscles, which help you achieve hip, knee and forefoot alignment for a proper and efficient pedal stroke

7. Catapult

What It Works: Entire core

A. Sitting with a slight bend in your knees, press your heels against the floor. Extend arms to the front at shoulder height, palms facing each other.

B. With a straight spine and upward gaze, inhale deeply, then exhale and slowly lower your torso to the floor over five counts as you inhale. Arms are overhead.

C. In one smooth movement, leading with the arms, exhale and explode back to the starting position. Do 20 reps.

Why It Works: Contrary to its name, the catapult encourages supreme body control.

8. Boat Pose

What It Works: Transverse abdominus, lower back

A. Sit, resting both hands lightly behind you, and lean back until your torso is at a 45-degree angle.

B. Keeping your legs together, lift them off the floor as you extend arms forward at shoulder height. Abs are tight, as thighs and torso form a 90 degree angle. If your hamstrings are tight, you’ll need to bend your knees a little. Work up to holding for 60 seconds.

Why It Works: As with the plank, this pose builds the lower-back stability and core strength needed to remain bent over the handlebar for hours, or to blast up hills without compromising power or speed

Following this regimen will give you some improvement in your core strength, riding ability and endurance. Stay Tuned to our blog for more cycling tips!

Sign-up Now For Winter Training Classes

Join Now And Discover The Many Benefits of Indoor Cycling

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Our Second Indoor Cycling Class of the season will be starting on Tuesday, January 28th. Hopefully you’ve been getting in some base training miles and are now ready to ramp up the intensity a bit. By the end of this class, you’ll be primed for those early Spring centuries, triathlons or road races. We are currently accepting sign-ups, but hurry, as class size is limited to eight!

– PLUS – Get amazing deals on pre & post VO2 submax tests when you…

Signupnow

Class Summary

Who: For anyone who wants to become a better cyclist (all ability levels welcome)

Instructor: Barrett Brauer, USA Cycling Coach, Certified Spin Instructor

What: Power-based spin class, 8 weeks (16 sessions)

When: Tuesdays and Thursdays, Jan. 28th – Mar. 20th, 6:30pm – 8:00pm

What To Bring

  1. Your Own Bike
  2. Towel
  3. Everything you would wear on a normal outdoor ride, less helmet
  4. Don’t forget Hydration!

See much more information on our website, here.