Thursday, June 21, 2018

I’m going on vacation soon, renting a bike when I get there. Any tips?

Vacation time. When traveling with your bicycle, or, when renting a bike via bike shop or tour group, give it a quick "once-over".

BEFORE: If you have had a recent bike fit, have the fitter write down the measurements of your bike.

Else, write down some critical numbers such as:

    • size of frame 
    • crank arm length 
    • stem length 
    • Stack & Reach to the handlebars as well as to the saddle 
    • or distance in cm from center of the handlebars to the tip of the saddle · 
    • distance in cm from center of bottom bracket to top of saddle (measure in line with the seat tube as a reference)  
    • AND, its OK to bring specific items with you such as your own saddle, GoPro and mounts, etc.

  1. Give the mechanic your bike measurements either before you arrive or when you arrive. This will help them find the correct-sized frame as well as adjust it to your size before you arrive. 
  2. Place the bike on the ground (most mechanics will adjust everything on a work/repair stand) and open/close each skewer. This will not only center the wheels in their dropouts but also allow you to verify/adjust the skewers to a correct amount of pressure. 
  3. Squeeze and release brake levers. Check to see that brake shoes are not touching the rims when they shouldn't be 
  4. Make sure that the brake calipers are centered so that when you squeeze the levers, the shoes touch the rims at the same time. 
  5. Check the condition of all cables. For safety, double check the brake cable/caliper attachment bolts. 
  6. Take a quick spin around the parking lot checking sizing, shifting and braking. Make any last-minute adjustments now. 

Make sure you have a tool kit, fill up your water bottles and go and enjoy!

Rick Schultz PCG Associate Coach and Bike Fitness Coaching Bike Fitter

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Don't be a pain in the butt: Avoiding saddle sores

The most common comment I hear from people who do begin riding is not that their legs hurt but that their seat/bottom/derriere/buttocks hurts. One of the most important reasons for training is to make sure your seat is prepared for hours in your bike saddle. When you train, you obviously are triaining your legs to go around several thousands times per hour, but you are also training your butt to sit on the small, narrow, hard saddle for several hours at a time as well. Several things can happen when your seat is not trained properly. You may notice soreness under your sit bones after a long ride. This usually goes away fairly quickly. The next thing that may happen is chaffing where your seat and legs rub from pedaling. The worst thing that can happen is development of saddle sores. These can keep you off your bike for several days. Here are some suggestions for avoid being a pain in the rear.

First, you should wear cycling shorts. These are designed to provide padding to your tender nether region. The padding also helps absorb perspiration to avoid chaffing and development of saddle sores. TIP: DO NOT WEAR UNDERWEAR UNDER YOUR CYCLING SHORTS. Cycling shorts are designed be worn directly against the skin. Underwear adds another layer of clothing that can rub and chafe, and even worse, has seams which can irritate your skin. If you don't like wearing tight fitting Lycra shorts, there are different types of riding shorts, including baggy shorts. But they all have an inner lining with a chamois (pronounced 'shammy'). In the olden days, shorts came with real leather chamois, but modern shorts have synthetic ones which provide more padding and are easier to clean and maintain. But they are still called chamois.

Second, ride a lot. Spend a lot of time sitting on your bike saddle. As mentioned above, this isn't just about training your legs, it's training your seat. In many cases, it's more about training your seat. Gradually build up to longer rides. Doing a lot of riding all at once can irritate your tender seat skin. By gradually building up to longer miles, you will gradually toughen your skin. This is a great reason for riding year round by the way. You maintain your toughened seat skin and don't have to retrain it each spring.

Third, to avoid chaffing, there are commercial products available that you can use to apply to your skin where it contacts the chamois of your shorts. There are several brands with rather interesting names such as Chamois Butt'r, Assos Chamois Cream, DZNUTS, Friction Freedom, and Ride EZ Chamois Cream. Wipe a thin layer on your skin in your groin area prior to your ride to help provide a smoother ride.

Fourth, keep your groin area as clean and dry as possible to avoid the dreaded saddle sore. Saddle sores are infections in your skin around your seat area. These are caused by bacteria getting into your skin and not being cleaned promptly or thoroughly. These become infected and are usually right under your sit bones where you put pressure on your saddle. These are extremely uncomfortable and can make it impossible to ride. Saddle sores are so painful they can cause a Tour de France rider to quit the race. Prevention is definitely the best defense. Make sure you wear clean shorts after every ride. Do not wear dirty shorts a second day. Just hand wash in a sink, wring and hang out to dry inside out in the sun if possible. Use a bit of laundry detergent, or if you are traveling and don’t have any, you can use some shampoo. TIP: make sure you rinse thoroughly. If it rains and you haven't rinsed well, your shorts will start foaming. You also need to clean your own skin thoroughly and quickly after each ride. The worst thing you can do is spend the rest of the day in your dirty, wet shorts after you finish your ride. Shower and change as quickly as possible after you finish riding. Bacteria love warmth and moisture, exactly the conditions in your shorts after a ride. When you take a shower be sure to thoroughly clean your groin area. If you can't shower right away here's another great tip that I use. Bring some individually wrapped wipes and wipe your groin area clean when changing into street clothes. I use Preparation H Portable Wipes that come in individual packets. You can find these at your local drug store. If you don't have these wipes, you can also use hand sanitizer such as Purell. I suggest you keep a small bottle of it with your bike gear at all times.

Ride on, with a comfy bottom – Coach David Ertl

Ride Harder on Hard Days and Easier on Easy Days

By PCG Coach David Ertl

One of the main things that differentiate recreational cyclists from competitive cyclists is the intensity with which they train.  When recreational cyclists come to me and want to get faster, they almost invariably say that they feel they are pretty strong, they ride a lot of miles usually, and they can keep up with faster riders.  However, when the pace kicks up or they hit a hill, they get dropped like a stone.  This is very indicative of riders who do a lot of endurance and tempo paced training.  What they are lacking is the top end speed work.  Competitive cyclists do various types of interval and power workouts.  These are very hard workouts and not a lot of fun, which is why many cyclists don’t do them unless they are training for a competitive event.  But while recreational cyclists may not ride hard enough to improve past a certain point, competitive cyclists often don’t ride easy enough on their recovery days to fully recover.   Let’s look at the difference between riding easy and training hard, and what you might want to consider doing.

Coaches talk about training intensity using various training zones.  I use zones similar to those used by Joe Friel, Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan.  You can read more about my training zones on my website.  Basically there are six training zones: Recovery, Endurance, Tempo, Threshold, Anaerobic and Maximum Effort.  Recreational cyclists do a lot of riding in the Endurance and Tempo ranges.  These are fairly easy to moderately hard rides.  You do not get out of breath during these types of efforts.   Competitive cyclists train in these zones as well but also in the Threshold and higher zones.  Threshold is the pace at which you can just barely maintain without going anaerobic, in other words, where you become out of breath and your muscles burn, such as when time trialing.  Anaerobic is where you are breathing heavily, your muscles burn and you can’t maintain the pace for more than 5 minutes.   And Maximum Effort is just that – going as hard as you can for 30-60 seconds max. 

Recreational cyclists who want to get faster should start doing some Threshold level rides to increase their aerobic capacity, in other words, making a larger engine which is able to suck in more air and generate more energy before going anaerobic.  In even simpler words, they need to work harder than they normally work.   Most recreational cyclists do not need to train in the anaerobic range.  These would be your typical intervals, such as riding as hard as possible for one minute, then taking a two minute recovery spin, or doing uphill intervals.  As mentioned above, this is very hard work and not a lot of fun.  However, there is no reason recreational riders can’t do this type of workout if they are healthy (check with your doc first!) and want to do it.  Adding speed work to your normal endurance and tempo paced rides will result in noticeable improvement in speed and strength.  The day after doing one of these harder rides, however, there should be a rest day of no riding or easy, recovery paced spinning. 

Competitive cyclists do a lot of endurance and tempo riding as well, but on top of that they do threshold, anaerobic and max effort workouts.  This is what makes them strong and fast and allows them to compete.   But, I’ve noticed that many competitive cyclists don’t take the time nor make the effort for proper recovery, either because they are so driven to train hard, or because they simply don’t know the value and the methods of recovering.  Very young, fit cyclists can manage 4-5 hard training rides per week.  But even the fittest riders should spend 2 or 3 days per week recovering.  Recovery can either be accomplished by not riding at all or by spinning very easily as active recovery to help speed up the rate at which the muscles and loosen up and regenerate for the next hard workout.  It’s common to find competitive cyclists who train hard 4-5 days a week, and then on their easier days, they still ride fairly hard, such as in the endurance through threshold ranges.  By resting and recovering, they can train harder on the hard days, but only if they take it easy enough on the recovery days to fully recover.  So cyclists who wish to improve need to ride harder on their hard days but make sure they ride easy enough on their easy days.

Recovery is also an issue for recreational cyclists if they are riding a lot of long moderate paced miles.   Long rides still take a toll on the body and require recovery.  So even if your ride isn’t fast but is long (>2 hours), treat it as if it were a hard ride.

Failure to adequately recover will slowly grind you down to the point where your performance plateaus, or worse, declines, because you’ve built up chronic fatigue.  Rest adequately during the week and then take it easy every few weeks to allow your body to regenerate and refresh.

All the best in training, and in taking it easy!
Coach David Ertl