There’s been a recent discussion on an internet forum about a rider who, while riding in a group ride, had to brake suddenly to avoid riders in front of him who were braking suddenly (for an unknown reason). The rider behind him didn’t respond fast enough and hit him from behind and fell. This rider who fell was upset at our hero who did not fall, stating that he had caused the crash and “What [was] he doing?” Our hero, somewhat new to cycling in groups, was feeling guilty, that perhaps he had done something to cause the crash.
The answer? No, our hero was not guilty of causing the crash. The idiot behind him was guilty of not paying attention to what was going on ahead.
Here’s the rule:
You are responsible for not hitting things (or people) in front of you. Always.
It doesn’t matter what they’re doing ahead of you. If they’re riding squirrely, it’s your responsibility to a) ride in front of them, or b) move away from them (left, right or back) so you have enough space to do something about them doing something stupid. Of course, in a perfect world, there wouldn’t be any squirrely riders because everyone would be riding safely when in groups. (You did read how to ride in groups, didn’t you?)
Many riders new to our sport are impressed with the speed a bicycle can move at. They have ridden a bit themselves, but think they are stuck in 1st gear: they cannot seem to make themselves sustain a higher speed. Many turn to others and ask, “How can I go faster?” This is a valid concern and not one to be laughed at. However, at the risk of sounded flippant, the simplest answer is: ride faster. The key, of course, lie in the details.
Lance Armstrong wrote a book a few years ago entitled “It’s Not About the Bike”, and this is absolutely true: it’s about the engine. Speed cannot be bought. What is bought is less resistance and/or more efficiency. These two, of course, then lead to speed. So let me encourage anyone out there to not go off and buy aero-bars, or an aero-helmet, or think they have to buy the latest aero-carbon-bike to go faster. Will these things be a waste of money? Only if you don’t go as fast as you were expecting. (And of course, the aero-bars & helmet are only good for time trials.)
Almost anyone can get on a bike and go as fast as the pro riders we all see on TV. The difference is that they can maintain that speed for extended periods whereas you or I would peter out after a couple hundred yards (or less). So we need to train our bodies to maintain that speed. The law regarding speed is: the faster you go, the less duration you can maintain it for.
Okay. Details. How to ride faster. There are two ways to go about this: Group Rides or Interval Training.
The following should only be done 1-2 times per week. The bulk of a training program should be z1 riding as you maintain your body’s aerobic and fat-burning engines and recover from the hard workouts. Regardless of which method you choose, I recommend you have a good established base of hours in the saddle before starting. Going too hard before your muscles, tendons & ligaments are ready can result in injuries.
The simplest, most enjoyable, and easiest way to ride fast is to ride with faster riders. You get a group setting to socialize in pre- and post-ride, you get camaraderie, and you have fun as you all push each other to do better. You can try to find one or two training partners who can fulfill this role, or you can find a group to ride with. My personality prefers the latter.
A single training partner is useful for doing structured workouts like intervals, while a small group can utilize a variety of methods, such as sprints (intervals) or fartlek training. Still larger groups can set amazing paces because there are more individuals to share the workload. And if you find you’re not getting much of a workout sitting in the pack of riders, you can always go to the front and set the pace yourself.
The downside of group training is you’re at the whim of the group. When they go fast, you have to follow or it stops being a group ride as you suddenly find yourself alone.
If you prefer to ride by yourself, you will want to engage in interval training. This is where you go hard (fast) for a specified duration (time, effort or distance), then go easy for another specified duration (again, time, effort or distance) so you can recover. Then, you do the interval again. How many times you do the “active” part of the interval and the “recovery” part is entirely up to you or your coach. This is decided by your objectives.
For awhile, I have been having carbon-envy. All these powerful guys show up to the races sporting nice, new, deep rimmed carbon wheels. And I know that it’s not about the bike, but after having so much fun doing a couple time-trials last summer, I researched the issue anyway. Generally, carbon wheels go for around $1,000 brand new, and maybe $750 used. Still way too much for me.
Well, looking around on eBay, I managed to find some of the Chinese makers of said rims, selling them for about $300 a pair. Well, they’re not name brands, and I know many cyclists look down on buying generic stuff, but they should work. I’ll look at this as an experiment. If they work, then maybe in the future I’ll go with a more recognizable name.
An interesting note: the rims were tubulars. They had clinchers available for $60 more, but, in the end, I figured since I was conducting an experiment, and tubulars are considered a slightly stronger rim, I went with the tubulars. I’ll have a friend show me how to glue-up the tires properly and make any repairs as necessary.
Even though the rims were much cheaper than other name brands, I had put off investing in a pair, but my tax return this year finally changed that. So I took the plunge and ordered a pair. $280 for the pair with $60 shipping from Hong Kong. I ordered the set on February 25, and just this afternoon my son called me at work to tell me they had arrived. Thirteen days total–very fast shipping.
I unpacked the box as soon as I got home from work. The box was more narrow than I expected, but that was because they were just rims: there were no hubs or spokes making it a complete wheel. The rims have a high-gloss finish over a standard 3k carbon weave. While I don’t particularly like the looks, I’m more after function and was able to play with spoke and hub aesthetics anyway.
The hubs, after doing a little research, ended up being some Novatec A271SB/F372SB Alloy Road hubs in white with red quick release skewers. $82 plus $18 shipping/handling. Another inexpensive option that got some good recommendations from friends. They look very sharp. After taking some pictures of the whole shebang, and “ooh”-ing and “aah”-ing, we were off to the local bike shop.
The shop owner will be building up the wheels for me (his 32h, Ultegra/Open Pro wheels are holding solid for me up to this point). We decided on some black, bladed spokes & nipples with two white spokes around the valve with red nipples just to play off the hub colors (I also have the colors on my seatpost).
So, now I wait. And while I wait, I need to order some tubular tires and some valve extenders.
To be continued…
Many riders today started riding their bicycles as an adult: they weren’t part of the cycling culture as a child and didn’t grow-up in it. They had to find other riders, ask questions, and learn how to do all this the “hard way”. They didn’t know who to ask nor what to ask.
Choosing a bicycle in this modern world can be quite the experience. There are probably more bicycle brands than car brands. Then, most manufacturers have several types or styles of bikes. Which should you get? Hopefully, this post will help a little.
What Kind of Bicycle Should I Get?
Answer: What kind of riding do you want to do?
I know, answering a question with a question can be lame, but in this case, it’s absolutely necessary. What kind of riding you want to do will dictate the kind of bike to get. Below, you will find the different types of bikes available and what each is built best for. Read through them, find which best describes what it is you wish to accomplish on a bike.
This is the type of bike for riding on a paved surface for (somewhat) long durations. They have skinny tires, large wheels, and curvy handlebars. If you plan on riding on the road for long durations, a road bike should be given serious consideration.
Some people assume that a road bike is uncomfortable because it doesn’t have a more upright riding position or a suspension system. What they don’t realize is that over the course of (almost) 150-years, the road bike has been made into the most efficient bike for the road. This efficiency includes comfort: a comfortable rider is more efficient than an uncomfortable one.
Road bikes can be aggressive or relaxed. An aggressive bike is aerodynamic and most comfortable when going fast and intense. A relaxed road bike is comfortable at slower speeds and not quite as aerodynamic.
This bike is best for riding off-road: on dirt or other rough surfaces. They have up to 30 gears, knobby tires, straight-ish handlebars, and can tackle steep, rough terrain. The rider sits more upright than a road bike rider.
Many have some sort of suspension/shock-absorption system. For this reason, they are popular with people who think they will be more comfortable than a road bike (due to their skinny, stiff-looking wheels & frame, and very small saddle).
This bike is best for short, slow rides on flat terrain. The rider sits very upright. The bike has very large, fat tires, and a very cushy, large saddle (sometimes with springs!). The bike is heavy and usually has one gear. This bike is fun to ride on a warm summer’s day when you just want a leisurely stroll. Here in California, they’re very popular at our beaches.
A hybrid bicycle is some sort freak of nature, a cross between a road, mountain, and cruiser bike. They are best used on the road, or a firm surface. They are not intended for intense cycling sessions (fast or hilly).
The rider sits upright (cruiser bike) while on the road (road bike), with a straight-ish handlebar and wider tires (mountain bike). While it is possible to ride longer distances, they are best used for shorter duration rides on flatter terrain. They have brakes and multiple gears.
These bikes are specific to a bicycle track, called a “velodrome”. They have no brakes and require you to pedal when moving. There is no coasting with these bikes (in fact, trying to coast with them can be dangerous).
These are used in the world of BMX racing on dirt tracks with jumps and bumps and fast pedaling. Races are over in a couple minutes. (This topic is beyond the scope of this blog, so I’ll drop the subject now.)