Inside vs. Outside

25 11 2008

It’s no secret to anyone who took high school geometry that the smaller the circle, the shorter the distance.  Did you know that the difference between riding in a 250m velodrome on the black line versus the red “sprinters” line is 8m per lap?  That’s only over a distance of 250m!  That means that if you’re riding on the red line (outside) for the entire lap you’ll need to be riding faster than the rider on the black line (inside) since he/she has not as far to go.  (sorry, I have very limited internet access right now and can’t remember the math of this to figure out “how fast” off the top of my head)

The same thing obviously applies to any course you’re doing laps on.   Why does this help me you ask?  If you’re in a break away move in a crit over a 1km course for example, take the inside part of the road as much as possible.  This can save you approximately 20-30m per lap! (this is just a quick calculation based on the 250m velodrome example above. This can vary depending on the shape of the course you’re riding on).  Of course you’ll need to account for the quickest line to get around those corners at high speed.  Many times the large bunch who is trying to chase you down is not taking the optimal line around the course and not taking those corners as quick as your small group in the break can, so not only will your average speed be higher, but you’ll also be travelling less distance.  This will increase your chances on getting to the finish line before you’re caught!  Every little bit helps…

Rubber Gloves – All Sorts of Uses

12 11 2008

Another good tip from Jeff Bolstad.

For the past couple of years, I’ve kept a stock of nitrile gloves in my race bag and I keep thinking of new uses for them, mostly related to the hideous climate that I live and ride in. For instance, I love hot balm on the legs on chilly days and in the rain, but the stuff is murder to get off your hands (assuming that you have a sink and soap to try, which you often won’t at race venues). Rather than risk rubbing it in my eyes, I’ll use a pair of gloves to put it on. The same argument applies to chamois cream and greasing your chain for the rain.

On those same wet days, which are often also cold days, a pair of rubber gloves worn over long-fingered gloves will keep your hands warm. Buy them in a color to match your kit and a size larger than you would usually use so you can fit them over gloves. I prefer black.

Top 10 Around The Bay Tips

20 10 2008

Yesterday was the annual Around the Bay in a Day ride in Melbourne.  It’s a spectacular thing to see over 30,000 cyclists take part in a ride that goes either 210km or 250km. There are few places in the world with this much enthusiasm and participation in cycling.

An event like this inevitably brings out all the “weekend warriors” and “once a yearers”.  The day provided heaps of cycling tips to share but here are the top 10 Around the Bay tips from yesterday’s ride.

10. The Fan – one cyclist pulled up to us while we had an echelon going and told us we should be riding one directly behind the other in a cross-headwind, to do “the fan”.  I have no idea what he was talking about and I don’t think he did either.  This is when we get our once a year ego boost and put the pace up to 50km/hr showing him our version of “the fan”.

9. To the above point, when riding in an echelon pull off into the wind!  People get this wrong more often than not.

8. Shoulder check before blindly swerving into the middle of the road. Unbelievable how many potential accidents were caused by lack of shoulder checking.

7. Don’t get too excited and pull too hard through your turns.  This really ruins a good pace line. Again, see Echelon in the Crosswinds.

6. Don’t come to a dead stop in the middle of the road for a rest. Yes, people actually do this!

5. When passing slower riders, don’t dodge them like it’s a slalom ski event (especially when there’s a group of 200 on your wheel!)

Not only punters make mistakes. Here are some of  the rookie mistakes that myself and my fellow riders made yesterday:

4. Only one bottle of water in 150km.  Bad idea….especially the first 150km.

3. Not checking the weather forecast and not bringing extra clothing.  Weather conditions are generally pretty mild here in Melbourne but 13 degrees and rain gets cold no matter where you are. If in any doubt, always bring arm warmers and a vest.

2. Don’t eat food that crumbs easily (rice cakes, potatoes, banana bread, etc). The crumbs and bits get stuck in the throat easily, making it difficult to eat.  The more uncomfortable it is to eat, the less you will eat.  I’ll write more about this one later…

1. 250km is a long way.  No need to have your heart up at 180bpm in the first 20km.  A wise coach once told me, “start a ride slow, finish fast”. I have yet to learn this…

Don’t Panic

26 09 2008
Jeff Bolstad in a familiar pose

Jeff Bolstad in a familiar pose

This post comes from one of the smartest and best bike racers I know. My hope is that he contributes regularly to this blog. We’ll all be better off with his advice. Thanks Jeff


I wrote that in big, friendly red letters because Douglas Adams died too young, the world will forever be a darker shade of grey as a result, and I’m in no particular hurry to get over it.

But it’s also good advice for bike racers.

There are often phases in bike races in which the attacks are both frequent and futile. This can happen when a break is up the road and the teams not represented are trying to bridge instead of chase and are forever being chased down by the breakaways’ teammates, at the beginning of a race when the fools that will chase anything aren’t yet too tired to do so, and in several other situations. Regardless, the pattern is the same: someone attacks and a wave of acceleration ripples backwards through the pack as everyone jumps to maintain contact. The attack is caught and everyone stops working – 50km/hr, 30, 50, 30, 50 over and over again. These jumps can take a lot of energy that you’d rather use sowing your own mayhem and confusion.

One trick I’ve learned is to not jump. Anticipate the wave and quicken your cadence, perhaps shifting down a gear. You’ll likely get passed by a few people for doing this – make sure they pass you on the windward side. By maintaining your cadence a second or two once the attack is caught and the pack compresses, you can slingshot back up to your original position or even further. Alternatively, if a split does develop, you’ll not only have saved your jump, but have a few unwitting teammates leading out your bridge. More often than not, nothing will come of the attack and you’ll quite appropriately have expended next to no energy.

Optimal Cadence

25 09 2008

I have a good mate who was complaining the other day about not being able to go very fast and feeling sluggish.  Someone noticed how low his cadence was and asked him what his computer was averaging it at.  He said 71 rpm.  What!?  71 rpm!?   “Well, what should my cadence be then?”, he asked.

Let’s first assume that “optimal” means “most efficient aerobically”.   Many different studies have been able to determine how much oxygen is used at different cadences with a resulting efficiency figure – the less oxygen used, the more efficient that pedal cadence is. Nearly all of the results for these studies, when plotted graphically, showed an ‘inverted U’ shape, with the extremely low and high pedal cadences being less efficient and an optimum figuring somewhere around the middle. There was a general consensus from these studies show the optimum was around 90 rpm.

The lower gear provided by a high cadence means that acceleration is relatively easy, so higher cadence is important in road races when you have to be ready at all times to follow the accelerations.

Also, remember a few posts ago where I talked about the glycogen stored in fast and slow twitch muscle fibers?  Another reason why a high cadence is more economical.

Enough Protein?

24 09 2008

I don’t stress too much about my day to day nutrition. I like a pizza and beer as much as anyone else. However, there are some key times when you should be very aware of your nutrition when in training. The 30 minute window after a good hard ride is when your body will appreciate it most. This is an important time to replace the glycogen in the muscles and repair the damage to the muscles by eating protein.

Protein is used to repair muscle cell injuries from the trauma that occurs during training. It is not a good energy source.  So how much protein does a cyclist need? It depends on what type of training you’re doing. If you’re doing a lot of long slow distance riding, you’ll generally need about 1.3 grams of protein per Kg of body weight. If you’re doing intense riding, you’ll need to increase your protein intake to approximately 1.6 grams per kg of body weight.

For example, if you weigh 80kg and are training with intensity, you will need about 128 grams of protein per day. You can easily achieve this by eating a regular diet (non vegetarian) without supplements. However, the best time to eat protein (about 30g) is in the half hour directly after training. Your body can absorb approximately 30g of protein in a sitting, so eating more isn’t necessarily better. A good protein choice is good ol’ fashioned chocolate milk. A 750ml bottle of iced coffee or chocolate milk has 20-30 grams of protein and only costs $3.00. It is not necessary to spend $80 on a massive pale of bodybuilding protein powder. Milk has an ideal amount of protein/carbs/fat, making it an excellent recovery drink.

DO NOT eat much protein in the hour before an intense ride. No more than the peanut butter on your toast! Protein is difficult for the body to digest and slows down the glycogen absorption to the muscles. You don’t want that unless  you plan to get dropped like a bag of bricks in the first kilometer.

Make Your Own PowerGel

23 09 2008

Sometimes spending $3 a pop on gels can get a little expensive. I’ve been making my own gels for a number of years and I’ve found there’s really not much to it. I can make 10 times the amount for about $10 and it only takes 5 minutes. Here’s my favorite recipe:

– 1 cup plain or brown rice syrup (brown is sweeter and has a lower GI – which is not the point here). Many of the gels that you buy from your local bike shop list rice syrup as the main ingredient.
– handful of raspberries/strawberries/blueberries/etc . Eating the rice syrup unflavored is pretty disgusting.
– 1/8 tsp table salt

Puree the fruit in a food processor. Combine fruit puree, salt and rice syrup in a small pot on the stove and stir continuously on low heat until heated (should not come to a simmer or boil). Liquid should be hot, well mixed and easy to pour when ready. Fill 2 GU flasks with the gel. You can buy a GU flask for $5 which will hold up to 8 tbsp of gel. This will allow you to carry 480 calories of complex carbs, the equivalent of 4 gel packets.

Refrigerate overnight to thicken for your ride the next day.