Wednesday, March 30, 2011

This is what it feels like to be a bike

I don't have a camera for on my bike. And most of the time I don't think it would be worth having a camera on my bike. But it could be kind of fun from time to time. Here are a couple visions of what it is like to be a bike. Better the first bike than the second...

My first race is only a few weeks away. I'm itching to get out there and test the legs!

Friday, March 25, 2011


With temperatures just barely above freezing and dry roads tempting us, the midwest folk like myself are itching to be out on the bike. Good timing for the spring training trip in Prairie du Chien with my club IC3. We'll pretend we're hardmen and try to get some good miles in, but we'll be okay to leave the true hardman titles for those who have earned it on the cobbles...

oh man! look at that guy's face!

Let the Spring begin!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A good bike shop experience

I'm all for the local bike shop (LBS). I think it's one of the greatest types of business establishments that exist. You have likeminded community, easy conversation anytime you enter and lots of cool toys. At least that's true if you find the right shop.

I don't necessarily have anything against some of the larger sporting establishments like REI that still foster a good bike minded local shop feel in their cycling department. As a matter of fact I really like REI a lot and the way they run their shop (but a lot of that comes from how they run their entire store so we'll move on before I get too far down this rabbit trail).

Most of the time I find that the people who run good bike shops have a few things in common:

1) They like to bike. This sounds like a given, but just because you go into a shoe store doesn't mean you meet people who really like wearing shoes, right? But for the most part, people who sell bicycles, really like bicycles. Love them even. That makes for the start of a good experience, because you know that they like what you like and want to help you like it more.

2) They cater to a wide variety of riders. The best shops aren't just about the hipster doofus, the high tech roadie or the crazy downhill mountain biker. Although, stores this specialized do have they're own advantage and aura... The better LBS offers their gateway drugs (so to speak) of recreational cycling along with their high end goods so that there is a way for everyone and anyone to get hooked on this wonderful experience we call biking.

and lastly (but most importantly)

3) The best shops aren't trying to cram anything down your throat or sell you something that you will never ride or be able to afford or need. Most often when I'm faced with someone at a bike shop who has this mentality I leave shortly after talking to him or her. Don't get me wrong, I respect that they have to make a living and they do that by selling, but there needs to be an understanding of the customer. Because even if I'm not buying now, the way that I get treated will affect whether or not I come back to buy later.

It's hard not to like a shop where you can walk in, chat a little about the local rides or races, find out about whether the shop has any group outings and talk Tour de France without being asked how much cash you're going to drop while you're there or being constantly told that you have to have Product B when what you really came in to look at is Product A.

I once went into a shop to ask about a set of wheels I was interested in. I had done some research online and wanted to see them for myself. The shop tech gladly began to tell me about them and found a set in the store. He had a quick question for his boss who immediately ruined the whole situation by telling me I couldn't possibly want those wheels because they weren't nearly as good as these wheels that he uses and has for sale. Needless to say I left soon thereafter and haven't been back.

On the other hand, this is the minority of shops in my experience and even if each shop has one guy who just has to be the salesman of the year, you tend to have at least 3 others in the shop who would be willing to let you drool on their new Dura-Ace fitted Pinarello and then wipe it up for you just because they know you appreciate the beauty of it as much as they do. That's my kind of shop.

Props to the low pressure LBS where you can cruise in and out just enjoying the view as easily as freewheeling down a mountainside. Where they have something for everyone and most importantly the enthusiasm to share it with anyone who's interested. Do yourself a favor and consider stopping by one instead of buying your next gear from some warehouse you found on the internet. Even if it costs you a little bit more, you're helping out everyone by keeping these kinds of places around. Besides, no one is going to wipe the drool off your keyboard for you.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Cure for Winter Blues

Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty! I'm free at last!

I couldn't help but feel that way on Friday as I cruised along past thawing fields with winters last blanket of snow slowly melting away. The skies were blue and crisp and an intense spring sunshine made the last of the white glisten. The fresh air was like perfume and even the creepy looks I got from the cows as they wondered what I was doing out on my bike already were kind of encouraging.

There is nothing like getting back on the open road to liven up your spring training.

No, it's not green yet... and I still haven't seen my first of these guys...


But the roads are dry, the sun is out and even if it only lasts a couple days before March rears its lion's head again, I've gotten the boost that I needed. I hope that you can too.

Go play outside! You'll be glad you did.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Plan 9 from outer space

If aliens ever decide to invade during a cycling team time trial, I think they'll all look at each other and be like, "Dude, this planet's already been invaded. We better move on to the next one."

But I mean seriously, I wouldn't mess with these guys either...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Smart Racing Can make a World of Difference

The Montepaschi Strade Bianchi was this weekend. It's a pretty cool race. They had a stage during the Giro last year in similar area on similar roads and it was epic!

Today was good weather and good racing. The video below shows the last 15 minutes of the race, but what I think is most impressive happens in the last 2 minutes. Philippe Gilbert has been riding about 5 spots back from the front until this point and then, knowing what he has to do, comes to the front and controls the race all the way to the finish line.

What's most impressive to me here is not necessarily his show of power. He does power up the steep finishing climb, which allows him to take the position he needs, but the finishing touch comes when selects his line through the narrow roads. Even when it looks like Ballan (BMC, in red) is going to overtake him, Gilbert keeps his cool and sticks to his game plan. The result...I'll let you see for yourself.

An excellent win in excellent style, if I do say so myself.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Don't try this at home...

Sometimes I find something so awesome that I can't help but share it. I'm not usually the chain email or viral video guy, but today I decided I would make an exception to that rule. I originally saw this on one of my favorite daily reads, CyclingTips, and couldn't not pass it on.

Apparently this is urban downhill mountain biking. And you thought that downhill was crazy enough to start with...

VCA 2010 RACE RUN from changoman on Vimeo.

Pay especially close attention to the spot at 39 seconds when he almost runs over a dog and then again just before 2 minutes when it looks like he's going to run straight into a wall. WOW!

PS- I also love the fact that this guy is apparently wearing a pinstripe suit.
PPS- and if you make it to the end of the video, this is apparently a UCI sanctioned event. sweet...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

El Desafio de Marzo (...the March Challenge 2011)

So another way to keep yourself interested in your fitness goals during this crummy time between winter and spring (besides learning how to write things in different languages) is to set short term attainable goals. You might say I'm cherry picking here and taking the easy road to get some "results," but the fact of the matter is that you need to boost your morale any chance you get if you are hoping to make it to summer.

This whole "Challenge" thing started in January with the 100 push-ups and 100 sit-ups a day challenge. I survived the 150 kettlebell swings per day in February and now it's for something a little different.

I decided that after targeting my legs last month with the monthly challenge, I need to focus some more again on my core to help support my back as I crank up the cycling miles. To accomplish that, this month's challenge is two-fold. Both ab work and compensatory back work to stabilize.

The two exercises I'll be doing daily are the dolphin pose and the locust pose. Both are yoga moves that I learned which focus on the stability muscles throughout your back and abdomen. Perfect for protection on the bike. I will be doing 75 of each every day. If you'd like to join me, see more below for how to do the moves.

First of all, the dolphin. Start in a plank. Once stable, push your butt and hips into the air.

Like this...
Now, I don't usually get this high, or this flat footed. Instead, I let myself come as far up as I can without coming off the balls of my feet. I hold it there for just a moment and then go back to a plank. That's one rep. Target=75. (right now I can only manage 25 in a row before my abs feel like they are going to implode we'll see if we can get to 75 in a row by the end of the month)
Second, the locust. It's a silly name. I don't think this looks anything like a locust, but whatever. Start face down on the floor. Lift your feet off the ground and then bring your shoulders and chest up. Try not to strain your neck. I usually look at the ground the whole time to keep my neck in a more neutral position.

There you go. This one is a bit easier. But again, Target= 75.
The plan is to keep this going every day until the end of the month. Then I have one more accomplishment to put in my belt and save for later when I'm feeling the beatdown of a long training season. I can reach into my suitcase of courage and pull out this simple but not insignificant challenge and say to myself "YOU CAN DO IT!"
There you go. Join me in the March Challenge and beat the Winter Blues by having at least one little feather to put in your hat and remind yourself you can make it through until spring.