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A team ride will happen.
There has been some controversy over some of USA Cycling (USAC) enforcing old rules on the books in what seems like a move to thwart Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA) members into joining for some larger events. Essentially the two organizations cannot put on a race in cooperation any longer. Which is how it was done in the past for some of Oregon’s bigger races that draw out of state racers (Cascade Classic or USGP of Cyclocross). Please see VeloNews’s article for a nice briefing.
Now I’ve raced under both organizations now and for me, an everyday-joe-racer, the OBRA approach is by far superior. I don’t hold USAC in contempt they work hard to put on some quality events, but for the majority of their racers their product is not catered for me and people like me. Truth be told if it was not for OBRA I would not be a bike racer.
Lets go back. I didn’t start racing bicycles until I was twenty-three. I had been out of college, started getting on a bike to lose some weight, rediscovered some thrills from my adolescence and was maybe even decent at it. Now I’m not exactly old, but I’m beyond a junior to be groomed to race at the elite level either (I’ve got student loans and job). For us day-job-racers OBRA is a small efficient organization, the yearly license is only $20. Twenty buck man!
OBRA has lowered the cost and the barrier of entry for racers in Oregon (and sot rounding areas who come race here too). It’s why here you’ll see people wearing short shorts at a cross race and full costumes on halloween. People come out to have fun. And it keeps people coming back. It’s why we have the biggest cross races in the world and the highest participation of racers per state. By cultivating the “bottom” OBRA grows the “top”. There is a quote in Friel’s Book about how ‘the most genetically gifted would-be-cyclist is probably on a couch eating potato chips’. By this I want to say that in order for the next pro to join big races they have to start their first one. And OBRA gets more people started. The more people we get involved in racing the more that will find their passion for the sport and ride there way to the top.
And even if we don’t put out as many pros as some states we at least try to have more fun in the process.
Yesterday a few of us took on our first road race of the year at Banana Belt 2. It was cold. And windy. And showering. It was one of those days when most people, smart people, would have rode another day or just hopped on the trainer. But as they say misery loves company and without my brothers of the blade to commiserate with it would have been intolerable. It wasn’t so much a race as survival to the finish. A day I think we’d just like to drink out of existence.
Here I am spending nearly a half hour post-race trying to get changed out of sopping clothes with totally numb hands. Let’s just say I went to bed dreaming about warm weather and short fingered gloves.
Big thanks to our Bro Bro Buddy Jeremy Garbellano for writing this and letting us re-post it. It’s long but pretty much packs in what you’ll learn in your first couple years of training and racing into a 5min read. It’s worth it for anyone getting into the sport or as an early season refresher for you seasoned vets.
A number of you have expressed interest in getting into road riding and especially group riding recently, so I thought I’d pen up a little article on what’s necessary and expected if you’re planning on voyaging into the world of long rides in the middle of nowhere with friends and strangers. For some people, this should all be review, but for others, there may be a thing to learn or two, especially in the ‘etiquette’ section.
First off: your bike. The majority of roadies could give a shit less whether you’re riding 105 or Dura Ace, Centaur or Record, Rival or Red — but we do have some basic prerequisites that need to be met if you want to join on a group ride. Fundamentally, you have an obligation to keep your bike in good enough working order to withstand hours of mechanical-free riding.
What does that mean? Ensure all the bolts are tightened to spec, make sure your wheel was properly built and won’t break a spoke if you hit a pothole, ensure your derailleur isn’t going to shift the chain into your spokes when you were searching for that bailout gear up newberry. Additionally, if it’s that 6 months out of the year when Oregon is wet, you better have a rear fender with ‘buddy flap’, because no one wants to get kicked grimey water in the face for hours on end while drafting you.
Probably the most important and most often overlooked: Ensure you have halfway decent training tires and they’re not cut or worn down to squares. What passes in the world of brakeless fixed riding does not in the realm of being 25 miles from the nearest bike shop. If you the same tire is flatting multiple times on a single ride, it’s either time to throw it out or inspect very carefully if it’s indeed road debris that’s causing flats or something hidden in the rim channel.
An addendum to that: Line up your tire label to the valve stem. this is not only done for aesthetics and professionalism by every mechanic worth his salt ever — it’s also to ensure that when you do get a flat, you can quickly figure out where the offending piece of debris is in the tire, in order to remove this. you do this by pumping the tube and lining up the area where the air is leaking to the area in the tire — hence, why you want the standard set of having label aligned with valve every time. this may not sound important on a nice ride in July, but you’ll make a group of enemies quick when you take 15 minutes to get a flat fixed in the burliness of January riding.
The bonus extras: the following aren’t totally necessary, but they will make long rides much more tolerable.
First off, a well-fitting bike. if there’s anything you’re not clear about regarding how a bike should fit/feel, or how geometry effects things, see a professional. you’ll learn a ton and potentially save money in avoiding injuries. The topic has been brought up numerous times in the past and there’s a dearth of well-qualified fitters in the portland area. Generally in this case, you pay for what you get.
Secondly: proper clothing. shoe covers are really nice when it’s wet or windy. Knee and arm warmers are damn near mandatory when it’s below 50. Same goes with a quality hat that covers the ears in winter riding. A jersey and jacket that don’t flap in the wind are sweet as hell when your ride back from sauvies has unexpectedly been greeted by 30mph headwinds. Eyewear is nice many types of conditions. A good chamois will keep your taint/vag/??? from chafing, and as a result you’ll be able to ride more happy miles without complaint. I personally don’t like riding with gloves, but lots of people appreciate the dampening feel they give against road vibration, not to mention the warmth and protection from crashes and foul weather. None of these things are 100% necessary, but all of them make riding better. As you can figure, the costs do add up, so if you’re serious about putting mileage, invest slowly and buy quality at sales prices.
Thirdly: a well-vented, well-fitting helmet. Cheap helmets and expensive ones protect your noggin just the same, but the difference comes in a few vital areas: the nicer ones are typically better vented to keep your head from overheating, lighter weight to keep your head mostly ignorant of the fact that you’re wearing a piece of plastic-coated foam on your head, and better looking because honestly, companies know people will pay a premium to look PRO.
What to bring: at minimum, do not leave the house without a tube, lever and air pump and/or co2 cartridge. No one likes walking home in spandex, riding home on a flat and/or having to call their significant other for a ride home from skyline. For a fast group ride, co2 is king because it works nearly instantly, but you pay a premium. A pump will rarely fail you, but it’s a good idea to test them out at the store before buying because they come in varying levels of not sucking.
Secondly: be liberal as hell about your food. If there’s nothing available in the pantry, bring cash/cards to buy some on the route (and obviously, know where stores/cafes/bars are on the route, too). Pbj’s, Clif Bars and bananas have always worked well for me, personally. When it’s cold, your body wants more food and less water. When it’s hot, your body prefers liquid nourishment, so get into electrolyte mixes and malto in the water bottle. Also, the longer the ride, the better idea it is to pack some sort of protein/fat source in addition to carbs. This can be in the form of peanut butter, chocolate, etc. (there’s a specific scientific reason for this: the longer the ride, the more likely it is to force your body into catabolism – i.e., your body starts eating a little muscle for fuel if there’s nothing else good available.)
Bonus extras: It’s always nice to have a multi-tool. Weird shit can and will happen to you at some point, and if you don’t have a tool on you, you may be riding those last 30 miles with a crooked stem or brake levers pointed squarely at the ground. It’s also nice to have something that can double up as a tire boot: Clif Bar wrappers and dollar bills are two items that work well if you’ve ripped a hole in your sidewall and need to fix it in a pinch. A patch kit will save you in those times, too, and is a definite necessity if you plan on being out for 4 hours or longer. A smart phone/garmin/GPS device isn’t necessary, but it is nice to be able to see yourself on a map if you’re trying out a new route. Also, all the fast guys are on strava these days.
Finally, etiquette. This is the hardest thing to learn and the easiest to screw up, but it’s vital to know like the back of your hand if you plan on riding in a paceline with others, and eventually getting into racing road/track/crits. Most of this stuff is universally acknowledged and unspoken by those who have been doing it for years, and it’s a code that has evolved for the very specific purpose of keeping everyone safe on what’s fundamentally a pretty dangerous thing in itself: riding in close quarters with total strangers (or inexperienced friends). If you can abide by these rules and let the legs do the talking, it doesn’t matter how silly you’re dressed, how shitty your bike is or what a jerkoff you are in every other aspect of life: you’ll garner respect for knowing the law of the land in a group ride situation.
•The number one rule: HTFU.
•Secondly, what separates roadies from freds: roadies have a common understanding that if you’re riding with a group of other people at similar fitness, you’re all going to share the work. the guy at the front is working 30% harder than everyone else; most of you probably knew that. Freds fail to understand this and then can’t figure out when the rest of us get really angry that they’ve stuck to our rear wheel like a dog in heat and won’t get off despite out swerving, yelling and attacking.
•When riding in a paceline, do not accelerate when you hit the front of the group. look at your cyclometer (or memorize the feel of whatever cadence you’re pedaling) and maintain that once it’s your turn to take a pull. if you fuck this up, the whole group yo-yo’s.
•If you see a piece of road debris that has the ability to cause a flat or crash someone out, steer the group around it and point it out if you’re at the front. if you’re not at the front, point it out. A hand off the bar, pointing directly at whatever obstacle/piece of debris will suffice. If that isn’t possible and you’re fairly certain the people behind you won’t see it, give an audible.
•If you get a flat or mechanical, put your palm up like you were giving the sign for ‘stop’, and announce “flat!” or “mechanical!”. do not swerve around, do not make sudden moves, do not pass go. this sounds simple but it’s amazing how many seasoned riders forget it in the instant something goes wrong.
•If there’s a car about to pass the group from close behind, yell “car back!”. only necessary for one person to yell this. it’s really annoying in a group of 10 people when 6 out of those 10 yell it.
•Same deal if there’s an oncoming car coming around a blind corner.
•Try to maintain around 1/5 to 1 full wheel’s length distance between your front wheel and the rear wheel in front of you. i’ll go into the variables of when to be closer and when to be farther a little further down the list.
•Do not stare at the rear wheel of the guy/gal in front of you. it’s an invitation to ride into it and crash – the basic target perception effect at work here.
•Same goes for if there’s a crash in the group: the classic cat 5 mistake is to look directly at the crash and in effect, steer straight into it and crash yourself out. instead, think in terms of holes and exits, just like you would if you were riding in traffic downtown.
•With that said, it’s okay to look at the rear wheel of the person in front of you from time to time to gauge where you are in relation to it. but always remember not to overlap wheels. no one likes road rash or broken bike parts, and people especially don’t like going down in silly, easily preventable ways.
•An addendum for emergency situations, it’s a damn good skill to learn how to react if you do make tire/rim contact overlapping wheels. this is generally a more advanced skill and best to learn with a trusted group at slow speeds on grass. bonus if you have knobbies, because they generally take more to toss you to the ground when they overlap.
•If you’ve hit a long climb and you’re still riding as a solid paceline, give more room to the guy/gal in front of you so that if they get out of the saddle, their rear wheel won’t collide with your front. likewise, if you’re the one getting out of the saddle, shift up to the next hardest gear while simultaneously standing up to prevent the bike from coming back too much in relation to your body.
•If you’re pacelining through a prolonged section of road debris/gravel/potholes, give more room to the guy in front of you to go around unexpected obstacles/debris. don’t freak out and start yelling when the wheel in front of you does indeed start to track a drunken line because you’re now riding in shrapnel territory. just know the rules of the game here.
•If you’re descending on a curvy downhill, the paceline should be spaced out as much as possible, if not completely broken up. never pass someone else on the inside unless it’s a race, you have a number pinned to your side and the finish line is 50m away.
•It’s okay to lightly contact people on your sides, but don’t do it to newbies because they’ll freak. additionally, never let your handlebars touch someone elses – you’ll both go down like a ship of fools.
•If you’re going through a high-speed corner as a group, know when it’s safe to pedal and when you should be coasting. striking a pedal on the corner can crash out everyone behind you in the blink of an eye. this is more important in crits than in general riding, obviously. if it’s a particularly fast crit, you MUST do what the person in front of you is doing; otherwise, if you pedal while they coast you’ll overlap wheels, and if you coast while they pedal you’ll open a gap and exaggerate the yo-yo effect.
•If it’s wet out, take corners more conservatively in a group. you knew this already – but sometimes people’s egos let themselves get the best of them, and they end up driving the pace at the front through a slick corner.
•Know what type of group ride you’re doing. if it’s a competitive one, anything goes as far as attacking. if it’s a recovery or base mile ride, don’t be “that guy” who starts attacking as soon as an uphill section starts. if it’s a ride with some close friends, agree on what you’re doing beforehand.
•Get really good at not dropping your water bottle, because a fallen bottle can crash someone out really easily.
•In a paceline, try to use your brakes less and the wind effect more for adjusting how close/far behind someone’s wheel you are. this will keep the yo-yo effect down. in specific: use these methods in preference from first to last to microcalibrate your speed/distance behind the wheel in front of you: 1) pedaling softer, but still pedaling. 2) going slightly out of the draft to let the wind slow you down, then coming back in. do this predictably and slowly. 3) feathering the brakes. emphasis on light touch here.
•In general, avoid slamming on the brakes in a tight group unless doing so will cause you to avoid a crash directly in front of you (and you have an exit plan for getting around it).
•If the pace is too fast and you’re feeling like you’re about to blow up, don’t exit the group in the middle. wait for your turn at the front, take a very brief pull, then get out and drop off. DO NOT let a gap open up, continue riding blown up, and expect that other people will be happy that you didn’t let them know. if you’re in way over your head with a fast group, people will generally let you stay at the very rear taking drafts and not pulling. if you can’t maintain even that, you’re in the wrong group.
•Additionally, when it’s your turn at the front, take as long as a pull as you feel comfortable with, but do not pull for so long that you’ve blown yourself up and slowed down everyone else with your ego. the point of a paceline is maximum efficiency.
•The universally acknowledged sign that you’re exiting the front of the paceline and riding off the side to the back of the group: flick/twitch your elbow, typically to the side that you’re going to pull off the side to. (i.e., if you’re coming off on the left side, flick your left elbow.)
Happy riding y’all.
Had a good frigid weekend racing in Bend. Here is the first lap of day two. Some good shots of Gabe early on and Sean a little later. That is it for 2011 cyclocross, hope you all enjoyed it as much as we have. It’s been a good break through season with a lot of people upping their game. Next season we are looking at having I’ve been so busy I haven’t written any more thoughts on training racing in awhile, but I have some stuff on the back burner I’ll put down here soon.
Finally used the GoPro this season. Here is lap 1 on Ben G in Hillsboro. Ended up taking 9th on the day. Yea yea!
With cyclocross season peaking at us over the horizon it’s time to dust off your knobby wheeled steed. In case you got caught up in the summer fun here is a great article from Cyclocross Magazine about setting up your training plan for CX. Granted, this plan advocates doing your base through early/mid summer (and we’re well past that) it is better late than never.
I did something stupid. Actually, a couple things that added up to being stupid. Managed to kill myself at the gym and then chose the most brutally hilly way out to Nyack I could figure. I’m supposed to not be riding this hard yet. Whoops. So now, I need to just let it go and get my legs back to feeling better, the damage is already done.
I have begun seeing training in a more evolutionary sense. Put X stressors on system, then inversely Y stressor, rest and adapt. Rinse. Repeat. It is kind of a science experiment I am having with myself. It’s like rebuilding an engine. Bigger, better, faster! Only, the engine is a soft bio material and it takes months to accomplish.
The surprising thing wasn’t that I accomplished my unnecessarily hard ride. But that when I got home I knew right what to do. Put bike away. Mix recovery drink. Stretch. Fill bathtub with cold water. Eat a lot of carbs/protein. Take a nap with my legs up. In a way it’s like I am trying to rebuild my legs. You know those sci-fi episodes where the enemy is some sort of nanobots? They get inside everything, and like machine build everything to their own likeness. I feel like I have those in me. They need the right mixture of nutrients and rest and they go to work. Emptying lymph nodes. Replacing lost proteins. Processing all the needs from the stress I have put on myself. So next time those stresses are put on me it will be a little easier. Except. I’m fooling them. Rather than taking it easier, it will just allow me to ride it faster.
As Greg Lemond said: “It never gets easier, you just get faster.” And so it goes with this science experiment, to see how far I can push myself.