Wordless Wednesday

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Our Take: 10-Speed vs. 11-Speed

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In the last few years, Campagnolo, Shimano and SRAM have moved to 11-speed and the technology is becoming more main stream. Lately when we’ve discussed 11-speed bikes, many of you have had some questions and concerns about the new systems. To answer some of them, we found one of our employees who has been riding both 10- and 11-speed groupsets for a while. Here’s his take on things.

I’ve been riding both 11-speed Campagnolo and 10-speed SRAM  for several years now, and I switch between the two often enough to be able to tell you there are some definite differences between 10- and 11-speed drivetrains. Generally, adding an extra cog means you have more gear ratios to choose from which can make your riding more efficient. But I’ve been asked to address the 6 most common questions we get about 11-speed, so here it goes. (And please remember, this isn’t a Campy vs. SRAM article– it’s 10-speed vs. 11-speed).

Is 11-speed less durable?

Answer: There’s not really much difference. I currently have about 2500+ miles on an 11-speed cassette and chain, and neither is worn out yet. I also have yet to break an 11-speed chain while riding. So far my Campagnolo chains and cassettes have lasted about as long as my SRAM 10-speed ones. I guess the thinner cogs and chains make people nervous, but I haven’t had any issues so far. I haven’t ridden the new Shimano stuff, but I’ve read that their new PTFE chain technology actually makes the chains stronger than their 10-speed chains.

Isn’t the shifting compromised?

Answer: Shifting performance isn’t really  affected by the addition of another cog. Aside from the different shifter designs, I have noticed very little, if any, difference in performance between 10 and 11. If anything the 11-speed shifting feels smoother and crisper than 10-speed. My 11-speed bikes do need to be put into the stand a little more often (about once every two weeks) for some basic rear derailleur adjustments, especially after high mileage weeks, but it’s a quick 2-minute cable tension adjustment, and that’s it.

Do you need new wheels?

Answer: Yes*. Contrary to what you read on many bike message boards, you do need a new rear wheel; the reason being that the new wider cassettes require a wider axle than a 9/10-speed wheel. If you look at an 11-speed wheel, the drive-side spokes are nearly in-line with the hub flange. I have converted a set of Mavic and a set of Reynolds wheels from 10- to 11-speed Campagnolo, but it was a pretty involved process and each conversion required the wheel to be re-dished and trued. And, of course, the manufacturer cannot guarantee how a wheel will perform with a converted freehub. Your best bet is to get a new wheel.

 *with the exception of Mavic wheels with an M10 freehub body, which technically should work with Shimano 11-speed if you leave off the Mavic spacer

Are 11-speed wheels less durable?

Answer: Maybe, but that kind of thing really depends on your riding style. For folks who really beat up on their wheels, you might notice a difference. I’m not very tough on wheels, and rarely need to have them trued, but I do have a set of 11-speed wheels that need to be trued more often than their 10-speed counterparts. However, I also have another set that has gone almost 2 years without needing to see the truing stand, so it’s hard to tell.

Is it worth it?

Answer: That all depends. In my experience, I love having the extra 11th gear. And yes, I definitely do notice that it’s not there when I switch back to a 10-speed bike. The biggest benefit to me is that the shifting is smoother and more progressive, since there are fewer big jumps in cog size. I don’t have to keep two different cassettes around anymore (one for the usual riding, one for climbing), since I can still have an 11-25 cassette, but with a 27t or 29t cog tacked on that makes it perfect for climbing as well. 11-speed cassettes also offer a bigger range of gearing options that make it easier to find that comfortable cadence in any variety of conditions, whereas when I switch back to a 10-speed bike, I sometimes struggle to find the right gear.

Why upgrade? Won’t they just go to 12-speeds soon?

Answer: Don’t quote me on this, but no, I don’t think they will go to 12-speeds any time soon. I know Tiso has a 12-speed gruppo out there, but they had to scrounge up some breathtakingly expensive stuff to make it work (i.e. all titanium cassettes), so I doubt it’s ready for mass market appeal. As you read above about wheels, it seems to me like 11 cogs are about as many gears as they’ll be able to cram into the standard 130mm rear spacing. To fit in any more gears without sacrificing wheel durability, I believe that road bikes would need to adopt the MTB standard 135mm rear spacing, and I don’t see that happening any time soon. But then, nobody really saw disc brakes for the road coming either, so anything is possible.

Wordless Wednesday

Diamondback Bicycles pro rider Kelly McGarry taking second place in the 2013 Red Bull Rampage with a backflip over a 72-foot-long canyon gap (the first place run wasn’t too bad either, as GT Bicycles rider Kyle Strait took the win with a suicide no-hander).

Real Advice: 5 Reasons to Join a Group Ride

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Like most cyclists, when I first started riding, I rode alone. Since I wasn’t competing, racing or part of a club or anything, I would simply get on the bike when I felt like it and ride for as long as I wanted to. I would push the distances when I felt strong, and over the years, I developed a certain meditative joy in these long solo excursions. The freedom to let my thoughts wander, to let my legs dictate the pace, to go in which ever direction I wanted.

But as time went on I also became conscious of the fact that I wasn’t developing much as a cyclist, because, in short, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

My introduction to riding with a group came one summer evening when I timidly decided to join a well-known ride in my area. As much as I enjoyed my solo adventures, I wanted to start connecting with other cyclists. The entire day I worried about it. Was I fast enough? Were there some secret rules I didn’t know? Was my bike good enough? Did I have the right gear?

I worried I would be secretly judged, or dropped, or worse. In some ways, it felt like the first day at a new school. I almost backed out at the 11th hour, but I made myself go through with it, and in retrospect I’m glad I did. When I showed up, there were guys with much more expensive bikes, flashier kits, and legs that looked like they could dish out some serious hurt. But of course, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Everyone was pretty nice and I didn’t get dropped; nobody said anything about my bike or my kit or my helmet.

I showed up again the next week, and the week after, and had soon become a regular at the ride. And a funny thing happened. I began to develop more as a cyclist. Not only did I get faster, and develop more endurance, but I learned more about cycling. And, most importantly, I made some good friends that I started riding with outside of our group.

It’s not to say I don’t still love riding alone. I do. In fact, I eagerly wake up early on Sunday mornings for my long, solo ride into the country. But I still regularly show up to group rides to make some friends, push myself, and test my mettle.

For a quick guide to joining your first group ride, check out our article on Group Rides.

As a cyclist, whether recreational or competitive, riding with a group has a lot of benefits.

1.    You’ll Get Stronger: It’s almost a guarantee that many, if not most, of the riders in the group will be stronger, and you’ll have to push yourself out of your comfort zone. This leads to big improvements in your fitness.
2.    You’ll Learn More: Are you pushing too big of a gear? Not shifting in the right spots? Every group ride is full of riders who are eager to share what they know. Just try not to take offense, they’re just trying to help.
3.    You’ll Feel More Confident: You never know what you’re capable of until you try. Riding with a group will help you quickly master many of the complexities of cycling and be a stronger, more confident rider over all.
4.    You’ll Make Friends: Unless you’re that guy (and you don’t want to be that guy) that attacks when someone flats, you’ll probably make some pretty good friends on your group ride.
5.    It’s Fun: Sometimes riding can become a chore, especially if you always ride alone. Instead of always doing the same routes and struggling in the same spots, riding with a group can help spice up your riding life and give some variety to your cycling.

To find a ride in your area, contact your local Performance Bicycle store. All Performance stores have a Great Ride Series group ride at 8AM every Saturday morning, or they can help you find a ride suited to your skill and riding level.

Want more Real Advice? Click here to see more tips and tricks from cyclists just like you.

Wordless Wednesday

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Ask Performance Answers – 10/4/13

Last week on the Performance Bike Facebook page we asked folks to post questions about bikes or cycling that they wanted an answer to, in a segment we called #AskPerformance. Today we’re going to answer some of your questions below, but if you’ve got other vexing cycling queries, please post them in the comments below and we’ll do our best to find you an answer!

Ron S.: Is it too much to have more than 5 bikes? ;-) #AskPerformance

Ah, the age-old question – the most quoted saying is that the “correct number of bikes to own is ‘n+1′, where ‘n’ is the number of bikes currently owned”. Of course there is an important corollary to this rule, which is ‘s-1′, “where ‘s’ is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your significant other”.

Michael S.: #AskPerformance Has the industry established a lifespan projection for carbon fiber frames and components?

There is no standardized lifespan for carbon fiber, as it will depend on how the frame or component is used. That said, there’s no reason carbon fiber can’t last for a very long time – the key is to take care of it properly, only tighten bolts to their recommended torque settings, and inspect it for wear or damage from time to time. We’ve got a great article of tips on our Learning Center: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/how-to-guides/bikes-and-frames/taking-good-care-of-your-carbon-bike-frame

scattante_cfr_black_rearDarrell M.: When you shift gears, and the chain moves more than one gear, what is the typical cause and solution?

One main culprit could be a rear derailleur hanger that has come out of alignment – if that is bent (say from setting the bike down on its drive side), then no amount of derailleur adjustment will result in perfect shifting. Another issue could be incorrect routing of the cable to the derailleur bolt – if you’ve changed your cable lately take a look at the instructions for your derailleur to make sure you’ve got that right. If you’ve ruled out a bent hanger and poor cable routing, then you should next take a look at your rear derailleur itself – we’ve got a video in our Learning Center that covers adjusting your rear derailleur: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/how-to-guides/bike-parts-and-components/how-to-adjust-a-rear-derailleur

Daisy L.: How many miles before a chain needs to be replaced??

A good rule of thumb is somewhere around 1,500 to 2,000 miles for a road bike, and somewhere around 5-6 months for a mountain bike (assuming that you are riding a fair amount). But these are just general guidelines – to really understand when you should replace your chain you’ll need to measure chain stretch. Chains may be metal, but over time they can actually stretch out quite a bit – we’ve got a handy video that gives you the details of what to look for: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/how-to-guides/bike-parts-and-components/how-to-measure-bike-chain-wear

Lidia L.: What is the best way to clean your cogs ? And with what would u clean them with ? Thx ‘s

Cleaning your whole bike is one of the most important things that you can do to prolong the life of your bike and keep it running in tip-top condition (just ask any pro team mechanic). Luckily it’s not that difficult if you follow the how-to on our Learning Center, which covers everything from cleaning your rear cassette to lubing your shifters and brake levers: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/how-to-guides/bikes-and-frames/basic-maintenance-how-to-clean-your-bike For the rear cassette, the basic technique is to spray some degreaser onto a cog brush, then wipe down each of the cogs to get the gunk off.

Howard H.: How often should I rotate my tires?

Rotating your tires front to rear is a great idea to increase the longevity of the pair, but keep in mind that most steering control, both off-road and on, comes from the front tire, while more tire wear happens with the drive forces on the rear.  So putting a road tire worn flat or a MTB tire with worn lugs on the front will lessen traction when cornering hard. To prolong the life of your tires, save some money and keep high performance traction, ride your tires until the rear is worn out, move the front tire to the rear, and put a grippy new tire on the front. Need some tips on changing tires? We can help with that: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/how-to-guides/tires-tubes-and-wheels/how-to-change-a-road-bike-tire

_131008_dressing_for_coldEnrique L.: Just started riding my bike again like a month ago. but now that the cold weather is upon us what is the best gear for weather of around 40° which is probably the average temp he in the bay area.

The key to riding in changeable fall and winter riding conditions is dressing in layers. You want to keep your core and extremities warm when you get started, but then have the ability to remove and change layers s you get warmed up or if the temperature changes. We call this the 15 minute rule… if after 15 minutes of riding, if you’re still cold, you need more layers or warmer clothing. If you’re uncomfortably hot after 15 minutes, remove layers or wear cooler clothing. We recommend: a medium weight short sleeve base layer, bib shorts, long sleeve jersey, leg warmers, a windproof vest or jacket, windproof full-finger gloves, an ear band or beanie, and toe warmers. You can find all of our cold-weather recommendations here: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/how-to-guides/cycling-clothing/dressing-for-the-season-essential-cycling-layering-tips

Maureen K.: A few yrs ago, I switched from riding a hybrid bike to a road bike. On the hybrid, had no problem standing up,out of saddle to get up hills. I’ve had bike fit done on road bike – it fits me sooo much better now, but I am still not comfortable standing to climb up a hill – it’s too scary for some reason! What else should I be doing to get more comfortable standing to pedal up a hill?? Thanks for any suggestions

It is quite a change going from a flat-bar road bike to a drop-bar racing bike – losing the control and leverage you got from keeping your hands in the same position on the handlebars can be disconcerting. But when you stand up to climb on a drop bar road bike, you’ll need to move your hands to your brake hoods to have the most amount of control. Once you practice riding in this position and then smoothly getting up from your saddle, you’ll become more comfortable when you really need it. If you’re looking for other tips on climbing, our Real Advice column has you covered:  http://blog.performancebike.com/2013/07/11/real-advice-an-intro-to-climbing/

Reuben C: Is there a recommended pressure for a tire(as in replacing my 120psi) with the weight of the rider and load in mind. Or are there other factors such as wheel height/length? Sorry im new to riding and it feels like i am running low on psi after bumps or a day of riding (30 miles)

Road tire pressure is definitely critical to a safe and comfortable ride – almost every tire will have a range of recommended tire pressures noted directly on its sidewall. You have flexibility within this range of pressures, so if you feel like the tire is ‘bottoming out’, or compressing so much that it hits the rim, definitely put more air in if it is within the recommendations of the manufacturer. If you are still having issues, you may need to move up to a slightly wider tire (assuming that it fits within your bike’s frame), as this will help give your ride more stability. Or you could install puncture resistant tubes to reduce the chance of pinch flats and slightly increase the load capacity of the bike. If you need help finding the tire inflation range, check out this video: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/how-to-guides/tires-tubes-and-wheels/the-right-tire-pressure-for-a-road-bike

Donald H: Help! I tried replacing the cleats on my shoes yesterday. One bolt came out fine, but the other one ended up with the head rounded out to the point the hex wrench has nothing to grip. Any suggestions?

If you are not handy with tools, your best bet is to take the shoe to your local Performance Bicycle to have a mechanic take a look at it. If you want to try yourself (with the caveat that you might damage the sole of your shoe if you aren’t careful) use a Dremel tool with a cut-off wheel to cut a slot in the top of the cleat bolt and used a slotted-head screwdriver to remove the bolt. Be careful not to cut so deep that the bolt head breaks off. It also helps if the shaft of the screwdriver is hex-shaped, so that you can use a wrench to apply more torque to the screwdriver when removing the cleat bolt. And remember to grease your cleat bolts before installing them next time :)

Boone_Road-878Eric Q: #AskPerformance How does one determine how tight/loose to adjust one’s threadless-steerer headset?

Threadless headsets are pretty easy to get set up once you get the hang of it – the key is to tighten the top cap so that you don’t feel any movement fore and aft at the junction of the headset and the head tube, but not so tight that it hinders your turning ability. Then you tighten down the stem pinch bolts to their recommended pressure to lock the stem in place. We’ve got a very clear video that walks you through each step: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/how-to-guides/bike-parts-and-components/how-to-adjust-a-bicycle-headset

Greg C: I have my first race coming up next week. Should I shave my legs? Does it make a difference? Will I look like a FRED if I don’t shave?

Another dilemma – shaving your legs is an age-old tradition in the cycling community. Cyclists can give you a litany of rationalizations as to why they shave (such as shaved legs make cleaning up road rash easier and quicker and promote faster healing), but when it comes down to it, shaving your legs is mainly a way to identify yourself as part of the cycling club. Think of it as an initiation into the world of bike racing – you definitely don’t have to shave, but if you don’t, you’d better be fast! We’ve got tips for taking care of your skin here: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/riding-tips/general-cycling-tips/basic-guide-skincare-for-cyclists

Chris D: The big question. … I am 6’2 and ride cross country, all mountain and a small amount of DH. 26, 27.5 or a 29er??? It seems so hard to choose a new size with my wide range of riding styles. What is the advantage of a 27.5 vrs a 29er? Also any 2014 recommendations? I hope #askperformance can help! Sincerely a #teamperformance member.

Wow, it sounds like you’re looking for that one bike that can do it all! As a taller guy, you can definitely handle a 29er, which will give you an improved angle of attack to roll over obstacles, and more momentum to smooth out any trail. But the new 27.5″ standard might also be a great option for you – these bikes have a bit more agility than a 29er, but still have a greater ability to roll over obstacles than a classic 26″ bike. We’re pretty excited about the 27.5″ format and think that it might be a great fit for what you want to ride – we’ll have great options soon from GT (the 130mm travel Sensor and 150mm travel Force) as well as Devinci (their all-new 140mm travel Troy). Check out our Learning Center for more info about 29ers: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/buyers-guides/bikes-and-frames/basic-guide-to-29er-mountain-bikes and 27.5″ mountain bikes: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/buyers-guides/bikes-and-frames/basic-guide-to-275-mountain-bikes

_131003_Boone_Rky_Knob_MTB-340Dawn G.: How do I stop squeaky disc brakes? I’ve cleaned and adjusted them and they still squeak.

There are 2 main things that might be going on if you’ve got everything adjusted right – when you first install new disc brake pads, it’s essential that you go through the ‘break-in’ period for the pads. This will help improve performance and lessen annoying noise – just follow our tips here: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/how-to-guides/bike-parts-and-components/breaking-in-your-bike-disc-brakes Of course it could just be the case that the pads have become contaminated with oil or dirt – disc brakes pads a difficult to fully clean once this happens, so often the only alternative is simply to replace the pads all together: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/how-to-guides/bike-parts-and-components/how-to-replace-disc-brake-pads

Greg E: I am very interested in getting into cyclocross racing. What is the best way to get started racing for a mature beginner ? I already have a fuji cyclocross bike.

We’re huge fans of cross racing here in the home office – you could even say that we’re obsessed! But really what’s not to love? It’s an all-out effort for 30 minutes to an hour through grass, mud, or sand, with some barriers thrown in just for kicks. Of course this means that some different skills are needed than a regular road ride – you’re already on the right track with a dedicated cyclocross bike, but your next step is to practice cross-specific skills like quick dismounts and remounts, proper technique to carry and run with your bike, and short, hard sprinting efforts to stay in the mix at a race. We’ve got some tips you can follow on our Learning Center, but your best option to learn more is to find a local cyclocross club or training group – cross racers are a friendly bunch, and they’re usually happy to show a beginner the ropes and get him or her just as addicted to cross racing as they are: http://learn.performancebike.com/bikes/advice/riding-tips/road-cycling/cyclocross-basics

If you’ve got a cycling question that you need an answer to right away, feel free to get in touch with our Spin Doctor product technical support team – they are our team of in-house technical experts with decades of combined industry experience, ready to get you the info you need.

Call: 800-553-TECH (8324)
Email: spindoctor@performanceinc.com
Chat: Live Help at PerformanceBike.com

Cross Vegas at Interbike

While checking out all the latest cycling gear and making business deals is the real reason for the Interbike trade show in Las Vegas, getting the chance to check out some of the fastest cyclocross racers on the planet at Clif Bar CrossVegas is a pretty close second for many of the industry show attendees. Having grown from more modest beginnings in 2007, CrossVegas is now rated as a Category 1 race, just a notch below the biggest events on the European World Cup circuit. With early season ranking points on the line, CrossVegas now always draws a deep field to the Desert Breeze complex a few miles from the Vegas Strip – a grassy oasis that is transformed into a raucous arena of 10,000 fans under the lights for some nighttime racing.

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Big and noisy crowds lined the hillside near the barriers

Before the pros took to the course, a motley crew of amateurs from the cycling industry racers tried their luck in this early season cyclocross spectacular. Everyone from bike manufacturers, to clothing vendors, to cycling journalists, to your very own Performance Bicycle was represented in the ‘wheeler and dealer’ race – former pro (and race ringer) Christian Heule of KoolStop took the victory atop a brand new Diamondback Steilacoom RCX Carbon Pro Disc. This race also gave everyone a chance to check out the course and find their preferred vantage points for the later races – we were a big fan of the elaborate wooden banked turn at the base of the run-up and barriers (although there were also 2 flyover ramps, and 2 more sets of steps to keep things interesting).

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Cycling industry racers tackle the wicked cool banked turn

But the crowds really came to see the top pros duke it out in this first major cross race of the year – having grown in stature over the years, CrossVegas now regularly attracts a great field of racers from the US and Europe to race under the lights. By far the top name in town was reigning world champion Sven Nys of Belgium –  the seemingly ageless ‘Cannibal from Baal’ who has been a dominant fixture on the pro cross circuit for 15 years. An undisputed hero in his home country, Sven was back to race in the US for only the second time ever (his first being the World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky earlier in 2013).

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Sven Nys being interviewed by Belgian sports channel Sporza

However before Nys and company took to the course, the elite women had to settle their scores. Even though the sun had set at the Desert Breeze race venue, it was still blazingly hot when a stacked field of Katerina Nash, Lea Davison, Catharine Pendrel, Meredith Miller, Georgia Gould and Amy Dombroski, among others, lined up for the 40 minute women’s race. Racing was fast and furious from the starting gun, but a lead pack of about 20 riders stayed mostly together through the first few laps.

But about halfway through the race Katerina Nash jumped clear of the pack and never looked pack. The Czech rider kept the chasers at bay for the last half of the race and cruised home for an undisputed victory – American Lea Davison held off former mountain bike world champion Catharine Pendrel to round out the podium. Afterwards Nash announced that she was going to retire from pro cycling, only to un-retire a few days later. Hey, why quit when you’re ahead (although those are famous last words in Las Vegas)?

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Katerina Nash takes the win in the women’s race

After an exhilirating women’s race, the crowd was fired up to watch the elite men battle it out. Toeing the line from the international contingent were the champ, Sven Nys, Wout Van Aert, Quinten Hermans, Bart Wellens, and Sven Vanthourenhout, while the North American racing scene was represented by Jeremy Powers, Geoff Kabush, Ryan Trebon, Tim Johnson, Adam Craig, Jamie Driscoll, US champ Jonathan Page, and Belgian transplant Ben Berden. It was a formidable lineup for any cross race anywhere in the world – and the action didn’t disappoint. If there was one word to describe cross racing at this level, it would be ‘ferocious’. Pro cross racers attack from the gun, and don’t let up until the last lap an hour later!

Constant attacks on the very first lap left the field strung out across the wide-ranging grass circuit – it was amazing to see the raw speed and skill on display. If you ever get the chance to see world-class cyclocross racing in person you won’t be disappointed – watching these racers float over the barriers (many simply bunny-hopping them) with barely any drop in speed, or expertly dismount and re-mount at full gas, or even rocket through turns while jostling for position definitely makes for a fantastic spectator sport.

But back to the race – the seemingly inevitable soon happened and Nys glided off the front and established a gap. American Ryan Trebon grimly covered the move and hung with Nys for a few laps, but the Belgian’s relentless laps soon shed the rangy Trebon and the champ was all alone at the front. Riding solo for the last half of the race, Nys stayed comfortably ahead of the chasers and was able to casually cruise home the final straight for his second victory on US soil, much to the delight of the crowd (they came to see the best, and a winner in rainbow stripes certainly fit the bill). Behind Nys, American Jeremy Powers jumped away from the chasing pack to take second, while Canadian Geoff Kabush snuck in for third.

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Arms up for Sven Nys as he cruises in to victory in the men’s race

All in all, CrossVegas definitely lived up to the hype – 2 worthy champions, lots of furious cross racing, and a pretty rollicking party rolled into one event. If you make it out to Interbike next year and someone offers you an invite to CrossVegas, don’t pass up the opportunity to check out some world-class cyclocross in the Nevada desert (OK, it’s at a grassy city park, but it was still really hot and dusty).

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Amy Dombroski (on the left) talking to Georgia Gould before the start of CrossVegas

On a sad note, we did want to take a moment in closing to remember American cyclocross racer Amy Dombroski, who was tragically killed in a training accident in Belgium a few weeks after this race. A well-known and respected member of the women’s cyclocross scene in the US and Europe, Amy’s friends have put together a Facebook page to remember a life cut much too short – donations for her family can mailed to: Memorial of Amy Dombroski; c/o Wells Fargo Deposits; 1242 Pearl St.; Boulder 80302.

Wordless Wednesday

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Real Advice: Training Indoors


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Winter is coming. And this year, just like every year, we’re all going to swear up and down that no matter how bad the weather gets, we’re going to ride outside. And this year, just like every year, that resolution will last just about through mid-December, at which point we will all switch to full-on holiday bacchanalia mode and just kind of stop riding, reasoning that spring isn’t that far away.

For most of my cycling career, this was exactly the pattern I fell into year after year. I would ride my way into excellent form going into the fall, only to feel like I was starting again from scratch every spring. Finally, one year, I decided to buy a trainer. I didn’t work for Performance at the time, but I visited my local store, and the associate helped me pick out a trainer that was right for my needs. I ended up going home with an Elite progressive resistance trainer, and a special tire designed to be used with stationary trainers (more on that in a bit). The results were incredible. While I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t exactly love riding the trainer, I was able to keep relatively in shape through the winter, and entered into the spring in much better shape than previous years.

When it comes to trainers and rollers, there are a lot of options to choose from. Trainers can vary a lot in price and features, so it’s important to consider what your training goals are before buying.

Here are some tricks and tips to get the most out of your winter training:

1. Know Your Trainers: The primary purpose of trainers is to help you build strength and endurance. Basically, a trainer is a treadmill for your rear wheel—you just clamp your rear wheel in and start spinning.  How much resistance your trainer delivers will depend on what type it is. Our Learning Center has an article that dives more in-depth into the different types of trainers, but here’s a quick summary:

Wind Trainers: Use a fan to generate resistance.

Advantages

  • Fewer moving parts
  • Produce progressive resistance, which increases as wheel speed increases
  • Smooth resistance with minimal vibration

Disadvantages

  • Noisy
  • Fan susceptible to damage
  • Increasing wheel speed only way to increase resistance

Magnetic Trainers: Use combination of magnets and metal plates to generate resistance.

Advantages

  • Offer multiple levels of resistance
  • Quieter than wind trainers
  • Produce linear resistance, which stays the same regardless of wheel speed
  • Typically less expensive than other options

Disadvantages

  • Changing resistance level requires dismounting bike unless trainer is equipped with handlebar-mounted remote shift lever

Fluid Trainers: Uses a hydraulic fluid and an impeller to create resistance.

Advantages

  • Produce progressive resistance, which increases as wheel speed increases
  • Very quiet
  • Most moving parts protected by enclosed resistance unit
  • Available in adjustable resistance models

Disadvantages

  • More Expensive

A quick word on tires: trainers tend to be tough on your tires. As mentioned above, some companies like Vittoria now make specially designed tires that are made to withstand the rigors that the trainer will put them through.

The Elite Qubo Fluid+ resistance trainer is a great way to gain strength and work on endurance through the winter

2. Rollers: are different from trainers in that the focus is on developing form instead of strength. While riding the rollers can deliver a hard, pulse-pounding workout, rollers are better used to work on cadence, pedaling efficiency and concentration. Unlike trainers, rollers are a free-form exercise where the bike is not locked down, so they require a smooth pedaling motion, steady cadence and concentration to use. They take some practice to get the hang of, but the rewards are significant. The first few times you use rollers, we highly recommend wearing a helmet, setting them up next to a wall (to make it easier to get on and off), and putting some couch cushions around you on the floor. It’s also recommended that you have someone video your first attempt at using the rollers, since hilarity is almost certainly sure to ensue (don’t worry, we’ve all been there).

Rollers are an excellent way to work on form and cadence through the long winter months

3. Boredom: I’m going to be really honest here: there are few things more boring than riding a trainer/rollers. When you’re sitting on a bike that’s going nowhere, it’s really hard to stay motivated and push yourself. A good way to overcome this is with videos or music. Many companies offer workout DVD’s for use with the trainer that can help you target specific areas you’d like to work on (strength training, endurance, climbing, etc…). Something important to remember, though, is that your time on the trainer is an hour you have to yourself to do whatever you want. With that in mind, here are some other ideas I use to stay focused:

-Catch up on the DVR queue

-Watch cycling movies like Breaking Away, American Flyers, and The Flying Scotsman

-Scour Netflix for movies that your better half doesn’t want to watch (I’ve probably seen Commando on the trainer at least 7 times)

-When I have to use the trainer at work or before a race, I have a special playlist on my phone of songs that help get me motivated

Catching up on TV you may have missed is a great way to keep the trainer from getting stale

4. Ride With A Buddy: Everything is more fun if you have a friend, and riding with someone else helps you stay more accountable. If you have some buddies who are into cycling try setting up some indoor training sessions. If you have a video game system, then you have a recipe for success since you can host “trainer tournaments”. Last year at the office we had some fairly epic Halo multiplayer battles while riding the trainers (one guy even added aerobar extensions to his bike since he could ride hard while still using the controller).

You'd be amazed how much faster the time goes when you can crush your friends in Halo or Madden

You’d be amazed how much faster the time goes when you can crush your friends in Halo or Madden

5. Sweat It Out: When you’re on the trainer, it’s going to get sweaty. You’re not moving, so there’s no air to cool you down. Here are some tips to keep cool and clean:

-Put down a trainer mat under the bike

-Use a sweat net to protect your frame (many trainers come with one of these)

-Use a small fan to keep cool

-Always have a bottle with ice water in it

-Wear a cycling cap to keep sweat out of your eyes

A sweat net will help protect your frame and components from the corrosive effects of sweat

6. Have A Plan: Riding the trainer is an activity that rewards having a focused approach. Making vague promises to ride the trainer every day for an hour may be hard to follow through on as the winter grinds on. Create a training realistic training plan that you can adhere to, and that drives toward very specific goals. This is where using a training DVD can be very helpful.

Using a training DVD can help you create a plan and work toward specific goals during the off-season

Wordless Wednesday

erin_trainer_desk

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