Last Chance 2014 Gran Fondos

Gran Fondos are a great way to test your fitness as a cyclist

Gran Fondos are a great way to test your fitness as a cyclist

If you’ve gotten out to some of our Great Ride Series rides at our stores, you’ve probably realized how awesome a group ride is. If you’re ready to take it to the next step though, you might just be ready for a Gran Fondo.

Gran Fondo’s are a great way to test your fitness as a cyclist, have fun at a well organized event, and give you a goal to work towards. Gran Fondos are usually challenging rides of 100 miles or more (though often organizers offer medio and piccolo routes for shorter distances), and most organizers pride themselves on finding the hardest routes possible.

If you’re looking for an event to end your year on a high note, these rides might be your last chances until next year.

No matter where in the country you live, there are a few rides left that can give you a chance to see how you stack up, or just give you some bragging rights with your buddies.

Did we miss your favorite ride? Tell us about it in the comments section.

WEST COAST / SOUTHWEST

Tri State Gran Fondo

October 11, 2014

Mosquite, NV

Challenge Gran Fondo

October 12, 2014

Durham, CA

Tour de Scottsdale

October 12, 2014

Scottsdale, AZ

El Grande Fondo de Los Angeles Crest

October 18, 2014

Los Angeles, CA

 

 

ROCKIE MOUNTAINS

Tour de St. George Fall Gran Fondo

October 25, 2014

St. George, UT

The Coal Miner Gran Fondo

October 31, 2014

Steamboat Springs, CO

 

 

EAST COAST

Gran Fondo Virginia

October 11, 2014

Albemarle County, VA

New Holland Bicycle Race Gran Fondo

October 11, 2014

New Holland, PA

Tour of the Battenkill Fall Preview Ride

October 11, 2014

Greenwich, NY

Oktoberfest Ride

October 12, 2014

Collegeville, PA

Bicycling Magazine Fall Classic

October 12, 2014

Lehigh Valley, PA

Hincapie Gran Fondo

October 25, 2014

Greenville, SC

Florida Cycling Challenge

October 31, 2014

Daytona, FL

Bookwater Binge Charity Gran Fondo

November 1, 2014

Asheville, NC

 

To learn how to prepare for your next big ride, check out these articles:

Brian’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo Recap

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Our coworker Brian just completed Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo in Harrisonburg, VA this weekend. It has a reputation as the toughest ride on the East Coast, and with it’s combination of long distances, steep hills, and gravel, has been known to take even very experienced riders to their limits. Fortunately, Brian finished the gran fondo, and we’re checking in with him to see how it went, what he would do differently, and what advice he has for anyone wanting to attempt it next year.

-Hi Brian. Can you tell us a little bit about how you felt going into the gran fondo?

I felt pretty good going into it, but I think I could do better next year. My fitness was generally pretty good, but not having done it before, I definitely wasn’t ready for how difficult the gravel climbs would be, and they took their toll. I also made some stupid mistakes in the first half of the ride that almost undid me in the second half. Other than that, I felt pretty good on the bike, and was overall just happy to have finished.

-What was your favorite part?

Crossing the finish line to find my amazing girlfriend waiting with a bottle of Clif Recovery drink and a plate of food.

My favorite part of the actual ride was the descent off the first KOM section. Wide open highway, gentle curves, and high speeds. It was really exhilarating, and not something I get to experience too often. You truly get a feeling of flying, and it’s one of the most fun things I think you can do on a bike.

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Riders for the Gran Fondo, Medio, and Piccolo routes all started together

-What was your least favorite part?

I think the two gravel climbs might be physically the hardest thing I’ve done, but the last 20 miles was much more difficult, mentally. Even on a really, really hard climb like Reddish Knob you can still settle into a rhythm—you just accept that you’ll be pedaling until the top and get to work. The last 20 miles however was full of short and steep rollers that were just long enough and steep enough to be very mentally draining after so much saddle time.

-What equipment choices worked well?

I think the Gatorskin Hardshell is  probably the single most impressive piece of cycling equipment I’ve ever used. I hit some rocks (not gravel, straight up rocks) and holes that by all rights should have detonated a clincher tire, yet I never flatted the entire ride.

The compact was also a great choice. No, actually, it was the only choice. After the first road climb I thought maybe I should have gone with a 52/36 chainring combo instead of a 50/34. After the first gravel climb though, I realized I never would have gotten up it with a 36.

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The route passed through some beautiful Amish country

 

-What equipment would you change next year?

-I think next year I would definitely ride a cyclocross bike or an endurance road bike. Something like the GT Grade or a Fuji Altamira CX with bigger tire clearance, disc brakes and a lighter weight would have been perfect.

-25mm tires were fine, but next year I’m definitely going with 28mm or 30mm tires

-Lighter wheels. My winter wheels were chosen for their durability, but it didn’t take long before I started feeling the 2150g weight. Having seen the course, I would feel more comfortable using a carbon wheel next year.

- I’ll probably consider using a mid-cage SRAM WiFli rear derailleur with an 11-32 cassette instead of an 11-27, just to get that extra bail out gear.

 

-Would you do it again?

After I crossed the finish line I swore I would never do it again. But I woke up on Monday morning thinking about how I would train and set up my bike differently next time. So I guess the answer is yes, I will probably be on the start line next year.

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Crossing the finish line is usually the high point of the day for the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo

-Any advice for someone thinking about doing it next year?

-Spend as much time climbing as you can! I didn’t this year, and I definitely paid for it. Not immediately, but later in the ride.

-Take full advantage of all the aid stations. I didn’t spend much time at the first two, only stopping to fill up on fluids and that was a big mistake which I blame on race day excitement. I should have stayed a few minutes longer to eat real food and stretch, but instead I ended up bonking around mile 60 and really suffering up Reddish Knob and the last part of the ride.

-Don’t take the “pro pee break” at mile 15. The only people who will stop are the pro’s and super strong riders, so you’ll find yourself alone very quickly, with nobody to pace up the climb.

-Run the widest tires your bike will fit, and make sure you have new brake pads on your bike

-Don’t start all loaded down with your own food. The aid stations are really well stocked, and had Honey Stinger gels and mini Clif Bars you could take with you. I would recommend just having 1 or 2 gels in your pocket at the start, just in case, and then loading up at the aid stations.

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Jeremiah Bishop won. Again. You really can’t put a price on home road advantage.

5 Ways To Get The Most Out Of The Off Season

I guess we’re getting just about to that point of the year. The days get shorter, the group rides start to taper off, and the last of the gran fondos and event rides are just about over. For racers, the last road races of the season should be in a week or two.

For many, it means taking some well-deserved time off. For most though, it means it’s time to start thinking about the off-season.

Now don’t let the term “off-season” fool you—this is the best time of year for riding. But to rest, recover, and come back stronger next year, follow these simple tips for the rest of this year.

 

1. Long Steady Distance (LSD)

This fall, ride longer and slower than you normally would. This is the time of year for sprawling weekend rides in the little ring. And when we say steady, we mean slow and steady. Take it conversation-pace easy, ride with a buddy, and have a good time.

Why: During the high season of cycling most riders concentrate on high intensity work, which is great for building strength, but often neglect the slow burn work that builds aerobic capacity. LSD riding during the fall and winter will help you build a good aerobic base for the spring.

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Fall and winter are the time for slow, steady, meandering rides to take in the scenery, enjoy a mid-ride conversation, and build an aerobic base

 

2. Mix It Up

During the fall we normally introduce more rest days into our week. Normally we ride 5-6 days a week during the summer, but usually reduce it to just 3 or 4 during the fall, with half of those being mountain bike or ‘cross rides.

Why: Letting your body and mind rest by riding fewer days and mixing up the type of riding you do is incredibly important. The rest days give your body time to recover and rebuild, while varying up your riding routine helps prevent mental burnout.

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Mixing in some mountain biking can be a good way to keep from mentally burning out

 

3. Get Stronger

Run. Lift weights. Do core work. In short, try to work out the muscles you don’t use much during cycling.

Why: Cycling is a single plane exercise that only works a few muscles in specific directions. Running, lifting weights, and core work can help strengthen muscles, tendons and ligaments to help prevent injury.

*If it’s been a few years since you last ran or lifted, go easy until your tendons, ligaments and muscles can adapt. Most cyclists are very aerobically fit, which means when they start running or lifting they can easily injure themselves by trying to do too much too soon.

For running start out easy with a half a mile once a week to start, then build in .5 mile increments from there.

For weight lifting we recommend consulting a personal trainer before you start. It’s worth the $30 or $40 it costs for a session if it avoids a more costly injury later from using too much weight or improper form.

Running and lifting weights can help you get in shape for 'cross season and make you more injury resistant next year

Running and lifting weights can help you get in shape for ‘cross season and make you more injury resistant next year

4. Stretch It Out

Last weekend we pulled the yoga mat out of the closet and started going to our traditional off-season classes again. With darker days coming, this is a great time to start doing some yoga or pilates that can help lengthen tight muscles, reducing the chance of injury and the inflammation that builds up after months or riding.

Why: Cycling can be very hard on muscles, and when overworked they often respond by shortening and forming adhesions and muscles knots. Dynamic lengthening exercises like yoga and pilates help safely stretch out those muscles, helping to reduce back, neck and shoulder pain, and make you more flexible, which also makes you more resistant to injury.

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Yoga and pilates are good ways to get more limber to help avoid injury

 

5. Mix In Intensity

We know we just said to go easy through the fall and winter. But make sure you’re doing the occasional high intensity ride that really pushes up your heart rate and makes you work hard. Try doing a hard intervals ride or a difficult trainer session once a week or once every other week.

Why: Low intensity is a good thing for recovery, but too much of it can lead to detraining, which is where you begin to loose fitness. Studies show that by doing occasional high intensity training, you can preserve your peak fitness by up to 15 weeks. Think of it as kind of like occasionally starting the engine on a car that’s been put away for the winter.

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Long and slow distance is the name of the game– but don’t forget to get some high intensity work in too

Brian’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo Prep

It’s that time of year again… time for one of our employees to put themselves to the test with Jeremiah Bishop’s Alpine Loop Gran Fondo. We’ve covered this event before in the past, where clothing buyer Zach, and others, have tackled this legendarily tough ride.

Starting in Harrisonburg, VA the ride covers about 105 miles and features over 11,000 feet of climbing. And just to make sure that it’s extra tough, the two biggest climbs are a combination of dirt and gravel.

It’s going to be a tough one, but well worth it to raise money for prostate cancer.

This year, Brian, our content and media writer, will be undertaking the challenge. He’s a fairly experienced cyclist, and has been training hard since May, after doing the Ronde van Vlaanderen Sportif in Belgium. He’s never done the ride before, but he says he’s feeling pretty good.

Find out more about his preparation and his equipment below.

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What made you want to do the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo?

Ever since I moved to North Carolina and came to work at Performance, I’ve heard stories about how hard it is. I love looking for long, challenging rides that really test my fitness and push my limits. As I’ve gotten older I’ve kind of lost interest in actual racing, but I still like to get competitive on a bike, and see how I stack up against other riders. Gran Fondo’s are a perfect opportunity to do that, whether you’ve raced in the past or are just getting into the sport.

What are you excited about?

Finally doing the Alpine Loop. I planned to do the Gran Fondo in both 2012 and 2013, but had to miss out for various reasons. Third time is a charm I guess. Beyond that, I’m looking forward to ending the season on a high note.

What are you feeling nervous about?

The big climbs. It was a busy summer for me, and I didn’t get a chance to go out to the mountains for some of those long, hour long climbs. Mostly this year I’ve done stuff like the Ronde with short, punchy, hills. I did a lot of Youtube trainer workouts for climbing though, so I guess on Sunday we’ll see if that was enough.

What bike will you be using?

Scattante Titanium. Anyone remember those? I was lucky enough to get my hands on one a few years back and it’s been my go to for long distance rides. Nice upright endurance geometry, and the titanium is excellent for handling road vibration.

I built it up with Campy 11-speed, and some burly handbuilt 32-spoke wheels.

Brian's titanium Scattante frame should be the right tool for the job

Brian’s titanium Scattante frame should be the right tool for the job

Did you make any special equipment changes for the Alpine Loop?

Yeah, absolutely. 100+ miles, 11K feet of climbing, gravel…that’s a long day on the bike and you need to be ready.

 

What equipment will you be using?

Brian's clothing and equipment choices for the Alpine Loop

Brian’s clothing and equipment choices for the Alpine Loop

 

There’s a lot of gnarly gravel sections. What repair items are you carrying?

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What else will you carry?

Even though the Gran Fondo will have food available, Brian is bringing plenty of his own, just in case

Even though the Gran Fondo will have food available, Brian is bringing plenty of his own, just in case

 

Thanks Brian, and good luck!

Check back next week for Brian’s Jeremiah Bishop Alpine Loop Gran Fondo recap.

 

To learn more about how to prepare for your next big ride, check out these articles:

Build A Fall Cycling Wardrobe

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The weather isn’t cold….yet. But it’s getting there. Which means that now is the time to get your cycling wardrobe ready for the change. After all, fall is probably the best time to ride, and you don’t want to be stuck inside on that first beautifully cool day because you don’t have the right clothes.

The key to riding in fall is versatility through layering. Since the day can start off cold but heat up later, layers of clothing allow you to start the ride warm, then shed the small, easily packable outerlayers as you ride.

 

Here are 7 Fall Clothing Essentials:

 

1. Arm and Leg Warmers

These are probably the most versatile items in the cyclist’s arsenal. Warmers can help extend the temperature range of your shorts and jerseys well down into the 50’s and 60’s…lower if you run hot. Pair them with a vest or jacket to get even more versatility.

 

Arm warmers may be the most versatile clothing option you have

Arm warmers may be the most versatile clothing option you have

2. Vest

The vest is probably the second most versatile item you can own. Wear it over a short sleeve jersey when the day starts cool, pair with arm and leg warmers on colder days, or bring it along to layer over a jacket if the weather really turns.

They’re so light, offer so much protection, and roll up so small, there’s no reason not to bring it with you on every fall ride.

 

The vest is a close second. Small, packable, and protective

The vest is a close second. Small, packable, and protective

3. Jacket

As awesome as the vest and warmers are, they can only take you so far into the season. At some point, you’ll need some more protection. Fall isn’t quite thermal softshell territory yet (save the big guns for winter), but a thermal jacket can help you stay warmer as we get into later October and early November.

 

A wind jacket is essential as it gets later into the season

A wind jacket is essential as it gets later into the season

4. Full Finger Gloves

Keep those digits warm. There’s nothing worse on a ride than having cold fingers (except for maybe cold feet). So keep them warm by wearing some good, full finger gloves. A decent long finger glove can keep your fingers warm in brisk weather, without all the insulation you usually need in a big winter glove.

 

Full finger gloves offer plenty of protection without bulk

Full finger gloves offer plenty of protection without bulk

5. Baselayer

A baselayer serves two purposes in fall: 1) it gives you a little bit of extra warmth for cooler days—which can be a real blessing on cold mornings, and 2) it helps wick away sweat. The second part is important, because fall days can have you feeling too hot one minute, and too cold the next, so the baselayer helps control your core temperature.

 

Baselayers help control your core temperature, to keep you warm without overheating

Baselayers help control your core temperature, to keep you warm without overheating

6. Toe Covers

Since cycling shoes are usually the closest fitting shoes most people have, there’s not enough room to wear a thicker wool sock. Instead, most cyclists opt for the overshoe or toe warmers to keep their feet warm on cooler rides. The big advantage of toe warmers is that they don’t completely cover all the vents, so your foot can still vent some extra heat. If the day really warms up, they’re small enough to fit easily in a jersey pocket.

 

Toe covers keep toes warm, but are easy to remove and pack down small

Toe covers keep toes warm, but are easy to remove and pack down small

7. Headband

This is an ear saver when rides start on cooler mornings. It helps keep the cold wind off your forehead and ears, but doesn’t make you overheat like a full skullcap might. As the ride rolls on and the day warms up, you can just pull over and take it off. They roll up so tiny you might even lose it in your jersey pocket afterwards.

 

The headband is an excellent item for early morning starts

The headband is an excellent item for early morning starts

 

Did we miss any essentials? Let us know in the comments.

Real Advice: 4 Fall Ride Essentials

As the summer draws to a close, the kinds of riding most of us do changes too. For some a long summer of training and racing has left the legs feeling fairly torched and ready for a rest with slower, leisurely rides. For others, the cooler temperatures mean that it’s now more comfortable to put in those long, big mile days in the saddle.

No matter how you ride this fall though, here are 4 things you shouldn’t leave the house without.

1. Complete Repair Kit

In most parts of the country, fall is a pretty rainy time of year. That means that there’s lots of extra stuff on the roads that can give you a flat, and rain and road grit can take a bigger toll on your chain.

While we normally eschew the seat wedge during the summer and roll with a minimal flat kit, during the fall and winter we embrace it, and stuff it with:

A full repair kit is a must for fall riding

A full repair kit is a must for fall riding

 

2. Lights

No matter what time it is when we leave the house for a ride, we always bring some emergency lights this time of year.

Small, lightweight LED’s are easy to affix to your bars and seatpost, or fit easily in a pocket. Having a front and rear light can help you stay visible in traffic when it gets dark, when the sky is overcast, or the weather turns bad.

Small LED lights, like these Blackburn lights, are lightweight and easy to attach

Small LED lights, like these Blackburn lights, are lightweight and easy to attach

 

3. Vest / Jacket

A packable wind jacket or vest will roll up small and easily fits into a jersey pocket. This is a September-April essential for us, since the weather can change quickly and you never know when you might need it.

A vest is a great option for warmer or windy days when the primary concern is keeping the core warm. They also roll up super tiny, so they take up minimal pocket room when you take them off.

Jackets are a better option for days that a very windy, have a chance of rain, or when you’ll be doing climbs that involve long descents. They are a little bulkier, but the fuller protection and wind/water-resistant fabrics will provide more complete protection against the elements.

A packable wind jacket or vest can help you be prepared for changeable weather

A packable wind jacket or vest can help you be prepared for changeable weather

 

4. Cash

Cards are great, but cash is still king. If you’re going for a long ride into the country, there are fewer better pit stops during a ride then stopping at a roadside produce stand for some harvest-fresh apples, cider, or other treats. Not only are they healthier than most snacks we eat on the road, but are super fresh and usually only for sale for a few short weeks.

Carrying some cash with you is ensures you'll always be ready for a pit stop

Carrying some cash with you is ensures you’ll always be ready for a pit stop

 

What do you carry when you ride?

Tell us in the comments.

 

Last Minute Prep: Getting Ready For That Big Ride

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Have you signed up for a Gran Fondo or charity ride? Now is the time of year when most of those rides are coming up, so it’s important to be prepared. If you’re like us, you’re probably starting to get down into your final week or two of preparation.

Remember, it’s the little details that can undo us. Things that may seem harmless when off the bike: a slightly off-center stem, a slight creak from the bottom bracket, picking the wrong flavor of gels, a hill coming sooner than you expected, etc… can all become issues that seem monumental by mile 50– enough so that it can get into your head and begin to impact your performance.

To head off such calamity,  follow our checklist below.

After all, cycling is like life. Taking care of small details now leads to successful outcomes later.

 

1. Get In One Last Big Ride

The weekend before your event, try and do one last ride that’s at least 75% of the distance you’ll need to do. And make sure you do it wearing the clothes you plan on riding in, and with your bike set up how you will be riding it. This will be your big chance to test everything out and make any changes.

Hopefully you’ve been training for at least 8 weeks beforehand and are fully prepared. This last ride is to get some last miles in the legs and check your fitness level to help to determine pacing for the event itself.

Getting in some last big miles the weekend before will give you a change to test your equipment

Getting in some last big miles the weekend before will give you a change to test your equipment

2. Rest Up

The week leading up to the event itself, rest up. Try to go for a ride every day, but just do some gentle, small ring spinning for short distances. This will help keep your legs limber and preserve your fitness, but will also keep you rested so you feel fresh and ready come game time.

Going for easy spins the week before your event will keep your legs limber and preserve fitness

Going for easy spins the week before your event will keep your legs limber and preserve fitness

 

3. Prepare Your Bike

Is your bike tuned up? Is your gearing right? Do you need to change out tires or add more padding to your bar tape? The week before the event, either spend a few evenings fine tuning your bike, or take it to a Performance Bicycle shop and ask them to do a quick tune up (you might want to call ahead for lead times).

Don’t do anything drastic though like change out your saddle, try a new pair of shoes, or change your stem length or bike fit. Now is NOT the time to try something new. Even if you invested in an upgrade, roll with what you have until after your event (unless it’s new wheels or tires). You don’t want to realize at mile 35 of a 100 mile ride that the new saddle you bought isn’t really working out.

Don’t put it off until the night before. If something goes wrong, you’ll want plenty of time to fix it.

Getting your bike tuned up before the ride can help you feel more prepared the day of your event

Getting your bike tuned up before the ride can help you feel more prepared the day of your event

4. Study The Course And Elevation Profiles

Get to know the course beforehand. Do you know where the turns are? Do you know when the big climbs are? You don’t have to memorize everything, but you should be familiar enough with the route to know what to expect. If there’s a cue-sheet you can download, print it out and bring it with you. If you have a GPS or cycling computer, see if you can find the course map on Strava or Garmin and load it on your computer.

You can also go old school Pro and use a piece of tape on the stem to write down any significant areas of the course on it.

For Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, we’ll be using a Garmin GPS and a piece of tape on the stem to note at what mileage the big climbs start at (and where they end).

Getting familiar with the course profile and climbs can help you feel more prepared

Getting familiar with the course profile and climbs can help you feel more prepared

 

5. Prepare the Night Before

The morning of an event is always a hectic one. Between dressing, eating, getting to the event, sign in and getting to the start line, there’s a lot to take care of.

Make it easy on yourself, and do as much as you can the night before.

-Tires inflated

-Chain cleaned and lubricated

-Lights (if needed for early AM start) affixed to bike

-Clothing laid out

-Food flavors and types carefully selected

-Jersey pockets / seatwedge pre-packed

-Food, tools, tube, pump, route cue sheet, etc…

-Phone and cycling computer fully charged

-Water bottles pre-filled

-Drink mix flavors carefully selected

-Breakfast pre-made and ready to eat

-Alarm set for at least 2 hours before start (to give you some time just in case)

Laying out all your food and equipment the night before can save you precious time in the morning

Laying out all your food and equipment the night before can save you precious time in the morning

WANT TO LEARN EVEN MORE? CHECK OUT THE ARTICLES BELOW:

Real Advice: 5 Tips For The Workday Cyclist

 

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An unfortunate feature of adult life is that it requires most of us to spend 8+ hours a day at work. While it might be necessary for paying the bills and providing for our families (and maybe buying some new bike gear here and there), it leaves a lot of folks—even us—feeling like there’s too little time in life for riding.

Few people realize however that there are ways to sneak in a workout at work. Before having the good fortune of finding my way to the Promised Land of Performance, I worked in a high-pressure, high-demand advertising job where late nights and working weekends were the norm. To stay sane and keep my fitness, I had to get pretty creative about ways to get a workout in and stay in shape.

Here are a few tips I learned about Working Out At Work*.

*We’re all adults here, so use common sense. Only you know your work environment, and we highly advise you to evaluate how permissive your workplace is about lunch hour use, absenteeism, and office space use before attempting any of these ideas.  

 1. Use Your Lunch Hour Wisely

If you work in an office, nobody says you actually have to eat on your lunch break. I used to bring my bike, a kit, shoes and helmet to work and ride on my lunch hour. Afterwards, I’d feel much more energetic and focused.

After my ride, I’d eat lunch at my desk and catch up on emails.

And as for cleaning up? I used to keep some Nathan Power Shower wipes and some deodorant in my bag, and I’d just clean up and change in the bathroom

If you can, try using your lunch hour to ride, and then eat at your desk afterwards

If you can, try using your lunch hour to ride, and then eat at your desk afterwards

2.Reclaim Your Time

Some days can just fill up with (pointless) meetings. Sometimes I’d feel like my time was booked solid from 9-6. If I felt like I could get away with it, I’d schedule a fake “meeting” at lunch on my Outlook calendar so I could get an hour for myself to ride.

Still expected to be at the office? Sometimes—especially if I had to work on a weekend,  I would get really desperate, which meant I had to get sneaky. I’d leave an empty wallet and a set of old keys on my desk, along with a cup of coffee. That way I would appear to still be in the office, but be on my bike instead.

If you don't have time in a day to go for a ride, you might need to schedule yourself some time

If you don’t have time in a day to go for a ride, you might need to get creative with your Outlook calendar

 3.Make A Friend

If you don’t want to risk leaving the building, or if the weather is really bad (ie: winter), try making friends with the building manager or a maintenance professional. Ask if they can let you set up a stationary trainer in a spare closet or unused office space. During the winters I convinced our building manager to let me use an old store room next to her office for me and a buddy to set up stationary trainers. That way we could disappear for a while, get in a quick ride, and never leave the office.

Check with HR, the building manager, or maintenance staff to see if there's a space where you can set up a trainer

Check with HR, the building manager, or maintenance staff to see if there’s a space where you can set up a trainer

4.Alternatives

Sometimes it’s just impossible to get out of the office, either because of work volume or threat of termination. In that case, you can still do some healthy alternatives.

Standing up from your desk once an hour to do some stretching, dynamic strength moves like lunges, or a yoga pose or two is not only really good for you (studies show it could literally save your life), but can also help you get in better cycling shape.

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Standing up at least once an hour to stretch or do dynamic exercises can do more than just improve your cycling

5. Playing The Hand You’re Dealt

Ok, there are times where working out at work just isn’t going to happen, in which case you need to be realistic and start planning how to get some rides in.

Some ideas are to get in a ride before work before the day gets away from you, commuting to work, or trying to get in two shorter rides during the day. Only you know how truly busy you are—so try to find places where you have even 15 spare minutes…plenty of time for a hammer session on the trainer.

Spending even just 15 minutes on the trainer when you get a chance can help improve your fitness

Spending even just 15 minutes on the trainer when you get a chance can help improve your fitness

Eddie’s 100 Mile Mountain Bike Race Prep

Eddy and his steed

Eddie and his steed

This fall some of our home office employees will be pushing their cycling skills to the limit. The first up is Eddie, a data analyst in our marketing department. Eddie is superfast on a mountain bike (or really just any kind of bike), and has been orienting his training and riding all year around completing the Shenandoah Mountain 100 bike race this coming coming weekend.

Course profile for The Shenandoah Mountain 100 bike race

Course profile for The Shenandoah Mountain 100 bike race

The ride starts in Harrisonburg, VA (where another employee will attempt another big ride later in September). Shenandoah is one of the toughest mountain bike races on the East Coast. Covering a mix of dirt, trail, gravel and pavement, the Shenandoah 100 features a massive amount of climbing, tough terrain, and plenty of challenges.

Unfortunately for Eddie, nobody else in our office has done this ride before, so he’s had to figure out how to equip and provision himself on his own. We think he’s got it pretty well dialed in though.

Check out what he’ll be using for the ride.

 

The Bike

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Eddie’s heavily customized Diamondback Overdrive Carbon Expert is race ready and looking good

 

Frame:

Diamondback Overdrive Carbon Expert

Probably my favorite bike that I own, it is a super lightweight carbon hardtail with 29” wheels. It is an excellent cross country bike, light enough for both long climbs and nimble enough for fast, technical descents.

Eddy has certainly put the Overdrive Carbon Expert through it's paces

Eddie has certainly put the Overdrive Carbon Expert through it’s paces

Components/Drivetrain:

Shimano XT brakes and drivetrain with Race Face Next SL crank

Shimano’s XT disc brakes provide firm, consistent stopping power, even in wet conditions and XT drivetrain gives durable, consistent shifting. The clutch derailleur ensures that the chain will stay on even through the roughest descents. The Next SL crankset is light and strong, perfect for a light cross country race bike.

Shimano XT hydraulic brakes and 1x10 drivetrain

Shimano XT hydraulic brakes and 1×10 drivetrain

Raceface Next SL crank with Raceface Narrow Wide chainring

Raceface Next SL crank with Raceface Narrow Wide chainring

Gearing:

1×10 setup: 36 tooth Race Face Narrow/Wide chainring, 11-34 cassette with e*thirteen 40 tooth extended range cog

I swapped out the 17 tooth cog on my XT cassette for a 40 tooth e*thirteen extended range cog to widen my range of gears for both going up and down.

The e*thriteen 40T extended range cog should give Eddy plenty of gearing for the steepest parts of the course

The e*thriteen 40T extended range cog should give Eddie plenty of gearing for the steepest parts of the course

Wheels:

Easton EA70

These are great wheels. They are durable, light, and will provide plenty of comfort over the 100 mile ride.

Tires:

Schwalbe Racing Ralph Tubeless with Snake Skin protection, (2.35” front, 2.25” rear)

I’ll be putting on some fresh rubber for the race and Racing Ralphs are really the only XC tires that I run. They are light, fast, and provide plenty of traction through corners. The wider 2.35” front provides more traction in the corners and the thinner 2.25” rear helps reduce rolling resistance. The snakeskin provides extra protection for the back country trails at a minimal weight penalty. I run them tubeless with 19 PSI in the front and 20 PSI in the rear.

Easton EA70 wheels are a good mix of durability and light weight. The Racing Ralph tires provide plenty of traction.

Easton EA70 wheels are a good mix of durability and light weight. The Racing Ralph tires provide plenty of traction.

EQUIPMENT

Shoes:

Giro Privateer

They aren’t the lightest or the stiffest cross country race shoes, but they are incredibly comfortable and on a 100 mile race, comfort is king. They also provide enough traction for any sections, such as creeks or steep, wet switchbacks where walking is the best option.

The Giro Privateer provides all-day comfort on the bike...and while walking

The Giro Privateer provides all-day comfort on the bike…and while walking

Socks:

DeFeet Wooleator

For a 100 mile MTB race, wool socks are the only option. With creek crossings, possible rain, and sticky heat, the Wooleators will keep my feet dry and cool. I’m planning to pack a second pair in case I need to swap at the midway point.

DeFeet Wooleater socks will dry quickly and help prevent hot spots

DeFeet Wooleater socks will dry quickly and help prevent hot spots

Kit:

Pearl Izumi Elite Team – Performance Exclusive

This is easily the most comfortable kit I own, and as with shoes, comfort is king. The Performance Bike logos will also let me rep my team colors throughout the race.

Comfortable, breathable, and reps the team colors

Comfortable, breathable, and reps the team colors

Helmet:

Lazer Z1

Lightweight, comfortable and super ventilated, this helmet was made for climbing…so it should be in its element out there.

The Z1 is one of the best new helmets out there. To find out more, check out our review below.

The Z1 is one of the best new helmets out there. To find out more, check out our review below.

Read our review of the Z1 here

Sunglasses:

Scattante Exhale – with Clear Lenses

The glasses are super comfortable and the clear lenses provide plenty of trail visibility, even in rainy conditions. They also store comfortably in my helmet in case I decide to ride without them.

The Scattante Exhale glasses come with multiple lenses to suit your needs

The Scattante Exhale glasses come with multiple lenses to suit your needs

Tools:

-2 tubes

-Spin Doctor Rescue 16 Multi Tool

- Minipump

- Garmin Edge 810 GPS

The biggest concern will be flats, even with plenty of Stan’s Tire Sealant in my tires, so I’m packing two spare tubes. My Spin Doctor Rescue 16 provides all the tools I need for trail-side repairs including a chain breaker and hex wrenches ranging from 2mm to 8mm. The Garmin will help with pacing and planning as I’ll be able to see my distance and average speed throughout the race.

The Spin Doctor Rescue 16 tool has pretty much everything you need to get out of a jam

The Spin Doctor Rescue 16 tool has pretty much everything you need to get out of a jam

Food:

- Peanut butter, banana, bacon sandwich

- 2 sleeves caffeinated Clif Shot Bloks

- 1 Kramp Krusher salt chews

- 1 bottle of plain water

- 1 Bottle Water with Hammer Gel (2 parts water, 1 part Hammer Gel)

This will be my on-the bike food for the first 40 miles, but the course includes 6 aid stations stocked with plenty of food and water, so I’ll be able to restock and refuel throughout the race.

Mixed with water, Hammer Gel gives you all the energy you need for a long day in the saddle

Mixed with water, Hammer Gel gives you all the energy you need for a long day in the saddle

Drop Bags:

The race allows two one gallon zip lock drop bags to be sent to any checkpoints on the course. I’m going to go with just one, sent to the 75 mile station. The coffee will give me the extra kick I need to push through the last 25 miles. In case it rains, I want to be able to swap out for dry socks and gloves. Also, no one is allowed past the 75 mile mark after 4:20 PM unless they have lights, so just in case I’m running behind schedule, I’ll have a lightweight, super bright light to help see the course.

Poc Index Flow gloves will help give Eddy's hands and arms some relief after 75 miles of hard riding

Poc Index Flow gloves will help give Eddie’s hands and arms some relief after 75 miles of hard riding

 

CX ’15: How To Set Up Your Cyclocross Bike

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One of the best ways to be fast, on any bike, is to be comfortable. When you’re comfortable on the bike you can pedal more efficiently and spend more time focusing on performance and less time squirming on the saddle or constantly changing hand position.

Setting up your cyclocross bike is pretty straight forward, but still a little bit different approach from your road bike.

 Handlebar Height

Most riders prefer to have their cyclocross bikes set up with the handlebars a little taller than on their road bikes. Being low and aerodynamic is less important in ‘cross because of the slower speeds.

Using stems of different lengths and drop angles allows you to customize the fit of your bike

Notice how the CX bike on top is set up with a taller stack and shorter reach than these road bikes, for more comfort and easier handling

 Bar Tape

Using thicker bar tape than on your road bike can help eliminate a lot of the jolts and jars that happen when riding your bike off-road.

Beefier bar tape can make riding off-road more comfortable

Beefier bar tape can make riding off-road more comfortable


Saddle Position

To avoid back pain and limit the jarring impact of the remount, it can be helpful to have your saddle further forward than on your road bike. This will limit the amount of work your hamstrings have to do while slogging through the mud, and help limit back pain.

Wheels

No matter what braking system you use (cantilever or disc), choosing the right wheels is super important. One secret of many successful CX racers is using a deeper dish wheel. It doesn’t necessarily have to be carbon, but looking for a wheel with a more aero profile will help keep mud from glomming on to the rim.

Wheels a one of the best upgrades you can make to any CX bike

Wheels a one of the best upgrades you can make to any CX bike


 Tires

Choose the right tires for the course conditions and your area. If it’s going to be hard and dry, you might be able to get away with a more minimal tread, but if it’s going to be muddy, go for something with plenty of knobs. If you run tubulars, make sure you pick a good intermediate, all-around tire.

Picking the right tire can make all the difference on race day

Picking the right tire can make all the difference on race day

 Chainrings

(this link goes to an MTB article…but it works for your ‘cross bike too)

One or two? The choice is up to you. Two chainrings give you more gearing options to suit different conditions, but running a single chainring eliminates weight and limits the number of possible mechanical failurs. But before making a decision, you may want to check out an online gear calculator and play around with different combinations to find the right one.

And remember, if you’re running a single chainring up front, you either need a single-ring specific chainring, which will have specially designed teeth, or a chain keeper.

One or two chainrings? It's up to you.

One or two chainrings? It’s up to you.


Gearing Options

We definitely recommend running an 11-28T cassette. Combined with a traditional 46/36 CX chainring combo or a 40T or 42T single ring should give you all the gearing options you need.

Getting the right gearing in the rear can make all the difference

Getting the right gearing in the rear can be one of your biggest decisions


Saddle

A lot of CX bikes come with road saddles, but this might not be the most comfortable for you. There’s nothing wrong with running a mountain bike saddle on your ‘cross bike for more comfort and padding.

Picking the right saddle can have a big impact on your race

Picking the right saddle can help prevent everything from saddle sores to lower back pain

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