Gear Up For Cross

Here at Performance Bicycle, there’s a palpable excitement in the air. Because it’s that time of year again. A time when the nights feel cooler. When the smells of embrocation and frites are in the air, and the ring of cowbells resounds across the hills. A time of year when we trade in our skinny tires, glorious afternoons spent on sun dappled stretches of road, and retiring mid-ride banter for the mud-slinging, loosely organized bit of mayhem we know as cyclocross.

If you’re interested in trying out cyclocross, or just want to learn more about it, check out the Cyclocross Basics article over in the Performance Bicycle Learning Center.

So what do you need to get your season start off right? Performance Associates Ben and Ross are here to help guide us through Gearing Up For Cross Season.

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7 Essentials To Start Your Cross Season Right

1. Cyclocross bike: it’s important to have the right tools for the job. We’re pretty big fans of the 2013 Scattante cyclocross bikes (if we do say so ourselves…), including the all-new Scattante CFX bikes, now equipped with either Red 22 Hydro or Force 22 to get you to the top of the podium.

2. Mountain bike shoes: it’s not very easy to run in road shoes. Mountain bike shoes have a lugged outsole to make it easier to leap over barriers or run up hills. Mountain bike pedals are also used, since they are easier to get in and out of and shed mud well.

3. Helmet: when you’re riding like a madman (or woman) through mud, running with a bicycle on your shoulder, and leaping over barriers, it’s a good idea to make sure that your head is protected.

4. Long sleeve jersey and bib shorts, or a skinsuit: ‘cross races have a reputation for being challenging, so the last thing you want is to worry about being too cold or your saddle rubbing you the wrong way.

5. Cantilever or disc brakes: either one is fine so long as they fit your bike, but these brakes have enough clearance to allow even the muddiest tires to keep spinning.

6. Eyewear: it’s inevitable that you’ll end up getting sprayed in the face with mud, sand and who knows what else. Protect your eyes with a quality pair of sunglasses.

7. Knobby tires: knobby tires give you just enough traction to keep rolling through the mud, but without slowing you down on the flat and fast parts of the course.

Real Advice: Wheels

Today we continue with our Real Advice series – hard-earned practical knowledge from real riders here at our home office. This week Brian, a member of our content team, is going to share with you some thoughts on wheels.

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Several years ago, when I got my first carbon fiber road race bike, I was so amped. It had SRAM 10-speed Rival on it, a full carbon frame and fork, and a carbon seatpost. I’d even splurged on some carbon fiber bottle cages. In those days, this was some pretty heavy artillery to be bringing for the level of racing I was at. Admittedly, I didn’t know an awful lot about bikes at the time, and I hadn’t ridden the bike much before the race. All I knew was I had the latest and greatest carbon 10-speed stuff, while most of those other chumps were rockin’ alloy 9-speed gear. According to all my mental math, I was already standing at the top of the podium.

When the race started, everything seemed to be going fine. I rode well and felt strong. Until I got out of the saddle at speed or tried to sprint in the drops. Every time I did, I could hear the rim hitting the brake pads with every pedal stroke, shedding speed and momentum. When I leaned into a corner, the rims squealed against the brakes the entire time, slowing me down drastically, and I watched furiously as other riders flowed past me, despite me having the extra 10th gear.

After the race, I was fuming. I had just spent all this money on a carbon fiber frame that I believed to be about as stiff as a wet noodle. I ranted to another rider about how flexible the frame and fork were, and how poorly the bike had performed. The other (more experienced) rider took one look at my bike and said simply “dude, it’s not your frame—it’s your wheels.” I did the next race on a borrowed wheelset that proved him right.

For most riders, whether you race or not, wheels are the most overlooked and important upgrade. It’s incredibly tempting to upgrade your bike with the newest drivetrain, or all the carbon fiber you can find. While the performance gains you get from those parts are significant, they still pale in comparison to investing in a great set of wheels. Among the many improvements you’ll get will be stiffer rims, lighter weight, improved handling, and greater aerodynamic performance. But before you buy, here’s a quick guide to help you find the wheels that are right for you.

 

  1. What kind of wheels do you need: The first step to buying new wheels is ensuring they will work with your equipment. It may seem like a wheel is a wheel, but asking a few basic questions can help you get it right the first time.
    • Does your bike have rim or disc brakes? If disc brakes, what kind are they?
    • How many speeds is your drive train (ex: 11-speed cassettes usually require 11-speed freehubs)?
    • What brand of drive train do you have (SRAM, Shimano, Campagnolo)?

    These DT Swiss XM 1650 MTB wheels will work with center-lock disc brakes, Shimano cassettes, and tubeless tires.

  2. Know what you want: Few wheels can really be placed in the do-it-all category. Knowing what you want to get out of your rides can help you narrow things down.

    A pair of lightweight alloy clinchers, like these Easton SLX wheels, can shed significant weight from a bike, making them ideal for climbing

  3. Alloy vs. Carbon: This one is entirely up to you, and a full discussion would be another blog post, but here’s a basic breakdown:
    • Alloy wheels are usually more durable, less expensive, and offer better braking performance, especially in wet weather, but tend to be heavier and less aerodynamic than carbon wheels
    • Carbon wheels are much lighter, aerodynamic, stiff, and (according to some) cooler looking than alloy, but are also much more expensive. Carbon road wheels also can have diminished braking performance, especially when wet (this isn’t a problem with MTB carbon disc brake wheels)

    Carbon wheels, like this pair from Reynolds offer significant aerodynamic and weight savings

  4. Tubular vs. Clincher vs. Tubeless: These are the three basic types of bicycle wheels, and each have their pros and cons.
    • Tubular wheels require tubular tires (tires with an inner tube sewn inside) which have to be glued onto the rim. They are very lightweight, and offer unsurpassed road feel and cornering abilities, but they require a special technique to mount and may be difficult  to change if you flat on the road.
    • Clincher wheels are the most common, and use a tire with a separate inner tube that hooks onto a bead on the rim. Clincher wheels are very convenient for most rides, since it’s very easy to change a flat, and some of the best clincher tires approach the road feel of tubulars. The drawbacks are that clinchers are often heavier than tubulars, and if the tire is under inflated or flat it can sometimes roll off of the rim.
    • Tubeless wheels are quickly becoming de riguer on mountain bikes, and are finding their way onto the road. Tubeless wheels require the use of special tubeless tires and use no inner tube. The bead on both the rim and the tire is made very tight, so as to make an airtight seal when inflated. The benefits of tubeless tires are legion, specifically that they virtually eliminate the chance of flatting. The downside (for the road at least) is that they are the heaviest type of wheels.

    These Reynolds Assault CX tubulars are perfect for cyclocross season

So there’s a basic breakdown of wheels. For a little more information on other upgrades you can make, check out this article in our Learning Center.

Real Advice: Commuting by Bike

Today we continue with our Real Advice series – hard-earned practical knowledge from real riders here at our home office. This week we asked Aaron, one of our copywriters and a regular commuter (the guy rides over 20 miles each way), to share some of his thoughts about commuting by bike. Tell us your story below & you could win a $24 Performance gift card – details at the bottom of the post!

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Aaron at his locker at our home office with his Osprey Momentum 24 commuter bag

This morning, like every morning, I crept around the house smiling in at sleeping kids and trying not to get the dogs all worked up. I skip the top step because it creaks really badly. I do the morning ritual…French press, whatever piece of fruit or bread is lying around, trying to resist picking at the pie on the counter…and failing. I pack my bag for work and walk out to the garage.

I open the garage door and there’s my ride—like every day I fall in love all over again. My ride is an old race bike and although it’s already 84° and the humidity is 95%, I can’t wait to hit it. I check the quick releases, top off the tires, clip in, and go.

I spin out across the lake whose fingers span for miles between my home and my office and contemplate the steely reflection of haze on the water. I lock into the tightrope that is the edge of the road and let my mind wander. This is my commute and I love it. No news radio, no pressure to make the next light. I mentally prepare for the giant hill that leaves me winded every time, but I am fully into it.

But why would someone want to ride a bike 10 miles each way on a little pinstripe-sized shoulder, smelling road kill, and being passed by cars and big diesel trucks when he has a perfectly good car at home? Why indeed.

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View from Aaron’s commute

Remember those commercials for the US Army that proudly touted the mantra, We do more before 9 a.m. than most people do all day? It produced this awe-inspiring vision of people who accept any challenge, tackle any obstacle, and aren’t afraid of getting a little icky.

This is why I commute. Because it makes me feel empowered—like I’m treating my mind and body to the reverie and exertion that they need to function best. When I get to work, I feel lucid, fit, and guiltless—it’s amazing.

It occurs to me…I just burned 900 calories and could totally eat that doughnut if I wanted to. Wow.

To be sure, my reasons aren’t the only reasons to commute. I also save a bunch of money which is good. I’m not contributing to the sickening amount of pollution jettisoned into oblivion every morning by droves of gridlocked drivers. Plus, I really love the joy of gliding on a bike—it’s fun.

So whatever there is between your home and your work, chances are that the possibility of a rewarding bike commute exists. If you work right in the neighborhood, you could enjoy a quick jaunt on your beach cruiser. If you live in the city, you can jet across town on a city bike and get there in half the time it would take you sitting in traffic, marinating in your own impatience. If you live in the suburbs, swap out the highway for a greenway on your hybrid bike. You’ll find what’s waiting for you at work has somehow gotten smaller, more manageable…better.

The jump from driving to riding can seem fraught with barriers. Finding the right bike, taking the right safety precautions, dealing with weather, knowing how to deal with bike trouble, these are all issues worthy of consideration.

Since we’re a cycling community with a wealth of insight and knowledge, let’s try to spread the commuting bug with our tips, advice, experiences, and most importantly, our stories and images that illustrate the rewards and joys of getting empowered, ditching that car, and being awesome.

Post your bike commuting thoughts below by Sunday 8/11/13 for a chance to win a $24 Performance gift card – we’ll pick our 5 favorite comments on Monday 8/12/13 and notify the commenters below!

Employee Profile: Johnny Pratt & Bike Raising

From time to time here on the Performance Bicycle Blog we like to recognize our coworkers and let them share what they’re passionate about outside of work. This week we’re talking to Johnny Pratt, a Product Developer at our home office in North Carolina. Johnny joined Performance as the Merchant Assistant for components in August 2011, after working for companies as varied as Eastern Bikes and Credit Suisse. He grew up cycling and has always loved to be outdoors. He raced on the Appalachian State Cycling team while in school there and was a participant in the World Race, traveling to over 15 countries on five continents in a year’s time. Outside of work he spends most of his time racing bikes, doing adventure races, spending time with his family, and serving those in need.

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Johnny racing in the Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race

It was that passion to serve others that led Johnny to co-found Bike Raising Inc., a non-profit organization that raises money for charity through cycling events. Bike Raising was born on a ride – Johnny and his friend Josh Stinger were riding in the hills of North Carolina when the concept was formed to create an organization that dedicated 100% of the money earned at an event to small non-profits that are hindered by lack of funding. But we’ll let Johnny tell you more about why he wanted to create and run a non-profit, in his spare time, in his own words.

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Johnny in his Bike Raising kit

What is Bike Raising and why does it exist?

We wanted to make a difference to a few non-profits that had massive goals, but were constantly held back because they didn’t have the necessary capital to make it happen.  With my business background and Josh’s project management background we knew we could create something to help out.  We both loved bike racing and we knew our goal was fundraising so the name Bike Raising was born.  It started simple and it remains simple.  You participate in a fun, safe and challenging cycling event and a small partner non-profit gets some help.  In what other race does everyone win?

The charitable organizations we partner with have a purpose and a mission.  We call this their “critical pursuit.”  When they are unable to fulfill their critical pursuit it slows down the change they are working towards.  Many organizations say that the resource they’re lacking the most is funding.  We don’t want them to shift their focus from their mission by dedicating the majority of their staff and resources to fundraising.  Bike Raising strives to eliminate the need for these organizations to take their eyes off their goal – which is where we become a valued member of the team.  We partner with the organization, learn their needs both financially and socially, put together a plan of action, set goals and set forth to accomplish them all.  We allow the organization to keep pressing on with their mission while we handle the rest.  This is why our motto is to Race. Give. Love.

What is Bike Raising involved with now and how can someone help out?

The Needle Gate Project is a journey from the Space Needle to the Golden Gate Bridge.  It’s a pursuit of physical and mental limits.  It’s a platform for freedom both to the individuals riding and those whom are yet to be free.

For this project we are proud to partner with She Dances, who is doing the great work of providing holistic restoration for young girls who have been trafficked and sexually exploited. She Dances needs funding to be more efficient and effective in their mission.  Due to the nature of the human trafficking industry there is very little time between when they discover an at risk girl and when an actual rescue takes place.  Funding in the hands of She Dances makes this process move faster, which results in that child’s restoration.

BRSDYou can help us in bolstering the speed and accuracy of She Dances’ mission.  Choose from one of our many exciting perks. Join the insider’s circle and get the video of us shouting your name on the Golden Gate Bridge.  Maybe you’d rather go with the Primo Pack that gets you some sweet MiiR stainless steel products, coffee and an original She Dances Tee.  Or maybe you want to join the Bike Raising team and get the complete kit.  If you help out in any way, you’re joining us on our journey and you’re partnering in the fight against human trafficking. Our goal is to raise $5000 to help support the work and restoration that She Dances is providing.

Community Events: 2013 Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic

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What do you get when you bring together over 10,000 cyclists from 6 countries and 45 US states, about 35,000 sandwiches, hundreds of volunteers and “ride referees”, and over 202 miles of rolling countryside in the Pacific Northwest over 2 days in July? One of the biggest, best-supported and most fun bicycle events in the US – the Cascade Bicycle Club‘s Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic (or STP). Now in its 34th year, STP was begun as a race in 1979, but it has since become one of the largest supported recreational bike rides in the country – and the primary fundraising source for the advocacy efforts of the nonprofit Cascade Bicycle Club as they work to create a better community in the Puget Sound region through cycling.

Most STP riders tackle the North to South route over Saturday and Sunday, with an overnight rest stop in between the 2 cities, but about 10-15% of the riders blast through the entire 202 mile challenge in one day. Most of these dedicated one-day cyclists start their journey before 5AM, and don’t reach the finish line until the early evening in Portland – the fastest riders complete the course in about 10 hours, but most folks trickle in after 12 hours or more in the saddle! Of course the vast majority of STP participants find that splitting up the ride into 2 long days on the bike is enough of a challenge – especially since 18% of them are trying the event for the very first time. These 2-day riders finish up their first century ride on Saturday and then camp out in a series of well-organized campgrounds near the halfway point of the journey – then get up on Sunday and do it all over again.

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So what makes STP so popular? After all, the 10,000 available spots fill up months before the start of the ride. We would definitely say that it’s the people that make the difference – although the beautiful Northwest countryside comes in a close second! Yeah, it sounds corny, but everyone we met was unfailingly friendly and happy to stop and say hi or talk about why they were riding. Plus we have to give a special shout-out to the Cascade Bicycle organizers and their army of supportive volunteers, who do an amazing job keeping this whole 200 mile rolling operation running smoothly – including 14 rest stops along the route, an array of halfway point campgrounds, along with the logistics of moving thousands of tents and pieces of luggage to exactly where they’re needed, like clockwork.

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Living the Dream cruiser bike crew

Every rider has a different reason for tackling this challenging adventure – but one of the most popular groups on the road was this collection of riders who completed the entire route on beach cruisers! What started out as 2 brothers raising money for the Living the Dream charity 9 years ago has grown into a crew of 19 single speed riders having a great time for a cause. They said that it wasn’t really the hills that were the most difficult to ride, but the flatter sections where they ran out of gearing and had to spin like mad to keep going!

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Bicycle built for a family of 4

We met this family and their bicycle built for 4 at the STP sign-in on the Friday before the ride. It takes some real family togetherness and coordination to get this big rig on the road, but when they dropped by our tent at the halfway point of the ride they were all smiles and ready for more! The whole family was outfitted in Performance gear from head-to-toe, so we made sure that all 8 of their water bottle cages were stocked with a brand new Performance bottle.

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Bill and his Scattante road bike

One day riders also came in all styles, from riders on full-on time trial bikes with carbon aero wheels, to folks who looked like they were on their everyday commuter. But most were like our friend Bill here, who rode his Scattante road bike the 202 miles in one day just for the personal challenge, checking in with us via social media along the way.

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One of our Spin Doctor mechanics, ready to help in Centralia, WA

With 10 stores across the states of Washington and Oregon, Performance Bicycle has been involved with STP for a decade now, and our team of Spin Doctor mechanics was excited to once again help out this year. During the 2 days of the event, our teams ran 7 mechanic aid stations spread out over the 202 mile route. So what does it mean to provide mechanical support for 10,000 riders? It definitely makes for a busy 2 days! From the time they set up until the last riders trickled in, the team of 10 mechanics at our biggest aid station at the halfway point of Centralia College worked steadily from 9AM until 6PM on the first day of the ride. Our guys fixed flats, changed cables, trued wheels, lubed chains and pumped tires, with a smile, for whoever came by our tent – going out of their way to make sure that no mechanical problem was going to derail someone’s STP experience. At the end of the day in Centralia we determined that our team replaced or fixed: over 120 flats, over 20 tires, 12 chains and even 2 wheels (not counting the ones we could true enough to get back on the road)!

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One of the advantages of being stationed at the halfway point in Centralia was that we literally got to see every rider that came through, on whatever bike brought them there. The array of bikes that people rode was staggering – it seemed that if you stood and watched you would see every single brand, make and model of bike roll by, from fully-faired recumbents to a custom carbon Calfee Dragonfly tandem (that one was a beauty – the newlywed couple riding it planned to complete a century ride a month). But the wide array of tandem bikes really caught our eye, so we couldn’t resist sharing this last album of just a few of the bicycles built for 2 that we saw at STP.

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We can’t wait to go back to STP next year – we’re already making plans on how to have an even bigger and better presence at this amazing event!

Wordless Wednesday

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How to Deal with Weather

It’s been kind of a weird summer, weather-wise. It seems like most of America is either baking in a heat wave or underwater with heavy rains— all of which can make getting outside to ride seem less than appealing. But don’t let the weather get you down. While most of us prefer to get our riding in when it’s 80 and sunny, sometimes rides in challenging weather can be more rewarding. You just need to make sure you’re properly prepared.

“There is no bad weather, just bad clothing” is a saying that has been variously attributed to World War II Norwegian commandos, Eddy Merckx and Gaynor from our tech department, but no matter the source, it’s as true now as it has always been. Clothing technology has come a long way in the last few years, so making the right clothing choices can turn what would be a miserable ride into a great one.

 PointLoma_2011-154If it’s a little wet out there, then staying dry is your first priority. Rain jackets are no longer the non-breathable pieces of plastic from days of old. Nowadays space-age fabrics like Gore-Tex and eVent provide highly breathable water- and wind-proof protection from the elements, while lighter weight, packable jackets have Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finishes that are low volume and pack easily into a jersey pocket or hydration pack, but don’t breath as well and offer more limited protection. It’s also important to keep your feet as dry as possible to avoid blisters, hot spots and athlete’s foot. A good pair of water-resistant overshoes can help your feet stay nice and dry, without overheating, in all but the most torrential downpours.

A packable rain jacket can provide lightweight, comfortable protection from light rain or high winds

If you’re riding with a group, or want to keep yourself (relatively) free from grime and road spray, then fenders are a must. There are many options available, from the much beloved “beaver tail” rear spray guards, to removable clip on fenders, and full bolt-on fenders. Your choice will depend on what kind of bike you have and what level of protection you would like. Lights are also a necessity when the weather is rainy, since visibility is reduced and many drivers may already be distracted by the weather. For optimal safety, try combining a medium brightness blinky headlight with a very bright rear light. If it might be getting dark, consider adding in a 1000+ lumen headlamp to light your way.

Fenders like this one from SKS are easy to install and remove

And hey, don’t forget to wash that bike after a good soaking. Nothing is harder on a bike than wet weather conditions. Taking a few minutes to wipe away the dirt, clean your chain, and re-lube all the moving parts can save you some headaches down the road.

_MG_2266But what if it’s blazing hot out? Here again proper clothing, equipment and common sense become the best tools to ensure you enjoy your rides. Many jerseys now are available in super lightweight fabrics that help shield you from the sun’s rays and breath extremely well to help you stay cool. Wear light colored fabrics or jerseys made with coldBlack to help reflect some of the heat. On very hot days you can also opt for a sleeveless jersey or use a few simple tricks that’ll help you cool down. Unzipping your jersey as much as possible is a time-honored way of cooling off and is one of the most effective. Loosening your helmet a little bit and removing your sunglasses also seems to help most people feel cooler. And, of course, splashing yourself down with some water will provide relief.

The Ultra jersey from Performance combines lightweight fabrics and ColdBlack technology to keep you cool

When it’s hot, the most important thing is to be smart and be prepared. Don’t ride during the hottest parts of the day, or if you decide you simply must, then choose routes with plenty of shade and plenty of places to top up on water along the way. Staying hydrated is probably the most difficult thing to do in extreme heat, so make sure to bring more water than you think you’ll need. Hydration packs offer the ability to carry up to 3 liters of water, which should be enough for most rides. If you prefer to use bottles, try using an insulated bottle like Polar, and carrying a third bottle in a jersey pocket. To replace lost electrolytes, bring some hydration tablets or powders like Nuun, Skratch Labs or Hammer.

Insulated water bottles help keep your drink cold on hot days

For more ideas on how you can beat the heat, check out our article in the Performance Bicycle Learning Center.

Community Events: 2013 Cycle to the Sea

Some people can’t imagine riding 180 miles on a bicycle from Charlotte, NC to North Myrtle Beach, SC in three days.  Now imagine doing this ride using nothing but your arms to complete the task.  That is what a group of cyclists did April 25 – 27, 2013 to raise money for the Adaptive Sports & Adventures Program (ASAP) at Carolinas Rehabilitation Hospital.  Cycle to the Sea (CTTS) is a unique ride that raises critical funds and awareness for ASAP to offer a variety of low-cost programs for youth and adults with physical challenges.  This bike ride is held every spring and involves athletes with physical disabilities who cycle on hand cycles and/or tandem bikes. Mark, a distributor from our components division here at our home office, participated in this ride with his hand cycle (he is also an accomplished wheelchair rugby player) and he took the time to share what this experience meant to him:

Day 1 started with a dozen hand cycles, 40-45 able bodied cyclists, and countless family members gathered to see their loved ones off on their journey.  The weather was chilly but it didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirit and anxiousness to get the ride started.  The group rolled out as one big unit but quickly separated into two smaller groups once we got out onto the open road.  There was over 3000 feet of climbing the first day but it didn’t seem to curb anyone’s spirit.  Everyone got over the climbs the best they could, whether by pedaling or getting pushed by a fellow cyclist, and everyone finished together.

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Assisting a hand cyclist up a climb.

The surprise of the day for me was our “safety patrol”.  The local Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Club volunteers every year to shepherd the herd to Myrtle Beach.  The guys were amazing.  They created a rotating formation around each group of cyclists stopping traffic from ALL side roads and on ramps allowing the cyclist to pass unimpeded.  We did not stop at 1 stoplight the entire 3 day ride.  Gentlemen, my hat is off to you and what you do.  This ride would truly not be what it is without you.  THANK YOU!

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Rolling Thunder escort

Day 2 brought more of the same just with flatter terrain.  The weather was a little grey in the morning and quickly burned off shortly after the ride headed out.  The longer the ride went on the more the cyclist, both hand cyclist and able bodies cyclist, gelled together.  The two groups were operating as fine oiled machines and were very impressive to see.  The speeds got faster and those that had been pushed the first day didn’t seem to need as much help as they once had.  Folks seemed to have a growing confidence in themselves and their ability to get this ride done.  It was truly inspirational.

Day 3 brought on the last 63 mile stretch and you couldn’t tell from anyone’s face they had ridden over 120 miles in the past 2 days.  Folks were eager, feeling good, and ready to get the show rolling.  Early in the ride, you could feel there was a sense of purpose.  I rode in the front group and speeds stayed between 17-25 miles per hour the whole way.  For those that do not know, such speeds are reasonably swift on a traditional bicycle but that is “cooking” on a hand cycle.

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Rolling down the road with the whole pack.

Upon arrival to Myrtle Beach, you could see emotion on everyone’s face.  Not only on the participants faces with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment but also on the family members faces that their loved ones could pull off such an undertaking.  I’m honored to have been a part of such a great event and Cycle to the Sea will now be on my yearly calendar of “must do’s”.

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Group shot of the Cycle to the Sea riders & staff

I was fortunate enough to be both a participant in the ride and a representative of Performance Bicycle, which was one of Cycle to the Sea’s corporate sponsors.  As a long time cyclist both before the wheelchair and after, I understand the amount of time it takes to both organize a ride of this magnitude and the dedication it takes to complete it.  I salute all involved for a job well done.  The ASAP staff that Jennifer Moore has put together is second to none and I’m proud to be an associated with this organization.  I strongly encourage anyone that is looking for a good ride, an incredible experience, and a worthwhile cause to be a part of to consider the 2014 Cycle to the Sea bike ride.

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Our author, Mark, with his hand cycle.

Everybody has different reasons why they ride.  Some ride to prove something to themselves, some ride to prove something to others, and some ride to honor someone that has touched their life.  For me, the 2013 Cycle to the Sea is dedicated to my friend Jimmy Melton.  I met Jimmy this past Thursday as the CTTS ride was leaving town.  We were both first time riders and Jimmy was there to support one of my fellow hand cyclists Jacob Conley.  We talked and came to know each other pretty well over the next three days.  The end of the ride came, Jimmy met my wife and baby daughter, and we made plans to see each other next year at the 2014 Cycle to the Sea.  Then I got the bad news that Jimmy had died the next night in his sleep.  I was numb.  Jimmy definitely touched my life and made me a better person for knowing him.  Godspeed my friend.  I will see you on the other side.

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Jacob and Jimmy.

Ultimately this bike ride is not about a charity event.  It is about those with physical challenges that display uncompromising human spirit, determination to accomplish what they aren’t supposed to be able to do, and those that just want to ride their bike.

5 Tips for Better Fueling from Skratch Labs

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The nutrition experts over at Skratch Labs are on a mission to use real world science and practice to create the best nutrition products – that taste great, that are made from real all-natural ingredients, and that are designed to optimize performance and health for both sport and life. Their story began while Dr. Allen Lim was working as a sport scientist and coach for a professional cycling team – he started making his own training food and sports drink from scratch for the cyclists he worked with because too many of the pre-packaged sports bars and drinks that were marketed or given to them were laden with artificial ingredients and making them sick to their stomach. Eventually, Allen started making a “secret drink mix” in his kitchen using a recipe with less sugar, more sodium, and no artificial sweeteners, flavors, or colors, with a simple and clean taste created by using real fruit – thus Skratch Labs Hydration Drink Mix was born.

So with that in mind, we thought we’d ask Allen to weigh in with some tips for fueling for your next ride – whether it’s a training loop, a local race or a long-distance charity ride. Read on below for his 5 top tips to improve your performance on the bike by taking a holistic approach to your nutrition planning and preparation, before, during and after your ride.

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1. Eat & Drink Early & Consistently—One of the biggest mistakes riders make is forgetting to eat and drink early and consistently throughout the day. While this is plain common sense, it‘s often disregarded on ride day—a mistake that can spell disaster no matter how well trained or prepared you are.

As a general rule, you need to replace at least half the calories you burn each hour, and you need to begin replacing those calories in the first hour if you’re going to be out for more than three hours. On a flat road without drafting, the average cyclist will burn about 200-300 Calories at 10-15 mph, 300-600 Calories at 15 to 20 mph, and 600 to 1,000 Calories at 20 to 25 mph.

Regarding hydration, on a hot day your fluid needs may be as high as 1 to 2 liters an hour. The best way to get an appreciation of how much fluid you might need is to weigh yourself before and after a workout. The weight you lose is primarily water weight, where a 1-pound loss is equal to about 16 ounces of fluid. As a general rule, try not to lose more than 3 percent of your body weight over the course of a long ride.

2. Try Eating Real Food—While there are plenty of pre-packaged sports bars and gels touting their ability to improve one’s performance, it’s important to realize that real food can work just as well if not better than expensive, engineered nutrition. A regular sandwich, a boiled potato with salt, a banana and a ball of sushi rice mixed with chocolate or some scrambled eggs can all give you the calories you need without upsetting your stomach the way a lot of sugary gels or sports bars can. In fact, while coaching teams at the Tour de France, the riders I worked with used real food as their primary solid fuel source, because it just worked better. Most of the recipes for these foods can be found in “The Feed Zone Cookbook” that I wrote with Chef Biju Thomas to promote healthful, real-food eating.

skratch_real_food3. Don’t Just Drink Water—When we sweat we lose both water and valuable electrolytes. If you drink only water and are sweating heavily, you’ll dilute the electrolytes in your body, in particular sodium, which plays a critical role in almost every bodily function. Diluting the sodium content in your body is called hyponatremia and can lead to a host of problems ranging from a drop in performance to seizures and even death. The amount of sodium that we lose in sweat is highly variable, ranging anywhere from 200 to 400 mg per half liter (16.9 ounces). Because of this large range, it’s always better to err on the side of more salt than less salt. Unfortunately, most sports drinks contain too much sugar and not enough sodium, which caused many of the riders I worked with to become sick during long days on the bike. For that reason, we developed an all-natural sports drink using less sugar, more sodium and flavored with freeze-dried fruit. Outside of using a sports drink with more sodium, also consider eating salty or savory foods on your ride rather than just sweet foods.

4. Learn What you Need in Training—Ride day is not the day that you want to be experimenting with yourself. So try different hydration and feeding strategies during training well before the big day. As an example, simply weighing yourself on a long training ride before your big event can give you valuable information to optimize your hydration for that event. Likewise, taking the time to prepare your own foods or trying different products beforehand and then writing out a specific game plan for your drinking and feeding needs can go a long way to making sure you don’t make any mistakes on ride day.

5. Come in Well-Fed and Well-Rested—While proper training is obviously important, making sure you are well rested coming into an event is sometimes even more critical. You can’t cram training, so as you approach the big day, make sure you are getting plenty of sleep and aren’t killing yourself in training the week leading into your event. Just sleeping an extra hour each night the week before your event can significantly improve your performance. Finally, adding extra carbohydrate to your diet, and making sure you get plenty of calories the week before your event, will assure that your legs are fueled and ready to go.

You can find Skratch Labs Hydration Drink Mix in our stores and on Performancebike.com, including their classic Exercise Hydration Drink Mix and their new Everyday Hydration Drink Mix (formulated with fewer calories). For real food recipes that you can make at home, check out the “The Feed Zone Cookbook”.

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