“What do bikes mean to you?” from Rails to Trails Conservancy

rails_to_trails-logo-headerBy Katie Harris, Communications Coordinator, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

Imagine a country where you can safely get everywhere you need to go on bike or foot. The infrastructure suits your needs, your kids can ride along with you without concern, and a trip to the grocery store on two wheels is a no-brainer. It’s a nation of connected networks, with trail systems as the norm—not the exception.

At Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), that’s the world we’re working toward, and, clearly, bikes are an integral element to that envisioned future. Let us show you how.

Bikes allow us to…

Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail - Photo by Jim Brown

Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail – Photo by Jim Brown

Explore

With more than 22,000 miles of multi-use trails in the United States, there is a lot of exploring to be done! Bikes allow us to see new areas but also allow us to discover our own backyards from a different perspective. Traveling by bike, whether it’s a day trip on your favorite rail-trail or a multi-day excursion on a regional trail network, you can truly explore and experience a place…the sights, sounds, topography and climate.

Grand Teton Multi-Use Pathway, WY_Camrin Dengel

Grand Teton Multi-Use Pathway, WY – photo by Camrin Dengel

And while bikes are only one way to explore the trails that connect the country, we think they’re a pretty great way to do it!

Transform

Bicycling allows us to transform our lives by giving us the opportunity to prioritize health and family, all wrapped up into one activity! A bicycle is a simple, but transformative, machine. (Few would argue otherwise.)

Bella Donnas5_ Jillian Imilkowski

Photo by Jillian Imilkowski

As more active-transportation infrastructure projects—including connected, regional trail networks—are planned and constructed across the country, it’ becoming much easier for folks to integrate biking into their daily routines—transforming sedentary, “business-as-usual” habits into vibrant and active ways of life.

Mon River Trail, WV, MCCVB_Steve Shaluta

Mon River Trail, WV, MCCVB- photo by Steve Shaluta

Connect

Not only do bikes allow us to explore and transform, they also connect us with where we need to go. RTC has helped build trail connections through rural areas that spool out over a hundred miles of open prairie, snake through mountain passes and cruise along river canyons. We’ve also helped facilitate connections within urban cores, across state lines and between towns and suburbs, linking communities along vibrant corridors in much the same way as the railroads did in their heyday. And we don’t intend to stop anytime soon!

W&OD Trail, Virginia_Milo-Bateman

W&OD Trail, Virginia – photo by Milo-Bateman

To us, bikes are more than just tools or toys for recreation. They are active transportation’s secret weapon, a means by which to improve our health and well-being while broadening the mobility and access of every member of every community across the nation.

Taking Care of Saddle Sores

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File under “I’m going to stand the whole ride because it hurts”

While they aren’t generally discussed in polite company, saddle sores are simply an uncomfortable fact of life for many cyclists. No matter what, almost every cyclist is guaranteed to have at least one in their lifetime. They’re painful, they’re uncomfortable, and they can be embarrassing.

But don’t worry—it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Taking car of saddle sores is pretty easy. There are a few simple things you can do to prevent them from happening in the first place, or at least shorten the misery when you get them.

 What Are They

Saddle sores are localized skin infections in your, um…pelvic area. Think of them as a pimple that forms where the sun don’t shine. Most are very minor and will clear up on their own, but sometimes if you don’t take care of them, they can get a little out of hand.

Always remember: saddle sores are infections, and should be treated with respect. While extremely, extremely rare, saddle sores can develop into dangerous systemic infections.

If the sore is very painful, feels warm to the touch, is very red or you see red streaks coming from it, or you’re running a fever, seek immediate medical care.

You may also want to visit a doctor if the saddle sore hasn’t cleared in two weeks, or is getting larger.

 

What Causes Them

This is still debated, not just among cyclists, but also in the medical community. The general consensus seems to be though that saddle sores happen when friction irritates hair follicles, allowing them to become infected by bacteria.

 

Prevention

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. To prevent saddle sores from happening in the first place, follow these tips:

1. Proper bike fit

Having your saddle too high can cause you to rock from side to side on the saddle, building up friction along the perinea and where the thighs join to the buttocks.

2. Use The Right Saddle (for you)

Not all saddles suite all body types. Find the one that’s right for you—which could mean trying a few different models and brands. Also, if you’ll be riding more than a few miles, stay away from very padded saddles, add on gel cushions, etc… These only increase friction and make things worse. It seems counterintuitive, but trust us.

Finding the right saddle for you can take some trial and error

Finding the right saddle for you can take some trial and error

3. Wear Bike Shorts

Bike shorts come with a pad sewn into them to help keep you comfortable on minimally padded saddles. By moving the padding to the shorts instead of the saddle, the padding moves with your body, reducing friction and helping prevent saddle sores. Also, don’t wear underwear underneath them—that just defeats the purpose.

Using cycling shorts, like the new Ultra SL bibs, can make a world of difference

Using cycling shorts, like the new Ultra SL bibs, can make a world of difference

4. Use chamois cream

Chamois cream is an anti-chafing lotion that can be applied to the chamois pad itself, or directly to the skin. It helps form a protective barrier between you and the fabric to prevent chaffing and irritation.

Have a saddle sore? This is your new best friend

Have a saddle sore? This is your new best friend

5. Wash Your Shorts

Never wear dirty shorts. Not even the ones you “just wore for only 2 miles yesterday”. Last time you rode in them, you created a hot, moist environment loaded up with dead skin cells and sweat. They’re basically a petri dish for bacteria and fungi. Now you want to put those dirty shorts on and ride again? Sure…if you think that’s a good idea…

6. Change and Shower

As soon as you finish your ride, take your shorts off and bathe as quickly as possible. Even if that means wrapping a towel around yourself in the parking lot and changing out of your shorts, go for it. Using some shower wipes to clean up can make a big difference. The longer they stay on after the ride, the greater the chances of a saddle sore. And no matter how short your ride, try to grab a shower and wash up. Staying clean is key to prevention.

If it'll be a little while before you can shower after a ride, try cleaning up with shower wipes

If it’ll be a little while before you can shower after a ride, try cleaning up with shower wipes

 

Treatment

Already have a saddle sore? Don’t worry. It may be sore, it probably hurts to touch, and it makes riding uncomfortable. But there’s plenty you can do to help yourself get better.

1. Cleaning

By far the best thing you can do to help speed along recovery is keep the area clean. Wash 2-3 times a day with regular soap and warm water. Thoroughly dry the area.

2. Rest

Nobody likes taking time off the bike, but sometimes riding can make saddle sores worse. If the sore is so painful you can’t sit on the bike, you’re better off taking a few days to let things heal. Yes, we hear about the pro’s riding through them all the time. They are paid to do that and are looked after accordingly. You are not.

3. Ointment

If you catch a saddle sore early, you can usually treat them easily with over the counter ointments.

We’ve had extremely good luck with topical acne medications that contain Benzoyl Peroxide (like OTC Persa-Gel 10). BP is a drawing agent that helps the spot dry out and heal—often in just a day or two. It can be tough on the skin though, and everyone reacts to things differently, so we’d recommend testing it on a…ummm… less sensitive area of the body first. Always consult a doctor before trying new medications.

Lately the medical community has advised AGAINST using an antibiotic ointment for minor skin infections like saddle sores. Antibiotic resistance is a serious and growing problem, so if you think it’s bad enough to warrant antibiotics, then you probably need a trip to the doctor to have them check it out.

We've had excellent luck with products like this for the early treatment of sores

We’ve had excellent luck with products like this for the early treatment of sores

4. Chamois Cream

Our old friend is back again. Most chamois creams have mild antiseptic and moisturizing properties. If your saddle interface area is feeling a little irritated or chaffed after your ride, it can help to put a small amount of chamois cream on the affected area after you shower. This helps to soothe the skin, prevent infection, and speed the healing process.

5. Don’t Squeeze Them

Sorry if this provokes a gag reflex, but don’t try to “pop” a saddle sore. While they are similar to pimples, they aren’t exactly the same. Trying to squeeze it may only drive the infection into a deeper layer of tissue—then you’re really in trouble.

Fall/Winter Cycling Gloves

As colder weather descends upon most of the country, most of us starting thinking about cold weather gear like arm and leg warmers, vests, and jackets. Sometimes we overlook one of the most important cycling garments though: the humble glove.

Having a good, and varied assortment of gloves is essential for riding from October through April in most places.

Since the temperatures can vary so much as the seasons change, it’s almost impossible to find one glove that can keep you covered from the cool morning rides of October to the frozen depths of February.

One good way to maximize your investment though is to think of your gloves as a system that can be either worn alone or combined and layered to match the conditions.

 

LIGHTWEIGHT GLOVES

Lightweight gloves are the basis of the glove layering system. They can be worn on their own on cool, but not cold rides, or layered under thicker gloves for additional warmth.

1. Glover Liners

These thin wool or synthetic gloves are primarily designed to wick away sweat and provide some thermal warmth.

BEST FOR: Cool days; layered underneath midweight and heavyweight gloves

Glove liners wick away sweat and help trap in heat

Glove liners wick away sweat and help trap in heat

2. Long Fingered Glove

Long fingered gloves aren’t insulated, but provide coverage for the fingers on cooler days.

BEST FOR: Cool days

 

Long fingered gloves can be ideal when the day will be cool, but not cold

Long fingered gloves can be ideal when the day will be cool, but not cold

MIDWEIGHT

The midweight glove’s primary job is to provide thermal insulation on cold days. They can be worn by themselves, or layered with a glove liner for colder days.

1. Softshell Glove

Softshell gloves is made from a midweight material that are wind- and water-resistant. The usually have a brushed fleece backing that provides excellent thermal insulation.

Softshell gloves are usually wind- and water-resistant for protection from the elements

Softshell gloves are usually wind- and water-resistant for protection from the elements

BEST FOR: Cold, wet and windy conditions

2. Light Insulated Glove

Lightly insulated gloves are usually made with a thin layer of insulating material that does an excellent job of holding in heat on colder days.

BEST FOR: Cold, calm days

The Performance Tok glove is insulated for protection in cold weather

The Performance Tok glove is insulated for protection in cold weather

 

 

HEAVYWEIGHT

Heavyweight gloves are designed to keep your hands dry, warm and protected on the coldest of days. They can be worn by themselves, or layered with glove liners or even midweight gloves on the heaviest days. It is usually advisable to buy heavyweight gloves a size larger than you normally need them.

1. Heavy Insulated Glove

These gloves usually feature multiple layers of insulation, windproof membranes and water-resistant finishes to protect your hands on very cold days.

BEST FOR: Very cold, windy days

Heavyweight insulated gloves can keep your hands warm and dry on the coldest days

Heavyweight insulated gloves can keep your hands warm and dry on the coldest days

 

2. Split Finger Glove

These gloves are best for extremely cold days. They maximize warmth by putting your fingers closer to each other, feature heavy insulation, and have windproof and water-resistant membranes

BEST FOR: Extreme cold

 

Split finger gloves are ideal for extreme cold when maximum warmth is needed

Split finger gloves are ideal for extreme cold when maximum warmth is needed

3. Waterproof Overglove

The waterproof overglove is best for days when mother nature just refuses to cooperate. Layer them over mid- or heavyweight gloves to keep your hands dry and warm in the harshest conditions

BEST FOR: Extreme conditions

Waterproof overgloves are designed for the most extreme conditions

Waterproof overgloves are designed for the most extreme conditions

Last Minute Prep: Getting Ready For That Big Ride

2013_STP_0232

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

Ride Inspiration

cycling_inspiration

A few weeks ago we gave our Facebook fans the chance to win a great Bike to Work Day package by telling us what inspired them to ride.

While the winners have already been notified, we were overwhelmed by the responses we got. Everyone gave us some great reasons for riding, but a few of our favorites really inspired us to get out and ride ourselves. From a wish to be healthier, to the freedom of the ride, to rediscovering your inner child, we hope you find your fellow cyclist’s thoughts as great as we do.

Thanks to everyone who entered, and if you haven’t already, go ahead and like us on Facebook to keep up on the latest at Performance, and the chance to enter for more great give-aways.

Check out some of our favorite comments…

Karen H.

I ride my bike to work every day. I am a much happier person when I ride… Burn of stress, have a little quiet time. I feel like I know a secret that other people are completely missing out on!

Matt B.

I love the freedom of a bike and being to get away from the world for a few hours.  Everything looks different from a bike.

Mike P.

It’s just me, the bike, my thoughts and the road.

Jackie V.

For exercise and fresh air. It’s a fun way to switch things up

Kevin P.

Built in triathlon training. .outdoors. .save gas..wind in my face..destress time..justify bike cost..health..exciting roads alongside deer..

Bill J.

My 3 year old yelling “go daddy go” from the Burley behind me.

Scott W.

Freedom and peace of mind on the open road!

Bob K.

Because it makes me feel like I’m still 12.

Steven T.

Peter Sagan inspires me to ride; ripped calves inspire me to ride; the feeling of fresh air rushing in my lungs; the feeling of flying when I’m on a mountain descent; and reducing my carbon footprint on bike to work day. Biking = Inspiration!

Darren D.

My wife, kids, and career as a firefighter.  Riding keeps me fit so I can do my job and make it home to my family.

John B.

Joy of being under my own power,  and for my health.

Jane B.

Adventure!  You never know what is around the corner!

Terry K.

The burn

Raymond J.

My kids get a chance to see their dad workings towards living healthier….plus there isn’t much better then riding a trail you’ve never been on what an adventure

Jennifer B.

My Husband!  I started riding for Bike MS as he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis

Carl S.

My 9 year old son wants to ride every day with me and its great for inspiration.

Jason R.

To be healthier after beating cancer twice.

Read all the entries here

 

 

Ridden and Reviewed: The Ridley Helium

The Ridley Helium is a stiff, fast and lightweight bike designed for climbing

The Ridley Helium is a stiff, fast and lightweight bike designed for climbing

Lighter Than Air

The Ridley Helium is part of the lightweight line of Ridley bikes. While the Helium SL claims top honors in Ridley’s “superlight” category, the Helium is still one of the lightest production frames available, and in fact was the basis for what became the SL. This tried and true chassis has been ridden to victory by riders from several different Pro Tour teams, and after spending a few days on it, it’s easy to see how.

So exactly where does the Helium fit into Ridley’s lineup? Like all of Ridley’s other bikes, the Helium originally grew out of a request from Ridley’s pro riders, who needed a lightweight frame that would make climbing during difficult mountain stages easier. While the Fenix is Ridley’s “go everywhere, do everything” bike, and the Noah is designed to be an ultra-stiff aero-wonder for the sprinters, the Helium was designed to shave every possible gram for the climbers.

But this isn’t to say the bike is only at home in the mountains…

All of Ridley's bikes are tested on the cobbles to make sure they meet the brand's own durability standards

All of Ridley’s bikes are tested on the cobbles to make sure they meet the brand’s own durability standards

Beyond the Mountains

When we visited Ridley in Belgium a few weeks ago, among the bikes we were given to test out were a pair of Heliums. While they weren’t spec’ed exactly the same as the Performance models, we got a pretty fair sense for how the Helium rode, and for two of our testers, it came to be the bike of choice for the Tour of Flanders sportif (the others chose the Fenix).

 While Ridley may bill the Helium as a climbers bike built for the mountains, we actually found that the bike was more than at home on the cobbled roads of Flanders—a realization that was backed up by the fact that several of the Lotto-Belisol riders chose to ride the pro-level Helium SL for the actual Tour of Flanders. Thanks to its super-thin seat stays and more traditional rounded tubing, we found the ride to be plenty compliant for even the toughest cobbled sections we encountered.

Even our test bikes, which were built up with some super-stiff, low spoke count carbon wheels, seemed to have almost no problems dealing with the cobbled roads and descents found on the sportif. At no point did we feel we were bouncing off the rocks or getting bucked all over the road. Not that the ride was exactly silky, but the Helium had the chops to take the hits. But this isn’t to say the Helium is a noodle either—it was plenty stiff enough to deliver the goods come smash time on the Circuit Zolder, where it was right at home in a paceline involving a few pro’s, local hardmen and excitable juniors. The bike just felt fast, responsive and lively.

We were able to follow sprints, break-aways and surges with aplomb, and when we stood up to go for the gusto, the bike instantly responded with plenty of forward speed.

The Helium was right at home on the flat and fast Zolder track

The Helium was right at home on the flat and fast Zolder track

Climbers Delight

Despite it’s all-arounder abilities, we have to say that the bike did truly come into it’s own on the climbs. We started the day of the Tour of Flanders sportif feeling more than a little anxious about going up the Koppenberg, the Steenbeekdreijs, the Kwarmont and the Paterberg—all legendary cobbled hills with brutal gradients that can surpass 20%, but eventually we came to almost look forward to them.

We’re not the worst climbers in the world, after all we do live in North Carolina, but aboard the Helium we felt almost delusionally gifted—enough so to even try to challenge a Trek Factory Racing pro we happened upon on the Kwarmont (it didn’t end well for us). Making the turns into the climbs made us feel almost giddy, because you really do get the sensation of floating uphill. The bike is very light, but it’s more than that. The geometry, the fork rake, and the blend of both stiffer and more compliant carbon fibers all seem to function together in an almost unquantifiable way to just make climbing feel easier and more natural.

This isn’t to say we weren’t suffering on the Paterberg at the 22% pitch, but we rarely felt we had to resort to standing to make it up the hills. The bike seemed to work with us to make the going easier, and that’s something we can always appreciate.

The Ridley Helium helped make climbing even the Paterberg feel easier and more natural

The Ridley Helium helped make climbing even the Paterberg feel easier and more natural

A More In-Depth Look

After riding the Helium for a few days, we got a chance to talk with Dirk, the lead product manager at Ridley about what went into making the Helium, and out of that conversation came a true insight into what the Ridley brand is all about. The Helium is if nothing else a pragmatic machine, built to solve problems with substance instead of style and marketing.

Neither the Helium nor the pro-level Helium SL are anywhere close to the lightest production frames available, but that’s not something that Ridley is really interested in making. Ridley believes that behind most of those other super-lightweight frames is a directive from a brand’s marketing department, not an actual benefit to the consumer. To make a sub-700 gram frame isn’t difficult, but to make a sub-700 gram frame that can actually be ridden is.

With the Helium series, Ridley looked at how cyclists actually ride. Pro’s, amateurs, weekend warriors, everyone. Then they talked with pro mechanics, materials engineers, designers—basically anybody who would ever have to work one—about what they wanted to see in a lightweight bike. The consensus was clear: it didn’t matter if it was the lightest bike on the market if it couldn’t survive a full season, or transfer all your power into the pedals. Where they arrived at was a frame that was just a few grams heavier than the competition, but that would stand up to the abuse of racing, training and everyday riding like nothing else in its class. In fact, the frames ended up being so dependable that the Lotto-Belisol pro’s just ride off the shelf bikes, painted up in team colors.

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The Verdict

The Helium is just a flat out great bike. It has a ride feel that combines so many different aspects into one bike, which is a hard act to follow. Stiff enough to sprint, comfortable enough for the cobbles, and purpose-built for climbing, this bike comes pretty close to being the total package.

The bike definitely has a race-tuned geometry, so if you’re looking for something a little more relaxed you might want to look at the Fenix, but if you want a go-fast machine that performs as a true all-around high performance bike, then the Helium is the way to go.

Survive The Polar Vortex(es): 6 Tips For Cyclists

Polar Vortex got you down? Trust us, we understand. Our North Carolina office has been known to get snow, ice and single digit temps that make riding hard. We can only imagine what it’s like further north. But who wants to wait until Spring to get back on 2 wheels? To keep from getting some serious cabin fever, we’ve had to get creative to keep on form and having fun, despite all the craziness outside.

Here are some of the tips we’ve come up with.

Snow biking puts a new spin on old trails, and is a great way to spice up your riding routine.

Snow biking puts a new spin on old trails, and is a great way to spice up your riding routine.

1. Snow Biking:

If you’ve got a mountain bike or a fat bike, consider hitting the trails for a little outside fun. We took one out for a spin on a snowy day and it was awesome, if a little cold (more on that later…). Just make sure to bundle up and keep warm. It’s cold out there.

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When the temps go south, trainer time tends to go up. Just make sure to structure your workouts to get the most out of your time.

2. The Trainer:

If you’re more of the roadie type, then throw that bike in the trainer and get spinning. Need some motivation? Consider listening to music or watching a movie to end the monotony (last night we watched Top Gun while riding the trainer and sprinted every time a plane took off—it was exhausting).

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Cross training, such as weight lifting, running, or yoga is great way to improve your performance on the bike

3. Cross Training:

Go for a run, hit the weights, go cross-country skiing, try some yoga or just do some stretching. Remember that taking time off the bike can be as important as time spent on the bike. Taking a day or two to strengthen non-cycling muscles, work on flexibility, or core activation can have big rewards later in the year.

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Knowing how to properly fuel your workouts is very important. This recovery meal provides a good mix of carbs, protein, simple sugars, and malted recovery beverages.

4. Make A Good Meal:

Or better yet, make yourself a meal plan. It’s easy to put on a few pounds over the winter, but making a meal plan and sticking with it is one of the easiest way to make sure you’re adequately fueling your rides without taking in too many calories. Plus, it’s a great way to score points with your significant other.

Cleaning your bike is a great way to prolong the life of components and ensure it's ready to ride next time

Cleaning your bike is a great way to prolong the life of components and ensure it’s ready to ride next time

5. Clean Your Bike

If you haven’t done this in a while, give your bike some serious TLC.

Taking two or three days off can actually make you faster by allowing your body time to recover

Taking two or three days off can actually make you faster by allowing your body time to recover

6. Take a Day Off:

There’s nothing wrong with taking the occasional day or two off. In fact studies show that if you’ve been riding hard, taking two or three days off will actually make you faster by allowing your body to recuperate. If it’s too cold or snowy where you live, don’t feel bad about putting in some serious couch time to watch a movie, read a book, catch up on Downton Abbey, or spend time with the fam.

6 Cycling Gloves for Cold Weather Rides

Now that cold weather has rolled in across much of the country, cyclists everywhere turn to that most common of riding refrains: “My fingers are frozen!” The best way to avoid chilly digits on your ride is to wear long-fingered gloves, so we turned to our clothing team for recommendations of our best and most popular cold weather riding gloves. Of course what you choose to wear will depend on the forecast and your cold tolerance, just like our clothing suggestions for riding in cold weather – but read on below for a few great frost-fighting options (and don’t forget to get your bike ready for cold weather rides too).

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1. Smartwool Liner Gloves: Sometimes all you need is a lightweight liner glove to bring you through the cooler season in comfortable warmth, but these gloves are multi-purpose since they are also perfect as an extra insulating layer under your favorite gloves or mittens (and as a barrier if you are using chemical warmers layered inside your gloves).

2. Fox Women’s Digit Gloves: Mountain bike riders have an advantage in cooler weather since they already wear long finger gloves, but don’t be afraid to break out your ‘mountain bike’ gloves on a chilly road ride – just pick a pair that aren’t super-lightweight, like this stylish option from Fox.

3. Pearl Izumi Cyclone Gloves: Pearl Izumi’s most popular, cool weather cycling gloves offer great fit and protection, while adding reflectivity for safety and Comfort Bridge Gel padding for comfort. Elite Softshell is a highly functional stretch fabric that offers windproof, waterproof, thermal and breathable protection for cold weather performance.

4. Louis Garneau Super Prestige Gloves: Ergonomically designed to maximize hand comfort in cold conditions with windproof, waterproof and thermal fabrics, pre-curved fingers and gel padding in the palm. The ‘lobster’ design provides more warmth than full-fingered cycling gloves and better mobility than mittens, but on these gloves you can actually fold back the ‘lobster’ covering to turn them into standard 5-finger gloves.

5. Castelli Diluvio Gloves: Take the warmth of mittens and combine it with the weatherproof properties of neoprene and you have Castelli’s Diluvio gloves. Thermo-sealed, 3mm neoprene construction thwarts wind and rain, plus it’s insulated for amazing heat retention. Thin, flexible design fits easily over your hands and gripper palm improves handlebar control.

6. Belgian Gloves: Only recommended if you are cycling ‘hardman’ like Jens Voigt or Tom Boonen.

What Do You Carry When You Ride?

Ever wonder what cyclists carry in their pockets, saddlebags, and hydration packs? We polled some folks around the office, asking to see what they carried to get out of a jam, and found some interesting stuff.

Which kind of begs the question: what do you carry when you ride?

And don’t forget that tubes, multitools, mini-pumps, Co2 cartridges, black size medium Giro Air Attack Shield helmets, and saddlebags make great stocking stuffers.

 

Commuter Kit (carried in messenger bag): Tire lever, multitool, patch kit, spare tube, pump

Commuter Kit (carried in messenger bag): Tire lever, multitool, patch kit, spare tube, pump

XC riding: Spare tube, Co2 inflator and multitool combo

XC riding (strapped to seatpost): Spare tube, Co2 inflator and multitool combo

Super-light road kit (carried in jersey pocket): mini pump, rear flashy light, tire levers, Ikea hex wrenches, tube, dollar bill

Super-light road kit (carried in jersey pocket): mini pump, rear flashy light, tire levers, hex wrenches that came with Ikea shelves, tube, dollar bill

Touring kit (in saddlebag): Multitool, SRAM masterlink, rear light, tire levers, tube, Gerber mutlitool, (not pictured: frame pump)

Touring kit (in saddlebag): Multitool, SRAM masterlink, rear light, tire levers, tube, Gerber mutlitool, (not pictured: frame pump)

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Trail Riding (carried in hydration pack): food, Go Pro + tripod, Co2 inflator, hatchet, shock pump, zip ties, multitool, tire levers, pump, spare tube

Road Kit (carried in jersey pocket): Tube, Co2 cartridge and chuck, spare Co2 cartridge, mutlitool

Road Kit (carried in jersey pocket): Tube, Co2 cartridge and chuck, spare Co2 cartridge, multitool

The Ultimate Trail Building Kit (carried in hydration pack): Hatchet, pump, shovel, chain saw, shears, pruners, strap, tube, food, bug spray, branch cutter

The Ultimate Trail Building Kit (carried in hydration pack): Hatchet, pump, saw, shovel, chain saw, shears, pruners, strap, tube, food, bug spray, branch cutter

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