Real Advice: 5 Tips For The Workday Cyclist

 

photo 2

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.

photo 1

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

Real Advice: How To Store Your Bicycles Inside

The first step to storing your bikes is admitting that you have a problem – when your bikes are taking up more space in your house than your actual furniture, then it’s time to look into some storage solutions! There are a lot of opinions and differing ideas about the best way to store your bicycle. We’ve used them all, so we’re here to help. What follows are some easy ways to keep your bikes organized and out of the way around the house, while maintaining your relationship with your significant other.

Bike Storage Hook

Performance Bike Storage Hook

The simplest option is the humble Storage Hook – it doesn’t get much easier than this. Screw this rubberized hook into the wall and you’re good to go – just hang your bike from the front or rear wheel and let the bike hang down. We highly recommend using a stud finder and drilling a pilot hole to make sure that it’s secure enough to hold the weight of your bike. You can also use two of these if you’re going to hang your bike from the ceiling and you’re comfortable lifting your bike over your head each time you want to put it away.

Hang 2 Plus rack

XPORT Hang 2 Plus Bike Hanger

If you’d like a little more versatility, you could consider an option like the XPORT Hang 2 Plus Bike Hanger. With a rack like this, you can put two bikes very close to one another (you’ll probably have to flip the orientation for the second one) and put gear on the shelf behind it. We would recommend clipping your helmet to the shelf and adding gear on top as needed. One drawback with this system is that the bikes stick out a bit out from the wall.

Bikes Aloft 2 rack

XPORT Bikes Aloft 2 Storage Rack

If you’d like to be a little more space conscious, you might consider an option like the XPORT Bikes Aloft 2 Storage Rack. This is our go-to bike storage option. You’ll find them all over the Performance home office and even used in our retail stores and at events. This is because the rack is extremely space conscious and also very easy to set up. It doesn’t require drilling into walls, so it’s great for apartments or rooms where you may not always want to have your bike. Because one bike is directly above the other, the footprint of this rack is equal to one bike.

Bicycle Hoist

Transit Bicycle Hoist

If you have high ceilings and would like to open up some space by lifting the bike out of the way, you might consider a rack like a Transit Bicycle Hoist. This system takes a bit of effort to set up, but once it’s in place it is very easy to use, and you’ve got some instant bike art elegantly on display!

xport_bike_cover

XPORT Bike Cover

One final option is just to cover up your bikes with something like this XPORT Bike Cover, so that at least you won’t get grease all over your new couch. And if you’re unfortunate enough to have to store a bike outdoors on a regular basis, you definitely need a bicycle cover. This will keep some of the elements off of your bicycle – just make sure to keep that chain lubed!

Are there any circumstances we haven’t covered? Any strange bike storage options you’ve used in the past? Let us know in the comments section below.

Real Advice: Training Indoors


DSC_0358

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

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

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

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

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

Wind Trainers: Use a fan to generate resistance.

Advantages

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

Disadvantages

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

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

Advantages

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

Disadvantages

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

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

Advantages

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

Disadvantages

  • More Expensive

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

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

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

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

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

-Catch up on the DVR queue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Put down a trainer mat under the bike

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

-Use a small fan to keep cool

-Always have a bottle with ice water in it

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

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

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

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

Real Advice: Weight Loss

Time for another installment of our Real Advice series – hard-earned practical knowledge from real riders here at our home office. This week we delve into the topic of weight loss for cyclists.

weight_loss_scale_small

It’s no secret that losing some weight is one of the best ways to make yourself faster, a better climber, and just feel a lot better all around. Cycling is great exercise, but often riders—both beginners and more experienced riders—can fall into the same traps that prevent them from losing weight, and sometimes even gain it while riding.

There’s a million weight loss guides out there, and many are more authoritative than anything we could offer up. But at the end of the day we’re just like you. We have families, full time jobs, and sometimes it’s hard to think about eating right. So here are some basic, easy tricks and tips that we’ve used over the years to get down to race weight, or shake off the effects of a long winter. There aren’t any magic bullets or miracle diets here. Losing weight takes time, and progress may be slow at first. Everyone is different though, and what works for one may not work for another. If you have something that’s worked for you, feel free to make liberal use of the comments section below and join the conversation.

1. RIDE MORE: Losing weight can be a simple equation of calories in vs. calories out. If you want to lose weight, you need to expend more calories, which means more saddle time. That can be tricky though, as most of us feel squeezed to get in enough riding as it is. Here are some tricks we use to get more riding in:

  • Try commuting to work at least a few days a week
  • Ride early before work or school, when the day is still your own, and you probably don’t have the work and family responsibilities you do in the evening
  • Extending your ride by just 15 minutes can burn up to 75 more calories (hey, every little bit helps)
  • Instead of trying to squeeze in one long ride, try going for two shorter rides that may accommodate your free time better
  • If you are short on time, ride harder (within your ability level). A 30 minute spin is not the time to take it easy and soft pedal. Raising the intensity of shorter rides can help you both build stamina and burn more calories.

2. EVERYTHING IN MODERATION: Most people have a mentality that working out entitles them to pretty much eat whatever they want afterwards. While the occasional slice of pie ain’t gonna make or break you, the truth of the matter is that unless you’re spending all day in the saddle or riding hard at a racing pace, that last ride probably didn’t burn more than a few hundred calories. While fueling and recovery are important, most riders way overestimate how many calories they actually need to eat.

  • Before your ride, eat only a moderate snack like some bread with peanut butter or an energy gel.
  • If your ride will be less than 90 minutes, you may not need a mid-ride snack. Save the gels and energy bars for longer, harder rides.
  • After your ride, eat a small meal with a good blend of protein and carbs (see our guide here).

3. TRACK CALORIES OUT:  A heart rate monitor may seem unnecessary for most riders, but it’s the most accurate way to track how many calories you have burned in a ride. Wearing one while you ride can help guide how many calories you should eat over the course of a day.

A heart rate monitor can be linked to many cycling computers, or can be used as a stand-alone unit, like this one from Polar.

4. COUNT CALORIES IN: There is all kinds of conflicting info out there about the accuracy of calorie measurement, but for most people counting calories works.

  • Read food labels, and pick foods that have a lower amount of calories PER SERVING.
  • Avoid the triple threat of fat, salt, and sugar. Fat, salt and sugar are bad for losing weight, so choose foods that have less salt, sugar and fat per serving
  • Go for fiber. Foods that are high in fiber and low in sugar have plenty of health benefits, and can help you feel fuller for longer. Avoid granola bars that have added fiber and are loaded with sugar. Instead choose beans, whole grains, and fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Lay off the soda. Soda is loaded with empty calories, sugar and other stuff that isn’t exactly conducive to weight loss.

5. STEP ON THE SCALE: Studies show that stepping on the scale regularly can help keep you accountable. Keep a scale at home, and weigh yourself every day in the morning, and again in the evening. Don’t get discouraged by what you see though. Weight can vary depending on how much salt you ate, how much water you drank, etc… It’s the average downward trend we’re looking for. We’re playing the long game here.

6. KEEP A JOURNAL: Keeping track of weight, calories in, calories out, and distance/time ridden can help you stay accountable to yourself, and track your progress. If you are meeting your goals, it can help give you that positive motivation to see it written down. If you are not, then you can look at the numbers and see where you might have room for some fine tuning.

7. EAT BREAKFAST: In today’s fast paced world most of us either skip breakfast, or just grab something from the Golden Arches on the go. However, choosing a healthy, filling breakfast like a homemade fruit and yogurt smoothie, fresh fruit and toast, or granola cereal can help fuel you throughout the day, and delay those feelings of being hungry.

Oatmeal is a great way to start the morning. Filling, healthy, and full of energy. Find this recipe in the Feed Zone Cookbook from Skratch Labs.

Oatmeal is a great way to start the morning. Filling, healthy, and full of energy. Find this recipe in the Feed Zone Cookbook from Skratch Labs.

8. PLAN YOUR MEALS: Planning out your meals may be one of the most important things to help you lose weight. Below are some tips our employees use to make sure they can eat healthy, even when they’re in a rush.

  • Don’t eat out as much. Eating out means eating meals full of hidden calories and questionable ingredients. Eating out is ok occasionally, but when possible eat food you’ve prepared yourself. Plus, it’s expensive, and you need that money to buy new, smaller bike clothes.
  • More lean protein and veggies, less cheese and red meat.
  • Just because it’s a salad doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Lay off the bottled dressings and shredded cheeses. Try making your own dressing with olive oil and vinegar, and using avocado or cottage cheese instead of shredded cheese.
  • Bring your lunch. This gives you the power to know exactly what you’re eating and how many calories are in it. If you’re pressed for time in the mornings, make it the night before.
  • The same goes for breakfast. Try making or preparing your breakfast the night before, and then putting it in the fridge.
  • When you make dinner, make big batches. You can then refrigerate or freeze them to reuse on nights when you may feel rushed or don’t have time to make a fresh dinner.
  • Lastly, eat real food whenever possible. This means avoiding pre-packaged, processed foods and eating more veggies, fruits, lean meats, beans and whole grains. While convenient and sometimes low in calories, processed foods are stuffed full of sodium, saturated fat and other stuff that can prevent you losing weight, and probably won’t make you feel your best. The Feed Zone Cookbook by Biju Thomas & Allen Lim has some great recipes for cyclists.

The Feed Zone is an excellent cook book for cyclists. The recipes are tailored to give you energy to ride, and feel your best.

We’ll be the first to say that we’re not experts on the topic, so before you follow any of our recommendations, it’s best to consult with a doctor, trainer, or dietician who can help you figure out a plan that’s right for you. You shouldn’t in any way, shape, or form consider this to be an end all be all prescription for shedding some pounds.

Real Advice: Dressing For The Fall

Today we continue with our Real Advice series – hard-earned practical knowledge from real riders here at our home office. This week we hear from a team member who has a special fondness for some late season riding.

Boulder_Road_10-63

My favorite days to ride are October or November days when I wake up, look outside and see grey skies. Of course I love getting in some good riding in warm, sunny weather, but there’s something about the solitude of those overcast days that really makes me remember why I love this sport. Maybe it’s the loneliness of the road, maybe I ride better in lower temperatures, maybe I just really look forward to that post-ride pumpkin-flavored carbohydrate recovery beverage that’s only available at this particular time of year. Who knows. What is for certain though is that without dressing right for the weather, those rides would not be nearly so enjoyable.

When it comes to dressing for the fall, there are two things to keep in mind: layers and versatility. Dressing in layers not only helps keep you warmer by trapping air between the layers, but it also lets you more effectively manage exactly how hot you get by allowing you to remove layers as the day warms up. It also helps if your clothing options are versatile, and able to be combined in different ways to adapt to the conditions. It’s not unusual for me to start off a fall ride at 6AM dressed in several layers of clothes, only to return home at 2 in the afternoon in shorts and jersey with my pockets stuffed with warmers and jackets.

So, if you’re ready to get on the fall riding gravy train (with carbon fiber wheels, of course), then follow this handy dandy guide to dressing for the fall.

DRESSING FOR THE FALL

1.    FALL ESSENTIALS:

  • Shorts and Jersey: I continue to ride in my usual bib shorts and short sleeve jerseys well into the fall. When combined with the below listed items, this is the foundation of a versatile riding kit that can adapt to almost any weather condition.
Shorts and jersey are a good foundation for the fall

Shorts and jersey are a good foundation for the fall

  • Base Layer: invest in a long and a short sleeve or sleeveless base layer. Base layers are worn under the jersey (and under bib straps, if you wear bib shorts) and add an extra light layer that can help keep you warm, while moving sweat away from your skin—essential for hot or cold weather. I personally prefer merino wool base layers for fall riding, since they keep you warm, but won’t make you overheat if the day ends up warmer than you think.

A base layer will help keep you warm and wick away sweat

  • Arm and Knee/Leg warmers: warmers are usually a better option this time of year than long sleeve jerseys or tights. Good ones are usually just as effective as tights or a long jersey, but they have the added advantage of being removable as the day warms up—plus they roll up small enough to be stuffed into a jersey pocket for storage
Arm, leg or knee warmers can keep you warm and are easily removed if you get too hot

Arm, leg or knee warmers can keep you warm and are easily removed if you get too hot

  • Vest: a good wind vest is essential for this time of year. It helps keep your core warm, and most of them will block the wind pretty well. If you’re really pushing it hard, you can always unzip a bit to get more air moving. Like warmers, these have the advantage of being removable and low bulk, so they can be easily stored in a pocket if necessary.

A wind vest will help keep your core warm

  • Long Finger Gloves: For most riders, long finger gloves are essential. Cold fingers become stiff and lethargic, which is bad news since as cyclists we depend on our fingers to operate the brakes and shift mechanisms, so keeping them warm is essential. Don’t go for heavy insulated gloves or ones with WindStopper material though, as these are usually too warm for this time of year, and you’ll just end up with sweat-soaked gloves that may chill your fingers even more.

Full finger gloves help keep your hands warm in cool temperatures

  • Headband: On very cold mornings I like to start off wearing a headband. The headband keeps your ears and forehead warm, while still allowing heat to escape through the top of your head. As an added benefit, when it’s time to remove it, the headband is so small you almost won’t notice it in your pocket.

A headband helps keep your ears and forehead warm on cold mornings

  • Toe Warmers: I reserve these for only the coldest mornings. As the name implies, these are little half booties that go over the ends of your shoes to help add insulation to your toes. Again, once these are no longer needed, they can removed and stowed in a pocket. If you’re like me and have toes that, once cold, will never warm up no matter what, you may want to try oversocks, which are just like normal regular socks, but tougher, that you wear over your shoes to help them hold in some extra warmth. 

Toe warmers add some extra warmth to your feet on the coldest fall days

2. PAY ATTENTION TO THE WEATHER: Remember that cloudy days will be colder than sunny ones, and windy days will be colder than calm ones. It’s also a good idea to check the entire forecast for the day—or at least the next few hours. Dress appropriately for the weather, but if you’re unsure what to for given conditions, then check out this cool app from Bicycling Magazine.

3. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BODY: After I get dressed for a ride, I like to go stand in my driveway in an area exposed to the wind for a minute or two and see how I feel. On a cold morning you should start off feeling slightly chilled, but not cold. If you’re shivering, then you don’t have enough clothes on, so go back inside and add a layer. If you feel nice and toasty warm, that’s pretty much a guarantee you’ll be roasting within the next 20 minutes, so you could probably stand to drop a layer or two. During your ride it can sometimes be tough to know when it’s time to pull over and take off a layer or two. Surprisingly, your ears will generally be the best indicator of how hot you’re getting. If your ears start to feel warm or hot, then it’s time to either unzip or shed a layer.

4. BRIGHTEN IT UP: My favorite kit color is black, and I make no apologies for it. During the fall though, I realize that just isn’t practical or safe. The days are shorter, and drivers are more distracted with leaves and stuff, so it’s more important than ever to stand out while on the road. I personally opt for a fluoro yellow wind vest, and leg and arm warmers with plenty of reflective accents on them. You don’t necessarily have to go fluoro, but choosing a bright color like red, blue or yellow will help you be more visible to passing cars.

5. ROLL WELL STOCKED: Speaking of shorter days, you need to roll prepared when you ride in the fall—especially if you’re going solo. I always stuff a set of safety lights in my jersey pocket, even if I plan on being back before dark. A good set, like the Blackburn Flea 2.0 combo are lightweight and very bright. Also remember that there are fewer cyclists on the road, so there are fewer people who can help you if you are having mechanical problems. Make sure you have a flat repair kit and multi-tool, and you know how to use them. 

Bike Commuting Stories

On our prior Real Advice: Commuting by Bike post, we asked readers to share their advice and stories about commuting by bike – we got such great replies that we had to share our favorite responses. Read on below to find out why folks just like you saddle up to hit the road by bike every morning, some adventures they’ve had along the way, and some hard-earned advice they learned along the way. We hope that you’ll be as inspired as we are to try riding your bike to work!

Boone_Urban

Commuter shot from our last photo shoot

From Steve H.:

When I ride a bicycle to work, I am “ready”. By car and bus my commute is 35 minutes for 9 miles, but by bicycle it takes that or less. The bike ride then becomes a challenge to beat the clock, while obeying all traffic signals. During the ride, there is little to no traffic since I leave an hour earlier than my normal commute time. Less car traffic eliminates risk, at least that is what I try to accomplish. When I get to work I am energized, focused, feel like I accomplished something, and its a conversation starter with coworkers. As a data geek, I track the route/time with MapMyRide, post it to Facebook, and review my stats (speed, time, personal records, etc….). Fun way to start the day. The afternoon flies by as I have my commute home to waiting for me. On the bike my mind drifts to work tasks, grocery list, dinner cravings, connecting with nature, watching construction progress in neighborhoods not on my normal car commute, greeting fellow bike trail riders, breathing clean air, driving the pedals up hills so I can fly through the next flat, greeting my smiling daughter upon my arrival home and answering all her questions about the ride. Life is better on a bicycle.

From Echo:

It was my first time commuting (by bike) to downtown Chicago.

I had heard rumors of Chicago becoming a bike-friendly city, but the infrastructure improvements had yet to reach my neck of the woods. So, for once, I was enjoying protected bike lanes, visible bike lane paint, and smooth roads. Sure, the typical frustrations existed here: car exhaust, drivers passing too closely, sweat pouring down my face. But, I had pedaled myself all the way downtown.

Me. My legs. My bike. While reflecting on this, empowered doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt.

Then, on the way home, I started getting tired. Doubting myself, I wondered if I had the strength to make it home. Did I make a mistake? Was it too soon? Too far beyond my abilities?

Just then, as if to confirm my fears, a truck began to turn left… On a one way… Headed right toward me. I was frozen and stared at the driver in horror. Eye contact, a turn of his wheel, and — much to my relief — he caught his mistake and didn’t run me over.

Still shaken, but relieved, I glanced to my left. A pedestrian stood at the crosswalk, with a similar look on her face. We laughed together, and she exclaimed “I was so scared!! I started waving, like ‘NO!’” while demonstrably waving her arms in the air.

Connecting with another person during a commute? Positively? That never happened while driving in my car.

I made it home just fine.

pikes_peak

View of Pike’s Peak and the Garden of the Gods

From Lisa P.:

How can you go wrong with a 10 mile commute to work when you know 3 miles into it you look to your left and see the magnificent Pikes Peak surrounded by the Garden of the Gods?

I feel that same guilty pleasure every time I ride that no one I work with can truly understand. I have just pedaled my way to work, gained strength, clarity, and beautiful scenery. I know my day will rock no matter what gets thrown at me. And what’s even better? I get to look forward to that same beautiful scenery, strength and clarity all the way 10 miles back home. Riding to work will clear the mind and soul, not to mention save on gas while burning some fat! It’s a shrink and a personal trainer wrapped into one awesome ride!

From Marcelo:

I would advise to use a rear carrier , panel or basket to carry your bag. I love recycling and saving money at the same time so I installed a plastic fruit case I found on a supermarket bin as a rear basket. That makes my ride easy as my back is free and doesn’t sweat.

I try to go faster and reduce the time every day, with the help of an app on my phone that tells me how I’m doing during the cycling , pace , time, speed, etc . Luckily I have shower facility at work so I can take a nice shower as soon as I arrive there. When I see my colleagues already working on their desks with their grey faces and sleepy eyes I feel like Iron Man, fresh as a lettuce and ready for action.

The common sense tells me that you have to be visible for the cars , especially in the morning when the drivers are trying to wake themselves up, so it’s extremely important to wear a reflective jacket, preferably a yellow one. Gears such as gloves and glasses are recommended too.

I hope that one day more people will realize the benefits of cycling and leave their cars for long journeys only.

northcarolinamuseumofart

Riding through the NC Museum of Art

From Joe B.:

My “real advice”, here goes, somewhat a list of do’s and don’ts: Don’t be afraid to take the long way and learn to ride fast and smart. Do leave early both ways. If your commute is in or near the suburbs, do try NOT to ride at 5pm or shortly after. There is a different energy around then which makes drivers more aggressive. Do find a park to cut through on your way home because 1) you’ll escape cars and 2) melt away any stress.

Here’s my story, in one big paragraph: I am very lucky. I have a seventeen miler one way. Only one mile of which can be fairly existential. Getting to the back side of Lake Crabtree is pretty awesome and quite a relief. Along the route I get to sprint up the dam and make the turn at the top. Still hoping to one day make it no hands. Then fly through Umstead, braking at the water fountain before heading down hill and up Reedy Creek on past the horse farms. Marking off a couple of sections to sprint. Taking a turn and going below the road through a tunnel, coming out and rounding the corner in full sprint, suddenly braking hard for spazzed bunnies. I’m now headed toward the Art Museum, riding no hands into the wind up a gentle hill. Eyeing the light and cars to make sure I’m not a jerk because I know they won’t see me for the brief moment it’s green. Then having to wait while the sun bakes and sweat drips. Finally crossing through the museum, taking the steep hill because it’s there, and then another because I have no choice. Over a humongous bridge across the freeway, down and under another tunnel. Phew, last big hill coming up. Before I know it, I’m crossing at Hillsborough and then skirting the Rose Garden, up a little hill, turning at the water tower and waiting at the bank light. Then it’s down my street, eyeing cars that pull out before looking, hoping the curb and dismounting. The best part might be saying Hi to my neighbors because I’m in a really good mood as my girl greets me at the door.

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!

aaron_commute_2

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.

aaron_commute_road

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!

Real Advice: An Intro to Climbing

climbing_3Real Advice is a new series here on our blog. To answer some of the questions we get from customers, we’re turning to the employees here at our home office for some answers. Just like anyone else, they need to balance time on the bike with full time jobs and families. Over the years they’ve gotten pretty good at getting the most out of their rides. Let us know what you think in the comments.

This week we asked Robert, one of our copywriters and dedicated lover of the road ride, to give us some tips on how to get better at climbing.

climbing_brianI learned a hard lesson about climbing a few years ago after moving to North Carolina from a certain Midwestern city known for ferocious winds and two-dimensional topography. I thought I was in pretty good shape—until I decided to join the Thursday night group ride my first week of work at Performance Bicycle. I doubt I had actually ridden a bicycle up a hill before (unless bridges count), but I didn’t think it could be too hard. After 5 miles of rolling hills, I was utterly exhausted, and had long since been dropped. My ego was deflated, but thankfully there’s nothing like a reality check to get you motivated. Here are some of the tips and tricks I used to improve my climbing:

  1. PRACTICE. This seems obvious, but there are no silver bullets here. The only way to get better is to go out and find hills to ride up. Don’t overdo it, but adding challenging vertical mileage to your rides will do wonders.
  2. BUDDY RIDES. After my embarrassment on the group ride, I found a strong climber at the office and rode with him a few times a week. It was painful, but forcing myself to match his faster pace helped me make huge gains in a short amount of time.
  3. YOUR FRONT DERAILLEUR. Use it. You’re not going to impress anybody by big-ringing it up the local hardman hill, and you may even hurt yourself. If you find yourself struggling and out of the saddle from the start of the climb, you need to get into the habit of shifting to the little ring sooner. Since it’s almost impossible to shift the front derailleur once you’re actually climbing, it’s better to shift five minutes too early than five seconds too late.
  4. STANDING vs. SITTING. This one is divisive, but it honestly depends on the type of climb. If the climb is, say, 2 miles at a 6% grade, you’re better off staying in the saddle and pedaling at a higher cadence. If it’s a short, steep climb you can probably just stand up and stomp on the pedals to power up it. In general standing makes you work harder than sitting and pedaling at a higher cadence. If you do need to stand, make sure to shift to a harder gear to compensate for the extra force on the pedals.
  5. RELAX. Climbing is hard, but we subconsciously make it harder than it needs to be. Next time you head uphill, pay attention to your upper body. I bet you’re clenching your abs, tensing your shoulders and white knuckling your handlebars. All this saps your energy and makes it harder to breath. Next time, try to keep things loose and relaxed, control your breathing, and let your legs do the work.
  6. EQUIPMENT. Yes, nothing can really take the place of saddle time—but there are some equipment upgrades that can make climbing a little easier. If you’re really struggling on the hills, consider changing your cassette to a 12-28T, or switching to a compact crankset—both of which can make things a little easier. But the most important upgrade you can make for climbing is your wheelset. Wheels add both raw weight and rotational weight to your bike, making climbing more difficult. Finding a good pair of lightweight wheels is a very personal matter, and much can depend on budget and personal preference, but here are some of my favorites.

Race Day: Zipp 202 Firecrest Carbon Tubulars

Training Ride: Easton EA90 LTD Road Clinchers

Workhorse:  FSA Gossamer Road Clinchers

If you already have a pair of wheels you love but still want to go lighter, then take a look at your cranks, seatpost or saddle. There are many places on a bicycle where grams can hide. For more ideas on how to improve your performance or shave some weight from the bike, check out the “Upgrade Yourself” article in the Performance Bicycle Learning Center.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 157 other followers

%d bloggers like this: