Category: equipment

Aches and Pains When Riding? Consider a Bike Fit!

If you’re like me, and most of the riders I know, you have some sort of issue with some part (of your anatomy) when riding. Sometimes it’s numbness in the nether-regions, sometimes it’s numbness in the hands, sometimes it’s burning in the feet and sometimes it’s some other nit somewhere else.

In the past I’ve dealt with several of these problems. Thanks to finding the right equipment and most importantly finding the right fit, though, that hasn’t been the case. Until recently…

Last year I ordered my first (and only) Project One bike from Trek: my boy Blue. Yup, that’s him below.

Blue, the wild mustang of Markleeville, named after Blue, one of leaders of a band of wild horses in the Pine Nuts.

It was an awesome experience, made even better thanks to the collaboration I had with Big Daddy’s Bike, Ski & Board (aka Big Daddy’s Bike & Brew I believe) in Gardnerville, NV.

Keith and crew did an awesome job helping me pick certain parts and speccing the bike and of course they assembled it as well. We pretty much nailed it! We did the basic bike fit — you know, elbows bent, not too extended in the cockpit, knees over the spindles using a plumb line — all that stuff, and the bike felt really good. I then double checked some measurements on my Domane and tried to replicate those as best I could on the Emonda.

After several thousand miles, however, I was still getting too much numbness in the hands and so I decided to quit putting off that professional bike fit.

I had one many years ago when I lived in the Bay Area and it was during those sessions that the bike fit technician suggested (among other tweaks) that I should invest in Speedplay pedals. Those pedals allowed for more set back than most (there’s a special plate that helps).

I have really long (14.5) feet and was getting too much hot foot because, as it turns out, the spindle was in front of the ball of my foot, thereby putting too much pressure on the toes and the nerves therein. I’m still riding Speedplays today and have been able to find some Euro size 15s that are Speedplay (aka 4-hole) specific, so no more need for that extender base plate and therefore the stack height that goes along with it.

Fast forward to today; last week to be more precise. After doing a bit of research I decided to go to Barton Ortho and Wellness in South Lake Tahoe, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Blue and I met with Harrison, a physical therapist and professional bike fitter. After a short interview it was on the bike for a look-see.

Harrison set up lasers to check knee alignment first and noticed my knees were coming in towards the top tube on the upstroke. We then checked my feet – yup, I’m a pronator – happens when we get older. Those arches go away. Some shims inside of the shoes and a re-check and it was much better.

We then took a look at my knee extension and seat position. Guess what? My seat was just a bit too high (we dropped it about 1/4 inch) and the nose was down 3 degrees. Both of those things made me put more pressure on the hands. And, as it turns out, that seat position was also putting a bit too much stress on the hips and lower back. Ah, that’s why the sore lower back maybe? Notwithstanding the knee issues it could cause… Seat down, nose up. Good to go.

A Bit of “Table-work”

Off the bike I got and on the table I went for a leg length and flexibility check. Both legs measured the same length so that was good. Flexibility was pretty good too but Harrison did notice some tightness in the left hip as well as the right ankle. A couple things to work on, certainly.

Next…I have a follow up appt. in the coming week and among other things I’m going to get fitted for some orthotics and report back on how things are going so far. Unfortunately, due to the smoke, I’ve not been able to ride outside but thanks to FulGaz (see last week’s post) I’ve managed to test out the new fit every day.

Here’s What I’ve Experienced so Far

While hand numbness is still there it’s MUCH LESS than it was. With my upper body size I put more weight on the bars than those of you who are much lighter and that’s not going to change. What could change, though, is my abdominal strength. Another reason it’s good to talk with a professional: I’ve been working on the lower back thinking that pain was due to lack of strength there. On the contrary, and somewhat counterintuitively, it’s my abs that need the work.

In other news…Back pain? Gone! Power? Up! Left/right balance? Better! Connection to the bike over all? Much improved! Oh, and the price? $250.00. For both sessions.

A bargain IMHO.

So if you are having some of these same botherations than you too are a candidate for a professional bike fit.

Get one and there’s no doubt you’ll be more blissful on the bike!

Let me know how it goes.

Smoky Where You Are? Here’s How You Can Mix Things Up

I’m a California boy, born and raised, and like you I suspect, have never seen anything in my 56 years like we’re seeing now with these fires. I’ll leave the hows and whys to the scientists and instead offer a glimpse into how I’m continuing to ride as well as what else I’m doing to stay engaged and fit.

The FulGaz French Tour

This tour has been my primary source of entertainment since the end of August. BTW, I’ve previously published a handful of posts that mention FulGaz so check those out too if you’re so inclined. It’s a great application and currently it’s even better with the addition of the FulGaz French Tour.

The Tour kicked off on August 28th, the day before the Tour de France started, and the idea, as you can imagine, is to ride twenty-one (21) stages by September 18th. Virtually. Just like the “real tour.” Not the same stages, no (there are some), but no less challenging, at least so far.

Last week I climbed over 17000 feet, with all but 3000 of it from the smokeless confines of Chalet Schwartz here in Markleeville!

Quick chest thump…

Thanks to the extra climbing that comes with the FulGaz French Tour, I was numero uno in climbing for the week in Alta Alpina’s 2020 Social Distancing Road Race Series. Sweet!

So far I’ve ridden the following stages:

  • Stage 1, Col de Turini – 9.29 miles, 3555 feet of climbing
  • Stage 2, Monaco Grand Prix Circuit – 16.21 miles, 1089 feet of climbing
  • Stage 3, Col du Galibier – 11.17 miles, 3998 feet of climbing
  • Stage 4, Harrogate Street Circuit, UCI Worlds 2019 – 8.48 miles, 821 feet of climbing
  • Stage 5, Luz Ardiden – 8.39 miles, 3379 feet of climbing
  • Stage 6, Ninove to Ghent – 23.03 miles, 785 feet of climbing
  • Stage 7, Lac de Cap de Long – 8.39 miles, 3398 feet of climbing
  • Stage 8, Els Angels – 9.05 miles, 1490 feet of climbing
  • Stage 9, Col du Chaussy, 6.19 miles, 2457 feet of climbing

I’ve still got eleven (11) more to do by September 18th and those stages include the Col d’Aspin, the Col d’Izoard, the Tour of Romandie TT, Six Laps of London, the Col du Telegraphe, and Mont Ventoux (that one’s going to be the hardest and longest I fear). It all wraps up with the Alpe d’Huez!

A challenging stage race to be sure. Oh, and did I mention that there is live tracking as well as stage results for each stage, and a GC too? After nine (9) stages I’m 94th out of 115; 11h 41m 44s of time on the bike so far. The leader of the GC after the same stages: 6h 26m 13s. Overachiever!

Other Options

Don’t forget strength training! I try to get two (2) workouts in a week, focused mostly on my upper-body and core. In the above pic are some of the systems of suffering I utilize. Take note of the red medicine ball, a “no-bounce,” which among other things lets me do squat and slams without the ball bouncing up and hitting me in the mug. Some Bowflex dumbbells, an inexpensive bench, a regular medicine ball and some kettlebells are the other items you see.

On the cycling and running front there is of course that ol’ standby, Zwift, which has certainly been getting a lot of press (and paying heavily for it I would imagine) during the Tour de France. I’m so thankful for my DVR – watching all of those commercials would be painful.

I’ve recently started using TrainingPeaks and it too has workouts of which one can partake. Coincidentally, I’ve been reading “Training + Racing with a Power Meter” by Hunter Allen, Andrew Coggan and Stephen McGregor and it syncs up nicely with TrainingPeaks.

Wahoo’s application has some “good grinds” (not the food kind, sorry) too and there are myriad others, including TrainerRoad and Strava. And, here’s an article from PC mag that provides some additional data.

I should mention that the FulGaz French Tour allows riders to do more than one stage a day, and out of order, if you so choose. I’ve taken advantage of this on a couple occasions by doing a flat(ter) warm-up stage before a climbing stage. A double whammy!

Some Additional Suggestions

Especially if you’re going to put in some long rides/hours on the trainer:

  • Extra kits, or at least a jersey, depending on how much you sweat, that are accessible from the bike so you can change mid-stage if you need.
  • Same with water – fill some extra bottles beforehand.
  • Food is good. I made a turkey and cheese sandwich after one stage and to save time ate it during the next stage. It also made it feel more like I was doing a “real event.”
  • I hooked up a portable A/C unit because without it, things got a little steamy in the cave. Combine it with a couple fans, especially if you have a smaller workout room like I do.
  • Lastly, speaking of fans…I just started doing this and it works well: Put a fan behind you and one in front. That backside breeze lessens the drips and it just feels nice.

One last bit of advice: Get a bike fit. I spent a couple hours doing just that yesterday. The fitter, also a physical therapist, made some adjustments to my seat and my shoes and after just one ride I can already feel the difference. The jury is still out on whether or not what we did is good enough or if I need more; time will tell. Still, it was something I had been avoiding because of the time it takes but I thought why not do it now? it’s too smoky to ride outside anyway!

What about you? What are you doing? Any suggestions for your fellow readers? Let us all know by commenting on this post.

Cycling in the Sierra? Here are Some Things You Should Consider

Having spent most of my life cycling in the San Francisco Bay Area I was very accustomed to the conditions there and so was well prepared when I hit the road. When we moved up to Markleeville in the winter of 2016, though, I quickly learned that what worked “in the flats” did not necessarily translate to the Sierra Nevada.

Several months ago I posted an article entitled “Climbing Mountain Passes – 5 Key Things to Know.” This follow-up post expands on that one a bit with some more specific recommendations.

Equipment

Top row: Jersey pocket. All the items except the tube fit in that pouch on the right.
Middle row: That Lezyne carbon fiber pump is mounted on the bike.
Bottom row: All of these items fit in the saddle bag. Notice the chain pin inside the patch kit.

Sure, most experienced cyclists carry some sort of mini-tool, a patch-kit, Co2 cartridges, etc. but it’s important to have some redundancy where you can. Some examples:

  • Two (2) tubes instead of one. I was bombing down Hwy. 4 a couple years back and hit a pothole. I double flatted and had only one (1) tube. The patches I had wouldn’t work as the holes were too big; had to call for extraction.
  • Tire boot, duct tape (or both). I don’t carry an extra tire but I do have a tire boot and some duct tape wrapped around an old toothbrush handle. On one particularly frigid morning I put the duct tape around my fingertips – the gloves I had were not doing the trick.
  • Chain pin. Ideally you’re checking your chain wear regularly but even then, ca-ca occurs. I learned this the hard way, too. A pin in my chain starting coming out while on a ride (I hadn’t checked my chain in awhile) and I couldn’t get it fully inserted with the chain tool. Again, I had to call for extraction.
  • Sat-com. Speaking of calling for extraction…How do you do that with no cell service? I mentioned this in that “Climbing Mountain Passes” post, too but it bears repeating: cell service is basically non-existent in the mountains. Now that’s not to say I don’t carry my cell, I do, but having a device like the Garmin inReach Mini will allow you to communicate with “your person” when you are out of cell range, and its SOS feature could save your life. The monthly subscription for the basic plan is relatively inexpensive (about $12.00 a month).
  • Identification and dinero. I hope this one is a no-brainer for most of you yet I’ve heard of some who don’t carry one or the other. Not only do I carry my driver’s license but I also carry my medical insurance card, my debit card and some green. And, speaking of redundancy, I wear a Road iD. In my case, just the ID itself, on the band of my Garmin fenix.

Footwear and Clothing

Yours truly, in jersey, vest and neck gaiter (bibtights and boots not shown), in front of a snowbank across Hwy. 4 just south of Silver Mountain City, this past winter.

Foul weather in the mountains is not always cold, or stormy weather IMHO. Heat and sun can also foul up a good ride. Here’s a bunch of suggestions:

  • Cycling boots. No, I’m not referring to those lycra-type shoe or toe covers. I’m talking full on, waterproof, boots. With sleet, rain, mud and road spray I’ve found that shoe covers just don’t cut it. I invested in a pair of Sidi Gore-Tex Cycling Shoes (ankle-high boots, really) and my feet don’t get cold or wet.
  • Cold weather socks. Add some wool socks, like DeFeet’s Woolie Boolie and you’re golden.
  • Neck gaiter/tube. I’ve got several types of these, some lighter, like Buff’s and some heavier, like Castelli’s Arrivo 3 Thermo Head Thingy. Keeping that neck warm is key to keeping those colds away and it can be used for the noggin as well. Once, when I forgot my vest, I stashed it under the front of my jersey to help ward off the winds a little during a descent.
  • Vest or jacket. When you head out from 5000′ and it’s 85 degrees it’s easy to forget that it can often be 20-30 degrees colder at the top of that climb. A vest or jacket, especially if you can strap it to your bike somewhere so you can save some pocket room, can make the difference between a shivering descent and one that is much more comfy.
  • Extra gloves and hat/cap. First, let me say that I’m a dripper; one of those “two-towels under the spin bike kinda guys” so when I’m doing long climbs things can get a bit schweaty. I’ve learned to carry an extra set of gloves, cap and oftentimes an extra gaiter, and will exchange the sweat-soaked pieces for the drier ones once I reach the summit.
  • Climbing bibs (or shorts) and jersey. Like I wrote at the start of this paragraph, in my book foul weather isn’t always cold or wet (or snow). It can also include heat (or wind). I’m a Castelli devotee and so I went with their Superleggera bibshort and Climber’s 3.0 jersey. I climbed Hwy. 4 to Ebbetts Pass last week, when it was a tad warm, and what a huge difference those items made! So much so that I checked my shorts a few times to make sure they hadn’t split at the seams. Nope, just the material doing its job. Breezy!

Weather

Thunderheads, other cloud formations, and rainbows, over Diamond Valley just this past Monday.

Having an understanding of regular weather patterns, e.g. daily t’storms, regular wind patterns, is helpful when cycling in the California Alps (and other locals for that matter).

  • Get some intel. from a local rider, club or bike shop so that you know that right now, for example, up Tahoe way daily thunderstorms are a regular thing. Getting caught on Carson Pass during a hailstorm isn’t pretty. Just ask our friend James Hurst who experienced just that on the Deathride a couple years ago.
  • Check the forecast before you head out and prepare for the worst-case scenario. I like Weather Underground, in large part because they have a network of folks all over the country who have personal weather stations. That allows you to get weather data closer to where you are or will be. Yup, we have a weather station here at HQ so you can get Markleeville weather realtime.
  • Know what to do if the shit hits the fan. Are there places to shelter? What do you do if a thunderstorm (and the associated lightning) happens where/while you’re exposed on some mountain road?

Be Prepared

The Scouts have it right. Be prepared. Or said another way, plan for the worst and hope for the best. Having the right equipment, understanding and addressing footwear and clothing options, and getting a handle on the weather are all key to having a good ride or perhaps avoiding catastrophe when you are cycling — or gravel riding, or mountain biking, or hiking, or backpacking, or 4-wheeling, or fishing…

Okay, you get the idea. Gear up, be ready, be aware, and enjoy the day!