Category: equipment

Honey I’ve Sold the Car – And Bought You an eBike

THE look on my wife’s face as she yelled “TURBO” must have been pretty sweet. I can only imagine it, though, since I was her sweep.

SHE has since named her bike “Bessie.” The sister of “Beast,” my eBike. They are both Treks. I’m a loyal “Trek-for-life” fan. There are reasons for that but that’s a story for another time. Or not.

ANYWAY, Bessie and Beast are Class 1 eBikes (thanks REI for the webinar a couple weeks back – I now understand those classes) BUT they are much more than that. A bit of context: I had originally purchased these beefy full-suspension Rail 5 29ers back in November when the bike shop was still a gleam and I had planned on renting them out – alas no more. This too perhaps another story for another time…

BACK to the bikes…Having decided not to rent them but instead keep them for ourselves, we have discovered that

They are MIRTH MACHINES!

I’VE heard what some people say: eBikes are not pure. They’re not “real” bikes. They’re cheating. Okay, on the cheating part. If you’re racing and not telling other racers. Roger that. Oh and there’s the “they tear up the trails” argument. They can, but that’s the rider not the bike doing the tearing. Right?

WHEN I posted that piece last year about the bike shop, I boosted it (i.e. placed an ad) on Facebook and got mostly positive responses. All but one. The detractor wrote something like “any shop that rents eBikes won’t get my business.”

I just don’t understand that.

THE laughter and shrieks of joy that I’ve heard from my spouse has made me laugh and giggle and has been enlightening. I’ve seen other riders, and talked to them too. Riders who either wouldn’t be riding, or if they were riding, they wouldn’t be riding THAT TRAIL, or climb, or…well you get the idea. It would be too hard or too far. But riding eBikes with my wife has really resonated, and it’s what gave me the idea for this post.

WITH eBikes, it’s not too hard or too far, and for older bike riders, or riders who can’t keep up with their riding partners, eBikes are a GAME CHANGER.

BEAST allows me to cast my mind back, too. It’s so very reminiscent of those feelings from the days of my youth, jumping dirt berms and homemade ramps on my yellow, sissy-bar equipped, Schwinn 5-speed.

IT’S impossible not to smile when riding an eBike. I’m talking bugs-on-your-teeth smiling. I just love zipping around on Beast. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a Moped. There is some work involved. I’ve yet to really run Beast through his paces but that will come. Right now it’s a way for me to enjoy a rest day and ride with “the wifey.” And since she’s a novice, or more appropriately put, out of practice, I can do the sweep thing and be her wingman.

That’s me and Beast on one of our first rides together. Mud splatter on glasses, bugs on teeth and just a whole bunch of fun!

Hey! Just thought of this: as she gets more comfy I’m thinking I’ll grab the road bike every once in awhile and have her motopace me. Yet another plus!

Then There’s That Environmental STUFF

AS I alluded too earlier in this post, REI held a great webinar a couple weeks back. My wingwoman and I attended. We learned a lot. It also got me thinking…I don’t drive that much anymore. Sometimes Clara, my Outback — hey, what can I say, I like to name shit, okay? — sits in the garage for days. In this case she’s named after our realtor. Clara, our realtor, not the car, had our backs – you can read more about her here if you’re so inclined but suffice it to say “Clara” was an obvious name for the car.

MOVING on. My Mom needs a new car. I don’t need a car. I have an eBike that I can use to go to town for the mail and such and I can also ride it on trails. And my wife has a 4WD Colorado so really, we’re good. Oh, and Mom lives on the property so I’ll still be able to visit Clara. She’s a cool car. I’m going to miss those paddle shifters let me tell you. But Mom says she’ll let me drive her if I get to jonesin’ for those paddles.

WHAT we’re doing, though, is reducing our three-car family to a two-car family. And that’s pretty sweet. I know that means they’ll be days when one of us could be left alone at home without a car. Not a big deal necessarily but in the mountains, especially during fire season, something we’ll have to plan for/consider.

AND, we’ll save on various expenses, including fuel, insurance and maintenance. As it turns out, CalBike agrees.

IN a recent post about its E-Bike Affordability Bill, AB117, there’s a good quote: “E-bikes are one of the best ways to replace car trips with clean, green transportation.” I guess I knew that but I’ve been focused on eCars not bikes. Tesla and BMW and Toyota and others have been getting all the press. Especially Tesla.

BUT eBikes…That’s an apple I like. And so I’m all in. Well, mostly in. It’s not like I have a cargo eBike.

Wait…Honey!?

A More Holistic Approach to Fitness? WHOOP May Be Your Answer

AS you know I’m a bit of a data junky and between Trainingpeaks (TP) and Garmin (Fenix watch) I’m getting some pretty good information. But I’ve found that I just don’t have the time to jump into the TP data and with the Fenix, IMHO, the feedback is lacking.

AND so it was that I found myself getting a WHOOP strap earlier this month. I’d heard of, and seen (on Strava), some of my fellow athletes, including pros, using this unobtrusive little band and so when I got the special-offer email I thought I’d give it a try.

Inspector Gadget

YUP, it does feel a little bit like that with the Fenix on the left wrist and the WHOOP on the right but after thirteen (13) days I’ve gotten used to the set up.

THE WHOOP strap is minimalistic – a strap with a clasp.

What It Does (and Doesn’t)

DO, that is.

  • It doesn’t have a watch face.
  • It doesn’t track your steps.
  • It doesn’t track your pulse ox.
  • It does track your sleep (better than the Fenix does) and gives you specific feedback.
  • It does track your recovery and gives you specific feedback there as well.
  • It focuses on what it calls strain and what level of strain (load) you are under currently, and more importantly what kind of strain you can or should undertake that day.

SAYS WHOOP — “By balancing your daily recovery, strain and sleep, you will train optimally and unlock the secrets to your body’s true potential.”

I’M finding that to be true.

The overview panel provides a quick glance at recovery, strain and sleep.

The strain dashboard assesses your current strain and suggests the level of strain needed for optimal training.

The recovery dashboard gives you feedback on your current recovery and readiness for strain.

The sleep dashboard interprets and reports on your sleep performance.

Sleep is Key

AT least I’m learning that it is for me and WHOOP is driving me to focus and prepare for sleep like I do for workouts and training.

MY goal is to be able to sleep like my cat, Ditty. That’s her in the image at the top of this post.

All Together Now

  • The Fenix gives me the ability to capture my workouts and such while at the same time assures me that my resting heart rate and pulse ox are good. I find this especially reassuring when I’m not feeling 100%, especially in light of Covid-19 and the fact that those two data points are often key indicators of something being amiss.
  • Trainingpeaks lets me dive deeply into the specifics of my rides while at the same time mirrors nicely with WHOOP when it comes to things such as Acute Training Load (ATL), Chronic Training Load (CTL) and Form.
  • The WHOOP strap, and associated app fills the what-should-I-do-about-it?-gap and so far this is what I like most about it.

IN the end, what I’m seeing is that the COMBINATION of these three (3) pieces of technology, with their amalgamation of data and interpretations thereof, is giving me that global view, if you will, that I didn’t have before.

WHAT about you? What do you do to keep yourself honest and focused? Please share!

Training & Racing With a Power Meter – Will it Make You a Better Rider?

THE short answer is YES! It certainly has in my case and I’m willing to bet it will help you improve too.

I’VE recently finished reading the 3rd edition of the book “Training + Racing with a Power Meter.” It’s a lengthy and technical tome, and I first mentioned it last October in a post I published about fitness apps.

CLICK here to read that post.

THE book is full of juicy bits (and myriad workouts) and I’ve been practicing what it preaches for several months now, with my most recent efforts focused on pacing. If you’re like I used to be (and most cyclists are I suspect) than you’ve probably been using your heart rate for your focal point, and that’s a decent option, especially since some power meters can be a bit pricey. And if you don’t have one…

Don’t get me wrong. I still pay attention to my heart rate but now it’s in comparison to my power numbers, not vice-versa. Let me explain.

PACING and POWER

Typically, cyclists just ride. We ride hard if we feel good. We ride easy if we don’t. We’ll watch that heart rate and let it settle down if it gets too high and we’ll push harder if we think we’ve got some beats to give. And yes, you can pace yourself using those criteria. I have and sometimes still do.

However, if you take the leap and instead make power the cornerstone of your cycling workouts (after you test yourself and figure out your FTP) then you can instead set your pace based on the watts you’re producing.

FTP, or Functional Threshold Power (no, not File Transfer Protocol you computer nerd) is defined as “the highest power that a rider can maintain in a quasi-steady state without fatiguing for approximately one hour. When power exceeds FTP, fatigue will occur much sooner, whereas power just below FTP can be maintained considerably longer.”

THAT’S pacing in a nutshell: Don’t go all out early. Save some matches (also defined in the book) for later in the race. For most of my cycling-life I’ve been this guy: Go as hard as you can until you get tired and then rest more often, and longer, in order to finish the event or workout. Holding back is hard. Especially on a time-trial and especially when other cyclists are passing you or you’re riding with a stronger rider.

I’ve been working on my pacing, mostly inside on the trainer, by doing a couple rides I’ve done many times before, one on Zwift and one on FulGaz: Alpe du Zwift on the former and the Alpe d’Huez on the latter. The former by the way, is Zwift’s version of the latter. They both have their advantages, or likes as the case may be, but I won’t bore you with those distinctions. Suffice it to say they are difficult climbs, with specific sectors, that easily translate to pacing practice or HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).

When I’m working on those “two- P’s” I focus on keeping my power number down in Zone 3 for most of the ride and as I get closer to the finish I continue to push harder through the other zones so that I finish in Zone 5 or 6.

THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING

Yum! Pudding! It’s been awhile since I’ve had some good pudding. I have to make some and put it on my post-ride list. I’m salivating now but will move on. Apologies…

Last week I was reading one of the last chapters (chapter 13) and came across the section(s) on time trials. Last year, as you may have read in my “Social Distancing Racing” posts (use the search box on my home page to find ’em) I participated in some racing, and due to Covid-19 all the races were essentially time trials but I didn’t know then what I know now. I would have done better had I read the chapter sooner.

THE section(s) to which I refer delve into flat TTs, hilly TTs and more. There is great advice to be gleaned but I’m not going to regurge it all here. Instead let me just say that I took the author’s advice and applied it (last Sunday as it turns out) on an 18-mile TT (with rollers, and coincidentally, a headwind).

Drum roll please…

I paced myself at my FTP (290). I didn’t worry about speed or heart rate.

I kept my power close to my FTP when hitting the rollers. In the past I would instead push well over my FTP, sometimes into Zone 6 on the climb, and then try to rest a little on the downhill.

AS you can imagine, I didn’t fare too well towards the end of the races. I was coming in 10th, 11th, or worse. I was burning WAY too many matches WAY too early.

THIS time though, I didn’t do that and the above screenshot of the segment (the entire TT) from Strava says it all!

AND what you can’t see is the TT within this TT that I had done twelve (12) times before. It’s approximately 9.5 miles long and on this effort I beat that previous time by OVER 3 MINUTES, and my average power was 70 WATTS HIGHER!

Holy frijole Batman! As I told my wife via text when I was done: “I guess that book was right! Check this shit out! 2nd out of 168. All time! It actually works!”

THE moral of the story is that training and racing with a power meter DOES WORK and it can make you, like it has me, a stronger rider and a more formidable racer.

IF you’d like some 411 on power meters and what I’m using, shoot me an email with your contact information and I’ll get in touch. I’m currently running two different power meters (both crank-based) on two different bikes and have experience with a third single-arm meter. Here’s a link to a good article as well.

Wishing you a happy and powerful new year. Stay safe and healthy and let’s kick some time trials’ asses!

Ride Inside Without the Tech? How Do I Do That?

Last week we had an internet outage just before I was going to get on FulGaz and ride the Ebbetts Pass North Ascent (which as you may recall I filmed last summer).

Here at Chalet Schwartz, aka California Alps Cycling HQ, we do have a sweet generator (thanks Generac) but alas, it doesn’t do much good when it’s a Frontier outage.

I still had cell service, although as you can imagine, it’s not even close to five bars here, but what the hell I thought, I’ll give it a try. No dice. Not enough bandwidth for those videos. Zwift neither. Alright I said to myself, I’ll just ride and watch something on Apple TV.

Uh, no. No internet you fool!

How about a nice slide show of all of my photos I’ve taken over the years?

No joy there either – I sync my photos via iCloud – who knows, maybe the images were hung up in this cloud?

Okay, so there’s my story of woe, the set-up if you will. There I was, trying to get my swell on, but without the usual distractions I needed to keep my monkey-brain at bay. What to do?

As a former mechanic once wrote on my service slip a long time ago…RIDE YOUR BIKE. This was after I had brought the bike in to get something perfectly dialed-in; for the 3rd time! I was, and still am I confess, a bit OCD.

To my credit, and so you all know that I didn’t get too hung up on these issues, I kept pedaling during my ordeal.

And then it came to me! You can still sprint. You can still work on those circles. You can still get in a good workout. You’ve got music at least, and a smart watch, so get to it!

And so I did. And I had a great workout and learned that yes, Mark-inia, you can get in some good training without all the bells and whistles. And really, like you’re probably saying right now, I still had some of those jinglers and toots (e.g. Apple music and Garmin) so technically I was still techy.

That makes me feel better. And keeps it in perspective.

After all, this was only a bike ride.

Using Satellite in the Sierra Could Save a Life – Perhaps Even Your Own

Yesterday while riding Leviathan Mine Road on my MTB I was out of cell service and needed to contact my wife. In this case it was not an emergency, but what if it was?

Would I have been able to get help?

As you may recall, I published a post earlier in the year, “Climbing Mountain Passes – Five Things You Should Know” and in that post I referenced the Garmin inReach Mini that I’ve used for several years. While that unit is not technically a PLB (read on to learn about that distinction) “you can send and receive messages, navigate your route, track and share your journey and, if necessary, trigger an SOS to get help from a 24/7 global emergency response coordination center via the 100% global Iridium® satellite network.”

So instead of rescue authorities coming to look for me because I haven’t checked in with my person(s) I instead was able to message my wife and mom that I was okay, just taking longer than expected on the ride.

Had I had an emergency I could have triggered that SOS feature and been able to get help. That’s what PLBs (Personal Locator Beacons), and their brethren, do okay? They allow you to get assistance in those areas where you can’t call 911.

As for PLBs…What are those?

Rick Wallace, of Tackle Village, reached out to me last week about a guide Tackle Village had recently produced entitled “How a PLB Can Save Your Life” and we struck up an email convo. about how we can each help other spread the word about these technologies.

As Rick wrote in his email to me: “To promote outdoor safety, we have put together this comprehensive and easy to read guide [that’s the link in the above paragraph]. We wrote this because many people who hike, fish, ski, camp or climb (including some of our friends) don’t realise the need to carry a PLB, and this causes unnecessary deaths every year. Personal Locator Beacons have saved an estimated 35,000 lives.”

I replied “I use a Garmin inReach, which I think is a PLB. Is it? It does have an activate-able SOS feature and allows me to send text messages to family and friends when my cell has no service,” and Rick responded:

“I think the Garmin inReach is a satellite phone as opposed to a PLB – slightly different. The PLB can only send a distress signal encoded with GPS co-ordinates – no text, no voice. Its advantage is in the longevity of the battery and the toughness of it and waterproofing.”

Ah, there’s that distinction. One allows for two-way communication while the other sends only an encoded distress signal.

Now I’m not sure just how long the battery life is on a KTI PLB but I can tell you that the battery life on the inReach is pretty good too.

For cycling, the inReach, or something small and compact like it, makes sense because it fits in a jersey pocket (along with other items). For hiking, backpacking and perhaps even skiing or snowshoeing I can see where a PLB would be a good alternative or compliment, though.

Wait, what about an avalanche beacon?

Good catch! That’s a different animal since it’s not a standalone unit; others with a similar device must be nearby to receive the signal it transmits and then find the location of that transmitting beacon via triangulation.

Fodder for a future post, I’m thinking, as I plan on taking up cross-country skiing this winter and having an avalance beacon could be a key piece of equipment for some of those endeavors.

Whatever you decide, cover your bases!

It’s especially important during these days of Covid-19.

Law enforcement, rescue authorities, you name it, are a bit pre-occupied nowadays so I’m sure that anything we can do to lessen their load would be appreciated.

Having a portable, satellite-enabled device, such as the inReach, or KTI’s PLB, could save searchers a whole lot of time if they have to come a lookin’, and in the case of an inReach or something similar, could prevent them from even having to be dispatched at all!

I know the volunteer firefighters, search & rescue, and paramedics here in Alpine Co. would be grateful for that!

Yesterday’s Adventure – Big Blue Redux and Filming FUBARs

Fall is giving way to colder temperatures, including some sub-freezing readings here lately, and so I’m working hard to get some of those special rides in, film some fall colors for FulGaz, and knock off some more of those honey-do list items before our epic winter (putting out those Game of Thrones vibes, if you get my drift) sets in.

As you may recall I published a post late last month about riding around Lake Tahoe (aka Big Blue), and one of our loyal readers, Roy Franz, urged me to try the ride again, this time on a weekday and taking the clockwise direction.

And so it was that yesterday I found myself in Stateline, NV, on a fairly brisk morning (about 45 fahrenheit), gearing up to do just that.

Prepping for the Shoot

Yesterday morning I was up at o’dark thirty so that I could prep. my gear and the bike and get the GoPro mounted and ready. There is a little bit of work involved to make sure the camera angle is good, the battery back-up is charged and the top-tube pack that holds the back-up, cable and tool is not flopping around. A bit of “tape-work” is also needed in order to secure the cable to the bike, and to keep the GoPro’s battery and cable connection secure as well.

Before I headed out I used the very cool preview feature to make sure that the horizon was where it should be on the camera and I also double checked the settings too, or so I thought.

The plan was to record the entire ride in three (3) manageable sections, each approximately 1.5 hours long.

  • Stateline to Meek’s Bay
  • Meek’s Bay to Incline Village
  • Incline Village back to Stateline

Rolling…Kinda

All geared up. Settings good. Camera angle good. Power button pushed. Requisite beep heard. Hand waved in front of camera to signal the start for FulGaz’s engineers. Off I went.

Switching tacks for just a moment; let’s talk biology. There are a few times during the year that for whatever reason I seem to lose a lot of water weight. Typically a few days after hard efforts or too much mexican food. That salt, you know? I wasn’t expecting this day to be one of those but that’s the way the water works I guess, especially when you have (as my friend Mike would say) a bladder the size of a peanut.

A bit more context…If you do stop while filming a ride for FulGaz (FG) then you just go back about 20 yards from where you stopped and start again. I make a mental note of those instances so I can pass that info. on to FG. The team then edits that section out and for the most part you don’t even notice.

So, after about five (5) stops in the first 30 minutes, I was getting frustrated. Really bladder? Now? Today? Seriously? I kept doing my thing, and re-starting and apologizing to Klaus (their lead-dawg engineer), by commenting during the video. Finally, Mr. Bladder had gotten rid of the excess fluid and I was able to get to Meek’s Bay without another stop.

Beep. Upon my arrival I pushed the button and heard that comforting sound that acknowedged I had in fact stopped recording. I also stopped the ride on my Wahoo and saved it as well; the .fit file then syncs up nicely with the video. It’s also important to toggle off auto-pause or things get a little screwy, and to my credit I did do that. What I didn’t do, though, was look at the camera before I took off from Stateline.

Had I done that I would have noticed that I was in photo mode instead of video mode!

Yup, that’s what the FUBAR portion of this post’s title is all about. After all of that prepping, nature-breaking and riding from Stateline to Meek’s Bay I had NOTHING! Zippo! Nada! Oh well, I thought, at least it was an amazing day so far and I did have a section of this section recorded (when Chris and I did the counter-clockwise route in late September) so I’ll just use that. Still…shit! Or FUBAR! You pick.

Meek’s Bay to Incline Village

I planned on redeeming myself on this portion of the ride and what a BEAUTIFUL segment it was! Not too much climbing and a lot of the course was really close to the water so it should be a really pretty video. I made it to Incline without another bio-break and had a nice encounter (seriously) on the way with a Placer Co. deputy sheriff who pulled up next to me to remind me that two (2) ear buds is not better than one (1) when on a bicycle.

Frankly I’m a bit anxious to look at the clips for fear of another SNAFU (see “FUBAR-link” above) but based on what I saw on the GoPro’s screen (fingers crossed) I got this one so on to the next.

Incline to Stateline – The Finish

Looking down at the emerald green waters of Lake Tahoe from Highway 89. This photo was taken just south of Incline Village.

There’s a bit of climbing to get up and out of Incline so it was somewhat of a taxing finish but I thought it would be a nice juxtaposition to come from such a beautiful place to Stateline with its casinos and such. However, just after I went throught the tunnel at Cave Rock I heard a telltale series of beeps from the camera that indicated that either the battery had died or the media was full. Shit, again. And again, the oh well…If nothing else the FG ride will be Incline to Cave Rock. We shall see. Still not brave enough to look.

The Moral of the Story

Roy was oh so right. What a day of riding in one of the most beautiful places on earth! Clockwise, on a weekday that isn’t a Friday is definitely the ticket. There was much less traffic, the view from the lake side of the road is much better (there are some drop-offs but nothing too scary) and there were fewer tourists. Don’t get me wrong, I like tourists. I realize some don’t right now and I get that, too. IMHO they infuse the area with much needed ducats, yet it seems that sometimes they leave their brain at home, especially when confronted with such amazing scenery.

As for the FulGaz Faux Pas’, what can I say? Apparently I left my brain at home too. I’ve never (add saracastic tone here) done that when I’m doing the tourist thing.

The beauty of it, though, is that I can head back anytime before winter rears its oh so wonderful head and take another whack (or two or three) at it. Looking forward to that!

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!