Monday, June 26, 2017

Rain, Rain, Go Away ....

Seems like this spring we have had more rain then we are used to.  We have definitely had more people slide out on the wet pavement then any other year; so I think it's time for some tips to stay upright and safe in the rain.

But before we go too far, just a reminder that Cycling Centre workouts don't get cancelled due to rain.  For starters, I think it's important to practice riding in all conditions, especially if you plan to race or participate in events.  But even if you don't, you never know when you might get stuck riding in the rain, and like all things, the more you practice, the better and more confident you'll be.

So lets start from the bottom up.

Road Surface:  The first minutes when the rain starts to fall is when it is most slick.  Oil and dust mix with moisture making it more slippery.  Once this first layer washes away then it is not as slippery.  Paint and metal (man hole covers, bridges) are also like ice in the rain and should be avoided.  Be extremely cautious on freshly paved roads as well, they really are like riding on ice.

Tire Pressure:  If the forecast is calling for rain then ride at a lower tire pressure, above the minimum listed on your tire, but close to it.  For most road tires this will be around 80 psi and will provide more surface area and grip which is helpful on wet roads.  To learn more about tire pressure and what psi you should pump your tires to check out this link.

Clothing:  Rain jackets are helpful in staying dry, but don't breathe, trapping in the moisture we create from working hard.  When the temperatures are warmer you might be more comfortable, temperature wise, without a rain jacket.  If it is spitting or drizzling, a wind jacket is often enough to protect you against the moisture.  Glasses will help protect your eyes against road debris that flies up in the rain, but also limits visibility by dirtying the lenses.  As the skies darken it also becomes harder to see with glasses.  Putting in clear or lighter lenses (yellow) is a good idea, or sometimes taking your glasses off and putting them in a safe place is best.

Visibility:  If you are having difficulty seeing, then drivers are too.  Bright coloured clothing and lights help make your presence known.  Also ride more in the lane of traffic as puddles form near the curbs, storm drains get backed up, and drivers are not expecting cyclists on the road.  If you can, avoid puddles as you don't know if there are pot holes, branches, or other obstacles hiding underneath waiting to do damage.  If you are riding with others, then stagger if you can so the wash from the wheel in front doesn't hit you in face decreasing your visibility and bringing up dirt and stones that might hurt on impact.

If it is raining so hard that you can't see across the street then it is best to pull over, seek shelter, and wait for the storm to ease up.  This also gives you a chance to better know your training mates and make new friends.

Braking:  Wheel braking surfaces will be affected by road grime as it collects on the rim.   This results in weaker braking ability, grinding noises, and "stickiness".  Create more distance between you and others, feather the brakes, break sooner.  If you have a carbon braking surface then it will take you much longer to come to a stop then when they are dry, be prepared.  Do some practice braking when it starts to get wet so you get a sense of how different your bike slows. Here is a video with some good visuals.

Turning:  Your bike likes to go straight, in wet and dry.  So as long as your wheels stay in alignment then you will most likely stay upright.  Most falls happen in turns or due to braking.  When turning in wet, make sure you brake before the turn, when you start to turn you should be able to release the brakes, so enter the corner at a speed slower then you normally would, release the brakes, look where you want to go, and lean instead of turn.  What I mean by that is keep your wheels in alignment, weight on your outside foot and lean on the inside hand instead of turning your front wheel.  Turning a wheel, braking, and too much speed lead to falls.  If the turn is tight and you have to turn the front wheel, then do so at a slow and calculated speed.

Post Ride:  After every wet and dirty ride it is important to wash your bike.  Dirt and grime get in to all kind of places where they can do damage when it is wet, which causes friction, awful sounds, and damage.  To make it simple,  riding a dirty bike costs you money in maintenance and parts, and it makes you go slower.  If you do't have time for a full wash, at least hose down your bike and wipe off the chain and moving parts after the ride, and re-lube, do a 5 minute bike clean.  Then schedule in to your calendar time to correctly wash your bike.  Here is a video to show you how.

Chances are your shoes got soaked too.  Stuff newspaper tightly in to your shoes.  Then before you go to bed replace the paper with dry paper sheets and place on a heating vent.  Your shoes should be dry in the morning.    If your shoes get stinky you can wash them in the washing machine with towels (to protect the washer), but let them air dry or do the paper trick.  Putting them in the dryer can lead to shrinkage.

Practice riding in the rain, take it slow, stay visible, stay upright and safe.  We didn't talk about the benefits of riding in the rain, but one is the opportunity to find a pot of gold.

Keep the rubber side down.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


Today's common question was, "my back hurts, is that normal?"  We are on week 3 of building on-the-bike strength; which means big gears, low cadence.  We have done work on our own, pulling partners up hills, and today did 20 repeats of a small hill in different gears, standing and seated.  So why are the lower backs sore?

Well, if you are seated and climbing, or pedalling at a low cadence in a big gear, it would be an indication that you are not using your glutes or proper pedalling technique.  Since you don't know how to activate your glutes you move your shoulders and body instead, pulling your back in the process.  Or, you use your hamstrings longer then needed, which pulls on the lower back.  Here is a diagram illustrating which muscles need to be used when:

Today we did more standing stuff, so if your core and/or upper body are weak, then you'll recruit your back muscles when they are not needed.  Or, if you are resisting a movement, or struggling with the technique, then you'll be moving inefficiently, and ineffectively, which can lead to soreness and injury.  Your core will be engaged, your body should be relaxed, and it's the synchronicity of the body and bike that move you up the hill fluidly.  Here's a pretty good example of how the body stays in one spot, the bike rocks, using your bike to maximize forward movement.


So what can you do to prevent back pain?  
Step 1: Get a proper bike fit done, and keep going back to the fitter until all fine tuning is done.
Step 2:  Work on correct muscle activation for the full pedal stroke.
Step 3: Build core strength and stability.  Here are some suggestions of exercises to do.

Ride on, ride straight, ride strong.

Monday, September 19, 2016


As I'm writing this post, all I can hear is laughter from our group, a group that is getting along well and sharing in triumphs and suffering. 

Earlier today, we rode the Col du Glandon, a 20 km climb that averages 7% through a stunning valley before reaching the "top of the world". The scenery was breathtaking, the incline challenging, and the summit a much deserved reward! 

Col du Glandon finally gave us amazing views of Mont Blanc.
Rush hour on Col du Glandon.
Some had more energy then others at the top.

From there we climbed another 2.5 km to the Col de la Croix de Fer, had lunch and enjoyed a long descent. We then split in to different groups with one climbing up and down the Lancets des Montvernier, another continuing on to the Col de Chaussy, and another couple of masochistic riders summiting the Col de Madeleine. 

The Lancets des Montvernier gained popularity when it was featured in the 2015 Tour de France.  At only 3.8 km, it has 18 switchbacks and the view leading up to it looks like laces, hence the name.  The inside was all rock, the outside a big drop to the bottom, the road was narrow, and the experience was pretty cool.


The group that continued on to the Col du Chaussy experienced what might well have been one of the most beautiful descents of the week, after climbing another 10 km.  Not overly technical, it was winding and fun, with views that went on forever.  The word views has been used a lot in describing this trip, but it feels like every time we turn we are rewarded with another spectacular view.  Suppose it's one of the rewards of climbing up mountains.

Two brave souls tackled the Col de la Madeleine; digging in deep and using all of their resources.  Sharing a jar of pickle juice to refill their electrolyte losses, they mustered just enough strength to summit.

It was a pretty epic day with 6-8 hours on the saddle. After a quick dip and some cannonballs in the fountain, everyone shared stories of highlights and struggle while eating our pizza dinner.  The bond over a Col is a strong one.


We woke to cloudy skies once more, but the chance of rain was low and the temperatures where warm.

Setting out towards the Semnoz spirits where high and there was just a hint of nerves as this would be the first mountain climb for some of the riders in the group.  The Semnoz is a 16 km climb at an average of 7% and a gain of 1,142m, nothing like what we have at home in Oakville.

Many where excited to get the first big notch in their belt this week and the joy outweighed the suffering on the faces of the riders.

On a sunny day, the views from the top of the Semnoz are spectacular, with Mont Blanc taking centre stage; however we where surrounded by clouds and Mont Blanc eluded us.
Views from the Semnoz on a clear day.
Low hanging clouds met as at the top of the Semnoz.

There are a few couples riding on this trip, and they enjoyed summiting together today.  Mike went to join Judi and Doug went to ride with Lorna.

At the top, some riders made sandwiches with fresh baguettes.

Although we had no views from the top of the Semnoz, the 18 km climb was still worth the challenge. Half the group continued to ride while the other half venture in to the beautiful and historic town of Annecy to play tourist, getting in some shopping and taking the water taxi back to the hotel, giving them completely different views of the lake and valley as they meandered along the east side of the lake before crossing over to our side and disembarking.

The sun came out for the afternoon and blue skies once again illuminated the surrounding hillside.   The quiet roads, quaint towns, and ever changing terrain made for a fun afternoon ride as we went along the valley floor, past farms, and up and over the Col de Tamie.

One of our stops was the Chateau de Miolans.  Built in the mid-1500s, the castle served as a protective fort, placed up on the hillside to monitor for any enemy attacks.  Over the centuries, the castle has been renovated with different materials and styles to serve several different functions, including that of a family house.

The  afternoon involved massages by the water and finding the party room, to hang out before dinner.  Since we have almost all of the rooms in the hotel, it feels very much like our home and that we are with family.

Thursday, September 15, 2016


It was a cloudy and wet day on the bike today, but we still had a great time! 

The route was up or down all day, with gentle inclines and rewarding descents, wide open pastures and tree lined roads, water views and towering mountains. 

Most of the rain landed earlier in the ride, so the temperatures crept up and jackets came off in the second half. Evian water is bottled all over this region and public fountains are one of the best places to fill up with cold water; though the support vans have water, chips, candy, nuts, fruit, sandwich stuffs, and all kinds of other treats to keep the rider's energy up!

We have a great crew on this trip with Tracey in the van ensuring everyone is well hydrated and fed. Nat and Scott are on the bikes offering encouragement, a helping hand, route guidance, and good banter. And our massage team of Sandra, Frederic, Naz, Emmanuelle, and Benedict have received glowing reviews so far. 

The last two nights we've had dinner in the 5 star hotel restaurant and the presentation, quality, tantalizing tastes, have brought satisfied smiles to everyones faces. We're off to a great start this week.