The most commonly neglected piece of equipment in cycling that we see during our Retul bike fits are cleats. When riding we frequently clip in and out wearing the engagement points, walk on them, drag them across the ground as stopping (don’t do that!) and quite frankly I believe we forget they even exist. Whether you are riding 10 miles at a time or hundreds of miles at a time these little pieces of plastic and metal play a much more important role than you might know.
In bike fitting we focus on decreasing the risk of injury while trying to balance the ability to produce power and optimize a rider’s position for aerodynamics. These factors might not all be important to you but for everyone who rides we know that injury prevention is a priority. This injury prevention is directly correlated to position and quality of your points of contact with your bike. Your first point of contact with the bike is the pedals and with cleats these are not able to be changed while pedaling. With this being the case it becomes more important to make sure your first point of contact with the bike is at its best.
Even with a proper bike fitting riders with overly worn cleats can begin to notice signs of discomfort including, but not limited to, foot numbness, knee pain and hip pain. If this becomes severe enough it could ultimately lead to time off the bike and away from training. A newer set of cleats increases the stability of the foot’s positioning with the pedal which provides a solid foundation for a fitting to be based on.
There are many factors that play into cleat wear with include how much you walk on them, the quantity of training and if you have any pedaling irregularities which create greater friction. There are several signs though that you can look for to verify the state of urgency.
Shimano Cleats – With a very simple colored marker on the cleat (typically yellow), you can tell when these cleats are worn by the changes in the cleat.
Look Style Cleats – These are very common cleats and are frequently under maintained. There is no clear marker on these. With the “gripper” style cleats once the rubber is gone you need to replace them. Non-gripper cleats do not have an indicator so you will need to pay closer attention to and replace once they begin to get roughed up.
SpeedPlay Cleats – The metal plate does not make these invincible! These cleats hold up a bit better than either of the other styles, however, if you wait too long you increase the risk of not being able to get the screws out. Once these begin to wear or once you notice visible wear on the inner circle of the cleat it is time to replace the cleat.
If you are unsure of whether you need to purchase new cleats you can bring them in to Science of Speed or take the to your LBS for a knowledgeable opinion.
– On Resin based pedals, without a metal plate where the cleat contacts, it becomes even more important to regularly replace your cleats. Any wear or roughness of the cleat acts like sandpaper and can create grooves in the surface of your pedal forcing you to buy new pedals sooner than you might have hoped.– Not replacing your cleats frequently enough can result to unclipping under higher loads whether sprinting or pedaling hard.
A common misconception is that all endurance athletes fit into the same mold, that in order to be serious about your sport you need to look like a pro. What you find when you look at the pro peleton is that there is a wide variety of body types present. Just because Chris Froome looks like a praying mantis on his bike doesn’t mean that a rider of similar stature will have the same ideal racing weight. Marcel Kittel is of a similar height but probably has about 40lbs on Froome. If Kittel had tried to drop that much weight he would probably wind up getting shelled out the back of his local club ride instead of being one of the top sprinters in the world. Forcing yourself into a target weight that is unnatural for your body type and build is not only unhealthy it can also rob you of training gains and cause your performance to suffer. When the body is chronically malnourished it is not getting the necessary nutrients to recover and rebuild from training. Resulting in little or no gain in fitness. Sometimes even a loss. Brad Huff is a professional rider who spent a couple years struggling to drop weight and actually wound up performing worse as his weight went down. Once his coach helped him figure out the problem he actually started the next season at a higher weight than he’d ever had before as a professional and his performance increased dramatically. That’s not to say small adjustments can’t be made to find an ideal racing weight but you’ve got to be smart about it. In order to lose weight at a healthy rate, knowing your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) is extremely helpful. BMR is the number of calories needed for basic body function. The number varies greatly from person to person and in order to get an accurate number you need to take a BMR test. BMR tests take about 45min to complete and are extremely easy. There are plenty of online calculators out there to guess your BMR but they are wildly inaccurate and can vary by hundreds of calories from one calculator to the next. When you’re looking at maintaining a 300-500 calories a day deficit for healthy weight loss, that kind of inaccuracy can really create problems. Armed with an accurate BMR you can track your energy expenditure from day to day using either a power meter or any number of algorithms that use, average heart rate, speed and elevation to calculate energy expenditure. Again, the more accurate the better. Where can you take a BMR test? Right here at Science of Speed! Do you have any questions regarding Diet and Nutrition? Send us an email and we will try to get it answered in our upcoming lecture (June 12th).
Since the beginning of this year, Science of Speed coach Trevor has been on a new interval training plan. We tested his LT/Vo2 max before the start of the training and again 4 months later. In that time, he showed at 3% increase in power at threshold. We sat down and discussed how the training’s been going for him: Q: How long have you been riding? A: Years and years, as a commuter. I owned a car for about 6 months when I was 18 and I hated it. I’ve been riding every day ever since. Nothing serious until I did my first bike race on a steel commuter with front/rear fenders and a rack 4 years ago and I’ve been obsessed ever since. Q: How long have you been training? A: Since that first race 4 years ago. No real structure to it though. Just lots and lots of riding. Q: How long have you been doing intervals? Had you done any before? A: I started in January. Before that, the closest I came to interval training was when I would go for all the sprints on a group ride. Q: How has it affected your training? Right off the bat I learned I was capable of more than I thought I was, intensity-wise. Before doing Vo2 intervals, I did everything I could to avoid sprinting. I hated it. After a couple of months of focusing on Vo2, I realized I just never really tried to go that hard before. There’s been a definite improvement there. Time-wise there’s been a big change as well. Before this year, I just tried to ride as much as possible and hit the group rides hard. I would try to ride every day as much as possible. Doing interval workouts on weekdays and taking rest days has actually shortened the amount of time I ride by quite a bit, freeing me up to do other things. Q: How has this changed your fitness? A: Again, I think a big part was just never really going as hard as I could on a regular basis. Before doing intervals, I just assumed if I went out on the group ride and rode hard then I was getting a good workout. I definitely made improvements that way but only up to a certain point. Last year I felt like I’d hit a plateau. In the last 4 months I’ve made more improvements across the board than I did over the entire season last year. Science of Speed offers a wide variety of training plans, from fully customized individual plans to static training plans. Contact us today and let us help you take your performance to the next level!
The idea behind any training is to stress the body to the point that it has to make an adaptation in order to handle the training load. It’s only by resting that the body can effectively repair itself and improve. Finding the balance between training and rest can be challenging though. For some athletes, the problem is not finding the motivation to train it’s knowing when to stop and rest. Highly motivated athletes often run the risk of over training, resulting in not only a lack of gains but actually losing fitness. As they continue to push themselves past exhaustion the quality of their workouts begin to suffer and they are no longer capable of pushing themselves hard enough to actually accomplish anything and it simply becomes a death march. Another common issue is training through an injury. Aches and pains come with the territory and sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between soreness and an actual injury. It’s always best to err on the side of caution when it comes to pain, especially early in the season when a serious issue can ruin the entire year if it isn’t handled properly. Due to the repetitive motions and long hours of training in endurance sports, seemingly insignificant issues can become big problems if they are ignored. When treating an injury, always remember: ICE. The answer 99.9% of the time is ice, not heat. Heat encourages blood flow and as a result, inflammation. Which is the last thing you want. Icing a sore spot for 15-20 minutes, getting it elevated and taking a few days off the bike is the best way to get you back on the road as soon as possible. So how much rest is enough? One day of complete rest a week is usually plenty. Changing how you approach rest after your workouts can help a lot as well.Taking the time to replenish fluids and nutrients, stretching and putting your legs up in the 30 minutes following your workout will help you more in the long run than extending your ride by another 30 minutes and then rushing home to do the yard work. Some days it’s all you can do to fit the workout in and that’s fine, just make the effort when you can.
This week I joined some of the RedEye Velo junior cyclists for their third annual North Georgia Training Camp. This three day camp has become a tradition for them in many ways. It is a great early season jump start to their mileage, a great learning experience and a bonding and team building experience for the entire team. The mountains of North Georgia provide not only some amazing climbing and great views but some challenge that may of these juniors don’t get the opportunity to frequently visit.
We awoke Monday morning to light rain, and temperatures in the low 40’s. After breakfast and delaying for several hours the rain ceased and we bundled up and hopped on our bikes to conquer 3 passes in the cold (Jack’s, Unicoi & Hogpen). With fresh legs everyone was feeling a bit froggy and the goofing off quickly turned into a pace that brought out everyone’s game face and as the road picked up so did the intensity. We summited Jack’s and the speed quickly picked up to 40+mph as we descended the sweeping turns that are on the backside of this climb. As the road kicked up again we knew that Unicoi was our next task. The road went up and the temperature continue to drop, the rain set in and what was once clouds quickly became fog that engulfed the roads ahead of us and made rider’s disappear into the fog as slight gaps formed between the riders. As we summited everyone quickly put on the garmets they had shed for the climb. As everyone slowly snaked their way down the wet, winding mountain roads we regrouped and pressed on with our largest task of the day at hand. Hogpen. The climb that nearly every 6 gap rider dreads. Grades of 8% and up leave you wishing you had an extra gear to shift into and cause you to be out of the saddle more than anyone even desires. The large part of the group stayed together until the start of the KOM segment which marks 10km to go and then I fell off the pace, the sign of minimal riding and a lacking level of fitness. The rest was left up to the pace setting of the remaining 3 riders and from the sounds of it ended in an attack with 1km to go. Tuesday we rode out with sunshine and weather in the mid 40’s. The much appreciated sun meant a warmer feel even without warmer temps. We rolled out planning on doing 60+miles on the day and when we arrived at the base of Wolfpen gap to find a “Road Closed” barricade with a rather serious looking construction worker we were forced to reassess our day’s plan. We decided to climb Neel’s gap instead and as we ascended the sun disappeared. What would come next was more like we had experienced the day before. Cloud cover, fog and rain met us on the way up and as we summited and began our descent we were graced with a bit of sleet as well. By far the coldest descent of the day left us all ready to be done but there was a great deal of work that still had to be done. After a bit of discussion we made the decision to climb back up Neel’s and search for a bit warmer weather. Once we began our descent down we found slightly warmer weather and wrapped up our day with tired legs.
Wednesday consisted of sunny weather and a short climb up Jack’s. Everyone was quick to express how fatigued their legs felt and it was apparent that motivation was low since a rotating pace line turned into only two riders with everyone else hanging off the back. After some clean up and packing we hopped back in the cars for the long 6.5 hour drive back to Tallahassee. As we reflected on the past three days we discussed the importance of hydration and nutrition, particularly as the weather gets cold and our senses and desire to drink something cold decreases. We also talked about the riders’ need for a greater focus on nutrition. As good as Skittles, cookies and Cheez-its are off the bike (wish I would have taken a photo of what they inhaled) they were not our focus of this weeks’ nutrition discussions. Some of the athletes are training with power meters and we discussed the utilization of power meters to accurately track calorie expenditure and how each athlete can better use this data during their training and racing to stay sharp and keep energy levels high. Thank you Redeye Velo for the opportunity to be a part of such a great camp and we thank you even more for allowing us to be a proud sponsor for another year!
Closing out our “Good plan, better body, best athlete” series we’re going to take a look at the importance of core strength for cyclists. Creating a solid core can have a huge effect on your efficiency, endurance, power and overall health. When I refer to core strength I am referring to not only the abdominals (which include the Rectus Abdominus, Transverse Abdominus and Obliques), but the Lower-Back (Quadratus Lumborum and Erector Spinae) and Glutes as well. While the cycling position (in which the body weight is carried on the pedals, saddle and handle-bars) relies heavily on core strength, it doesn’t do much to build it. By strengthening the core your efficiency on the bike is improved by stabilizing the upper body, eliminating any unnecessary movement and transferring that energy instead into the pedal-stroke. While a cyclist’s legs are the primary source of power, the core is the foundation for all movement. A strong core provides spinal stability and improves posture. Both posture and stability can help minimize lower-back pain. Adding a couple core workouts to your weekly training routine can go a long way to not only improve overall fitness but can also help prevent injury. SAMPLE ROUTINE (15-20min) Plank (4 sets. 30sec-1min)
Weight is balanced between the forearms and balls of the feet while Abdominals remain tight to keep the back level. Hold pose 30sec-2min. Side Plank (4 sets left and right. 30sec-1min)
Weight is balanced between elbow and foot while Obliques and Hip adductors are used to stabilize. Basic Abdominal Crunch (4 sets of 15-25reps)
“Superman” (4 sets of 15-25reps)
Start by laying on your stomach with arms overhead. Slowly raise both arms and legs off the ground in a controlled motion using the back to stabilize, pause at the top before slowly lowering arms and legs to ground. Back Bridge (4 sets of 30sec-1min)
Start by laying flat on your back, knees bent with about six inches between heel and glutes. Raise hips off the ground and hold using glutes and lower back to stabilize. ALL PHOTOS BY ALICIA OSBORNE
Continuing our “Good Plan, Better Body, Best Athlete” series, this month’s article focuses on structural maintenance, specifically the benefits of massage and chiropractic care. As an athlete you can get a lot of benefits from regular massage including improved blood flow to muscles, improvement in nutrient absorption, clearing metabolic waste, reducing muscle and connective tissue tension, improving elasticity and stress relief. Chiropractic adjustments keep the body’s skeletal system properly aligned, greatly reducing the postural issues that are so common amongst cyclists. Endurance athletes in general are especially good candidates for massage and chiropractic adjustment, due to the long and repetitive training hours they put in week after week throughout the year. Because of the long hours required for endurance sports, recovery often falls by the wayside but, it is absolutely essential for improvement, performance and injury prevention throughout the year. What all that actually means: -Improved Blood Flow / Nutrient Absorption / Clearing Waste Tight muscles restrict blood flow to those fibers, which reduces oxygen and nutrient supply to the muscles as well as the removal of waste products that are produced during exercise. In addition to simply feeling sore this also means your body’s efficiency during exercise is greatly reduced because your muscles are not receiving the fuel they need in order to perform. Deep Tissue or Sports Massage restores blood flow by pushing the blood back to the heart and stretching out that tightened tissue that is restricting blood flow restrict the returning blood flow. As tight muscle fibers relax the blood can now flow freely throughout, bringing in oxygen and nutrients and carrying the waste out. -Reduced Tension and Increased Elasticity Tension is due in part to waste build-up from lactic acid and also to tight muscles because of the fixed posture that is held during cycling. Muscles will shorten over time if they are not used in their full range of motion and the cycling posture is very restrictive (see last month’s article on stretching for more on this) Massage stretches out, not only the muscles themselves, but the connective tissue that surrounds them. Known as fascia, this connective tissue surrounds muscle fiber and bodies as well as muscle groups almost like seran wrap throughout the body. When the body isn’t properly stretched and hydrated, fascia begins to shrink and bind resulting in “tight spots”. -Cortisol (the “stress hormone”) Your body needs to be stressed to make performance gains but it also needs rest in order to ultimately achieve those gains. Intense training without proper rest can result in elevated levels of Cortisol. Cortisol causes your body to release stored carbohydrates and fats for immediate use enabling you to use all your body’s energy in one go. Cortisol can make you feel tired, rundown and moody, even after a day of rest. It is one of the hormones responsible for the “fight or flight” response our bodies undergo when placed in high-stress situations. Whether it’s an important job interview, race, or being chased by a pack of rabid dogs, the response is the same. In small doses this is a good thing. If your body is unable to lower the cortisol and it continues to build however, the results can be disastrous from a training and performance perspective. It has also been linked to reduced immune system function. Literally making you sick and tired through overtraining. Massage stimulates the parasympathetic response, the opposite of “fight or flight” and has been shown to reduce cortisol levels. John Engelbrecht, D.C., is a chiropractor, cyclist, and triathlete in Tallahassee. His practice, Engelbrecht Chiropractic & Rehabilitation can be found on the web at doctorjohndc.com and by phone (850)668-7062. As a chiropractor, he has treated a number of cyclists from serious competitors to recreational riders and has found they all have common issues related to their sport. Here’s what he says about back pain and the benefits of regular adjustments: “As a cyclist we’ve all experienced that nagging pain between the shoulder blades and the tightness that goes along with it. Maybe you are training for a triathlon and are logging hours in the aerobars. Maybe you are trying out new hand positions on your handlebars or did a long pull at the front of the pack. Either way, there is nothing quite like that annoyance. Fortunately, chiropractic adjustments can help to relieve those symptoms in as little as 5 minutes. The thoracic spine, or midback, provides the structural support for our upper body and shoulder regions. When we stress that region through our various cycling activities, oftentimes the spine becomes misaligned and the supporting musculature tightens and spasms to protect the area. A simple and painless chiropractic adjustment to the misaligned thoracic vertebra can eliminate that pain and offer immediate relief. Regular maintenance adjustments during your peak training months can also help prevent that pain from occurring at all. Adding regular chiropractic adjustments to your training regimen leads to happier, more comfortable training and a better race day performance.” Whether you’re training for a weekend crit or the Tour de France, receiving regular maintenance anywhere from once a month to once a week (pre and/or post event) can greatly enhance recovery and improve performance. Just like your bike, your body needs regular “tune-ups” in order to continue functioning at it’s best. Make sure your therapist is qualified to do the work you need, specializing in Sports Massage or Deep Tissue. Communicate your needs before the session begins and during don’t hesitate to ask your therapist and/or doctor to spend a little more time on a particular spot if you feel you need it. Your therapist and/or doctor will appreciate the feedback as it will help them give you the best treatment possible.
In recent years a very heavy focus has been put on recovery and training. With that the focus has become more and more prevalent in endurance sports as well. Whether it is a post exercise drink, compression socks or the latest pill designed to aid recovery many will spend whatever it takes. All money aside, an often neglected aspects of recovery is stretching. We know that after a long ride, run or swim all you want to do is eat, get cleaned up and relax. While this is all good, adding a short stretching routine to your post-ride ritual can go a long way towards aiding recovery, preventing injury and maybe even gaining a little power on your next ride. The goal in stretching is to counteract the cycling posture and limited range of motion in the pedal stroke. If your muscles are not being used in their full range of motion they will shorten and become tight. That’s why often at the end of a long ride it can take a little effort to stand upright or bend your legs fully. By stretching them back out they retain their full range of motion. The Benefits: Our bodies are designed to move in a full range of motion. On the bike, we are confined to a very limited range of motion: the upper body is bent forward and moves very little while the legs never fully extend or contract during the pedal stroke and so the muscles are shorter (“tighter”) than when you started. Just like the spokes on a wheel the musculature of the human body keeps us upright and functional through counter-tension. When the origin and insertion points of a muscle are brought closer, the muscle shortens in order to maintain this tension. When a muscle is chronically tight (i.e. not capable of fully extending and contracting) it throws the entire system off balance. That’s why when you have lower back troubles what first starts in your lower back can begin to creep down your leg and can creep all the way up to your neck if the issue is not addressed. If you are one of the lucky few and you’ve never experienced any soreness whatsoever or have no idea what I’m talking about, I can only say that prevention is a heck of a lot cheaper than treatment. But most people, from recreational riders to top pro tour riders, can all benefit from stretching. Not only for injury prevention but for power as well, a tight muscle requires more energy to move. Loose and healthy muscles need less energy. Meaning it takes less effort to transfer force to the pedal. When to StretchWithin about 15min of finishing your ride so the muscles are still warm. Stretching muscles that haven’t been properly warmed up can lead to injury, so you want to make sure you haven’t cooled down too much before you stretch. Get cleaned up, get some hydration and get started. (I could write an entire article on hydration. But to be brief, it’s one of the easiest and most important ways you can take care of your muscles. Proper hydration throughout the day prevents injury and helps flush lactic acid from the muscles. It’s water, it’s totally free and it’s everywhere.) Sample Routine The goal in stretching is to counteract the cycling posture and limited range of motion in the pedal stroke. If your muscles are not being used in their full range of motion they will shorten and become tight. That’s why often at the end of a long ride it can take a little effort to stand upright or bend your legs fully. By stretching them back out they retain their full range of motion. More important than stretching as deeply as you think you can is the length of time you hold the stretch. This isn’t about challenging yourself, that’s what the bike is for. Think of this as an opportunity to let your body know that you are still friends after you just abused it for hours on end. Find the point in the stretch when you start to feel it, but can comfortably hold it while breathing normally. Hold each stretch for 20sec to a minute (or longer if it feels particularly tight). You should be able to breathe fully and deeply. If you find yourself holding your breath or have difficulty breathing normally, back off until you can breathe comfortably. Side Stretch
Standing up straight, bring your arms up over head and clasp your hands together with palms facing outward (towards the ceiling). Deep breath in and on the slow exhale, bend sideways keeping your arms stretched overhead. Hold stretch and maintain normal breathing Chest Opening
Standing upright, clasp hands behind back. Keeping your hands clasped with your arms straight, slowly raise your arms while extending your chest forward and up. Downward Dog
Laying on your stomach, push your upper body off the ground with your arms and hold. Feet can either be flat on the ground as in the picture or for a little deeper stretch you can push up onto the balls of your feet. Supine Hamstring
Lying on your back raise one leg while keeping the other flat on the ground. Keeping the leg straight raise it high as you can, grasping it with your hands. Seated Hamstring
Sitting on the floor with both legs straight out in front of you. Keeping your back straight, slowly lean forward reaching for your shins or ankles. Once you reach a point where you feel the stretch in the back of your legs you can lower your head to stretch your neck. Supine ITB Stretch
Lying on your side with your legs stacked on top of each other, take the top leg and bring it out in front until it’s at a 90 degree angle to the rest of your body (leg can be either straight or bent depending on flexibility). To deepen the stretch, turn neck and torso away from top leg. Seated ITB Stretch
Sitting on the floor with both legs straight in front of you, bend your right leg and cross over the left leg, placing the heel of your right foot next to the left knee (or closer to your hip depending on flexibility). Next, turning to the right, place your left elbow on the outside of your right knee and use it to push into the stretch, keeping your right hand on the ground for stability. Repeat on the opposite side. Runner’s Lunge
Standing straight up, bend forward and place hands on ground on either side of feet, step one leg straight behind while front leg bends at a 90 degree angle (make sure the front knee does not extend beyond the toes). Keep the back leg straight behind resting on the ball of your foot or lower your back knee to the ground depending on flexibility. In just 10-15 minutes everyday (or at least after every workout) you can do yourself a world of good and keep riding strong all the way to the end of the season. If you have any questions be sure to contact us at scienceofspeed.org PHOTOS BY ALICIA OSBORNE (aliciaosbornephoto.com)
For many athletes world wide the summer means warmer weather, kids free from school and most importantly vacation. Vacation for so many is a time to relax, spend time with family and most important have fun, however, for many it can also be a bit of a stressor. As an athlete, no matter the caliber, your goals can take a very large precedence in life. You spend hours a week pushing your body to limits that most consider “insane,” you cut calories to either lose weight or maintain weight and you sacrifice family time and sleep to train and race. Often times, the last thing you want to do is take time off out of a fear of de-training or over eating and gaining back that weight you have worked so hard to lose. Step back, take a deep breath and enjoy your time! I know, this is very hard for you type A athletes out there (which is probably most of you), however, a little time off is good for you physically as well as mentally. In fact, for many athletes the time off allows them to come back and handle more physically than what they were capable of previously. Still not buying it? Yea… I still struggle with it too so here are some recommendations to help you get a bit of physical activity and keep all of that great quality time with your family! Plan a vacation with activities involved: I have been blessed with a wife that loves to hike. Not only does this mean our entire family gets to spend quality time together but I also get to be outside and active. It is never super high intensity but it is enough to curb my exercise apetite and see things that you would never see from a car. Also consider things such as snorkeling, a bike tour (not le Tour) or even kayaking/white water rafting. Swim: It might not be your swim workout but you can splash around chase your children or do a cannonball contest. One of my favorite childhood memories from vacations was swimming/playing in the pools with my dad, mom and sister! Stairs: For those of you that these simply won’t cut it then one of the best and fastest workouts is stairs. Almost every hotel has atleast two flights of stairs which will give you everything you need. This is guaranteed to get your heart rate up, have you panting and with how hot stair wells usually are you are guaranteed to work up a good sweat. Most important of all, keep it fun and remember you have made a lifestyle change to better yourself. Just don’t forget that it is possible to work vacations into your training. This is something that we do daily for our athletes and it allows them to place their priorities where they feel they should be. Learn how one of our coaches can help you better fit travel into your training programs. Schedule a consult today or sign up for on of our many coaching packages!
Over the past week there has been a great deal of hype in the cyclocross world. With the Elite men and women racing in Louisville for the first ever U.S. based Cyclocross Worlds. If you have been reading through any of the cycling news based sites or magazines you would have noticed that there has been a great deal of focus on these important races.
One thing that has not been mentioned that has stood out to me is the story of current U.S. National Champion, Jonathan Page. Through 2012 he has not had a bike sponsor, or title sponsor for that matter, and had been riding and racing on a Blue brand cyclocross bike. After his Nationals victory he was signed by Fuji bikes, hardly one week before his largest race of the year. Here is what I see as a coach, bike fit specialist and athlete:
Even though as a professional and he has a full time mechanic to take care of his equipment and make sure it works well you drastically increase your risk of something going wrong.
When you have been training and racing on the same equipment for a whole season. One week out you are now changing not only the bike but the fit and the way the bike handles. As many of you know fitting is not always an instantaneous process and a fair bit of the fine tuning takes time. Having a bike that doesn’t feel perfect has a big impact on not only comfort but confidence which ultimately can impact outcome.
As athletes we all fall prey to marketing hype, athlete promotion and “sex appeal” of equipment. This is a perfect example in my eyes that a lot of times it comes down to money for so many athletes. Keep in mind that your hero is working when they are training and racing. A lot of the equipment comes down to a paycheck even if it isn’t the most optimal thing out there. You can see this at some of the large races where a wheel is re-branded with another name but the dimpling clearly means it is a Zipp wheel.
What does this mean for you. Be smart, remember that you do this for fun and because you love your sport. If you are unsure of what to do research the product and if you can’t find anything try to find a friend or trusted source that has the knowledge to help you. This could be your local bike shop or it could be your coach. As coaches many of us pride ourselves in doing a fair number of research on a great deal of our sport to offer our athletes a less biased viewpoint.