Tips for your Gravel road Adventures!

One of the largest growing cycling trends in the United States over the past ten years has been gravel road riding.  With large events, such as Dirty Kanza & Grinduro, it is becoming even more enticing for many people to hit the dirt roads.  There is no better time than now for you as a cyclist to do that as well.  

Why Ride Gravel/Dirt Road?

With an increase in focus on cycling safety and driver awareness, many people are opting to head to the less trafficked roads.  Whether this is for peace of mind, enjoyment of nature or a little added thrill, it is a great option.

Gravel roads are also a great option in winter.  When weather temperatures drop the wind chill on a bike, riding at 20+ mph can be nearly unbearable.  Riding on gravel roads can, in some instances, decrease your average speed by 2+mph with the exact same amount of work effort.  This means you can still get an amazing workout and stay a bit warmer.

A Little Different Skill Set

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Many times, gravel roads are not as well maintained because they see little to no traffic.  This means that you need to be better prepared for what may lie ahead of you.  For many, this means equipment and we recommend you consult your local bike shop to provide you with the specifics of what is needed for your area.  Once you have the knowledge and gear you need, here are some skills that will be very important for you to consider on your adventure into gravel grinding:

  1. Watch your line – Much like riding on a mountain bike, you need to be thinking about your next move.  It is important that you are sighting 10-30 feet up the road. You should be looking for the smoothest surface, sand, larger pieces of gravel and any other object you might want/need to avoid.
  2. Keep your weight back – If and when you find yourself in sand or deep gravel, it is best to keep the handlebars lighter by shifting back on your saddle. This will allow your front wheel to track more effectively through any ruts or bounce over any large rocks.
  3. MORE POWER – Just like Tim the Toolman Taylor, (google it, youngins!) you “need more power” when it comes to sand. Applying added power when you get to sand helps to keep the front end of the bike lighter, much like sliding back, and helps your bike track through the deep stuff.
  4. Braking bumps – These rough wave like formations in the dirt can sometimes be so bad that your eyes begin to blur or make you think that your headtube may separate from the rest of your bike.  Remember to relax, stay off the front brake and ride it out.  Some of these sections can be feet others can be 20-30 yards.  Keep a level head and look for the smoothest portion or road.

Now, it is time.  There is so much exploring to be done and fun to be had! Get out there and get dirty.

Cold Sweats Would be Better Than Sweaty and Cold

Winter is coming and the temperatures are falling. In today’s blog, Coach Brady offers his tips on how to select the right attire for every degree.

Every year, it takes a few workouts to realize what all I need to wear for each temperature range.  Sometimes it is the sudden shift in temperatures, the fear of being cold or the simple fact that sometimes I can’t remember what I did yesterday (let alone the last time it was cold.) All I know is that I always end up cold one way or another. I bet you’ve had this same issue as the seasons change. Let me help you by providing a starting guide that you can consult and modify for you and your climate.  

CYCLING:

60-65 degrees: Arm warmers, vest is optional as it gets closer to 60 degrees

50-60 degrees: Arm warmers, knee warmers/leg warmers, short sleeve base layer, wind front gloves & vest

40-50 degrees: Arm warmers, knee warmers/leg warmers, short sleeve base layer, wind front gloves, toe/shoe covers & vest or long sleeve jersey

<40 degrees: Arm warmers, knee warmers/leg warmers, short sleeve base layer, windproof thermal gloves, wind front briefs, shoe covers, wool socks & wind front long sleeve jersey

RUNNING:
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60-65 degrees: Shorts and shirt

50-60 degrees: Shorts and shirt

40-50 degrees: Shorts, shirt, light glove & arm warmers

<40 degrees: Tights, shirt, lightly insulated glove & arm warmers (as it gets below freezing thermal tights are a great option)

Unsure about tights? I hear you — I try to maintain my ability to adapt to changing weather and, because of this, you will notice that I rarely use tights or anything similar.  A 5 degree swing in temperature can mean you’re either too hot or too cold. Arm and knee/leg warmers allow for quick modulation vs. tights and long sleeve tops.  If you use the above tips as a starting point, you will quickly find a combination that works for you no matter the temperature.

Let’s Go Commando!

Underwear, panties, knickers or drawers.  It doesn’t matter what you call them.  It is time to ditch the underwear when you ride your bike.  For many, this is one of the biggest hesitations when first riding a bike, but, if you are riding in a short with a chamois (padding,) then it is time to go commando!

Many newer cyclists are unaware that a cycling short is designed very differently from many other pants.  It is apparent that there is a pad in the shorts and that they are very tight fitting, but, if you look more closely, you will see that the seams are located with greater thought and purpose.  These seam locations are designed to help reduce chafing and, by adding your underwear into the mix, you increase the likelihood of irritation points.  As you increase your ride time, you will notice that the likelihood of saddle sores or raw, irritated skin is drastically increased.

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For those of you that have the thought, “That sounds dirty,” never fear!  The chamois is made from an antimicrobial fabric.  It is probably even more sanitary than having your underwear on.  With that being said, we still emphasize that, when your ride is done, please get out of your cycling shorts as quickly as possible.  There is no need to sit around in your chamois for lunch, a foam rolling session and a nap.

So, on your next ride, be sure that you ditch the underwear.  You will not be alone. In fact, you will be in the vast majority that are riding commando!Are you unsure about selecting cycling or triathlon shorts?  Learn how to find the short that is perfect for you!

Free Fall Fashions for New Science of Speed Athletes

New athletes: reach out to us today to get your custom coaching experience started and receive your FREE KIT!

Want to start off the season in style? New kits have arrived and we’re so excited to see so many athletes donning their new Science of Speed duds during their workouts and events. To mark the arrival of fall, we’ve got a special offer that will have you looking fast, and racing even faster.

Now Through November 19th, new athletes who sign up for six months of training at the podium

Science of Speed Cycling apparel

level or higher will receive a free kit from SoS — yes, socks, bib shorts AND jersey! That’s a $275 value at no cost when you begin your journey with custom coaching.

We are dedicated to helping our clients, from recreational to elite athletes, reach their maximum potential. We are capable of achieving this through custom training programs based on a sound and proven training philosophy. We believe that everyone has the ability to excel at their sport. It is our desire to help you discover your potential and gain confidence in it.

If you are looking to do your first century, want to get more serious about your training, or are working towards weight loss goals, the Podium Package can get you there. An SoS coach will work one-on-one with you to design custom training programs that will help you meet or exceed your current goals.

Current athletes: grab your kit now in the shop! Contact us today for your SoS athlete discount code and receive special pricing on all apparel.

Don’t Fear the Field Test

Many athletes have GPS devices, heart rate monitors and power meters collecting data for them continually.  It is now easier than ever, with auto sync features, to upload your files to Garmin Connect, Strava or, our favorite coaching tool, TrainingPeaks.  With the copious amounts of data that are being flung at the internet on a daily basis, it is apparent to us that many athletes do not know what any of the information being recorded means or how they can best utilize it.

Speaking with athletes at races, events, on group rides and in passing, we have found that there is one key reason many athletes do not use the data from their devices more.  FEAR.  Yep, they are afraid to field test and get ranges that would improve the overall results that training could provide.  Why is this?  People are afraid to know what their data is telling them in regards to their threshold numbers. They are afraid it will be lower than where they feel it should be, afraid of being compared to others, afraid of being judged for what they feel is a lack of fitness or even afraid of going all out to get the right data.  

Stop worrying and start training!  Let’s get past this fear.  By not taking these actions to find your training ranges, you are only limiting yourself, but also perpetuating the cycle of fear.  Whether you run or cycle, a field test is necessary to get the correct ranges to increase your training efficiency.  The numbers mean absolutely nothing unless you have a gauge to base them all off off.  So, get out there and perform your cycling field test and/or your running field test.

Are you unsure of what to do with the data once it is collected?  Let us know.  We will help you take the information and turn it into something of value to you!

You can only buy so much speed!

Speed.  It is the number one worry for many athletes on the bike and “aero is everything” to so many cyclists and triathletes.  Aero helmets, aero bicycles, aero handlebars, aero wheels, aero shoe covers, aero bottles, aero gel packaging… Okay, so the last one is a stretch, but you heard it here first if it comes out!  You get the point though.  Aerodynamics has been taken into consideration for every aspect of cycling.  

Why you might ask?  Well, not only does it look cool, but it does have a benefit.  Aerodynamics is the study of the air’s interaction with objects — in this case, you and all your gear. When looking at aerodynamics, we must consider the science of the coefficient of drag.  In this equation, velocity (speed) is squared, which means as speed increases, drag is drastically impacted.  By streamlining yourself on a bike, with wheels, a helmet, or some other gadget, you can instantly notice the change in speed and this becomes addictive.  

You’ve seen so many aero products at varying price points, but what is the best bang for your buck?

Retul Bike Fit:
Cost: $250
Benefit: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Not to poke fun, but you are the biggest thing on the bike.  Optimizing your position to suit your needs will be the best way to increase your ability to maintain position, reduce fatigue and increase aerodynamics (assuming that is your goal).  This is by far your biggest bang for your buck when it comes to aerodynamics.

Aero Frame: 
Estimated cost – $;6000+
Benefit: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Over the past several years, there has been great emphasis on aero road bike frames. These super bikes are not only sleek, but sexy and are often the envy of many riders.  Do they make a big difference?  You bet they do!  You can shave nearly 1 minute off of a 40km time with one of these.  That is a lot of “free watts.”  They are not all equal in their benefits, so if you want to find the bike that will make you fastest go here.

Aero Wheels:
Estimated Cost – $2000
Benefit: ⭐⭐⭐

These are the next best thing in time saving benefits.  Aero Wheels are a great addition to your arsenal when it comes to bike related speed.  There are three key factors that you should consider:

What type of riding are you doing?  A century rider, criterium racer, road racer and triathlete do not necessarily need to ride the same wheel.  Each of these types of riding have different demands and, because of that, a wheel might need more aerodynamics, better braking power, lighter weight or increased stiffness.

Is Aerodynamics or weight and stiffness more important?  As illuded to in the last question, you will need to understand what is more important for you.  Aerodynamics will relate more to straight line speed and is important for a triathlete, time trialist or a road racer. A criterium racer and even a road racer can benefit from a more laterally stiff wheel.  The more aerodynamic the wheel becomes, the more it weighs and the less laterally stiff it becomes.

What is the length of your event? For the Ironman athlete, if one wheelset is in the budget, you should pick something slightly less aerodynamic but more versatile for changing conditions.  The last thing you want is to be in the middle of your ride, winds kick up and your disc wheel gets swept out from under you.  Not to mention, the amount of fatigue a set of deep section aero wheels can create in a strong cross wind!

What are your needs?

Aero Helmet: 
Cost: $175
Benefit: ⭐⭐

Ventilation meets pure speed.  Aerodynamics is key, but, if you get overheated due to poor cooling and DNF, it doesn’t matter how streamlined you are.

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This is a great option to decrease drag. For time trial or Ironman athletes, remember that your ears are, by design and function, probably one of the least aerodynamic things on your body so a helmet that covers them can drastically reduce drag.  If you struggle to hold head position, aerodynamics becomes less important as the tail of the helmet will create even greater drag sticking straight up in the air.

Find an aero road helmet to fit your speed addiction

Aero Gel:
Cost: $3
Benefit: 

It is the consistency of snot, but packaged in a streamlined pouch made from nanoparticles sourced from the earth’s core.  

Clearly your best bang for your buck!  Right?  Be sure to pre-order today! 😉

Coaching & Power:
Cost: Power meter: $400-$1800
Coaching: $150/month +
Benefit: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Let’s be honest. All of these aerodynamic things will improve your speed, one time, if you can already ride a bike consistently at over 17-18mph.  Whether you see a benefit or not from these kinds of products, focusing on training properly with accurate data could provide you as much as a 10% improvement in threshold power year after year.  You won’t see that from the equipment alone!  Combine coaching with a Science of Speed expert coach and even one of these items and you could be an unstoppable force!

Bike Fit: How to Replace Cycling Cleats

Cycling cleats are an often overlooked part of bicycle and equipment maintenance. Learn how to check for signs of excess wear and the best way to replace cycling cleats without altering your cleat position or sacrificing a crucial point of contact in your bike fit.

Learn from Coach Brady Irwin best practices when you go to refresh your Shimano or Look cycling cleats.

Are you not comfortable or confident in your ability to install your own cycling cleats? Are unsure that the position of your cleats is correct?

Schedule a regional fitting with a Science of Speed bike fit specialist to perfect your cleat position.

Communication, The Pathway to Performance

Recently, in the facility where we host our morning cycling trainer classes, I noticed a new poster that was hung up. It was very simple, but made a valid point. The poster simply states, “Communication – the link between the world and you.” Communication is the foundation on which any relationship is formed, and, for a coach, it is the details that an athlete communicates to us that determines the success of a training.

Technology has advanced over the years to provide more accurate data such as sports computers, power meters and other measurement devices. A result, coaching has also become more finely tuned for each athlete. Though it is helpful, it is not the only tool needed for successful training. Even with the advent of sports technology and data, it can not be fully utilized without the addition of the athlete’s feedback.

Our coaches check in with athletes on a regular basis, some a little more often than others based on their coaching package level. When you chat with your coach, it’s important to touch on the following subjects to provide us with the details that your watch, heart rate monitor or tracking app can’t.

Health – Sickness has varying levels of severity. It can be as small as a cold, as severe as cancer, or anywhere in between. With these varying extremes comes different responses in what can and should be done with your training in the future. In some instances, light activity could be good for you.In others, it could be detrimental. Be sure to discuss training with both your doctor and your coach. With their advice, you can be mindful of your health. You only have one body. Goals and training are easily changed. Your health is worth making adjustments for!

Travel – It might seem like common sense to tell your coach about planned vacations, but sudden business trips or travel for other reasons also occur. Don’t hesitate to let us know. With some head notice and pre-planning (even if it is 12 hours head notice,) adjustments can be made to increase the efficacy of training. Be sure to note if you’ll have time to train and what equipment you might have available, if any, while you’re away.

Family Life – We are not just talking about the fact that you are married, have a family, or are going on a vacation. This refers to the more intricate inner workings of your family dynamics. For example, it might be important to discuss with your coach if your family supports your training, how you eat compared to them, if you are arguing with your spouse or if your teenage child “hates you.” Each of these impacts stress level, which can lead to less follow through on many of your sport specific activities. Give us a heads up that life is impacting your training, and we’ll do our best to update your plan and give you the encouragement you need.

Sleep Quality – Let’s be honest, there is a difference in your sleep if you are single, married, have young children, teenagers, are empty nesters or retired. Some of these stages are better and some are worse for sleep, but each has its implications on sleep and every person handles sleep differently. Sleep is key for your recovery process. Did your toddler keep you up all night? Were you lying awake thinking about that big project at work? Keep us posted on your rest and we can try to make the right recommendations and changes.

Actual feel after workouts or events – You nailed the workout based on power numbers, but, compared to last week’s workout, you felt terrible. Your legs were heavy. Your head hurt. Your knee ached. You wanted to quit more times than you could count. These are all details that are very important and impact your day’s workout, your week’s training and your mental and physical state for each consecutive workout. Talk to your coach about how tough the workout felt or didn’t feel, regardless of your numbers. We can help you get to the bottom of why the workout didn’t go as planned.

For a coached athlete, your communication between you and your coach needs to be open and honest. If you do not have a coach that you feel you can speak freely with, it is time to consider a transfer to a coach that you can trust. If you speak with your coach about details like these, but don’t see any changes to your training plan of action, it might also be time to seek new mentors in your sport.

First Time on a New Group Ride

Many people begin a hobby because of the social environment.  Golf, tennis, running and cycling are

great examples of this.  Riding is a social atmosphere that many people initially get into because of a friend, family member or colleague, but availability and ability levels can change and the need to search out others to ride with becomes a necessity.  If you have found yourself in this situation, here are three key steps in joining in on group rides.

Vet Your Ride

It sounds silly, but this is the most important part of selecting a group ride.  There are riders of so many ability levels that you could find yourself with a group that is too fast, too slow, or, even worse, on a ride distance that is above your current capability.  Trust us, nothing can make for a rougher day than being in shape for a 3 hour riding and finding out you chose a 6 hour loop with no shortcuts and with a fast group.  So, find out what the distance is, the average speed of the group, the course (in case you get separated), the tempo of the ride (steady effort vs. high intensity w/slow points), how many people usually ride (the fewer people the more work you will usually end up doing), and if the group stop or do you need to have everything on hand for the entirety.

15 minutes As a Fly on the Wall

Take the first 15 minutes of the ride to ride near the back and observe.  This will give you the opportunity to see what the group dynamic is, what pace the group sets, and the handling competency of the riders.

It may seem tedious or cautious, but a quick way to upset cyclists and a new potential group of friends is to go to the front of their relaxed Sunday morning ride and drill the pace.

Make a Friend(s)

Yes, you might be joining to make new friends, but this is a different kind of friend.  This is the one that will help you navigate the route.  It’s so simple, but a little heads up on a turn, a dog that normally chases the pack, the occasional heads up on a pothole or even the guys/gals we you definitely do not want to follow unless you like the taste of asphalt is nice to have.

Okay, so you have vetted the ride, been a fly on the wall and made at least one new friend — now, there is only one thing to do: Have some fun!

CURIOUS ABOUT WHAT ELSE AWAITS YOU IN GROUP RIDES AND WHAT YOU CAN LEARN TO MAKE THOSE FIRST RIDES MORE MANAGEABLE?  READ ON WITH OUR GROUP RIDING 101201 & 301 ARTICLES!

Power Meters

Investing in the Efficiency of Your Training

SRM Power meter 1980s

By now, you have probably heard of a cycling power meter.  With the dramatic decrease in average costs of power meters, they are becoming much more mainstream.  What might surprise you is that these devices have been used since the mid-1980’s.  Their first public appearance was at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary, Canada where the German National team used SRM’s first crank based system.  What then looked more like a medieval torture device (they might still be described as such) was attached to many of the track racers bikes.

Since their early introduction, a great deal has been learned about these devices and how we can better utilize the data that they provide to improve training efficiency.  Here are a handful of the ways you will find a power meter can improve your training if you chose to take the next step.

Accurate tracking of improvement – Unlike heart rate with its wide array of variables, power is much more consistent.  Where heart rate is your body’s response to the work that has been completed (delayed by up to 60 seconds), power is the actual amount of work that is being created.  This work-based response takes factors out of the equation to give more consistent verification of current improvement.

More precise training ranges – For those who have been using heart rate for years, your first workout with a power meter will immediately show you that your workouts just became harder!  Why is that you ask? As mentioned previously, heart rate is a response to the work that has been done.  With cardiac drift as a factor involved with sustained efforts, you will quickly notice that workload stays consistent but heart rate gradually increases.  Remember heart rate is a response to the work you have done — power is the actual work.

Caloric expenditure –  You might be ecstatic that you just went out for a ride and your Garmin paired with your heart rate monitor is telling you that you burned 1100 calories.  Now, it is time to go out and eat that 22oz steak, drink a bottle of wine or guzzle a bunch of amazing craft beer. It’s the perfect moment to eat that 1100 calorie dessert at your local go to restaurant, right?  NOT SO FAST!  Pair that same workout with a power meter and you might find that your Garmin has been calculating your calorie burn inaccurately —  150% inaccurately.  You’ll be dismayed to find out that you only clocked in at 650 calories in reality.  Why the difference?  Power measures work done and uses an equation that provides a more accurate gauge of calorie burn.

Gauging extended efforts – For many endurance events like time trials, triathlons, centuries or the popular gravel grinders, effort is everything! Getting from Point A to Point B as quickly and effectively as possible is what ultimately results in optimal performance.  With proper training using a cycling power meter, sufficient data can be collected and analyzed to calculate the best effort range for your optimal performance.

Now, the question is what brand do you go with. Our coaches have used many power meters over the years and we feel that several provide great data to help you reach your goals.  Consider a Stages Cycling Power meter, a SRM Power meter, Quarq Power meter, or one of the PowerTap line of power meters.  They each have their own benefits and drawbacks, but each of these will provide you with great data to improve your accuracy.

Pair your Science of Speed Coaching with a power meter and receive a discount!  You’ll receive the highest quality training and the top training devices on the market at a great price.