Everybody’s bought their licences and they’re raring to go at the start of the season. This article relates to anybody who wants to have a go at racing on the open roads…
First thing that I want you to take a look at is the first 30 seconds or so of the following clip from Dirty Dancing (yes, I am serious):
You may all think that I have totally lost the plot, but Patrick Swayze makes two important comments:
- “Spaghetti arms” – the need to keep your [body’s] frame locked and your head up;
- “Dance space” – Jennifer Grey (as the amateur dancer) keeps encroaching on his space, to which he states “I don’t go into yours, you don’t go into mine”.
Yes, I get that the late Lord Patrick of Swayze is going on about doing a rumba; or whatever dance he is teaching her – I have only ever danced a rumba to “Hungry Eyes” (I’m not joking, either), so I don’t want anyone to correct me on the dance please, but it’s an important lesson to anybody who is contemplating racing on the open road in a road race.
Keeping your arms relaxed but in control of your handlebars is very important, as is keeping your head up. Time and time again you see riders in a bunch who aren’t in control of their bike properly. Some think it’s cool to ride either none-handed or with their wrists balancing on their handlebars in the middle of a bunch. Sorry, my friends, this is not “cool”. I don’t care if you see Grand Tour riders doing it on Eurosport – that is not appropriate behaviour in a local bike race in the UK, when there is oncoming traffic on the opposite side of the road.
More often than not, riders think that it is somehow appropriate to move themselves into a gap that is actually non-existent. If you were driving a car along a dual carriageway and there was a vehicle in each lane, you wouldn’t drive up the middle of the cars, so why ride into a “gap” that doesn’t exist? And saying “inside” to the rider who is on the left hand side in the gutter isn’t the same as saying “barleys” – where you can do what you want because it doesn’t matter as you won’t get any bad luck because you’ve crossed your fingers. Errr. No. Sorry, that doesn’t work.
Actions have consequences
Okay, you might think that I am having a rant because somebody brought me off on Sunday and that I should just shut up because “crashing is part of racing”. Fair enough, I understand the risks, having raced (on and off) since 1993, but I am not convinced some people understand the consequences of racing on the open road. The closed circuits that British Cycling have built are great tools for learning skills and act as an entry into racing, but people seem to apply the same racing rules to the open road as they do to closed road circuits. There’s a major difference that seems to pass people by – oncoming traffic. This means that if you push your way into a gap that doesn’t exist, the rider who has to make way for you then has to move elsewhere, which often means that they have to ride on the wrong side of the road, or hit the cats eyes that mark the middle of the road, which can then lead to issues in itself.
It’s not just the women…
Historically, women’s racing on a domestic level has been littered with crashes (partly due to the large difference of abilities that you can find when catering for “women” as a whole), but the numbers of crashes in the local men’s races (in the North West at least) is increasing at an alarming rate. More often than not, crashes occur because people stop concentrating (if only for a nano-second), which leads to a touch of wheels, people braking and then a domino effect occurring behind the culprit. Or the person on the front decides that they don’t want to be on the front anymore and swings across the front of the bunch, without looking before making the manoeuvre (I saw that happen with my own eyes on Sunday), or just slams on for no apparent reason.
If you have ever watched the professionals racing on the TV, for the most part you will see riders giving each other space – they respect each other as riders and as fellow professionals – they will give each other space on descents, especially – and any crashes (except the bizarre like Jonny Hoogerland’s in the Tour de France) tend to happen either in the last few kilometres when teams are jostling for position in the lead up to a sprint finish, or due to street furniture (roundabouts, bollards, etc) when the roads become really narrow. The latter shouldn’t happen in a domestic race in the UK because of risk assessments being carried out.
Admittedly, there can be potholes and puddles and grids (we live in the UK after all), so let people know if there’s an issue that you can see, including oncoming traffic – communication is the key in these instances.
The Moral to the Story
If you only take a few things away from this article, I hope that they are:
- Give your fellow competitors room;
- Treat everybody with respect;
- Remember that every action (however minor it may seem to you) has a consequence;
- Never stop concentrating when riding in a bunch.
The above are my observations from racing with men and women. Crashing is an expensive option both economically (I consider myself lucky from the crash I had on Sunday, but practically every item of clothing that I had on was wrecked, including a brand new helmet and a pair of Oakleys, which if I wanted to replace it all would cost in the region of £750 – and that’s not including the cost of fixing my bike) and physically (I headbutted the floor at 22 mph and have injuries to most parts of my body, although they are mostly cuts and bruises – the guys who came off in the men’s race weren’t as lucky and have broken bones and written-off bikes) and therefore, in my humble opinion, should be avoided at all costs – which means looking out for each other. Incidentally, for the majority of us, we have to get up and go to work the following day (you know, so that you can pay for the bike riding) or go home to look after dependents (whether that’s kids or other halves!) – you can’t do either if you’re smashed to bits.
Let’s keep the #partyontheroad safe, so that everybody can enjoy the party after the race and remember – nobody puts Baby in a corner…
Until next time…
Last year, the CDNW women’s league, open only to 2nd, 3rd and 4th category riders, was thought by everybody involved to be a resounding success – an average of 40 women at each race, with 70 women registered for the league. I was approached by Victoria Hood as she loved the concept and wanted to bring something similar to the women of Yorkshire.
After numerous conversations with BC Yorkshire, it was agreed that we would try and bring the same level of racing to Yorkshire.
Organising a women’s road race has historically been a massive risk to organisers, especially when it is the sole event, so persuading some organisers to assist us in our quest was key. Pete Sutton, the Regional Events Officer for Yorkshire, has been a star, and he even spent the afternoon with Victoria and I going through all of the potential dates to ensure that there were no clashes with existing similar events in the North West.
This year, I have been trying to build a community atmosphere for women who want to have a go at racing by using the #partyontheroad hashtag. It is hopefully working – 68 women took to the start line on Sunday, at an industrial estate in Skelmersdale, with rain threatening. 64 of those women finished. The race next Sunday already has 51 entrants, with more due to enter on the day.
As the time is NOW to keep building on the momentum in women’s cycling, a lot of work has been going on behind the scenes to bring you the Yorkshire Women’s Road Race Series – these are all linked via the Series on British Cycling’s website here:https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/events?series_id=380 The Series is being supported by Jadan Press, from Hull, so there will be an overall series winner – with cash!!!
It isn’t a league, like the CDNW women’s league, which means that we will need volunteers to assist at each race as there isn’t a league where you register and have to marshal (it was £92 to register the league, whereas a series is free). Any offers of assistance will be greatly appreciated, even if you bring a mate with you to watch the race! It is the #partyontheroad after all!
So without further ado, here are the details for the first three events to be included in the Yorkshire Women’s Road Race Series:
1. Sheffrec CC Spring Road Race – 13 April 2014
This race is organised by Marc Etches. Marc organises the Sheffield Grand Prix, which has been a fixture in the National Women’s Series for many years. Marc’s club, Sheffrec CC, organise a Spring Road Race, and he offered to run a women’s race in the morning, before the men’s event in the afternoon.
You can enter the race here: https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/events/details/106353/Sheffrec-Spring-Road-Race#entry
This is a great starting event, being only 35 miles in length. For anyone from down South who has entered the Alexandra Tour of the Reservoir, why not enter the Sheffrec race too?
The circuit is on Strava – link here: http://app.strava.com/segments/1234074 and this video also gives you a great idea of what to expect:
Entry closes on 27 March 2014 – remember you don’t need to register for the series, you will be automatically entered into it if you ride.
2. Team Swift RR – 11 May 2014
The next event in the series is organised by Cliff Beldon, of Team Swift. You can enter the race here: https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/events/details/104997/Teamswift-Road-Races#entry
The circuit is on Strava – link here: http://www.strava.com/segments/1445730 – I absolutely love this circuit, although I have only ridden around it the opposite way around!
3. Albarosa CC Road Race – 15 June 2014
Currently being finalised – I will update you when it goes live, but for now hold the date!
4. PH-Mas Road Race – 3 August 2014
This race is also in the process of being finalised. Once it goes live I will add the date, so just keep it in your diaries for the time being!
The course is being fun on the Seacroft Wheelers RR circuit at Bishopwood, near Selby, and the circuit is here:
5. Selby CC Road Race
Stuart Davies is the organiser for the final round of the Yorkshire Women’s Road Race Series, and further information can be found here: https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/events/details/107690/Selby-CC-Road-Race#entry
This event is going to be held on a new circuit, which is first being used on the 15 May 2014, so I’m afraid I don’t have any segment details for you just yet!
Food for thought…
There aren’t many events where you can win hard cash for no entry fee. That and the fact that the #partyontheroad is coming to Yorkshire, why wouldn’t you want to get involved?
Hopefully I will see some of you there…
My thanks to Martin Holden Photography for use of the photos, as well as to all of the organisers of both the CDNW Women’s League and the Yorkshire Women’s Road Race Series. Without organisers, we have no races…
I’ve been listening to a lot of chatter on the internet lately about the do’s and don’t’s of Track Sprinting training and racing, so here is my advice as a coach.
1. Just because someone faster than you is doing something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing for you (or even them!). Some riders are just plain more talented than others and can still be quicker than you even training badly. At the Olympics, World champs, World Cups etc that I’ve been at I’ve seen riders with frankly ridiculous warm up protocols, poor technique in starts and horrible bike set ups, and every one of them is faster than me…. but they could be so much quicker if they were doing it better.
This goes for coaches too, it’s irrelevant how quick your coach is as a rider if they can’t understand how to relate that training to you and your needs. Often the riders that aren’t as naturally gifted make better coaches because they have had to analyze themselves more carefully to compete with their more naturally gifted counterparts.
2. Gearing is the biggest misnomer right now, firstly cadence is where you should be focussing, the gear choice being a byproduct of that. Emulate the elite guys cadences not gearing. For a variety or reasons gearing in training is different from gearing in races, and is usually a fair bit smaller (except over geared training efforts), think about this when designing your training program, again go back to cadences, you will find 94″ on a cold windy outdoor track is a very different gear to 94″ on double discs and tires at 220psi on a wooden indoor track, train at the cadence you want to race at not the gear you want to use.
3. The current trend for super big gears is a little misleading for most non elite riders (by elite I am talking 10.5 and under) for the less well trained and efficient athletes whacking the gear up can have a short term speed gain, it doesn’t mean it’s helping your long term development, and then we come to racing itself……
4. I know its fun to brag sometimes about things like peak power/max squats/chainring sizes etc, however it often becomes a focus and leads you away from the real aim which should be to win races! Too many people focus too narrowly on small areas and not seeing the whole picture. The 200m is just the entry ticket to the races, if your training is constantly about the “right” gear/cadence to do a good 200m there is a good chance you won’t be able to race as well as you could.
The Elite riders I know can do the same 200m time on gearing between 102 and 120 but you won’t catch them racing on 120! most will race on between 4-8″ less than they qualify and are pedalling at way higher rpms in a race than almost everyone who hopes to emulate this success.
The gear you choose to race in needs to be able to cope with a variety of tactics and scenarios, having an “overspeed” buffer where you can still be effective over a wide range of cadences is a big advantage, especially when rushing the slipstream on an opponent. Bear in mind the steeper the banking and the tighter the radius of the turn the more your rpms will go up in the bends, it can make quite a few rpms difference between the outdoor track/road you train on and the indoor one for your major comp.
5. There is no magic formula, no silver bullet, no perfect answer. Real progress is made by a combination of lots of factors, with the gear you use for your flying 200m just being one small part. Do you get enough quality rest? Is your diet conducive to excellent recovery? Are you working on all the aspects of your sprint? Starts, accelerations, top end speed, speed endurance, form, aerodynamics, recovery between efforts, tapering, roadblocks, rest breaks, mental prep, practicing tactics-observation, injury prevention, supplementation?
Some of these things are quite personal too, what works for Bob might not always work for John and vice versa. Although there are a lot of things that will work for the majority of people if applied at the right level for them and not just copied ad hoc from the elites.
6. Gym work.
In my experience with the athletes I have worked with and the ones I see racing and hear about, gym work is a vital part of MOST sprinters training. It’s the most effective way to build muscle mass (if you need more which isn’t always the case..) and can also be very effective at teaching better fibre/neural requirement.
What you do in the gym though can make a big difference, the training these days is quite different to the more body building programs of the 80-90’s and early 00’s. Todays sprinters are leaner yet stronger. Numbers are totally personal, just because you can back squat 250 and the other guy can do 400 doesn’t mean he will be quicker (Theo Bos couldn’t back squat more than 150kg apparently, he seemed to do alright…), what is relevant is progression, USUALLY an increase in gym strength for a rider will correlate with faster times on the track although there can be occasional exceptions to this.
Gym is quite rev specific with most of the gym gains relating to roughly 0-75rpms on a bike, anything much over 100rpms is very difficult to train with gym work. Other factors are the age of the athlete and also how their body handles weight training, some athletes can cope with it really well and others get broken by it. Again the guys that make it at elite level are usually the ones that can cope with big workloads and big poundages. They are just more gifted than us at training, but what works for them now might be having some long term negative payoffs for later life. There comes a point where training at elite level goes past what is truly healthy for some people, worth considering when racing a bike is your hobby not your job… find what works for you, if your lower back can’t take squatting/deadlifting at a weight that’s useful try leg press or single leg squats instead. Don’t risk your long term health. Again find out what works for you and be prepared to change it when it stops being effective or causes you problems.
Finally… yes you can become elite/fast without weights, they are just a useful tool if you can handle them. ALWAYS put form 1st, remember you are using weights/resistance training to go faster on a bike, not to be the strongest guy or girl in the gym, little and steady improvements here are the way forward.
The difference between high quality tires and clinchers/training tires is as much if not more of a time benefit than between spokes and aero wheels/discs. Frontal area matters, aerodynamics is a very complicated arena, a simple rule of thumb for most of us though is if you make your frontal area smaller you will go faster for the same given power output, this goes for weight too, with 3-4kg’s being roughly a 10th of a second over a flying 200m, and more like 2-300th’s over a standing lap. Think about that when buying expensive wheels, laying off the cake could have a bigger gain 1st…
I think that’s enough from me for today ;)
Performance Cycle Coaching
Finding Time To Train Image ©Huw Williams
Moving from recreational cyclist to racing cyclist.
Planning time to train.
So, you love riding your bike. You’re definitely getting better at it. You’ve joined a club, you’re enjoying club rides and your fitness is improving. You’ve been chatting to a few Time Triallers and Road racers and think you might like to give it a go. But where do you start?
If you have been looking round on the internet you will have come across reams and reams of conflicting advice and if you have dared to venture onto a cycling forum well you probably ended up with your head spinning from all the differing opinions. People can be very persuasive when they actually believe what they are saying, and, you in turn, believe what they are saying as they are so persuasive. It’s a no win situation, and it will probably have ended up putting you off rather than spurring you on.
The thing is, with training, is what works for one person, won’t necessarily work for another. Some people can happily train for 20 hours a week, work full time, fit in numerous family activities, cook, clean, keep house and still look as fresh as a daisy at the end of it. However, most of us work in some capacity, whether it be at home or at a work place, juggle bike rides, kids, pets and husbands. And spend most of our time looking like death warmed up! (I hope that’s not just me!)
What you need to do is work out exactly how much time you actually have available for training.
It’s no good looking at your schedule and thinking hmm maybe I can get up at 6.30am on a Sunday morning to fit in 2 hours training before the household wakes up. Chances are, if you love your Sunday lie in till 7.30am you just won’t use that time, so you’re automatically down on your training time by 2 hours.
I’m very lucky in that I generally have one day in the week where I can go and do a long ride, while the kids are at school, all other training takes place either when the kids are in bed or on the turbo. So it is doable. Sit down look at your life. Plan the time you realistically have available. If a family member suddenly breaks down in their car and you can’t fit training in, don’t be hard on yourself. Family comes first, it can be disheartening missing training but maybe you can squeeze that training in somewhere else in the week?
You have sat down with pen and paper and worked out that you have 6 hours a week available to train. What you then need to do is factor in an active recovery week. So allow yourself every four weeks a low intensity week, the recovery week can be the most important part of your training and will help keep you motivated.
We then start to formulate a four week plan with week four as recovery. This means that week three will be your 6 hour week. Week two may be slightly less than 6 hours, say 5- 5 ½ hours and then week one will be 4 ½ – 5 hours. So you can see, steadily over the four week period, we are building your training load with your available hours being your maximum available of 6 hours. Active recovery on week four could be anything from 3-4 hours.
When you look at it like this doesn’t training seem a lot easier to fit in your life? When you start to plan like this, your idea of doing a TT, or road racing, seems so much more achievable doesn’t it!
Rhino Goo and Rhino Shine are relatively new products to the UK market for bike cleaning and protection, and I was lucky enough to be sent some to test by my Editor.
Let me start by saying I am always highly skeptical of new products and it has taken me years of trial and error to find the best cleaning combination for road bikes and MTB’s. After trailing Muc-Off, Sh1t Shifter and Pedro’s I thought I had finally hit on the perfect combination Fenwicks FS1 concentrate and WD40.
BUT Rhino Goo and Rhino Shine have just blown away all that went before and to top it off its Biodegradable what a result! I did not give these new boys an easy time of it.
My Normal clean down routine happens immediately I get back from a ride. I give the bikes a quick low pressure hose down to dampen off any dried mud and dirt. I then give the bike a good spray of cleaner and leave to soak for a few minutes. Once soaked another low pressure hose down and the muck flies off. Turn the bike round and repeat. Dry off then wipe down with a soft cloth or piece of kitchen roll soaked in WD40. Job done one nice clean shinny bike protected from the elements. Go on then Rhino Goo and Shine beat that!
Was I going to give Rhino Goo a fair chance? Was I stuff. The first time I got home with a very very muddy bike, a lot of which would be dried on, was when I was going to test Rhino Goo!
No head start with a low pressure hosing for Rhino Goo, I was going to make life as tough as possible for Mr Rhino! A liberal spraying of Rhino Goo using the bottle and nozzle provided, leave to soak. Oh this is going to be such a fail! After the normal, actually a lot shorter then usual soak (oh I am so mean!!!) out comes the low pressure hose and oh my words the dirt is flying off faster then a Mach 1 Mig fighter, boy does this stuff work and work really well. Quick flick the bike round and spray and wash the other side. Wow this stuff is really impressive. My CX bike is looking cleaner than I have seen it for ages. Now for the shine.
Rhino Shine recommends a spray down then leave for an hour and then give the bike a wipe down with a soft cloth. Now that sounds similar to my WD40 treatment. Instructions followed and bike cleaned ready for the next outing. But how clean will it really look.
I have to say the proof is in the admiring! Well just say the next ride out with friends, they were all asking if I had got a new frame or bike! I have to agree with them my cx bike did look rather special. But was this just beginners luck?
I have used Rhino Goo and Shine for a few post ride cleans of mine and a couple of friends bikes and I can safely say that it is the best bike cleaner I have ever used. In fact, it so good that if I had enough money, I would buy the company. No longer with I be using my old regime for cleaning, for me it has to be Rhino Goo and Shine.
All I can say is believe the marketing information and unlike all the other products mentioned Rhino Goo and Shine does just what it says on the web:-
Rhino Goo will not damage aluminium, anodised parts, any rubber components i.e. fork seals, wheel bearing seals, gaskets etc, or remove the shine off your plastics.
This is a truly safe product with no nasty chemicals. Rhino Goo’s products are biodegradable, non abrasive and safe on all surfaces. There are products out there which claim to do all the things mentioned above and there are products out there which will damage all the things mentioned above.
It’s also widely used for motorbikes, caravans and marine use. Great value at around £6.99 for 1 Litre and £17.99 for 5 Litres
I am a 100% convert and when my samples run out I will be dashing out to the nearest stockiest to by 5 litres of Rhino Goo and Shine. If I could give it 110% I would but my Ed (boo!) says no… so a lowly 100% is all I’m allowed!
It’s a Cycling Shorts Star Buy!… Go get some!
Probably the best bike cleaning product in the world!
For your nearest official stockist: www.rhinogoonorth.co.uk
B2B Online retailer: www.edgesportsuk.com/store/
Photo courtesy of ©DenizErkan
During the excitement of GB’s Helen Wyman taking Bronze at the CX World Championships this weekend, I caught up with Deniz Erkan of Hadron Cycles on his tips to buying a cyclo-cross bike. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there, and get muddy!
First things first, set a budget, and stick to it.
You can buy a very good quality bike anywhere from £600 upwards. Between £800 and £1500 gets you a fantastic aluminum frame with high quality components, whilst upwards of £1500 can get a nice carbon frame and top end components. Decide how much you want to spend and get the best bike you can for the money.
Pick a frame material
Carbon is light, stiff and can be moulded into some very interesting shapes. However, it is more fragile, meaning an awkward crash into something hard can mean a new frame is required.
Aluminum technology has moved a long way since the earliest frames. These days you can get some really space age aluminum for very little money. It’s lighter than steel, and a lot stiffer too. It can also take a bit of punishment, so the odd crash is unlikely to destroy your pride and joy.
Steel frames are wonderfully resilient, forgiving to ride but a touch on the heavy side. There are some newer (more expensive) options like stainless steel which ride very well and are closing in on the weight of aluminum bikes, but generally good quality steel frames are heavier than other counterparts.
Titanium frames are expensive. It’s a difficult material to work with. However, they are wonderfully light, responsive and undeniably beautiful. They don’t need to be painted, and are very, very strong, meaning all but the worst of crashes are unlikely to even leave a scratch on your frame.
Disc or cantilever? As a general rule, correctly set-up cantilever brakes are going to work just as well as poorly set up cable-actuated disc brakes. For modest budgets, don’t be afraid to go for cantilever brakes, as their stopping power is immense. If you are looking for disc brakes, then where possible, stretch to hydraulic models as these provide the full benefits of disc brake systems (minimal servicing, excellent modulation, unparalleled stopping power.) Cable driven disc systems still need cables replaced every now and then (more frequently on cross bikes) and carry the risk of cables snapping or snagging, rendering the brake useless. Some models are very good, such as the Avid BB7, however, given the choice I’d recommend an upgrade to hydraulics.
Most new bikes sadly come with rubbish tyres. Factor in the intended use of your new cyclocross bike and set aside a budget for some good quality, puncture resistant and suitably constructed (size, tread depth, compound) tyres.
The Eastway CX2.0 in action. Photo courtesy of ©DenizErkan
A very personal thing, choose groupset based on ergonomics and usability. Shimano offers shims to adjust lever reach for small hands, whilst SRAMs levers are all independently reach adjustable, making exact, fine-tuned set up. Campagnolo offers something similar, but the ergonomics of having to use your thumb can be off putting for some people. Try each of them out and decide what you like using the most. It’s only really at the shifters where you’ll notice a discernible difference in each of the three brands. The rest is aesthetics and specification. SRAM is usually lighter for the money, whilst Campagnolo is almost always more expensive, and difficult to get hold of. Shimano is ubiquitous, priced in the middle and performs there too.
Whilst its entirely possible to ride off road, on road pedals, if you want to get serious about the sport, you’ll need to invest in some MTB style pedals. The difference here is that the cleat (the part of the pedal system attached to your shoe) is a lot smaller than a typical road cleat, allowing it to fit in a recessed part of your shoe. This means the shoe can have plenty of tread and walking surface to get you through the mud safely, with the cleat free of the debris.
Shimano leads the way here with the best value for money in its SPD range of pedals. Alternatives include LOOK, TIME, Crankbrothers. Pick one based on price, weight and aesthetic. They all function in a very similar way.
What else do you need to have fun on a cross bike?
Bright lights to light up the trail, spare tubes and a pump are a must, but CO2 inflators are a big bonus when you are cold, wet and just want to get home. Take a tyre boot too (piece of old tyre cut into 1-2 inch strip) for emergency tyre repairs, or buy a set of tyre boots like the Park TB-2. It’s always surprising how much an errant branch can damage even the finest rubber. Other than that, get out there and have fun!
Hadron Cycles is a local bike shop based in Islington who aim to cater for all types of cyclists and run regular weekly rides. Contact them for help in buying you CX bike.
Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!