Friday, February 20, 2009

Bike cleaning 101

“A clean bike is a fast bike.”
Paul Terranova

I can’t stress enough the effects a clean bike has on performance. If your bike is dirty and gunky then it’s more likely to perform poorly than it would if it were clean.

When to clean your bike: Really you should do some sort of cleaning to your bike after every ride. Sometimes a simple wipe down will do when other times require more detailed work. A simple wipe down can be done after a spin class where Chrissie has just killed you and there is sweat all over your bike. Especially the front end (brake caliper, fork and stem). A more detailed cleaning needs to be done after a wet ride. Even if you just went through a puddle of water you should clean your entire bike.

Where to clean your bike: The garage is always a great place to start. Sometimes we don’t have the garage option so find a place that you don’t mind getting a little dirty…. porch, driveway, patio or bathroom. That’s right, I said bathroom. I have used the b-room more than once to clean my bike. I just stuck my bike in the bath tub and used the moveable shower head to get it sparkly clean.

Why: Explained above. Plus it could save you some costly repairs down the road.

Who: That who is you!!!! Why you? Simple, because the more times you clean your bike the more familiar you are with how it works. After cleaning your bike a few times you’ll realize things you didn’t know before and if something goes wrong on a ride you have a better chance of figuring it out with the basic knowledge you have of your bike. Seriously… I learn something new each weekend when I clean people’s bikes. It’s interesting and it’s saved my butt more than once on the road.

How: How I do it is I start with the front wheel and work backwards. I clean the front wheel and inspect the tire and make sure there is no wobble to the wheel. I then move onto the fork and front brake caliper. Next would be the front stem and handle bar set I have. Using a q-tip to get into the hard to reach places. Moving along, I head to the top tube, seat/ seat post and down tube. Next, I’ll remove and clean the rear tire. While I have it off I’ll clean the rear brake caliper and inspect the tire/wheel. Now comes the fun part… the derailleur. The easiest way to clean this is to just spray the entire thing down with Simple Green and then do your best to clean off all the dirt, grease and dead animals. Put your tires back on and clean the pedals and chain. The chain can be cleaned with Simple Green and using some elbow grease you can make your chain last a lot longer. Once you are done with that lube your chain and take your bike for a short spin running it through all the gears making sure that it’s still all in sync.

This should take you a little less than 1 hour. You’ll need some rags, Simple Green or another cleaner and some chain lube. A good rule of thumb is to clean and lube your chain every 4 rides or every 150 miles.
Coach Logan

Friday, February 13, 2009

Hills Hills Hills

If you’re going to ride a bike in Austin, you’re going to ride hills. Learning how to ride them will help make your ride a lot more enjoyable. Personally, I love riding hills. Something about reaching the top of a steep climb gives me this sense of achievement that I do not get when riding flats. I even use hills to help determine my fitness level. When I do the Bee Caves loop, the numbers of times I need to get out of the saddle to get up a hill helps me determine where I am in my cycling fitness.

But I digress. I want to spend a few minutes to give advice on how to help anyone become a good hill climber. In my opinion there are three key areas to better climbing, 1) technique and gears, 2) leg strength, and a 3) mental attitude.

Techniques include body movement and placement, gearing, cadence, breathing and heart rate (effort). Your upper body should be relaxed and rock slightly with each peddle stroke. Your hands should be relaxed and almost resting on the handle bars; you should not be griping the handlebars with a lot of strength. Too much movement or too much tension in the upper body wastes energy. Your shoulders should be back and ‘open’; it allows your chest to breathe efficiently. Sitting back in the saddle during the climb gains you a leverage advantage on the pedals.

When starting a hill, pick a gear so that your cadence is relatively high. As you progress up the hill, shift to higher gears as your cadence drops; always try to keep the cadence above 75-80. Keeping your cadence high helps to prevent muscles from fatiguing early in the climb and keeps your legs from producing large quantities of lactic acid. It is also easier on the knees and back. If you find that can’t keep your cadence above 70 in your easiest gear, you may need to have a higher gear installed. Normally I ride a 12-25 on a hilly course and I’m thinking about using a 12-27 for my Canada race later this year (you have to save those legs for the run).

You should always climb in YOUR comfort zone. It doesn’t matter if someone is passing you at the beginning of the hill, they may blow up towards the top and you don't want to spiked your HR to keep up. Your goal is to keep your breathing deep and comfortable; your heart rate should stay below your threshold level. I try to find a rhythm to where I can keep the same effort for the entire length of the hill.

I like to hear to listen to people debate about standing versus sitting in riding hills. They see the pros standing in the Tour de France as they attack a hill and think they can do that. First of all, they are pros. And secondly, they don’t have to run after the race. TdF riders get a massage and relax after their ride. Its better for tri athletes to sit in the saddle and keep their efforts constant for the entire ride and not to the surge attacks up the hill. Another reason to stay in the saddle is to help keep your heart rate down. The general rule of thumb is your heart rate increase 5 to 10 beats per minute compared to sitting at the same speed. And you have to use your upper body muscles to keep you in control. It’s okay to stand up to stretch and to give your cadence a little jump, but sit down as quickly as possible.

There are a lot of exercises to build leg strength. The two I like the most are doing hill repeats and stairs. When doing hill repeats, find a hill that has a long steady steep climb that you can do 4 to 6 times. I have two ways of doing the repeats. One is to keep the gear as low as possible and your cadence around 60. These are slow climbs using a lot of strength and your heart rate will probably be above threshold. The other is to just hammer up the hill as fast as you can. When you do hill repeats, they never get easier, you just get faster. Running stairs simulates the peddle stroke and can be a very effective way of building strength. I like to find a parking garage that has about 4 or 5 levels and run to the top as fast as I can, repeat 3 to 5 times.

Greg LeMond said “There’s not much difference in the perceived effort between a 40-minute time trial on the fast flat road and a 40-mintue hard climb. But most riders perceive climbing as harder. You need to adjust your thinking to be a good climber.” So the next time you see a hill, just smile and know that it’s no difference then riding hard on a flat road. This slight mental change will make the hill seam easier and be a lot more fun to ride.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Shin Splints...Sheesh

I don't know about you guys, but I have been plagued with shin splits for as long as I can remember. Even back in middle school and high school, I would leave my basketball or volleyball practices feeling like I couldn't take another step. Let's not even talk about the discomfort of doing any speed work on the track. Shin splints are a pain (literally) and seem to linger on from season to season unless you take very good preventitive care and stay on top of it throughout your training.

Here are a few tips and tricks that have helped me tackle the pain:

1. Warm-Up & Heat - Make sure to get your legs nice and warm before starting any workouts that may cause shin pain. You want to make sure that the muscles that attach to the tibia and fibula have adequate blood flow before you begin your exercise - tight and stiff muscles/tendons risk being stretched beyond their natural range of movement resulting in pain and inflamation. I have found that heating the lower leg (whirl pool or heating pad) seems to really help my legs feel better as I get started with my workout. You can also warm up the muscles in the front of the shin by doing foot circles (circles, up/down, right/left).

2. Strength - It is very important to keep up with your calf and hamstring exercises if you have trouble with shin pain. Calf raises (straight, toes out and toes in) as well as hamstring curls (heels up on the bouncy-ball, shoulders on the ground, hips raised, curl your heels in) are both great exercises to incorporate into your core workout (3 sets of 15, 2-4 times weekly). Maintaining strength in these antagonist muscles will help reduce the tension on the muscles in the front of the shin.

3. Stretching - In addition to strengthening the muscles, you want to stretch very well before and after workouts. Calf and hamstring stretches are important as well as stretching the muscles in the front of the foot/ankle. To get a better stretch for the front muscles in the lower leg, start in the calf stretch position (pushing your arms against the wall, pressing the calves to the ground) and then push your knee slightly forward (your heel coming up in the back).

4. Exercises without Resistance - Making circles or writing the alphabet with your foot is an easy way to strengthen the smaller muscles in the front of the leg or shin area as well as the ankle. The great thing about these exercises is that you can do them easily during the day or while sitting at your desk.

5. Exercises with Resistance - The elastic bands are great for this. Have a friend hold the elastic band on both ends pulling against your foot. Hang your foot over the edge of a bench or ledge and raise your toes back toward your shin (3 sets of 15) - you should feel this in the outside of your lower leg. You can also do this by tying the elastic band in a loop and hooking it around a heavy object like a table. With this method, you should do three different exercises - up and down, center to right and center to left. Make sure that you are only moving your foot(not the knee or leg).

6. Shoes Shoes Shoes - With all the miles that we put on our legs, we should be replacing our shoes about every 400 miles or 3-6 months (most people don't replace their shoes frequently enough, leading to injuries). You also want to make sure you have the right shoes for your foot type and/or running style. Problems with pronation, poor running technique and low arches (flat feet) are all common causes of shin splints. Most running stores can watch you run to determine what shoes will work best for you. Orthodics and inserts can also help tremendously.

7. **ART Therapy** - After years of battling shin splints, I found that ART therapy was the very best thing for my shins. It seemed like a miracle cure, although definitely not a pain free process (funny how those metal tools can be your best friend and enemy at the same time!) Fortunately (or unfortunately), you can do a similar type of therapy on yourself at home. Take the end of a spoon (top end) and run it up and down your shins to break up the adhesions that form along the bone. You can also grind your thumb up and down the shin bone. FUN, I know!

8. Too Much Too Fast - Shin splints often result from overloading your lower leg muscles. Increasing your intensity or duration too quickly as well as running on uneven surfaces or increased "pounding" on concrete/hard surfaces are a few of the most common causes of inflammation in these muscles. Make sure that when beginning a training program you build gradually and incorporate speed work at a moderate pace.

9. Ice - Make sure to ice your shins after every practice. Every practice. You can use ice bags, however running an ice block up and down the shin (or in small circles) is said to be more effective.

10. Rest - If none of these options have worked for you, I hate to say it but you might just need some good old fashioned rest. Triathletes are not good at this in general, but sometimes a day or two off the legs can really help. And don't worry, you aren't going to lose all your fitness in two days....seriously ;)

I hope that these tips will come in helpful! Feel free to ask me if you have any questions.

Coach Suzanne