Racing in blue (top), our Head of the Charles crew (left),
and me in the Single (right)
The first time I went for a "real" mountain bike ride, I rolled up to join the U of T Mountain Bike Team with no knowledge of athletic pursuits except what I'd learned on the U of T Varsity Rowing Team. Hydration in the boat consisted of sipping water from your Nalgene bottle while stopped for the coach's feedback. Snacks were safely stored in our packs back at the boat house, ready for devouring after our 2-2.5 hour workout. This all makes sense because while you've got your hands on a blade (rower speak for "oar"); you should definitely not remove them while your crew is cruising along at 30 strokes per minute ... that's a good way to "catch a crab" and probably knock out your teeth, or get knocked out the boat.
A few rides after that wake-up call, I line up for the
Ganaraska University Cup, 2004. Still no bottle cage.
So, considering myself fit and athletic thanks to all the rowing, I appeared for my first group ride on a brand new Rocky Mountain Fusion (with a Judy fork) which I thought was the most amazing bike ever. I splurged on it, spending almost $800, which I remember thinking was very expensive. But I didn't know to splurge on a water bottle cage. So I didn't have a water bottle, either. I also didn't have gloves, glasses or even a decent pair of cycling shorts -- I just threw on what I would wear in the boat: some spandex shorts and a crew top. I quickly found out that riding and rowing had very little in common, and I got my butt kicked in all kinds of news ways: it was hard physically, mentally, and I learned what "bonk" means.
My point is, you never know a thing until you know it. Now I know, but recently, a friend new to cycling was busy racking up miles and one day she asked, "Should I be eating on the bike? I rode all the way to San Clemente and on the way back, I was feeling really wobbly and nauseated."
The answer is yes. Our muscles need fuel, just like a car does. But instead of gasoline, we call it glycogen, and our bodies turn carbohydrates we eat into the glycogen we burn. Cycling is an endurance sport and since it's common to be at it for more than an hour at a time, you have to refill the tank or all kinds of uncomfortable things start to happen. So, having learned my lesson, here's what I do now.
In Your Bottle
I'm a sensitive sort when it comes to sports drinks so it took me a long time to find one that works for me, and even now, I tend to keep my bottles more diluted than other riders. Be open to the process for yourself as well. Try different options until you find one that works for you. If you're interested in becoming a racer, race day is not the right time to try something new. Use your training rides to experiment. For me, GU Energy products like the electrolyte brew or tablets (gluten free!) do the trick.
Although these drinks taste sweet (sugar = carbohydrate), they're actually salty. You're getting important sodium/electrolytes; as you sweat, these stores are depleted, and for proper functioning and hydration, you've got to get that back in. Take a sip every 15 minutes or so, or finish a bottle every hour. More if it's hot out.
Food: To Go
To keep going strong, I know I need to consume about 300 calories per hour while I'm on the bike, especially in a race. One Salted Caramel GU (my first pick) comes with 100 calories. So at least every 20-30 minutes I grab one of those. GU--or any other gel--is great because it is easy to grab from your jersey pocket, easy to open, and easy to eat with just one hand so there's no need to slow down or stop. Gels are also easy to digest. Fun fact: Digestion takes up to 60% of our body's energy! So by taking gels that are already highly processed and contain only what your body needs for the task at hand, you can keep your body's resources where you need them: your legs!
If the clock isn't running, like when I'm out training, then I like to add in more "complicated" treats, like gummies or energy bars, or my favorite guilty pleasure, Lay's potato chips. For those, it's nice to take a pause with a nice view, refuel, and then be on your way. Another great trick I use is to pick the treat I'd like to have -- for example, a dirty chai latte from my favorite coffee shop, Ellie's Table. It's 60 miles from home, but knowing that's waiting for me, with a fresh kale salad or some other delicious treat is a great way to keep me motivated.
When You're Done
Back to the rowing for a second: the reason we had snacks in our packs is because right after all that work, your body is looking for something to use to rebuild. You have about 30-45 minutes to get something in you that makes the most of the work you just did. So grab something with protein (tuna, nuts, a sandwich, a protein bar) and grab it quick. I also try to think about how many calories I've burned and replace that amount so that I don't end up in a deficit, not to mention tired, depleted, and hangry ... which leads to over training, not to mention strained relationships.
Remember, when you train, you're breaking your body down. Muscles are tearing, blood vessels expand, and tendons are stressed. If your body is a house under renovation, and every time you work out, it's like you knock down a wall, think about what you want used to build that back up again. Junk food is glorious, I know, but do you want a house made out of sand bags? Choose healthy, clean foods that would be akin to making your house out of sturdy bricks.
So in summary! Eat on the bike, about 300 calories an hour. Drink on the bike, water or electrolyte drink, to the tune of one bottle per hour. And when you get home, grab something high in protein to help turn you into a powerhouse. Here's a video Trek Factory Racing put together about their nutrition strategies. Check it out!
But at the last minute, and with enough time passed for my knee to heal back to function, Jake again asked if I could come out for a photo shoot. I was really happy to work with him because his work is always amazing. But it's also nice to have photographic evidence of the rediscovery of my trail mojo. This was only my second ride back after the big crash, and sessioning these rock gardens with the welcome pressure of a camera was the perfect catalyst to getting back on the bike.
Thanks to Jake, Elise and Liv Cycling for the chance to play on the new Intrigue. Super fun bike, with a confidence-inspiring ride.
So you want to start mountain biking? You're keen to explore the roads and bike paths in your area on a road bike? You think you'll be spending more than 90 minutes at a time in the saddle? Maybe even try a race?
Let's start by reminding ourselves that purchasing a bike is more like making an investment than buying a commodity. This is about carving out some time for yourself, staying active, meeting new people, seeing new places, and of course having fun.
With so many amazing advances in technology, and an abundance of choice (and an avalanche in the realm of women's specific, I might add), purchasing a bike is a big decision, and I'm guessing it comes with a bigger price tag than what you were expecting. Every time I get asked this question, my answer is met with a jaw drop:
Two thousand dollars.
If you're buying a new bike, I recommend having at least $2,000 to play with. That's usually about twice what people expect so if you are set on $1,000, I would recommend checking out the used market on Craigslist, Kijiji or the classified of popular cycling sites like CanadianCyclist.com, PinkBike.com, or MTBR.com/RoadBikeReview.com. Have an experienced friend help you vet them, and be sure to inspect the bike before you buy, if possible.
If buying new, the jump in quality you experience from that first extra $1,000 is really substantial and could make the difference between you riding the bike for a few years, or quickly growing out of it and buying the $2,000 one anyway.
This is one woman's opinion, but here's my thinking:
Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt's geometry.
All these angles and measurements combine
to make a ride that's perfect for you!
This is BY FAR the most important part of your bicycle purchase. Take the time to figure out which frame works best for you by visiting your would-be beauties in the shop, or better yet, at a demo day. Sit on it, ride it, get that experienced friend or someone from the shop to help make sure you've got a good fit. You'll need to decide if you want to go with a hard tail (more economical) or a full-suspension (more expensive) and that will depend on what kind of riding you plan to do. Once you have your frame figured out, most manufacturers offer a range of builds that will suit your budget. For example, since I am currently in bike-shopping mode, I know that for the BC Bike Race, I am stoked on Rocky Mountain's new Thunderbolt frame. The frame has the same basic geometry across all six models on offer (caveat: the MSL bikes in the top end have a few small geo tweaks thanks to the Ride-9 System), which range in price from $1,999 all the way to $10,999. So what's the difference? Read on ...
A high-end groupset by Campagnolo
featuring carbon fiber details
2) Components and Tech
Your $2,000 will put you on the low-end of most trail- or road-worthy bicycles. Not to say that you'll be unsafe on a bike that you got for $400 at Wal-Mart (well actually, you might be), but I can say with almost 100% certainty that as you quickly surf that learning curve into the sport, it won't take long before you become unsatisfied. The more money you invest in your bicycle, the better, lighter, and more durable the components that come with it. I'm talking about shifters, derailleurs, cassettes, chainrings, cranks, bottom bracket, hubs, brakes, wheels, suspension (if applicable), and even saddle. This is one of those areas in life where you do truly get what you pay for.
*Tip: Almost all components can be swapped out! Start with a basic build on a frame you know works for you, and extend the life and enjoyment of your bike by making upgrades as you go.
Carbon Fiber is LIGHT
- from hiconsumption.com
Carbon fibre is nice, but it's not mandatory. Anytime carbon is introduced into the mix -- frame, wheels, fork, stem, bar, seat post etc -- the price is going to go up. The weight will also come down which for many riders (especially women and racers) is worth the price you pay. But if you want to keep the price of your bike down, stick with aluminum, steel or titanium.
There is really only one thing I would insist is included on your bike and that's disc brakes. They're safer, stronger, and they'll bring you a ton more confidence in your riding. Most modern mountain bikes now come with disc brakes, but if you find the rare exception, I would advise you to steer clear. Now, even road bikes are coming over to disc brakes, so keep your eye out for those and bring the same braking confidence we've had on the trail out onto the road.
Best of luck to everyone thinking about making a bicycle purchase this fall -- the 2015s are out and hopefully these tips will help you bring one home to your stable that you can enjoy for years to come. Just remember to leave some room in your budget for the other stuff, like pedals, helmets, shoes, kits, and my personal favorite: A bike fit.
For a list of 12 affordable mountain bikes, check out MTBR's roundup here.
This one gave me chills. Anka Martin puts into words exactly how I've been feeling. I hope this inspires some more ladies to try racing. In fact it's part of a new invitation Juliana is sharing to get involved with their brand: http://www.julianabicycles.com/en/us/ambassador-program
Thanks to one of my frequent readers Ben for sharing this with me today, saying, "If we all want more women racing or just riding mountain bikes i feel this video can appeal to both genders. I know i race to push myself and to take me to new places. Podiums are just one very small aspect of riding to me. Maybe we are not advertising properly to women?" I think Juliana Bicycles was one step ahead of Ben on that one, which is one of the [many] reasons I find the brand exciting. Here's what I had to say in a past TGR article on this topic:
...the Juliana Bicycle Company is especially women’s specific in one meaningful way: Marketing.
Remember what catalogs used to look like? Big, cheesy smiles in a studio with every sock, sweater set, and trouser laid out in grids, complete with order form in the back? The marketers that speak to women from the fashion industry—a very powerful, insightful chorus, I would argue—still send a catalog. But today they call it a “look book” and each one is themed and styled with models, carefully selected pieces from the latest collection and far-flung locales, all captured by an editorial-style photographer. The look book is designed to make you want to be the people in the pictures, not just have their clothes. They sell ideas and lifestyles just as much as clothing and accessories.
A fleet of Julianas descend. Photo by Will Ockelton.
The Juliana brand does the same thing. It shows women on epic adventures at the tops of mountains, getting out of helicopters, railing corners, and riding off into the sunset. The website is full of images with golden-hour drenched sunlight and women ripping. The images help women feel like mountain biking is for us too, and in a much more meaningful way than a cute paint job (though they definitely have those) or a slightly narrower grip, or a saddle that accommodates a woman’s anatomy.
As a racer, I can’t help but notice the low turnout at my local start lines, but I think it’s because women see mountain biking the way Juliana Bicycles does: A way to connect with each other, have adventures, challenge themselves, see beautiful things—and that doesn’t necessarily mean racing. Juliana Bicycles is active on social media, reaching more and more women, and encouraging them to share photos of themselves riding their way through contests like #MyRoubion. They make you want to go on a ride with them, and I think that’s a good thing for women, and the sport.
At the Team Ninja party last Thursday, I had the chance to share some thoughts about women's racing with my teammates, and with people curious about joining Team Ninja, too. Thanks to everyone for listening then, and to Richard for the chance to speak! I thought it might help with my "challenge" to share my words here as well.
I have been racing mountain bikes for a long time and I have never been part of a team that made it as much fun
as Team Ninja does. This is a really
special thing, and I want to make sure everyone knows I think that because as
the saying goes, “fish don’t know they’re in water” … we’ve got a really good
thing going. And even more
special to me is to be part of a team that has such a strong female core.
We girls are gems in
every sense, of course -- brilliant, beautiful, sparkly, and you can find us in
the dirt -- but actually I think the quality we share most with gems is rarity. Richard asked me if there’s anything I’d like to add to tonight's presentation so I'm here to say this:
Let’s invite more
women to find out how awesome racing is.
biking is going through this amazing growth spurt … but women’s racing seems to
shrink with every event. I think this team
has the momentum, influence and inspiring qualities to help more women discover racing.
So for 2015, I
would love it if everyone, especially we ladies, invited a lady to try racing. You can do it in
person, you can help promote local events to groups you ride with (events like
Ninja Night Race, for example), and you can share stories about all the other stuff about racing that’s easier to warm up to than redlining for two hours
Let’s talk about how
this team is also a bunch of friends that hang out in cabins and campgrounds and
goes for awesome trail rides together, and trains together. Let’s make sure they
know that we’re all here to help them make sure their bike is ready, that
they’re ready, and to high-five them once they cross the line in glory! Because there’s
no feeling like it ... setting a goal, reaching it, celebrating it.
And finally, let’s
find out what’s keeping them back. Ask them. I’d love to know
what they say because if it’s something manageable … like confidence … maybe we
can help remove the barrier.
And if it’s
something bigger -- like being intimidated by aggressive riders on the course
as we saw after Fontana this year -- then maybe we can use our influence as the
best, most-awesome team in SoCal to talk to organizers or the USAC to bring on
This is a topic close to my heart, so I’d be happy to chat more about it, any time, on any channel.
She-Ninjas at the Team Ninja Cabin in Big Bear this spring: Heidi, Paula, Kris, Lisa, Regina
My RIDE kit by Squadra - one of my favorites
thanks to its very bright accent colors
(and Gerhard, another one of my favorites)
I recently had the absolute joy of introducing road riding to an athlete as a way to build her endurance/fitness in her off season.
While she is super excited about learning all she can about bikes, components and even the nitty gritty things that come with proper training, she has yet to warm up to our funny cycling clothes.
"Do I have to wear that jersey?" she asks. The answer is of course not. Wear whatever you want. It's far far better to get on the bike than let something like wardrobe anxiety keep you on the bench.
However, for me, a jersey -- with full zip, technical material, bright colors and three pockets -- is required equipment. The only time I wear something *other* than that is if I'm out for a "baggies" ride and carrying a pack, or if I'm just commuting.
Giro's new Halter Bib shorts go
with almost any top for
easier calls of nature.
As seen at Interbike
If you wear bib-style shorts (the kind that have straps like built-in suspenders) this is especially important. Because bathroom breaks. Jersey off, straps down, business time (although check out Giro's new bib shorts - halter top style really helps in this department, as do "uni strap" designs by Assos and Eliel).
I also like a full zip in case I want to unzip the front for maximum cooling. California gets hot so being able to add all that extra venting is a very nice option.
I know I said you could wear whatever you want on the bike, but I'll back pedal a little here and say "anything but cotton." Yuck. Soggy mess. Technical fabric, unlike cotton, breathes and wicks away sweat for much more comfortable riding.
Jason from RIDE models the new Eliel kits
in highly-visibly pink
Bottom line: I want to be seen. 40% of all collisions of cars and cyclists that result in the death of the cyclist occur in hit-from-behind situations. I do everything I can, short of a safety vest, to be seen. I'd also recommend a red blinky light to go with that new jersey and stay safe.
One note though. The yellow jersey is reserved for the winner of the Tour de France. So pick any other color for your jersey. I'm a fan of RIDE cyclery's kits by Eliel Cycling because they look bright and awesome, perform great, and they're made right here in California.
If you're new to cycling, you may be surprised to learn you've gotta know more than how to ride your bike. It's a great investment in your future avoidance of frustration and anxiety to get some instruction on how to do some basic fixes. Like changing a tube, or adjusting your gears.
Hero Kits are a great option for pocket-sized
solutions. I flatted on a BC Bike Race training
ride and thanks to these tools, I was able to
keep going with just a few minutes of
To help with these tasks, on every bike ride, I bring the following items:
- spare tube
- tire levers
- co2 cartridges (2) and dispenser
It's also nice to have some arm warmers (and a place to put them when you're done with them), extra sunscreen/chamois cream for those longer rides, and of course, snacks!
All of these items fit in my pockets and it's MUCH more comfortable than riding a road bike with a pack. That's pretty much the worst.
If you want to get really nerdy on jersey tips, I encourage you to check out "The Rules" number 7, 16, 17, 18, and 31. But for now, I hope this helps you to answer the eternal question in any situation, including bike rides: "What should I wear?"
You know what's really flattering? When one of you gents or ladies out there asks my advice on something to do with bicycling.
Whether you want to get into the sport, are wondering about something you've tried or experienced, want to talk about racing, or have questions about what bike or equipment to get, I love helping you figure out what might get you to your next level.
Thanks for trusting me with your wonderings!
I was telling Gerhard about it after a question came in this morning and he had the genius suggestion that I could blog about it! That way, you can all benefit from each others' queries. And don't worry, I'll keep it anonymous.
So if you have a cycling-related question, do what you've been doing--get in touch via Facebook, Twitter, in the comments, or by text/email. And I'll start posting up some recent answers in the very near future, right here.
If you have mountain bikers in your social feeds, you've probably noticed this stunner has taken the internet by storm.
I love Danny MacAskill videos because he clearly looks at the world in a different way than I do, and it's a delight to see things his way.
So enjoy this one. DM is back on a mountain bike and with hints of Jeremy Jones' "Higher" from the snowboard world, he's also doing some heavy-duty mountaineering to access the lines of his imagination.
Also enjoyed the opening in which Danny rows to the "trailhead" (my other favorite sport!). Though I felt bad for him at the end when he was clearly wishing he'd moored his boat a little more tightly ;)
Today is the day Coach Richard and I have selected as day one of base, strength training and ultimately, the 2015 race season. So if you're looking for me, I'm probably out on the road bike, doing long, lonely, steady miles. Now taking music recommendations!
2015 has many exciting things to look forward to, including the Kenda Cup West series (as opposed to the Eastern edition -- new this year!) and the US Cup, which appears is really just the California Cup, with one token Colorado stop at the end -- no wonder, since everywhere else will be covered in snow, and mother nature has not blessed us with precipitation of any kind. Expect dusty race courses!
Anyway, mark your calendars and get to work on those race schedules. 2015 is coming.
Interbike only lasts a few days but since those days are mostly spent without fresh air or natural light, it's easy to lose count. Especially since it all becomes a blur of shiny bits, objects of desire, and tremendous innovations cyclists didn't even know they needed.
I spent the better part of the week (one day at Outdoor Demo and three at Interbike) covering the show for both Teton Gravity Research and mtbr.com/roadbikereview.com.
And here's what I saw! Below, you'll find all of my articles and "best of" lists in one place - hope you enjoy! I certainly enjoyed chasing them down. BIG thank you to TGR's Jon Grinney who snapped photos for me and kept up with my warp speed charge. And more thank yous to all the gang at MTBR and Road Bike Review for having me along as well.
And if you read this far ... here's a special treat. With MTBR/RoadBikeReview, we put together these entertaining, informative video wrap-ups to share with you the kinds of chats we have at the end of the day, anyway. I think they turned out alright!
I'm just putting the finishing touches on all the arrangements to head to Las
Vegas for Interbike 2014, the largest bicycle tradeshow in North America.
I’ll be visiting with booths at Outdoor Demo on Tuesday and then retreating to the
air-conditioned tradeshow floor of the Mandalay for three days of Interbike.
I’m on the hunt
for the latest and greatest in mountain biking, and
will be sharing the results of my detective work via Teton Gravity
Research, so stay tuned!
Photo credit: Interbike
I’m also looking forward to catching up with friends, sponsors and clients from the past year
and showing off some spiffy new business cards, thanks to LiFT Creative - the team behind this year's Belgian Huis. If you’re planning to be at the show, let’s connect!
Safe travels to everyone as you start making your way to Vegas! We're leaving on Friday for a "quick detour" to Tahoe to catch the Jeremy Jones: Higher premiere. Stoked!