Thursday, May 15, 2008

Century Ride Tips

ABOVE: Team in Training member David Blackmon

My husband and I have been involved with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Team in Training program for the past three years. This year my husband, Rob, is coaching and I am mentoring, the team training for the Intracoastal Century Ride. This is a 100 mile road bike ride which takes place in Cocoa Beach, Florida on October 26th.

We have a fantastic team this year - 21 members so far, and we are hoping to get a few more cyclists signed up. Our very first ride, for the fall 2008 season, took place on Mother's Day - Sunday, May 11th. One of our team members, David Blackmon, took the initiative to contact road bikers, bike manufacturers, team directors, etc, asking them for advice for a person's first century ride.

The question David placed to them was:

"Other than a new bike, what are your suggestions on the most important
upgrade/accessory for a beginner to intermediate level rider?... How would
you suggest a rider spend perhaps $100-$200 to best improve that rider's
experience and performance in his or her first century ride?"

Here's the responses David received:

Thank you for writing with your interest in Slipstream/Chipotle H3O. Your request is an interesting one and we gathered some tips from various sources for you and your team.

Though, ultimately, there is no need to spend money if you already have and been training with the correct equipment and clothing. But here are some suggestions nonetheless:

The right equipment means comfort. Your bike should fit you well and should be familiar. If you aren’t sure, have your local bike professional provide a fit-assessment. Don’t plan to ride a new or a borrowed bike on your first century. Consider having a tune-up before the ride, and carry a spare tire and patch kit, tools, a pump and knowledge of how to use them. Other essential equipment includes:

• A properly fit helmet
• Comfortable cycling clothing, including shoes, shorts, gloves and rain gear
• Sunglasses

Hope this helps. We wish you all great success in your worthwhile efforts.

Woody, Web Editor, Slipstream Sports, LLC

.... One of the most efficient ways to improve the ride quality of any bicycle, as well as shaving a few pounds of weight off your equipment, is a lighter, higher quality set of wheels. These will be lighter, ride better and are transferable to other bikes as you upgrade. Lighter wheels can shave several pounds off the average bike. They also feel great when you ride them too.

Good wheels can be more expensive than your budget you mention, so this might still be out of reach for you. If you have decent wheels already, you might have to spend $500 on a new set, but if you're riding some really low end, inexpensive wheels, spending just $200-300 can really improve your ride. Look for new or used options to help stretch the budget.

If you want to increase your rider comfort, you can invest in a premium pair of shorts or bib shorts. This might not seem like a big deal, but it can make a huge difference when you're training and competition over long distances. The more comfortable the shorts are, the more miles you will want to ride. Some shorts are cheap and wear out quickly. Some shorts, like the Hincapie HC-12 bib shorts, have a 4-way stretch chamois that moves with the body to eliminate hot spots and chafing. The high tech construction will hold up wash after wash for all your training miles. Cheaper shorts will degrade and fall apart much faster.

I hope these suggestions will help you make gains in your fitness and comfort as you pursue your cycling goals. Ride safely and have fun.

Steve Baker, Marketing Director, Hincapie Sportswear, Inc.

The biggest thing you can do for a Century Ride is the training and preparation that comes with the Team in Training program. Make sure you follow a consistent ride schedule and build your fitness over at least a 10-12 week period. It's been my experience that many riders try to shorten the process and miss many of the base building rides that are so critical for a 100 mile effort.

Also keep in mind that you will be much stronger if your weekly riding involves a balance of time on the bike each day. Many riders with stiff work and domestic schedules often try to "stack" their riding to two long rides on the will be much better if you can fit in an hour per day and keep the weekend rides at moderate levels, but building through the summer.

As for a moderate expense that will pay dividends I suggest you make sure you are using a good energy-electrolyte drink while riding and especially for any ride over two hours in length. Personally, I think EFS from First Endurance is the best product available.

Len Pettyjohn, Team Director, Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team

That is great David! I hope to do a century ride this summer as well.
Good luck! ....

I would say that your best upgrade would be clipless pedals, shoes and good clothing. The shoes and pedals will increase your energy transfer and efficiency. The clothes will make you more comfortable for a long fun day in the saddle.

Also make sure you have enough water and tools with you. If you want to upgrade the bike, you may want to look at a new pair of wheels.
Have fun!

Jason Schumacher, Customer and Technical Service Manager
Trek Bicycle Corporation

...But I'm glad to hear you're getting involved with Team in Training. It's a great organization and you'll certainly get a huge amount of satisfaction from riding your first century. I'd say that the number one place to spend money in order to make that ride enjoyable is on a high quality saddle. Find a bike shop with a liberal return policy and try a few out. I went through probably ten saddle models before I finally settled on the Fizik Aliante, and now I wouldn't let any sponsor commitments make me change. Everyone's different, and it makes such a huge difference in comfort.

After that, a good pair of cycling shorts is also crucial. More money leads to a higher quality chamois (though none are actually made of made of chamois leather anymore), and that really makes a difference.

Also, clipless pedals are completely indispensable. Practice pedaling a full circle with them. Greg Lemond has likened it to pretending to scrape mud off the bottom of your shoe across the bottom of the pedal stroke. You can also practice by pedaling with one leg. If you're using more muscles in your legs, and not just your quads to push down, you'll fatigue a lot more slowly and you won't be as sore afterward.

But certainly do not waste money on fancy racing parts. That stuff only makes a difference when you're worried about the final 10%. If you're comfortable, just about any bike will be suitable for a hundred miles.

I hope that helps. Have fun.

Doug Ollerenshaw, Professional Cyclist, Team Rock Racing

Good luck to you and your teammates in TeamInTraining. It's a great organization doing good things.

In the $100-200 range I would suggest the following upgrades

1) Better saddle
2) Better tires
3) Better handlebar tape (better padding)

You can't do all three of these for $200, but you can do either 1 and 3 or 2 and 3 most likely (though there are saddles that run more than $200.

Better tires will make the bike feel and corner better. A high thread count is the key here, just like sheets. Anything more than 200 TPI is good. A better saddle is more comfortable and better bar tape will make not only the rider's hands more comfortable but their arms and shoulders more comfortable.

Patrick, Felt Bicycles

If you can afford it, and don't already have some, get clipless pedals and shoes. The increase in efficiency from platforms pedals is off the charts!

Jesse Lawler, Director Sportif, Jittery Joe's Professional Cycling Team

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