Elite Cycling

Ins and Outs of Mountain Bike Time Trialing

October 15th, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By Jared Dunham

When you think of time trial racing, mountain bikes don’t usually come to mind, but occasionally you can get a race that combines the two. Time trials are the testing of the athlete against the clock, not other competitors. In a time trial race participants are sent off onto the race course one at a time with small gaps between each other. Each racer is timed individually and whoever finishes with the fastest time is the winner. While at there core, Road and Mountain Bike time trails follow the same formula, there are some differences compared to the MTB version.

The mountain bike time trials I’ve raced at are: Yankee Springs TT, Custer’s Last Stand, Luton Park TT, and M66 TT. These time trial races typically are on shorter distance courses (totaling 6 to 16 miles) and more about an all-out sprint than a long-distance ride. The races I’ve done had laps that are 6 to 8 miles with Beginner/Sport doing one lap and Expert/Elite completing two. Generally, the gap between racers seems to be 30 seconds across the board. These 30 seconds don’t seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, however they can make a real difference if competition is tight or if the trail is particularly technical.

Benefits

A major benefit to racing in this style is having the ability to host a race on trails that wouldn’t be able to handle a racing event otherwise. Some trails simply don’t have the room or positioning to host a mass start, or the path is too tight for racers to be jostling for placement on. Essentially the time trial can eliminate issues with racers trying to pass each other and going over the handlebars because the trail isn’t wide enough to ride side by side on. In my opinion, this makes it a safer race: everybody might still sprint to the finish line but at least there won’t be groups wrecking because of one misplaced pedal stroke!

Pacing

Pacing for these events is a little different from your typical mountain bike race. Not only is the race shorter but you can’t be sure how far ahead or behind you really are from everyone else, so the only thing you can do is leave it all out there! Since these races feature trails that are more technical or tight, naturally there are parts of the course where you won’t be able to put the pedal to the metal and must focus on simply navigating the trail. When I race these events, I’m putting in hard efforts for most of the race and am able to rest to some degree in the more technical sections.

Other Tips

Apart from all this I highly recommend doing a recon of the race course a few days before or a warm-up lap on it the day of. On these types of races you can typically get the edge by knowing it a little better. There will always be someone out there that is as familiar with the trail system as they are with the back of their hand so it’s important to do all you can do to tip the odds slightly in your favor. If you believe that your race will take less than 90 minutes, then you might consider staying hydrated and not taking any fluids with you while racing. I find that at these races I don’t have time to take in hydration or gels because of how short and intense they are. Every time trial I brought a water bottle, I barely used it so that water bottle could only be added weight. Also, I won’t bring tools out with me for these races. It’s more weight and the margin for error is so small that if you get a flat there’s no way you’re going to get a decent finish time when compared to the rest of the field. Lastly, for these races generally those who register the earliest get the best starting positions in the race so in this case the early bird could get the win!

If you’re interested in other endurance based mountain biking disciplines then consider looking up some Short Track, Marathon, or Ultra Endurance events, but these are a discussion for another day. Personally, I still prefer the traditional style of XC races with short, multiple laps and technical courses. But I think that a Time Trial race can add a special kind of flair to an otherwise normal race.

 


The Iceman Weapon Selection

October 15th, 2019 by Kaitlyn Patterson

-By Kaitlyn Patterson, Team Athletic Mentors cyclist

The question of the perfect Iceman bike is a favorite perennial debate. The reality that there is not just one ideal Iceman bike was illustrated in the past several years where the men’s race has been won on bikes ranging from full-suspension to full rigid with drop bars. I’ve split the difference over my five previous Iceman races- two on a full-suspension, three on a hardtail and this year is yet undecided.

I started out the sport on an entry level full suspension, 27.5 Giant Lust which was my Iceman bike in 2014 and 2015. In 2015 it was enough to hang with the leaders but ultimately end up fifth. In 2016 I upgraded to a Giant 27.5 XTC Advanced hardtail which was a factor in vying for the win and ultimately ending up second. I selected the XTC as a race rig for the Michigan fall classics as the simplicity, weight and versatility is hard to beat and it has represented well over the past three years. The responsiveness and quickness of the smaller wheels is definitely a benefit when trying to make the definitive moves necessary to break up a lead pack on the high-speed VASA highway. Although my fitness level was only high enough to do this (almost) successfully in 2016, the bike was definitely a factor in gapping the field on the Boonenberg climb that year.

However, this year with my partner in crime, Alex Vanias prioritizing ski training, his full-suspension Anthem Advanced 29er has been generously offered as a potential Iceman rig. Now it is my turn to weigh the pros and cons of full suspension versus hardtail. Although it rides very fast, much of the Iceman course is not particularly smooth, especially by the end of the day when many of the downhills are rutted from thousands of prior tires. Although the number of punchy climbs especially in the second half of the race are deceptively hard, there is not a lot of total climbing, negating some of the benefit of a hardtail setup.  Given that my descending and handling skills remain my weakness and I haven’t clocked as many hours on the bike this year, the handling itself may be worth the costs in weight and stiffness.

Although I think they would be neck and neck when raced side by side, I’m sure there are many theories in both directions. I will decide in the coming week and be looking at Peak2Peak for a test run of the chosen Iceman bike!


Iceman Cometh Yet Again

October 11th, 2019 by Kaitlyn Patterson

–By Kaitlyn Patterson, Team Athletic Mentors cyclist

The first Saturday in November is a date circled in red for the past five years and stands as my favorite bike race/party. Thinking about riding into Timber Ridge into the celebration zone usually gives me goosebumps all year.

I would love to say that every year I carefully crafted my training to arrive at Iceman as fit and fresh as possible, with my equipment dialed and mentally ready. In reality, most years my build-up has been less than perfect and the race itself has felt like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, with me more surprised than the crowd about the result. Starting medical school in 2016 has been an awesome ride but also a complicating factor in bike racing, mostly in the unpredictability and uncertainty of the process. I didn’t necessarily expect how unpredictable the schedules, clinical demands, testing schedules, and travel would be when I started, but this has been just as challenging as the material itself. However, exercise has always been my way to recharge which is why I prioritized it, even if not in the form of structured training on the bike. Every year certainly brought its own different challenges and it has been simply good timing that the fall was possible to spend more dedicated time on the bike and the season that I would get the itch to race.

Now in my final year of medical school, this season is turning out similar. I have spent the last two months living out of a suitcase rotating at Mayo Clinic and the University of Utah and will begin interviewing for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation residencies in the coming weeks. Although I didn’t plan to race given my interview schedule this fall, it looks like I may be able to line up in November. My summer and fall have been filled with plenty of explorations in new places by foot and bike, but certainly not structured training. However, Iceman is calling yet again and I will see what I can put together this year. The last several years have created some pretty high expectations but this year I’m just hoping to be able to stay in the mix.

In reflection of the past five years of Iceman and preparation of this year, I wanted to add to the Iceman banter. Over the following couple weeks, I will share a series of blogs sharing my thoughts and experiences on bikes, training and strategy for the big dance. Happy Iceman season!

 


Nerd Bomb: Rotational weight and the lies we have been fed for years

September 30th, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Robert Munro

This short article will teach you what matters and what doesn’t when it comes to “Rotational Weight”.  Since the dawn of lightweight bike stuff, we have been fed the adage that lightweight bike parts will make you go faster and if that thing is spinning it matters a whole lot more than if it isn’t. Unfortunately, this is a gross oversimplification. If you can make it through this quick physics lesson you will know what is worth spending your hard-earned money on and what isn’t.

Let’s review why weight matters on flat land. When you are moving along the road you have kinetic energy (measured in joules if we are keeping it metric). In order to get up to that speed you had to apply more power (Watts) than the road and the wind were exerting against you. That power went into your kinetic energy. If kinetic energy did not exist then you would immediately accelerate up to your desired speed. Once you are up to speed and your kinetic energy is constant, weight doesn’t matter anymore.

There are 2 types of kinetic energy that we care about on the bike, translational and rotational (formula below).

Definition of Translational Kinetic energy in words: Intrinsic energy you and your gear have by moving across the earth. Notice that speed is squared. This is partly why you can accelerate 0-15 mph a lot faster than 15-30 mph. All the mass counts for this part.

Definition of Rotational Kinetic Energy in words: Intrinsic energy the spinning stuff has. You must put energy in just to spin it. Only the spinning mass counts.

When you travel down the road (or trail) your kinetic energy is a summation of both. Therefore:

This also means that spinning stuff counts twice!

Important side note: Translational kinetic energy is a lot larger than rotational.

Now let’s define Moment of Inertia: A quantity expressing a body’s tendency to resist angular (spinning) acceleration. The 2 parts of Moment of inertia are the weight of this object and how far it is from the center of rotation. In fact this distance is squared. See formula below. Therefore the radius becomes significantly more important as it grows as does the mass of the object.

This should be the part of the article where I calculate (and graph) the rotational kinetic energy of all spinning bike components at different speeds. I will spare you that level of boredom. Unless of course I get enough comments on facebook asking for it ;). What I will do is boil it down to make it simple.

Tires, tubes (or sealant), and rims matter;

shoes matter a little;

everything else is negligible.

Finally, let’s talk about going uphill. When going uphill your mass will pull you downward. The relationship is linear. The kicker is that gravitational force does not care if something is spinning. Furthermore, lets remember that kinetic energy only “holds you back” when you accelerate with respect to the ground. If you are slowing down (and hence using your kinetic energy to overcome air resistance and mechanical drag for a time) like you would if you are hitting the bottom of the climb going fast, then having more kinetic energy is actually helpful! Therefore, rotational weight is not more important while climbing.

Whew, you made it! That was a proper Nerd Bomb. But now you are smarter for it. Congratulations! Let me know in the comments if you agree or think I am letting the gel go to my head. Nerd out.


Kickr “Climb” – Adjusting Difficulty Setting

September 24th, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By:  Todd Anthes

The subject of a prior blog discussed the benefits of the Wahoo Kickr Climb (the “Climb”) as aiding in the recovery of my back injury.  In short, the Climb adjusts to the gradient of a virtual hill by replacing your front wheel in a trainer setting. The default trainer difficulty setting of the Climb is 50% of the actual grade of the virtual hill.  I think the intent is to not have the device working more than necessary and to smooth out the virtual experience/ride. 

I primarily ride the Climb on Zwift.  All of the Zwift worlds have climbs of varying gradients.  The theory of the trainer difficulty setting is that a lower slope setting will reduce shifting and allow a rider to put more power out on the descents.  And while this makes sense to me, I fail to see why a rider wouldn’t want the actual slope setting. I didn’t give this much thought and was happy to have the forced position change which I think helps my back. 

When I start with new technology, I usually run everything “standard” until I am comfortable with it.  I am now comfortable with the Climb and have started to experiment with the trainer difficulty setting. I fail to see why a rider wouldn’t want the Climb to not simulate the actual slope regardless of trainer difficulty. And as previously mentioned, the two biggest selling points of the Climb for me are the reminder of the ergonomic simulation of body and bike position on gradients and increased rider feel for the indoor effort. 

am still playing with the trainer difficulty setting on my virtual rides, but this article (https://zwiftinsider.com/kickr-climb-trainer-difficulty/) has been essential in my experience with such settings. For example, I have a recurring workout that requires repeats of six minutes climbs at a specific power.  Given that I don’t have a six-minute climb near where I live, I often do this workout on my trainer.  I have been playing with the trainer difficulty setting on the Climb and it has positive impact on the workout. 

The jury is still out for me on what is the “best” trainer difficultly setting, but the referenced article is a great way to increase the viability of your trainer session. 


Six Mechanical Things to Check When Buying a Used Bike

September 20th, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By: Robert Munro

There are a lot of things to consider when buying a used bike. Fit and specs are undoubtedly important. However, this is a quick guide on what Mechanical Things to check for when buying a used bike. It is not a deal breaker if you find that one or more of these things is not up to your standard. What is important to realize is that these wear items cost money to rectify. You don’t want to spend $400 on a sweet new ride, only to have to take it to the shop for an equally expensive bill for maintenance and parts. Therefore, I have also included a rough estimate of what it cost to replace the part yourself and what it might cost at a shop (Don’t come crying to me when you have to pay $30 for a chain instead of $25, this is just an estimate).Chain ($25 DIY/$45 shop)

1. Making sure the chain is in good condition is important because it is indicative of other problems. Look for signs of rust. Mild rust can usually be cleared up with a healthy dose of lubricant but any more than that and I would replace it. See if the chain is especially grimy. Again, this one is usually not a bad deal but an exceptionally dirty chain can wear through a cassette quickly. Finally, use a chain checker to see if it is stretched (~$11 on the internet or ask a friend if you can borrow theirs). If any of these problems are severe, pay close attention to the next one.                                                                         

2. Cassette and Chain Rings (Cassette ($50 DIY/$80 shop), Chain rings ($150 DIY/$200 shop)!!!)

These get expensive fast! Don’t ask me why (look at your chain rings). Look for gouging on the “load” side of the teeth. This is the side that the chain makes hard contact with. Worn down teeth will impair shifting and even cause you to skip gears. (Not fun when sprinting out of the saddle).

3. Tires ($100 DIY/$120 shop)

Look for a little indicator hole to show wear (for road). Look for squaring of the top of the profile. Finally, look for tiny cuts in the tread and sidewall. Good tires drastically improve your ride. In my opinion it is some of the best dollars spent on a bike. Don’t overlook it.

4. Cables/Housing ($25 DIY/$85 shop)

Pull both brakes and shift the bike when it is off the ground. Really pay attention to how easily the gears shift and the brakes feel. Also look at the exterior of the housing and where is enters and exits the frame. Cuts and fraying can be indicative of a poor running system.

5. Bar tape ($20 DIY/$40 shop)

One of the three contact points on the bike. There is no reason to neglect it. Don’t ride with old tape!!

6. Rotating stuff (bottom brackets and wheel hubs) ($Depends$)

Spin the cranks and wheels slowly to check for any grinding. You can also feel for this during your test ride. The other way to look for damage is to forcefully try to move the wheel or crank “Outward”. For the wheels, grab the top of the rim with one hand and the frame with the other. Then pull the wheel towards the frame. If you can wobble the wheel significantly on the bike, then the hubs may need an adjustment or replacement. All wheels will pull a little bit but if it pulls more than 1 cm (3/8”) then you may want to be concerned. The cranks can be tested in much the same way. Any movement sideways here is bad.

Some final thoughts:

First: TAKE YOUR TIME!! Don’t be in a rush. Check these things over slowly. Signs of damage often don’t pop out quickly. Look at every tooth, every inch of tire, and every link of chain. The seller won’t mind (assuming there is nothing to hide).

Second: Be respectful. Don’t berate the bike (or for goodness sake the seller). You may likely see this person again. The cycling community is small. The things you found are discussion points not evidence in a crime. These things will help with negotiations, but the seller does not have to adjust the price.

Happy Hunting!


The Kickr “Climb” Helped My Recovery

September 17th, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By Todd Anthes

I’m still recovering from a back injury and have had to examine a number of factors to help me get back on track and not exacerbate the injury while riding.  Oddly enough, one of items that has assisted is the Wahoo Kickr Climb (the “Climb”). 

The Climb pairs with a Wahoo smart trainer (in place of your front wheel) and changes the gradient in conjunction with the hills on your virtual ride.  The default setting of the Climb is 50% of the actual gradient of the virtual hill. You can set the ratio to 1:1 (or another ratio), but this will be the subject of an entire blog itself. 

After my injury I spent a lot of time on the trainer as I could control my environment. Put another way, I couldn’t fall and risk injury. However, one of the negative factors of spending a lot of time on the trainer is that I didn’t change my position much. As I would get bored on the trainer I would tend to slouch. This puts my back in a compromised position and certainly does not help in my recovery.  

In addition to a new fit, changing my saddle, and working on not slouching, the Climb was something I was very interested in trying as I thought it would force position changes on my saddle. The theory being that forcing a change in my position would not drivmyself into dysfunction.   

I used the Climb for my entire 2018-2019 winter season, including many rides of 3 hours or more.  I’m pleased to report that the device has met its intended purpose. As the Climb adjusts to the gradient of the virtual hills, my position on the saddle also is forced to adjust. When the Climb adjusts to the gradient, it is also a great reminder to check my form. 

I wholeheartedly endorse the Climb as a tool to enhance your training experience, as well as making longer trainer rides more tolerable. The forced change of your position on the saddle replicates the outdoor experience to a certain degree and can also serve as a reminder to pay attention to your form.  


Thinking About Buying a Bike? Here are 5 Reasons you SHOULD!

September 7th, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By Erin Young

1.Cycling decreases stress

Do not underestimate the power of nature and green spaces to change your mood and general health. The environment around you has a huge impact on how you perceive the world and how you feel on any given day. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city, you may feel overwhelmed, stressed and hurried. Once you hit the trails, and immerse yourself in a forest or natural landscape, studies have shown that stress levels are reduced, blood pressure decreases and your overall well-being increases. Don’t believe it? Compare your body’s reaction when biking in the city vs. biking through the forest.

2. Biking is easy on your joints

If you have bad knees or hips, biking can offer great exercise, while having minimal impact on your joints. Running can often be a difficult sport to start and some of us may have past injuries that make it hard on the body, but biking is much easier on your body.

3. Mountain Biking encourages you to live in the moment

Mountain bikers are great yogis. It’s hard to think about anything else but biking when you’re hopping over logs, riding through streams and around tight corners with trees on either side. You have to be focused on riding, be in the moment to avoid injuries and get the most out of the experience. You will forget about doing your taxes, your annoying boss or recent troubles – and instead, release loads of happy endorphins that will have you smiling from ear to ear.

4. Biking makes for a healthy heart

Biking will get your heart pumping. Steep climbs will challenge your cardiovascular strength and over time your heart will become stronger. The recovery period for those climbs will decrease and you will find it easier to accomplish longer and more challenging rides.

5. Biking encourages social connections

I recently watched a TED Talk by Harvard researcher Robert Waldringer, entitled “What Makes a Good Life? Lessons From The Longest Study on Happiness” – want to know the secret to a good life? According to Robert’s study it’s high quality social relationships. The closer you are with friends and family, the happier you will be in the long run. So, what does this have to do with biking? EVERYTHING. Mountain biking encourages trailside chats with bike buddies and post-ride hang-outs to debrief the ride and talk about life. Biking brings people together, to teach each other new skills, learn from others and create memorable experiences in beautiful places.

Want to give group rides a try? Check out the Kalamazoo Bike Club. They have group ride locations and times listed on their website. Most cities have bicycle clubs that are warm and welcoming to all riding abilities, especially new cyclists. All you need are two wheels and a helmet! Visit Pedal in Kalamazoo for all of your cycling needs and Custer Cyclery if you are in the market for a mountain bike experience.

 


Flat Fix Basics

June 26th, 2019 by Marie Dershem

Flat Tire Basics

Written by Ros Difalco

Nobody wants to think about the possibility of a flat tire while out enjoying time on their bicycle. In reality, if you are going to ride regularly, it’s really more a matter of “when” not “if” when it comes to flatting. So, when you do get a flat, you have a few options. First, you can annoy your friends and family and get a ride back to your house. Second, you can walk (from experience, probably not a great option!). Third is your best shot: FIX THE FLAT WHILE ON THE ROAD!

Let’s go over the things you should carry while riding to fix most flats. There are different ways people carry the necessities, but here are my recommendations.

First, carry a saddlebag. Many people like to stash their change kits in their jersey pockets, but I prefer the saddlebag. If I have to stock my back pockets each ride I am likely to forget something or leave something out due to laziness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In your saddlebag you should carry a

  1. spare tube (the correct specifications to match your tire width, wheel diameter, and rim depth). I like to keep the spare tube wrapped up in a plastic bag to prevent it from getting holes while rubbing against tools.
  2. 1-2 tire levers. Not being able to get a tire on or off is extremely frustrating.
  3. C02 inflator (2 of these, just in case the first doesn’t go to plan).
  4. Multi-tool (though you don’t need it for the tire fix)
  5. Optional: There’s a new thing I have been adding to my saddlebags the last few years. A few brands make stickers to patch holes in tubes. DISCLAIMER: these should be used as a last resort if your spare tube is punctured or if you get a double flat (two flat tires in one ride).

Now let’s get on to your flat tire! In our hypothetical situation, you are riding down the road when you feel the tell tale squirmy/squishy ride characteristics of a flat tire. Now you might be tempted to keep riding but please don’t! Pull over somewhere off the road and check the tire for air pressure. You don’t want to damage your rim by riding with a flat tire.

Fixing a flat tire requires that you remove your wheel from the bike. Most bikes have a quick release axle, but if your bike doesn’t, make sure to carry the tools to remove your wheel. You also need to know how to open up brake pads on many bikes to get the tire to fit but we won’t cover that topic here due to the various types of brakes.

Now that your wheel is removed, you need to make sure the tube is fully deflated. This is good time to explain that most bikes have both a tire and a tube. The tube is what holds the air in the tire. The tube is what we want to replace/patch. To get to the tube we must remove the tire. Tires may be stuck to the rim via the bead.

Using your hands, push the tire to the center of the rim bed. Do this all the way around the rim. Getting the tire to the center will give you the space to get the tire over the lip of the rim. Once the tire is moved to the center of the rim, get your tire levers. Pry the tire over the rim. Only pry one side of the tire off of the rim. Now you should be able to remove the tube from the rim.

Next, look at the tube and see if you can determine what punctured it. You also want to GENTLY run your fingers in the inside of the tire to make sure there aren’t any thorns or objects stuck in it. If you install your new tube with a thorn in your tire you will instantly get another flat. Now, unwrap your tube and put the valve through the valve hole on the rim and lay the tube around the diameter of the tire. We now have to get the tire back on without puncturing the tube. With your hands, work the tire back on the rim until can no longer go further. At this point, get your tire levers back out. You need to pry the tire the rest of the way on the rim. BE SUPER CARFUL NOT TO PINCH THE TUBE WHILE DOING THIS!

Now that the tire is back on the rim, it’s time to inflate it and get riding again. Tighten the C02 on the inflator to break the seal. Make sure the valve on the tube is open and press the inflator firmly against the valve and release the compressed air. It will feel very cold but do not let off until the C02 is empty. Your tire should now be full of air! Make sure to tighten the valve on the tube. At this point you can put your wheel back on your bike and tighten up your axle.

Before closing, here are a few pieces of advice I would give to avoid getting flats in the first place. Use a quality tire that is up to the riding you are planning. I have made this mistake and the right tire makes all the difference. It’s also worth noting that when a tire gets worn out its puncture resistance is greatly reduced. Cheap tubes can be the cause of flat tires when the valve stem becomes unbounded from the rubber so decent tubes are important. If your bike setup allows it, going tubeless with sealant can offer a more trouble free ride as well. Whatever you decide to use, get familiar with your bike and be prepared for any flats you may encounter.


The Science of High Visibility Colors while Cycling

May 31st, 2019 by JoAnn Cranson

By Andrew Fathman

How do you get someone to notice you? You know, that person. The person driving the car that, unless they see you, is at risk of making you a cycling statistic. You might not be surprised to hear that the color of your kit is one of the easiest and most effective ways to make yourself more visible and decrease the risk of an accident (put that all-black kit away, no–it doesn’t make you look like Batman.)

However, while having a closet so bright it rivals the sun is great, knowing what to wear at what times of day can actually further increase your safety. Our eyes have three different photoreceptors called “cones”. These cones are specialized to see the three primary colors that make up the spectrum of visible light. Depending on the ambient light, these cones can actually be better at seeing different wavelengths of light. During the day, our eyes are most adept at recognizing green light, followed by yellow and blue (or cyan for you art nerds out there.) Before you consign all of your green jerseys to daytime riding, you have to consider where you’ll be riding. Humans are sensitive to shapes resembling biological patterns which means that we are very good at seeing the shape of a person against a background. If you’re planning on riding through seas of green foliage, it’s better to give drivers a hand and wear a color that will help them see your outline against the trees.

The last scenario to consider is when the sun starts setting and shadows start forming. We might not think about this much as the days are getting longer and we are able to finish our rides with plenty of light, but before you know it, your local TNR will start finishing with less and less light. As it gets darker, our eyes transition from seeing green the best to being able to pick out yellow the easiest and at the furthest distances.

Reflective gear is becoming standard on most athletic gear and the science behind that is akin to why road signs are so obvious at night, but following these easy rules will you give yourself the best chance at being able to chase those K/QOMs (King or Queen of the Mountain winner in races) without incident.



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