I never knew how poorly my road bike fit me until I spent some serious time on a bike that actually fit me.
For the past 18 months, I’ve been riding my CX bike almost exclusively. Before that I had returned to mountain biking for a spell, and as a result, I spent spare little time on the road bike (a Specialized Dolce Elite). During that time, some nagging physical conditions evaporated–but I didn’t notice they were even gone until I started riding the road bike again.
Here is what hurts: lower back, my shoulders, the base of my neck. The neck is an issue–and I was in PT last year because of it. I have some disk that’s askew and the position I have on the road bike makes it worse–so much so I cannot turn my head. What hurts most this morning is the lower back. All of it is no good, and I can’t believe I endured these aches and pains for so many years.
The road bike is a women’s specific frame. The CX bike is a standard frame, also a Specialized. I can ride and ride this without issue. So to solve my pain problem, I have 2 options:
- Get the road bike professionally fitted to me.
- Sell the road bike and get slick tires for road work with the CX bike.
I have to say I’m leaning toward option #2. I wouldn’t mind the extra cash and would use it toward buying a true racing bike for the CX season, something I’ve been saving my pennies for. The CX bike I have now would be a great all around training bike. If I had more disposable income I’d upgrade the road bike outright, since I bought it back in 2006. But that’s not where I am right now (at the moment). I really don’t want to invest the time and money in getting my road bike professionally fitted to me. And I suspect the women’s specific frame was a little too much marketing and not enough function for a woman who is as tall as the average male.
The one (silly) reservation I have is that although painful, the road bike is faster. I can go longer, faster on it. When I ride the CX bike with friends who are on road bikes, I have to work harder. Maybe that’s a good thing overall, maybe it will make me faster come race season.
So what do you think I should do? Weigh in, because Craigslist is a few clicks away….
This week is the week schoolchildren pine for–their spring break, April Vacation. And while my son is doing a week long happy dance, I’m left trying to figure out how I’m going to get any saddle time this week.
I have some ideas….although it remains to be seen if they will pan out. I sometimes tempt my son to ride bikes with me, and although it’s not the kind of bike ride I would want to do, it’s something. He’s 8, so he peters out after about 5 miles. I can hire a sitter, but that gets expensive fast. I have one coming today, and at $8-10 bucks an hour, anything more than 20 miles gets pricey. I am planning to drive out to Boston to visit the family, and I could take the bike along, but truthfully there are no areas to really ride where my family lives. It’s too congested and drivers there see a point value when they see a cyclist on the road, so I have never tried a serious ride so close to the city. I heard Boston has improved, but alas, I just don’t trust my fellow Boston drivers with my life, for the sake of a quick workout. I also considered bringing my mountain bike home, since Lynn Woods is nearby and boasts some excellent mountain biking. Alas, I just don’t feel comfortable riding there solo, not due to difficulty level but do to crime. Again, maybe it’s improved since I grew up but too many dead girls wound up in the Lynn Woods when I was a kid, so I really don’t want to ride there unless my not-so little brother comes along.
Overall, I’m not feeling encouraged about the amount of riding I’ll get in this week. I hate to think that I would resort to the trainer, but I may have to.
Small post, big news!
Sip, Clip & Go’s Coffee is now available for sale in its first retail location in Holyoke, MA. Read about all the details here.
No that’s an open question–I’m looking for advice here. My second cyclocross race ever is tomorrow morning and I’ve done a good job at keeping the nerves at bay, but I’m starting to feel a bit jumpy and I’m going back to all the advice I have ever been given to calm me down and focus me before a race.
10.) You are not going to win. There is only one winner and chances are it won’t be you, but you’ll be having a similar experience to everyone else there who isn’t that one person who wins. I have a love/hate relationship with this statement. It’s almost like “Hey loser, pressure’s off. Just have fun.” I mean, it’s a RACE. We’re all trying out there. Of course there are few of us capable of winning the whole thing but you can’t tell me that every single one of us entertains fantasies about somehow pulling a storybook ending out of the experience and winning the whole damn thing in dramatic fashion. Hey, at least we have rich imaginations. But the intent of the message is to push hard and enjoy the experience, and not get too caught up in the podium fantasy.
9.) Ride your own race. What the hell does this mean? It’s a bit trite to say, but sometimes it’s enough to hang your hat on.
8.) Just do your best. OK Mom, I will :/
7.) Always evaluate the course ahead of you and anticipate. Yeah, I can’t say anything bad about this at all.
6.) Pedal circles not squares. This is actually good advice all around. It speaks to pedal efficiency when your pedal stroke feel free & floaty. basically it means you’re doing it right, and not wasting energy.
5.) Stand and deliver. When the going gets tough, get your ass out of the saddle and crank up that hill. Just make sure your not in the mud when you do it because if your weight isn’t over your rear wheel you are going nowhere fast.
4.) If you worried about falling off the bike, you’d never get on. This one’s from Lance. What the hell, he’s had a rough year. But suffice to say that’s pretty much all the performance advice you should take from him. Aw, Lance, whydidyadoit?
3.) Pick your line. Some common MTB wisdom here and it applies to ‘cross as well. There are many lines on the path, chose wisely.
2.) Point your bike where you want to go. This seems obvious but it’s amazing how often it isn’t done and a rider ends up zig-zagging around losing precious time. This one is about focusing on the path ahead, pointing yourself in that direction, and pedaling through. It works remarkably well.
1.) Go that way, really fast. If something gets in your way, turn. Come on children of the 80′s! You know this…..
Have any more advice! Share it with me! If enough of you chime in I’ll do another advice column for would be bike racers.
After 12 years of watching from behind the yellow tape, snapping action shots with my camera while guarding my beer, I think I might actually be fool enough to give cyclocross a try. I heard about a CX clinic for women through a Mountain biking group I belong to on Facebook. I had never met any of the other members of the group nor have I ever attended a ride. I have wanted to but my schedule just would never allow it–my parental duties always took precedence. The clinic was held on Labor Day at 6PM–and it was only because it was a holiday that I could have a friend watch my son so I could attend.
I convinced my friend Heidi to join me and a total of about 10 women in Southampton, MA. There is a group of farms and unbeknownst to me, an entire practice cyclocross course just off the main road (a road I ride on fairly regularly–this little gem was under my nose all along). The clinic was led by the founder of the MTB group along with Molly Hurford, a writer for Cyclocross Magazine, and another local racer. Molly did a nice piece about the entire event in Cyclocross Magazine and you can check that out here, complete with photos.
Most of us had never raced a cyclocross bike. A few of us had cross bikes, some had mountain bikes. The clinic touched on the basics of cyclocross: the dismount, jumping the barriers, the remount, the carry, and off camber turns. The group was friendly and the emphasize was on fun and camaraderie. We went through the drills and had plenty of time to practice and ask questions. I had a great time and learned a lot, and feel really excited about taking on my first cyclocross event this fall. The women who hosted the event were super–graciously giving their time and expertise to our band of enthusiastic beginners.
Today I returned to the course alone to practice what I learned. This was a telling experience. Without the natural stopping points to receive instruction or ask questions in a group setting–I decided to reset my Garmin and just ride the course loop. I managed 2 loops and I was exhausted–less than 25 minutes. Two things played into this–one–I was not caught up with the energy of a group. Race conditions always make people faster–they carry you along. I didn’t have that. Two–I discovered just how fatiguing riding on grass can be. There is a fair mount of climbing on the course and the grass is like a million tiny arms holding you back.
I plan to return at least once a week for practice. Building up my endurance for the specificity of the event will be important. Riding 50 or 60 miles on the road might not be a big deal, but 8 or 10 on a cross course is an entirely other matter.
I’ve gone crazy and signed up for a free women’s-only cyclocross clinic for Monday night. I’m a little nervous and excited. I have been practicing the dismount and I’m getting better. Adding real barriers will add a layer of reality to it though.
I’m not sure what tipped me in this direction. I bought the cross bike last year but rode it once in 2011. A series of flat tires on the road bike has forced me on the Trisport for 85% of all my rides this year. I’ve done well over 1000 mile on the cross bike this year. So I’m comfortable riding it, but riding it on the road and riding a cross course are really two wildly different things.
Still, I have been surfing BikeReg for a suitable low-key race. I think I found one in Lancaster, MA this October. Hopefully I’ll feel comfortable enough with the dismount, remount, and shouldering the bike to give it a try. I’m looking for a good set of cyclocross tires for the event. Is it just an excuse to shop for more bike gear? No–I think I just want to be serious about this. I’m looking at the Michelin Mud 2 which looks like a good all around tire that will perform in the mud and still not slow me down on the packed dirt. Not that I’m fast. That hasn’t changed. But my bike handling skills are decent so I think I can survive a 40 minute event.
I will post about the clinic next week. It’s on Monday at 6PM so if you are a female and interested and live in western Massachusetts, email me at sipclipandgoATgmailDOTcom and I’ll give you the info.
For many years I have been a Cyclocross fan–attending races in the rain, snow and cold. I love watching the sport and snapping action photos of the athletes performing in some ridiculous conditions. It’s great fun. And in the back of my mind, I confess I’ve always sort of wondered about doing a ‘cross event.
Then last year I bought a cyclocross bike. I told everybody, including myself, that it would be used for the winter–lousy conditions. For gravel roads which can be found here in western Massachusetts. And to round out my bike collection. Am I going to race? No, don’t be silly. I’m in my 40′s now. Those days are over.
Over the last 3 weeks, I started catching the fever. I found myself watching this video.
So yesterday, after I completely my weekly goal of 100+ miles I decided to give the dismount a try. It’s a complicated move and I learned how heavy the Tricross is when I tried to incorporate an imaginary barrier (a line in the dirt and a few straight sticks across the road). I’ll let it be seen to the world so anyone out there in the know can either give me pointers or advise me to stay under the beer tent at races.
At any rate, it seems clear this will take practice to become second nature. I let go of the bike a couple of times and when remounting I came down hard enough to be grateful yet again for my female gender. Having some “game tape” is helpful and seeing how I look when trying to execute the move. As I practice I’ll incorporate more and more “real life” conditions like actual barriers, hills, run-ups, sand, etc. The dirt road I found in Nonotuck Park in Easthampton was a great start.
I have plans to attend a female ‘cross clinic on Labor Day and hope to drag Heather along. I need a partner in crime. I’m not sure I’ll feel ready to actually do one of these cyclocross events but do you ever feel ready? Might be one of those things you just jump in with both feet and see how it turns out.
Suspicions confirmed: Riding the cross bike and the mountain bike exclusively for the past 6 months has had a HUGE impact on my speed on the road bike. I thought this would be the case, but wow–I mean, WOW.
Not that I was trying for faster–but I’ll take it. I mean, who doesn’t want to go faster? Anyway–I knew right away things were different when I took my first pedal stroke. “My bike is so light…” I thought. Compared to the ‘cross bike, the Dolce Elite is feather light (and this is no carbon fiber number–this is just a couple clicks above an entry-level road bike). The handling was a little twitchy. Such a delicate machine compared to the bikes I had been slogging along with. And I’ve owned the Dolce Elite for 6 years now–how quickly I forgot.
I started the legs moving and drove that bike forward. I didn’t try to hammer, I really wanted a fair comparison. 1st 5 miles–2 mins faster than average. 2nd 5 miles, 4 minutes faster than average. 3rd 5 miles, 3.5 minutes faster. Wow. I plan on pushing it next time to see how far I can take it. But by riding the cross bike so much, I’ve basically put myself at the fastest I’ve been, ever. And now–this is not fast in the real world. I am no undiscovered Evie Stevens, I assure you. But in my little world, this is fast for me, and as I said before–I’ll take it. And it’s only June!
I posted before about my poor performance in terms of bike maintenance. I had replaced my front tire and it took…..well, it took a really long time to get that tire on.
So wouldn’t you know it, the tube went about 12 hrs after installing it. It was my own fault, I had tubes lying all around and I knew one was bad. I must have gotten them mixed up because by morning my tire was flat.
This time the change went much faster. Not fast, but faster. It only took me about 15 minutes to change the tube out–a huge improvement.
As I do this more, I’m sure it will become old hat. Anyway, it’s saving me lots at the bike shop.
Disclaimer: This post is a bit rambling. Sorry about that. I have a few things floating in the head tonight.
Last year I bought myself a cyclocross bike. I had been wanting one for years, so finally I added it to the collection. I barely rode it in 2011, and in 2012 I’ve been making up for it. All my road rides have been on the ‘cross bike. It’s heavier and the tires aren’t skins but not knobby either–they provide a bit more friction to the road.
I wanted it that way too–I wanted to be working harder in these early months. The road bike needed some love anyway–new tubes & tires. Tonight I finally gave it the attention it needed in prep for the hot summer ahead.
I am, without a doubt, the slowest person on earth to change a bicycle tube and or tire. Molasses slow. I’m just really inept. OK–so I’ve only done a tube/tire change twice before. It’s not exactly routine to me yet–but it should take less than an hour, right? All I can say is I’m glad it didn’t take two. Anyway–it’s done. The Continentals look great–like a brand new pair of sneakers on the playground that can run faster than all the other kids’.
I spent some time cleaning up the road bike too–my Specialized Dolce Elite. I bought this bike 6 years ago when I was going through my divorce. I labored over the decision because when the leaving happened, I was left without a road bike. I wasn’t exactly in a position to spend a lot of money and in terms of bicycles it wasn’t “a lot” of money–only $1200. But at the time, it was a huge expenditure considering the financial effects of divorce. Anyway, a Buddhist friend of mine convinced me to go ahead and splurge and it was the best decision I could have made. Riding helped me cope with the divorce among other things–it was something I could count on to make me feel better. The old girl still looks great and I thought about that when I polished her up, nicks, scratches and all.
I’m looking forward to my first ride on the road bike and the new tires. While I’ve been really enjoying the ‘cross bike, I lifted both up to test the weight and wow–what a difference. I have a feeling the road bike is going to feel pretty light, which will make those hills out here in western Mass a little smaller.