Sunday, January 31, 2010

Beginners Page 13 The Wind

It is appropriate that “The Wind” is number 13 of the beginners pages. I have disliked the wind from the beginning of riding. And it is always heartening to know that misery loves company. In a poll of riders, 10 times more voters said that wind is a tougher cycling challenge than hills. A Florida’s road bike maxim that I wish I could take credit for states, “For every uphill there’s a downhill, for every headwind there’s a headwind.”

When we started riding, I would check the weather or look outside and watch the tree tops sway and would say “Let’s not ride today, the wind is blowing too hard.” Christine would say “We’re in Texas, the wind always blows.” I suspected it blows elsewhere as indicated by the Florida maxim, but it really hurts when it is in my back yard. I think I did my first “official” complaining about the wind in Beginners Page # 6 “First Time Trial”. And I have continued since. But as Christine said, it always is blowing so let’s ride anyway. I wanted a good come-back so I checked the internet for various cities’ average wind speed: Amarillo-13; Lubbock-12; Abilene-11; San Angelo-10. I shut up and got on my bike and rode off into the wind.

Now riding off into the wind is not too far from wrong. Ever notice how the wind seems to blow from four different directions, each in your face? Studies have found that wind will feel like it is in your face for a 200 degree forward arc, only the remaining 160 will not feel like a direct headwind. With our winding roads, finding that 160 arc is illusive at best. Without being too melodramatic, it seems to me there is only a 10 degree arc that actually pushes me. My reasoning? As one picks up speed, there is a corresponding wind generated by the speed you are traveling; ergo, for every headwind there is a headwind. If someone finds that arbitrary 10 degree of a tailwind in the summertime, one had better go faster than the wind to generate that breeze or one finds himself in a hot vacuum.

Can’t win so ride anyway?

I read some place that a headwind slows the biker’s speed by about half of the wind speed. Now in our “average” 10 mph wind, it will slow one’s speed by 4-5 mph. When you lower MY speed by 4-5 mph, it is a significant reduction.

One of the best solutions to riding into a headwind is to draft off another biker. There are various estimates ranging from 15-30% less energy used by drafting. For example, if I am going along at 15 mph in a 10 mph wind, it takes me 183 watts (a measure of my effort) to sustain the speed. If I drop behind someone going 15 mph and expending 183 watts, by calculating a conservative 20% energy saving, I will use only 146 watts. Granted I am holding a lot of variables constant—weight of individual, weight of bike, strength, conditioning, etc., but one can get the idea that it is a lot less work to draft off of someone. (If you want to remain friends, you will take turns at lead—even if just for a short while.)

To put the above paragraph into perspective, Dr. David Wilson, in his book “Bicycling Science,” calculated that Tour de France riders generated 400 watts of power going up mountains or breaking away from the pack. This is in contrast to an average person’s riding and working as hard as possible and generating from 150-200 watts.

A caveat: the closer one is to the bicycle in front, the more wind is blocked, BUT the greater chance to rub wheels and have a nasty spill. So back off a little even though it is more work. After all, the person in front may tire and suddenly stop pedaling—disaster strikes.

Another tidbit: if you are in front and tire out, pull off to the left and let the one behind you pass while he maintains a straight line and constant speed. If there are only two of you, pull in behind the lead person. If there are several in a line, it is best to drop to last place. Each will move up a notch as the lead rotates.

A few more tips for a windy day:
---Stay indoors.
---Go fly a kite.
---Watch a cycling training film.

IF you insist on going for a ride:
---Lean into the wind. Get low. Reduce your frontal area in a headwind by moving your hands to the drop bars and keeping your elbows bent and in line with your body.

---Gears—there seems to be a disagreement among “experts.” Some say you can’t spin through the wind so put the bike in a high gear and plow through the wind. Some say to shift to a lower gear (larger cassette cog) so you can maintain a normal cadence against the wind. This group will acknowledge that you will go more slowly but rationalize that spinning is better for your knees than grinding with a slow rpm. If you are on your own; try different gear ratios and pick the one that you feel most comfortable with and keeps you moving at a speed you can accept.

---Draft off someone. This technique was covered earlier, but the front person should keep his lead time (his pull) short for maximum advantage.

---Change course. Frequently we will reverse a route so that we are facing the wind the first half of a ride and hopefully have a tailwind on the return. Our logic is that we are fresher at the start and will not be as discouraged, but many a time we have been struggling in a stiff wind and look at each other and say “We’re doing this for FUN?” And keep pedaling.

---Chant. This tidbit we still are very sarcastic about. “Experts” say to chant while riding into the wind “The wind is my friend, the wind is my friend . . . .” The wind IS NOT and probably WILL NOT EVER be my friend. But they say that like riding hills, riding in wind can make you stronger. Well, all that is better than a negative attitude of “Blankety blank wind, go to Florida!”

Note: If you want to play around with different biking speeds, wind speeds, percent grade, and required watts for the different variables—go to

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bavaria Biking

Neuschwanstein, Bavaria, Germany
Does it look familiar? Walt Disney modeled Disney Land/World's landmark castle after Neuschwanstein. The castle is just one of many attractions in and around Bavaria, Germany. We were fortunate enough to spend two weeks exploring Bavaria, Munich, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, and Liechtenstein.

We stayed at the Patton Hotel in Garmisch-Partenkirchen which is located in the southern part of Bavaria, Germany. We did not have a commercial tour lined up until the third day, so on the first full day we were there (surprise, surprise) we rented bikes. The bike rental place was just on the outskirts of Garmisch so we were in the countryside as soon as we hopped on.

There was a small paved road going toward the mountains so we just took off. Everywhere we looked it was breathtaking beauty. We rode until it was getting late and headed back to our hotel.

The next day we took off again.We had only a vague idea where we were going so everything was a new discovery.

On one of our jaunts we rode out to Lake Eibsee. Our boys were receiving kayak training and the initial training was on the lake. Christine, being a nature lover, took a lot of shots of some ducks in and around the lake and shore. I shall spare you and show only one of the pictures.

 After the lake, the boys were transported to the Loisach River and ran the rapids close to town. The next day the boys were to learn rappelling, so Christine and I hopped on our bikes and rode out to the rappelling site. One the way we paralleled  the Loisach River. The river did not look deep and did not have rapids at this point but the boys had assured us that the place they had gone down the river had plenty of rapids.

The river also ran through Garmisch so we were able to enjoy it from several locations.

No matter which road or trail we took, the country-side was beautiful.

Just a sample of some of the German houses. Everything was well maintained and colorful.

We were told that the rocks on the roofs are to keep sheets of ice and snow from sliding off the roof.

Below was not on one of our bicycle rides. It is the clock tower in Munich. I just liked remembering the elaborate display at noon.

Back to some of our bike touring...not far from Garmisch was the little villiage of Ober-Grainau. The pastures are not fenced so we took a path that overlooked the village.

Cows were grazing in the pastures and many of them had bells on their necks.

The setting was serene and so stereotypical with the cow bells jingling as they grazed. It was idealistic and so country German. Then we heard a roar coming up the hill and a man on a three wheeler circled around the cows and herded them presumably to the evening holding pen. I guess I would have been just as astonished if he had ridden up on a horse and was yelling yippee ki yay.

We rode up the mountain as far as we could go, but soon there was a gate to a path that lead up into the gorge. We turned around, besides, the terrain was getting too steep for us. The leisure adventure was becoming work.
Two more views of the area.

On some of the level rides into the country side, we would pass picturesque farm scenes.

Farmers would be working in their fields, and as we would pass by the next day would see their progress. A lot of the small farm work we observed was done by hand such as cutting hay with a sickle.

There were beautiful churches all over the land.

Example of some of our bike paths.

The views would not stop. The Zugspitz is the highest peak in Germany. On the top, one side is in Germany and the other in Austria.

View of the Alpspitz from our balcony.

The fitness level and exercise enthusiasm of the Germans we saw were amazing. Everywhere we went young and old would be hiking up some rugged mountain or walking on a scenic path. On our tour of the Zugspitz, we got to the top by way of a cog train. The railway was so steep that a regular track train couldn't make it up. At one point, we looked out the window, and on a road beside us was a German lady riding uphill on her bicycle. She looked as if she were out on a leisure ride. No "three pound" carbon road bike with special climbing gears. Just a bicycle.

 Lake Eibsee from the cable car on the way down

Looking down on Grainau and Garmish from the train.

We had lined up a lot of great tours to see more sights, and, as mentioned at the beginning, we were able to visit parts of Austria, Switzerland, Venice, and the small but great country of Liechtenstein. (I got my passport stamped there for the thrill of it.) All too soon, another biking adventure was over.

There are so many other beautiful pictures of our trip, but they would be about touring instead of our bike rides. Right now, I am sticking to bike rides.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Beginners Page # 12 How to Maintain Fitness Even in Winter

Winter has arrived and, speaking for myself, the weather has drastically cut into cycle time. You can hear the plaintiff rumblings of being house-bound from a lot of quarters.

Recently I was surfing on my Facebook and some of the comments found on my page: “O.K.—I don’t live in Texas fur nothing; it’s darn cold. I must remember this come those 100+ temps we ride in during bikin’ season, but 12 degrees—really!”

“You hit it right on the nose. I’m already tired of riding on my trainer. I just want to be outside!!! I would live up north if I wanted this much cold!”

To which a person from the “North” responded: “I live in Missouri and have not reached a high of 12 degrees for several days. Today finally got above 20 for a high.”

(To the above currently unnamed contributors: I read somewhere that whatever is posted on Facebook becomes public property, so if I get any grumbling, I will reveal your names!!)

So I am not alone when bemoaning being shut in when we have been spoiled by frequent rides, and the only thing (I) complained about was wind. Oh yes, and the hills, and being left behind, and falling, and cramping, and tearing up other people’s bicycles—other than that (and really a few other things) I was a happy cycler.

I know two of the above commentators have trainers so while maybe “booooring” at least they are keeping in somewhat good physical shape. What about the rest of us? I have tried the gym thing—too much work. I have tried yoga and I am like the wire rimmed tire—un-pliable. I bought a CD on Pilates. One of these days I will take the wrapper off.

So I have settled for the next best way to keep in shape. But for some to understand my logic, I must provide some background. Have you ever wondered (what else is there to do in the winter?) how a black bear can hibernate for 5-to-7 months in the winter and wake up with “fight or flight” capacity and without taking energy bars, gel, supplements, electrolyte hydration drinks, recovery drinks, or even some of Randy’s nutrition tips not to mention base miles, interval training, or hill repeats?

Scientists, who had nothing better to do during the winter months either, found that bears lose about 22% of their muscle strength while hibernating for about 120 days and humans couch-ridden for about the same time (comparable winter down time) lost 80%. So how do they do it? Instead of saying, “Uh dunno,” read on.

The scientists found that the black bear was essentially doing two things during hibernation to maintain muscle tone. Using their findings, I am in the process of developing off-season exercises for cyclists to maintain our in-season fitness level—whatever it might be. (The good news is that you can freely use my routine until I have written the book and copyrighted the material. ) Now...the scientists discovered that the black bear essentially did two things: shiver and isometric contractions.

Shiver routine: First, “allow” your wife to turn down the heat in the house. Don’t have a wife? Turn it down yourself and that is an extra bonus in muscle tone. Don’t put on extra layers of clothes—in other words don’t dress warmly—and you will obtain hours of exercise without leaving your house. As an extra benefit, try emptying the trash early in the morning. That will start your day’s exercise off to a good chilly start.

Isometric contractions: I am still developing my routine so that is why you get to use it without buying my book.

Not all people are adept at keyboarding, but I have found that I maintain my handle bar grip muscles by typing (as we used to call it). And you do not have to type brilliant things to maintain fitness, just keep those fingers moving as fast as you can.

I used to “never” watch TV except for Monk and 24. Both are off the air now so I must force myself to sit in front of the TV in the name of fitness and health. As you start to sit in the lounge chair, slowly, ever so slowly lower yourself into the chair. Feel those thigh muscles contract? You are on your way to muscle tone.

Commercial break: Slowly lean forward—good for the abs and core. With your hands on each arm rest, slowly press down and count to fifteen before raising yourself out of the chair. Feel the arm and chest muscles work? Burn baby burn. Since commercial breaks are at least every fifteen minutes; that is enough recovery time between each set of reps of one. Watch at least four hours of TV and you will get in 16 sets of exercise per evening.

All that is lacking so far is to work the leg muscles more since they do a lot of the work during our biking. So as an extra bonus, put a foot stool in between the lounge chair and the refrigerator. Step up with the left foot first as if you are climbing a staircase. Do at least 5 reps and then switch to the right foot and do 10 reps. Why? It has been found that right leg dominate people pedal mostly with their right leg so that leg needs more exercise than the slacker left.

The above have been some do-it-yourself exercises that I am in the process of perfecting. I am not in a great hurry to write my book as my only competition at this time is some other scientists. They have taken the black bear lessons and are working on applying it to bed-ridden or coma folks. But their idea is to “stimulate a kind of nerve-firing to specific muscle areas and do it in such a pattern that you keep muscles active even when a person is lying in bed…” Now if you have become sleepy reading this long dissertation, that means using some sort of electrical shock to stimulate the muscles. So which would you rather do? Watch TV under my system, or lie in bed and get shocked using the intellectual system? If you are like me, (Editor’s note: Thank goodness most people are not like him) you will choose the “Roy’s Off-Season Cyclist Kinetics System” (ROCKS) [Editor’s note: or “Roy’s All-season Total System” (RATS) or “Roy’s Off-season Total System” (ROTS).]

Let me prove the superiority of my system another way. During the Christmas break, two friends of mine took a trip to Illinois and took their bikes with them. Note: The lead picture was on their trip. To do this, you already know, you have to be…Hard Core Cyclists. And if you have your bikes with you, what is there to do except use them? No watching TV for them!!

A side note: During my attempts at winter riding I have found that I wear cool weather gear. Ty and Christine took their COLD weather gear.

Ty and Christine reported the temperature was Brrrrr degrees.
I remarked that the hill behind them must have been pretty tough going on those roads. From Ty I got a, "It was just a small hill." From Christine, no comment.

Hey you Texans, watch this!!

The nose tells it all.

The eyes tells it all. Take me back to Texas. From now on I will use Roy's ROCK system.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Hike, Bike, and Snorkel

About as close to a triathlon that Christine and I will ever participate in was a hike, bike, and swim (snorkel) tour while in Hawaii. It had the same elements as a Tri if you stretch the imagination but not the pressure.

Back during the summer, I wrote about a chilly morning ride down Haleakala (volcano in Maui) so we will switch and write of a warm weather ride while it is still winter. It turned out that Ernie and Margaret Charlesworth had gone on the same ride some years back. Hopefully they went on this tour as it was a memorable fun-filled day. Perhaps even Tamra has been on this tour.

As with most tours, the vendor picks you up at your hotel.

Our day started at 9 a.m. and we were shuttled by van to a tropical rain forest on a private 75-acre property in Manoa Valley on Oahu. Upon arrival, we were each issued trail snacks, a water bottle, and optional rubber boots and rain jacket. We were warned that the trail was muddy and we could ruin our shoes if we chose not to wear the rubber boots. Rain jacket was just in case; after all, we were in a rain forest. The nature trail was about a mile along a jungle stream with mountain pools. You will have to take my word on some of it as it appeared that I took a lot of pictures while walking or jumping up and down.

The end goal was a 200 foot waterfall.
First glimpse of the falls.

 The amount of water flowing was dependent upon the amount of rain received. The hike back was over a scenic ridge-top with many tropical plants, flowers, and trees. I wish more of my pictures turned out, but you may get the idea.

After the hike, we were shuttled to the top of Tantalus (a tall mountain on the outskirts of Honolulu) and were outfitted with a Trek mountain bike with front end suspension and disc brakes. We were given a short briefing on bike safety and the rules. One of the rules was not to brake with the front brake. Off we went downhill, and within 50 yards a person felt she was going too fast, hit the front brake, and was thrown over the bars. She sustained quite a few road rashes and opted to ride the rest of the way in the SAG van. The descent on a paved  road was only 5 miles but there were enough stops to make the ride seem longer. At the Manoa lookout we stopped for pictures.

At the bottom of the mountain there was a grassy park, and we were given a deli style lunch. We had to surrender our bikes at that point, so we wouldn’t ride off and extend our biking tour. It would have been great to keep on riding but we had another adventure awaiting us.

After lunch, we piled back into a van and were taken to Kewalo Basin where a catamaran sail was to take us out for a snorkeling excursion. The snorkeling was over a reef off the shores of Waikiki. The fish were plentiful.

Christine snorkeling.

While snorkeling, Christine found a green sea turtle that she followed all over the reef.

Beside us was another catamaran.

Christine was following a turtle and it swam under the catamaran. So did Chris.

She was spotted by the crew and when she surfaced, she was told swimming under the boat was a no-no. Too late, she took a lot of good shots.

I forgot how long we snorkeled, but too soon it was over and time to head back to shore.

Clouds were rolling in and the wind was picking up. 

The ride back to the basin was a scenic one. It was an opportunity to get in some Waikiki beach shots from a different perspective.

The pink hotel dwarfed by the high rise buildings is the famous Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

Our hotel straight in front of us. As we began the story with a shot of our hotel, we will end it with a different shot. And also end a story about an almost perfect day.