Not very often are we lucky enough to get contributing posts from true writers. Enjoy these great insights from Author Ross Goldstein.
I once heard Andy Hampsten say that one of the best things about
riding in Boulder was that “it snowed often enough to keep you from getting
His words rang in my ears a few days ago. I was wrestling
booties over my cycling shoes in preparation for a quick spin across Mt. Tam to
Stinson Beach. The temperature was hovering around the low 40s. I was layered
like a tortilla casserole and turned the first pedal cranks hoping to generate
enough heat to insulate me from the chilly air. It worked. Before long I felt
like a kid inside on a snowy day, looking out at the weather from inside the
warm cocoon my wool shirt, fleece lined jacket, knickers, long fingered gloves
and polypro cap provided.
I like riding in the winter. A different mindset kicks in
when the temperature drops. Winter, off-season riding offers its own reward…
the pleasure of crisp, clean air, the feeling that comes with just turning the
cranks, the sensation of the wind against the skin, the sense of vitality that
simply getting a ride in, regardless of distance and time, can bring .
Winter riding can be so different from the training we do
when the air is warm, racing season is in full bloom, and every ride is
governed by the metrics of wattage, heart rate, distance and pace. In the winter,
we give ourselves license to just enjoy the ride.
For me, the release from the obsessive monitoring of riding
metrics frees my mind to go internal. I daydream. I fantasize. I follow my
thoughts like a dog following its nose…memories so old that they are shrouded
in cobwebs, solutions to dilemmas that seemed impenetrable, conversations that
I would like to have with others, and myself, fantasies of vacations, escapes
and new beginnings. It’s kind of Proustian, but then that’s me.
We cyclists tend to be obsessive about our riding. We don’t
exercise, we train. We don’t ride, we cycle. We don’t…well, we just don’t do
anything too casually. Winter riding, with the re-calibration of effort that
the elements dictate, can be a great opportunity to just relax and enjoy the
So, next frigid day, when you are thinking that you will
take up residence on the couch and turn on the tv instead of hitting the road
on your bike, remind yourself that a cold day outing can be a great way to
reconnect with the simple joy of riding.
Ross Goldstein is the
author of Chain Reaction, story of challenge and redemption, set in the world
of professional cycling. Chain Reaction is available at Studio Velo and their online store here and online
As many of you already know, I joined the Board of Directors of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition. One of the most exciting parts of being a board director is being part of the new Off-Road/Mountain Bike Committee. Last week, I was one of four moderators who participated in the first of several Off-road bicycle forums. I welcome your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below.
On Monday, November 14, 70 people attended the Marin County Bicycle Coalition's public forum introducing their new Off-road program and MCBC collected input on priorities for a successful program. After a brief introduction by MCBC Executive Director Kim Baenisch covering their many on-road successes, Kim introduced the 4 “E’s” that will guide the new Off-road program: Environment, Education, Enhancement and Enforcement.
After the introduction a diverse audience of stakeholders broke-up into smaller groups and headed to one of four stations. Each group spent 15 minutes at each “E” station to suggest how best to address land stewardship, trail etiquette, compliance with rules and trail enhancement. Here are some of the things MCBC heard:
Trail maintenance and quality design are key
Focus on trail connections as a way to expand access between points
Make better signage, from trail etiquette to interpretive signs
Encourage self-policing to create good behavior through peer pressure
Expand volunteer bike patrol
Increased trail opportunities may increase compliance
Hold traffic school for off-road citations to teach proper trail behavior
There needs to be one place to learn all the trail etiquette rules for safe trail access
Retail outlets for provision of education (Handouts, rule books, workshops, etc)
Expand NorCal’s “Spirit of Howdy”
Consistent signage, trail rules and trail maps throughout Marin’s many parks
Desire for more bike rider and equestrian education
Trail adoption program for bike shops and trail user groups
Volunteering for trail work and patrols
Build sustainable trails to protect and improve the environment
Reporting illegal activities including rouge trails and marijuana farms
The perfect frame. Check. High-performance wheels. Check. The latest parts package (gruppo). Check. A comprehensive bike fit. Anyone?
These are the same people who wouldn't dare run in shoes that were too tight or wear a suit two sizes too big. Yet, they're out riding hundreds of miles, enduring mysterious pains and ailments, all because their bike wasn't properly fit to their body and riding style from the beginning.
Retul offers the ability to measure to sub millimeter accuracy.
So what's got the bee in our seatpost about bike fit?
In the shop and on the road, your professionals at Studio Velo see cyclists contorted on the bike, stuck in incredibly inefficient riding positions. Typically, we see fit issues centered on core areas including:
• Saddles — too high, too low or improperly tilted
• Cleats misplaced, increasing the risk to knees or hips
• Handlebar reach — over or under-extended, too longer or too short
• Unspoken penal or vaginal numbness — a common pain among riders
Bike fitting by the Pro:
More Power, More Efficiency, Zero Pain
Fit before all else.
Fit is one of the most basic, central tenets of our business. A proper bike fit is the most important part of riding a current bike or buying a new one. The dimensions of the bike are obviously important, ie., the size of the bike, as is every aspect of your relationship to your bike: Your posture, your pedaling mechanics, your power and efficiency are all important and critical outputs of a good bike fit.
"Our commitment is to fit the bike to you, not fit you to the bike. We not only believe strongly in this, we guarantee it."
As one of the partners at Studio Velo, it is this principle that draws me back to conducting all of our bike fitting, both in Mill Valley and in our fit studio in San Francisco. Each and every day, I apply not only scientific research and study but also exhaustive training and over a decade of fitting experience. Certainly is helps that Studio Velo is uniquely outfitted with the best fit tools in the business, something no other shop in the area can claim. Located inside the world-class cycling and fitness center Velo SF in San Francisco, we utilize one of the biggest innovations in fit technology in the last decade: The Dynamic Fit Unit (DFU). The DFU visualizes real time changes to cycling position while the rider is in motion on the bike. This --in conjunction with the Retul fit system -- lets us develop a position ideal for your body, with zero limitations.
Retul combined with the DFU is unmatched in bike fitting.
Designed and engineered by one of the world’s most innovative bicycle manufactures, Guru Bicycles, the DFU optimizes your position on the bike with improved comfort, power and efficiency. A good fit will keep you riding and injury free for years to come. It will not only increase your performance and efficiency, but also make you want to hop on your bike and go for a ride. No pain, major gain.
Colin Beardsley, former pro cyclist with over 15-plus years of shop experience, helps all riders achieve a more perfect relationship with his or her bike. His pedigree includes working with early fit pioneer Clay Mankin, to racing at the professional level, and maintaining a presence in shops around the Bay Area for over 15 years. As the premier bike fit specialist in the Bay Area, Colin was the first to introduce the Retul Fit system locally. His best tools, however, are his eyes and ears. Colin listens closely to address any possible biomechanical problem, often seeing issues riders are unaware of.
SV: Tri closed out its inaugural season this past weekend when
we invaded the 2011 Marin County Triathlon, which is, yup, you guessed it, just
a short hop from home base in Mill Valley. A total of 7 of us made the journey
to San Rafael early Sunday morning for the Olympic
distance race. We would leave the course behind carrying with us some pretty
impressive results and satisfied that we could happily put the 2011 triathlon
season behind us.
The day got off to an early start as we loaded into the van
and departed from the shop in the dark. Not even the Starbucks in the parking
lot was open yet. Justin was in desperate need of caffeine, but it would have
to wait. How does he survive with a
broken coffee machine?
But fear not, the old saying is indeed true and the early
birds did get the worm. We found ourselves some of the first to arrive at the
race venue at McNear’s Beach and were awarded with prime bike rack space in the
transition area and time to hunt down some coffee and try to stay warm in the
After some heavy rain on Saturday and an iffy forecast for
the weekend overall, much to our surprise, Sunday morning turned out to be
sunny and clear, if not a touch on the chilly side. The thought of diving into
the bay for a mile swim wasn’t terribly appetizing to any of us, but triathlon
isn’t a sport for the faint of heart, and before we knew it the gun had gone
off and we were off to the races in our various age group waves.
Cold water notwithstanding, the sun was shining and the
temperature began to warm (ever so slightly) as we rode the prescribed 22 miles
of the bike leg via three loops along San Pedro Ave. on the north side of China
Camp State Park. Sure, it wasn’t exactly the sunny and warm California weather
Hollywood always brags about and my East Coast friends think I live in every
day, but it was far from cold.
But let’s be realistic, Fall is here, and adrenaline can do
funny things. It wasn’t until I laced up my shoes and started the run leg that
I noticed my feet were still numb from the swim. Oh well, something to take my mind off the pain in my legs, I guess.
The 6 mile run does two loops along the water south of McNear’s beach, with
some pretty incredible views of the east bay and SF in the distance. Hmm, now that I can feel my feet again, this
would be an ideal time to drop that hammer I packed. If only I could remember
where I put it…
When you travel in a pack like we at SV: Tri do, the laps in
a course like this inadvertently provide an excellent opportunity for a little
extra mid-race motivation. This would come in handy as the sight of that
familiar SV: Tri kit on the backs of our friends out on the course kept us all
honest, knowing a fellow competitor was just ahead of or behind us.
There’s nothing like a little friendly competition to keep you
going when you’re deep into the run, your legs begin to feel a little wobbly
and it’s time to dig for that last little bit of energy. It would prove well
timed, as the run course cruelly ends with one last hill to climb back up and
into the park. Oh, there’s that hammer,
glad I didn’t leave it behind in the transition area. Might as well put it to good
use here before we finish this thing…
We finished the day and managed some pretty outstanding
results. Despite a few mechanicals on the bike, we had two first place age
group finishers, two second place age group finishers, and a top ten overall
finisher. Way to defend the home turf fellas!
Here are the results from our group and a few other PP & SV racers. Nice work everyone.
If you kept your eyes open this summer, you would have
spotted SV: Tri at a number of local races. Whether it was Wildflower to start
the season back in May, Vineman 70.3 in Sonoma, the SF Triathlon at Alcatraz,
Silicon Valley International, Treasure Island or Marin County this weekend, I’m
confident all of us all tried a new race or distance, got a little faster and,
most importantly, had a blast along the way. Congratulations and thank you to
all who participated and flew the red, white and black SV colors with us this
As we enter the offseason (let’s be honest, is there really
an offseason here in California, where truly cold temperatures and snow are limited
to stories from the mouths of those who call other, less desirable, places home),
take some time to switch gears a little bit. But keep up the running, swimming
and cycling and join us next year as we enter our sophomore season as a club
and bring the competition (and Justin brings the party) to races near and far.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve already capitalized on my
post-race high and signed up for two races next year. I know, I know, the 2011
season just ended, but really, shouldn’t you be asking yourself...how is my 2012 race season shaping up??
When we last left our heroes, they were 15k of vert into a gravity slugfest. Let's continue...
This was to be the Queen Stage of the trip. Horseshoe Meadows, Whitney Portal and Onion Valley. 3 of the toughest climbs in California.
We started in Lone Pine, which claims to be the movie capital of California. Maybe they have not heard of Hollywood this far north.
We had this guy to guard the trailer.
Just looking at Horseshoe from a distance makes the quads tremble, and this is just the opening section. The full climb is 6,234 vertical feet, tackled over 19 miles. You can't get more vert in a single climb in California.
The stretches between the first switchbacks are 2 miles long. It is like a classic alpine road blown up 10x by some insane surveyor. That surveyor is pretty talented, though, because the grade through the main part of the climb is a very steady 7-8%.
Fortunately, we had a long, flat run in to the fun, and as usual, we enjoyed a social prelude to the real work of the day.
Brian had snuck up the road early, and Rann attacked before the first switchback.
I spent most of the climb by myself. The Pain Cave is quite comfortable for long, lonely efforts, though, and the scenery was always interesting.
Amazing colors on the desert floor.
How did that tree get there?
We are not the only nutcases on the mountain.
Luke conquers the monster.
As usual, it was a bit chilly up top.
A fast but bumpy trip down....
Mental note...cut it wide on the way down.
and then lunch.
Mike takes a nap. Bill says, "Soft!"
We then tackled Whitney Portal, which, conveniently, is right next door to Horseshoe. Whitney is a shorter climb at only 10 miles, but it starts with a 2 mile long section of double digit gradient that is tough on the mind and body. And, it has bears. So, no chatty intro to this beast. It was On from the start.
At the bottom of Whitney Portal.
Gun Show! Not very useful around here.
The views of the towering peaks as you snake between them are spectacular.
Scott attacked early, hoping the bears would take care of his pursuers. I hung on to Brian's wheel for dear life. I was careful to suffer silently, lest he realize I was there and accelerate.
Scott takes the Whitney Portal KOM.
Of course, with 20 meters to go, I sprinted by...what a prick. But, Brian really deserved it for making me suffer for an hour without ever breathing hard himself.
10k of vert is just a snack for Bill.
The others arrived at varying intervals, but consistent states of distress.
Mike looks like he is doing his laundry.
Colin hits the top
Rann had melted his carbon wheel on the long descent off of Horseshoe, and had to switch to his backup wheels, which had flat racing gears on them. Ask him how that worked out for him on Whitney Portal ;) .
Rann looks a bit spent.
Then of course, we had to bundle up for the ride down.
I think that is Bill under all that.
The ride down.......
We ended up too short on daylight to attempt Onion Valley, the toughest climb of them all according to the guidebook (though Colin and Scott think White Mountain is tougher, and I am going to agree so I can claim having done the toughest). The full climb is 17 miles long and climbs over 5,000 feet. I look forward to slaying that dragon on a future trip. Here is an interesting report on doing the triple.
We had tacos at the sketchiest "restaurant" in Lone Pine. A roach coach, set up in a dirt lot with a couple of picnic tables under a tarp. It was delicious.
At least the wall furnishings were classy.
After we got back to Bishop, Ritchie whipped together another incredible dinner, and we celebrated his birthday (which he spent diligently attending to our needs--we're worth it).
No, we did not make the cake in the coffee maker.
And how to finish off such a trip. How about climbing the highest paved road in California? Why not. We rode out from Bishop to tackle Rock Creek. This is technically accomplished via three separate climbs, separated by a few hundred meters of rest. But, basically, you are climbing over 6,000 feet in a more or less steady go, finishing at 10,200 feet (a bit higher than White Mountain).
As usual, we rolled out as a group and enjoyed a chatty prelude to the day's dénouement.
Performance enhancing donut
As it was the last day, things were sure to get frisky. Brian dropped a big Soy Hammer on the first climb with a subtle but devastating attack that put Scott and I on the back foot. Since he nevers breathes hard, it is really hard to tell whether Brian is attacking, or just accidentally upped the power by 100 watts. Maddening.
On the second climb, he did it again, only this time, Scott mysteriously disappeared.
Scott hit the top a few minutes later, claiming to have been delayed by helping to fix a flat. Of course, his hands looked pretty clean, and we all know he was just resting up for the final climb--Scott is sneaky like that.
Brian, Scott and I headed up Rock Creek together after a snack stop. We left Mike, Rann and Colin behind, dealing with mechanical (tire change) and biological (chamois creme application) issues. Call it a feed zone attack.
We climbed together for a few miles, gently increasing the pace from dawdling to highly uncomfortable.
Yes, Scott, we know.
Scott considers the comforts of the broom wagon.
Bill had put in an even better feed zone attack to go up the road, and it took us a while to reel him in.
As we passed the halfway point, I put in an attack to win the sprint to the county line sign….yeah! It does not matter that no one else saw the sign…they should pay more attention. Upon reaching the sign, I saw that I had a decent gap, and thought, what the hell, I'll just keep going. A few minutes of intense suffering later, I was disappointed to find Scott back on my wheel.
Near the top, right as we got into the snow, we passed Pie in the Sky, our post climb refueling stop. I was more focused on Scott's rear wheel than pumpkin versus banana creme.
Scott attacked on a steep section and gapped me a bit as we came into the snow. I saw a piece of wood a few hundred meters ahead that looked like it marked the end of the road. Big Ring time. Out of the saddle and I closed most of the gap before realizing that the piece of wood was just the railing of a bridge, and not the finish line. And that was the end of my challenge. With over 30,000 feet in the legs, I had no matches left, and the Dancing Hippo had to settle for 2nd place.
Brian at the top
A cold but quick run down to Pie in the Sky for some deliciousness. I had a hot chocolate, more to warm my fingers than to drink.
Rann, Mike and I played tag on the way down.
Phew! Over 30,000 feet of climbing in the books (well, on the Internet). Spirits were still high but legs were toast. We headed off to "Hot Creek" for a soak. When we got there, the signs were slightly discouraging.
And, nature's hot tub resembled a chemical dip.
The creek was closed for swimming, so we bundled back into the van and headed back to the Lee Vining Mobil for dinner.
typical gas station menu
The ride home was subdued, with tired bodies but satiated minds. We rode well. We ate well. We had fun. The riding was basically outstanding. Great terrain and great company.
For me, the magic of the trip that was everyone was able to challenge themselves, without having to push harder than they felt comfortable with. Ritchie was always nearby to offer up food--sorry, "nutritionals"-- or give exhausted legs a break. No judgment was passed, except for the occasional jealous thought that sipping beers in the van might have been the better option to get to the top.
The experience of the climbs is seared into my memory. One week later, my legs certainly still remember. These are climbs that are at a scale (actually bigger) with the cathedrals of cycling--the Tourmalet, La Madeleine, Galibier, Alpe d'Huez. It gives new context on the difficulties of a grand tour.
While the legs certainly benefited from all the climbing, the real strength gained is mental. There are not any harder climbs to be faced. When you hit the bottom of Bofax, you know that it is but a mere mortal in the Pantheon of climbs. Of course, don't get too excited, because Ritchie is not going to come rescue you if you blow halfway up Bofax.
There were so many great moments and great vistas. Below are links to all of the photos, in case you care. It was hard to select just a few to represent the trip. And, as usual, the Strava files to prove it all happened.