And this isn't only true of the bicycles themselves. It's also true of the way people ride them. It's no longer just enough to get on your bike and go. You need goals, and you need an agenda. And most importantly, you need a coach. A reader recently forwarded me this article from the Los Angeles Times (Isn't that cute? LA has its own Times, just like a real city!) about how to "Bicycle Your Way To Fitness." Presumably, this is intended for novices, and it features bits of practical advice from a coach by the name of David Brinton, such as:
...set some goals, such as completing a race, or even one as grand as completing a "century," a 100-mile ride done in one day (there are races with shorter distances as well). That, Brinton says, has bragging rights, and it isn't as overwhelming as it sounds.
While completing a race or a century is a perfectly reasonable goal, the notion that completing a century comes with "bragging rights" is absurd. Riding 100 miles is simply not that big a deal. It's like bragging about sleeping for 10 hours instead of 8. Sure, you don't do it every day, but once in awhile you just feel like it and you have a little extra leisure time. By the way, the only difference between a century and a long ride is that you use a helmet mirror, a stem riser, and a dayglo vest on a century. Really, it's just like a regular ride, only dorkier.
Keep a training diary. "It gives you a reference of where you started and where you are today," Brinton says. "If you time yourself going up a hill at a particular heart rate, how do you know if you've improved if you haven't been logging it?"
Yes, it's absolutely vital to keep a training diary and to know whether or not you've improved. Actually, I apply this technique to every area of my life. For example, I also keep an eating diary. I mean, sometimes I have a sandwich for lunch and I think it's pretty good, but how do I know if it's as good as the sandwich I had yesterday? If every lunch isn't incrementally better than the previous one, then I'm just not eating productively. Life is meant to be improved upon, not enjoyed. By the way, the diary approach also works great for sexual encounters, nights out with friends, and even watching your favorite TV show!
Do a one- to two-hour ride at a sustainable pace on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, with a longer ride on Saturday. Whenever possible, try to pick safe roads with few lights and stop signs. If none are close, you may have to drive to a better location.
Wait, I got into cycling because I wanted to ride my bike. Now I've got to drive? If my goal is to get fit, why don't I just ride to the better roads? Surely that will help. I suppose I should also lose ten pounds, but if that's too difficult at my current weight I should first gain ten pounds.
The major goals of these two weeks are learning how to ride at a consistent pace, getting the body used to constant pedaling, and maintaining a steady heart rate. You should be breathing hard, but able to sustain a conversation, talking in brief sentences.
You need more than one person to have a conversation. If I had someone to ride with I wouldn't need a coach.
Determining your lactate threshold will help set up various training zone levels, useful in building cardiovascular endurance, and in establishing when recovery time is needed.
I agree that knowing your lactate threshold is absolutely vital. It's simply not enough to listen to your body. Sure, it will tell you when you're too tired or you can't go any faster, but how can you believe it without establishing a threshold? I've also established a "bathroom threshold" so I know when to relieve myself. If you break the seal too soon, you won't build up the necessary endurance, yet if you wait too long, you might have an accident. That's probably the best part about having a coach--it's like reliving toilet training.
If maintaining this level becomes difficult, it could be an indication of overtraining.
Translation: "You're tired. Take a rest. That'll be $500." For an extra $100 will he tell me when it's bedtime? For an extra $200 will he tuck me in and read to me from my favoritest story in the whole wide world, Lance Armstrong's "It's Not About The Bike"?
During these weeks, Brinton suggests concentrating on pedaling mechanics. Instead of mashing down on the pedals and generating power just on the down stroke, think about the muscles you're using throughout the 360-degree range of motion. Thinking of the circle as a clock, from about 4 to 8 focus on the hamstrings; from about 7 to 12 the hip flexors, and from about 10 to 2 the quadriceps. Becoming a more proficient peddler will eventually increase speed.
Pedaling technique is extremely important--especially when you're using plastic pedals with no toe clips, like most novice cyclists. Actually, people used to ride fixed-gears in order to improve their pedal strokes--that is, until the fixters proved you can pedal just as badly with a fixed-gear as you can with a freehub.
For more information on Brinton, go to www.ridingtowin.com.
Intrigued, I did go to ridingtowin.com. (I'm guessing that means "Riding Towin," which is a town in Liberia and presumably a good place to train.) However, I totally glossed over Brinton's race results, because my eyes were immediately drawn to this:
Now this was interesting. This guy taught Kevin Costner how to ride for "American Flyers," and also did Kevin Bacon's "Quicksilver" stunts! He's also a stuntman! While I may not need someone to tell me how and when to ride my bike, I am extremely interested in learning how to be a stuntman. It's one of the items in my "Queue of Dreams." Sure, I'll never ride in the Tour de France, but I might get paid $50 to crash my bike on a TV pilot or something. I then checked out his stunt resume:
I was fascinated to learn that Brinton had done "roller blade stunts" in "Exit to Eden," which was that move with Rosie O'Donnell and Dan Aykroyd. Now, I've never seen the movie, so I don't know if there are actually Rollerblade stunts in it. It could just be that Brinton was the only person with the fortitude to get close enough to O'Donnell while she was in costume on the set:
He probably used the Rollerblades so he wouldn't have to stay close to her for very long. I can imagine him zipping by and handing her a coffee without stopping, and I suppose Rollerblading while holding hot coffee qualifies as a stunt according to the Screen Actors' Guild.
By the way, I saw a Rollerblade commuter this very morning, though at first I thought he was just scuba diving to Popeye's:
In any case, in addition to the "East of Eden" gig, Brinton has stunt-doubled for Paul Reiser (I guess he had to kiss Helen Hunt in "Mad About You"), David Arquette (in the short-lived "Double Rush" messenger sitcom, which sounds fake but isn't), and of course Kevin Bacon:
Speaking of Kevin Bacon, he was among the many people who were bilked out of their fortunes by that Bernie Madoff guy. This is tragic, and frankly I'm highly disappointed in the messenger community for not coming to his aid and rallying behind him. As an actor, Kevin Bacon did for messengers with "Quicksilver" what Tom Hanks did for AIDS patients with "Philadelphia," or what Tom Hanks did for war veterans with "Saving Private Ryan," or what Tom Hanks did for cops with slobbering canine partners with "Turner and Hooch." You'd think the very least the messenger community could do would be to organize an alleycat and donate the proceeds to the Bacons. But no. Instead, they're doing stuff like this:
It's worth noting that alleycats are becoming increasingly high-concept these days. Like everything else, I guess they're moving towards complexity. (Personally, I suspect that this one may be a Ponzi scheme.) Just like it's not enough to ride your road bike without having a "goal," it's not enough to put on an alleycat without a pop culture theme, or a gambling element, or a scavenger hunt involving dead animals. But this is hardly surprising. As alleycats become increasingly popular the organizers have to try harder to differentiate themselves.
That's why I'm putting on my own alleycat. For my pop culture theme, I've chosen "The Jeffersons":
And rest assured, this is no ordinary alleycat. Maybe a single-day event is enough to satisfy the softcore interloper or the lifestyle daytripper, but mine is going to be fully immersive:
Yes, the "Movin' On Up" alleycat will be all about pulling yourself up by your Sidi straps. (For the full effect, read the flyer while listening to this.) Also, there will be a trackstand competition afterwards. Location TBD, though it will probably be at the Hamptons home of the winner.
In the meantime, though, times are tough. So tough, in fact, that people are making Gatorade bottle fenders, as you can see in this photo from San Francisco, forwarded by a reader:
I've heard of making fenders from milk jugs, but that usually involves cutting them. This seems to be an intact bottle. I'm not sure what the motivation is here, but it is certainly innovative. Perhaps the rider takes advantage of its liquid hauling capacity, like a little mini tanker. Or perhaps he's participating in some kind of "loose change" alleycat and he's got to fill it with pennies, just like a trick-or-treater with a UNICEF box. Maybe this is the Kevin Bacon benefit alleycat.
Finally--a simple solution to a complex problem.