Fifty Golden Rules

Rule number 51....don't make silly faces while cycling.
I went on a nice relaxing ride today while Señor J is out of town. No sprints, no intervals, no pedal stomping, lung busting, thigh burning, pace line pulls, just an easy morning spin, letting my mind wander while taking in the sights and sounds I normally miss while “pushing it”.

Since you really don’t want to know where my mind can go, I thought I’d borrow an excellent article from Bicycling Magazine’s website, featuring the 50 golden rules of bicycling. I’ll add in my 2.5¢ (adjusted for inflation) on some rules.

1. To corner, enter wide and exit wide. Hard to believe this rule isn’t natural to some. If you’ve been riding bikes since you were a kid, you’d do this naturally.

2. Brake Less. It sounds counterintuitive, but the harder you yank on the brakes, the less control you have over your bike. The best riders brake well before a corner. Plus, laying off the stoppers forces you to focus on key bike cornering skills such as weight distribution, body position, and line choice. I can’t remember the last time I wore out break pads…but then we have no mountains in Florida.

3. Look Where You Want to Go. “When riding a tricky or dangerous section of trail (or road), focus on the path you want your bike to follow, not the rock, tree, or other obstacle you’re trying to avoid,” says globe-trotting mountain-biker Hans Rey. Funny thing is if you look at the obstacles or dangers, chances are you will hit them.

4. Avoid Helmet Hair. “For God’s sake, make sure your hair is under your helmet and not poking out the front,” advises Garmin-Cervelo pro Christian Vande Velde. This is one of the reasons I wear a head band under my helmet.

5. Take the Lane. You have a right to the road, so use it. It’s safer than riding on the shoulder, which is often cracked, covered in gravel, or worse. But don’t be a road hog, either. This should be reworded as take the lane, but only if a crazed dump truck or 18 wheeler isn’t behind you.

6. Ride with the Best. Before he built his first mountain bike, GARY FISHER was an aspiring road racer. But his decision to stay in America rather than train in Europe derailed his chances of joining the pro peloton. “To be the best at the sport, you need to go to where the best are riding,” Fisher says. “If you’re a mountain biker, spend a couple of weeks at Whistler and you will be changed forever. If you’re a road rider and want to be a better climber, go to Colorado. Find the best, train with them, watch what they do, and learn their secrets.” Riding with the best will often leave you riding solo, your legs on fire and your lungs bursting…but it is well worth it.

7. Set Your Suspension—And Check It Often. It’s frightening how many riders hit the trail with poorly adjusted forks and shocks. Not only will droopy suspension make your bike feel like a wet noodle, it can also be downright dangerous. A few simple adjustments are all it takes to have your suspension smoothly sucking up bumps. What the hell is suspension? The only suspension I have is my natural butt padding!

8. Clean your shoes monthly. Also: wash your gloves. I check my cleats and clean my shoes after every ride. My gloves go into the wash at least once a week.

9. Warm Up. A slow start primes your engine by directing oxygen from your blood cells to your muscles. Spin easy for 20 to 30 minutes before you begin to hammer. Hey it’s flat terrain here in Florida. My warm up is just the ride to the main boulevard.

10. Always Carry Cash. Money can’t buy love, but it can buy food, water, a phone call, or a spare tube. Forty bucks in cash and plenty of plastic, not to mention a cell phone, health insurance card and my road ID bracelet. 

11. Race, At Least Once. It will push you to ride harder than you previously thought possible. I’ve still yet to enter an official race, but my weekend ride with the Trek group is pretty damn close.

12. Drink before you are thirsty; eat before you are hungry. Amen brother! This is gospel, especially with the Florida heat.

13. Eat Real Food On longer rides, easily digestible calories are key—and they shouldn’t come from just energy bars. James Herrera, MS, founder of Performance Driven Coaching, has a favorite: spread some almond butter on whole-grain bread and top with sliced bananas and agave nectar or honey. I’m a fan of Nature Valley bars with plenty of nuts, fruits and grains. On SAG stops I always look for bananas first, peanut butter second.

14. Don’t Live in Your Chamois. When the shoes come off, your shorts should come off with them. Also never wear them more than once without washing no matter what space aged antibacterial impregnated synthetic material it contains.

15. Ride Hard. To become faster, you need to ride faster. Intervals squeeze every drop of fitness from your time on the bike. Try the following two or three times a week: Choose a route that includes a climb or stretch of road where you can go nearly all-out for three to five minutes. Warm up for 15 to 30 minutes, then ride hard—your exertion should be about a 7 out of 10—for three minutes. Recover for 90 seconds, then repeat the sequence four more times. My main riding route has evenly spaced telephone poles which makes riding intervals easy. Don’t forget to do at least one cool down ride a week.

16. . . .But Not Every Day. Take 56-year-old mountain-bike legend Ned Overend’s advice: Rest often. And if you’re feeling cooked after a 30-minute warm-up, put it in an easy gear and spin home. “No workout is set in stone,” Overend says. “Your training needs to have structure, but it should be malleable based on how you’re feeling.” Which might explain why, 10 days before he won the 2011 Mt. Washington Hill Climb, Overend was surfing in San Diego. It’s important to push oneself, but silly to hurt oneself.

17. Play the Terrain. Go hard on climbs and take it easy on descents. Not really applicable here in SW Florida as our biggest climb is just 70 feet.

18. Ride Another Bike. Explore the woods on a mountain bike. Throw down in the local cyclocross race. Mixing in different types of riding keeps you mentally fresh, boosts your skills, and reminds you that riding is fun. Probably true, but I’m a roady at heart.

19. Wear Out Your Shifters You have lots of gears for a reason: to keep your cadence in the sweet spot. For silky-smooth gear changes, remember to shift before a punchy climb, sprint, or tight switchback. The only time we Floridan’s get to play with our gears is on extremely windy days, otherwise we pretty much stick to our big gears.

20. Train Your Weaknesses Professional endurance racer Mark Weir makes his living blasting through corners. But that wasn’t always the case. “I was a semi-pro downhiller racing in Park City, Utah, and there was a corner that I thought just sucked,” he recalls. “I told Jan Karpiel, one of my sponsors, about it, and he said: ‘The corner doesn’t suck, you suck at that corner.’ I realized then that training my weaknesses is far more important than sticking with my strengths.” Before training your weaknesses, know them first, they are easy to overlook.

21. Check Your Tire Pressure. Road/Commuter: If you weigh more than 180 pounds, inflate to the maximum on the tire sidewall. If you weigh 110 or less, fill to the minimum. Somewhere in between? Inflate to somewhere in between. Before I start a ride I always break out my trusty Bontrager pump.  Also air down a bit for those wet rides, the added tire contact gives you better traction.

22. If your knee hurts in the front, raise your saddle; if it hurts in the back, lower the seat. It’s a never ending battle with seat height adjustments as your seat will slowly drop over many rides. Be sure to mark the sweet spot on the seat post.

23. Buy a Torque Wrench and Learn How to Use It This is mandatory for carbon parts, but will also extend the life of all stems, handlebars, bottom brackets, seat post clamps, and suspension pivots. Not only learn how to use it, but also carry it with you on all rides. it may save your butt some day.

24. Learn to Bunnyhop on Your Road Bike Doing an unclipped hop shows you how changes in body position affect your bike’s behavior—knowledge that will boost your confidence on steep downhills, rough roads, and in corners. The key word here is bunny hop not wheelie. All to many riders just pop the front wheel over the bump letting the rear wheel crash into the obstacle.

25. Fitness Takes Time No crash diet or hell week of training will magically propel you into top form. “You’ve got to work toward it all season long,” says Pierre Rolland, the best young rider of the 2011 Tour de France. Patience young padawan, you will be rewarded over the long term.

26. Take short pulls at the front. This is one I personally have to work on. I have a bad habit of over extending pulls and  burning myself out.

27. Wash Your Bike Especially after a wet or muddy ride. Mist it with a garden hose or soak it using a bucket of soapy water. Wipe it down and rinse, then dry it with a clean rag or towel. Don’t forget to lube your chain. Repeat after me, “it’s not a chore, it’s not a chore”. Actually riding a clean bike gives you a little boost, ind of like driving with freshly cleaned windows.

28. Speaking of Your Chain. . . A well-maintained and lubricated chain could last 3,000 road miles or more, but check it every 500. Here’s how: Take a ruler and place the 0 at the rivet of one link. If the ruler’s 12-inch mark aligns closely with another rivet, you’re in good shape. If it’s more than a 1/16th of an inch away, replace the chain. Don’t forget to wipe down the extra lube from your chain, otherwise your next bike wash will be extra stubborn.

29. Respect Your Front Brake Applying 60 percent front brake will bring you to a smooth, controlled stop. But on steep descents or during rapid decelerations, you’ll want to rely even more heavily on the front. Just as in a car, your rear brakes play a minor role in stopping power….don’t believe me, try stopping your car using only your emergency brake.

30. Stick with Your Group Whether you’re embarking on a 500-mile charity ride or racing Paris-Nice, there’s safety in numbers. Teammates and friends can pull if you’re feeling tired, share their food, or help fix a mechanical. Not to mention the great friends and conversations you will have….just watch out for those snot rockets!

31. Layer Like a Wedding Cake Easily removable layers make it a snap to regulate your temperature. Booties, vests, and skullcaps, as well as arm, knee, and leg warmers, can all be stashed in pockets as the day warms up. The cycling strip tease is quite the art. I’m still working on the appropriate base layers for “cold weather Florida rides”.

32. Keep Your Head Up Looking far down the road or trail will help you see approaching traffic, spot the best line through corners, or recognize when someone’s making a break. It’s easy to get fixated on the road and/or the bike in front of you. Stay alert and try and look through the rider in front of you.

33. Carry a frame pump. And a spare tube. And a multi-tool with a chain breaker. Hey my saddle bag is not that big! I can fit in 2 tubes, 2 tire irons, 3 CO2 cartridges and a multi-tool. I’m not a fan of frame pumps as they come no where near close to filling your tires. CO2 cartridges are much more convenient. 

34. Listen to Your Bike “A click or pop or scraping noise doesn’t heal itself,” says Calvin Jones, director of education at Park Tool. Pay attention to the sounds emanating from your ride and you’ll know when it’s time for some TLC. Learn how to provide some on the spot TLC too.

35. Have a Plan Improvement does not come accidentally. If you want to take your riding to the next level, you need to craft a strategy and set incremental goals to reach it. Also be consistant and determined. It’s easy to skip rides for a variety of reasons. 

36. Embrace the Rain Unless you live in the desert, soggy rides are a part of life. Just dress appropriately: Layers and a rain jacket are optional in the summer, but become essential when temperatures start to drop. No thank you. If it’s raining before i ride I’ll pass. Road grit tastes terrible…but rain tends to pop up unexpectedly here in Florida, so get used to it.

37. Keep a Spare Kit in Your Car You never know when you’ll have the chance to sneak in a ride. Borrowing or renting a bike is easy, but it’s harder to find a spare helmet, shoes, and chamois. Keeping a kit in your car all but ensures you’ll never miss an impromptu ride. Scour bike swaps for secondhand shoes, pedals, and other items, but buy a new helmet—decent models can be found for about $75. There is some merit to this, but impromptu rides in my book are more leisure/hybrid bike type rides that really don’t require a full kit. The thought of riding a road bike which I have not been fitted for is just not appealing. 

38. It’s Okay to Stop Don’t be afraid to pull over for a good swimming hole, hot spring, ice-cream stand, cafe, bakery, or dive bar. In fact, some of the best rides are planned around these diversions. Discovering new places is half the fun of long rides. 

39. Keep Your Perspective When training, set a goal for every ride—even if the goal is recovery. When racing, ride smart, don’t chop corners, and remember that the local Tuesday-Night Crit is not the World Championships. On the road, think like a motorist. Maybe there’s a reason the guy in the pickup truck was pissed at you. Don’t forget to be courteous…sharing the road works both ways.

40. Refuel Right The key recovery window is the 30 minutes following a ride; that’s when your body needs protein to repair muscles and help reload its energy stores, so make sure to get at least 20 to 25 grams. Post ride munchies call for bananas, nuts and yogurt!

41. Wait to eat and drink until you’re at the back. Hey it’s impossible to do up front anyways. Refuel when your in the slipstream.

42. Don’t half-wheel. Keep pace, having your group rubber banding helps no one.

43. Work Your Core Most cyclists have weak cores. Good old sit-ups and crunches work. Your shoulders, back, elbows and hands will thank you for it.

44. Know What The Wind Is Doing On blustery days, pick a route that heads into the wind first. Then get aero to minimize drag—slide into the drops and bring your elbows and knees tight to your body. In a group, ride in a single-file pace line to slice through headwinds. If the breeze is whipping across the road sideways, form an echelon (an angled pace line created by overlapping your front wheel with the rear wheel of the rider ahead of you) to keep the wind out of your face. Pedal at a higher-than-normal cadence even if it means riding a little slower. Then, turn around and enjoy a tailwind as you speed home. Unfortunately the wind here in Florida always seem to blow at oblique angles to the roadway leaving you with unfavorable winds most of the rides duration. The only thing I have to say about the wind is learn to live with it…even if it sucks.

45. Know Your Gear “Don’t ever use anything new in a bike race,” says former pro racer and cycling commentator Frankie Andreu. This advice applies to backcountry mountain-bike rides, charity events, or exotic cycling vacations. Log some miles on fresh equipment before embarking on any serious ride. You don’t want to be 60 miles from home when you discover that you and your new saddle aren’t soul mates after all. Extend this to include all gear, even clothing items like socks. Break things in first before pulling big miles.

46. Get Fit To Your Bike There is no faster way to improve your comfort or performance on the bike. “Your ideal position will change over time,” says Andy Pruitt,EdD, director of the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine in Colorado. “As you get older—say, over the age of 35—you should consider a professional bike fit every few seasons.” Pretty much get a refit with any addition/modification to your bike. Poor fit will tear you apart. it is the single biggest reason people give up on cycling.

47. Bring Beer It is the currency of cycling. A cold one can serve as payment for a borrowed tube, a tip for your mechanic, or a way to celebrate another great ride. The marriage between cycling and beer is amazing. You’d think that they’s be polar opposites, but nothing is farther from the truth. Just look at all the craft beer jerseys out on the market!

48. Pass Fast In a mountain-bike race, make your presence known, then pass quickly. And if someone’s passing you, let him or her by. More or less true for road cycling, but instead of passing quickly, I think a better mantra would be pass with care and announce your intention as road bikes are very silent.

49. Riding Hurts Sometimes riders at the front aren’t there because they’re faster, but because they can suffer more. Train your legs for speed, but also condition your mind to love the pain. Learn Jens Voigt famous line “Shut Up Legs!” You will use it many, many times.

50. Go—Even For A Short Ride No matter what the excuse—it’s cold, you’re tired, Shark Week is airing on the Discovery Channel—you can always shoehorn in a short ride. Head away from home for 30 minutes. If you’re still miserable, turn around—you’ll have logged an hour on the bike. Or, just keep riding. Truth!

There’s the 50. I could easily add a few more rules, but we’ll leave that for another time.

Route: Three Oaks Loop
Ride Time: 2:06:30
Stopped Time: 13:17
Distance: 32.84 miles
Average: 15.58 mph
Fastest Speed: 27.12 mph
Ascent: 180 feet
Descent: 194 feet
Calories: 1927

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