Arrive on Time

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At the risk of being nanny-Bear, one of the most-important things you can do to improve your own cycling experience is to arrive on time to group rides. Each ride gives you a small buffer: “8:00 a.m. meet up, 8:30 a.m. ride out.” Do not interpret this to mean that you can arrive at 8:30. You cannot, and doing so is both counter-productive to you and inconsiderate of other riders.


Showing up late means everyone has to wait for you. It means those who arrived on time may become justifiably impatient. They’re justified because their breakfasts (which were intended to see them through the morning) have more time to digest, leaving them possibly with a calorie deficit for the first part of the ride. It pushes lunch further out. It pushes rides-end further out, too. Most of us have busy lives, and, having already dedicated most of the daylight hours to cycling, probably have important catch-up in the evening.

Needing to get home means faster riders are less likely to regroup with slower riders at meet up points. It also means the training ride leaders (“TRLs”) will be stretched all that much more thin; no experienced riders means fewer people to help with flats or questions. Which means slower riders will get less attention to help them improve.

The less-experienced riders, having arrived on time and waited for you, now have to either endure the cold while you suit up, or the heat because a morning ride got pushed to include afternoon hours. Cold muscles or too much heat means they have more obstacles to contend with…all because they had to wait around for a few minutes.

Now everyone is just that tiny bit more stressed or unprepared. That means you have fewer resources of friendly help which could have been available if you’d arrived at the meet up time. A TRL may have to re-read the safety speech so you can ride. Someone has to pull the sign-in sheet out of their car. Everyone has to pee. No one is going to be happy with you for arriving late.

If you’re going to be late, I do not want to discourage you from going to the ride. Its true: sometimes it happens. Your dog barfed, there was unexpected traffic, you had to change a flat before leaving. Fix the issue then go. But if you do, please prepare the group as best you can:

  1. Call ahead. Call a TRL or a friend who is riding and let them know you’re going to be late.
  2. Arrive ready to ride, if you can. Make sure you’re wearing your kit, your tires are pumped, your water bottles are full, and your bladder is empty.
  3. Expect that you may not get the route sheet. If possible, download the route into your Garmin, or pre-print your own route sheet.
  4. Anticipate that you may have to “skip” this ride. If you get there after everyone has gone, you certainly cannot go on the ride. But if the sweep is still there, she may be able to sign you in and do a quick safety speech with you.
  5. Go rogue, but only if you’re comfortable doing so. No one can stop you from riding, but if you arrive without hearing the safety speech or signing in, you cannot be considered part of the official ride.

So, use your morning pre-ride time wisely. Get ready the night before, if you can, so you can jump on your car or onto your bike without searching for your stuff. Make sure you know where you’re going and how long it will take for you to get there. Get to bed on time. Then make sure you’re out the door on time.

Everyone is late from time to time. But we have 30 weeks, 30 training rides, to get through together. Don’t make a habit of being late!

Your Bear

PS: Writing this blog takes considerable time and effort. If you find it useful, please consider making a small donation to my ride: http://tofighthiv.org/goto/bearalc.


Stop at the Damned Stop Sign

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Yes. It is true. Even Bear has a rebel streak. Yesterday I was stopped by a cop for running the stop sign at the corner of Sinclair Road and College Town Drive at Sacramento State University. I was turning left onto the bike trail running parallel to College Town to approach the tunnel toward Elvas. The cop was right in front of me, parked on the bike trail. I slowed as I approached the stop sign and looked left and right. No cars were coming, so I turned.


As I entered the bike trail, I heard the cop’s loudspeaker, “You on the bike, stop!” Of course, I did. What follows may not have been the entire truth from me, but was fully respectful:

Cop: Are you familiar with Vehicle Code 21200?

Me: No, Sir. (Sort of lying.)

Cop: Under the Vehicle Code, bicycles are subject to the same rules as cars, did you know that?

Me: Yes, Sir.

Cop: Do you know why I stopped you?

Me: Because I ran the stop sign. (Pointing.)

Cop: So I could give you a ticket for running that stop sign. Tickets for running stop signs are $250, plus the court will charge you over $50 for processing.

Me: Woah.

Cop: Plus, I pulled you over because its dangerous. Who do you think will win in an accident between you and a car?

Me: Not me, Sir. (Fully keeping my mouth shut about the fact that there were no cars.)

Cop: That’s right. You might not die from an accident on this road, but you’d probably end up in a wheelchair. (Possibly an exaggeration.)

Me: Yes, Sir.

Cop: I’m not going to give you a ticket today, but with that distinctive helmet, I’ll know if I see you again. If I catch you running the stop sign, I’m going to give you a ticket. OK? (See Exhibit A.)

Me: Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir. (Refraining from asking for a selfie with him, as I was mentally planning this blog post.)

Exhibit A.

The moral of this story is that the AIDS/LifeCycle Safety Rules are not just words or a way for the ride to shift liability onto you. They are there for your safety and the safety of others. And they are there to keep you from getting tickets.

So learn the lesson from me so you don’t have to.

Your Bear

PS: Writing this blog takes a significant amount of time and effort. If you find it helpful, please donate to my ride. My heart and mind are with my friend in Napa, Sonoma, and Solano counties, places I cycle in often.


Cleaning your Bike will make it Last Longer

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Keeping with the spirit of the title says it all, please read the title. Keeping your chain clean will keep your bike running smoothly, will let the components last longer, and will keep your bike repair bills low (a Shimano Ultegra chain costs $25, a Shimano Ultegra hub costs $45, a Shimano Ultegra chain ring costs about $179). FYI, if you don’t clean your bike, these will fail in this order: chain, hub (aka cassette), chain ring.

2012 Olympic Games
Gratuitous image of my favorite cyclist, Robert Forestemann. (Source.)

But I know, cleaning your bike can be daunting. Its easy to worry about doing it wrong, but little you can do will ruin your drive chain…and NOT cleaning is will certainly do so. Watch this video about cleaning hacks that work (and a couple that dont), and you’ll see, all you really need is a bucket of soapy water and some degreaser:

Search around on YouTube to find more detailed descriptions of cleaning your bike.

Here is an easy list of how to clean your bike:

  1. As often as you like, but not less than every 100 miles, clean your chain and bike frame.
  2. Shift into the big cog on the chain ring, and the smallest cog on the cassette.
  3. Choose one of the methods in the video, and clean the chain, chain ring, cassette, and derailleurs.
  4. Dry the entire bike with a rag, then let the bike air-dry completely. (If you did a quick clean with an oily rag (or rubbing alcohol, which works), for instance, drying time is minimal. If you cleaned with soapy water, drying overnight is not amiss, but possibly unnecessary.)
  5. Add chain lube. (If you cleaned with an oily rag or alcohol, you can likely put a thin stream while spinning the chain about three times. If you did a thorough clean with degreaser-of-choice, put a tiny drop on each link.)
  6. Using a clean-ish rag, wipe the chain very thoroughly. Post-lube, you really cannot wipe the chain enough.
  7. Make sure the frame is clean, too!

Do this throughout the season, and 90% of your mechanical issues will disappear like tacos after a century.

Your Bear

P.S., These blog posts are time consuming, though gratifying to make. If you found them useful, please consider donating to my AIDS/LifeCycle ride at: http://tofighthiv.org/goto/bearalc.


Cadence and Fitness

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Last week we talked about the mechanics of cadence: working with your gears to make your legs spin faster (more efficient) or slower (more power). The next questions are: How efficient? How powerful? The answer lies in the balance between muscle power and cardiovascular stamina.

Image Credit.

Obviously, when moving your pedals a chain of well-developed muscles will help. Strong arms, a strong core, strong thighs, leading to strong calves are needed to power you up hills, or to speed your descents at a dizzying rate. (“Strong” doesn’t mean “giant,” however. Anyone can cycle and in doing so, will develop stronger and stronger muscles.) So, you may be telling yourself, drop the cadence by increasing my gear ratio to the hardest I can do and still move forward.

The problem with the power-through approach is that muscles get fatigued easily. The science behind muscle fatigue is complicated, but the gist is that your muscles can work under only so much load before running out of fuel and building up too many metabolism byproducts. The less of a load your muscles have, the longer you can go without refueling and rest.

That implies the correct answer is to focus on spin, or higher cadence, over power. Higher cadence requires that you move your legs rapidly around the pedals. (Which is one reason why the “clipless” pedals that you perplexingly “clip” into are so important: they give you power during the entire pedal stroke.) Spinning generally requires less muscle power and so generates less muscle fatigue. That means you can go further longer, though possibly at a slower pace. And that is where the balance comes in; spin at the pace which keeps you moving at your desired rate without exhausting your muscle power.

High cadence requires strong cardiovascular health. That means strong lungs and a strong diaphragm. Getting a large volume of oxygen pumping through your system by increasing lung capacity and throughput. The science may be hard, but this is something anyone who can sit on a bike can accomplish (not sure about the advise to avoid sodium as salt is a requirement for cyclists, I’ll look into it).

The single most important thing you can do to improve your cardiovascular health is to quit smoking.

If you’re embarking on this for the first time, see your doctor for guidelines for improvement. After that, the next steps are to cycle more. Breath deeply. Get your heart rate up. Increase the duration and intensity of your workouts.

The final question for today is what should your cadence be? On a flat road with no head- or tailwinds, presuming you’re in decent shape and have ridden for a while, but haven’t focused on cadence, you might try shooting for between 80 to 90 rpms. Your cadence meter will let you know. Up hills, that will drop to 70 or below. Downhill, it might not raise much, because gravity may overwhelm your efforts. Once you get stronger, you can try for around 100 rpms on the flat. There’s no set rule, and what is a fast cadence for some riders might be slow for another.

This post is for my friend Ty Whitehead. He was seriously injured on a ride this weekend. Please keep him in your thoughts that he recovers quickly and completely.

Your Bear

Motivation: Goals

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It’s cold. It’s wet. You don’t want to get out of bed. Your bicycle looms large in your mind as a device of torture. And you have this nagging feeling in the back of your mind that you should be riding. The question is how do you get yourself out of bed? This series of posts will help answer that question.

Robert Foëstemann

You won’t do the work if you don’t know what work you have to do. So the first step toward motivating yourself is making a goal.

So, what are you looking to do? Ride in an epic ride like the AIDS/LifeCycle? That is a laudable goal and one that is achievable for every reader. I’ve ridden in the ALC four times, and have ridden with men and women; all races, ethnicities, and religions; gay, straight, and bi; trans and cis; late-teens to 80+; and muscle-bound gods and big bears. If they all did it, you can to.

The next question is how did they do it? They did it by keeping their goal in mind throughout the process. The “process” being finding a way to take their probably-not-ready for 545 miles bodies and slowly turning them into aerobic athletes.

So, today’s post is short. Get out your favorite calendar — be it fuzzy “hang in there” kittens, Bears with Bare Chests, or on a tablet — and mark the following on it:

Source: AIDS/LifeCycle

There are 27 weekends from now until June 4, 2017. You have plenty of time, but only if you’re prepared. The next step is planning out your training schedule. (Hint: start right now by marking off all weekends you cannot ride.)

Next week: Making a plan.

Your Bear

Channel your Anger, Frustration and Fear

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I wanted to write a post about using cycling to quell your sense of loss and frustration in this troubling time. But that post is not in me. But like I’m going to, just do it. Get on your bike and train. You know you should. You know it will help. Trust that and go for it.


I also wanted to write a post about hope. That post is not in me, either. The Orange One has promised to eviscerate our rights, and there is no evidence that was just campaign rhetoric. He appears to be filling his cabinet with the hate-mongers who were disgraced 20 or 30 years ago.

One thing I do know, is there is no way we’re going back into the closet. Too many have fought this battle before us for us to concede or to backpedal. We can and must find a way to continue our forward movement.

I don’t know what that way is, but I can tell you it will involve all our participation in progressive civic groups such as the AIDS/LifeCycle. Places where we can set our differences aside and focus on our goal: social justice, quelling the tyranny of the majority, and making people’s lives better.

I do know one thing. We must fight. The battle is going to come to a head — I pray that is a battle of wits and words, not of might. Will the ignorant and bigoted win out? Only our actions will tell.

I also know that our fight will only work if we stand up for EVERYONE being oppressed. Transgender. Black. Arab. Jew. Asian. Latino. Gay. Lesbian. Bisexual. Disabled. Women. Undocumented. The Educated. Those exercising freedom of speech.

If you see an injustice report it. Take names. Jot down addresses. Photograph or video the incident. Tell the police. Tell the media. Tell Facebook and Twitter. HELP your fellow men and women. Intercede to the extent you are able.

If you see an attack, call 911 immediately. Keep emergency numbers on your phone. Yes, it appears it may have come to this.

One thing I think may be missing from the current reports on social media is that most people who voted for the Orange One were misinformed. I don’t think they understand the implications. Be compassionate. It hurts. Its against your better judgment. But, just like coming out, it is a painful but necessary step toward a pluralistic but peaceful society.

United we stand.


Cycling to Work: a Bit of Bearish Cajoling

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Want to up your miles in preparation for the big ride? Look no further than your daily commute! Why put carbon into the atmosphere when you can burn off some fat and be ready for that box of donuts the staff bought for you? Get out of your car and onto your bike.

Photo courtesy of Sunny Quach.

But even more important, cycling to work forces you to slow down and appreciate your surroundings. There is wildlife in most urban settings, and when you get off the freeway, you can see it sometimes. If you cycle long enough, you get to watch your neighbor’s morning routines. Instead of getting to work peeved that someone cut you off, you can get to work relaxed and happy.

Every ride is a different adventure. Sometimes I get to see wild turkeys, deer, snakes, coyotes, foxes, quail, and tons of squirrels and hares. The turkeys have their seasons. About now the toms are looking to mate, and they display their amazing tail plumage. Later, the hens will emerge with a bunch of babies. The babies grow up through the spring and summer. And I get to see that all.

Plus, you get to look bad-ass to the other cyclists who pass you by. “Hey, I see that guy out here every day, he must be dedicated.” And then there are the shirtless joggers. WOOF!

You may be thinking, “but Bear, I barely get to work on time as it is!” But I think you should run the numbers. My commute to work is about 13 miles. When there is no traffic, it usually takes me about 15 minutes. When there is ordinary traffic, it takes me about 30 minutes. And when the traffic is exceptional, it can take up to 50 minutes. Traffic is exceptional about ⅓ of the time. So, on a given week, my average commute is 31 minutes one way.

To ride those same 13 miles on my bike takes me about 40 minutes one way. So for only 20 extra minutes each day (not counting prep time), I get to burn about 1,000 calories.

The big down side is that I get to work sweaty and there’s no showers. But a bit of odor I can deal with. My increasing waist size, I cannot!

So, consider riding to work and making your mornings an adventure.

Your Bear