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

Catching up on Training

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I can’t believe its already Halloween. 2016 was a year of personal growth — both in my career and in my waistline. I had my first jury trial! And what a success that was! It was a great result for my client and a wonderful adventure for me. But all the time and attention needed to win took away from cycling in a big way. I couldn’t participate in ALC 2016. I stopped riding (and exercising altogether) from July until nearly September. And my cycling skills have diminished.

(Source, bicycling.com.)

The question for me — and for you, too, if you’re like most riders — is how do I get myself back into shape? Here are a set of tips I think will help. (Check out my 2013 advice on the same subject.) Try them out and I will, too. If you have successes or failures, please send me a note or comment and I will report on your progress in the blog! And remember, take small, achievable steps and you’ll be cycling with the big boys come June!

First, make sure you’re not undermining your training. Avoid staying out late, avoid drinking too much, avoid playing massive amounts of video games (my guilty pleasure). For me, one of the things that keeps me off the road are when I’m hung over or merely tired from a long night out. Another is spending too much time in front of the computer so that I have to drive to work. So, instead, reprioritize cycling in your daily routine.

Second, make sure you have a group of friends to support, encourage, and cajole you into cycling. If you don’t have a cycling partner — or even if you do — make a personal commitment to join at least two training rides each month. There are rides scheduled all over California and even some around the country. Check the schedule each Monday, RSVP early, then put it in your calendar! Then find a buddy to email, “Hey, I want to ride three bears on Saturday, you in?” That will go a long way toward your goal.

Third, do cycling-related things each day. Ever wondered how those magical gears work? Ever thought, hm, I think my bike should be cleaner. Well, now is the time to learn how to clean your bike and learn how it works! Got that covered? Then read a cycling blog — or better yet, contribute an article to a cycling blog! Thinking about cycling will help to encourage you back into the saddle.

Fourth, get excited! Remember that year you laid down $5K on a shiny new bike? You couldn’t stop riding, right? You can’t afford another expensive bike, but maybe a new kit, new cages, or a tune up from you friendly local bike shop will inspire you. If not, then remember why we ride. We’re doing this to help others. And we’re doing this for fitness. If philanthropy isn’t enough, then maybe libido is. Find what works for you.

Fifth, eat a cycling-friendly diet. With overly-busy schedules often comes fast-food or high-calorie based diets. Prepare healthy food in advance with a balanced mix of nutrients. Please don’t follow a fad diet. Instead, eat healthy and in accord with any medical restrictions. Spend a little time getting to know how many calories are right for your body type, and start reading labels. As you increase your miles, you can increase your calories.

Sixth, get on that damned bike. Even if you can only do one ride a week, don’t let a single week go by with at least some riding. The best way to get cycling-fit is to cycle. Do go to the gym, but don’t rely on weights and spin classes. Time in the saddle is the best way to prepare for the ride.

I hope these tips help. Please let me know how your training is going!

Your Bear

AIDS/LifeCycle 2017 TRL Training

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It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. Life has been amazing, but also distracting me from cycling. I think my next post has to be about time management. 

I can’t wait to ride and to train our riders. This year we’ll have 9 TRLs in Sacramento. Amazing!! This is going to open up some great opportunities for rides at different levels and paces, and new exciting local start up points. 

If you have been thinking about doing the AIDS/LifeCycle, this is your year. Contact me and let’s talk. 

Here are some photos to show our commitment to the ride. 


Your Bear

Its all about You

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Usual Suspects. Line ’em up! New Bear Republic 2015
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Kelley, Curtis, and Mooney of Team Smiley Face!

I have been a training ride leader for three years in a row now. Each year our group out here in the sticks gets a bit larger and more cohesive. I am proud to say that we have 60 riders on our list and about 20 regular riders. And each year I am awed by the commitment and effort our riders put out to help others while improving their own lives. So far this training season, our core riders have put in over 10,000 miles to prepare for the AIDS/LifeCycle. 12 of us rode in the ALC NorCal Day on the Ride yesterday.

This was no easy ride. 67 miles with 5000 feet of climbing. Fortunately for our regulars, even though this ride began in a foreign jurisdiction (the East Bay), we were on familiar roads for a good ⅓ of the time. Watching the riders pull in to rest stops, I could see the confidence that only regular training provides. Each of the riders was out on the road each week, even though that means giving up weekends, getting to bed early on Friday night (and often on Saturday night, too), and fitting weekday training in to the schedule somehow.

Nick, Me, Simon, and Jon Walker. Smiling after a 67 mile adventure!

Why, in Thor’s holy name would anyone put themselves through this? Victor Phillips said it best yesterday: “Its the people.”

Every time I’m out on the road I’m inspired (often to tears) by the effort I see. People raising money for total strangers, doing the work that should be a basic human right because our government will not. Cutting the dead-wood from their own lives, shedding extra pounds, improving cardio-vascular health, and generally getting the fuck out of their cars to see the world in technicolor.

I’m thinking about the directors of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. I’m thinking about the AIDS/LifeCycle staff. Paid positions, it is true, but when you see these people at work, you can’t help but see how much more than a job it is for them.


I’m thinking about the hoards of volunteers that make the ride possible. The wonderful and sexy Bears at Rest Stop 2. The incongruous ladies who seem so demure putting up with the raucous, loud, and sometimes inappropriate frivolity. The men who drove up from LA just to support our single-day ride. The volunteers who may have wanted to be on their bikes, but elected to make sure that there was a smiling face next to the snacks all afternoon.

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New Bear Can-can on the Carquinez Bridge.

I’m thinking about the riders who raised $3,000 or much more for the privilege of representing ME and all my friends out on the road. The queens in their tiaras (you know who you are). The grumpy hungry ones. The straight guys who are there because they lost a loved one — a son or brother — not even knowing they were gay when it hit them. The riders from outside the Bay Area and LA — local, like her in Sacramento, and foreign, like NY, Chicago, and even Canada — some of whom are top fundraisers. And all our lovely women — gay and straight — who love us as much as we do them.

Thank you. Thank you for making my live so meaningful and worth living. Thank you for caring whether we can get needles to those who might die if they cannot get them. Thank you for raising money so that our impoverished brothers and sisters can get the medication they need. Thank you for making the world a brighter and happier place, leaving the dour and cold laissez-faire attutude behind us.

If you’re with us, then we have a bright future indeed — challenges notwithstanding.

Your Bear