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Cycling In The Fall: Short, Windy Days

Because cycling is cheaper than therapy (and more effective)

Because cycling is cheaper than therapy (and more effective)

Seven months ago every bike shop in the Upper Midwest was as busy as a Chicago “slip and fall” attorney the day after an ice storm. Back in the spring the bike trails were full of new cyclists with shiny bikes, gaudy jerseys, and fresh saddle sores. By the middle of summer some of those bikes were abandoned and some the of new cyclists became former cyclists. However, a lot of those newbies persevered, lost weight, gained muscle and were in great shape—until Labor Day. Unfortunately, at the first sign of cool weather most of these folks hung their bikes up till next spring and will gain back all the weight they lost before Christmas. However, on New Year’s Eve they will resolve to “hang in there longer next year.” Folks, it doesn’t have to be this way! There is absolutely no reason you can’t ride your bike outside all year long! As the old saying goes, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.

I live between Chicago and Milwaukee and during an average winter the temperature rarely drops below -10 degrees Fahrenheit (the record is -27F). When people ask how I can possibly enjoy riding in such temperatures I tell them two things: First, the crazy (or dedicated) folks up in Minnesota ride in temperatures below -50 degrees (or worse), so -10 or -20 degrees in Chicago is actually not all that bad. Second, as I tell people all the time, the hardest part of riding in the winter is the first 500 feet after you leave your house.

Riding in the fall and winter does require an extra layer of clothing (or two), and because the days are shorter you will probably need a headlight and taillight as well. However, the advantages of cycling year-round far outweigh the disadvantages. First, you won’t gain back the weight you lost during the summer. Second, spending time outdoors will definitely improve your mood. Third, next spring you won’t have to reintroduce your butt to your bike saddle—they will already be old friends and get along well. Fourth, you will impress all your wimpy friends who spend winter in their basement on their training wheels, I mean, on their trainers. And last, you will never have to worry about overcrowding on the off-road trails.

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2013 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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Bonk Breaker High Protein Energy Bars

On short bike rides (anything under two hours) you are probably just fine with carbohydrate gels and/or energy drinks. However, after two hours of exercise your body needs some protein. It is very rare for me to go on a bike ride that lasts less than two hours and by the time I’ve been riding for three hours I want something that tastes and feels like real food—and Bonk Breaker High Protein Energy Bars fit the bill perfectly. These bars are soft, full of flavor, and taste great. Bonk Breaker High Protein Energy Bars are an all-natural energy and protein bar that are made without dairy, gluten or soy products. These bars are designed for endurance athletes (cyclists, runners, mountain climbers, etc.).

Bonk Breaker High Protein Energy Bars

Bonk Breaker High Protein Energy Bars

Because I am a distance cyclist I sometimes have to consume over 2,500 calories on a ride—and because I like variety I never confine myself to using just one brand of energy product. However, Bonk Breaker High Protein Energy Bars are one of the few “must have” foods I take with me on long rides.

Bonk Breaker High Protein Energy Bars

Bonk Breaker High Protein Energy Bars

Bonk Breaker has two high protein bars (Peanut Butter & Jelly, and Almond Cherry Chunk). Since the Almond Cherry Chunk is my favorite I’ll give you the ingredients list for it. Ingredients: Rice Nectar (Brown Rice, Water), Almond Butter (Almonds, Sea Salt), Organic Gluten Free Oats, Honey, Non-GMO Brown Rice Protein, Bing Cherries, Dark Chocolate Chips (Cocoa, Cocoa Butter, Cane Sugar), Flaxseed Meal, Sea Salt, and Almaretto Flavor.

One 2.2-ounce Almond Cherry Chunk Bonk Breaker High Protein Bar has 245 calories (90 from fat) and has 15 grams of protein. Each bar also contains 140mg of sodium, 100mg of potassium, 24g of carbohydrates and 4g of fiber.

Bonk Breaker High Protein Energy Bars retail for $33 for a box of 12 and if your local bike shop does not have them in stock I am sure they can order them for you. You can also order these bars from the Bonk Breaker Online Store and other online retailers, such as Amazon.com, REI, and Colorado Cyclist. By the way, Bonk Breaker is the official energy, protein and nutritional bar of USA Cycling and the USA Cycling Team.

 

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Wired Waffles For Caffeine Powered Athletes

I used to be addicted to caffeine. I don’t mean that I simply liked a bit of caffeine in the morning before work—I mean that caffeine was a major part of my life right up till the time my doctor told me I had to cut way back on the stuff. Apparently no one has a 12-step program for caffeine addicts (but they ought to). Now the only caffeine I consume is when I am cycling because that wonderful drug improves endurance and I need every bit of help I can get on a long ride! Last week I reviewed BikeLoot, a subscription service that sends a box of five to seven cycling related products to your home every month. In the July box of “loot” there was a sample of Wired Waffles, a delicious caffeine-infused food product that makes for a great pre-ride snack.

Wired Waffles Energy Supplement

Wired Waffles Energy Supplement

Wired Waffles are 3.5 inches (7.6cm) in diameter, one-inch (2.5cm) thick and they weight 2.5 ounces (71 grams). Each waffle serves up 200 calories and includes 200mg of caffeine. The list of ingredients includes: Flour, Sugar, Eggs, Trans Fat Free Margarine, Water, Butter, Pearl Sugar, Bakers Yeast, Cinnamon, Potassium Sorbate, Baking Powder, Salt, Citric Acid, and Enzymes.

Wired Waffles Energy Supplement

Wired Waffles Energy Supplement

Wired Waffles come in several flavors, including Cinnamon, Chocolate Chip, Sweet Sugar and Bacon Maple. The sample that was included in the BikeLoot box was Bacon Maple and to be very honest I did not like the flavor. However, the waffle was moist and had a great texture so I decided to take a chance and order a box of the cinnamon waffles from Amazon.com. The cinnamon waffles were wonderful! These waffles are best if heated up, so I just popped the waffle in the microwave for 20 seconds and it was perfect. These waffles are not intended to have butter and syrup poured over them—just pick them up and eat one on your way to your bicycle!

In case you were wondering, 200mg of caffeine is the equivalent of two 16-ounce cups of McDonald’s coffee or a little less than one 2-ounce 5-Hour Energy shot. Since I now only consume caffeine while I am cycling I’ve noticed that it seems to have a greater impact on my alertness and endurance that it did before.

Wired Waffles sell for $30 for a 12-pack and come with free shipping in the United States if you order from the Wired Waffles website (and they will ship overseas for an additional fee). They also sell a variety 12-pack that has three waffles in each of the four flavors.

 

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2nd Surge Ultra Energy Gel

Hopefully you’ve gotten the word by now that on long bike rides you need to consume protein in addition to carbohydrates if you want to avoid muscle and brain fatigue (better known to cyclists as bonking or hitting the wall). To paraphrase a familiar verse of the Bible, “Cyclists do not live by carbohydrates alone.” One of the easiest ways to get the needed protein is to buy a carbohydrate gel with protein already in it. Unfortunately, most energy gels that include protein taste rather dreadful. A couple of years ago PacificHealth Laboratories (the creators of Accelerade) introduced 2nd Surge Ultra Energy Gel and it not only tastes great, but has carbohydrates, electrolytes, proteins, caffeine and antioxidants.

2nd Surge Ultra Energy Gel

2nd Surge Ultra Energy Gel

I always carry a few packages of 2nd Surge with me on longer rides. The truth is that I was hooked with the first package I tried! The chocolate gel is very smooth and has a rich chocolate flavor. Most (but not all) of the other chocolate gels I’ve tried over the years tasted like artificial chocolate, but 2nd Surge is the real deal. Each package of 2nd Surge has 90 calories and includes 18g of carbohydrate, 3g of protein and 100mg of caffeine.

2nd Surge is an all-natural energy gel. I hate giving a long list of ingredients in a product review, but the ingredient list in 2nd Surge is rather impressive. The ingredients include: Agave Syrup, Brown Rice Syrup, Evaporated Cane Sugar, Water, Whey Protein Isolate, Glycerin, Pea Protein Isolate, Cocoa, Natural Flavors, Green Tea Extract, d-alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Salt, Grape, Pomegranate, Mangosteen, Goji Berry, Blueberry, Chokeberry, Cranberry, Apple and Bilberry Extracts.

At the moment this product is only available in two flavors: Chocolate and Double Expresso. I love the chocolate gel and the local bike shop always keeps it in stock for me. For the record, I did not try the Double Expresso, mainly because I have never been a fan of any food product that has the word expresso (or espresso) in the title. I hope PacificHealth Laboratories adds a few new flavors before long.

A box of eight packages of 2nd Surge retails for $16 and is available on the PacificHealth Laboratories Website. On the other hand, you could just have your local bike shop order it for you—you will pay the same price but will save the cost of shipping. In addition, your local bike shop might be willing to keep this product in stock for you as well!

 

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6,444 Miles Of Cycling In 2012

In 2011 my goal was to cycle 5,000 miles during the year, but I ended up with 6,836 miles. Twelve months ago I decided my cycling goal for 2012 was “to have fun” and ended up riding 6,444 miles. Back in 2011 I was trying to rack up as many miles as possible and that meant I got most of my miles while cycling on the road. This past year I spent more time on off-road trails and, thanks to the 4″ wide tires of my Surly Necromancer, I also spent a lot of time riding in snow, mud and on the sandy beaches around Lake Michigan (OK, sometimes I was actually riding in Lake Michigan).

Surly Necromancer Pugsley in the snow

Fun In The Snow With My Surly Necromancer Pugsley

On September 7 of this year I hit the 5,000 mark and thought I would probably pass 7,000 miles before the end of the year. However, that evening I came down with a virus that knocked me off my feet for twelve days! On the thirteenth day I still had a fever, but my legs were hurting so bad I just had to get back on the bike—so I rode 72 miles. While it felt good to get back on the bike, my average speed dropped by over 15% (it might have been because I still had a mild fever). It took me another two weeks to fully recover.

Once I knew I wasn’t going to set a new record I decided to spend more time weightlifting. Though I’ve used resistance training in one form or another for ten years, I’ve never taken it as seriously as I should have—I lift weights to develop core strength, not because I enjoy it. However, a few months ago I bought a set of Bowflex SelectTech 552 dumbbells and they work far better than I expected and I would highly recommend them to anyone.

I am 53 years old and work full-time. However, I have somewhat flexible hours so if I ride 50 or 60 miles in the morning it means I will be at the office rather late that night. All three of our sons are grown, so Cub Scout meetings and high school football games do not interfere with my cycling—and my wife is a very patient woman.

I often think about some of my friends who are in their 40′s but already taking medication for diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. All I can say is, “There but for the grace of God, go I.” All of those diseases could either be cured or minimized by spending a few hours a week on a bike. How many chronic health problems in America could be cured by just diet and exercise? I’ve had friends die in their 50′s and I know the death certificate listed their cause of death as heart disease, but I have to wonder if it shouldn’t have read “suicide by inactivity.”

We all cycle for different reasons. Some ride for their physical health, others for mental health. Some people ride because they enjoy group rides, while others enjoy a quiet ride on the back-roads so they can work out their problems in solitude. Whatever your motivation for cycling is, I hope you can enjoy this new year on a good bike.

As the new year begins I want to thank God for my good health, Trek for making awesome bikes, and my wife for not looking at the American Express statements. On a related note, I have promised the love of my life that the next time my cycling results in me entering an ambulance I will tell her the same day instead of waiting a week (apparently wives like to know about stuff like that).

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2013 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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Vi Fuel (Product Review And Giveaway)

When companies ask me to review one of their products I always tell them that it takes about 30 days for me to evaluate the product and publish the article. Last week I was sent a few boxes of Vi Fuel Endurance Gel to review and it only took one bike ride for me form an opinion about the gel—it’s great! In fact, I started writing the review in my mind halfway through the ride. Let’s cut to the chase: Vi Fuel is a great tasting energy gel that is easy on the stomach and delivers a steady stream of carbohydrates to your body. At the end of this article I’ll tell you how to get a great discount on Vi Fuel so you can try it for yourself—and some lucky reader will end up with a three free boxes of Vi Fuel (see details below).

Vi Fuel Endurance Gel for cyclists and runners

Vi Fuel Endurance Gel

Vi Fuel is a carbohydrate gel designed for endurance athletes like cyclists, triathletes and runners. Vi Endurance, the company that makes the gel, is fairly new so don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of them before. They spent a lot of time researching what it takes for athletes to achieve optimal performance and I believe they have developed a product every endurance athlete needs to try.

One package (32g) of Vi Fuel delivers 100 calories with 23g of carbohydrates. The main source of carbohydrate is maltodextrin, and dextrose is the secondary carb source. This blend of carbs makes for very easy digestion. A lot of energy gels just fill you up with simple sugars that gives you a quick burst of energy, followed by a crash, and ending up with stomach distress. The Vi Endurance Website claims that Vi Fuel “has allowed people with Crohn’s Disease to resume training, as their systems can handle the digestion process of Vi Fuel with no trouble.” Each package of Vi Fuel also has a small amount of taurine, citrulline malate, magnesium aspartate, and potassium aspartate to reduce muscle fatigue and aid in muscle recovery.

Vi Fuel has the consistency (or viscosity) of honey and is available in three flavors: Chocolate, Vanilla, and Peach Cobbler. Since I am a cyclist and not a food critic I always dread attempting to describe the flavor of food products, but let me try. The chocolate gel is made with pure, organic cocoa powder and has a smooth chocolate flavor—it tastes like dark chocolate. The vanilla gel is made with real vanilla—not the cheap imitation vanilla a lot of companies use. The peach cobbler gel is my favorite and it is made with organic peach extract (and a hint of cinnamon).

When the folks at Vi Endurance first approached me about writing a review they asked if I would be willing to include a special discount code in the review for my readers. They also inquired about me offering a product giveaway (something I’ve never done before). However, I did not want to commit to either of their offers until I  tried their product. Now that I’ve had a chance to use Vi Fuel on several rides I am willing to highly recommend to other athletes (if you’ve read many of my reviews you know I seldom “highly recommend” anything). So here’s the deal: Vi Fuel is not available at many bike shops yet, so the best way to order it is from their Website. A box of 24 packages of gel sells for $32 (a very competitive price). When you place your order just enter the code listed in the graphic above and you will receive a 25% discount on your first two orders (sales tax is added only for orders shipped to a Colorado address). The discount code is placed inside the graphic to keep Google from reading it and giving it to the whole world. It is obvious that the code can be traced back to this blog, but I assure you that I have absolutely no financial interest in the company. For those not familiar with this blog, I have no sponsors, paid links or advertising.

Vi Fuel Endurance Gel Discount Code

Special Discount Code Listed Above

Now for the product giveaway! Vi Endurance is going to give one box of each flavor (three boxes total) of Vi Fuel to the winner of this contest. To enter all you have to do is pick a number between 1 and 200 and enter it in the comment section below (you don’t actually have to make a comment). On November 30, 2012 I am going to have a friend of mine, a local business owner, use of random number generator to pick the winning number. If no one has the exact number the person with the number closest to, but not over, the winning number will get the box of Vi Fuel. In case two or more people chose the same number the first person to pick the number will be the winner. This contest is for U.S. residents only and only one entry per household allowed. When the contest is over I will publish the results in the comments section of this article.

 
 

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Weight Training For Cyclists: A Total Body Program For Power And Endurance

Weight Training For Cyclists

Weight Training For Cyclists

The majority of cyclists I meet took up the sport to improve their health. There is no question that cycling will improve your aerobic fitness and endurance, but it will very little for upper body fitness. Even if you have no intention of ever participating in a race you still need to engage in some sort of resistance training to improve your sprinting and climbing, as well as increasing your bone density (cyclists have a tendency to develop low bone density). While there are many good books available on developing a weight training program, there are very few that focus on the special needs of cyclists. The best book I’ve read on this topic is Weight Training For Cyclists: A Total Body Program For Power & Endurance, by Ken Doyle and Eric Schmitz.

Some people mistakenly believe that cycling and weight training do not make good partners—they think that building bulk is counterproductive to the goal most cyclists have of being as light as possible. However, without a strong core you are going to have trouble every time you ride! Strong lower back and abdominal muscles are crucial if you want to ride very long in the drops.

Weight Training For Cyclists starts by explaining the pros and cons of the different types of resistance exercise equipment that are available (free weights, resistance machines, and resistance bands). There are also sections on nutrition, safety, efficiency and how to develop a program based on the type of cycling you engage in. As the book observes, most cyclists are their own trainers and set their own training program.

If one paragraph from the book could summarize the premise of the book it would be this: “The main focus of a weight training program should be the lower-body muscle groups that create the force applied to the pedals. This area of the body, often labeled the ‘power zone,’ consists of the quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteals, lower-back muscles, and abdominals and is the fundamental source of strength and power in cycling.”

There are more than 60 exercises described and illustrated in this book. My only criticism of the book is that it focuses too much on pieces of equipment that most cyclists are not going to have at home (back extension bench, high pulley machine, cable row machine, multihip machine, etc.). However, you can still get a great workout with a weight bench, a pair of dumbbells and a few resistance bands.

Weight Training For Cyclists is a 212 page paperback book and retails for $19. It is available on Amazon.com for $12 (and remember you can get free shipping on orders over $25). This book is published by Velo Press.

 
23 Comments

Posted by on October 29, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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