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The First 1,000 Miles Are Always The Hardest

Eagle Lake, Wisconsin Still Had A Lot Of Ice This Week

Eagle Lake In Wisconsin Still Had A Lot Of Ice This Week

Yesterday I finally passed the 1,000 mile (1,600 km) mark of cycling for this year. The first 1,000 miles of the year are always the hardest—and even though I love winter cycling, I have to tell you that this past winter was simply brutal! Chicago officially experienced the coldest four-month period in recorded history, and I live north of Chicago where the temps were even colder. We also had over 80″ (203 cm) of snow, which makes it either the second or third snowiest winter in Chicago history. And even though I have not been able to verify it, it seems to me that this also was windiest winter I’ve ever experienced.

I normally have around 1,500 miles on my bike by this time of the year, but the brutal weather make winter cycling even more difficult than usual. If you are not familiar with winter cycling you need to understand that your average speed on the bike is going to be a lot slower than normal—not just because you are pushing through fresh snow, but also because the air is thicker and you are carrying a lot more gear than you would in the summer. In addition, you have to stop every time you try to get a drink so you can lower your face mask and unscrew the thermos bottle. The coldest ride I went out on this year was at -11 degrees Fahrenheit (-24 Celsius). We had a few days where the temperature was a bit colder, but on those days the wind was howling at over 40 MPH so I decided to stay home and sit near the fireplace.

Though the amount of time riding this winter was less than normal, I didn’t have a lot of free time either. There were days when I had to shovel my driveway three times in the same day! So, as much as I love winter, I am glad this winter is over. There is still some snow on the ground if you look hard enough, and as of three days ago some of our lakes were still closed due to the ice. The photo above was take this past Saturday at Eagle Lake in Racine County, Wisconsin—the lake was still about 90% covered by ice.

I am not sure how many miles I will ride this year, but I should comfortably be able to get at least 5,000 miles, providing I stay in good health. However, I might have to miss a few days this fall—a few weeks ago our daughter-in-law announced that she is expecting a child in August. Though I am still way too young for the job, I guess this means I am going to be a grandfather! It also means I am going to have to start looking for a suitable bike for my grandson (haven’t decided yet between a fat bike or a cyclocross bike).

 

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Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix For Winter Sports

Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix

Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix

For the past couple of years I’ve used Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix as my primary drink while on the bike. This drink mix was developed by Allen Lim, PhD, a sport scientist and coach for a professional cycling team. He created this product “from scratch” because he thought he could improve on the usual prepackaged hydration products that were already on the market. While I love Skratch mix when served cold, or even at room temperature, it just didn’t appeal to me when served piping hot. In fact, I don’t know of any sports drink that tastes good when served hot. However, this past fall Skratch Labs introduced their new Apples & Cinnamon flavor and this product is intended to be served hot!

Thanks to a snowy and bitterly cold winter I’ve been drinking a lot of the Apples & Cinnamon flavor Skratch mix while cycling this year. I always fill two thermos bottles with this drink mix before I go out on a ride and after several hundred miles through the snow I can say I dearly love this product! It tastes great piping hot and even when it starts to cool down. While the cinnamon flavor is more dominant than the apple, this mix is perfect for all winter athletes and I highly recommend it.

A 16-ounce serving of this drink mix has 90 calories and provides 22 grams of carbohydrates, along with 300mg of sodium and 40mg of potassium. The ingredients list is fairly simple: Cane sugar, dextrose, apples, sodium citrate, citric acid, cinnamon, magnesium lactate, calcium citrate, potassium citrate, and ascorbic acid.

You can buy this Exercise Hydration Mix in either a one-pound package or as single-serving individual packages (sticks). The best buy is the one-pound package which retails for $19.50 and will make twenty 16-ounce servings. When the temperature warms up a bit and you want a cool drink, this product also comes in several other flavors, including Lemon & Limes, Raspberries, Oranges, and Pineapple. While I like all of them, the Raspberry is my favorite—the flavor is not overpowering and it is a very crisp and refreshing drink.

 

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Snow, Snow and More Snow

Welcome to my gym

This Winter Has Been Great For Fat Bike Owners!

Over the past few days I’ve received several notes from fellow bloggers who were wondering about my absence since I’ve not posted a new product review in over three weeks. First, thanks to all of you who asked! Second, I am in great health—my absence has been due to a couple of things, but mainly snow! We’ve had over 64″ (162 cm) of snow so far this winter and, even by Chicago standards, the weather has been brutal.

It seems like the only thing I’ve accomplished in the past few weeks has been keeping my driveway clean and clearing the snow off my wife’s car. I drive a Jeep Grand Cherokee so I don’t worry about how deep the snow is, but my lovely wife drives a tiny import that has about 6″ of ground clearance—so nearly every morning I have to clean the driveway and her car before she goes to work (as an old man told me when I got married, “Treat your wife like a thoroughbred and she won’t turn out to be a nag”).

During January I was only able to ride 140 miles on my Fat Bike—all of it in the snow and the temperature was rarely above 10 degrees Fahrenheit (and most of the time it was well below zero). For those who have never ridden a Fat Bike in the winter, let me put it this way: If you can average anything over 8 MPH on the snow you are doing great! Since we don’t have any groomed trails in my area I usually have to cut a trail through fresh snow (unless I can follow some other Fat Bike). In addition, two hours of riding in the snow wears me out more than a Century ride in the summer.

There is one other thing that has kept me from writing in the past few weeks: I am in the process of taking my office into the “paperless” world. Until last year my personal library had over 5,000 books, but I have been scanning and converting them into searchable PDF files (and then disposing of the books). I bought two high-speed document scanners last year and have already cleaned out three entire file cabinets and emptied six bookcases (only 18 to go). Once I got started with this project I found it hard to stop—but now that the weather is supposed to be improving next week (we might even get above freezing!), I will probably slow down the scanning and increase the mileage on my bikes. I should be back with new product reviews next week!

 
 

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Fatter By The Lake

A Herd Of Fat Bikes In Zion, Illinois

A Herd Of Fat Bikes In Zion, Illinois

Note: In many of my articles on this blog I refer to “the local bike shop” and by that I mean Zion Cyclery in Zion, Illinois. I’ve purchased my last eight bikes from this shop, including my highly customized Fat Bike (a Surly Necromancer Pugsley). Last year Chris Daisy, the owner of the shop, organized a winter event for Fat Bikes called Fatter By The Lake. I couldn’t make it to the ride this year, so I asked Chris to write an article about it so you could get a taste of what winter cycling is all about.

Chris And Cassie Daisy

Chris And Cassie Daisy

I’ll be the first to admit that the first annual Fatter By The Lake was a disaster! It took place in early February, and the weather was a mix of “I hate this” and “I want to die.” Freezing rain, crippling wind gusts and deep wet snow kept everyone except my Trek rep and myself from attending. The only reason we pushed on was because the local press was there, so I at least got a cool photo and write-up for our efforts.

Riding On The Shores Of Lake Michigan

Riding On The Shores Of Lake Michigan

This year was a different story. Thanks to slightly better weather and a nice shout out from Fat-Bike.com, attendance was up 1500%! Riders from all over the Chicago and Milwaukee area assembled at our shop and set out for Illinois Beach State Park, the only undeveloped and natural stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline in the state of Illinois. We headed east from the bike shop and picked up a trail headed toward the beach. We were immediately greeted by a huge sheet of ice, so some of the less experienced riders were falling like dominoes. Eventually everyone started to settle in and we crunched along in the snow towards the beach.

Fat Bike Derby at Illinois Beach State Park

Fat Bike Derby at Illinois Beach State Park

The skies were a heavy overcast, the waves were big enough to surf (except the temperature and undertow would have killed you), and there was an ever-present threat of freezing rain that never quite materialized. We headed south along a waterfront paved path, past the abandoned mid-century modern bathrooms and concrete sun shelters to a plateau of sand near a large parking lot. As we waited for everyone to catch up a Fat Bike derby contest broke out. The object of a derby is to ride in an ever shrinking circle without tapping a foot on the ground, while of course trying to get your opponents knocked off their bike. We watched and cheered until the last man was track standing and pedaled on.

Time For A Break At Dead River

Time For A Break At Dead River

The beach riding south of the Illinois Beach Resort and Conference Center was sweet. The sand was frozen solid without being slippery, and the wind was at our backs as we cruised along bunny hopping driftwood, riding wheelies and just taking it all in. The Dead River is the edge of the Illinois Beach State Park property, so we stopped and let folks catch up again while we socialized, and someone took the nice photo shown above.

Ready To Roll

Ready To Roll

Naturally the ride home was against the wind, so the pace slowed up a bit. We reached the Zion Cyclery parking lot with enough time for folks to catch the Bears vs. Packers game (a sore subject with me). A group of guys wanted to check out Beulah Park, an 80 acre wooded park in Zion that we spent all summer building legal singletrack in with the help of the Chicago Area Mountain Biker Association and the Zion Park District. Since I was hosting the ride I had to gather up some gumption and press on. The riding conditions at Beulah Park were rough. The trails didn’t have enough traffic yet and my legs were no match for the group of bike messengers and die-hards I was leading. We headed back towards Sheridan Road where I gave them directions for a safe passage back to the shop, and I headed north towards home, exhausted, cramping up and grinning from ear to ear.

 

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350,000 Views In 2013

My sincerest thanks to every visitor to this blog! By reading the comments you leave here and by visiting your blogs it seems like I’ve gotten to know some of you fairly well. Most of the visitors to this site are interested in cycling in one form or another, while others just have a general interest in fitness. Regardless of why you read this blog I wish you a healthy and prosperous New Year.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 350,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 15 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

If you scroll to the bottom of the report you will see one very sad note. The report has the names of the five “most active commenters” on this blog. The most frequent commenter was Irish Katie, a lovely woman who passed away from cancer back in October. The Chatter Blog had two wonderful articles about Katie. In the first article she simply noted how Irish Katie had not been commenting on any of the blogs recently, and in the second article it was revealed that Katie had passed on. I never had the privilege of meeting Katie, but her cheerful comments brightened up every blog she visited. She will truly be missed.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2014 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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Only 4,949 Miles On The Bike This Year

The All Seasons Cyclist On The Shores Of Lake Michigan

The All Seasons Cyclist On The Shores Of Lake Michigan

This year did not turn out like I had planned—I ended up cycling only 4,949 miles this year and that makes it the worst mileage year I’ve had in a while. It also drops my yearly average down to just 6,075 miles per year.

We had fairly mild weather in January so I was able to get a good head start on my miles for the year. However, during the second week of February I got the flu (a genuine case of influenza, not just a common cold) and it took me off my bike for three weeks. When I finally got back to riding I was a bit slower than normal, but I worked my way back up to normal speed and distance rather quickly.

On March 28 I went out for a Metric Century ride on a beautiful day—light winds, full sun, a foot of snow on the ground and temps around freezing. The ride was enjoyable and I felt great when I got home. However, about four hours later I was at my office when my chest started hurting. Actually, the word hurting doesn’t even begin to describe the pain—it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I thought it was asthma, but after numerous medical tests and consulting with six different doctors I ended up having surgery on my esophagus during the first week of June. This little episode took me off the bike for a total of eight weeks and the first month back on the bike was slow and painful. On the day of surgery I was already over 2,000 miles behind where I normally would be for that time of the year.

A few days ago I was feeling sorry for myself for having such a miserable year and I told my friend Eric (a Naval officer, scientist, and all-round nice guy) how depressing it was. Eric sent me an encouraging letter to remind me that even for a dedicated cyclist mileage isn’t everything. He reminded me that since I switched to the Paleo Diet for Athletes I’ve dropped a good bit of weight and improved both my endurance and recovery times. In addition, I’ve set at least a dozen personal speed records, both on the road and on off-road trails, since I had the surgery. And even though I wasn’t able to ride a lot in the spring, this past fall I did more Century rides than I ever had before. I am thankful for good friends!

For the record, I am 54 years old and work full-time. However, I have somewhat flexible hours so long rides in the morning mean 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 no longer interfere with my cycling—and my wife is a very patient woman. Years of cycling have paid off—my morning resting pulse rate is usually 50 BPM and my average morning blood pressure is 104/62.

Some cyclists ignore their families just to rack up the miles. If you are one of those people let me kindly inform you that you are an idiot. Your children are only young once—so spend as much time with them as you can. It doesn’t take any extra time to eat healthy food, nor does it take all that many miles on a bike to keep your circulatory system in great shape. When your children are big enough you can have them join you for a ride.

I often think about some of my friends who are in their 40′s but are already on medication for diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. All I can say is, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” How many chronic health problems in America could be cured by changes in 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 lack of exercise.”

And, as I’ve said several times before, 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. I hope you all have a wonderful 2014!

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2013 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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Picky Bars: All Natural Training Snacks (Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

Picky Bars All Natural Training Snacks

Picky Bars: All Natural Training Snacks

I am always on the lookout for new nutritional products that I can take with me on long bike rides. As a distance cyclist I often burn over 5,000 calories on a ride and I try to consume around 300 calories per hour while riding. There are a lot of great carb gels on the market, but after a couple of hours on the bike I crave real food—but I need food that is all-natural and easy to digest. A few months ago I reviewed BikeLoot, a subscription service that sends a box of five to seven cycling related products to your home every month. In a recent shipment of loot they included a sample of Picky Bars and just one bite was all it took for me to want more!

Picky Bars are made from all-natural ingredients, such as: organic dates, hazelnut butter, organic almonds, cranberries, organic sunflower butter, sunflower seeds, honey, organic apricots, organic cashews, organic walnuts, organic peanut butter, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and rice protein powder. These bars are fairly small (2″ x 3″ x 1/2″), but are packed with flavor! Each bar has 200 calories or less and has a 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio (28g carbohydrate and 7g protein). These bars are also gluten and dairy free, and contain less than 1% soy content.

Picky Bars are available in five flavors and come in boxes of ten. I ordered 20 bars so I could try several of each flavor (they only had four flavors available when I placed my order). The four flavors I tried were: Lauren’s Mega Nuts, Need For Seed, All-In Almond, and Smooth Caffeinator. The first three flavors were absolutely fantastic, and Lauren’s Mega Nuts was my favorite. As the name implies, Smooth Caffeinator has caffeine—25mg to be exact (about as much as 1/3 of a cup of coffee). I am not a coffee drinker, so I would not order the Smooth Caffeinator again because it does have a mild coffee flavor. However, I gave a stack of the Smooth Caffeinator bars to a friend of mine who does like coffee and he said they were great! The folks at Picky Bars have recently introduced a new flavor, temporarily known as Runner’s High, but I have not had a chance to try these out yet.

While these bars are not 100% Paleo approved (due to the use of peanut butter), I have no trouble recommending them to any athlete. I do need to point out that when the temperature is in the 90′s (32 Celsius) these bars are a bit messy (mainly because of the fat from the nut butters).

Picky Bars retail for $23 for a box of ten and are available from the Picky Bars website or Amazon.com. The average cost for carbohydrate gel is over $1.50 a package, but they usually only offer 100 calories per package. Since Picky Bars provide 200 calories per package they actually are a better buy! I’ve only done this for three products over the past few years, but I have to put Picky Bars on the Highly Recommended List—if you are an athlete you really need to buy a box of these bars!

 
 

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Winter Cycling: Putting It All Together

Note: This is the final installment in a series of articles on winter cycling. I am in the process of converting these articles into a PDF book that you will be able to download for free from this website.

I am often asked about what type of gear I carry with me on winter rides—the answer is not exactly cut and dry. When I am riding in urban areas I don’t carry anything more than I would in the summer. However, the further away from home I ride, or when I am on lonely off-road trails, I usually carry some extra gear. In this article I am going to suggest a few items that you might want to carry with you this winter.

Cell Phone. Going out for a bike ride in the heart of winter can be a beautiful experience—and it can also be deadly if you are not prepared. If you are riding in your neighborhood and your bike experiences a mechanical problem you can just walk it home. However, if you are 30 miles away from civilization when you break down they might not find your body until the snow melts. I carry my Apple iPhone with me on every ride I take—not just so I can call my wife if I break down, but also because there might be a time when I can’t call her at all! I use Abvio Cyclemeter iPhone app to record my rides, and when I am riding in inclement weather I also turn on the Road ID iPhone app so my wife can track me during the ride—she will even get a notification if I crash.

Road ID iPhone App For Cyclists And Runners

Road ID iPhone App

The Road ID iPhone app is very simple to set up and even easier to use. Once you download the app from the iTunes Store you input your basic information (name, address and email address), then you can select up to five of your contacts who will receive either an email or a text message when you are ready to go ride or run. The contacts you selected with get a brief message telling them that you are heading out—and in the message there is a link they can click that will allow them to see exactly where you are at any given moment while you are out (an eCrumb—an electronic breadcrumb). They can watch you on any smart phone or web browser.

The Road ID iPhone app also allows you to turn on a stationary alert—if you don’t move for five minutes the app will send an email or text message to your selected contacts advising them that you are not moving. The message does not necessarily mean that you are lying face-down in a ditch somewhere—it just means that you have not moved more than 15 feet or so in the past five minutes. However, one minute before the text message or email goes out the app will sound a loud alarm to warn you so you can cancel the message. This stationary alert cannot be adjusted to any other time-frame—it is either set at five minutes or it is turned off entirely.

This app will drain your battery a bit, but for most people it is not going to be an issue. I’ve used this app on a lot of short rides (three hours or less). Each time I started with a battery that was 100% full and when I got home after three hours the battery had only gone down by 20%—but I was also running the Abvio Cyclemeter app at the same time (I always turn off the Wi-Fi on my iPhone when heading out for a ride to prolong battery life). One other feature the Road ID iPhone app offers is that it allows you to make a personalized Lock Screen—even if your phone is locked emergency responders can see any pertinent information they need and a list of people they can call in case of an emergency.

According to the description on iTunes, this app is “compatible with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 5, iPod touch (3rd generation), iPod touch (4th generation), iPod touch (5th generation), and iPad. This app is optimized for iPhone 5. Requires iOS 5.0 or later.”

If you live in an area where cellphone reception is spotty (or even non-existent), you should consider a SPOT Trace device—a small electronics package (2″x3″) that uses satellite technology to track your movements and report your position. These devices start at just $100 (and basic service is just $99 a year).

Cell Phone Cover. Because cold weather will decrease the battery life on your cell phone, it is always best to keep your phone close to your body. Unfortunately, your body produces a tremendous amount of perspiration during winter rides and all of that humidity is often trapped between your body and your outer layer—and your cell phone is trapped between those two layers. You need to store your cell phone in a waterproof cover—a Ziplock bag can work in a pinch, but a more durable option is the Showers Pass CloudCover iPhone Case for the iPhone 4 or iPhone 5.

Showers Pass CloudCover Dry Wallet For iPhone

Showers Pass CloudCover Dry Wallet For iPhone

The Showers Pass CloudCover iPhone Case is a weatherproof case with welded edges and a dual zip-lock closure that will keep your phone happy and dry all day long. I have an iPhone 5 and always keep it in a thin polycarbonate case—and even with the case on my phone fits perfectly into the CloudCover case. In addition, the CloudCover case fits into my middle jersey pocket with room to spare. The CloudCover case has a tab on one side so you can attach a key chain or mini-carabiner to it. The case also has reflective piping so if you keep it in your panniers it will be a lot easier to find in low-light. The design of this case also serves to cushion your phone if it should happen to hit the ground.

One of the features I like best about the CloudCover case is that you can still use the iPhone camera without having to take the phone out of the case. I’ve experimented with this option several times and still cannot believe how well it works! As long as you are photographing in bright sunlight it is nearly impossible to tell that the phone was in the case when you took the photo. However, in low-light situations it is easier to tell the difference. Unfortunately, if you attempt the use the flash while taking a photograph the light will bounce off the clear plastic cover and ruin your photo.

Showers Pass also makes CloudCover cases and wallets for several other electronic devices, including: iPad, iPad Mini, Kindles, and a general purpose wallet for smartphones, such as the Samsung Galaxy. The Showers Pass CloudCover iPhone Case retails for $25 and if you ride in inclement weather that price is a steal! If your local bike shop does not carry this product you can order if it from the Showers Pass website or Amazon.com.

Rubber Gloves: While your chances of getting a flat tire while riding in the snow is fairly low, it is still possible—and if you are not prepared the experience is going to be utterly miserable! I haven’t figured out a way to change a bike tire with winter cycling gloves on, but when you take the gloves off your hands are going to freeze in a matter of minutes. In addition, most winter rides are in the snow which means that the tires are going to be wet when you work on them. Therefore, if I am traveling very far away from home I carry a pair of Ansell HyFlex CR2 Cut Resistant gloves with me. These gloves have a nylon lining and a polyurethane palm coating—they don’t have any insulation, but they will keep you hands dry if you have to change a tire, and they are pliable enough to be easy to work with. If you have a pair of winter glove liners with you they can be worn underneath the HyFlex gloves for a bit of added warmth. While these gloves are fairly thin, if you want something even thinner you could wear a disposable latex glove, like the Microflex Diamond Grip Powder-Free Gloves.

Chemical Hand, Foot And Body Warmers. One of the most useful products I’ve ever bought for winter cycling is also the cheapest—chemical hand, foot and body warmers. Chemical warmers are made by several companies, such as HotHands and Grabber. Though the exact ingredients in these warmers vary depending on the manufacturer, they all basically have the same ingredients: Iron powder, salt, water, activated charcoal and vermiculite (or cellulose). To activate these chemical warmers all you have to do is expose them to air by removing them for their packaging (sometimes you have to shake the packs for a few seconds). Once out of the package these products warm up in 15 to 30 minutes and can stay warm for four or five hours. These products are almost always advertised as being good for seven or eight hours, and under ideal circumstances they might, but that has not been my experience with most of them. Please check the expiration date on the packages before you buy them! When these warmers get old they don’t produce much heat (if any).

Chemical Hand, Foot and Body Warmers for winter cycling

Chemical Hand, Foot and Body Warmers

Chemical hand warmers are the most common type of warmer you will see at Walmart, Target and sporting good stores. They come in packages of two and each warmer measures about 2″x3″. Chemical body warmers are larger than hand warmers—they measure 4″x5.5″, and the Super HotHands Body Warmer keeps working for up to 18 hours!

Miscellaneous Items: I always a carry a container of ChapStick with me on winter rides—the cold, dry air makes my lips burn and chap. In addition, a couple of extra carb gels or energy bars are not a bad idea if you are riding very far away from home (you can burn a lot of calories while walking your bike home).

One of my favorite off-road winter rides is on the Des Plaines River Trail in Lake County, Illinois. As the name suggests, the trail runs next to the Des Plaines River, and sometimes when the river is high I’m riding just a few inches from the water. I’ve never fallen into the water, but one slip of a tire could really ruin my day. So, when the river is high and there is a chance of taking an unintentional dip in the water, I carry a disposable SOL Emergency Blanket. This 56” x 84″ emergency warming blanket reflects 90% of your body heat, yet it only weighs 2.5 ounces and doesn’t take up much more room than a Clif Bar. I haven’t had to use it yet and I pray that I never do!

One Final Item: Don’t ever go out for a bike ride without your Road ID or your driver’s license. If you have an accident the emergency responders need to know how to get in touch with your family. In addition, if you are riding when the temperature is -20 Fahrenheit (-29 Celsius) sometimes you have to look at your driver’s license just so you can remember your gender.

If you are an avid winter cyclist please feel free to tell me what you think I missed on this list.

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2013 in Fat Bikes, Winter Cycling

 

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Winter Cycling: Food and Drink

Note: This is the tenth installment in a series of articles on winter cycling. I hope to have the entire series finished by late November and then publish it as a free PDF book that you can download from this website (the working title is, A Guide To Winter Cycling”).

You probably won’t be cycling as fast or as far in the heart of winter as you would during the summer, but riding through snow and ice can burn a lot of calories. My heart rate monitor and Cyclemeter iPhone app do a decent job of calculating how many calories I burn during normal rides, but I don’t think it is possible for even the best power meter to accurately reflect the calories you burn during the winter—there are just too many variables. Even if you don’t get very thirsty during winter rides you still need to drink a lot or you will get dehydrated; and if you are going to ride for more than 90 minutes you need to take in an appropriate amount of carbohydrates (based on your speed and weight). In this article I am not going to focus on what tho eat or drink as much as I am on how to keep those items from becoming solid blocks of ice during your ride.

Klean Kanteen Bottles With A Composite Cage

Klean Kanteen Bottles With A Composite Cage

The colder it gets outside the faster your water bottle is going to freeze. The problem is not confined to your water freezing—before that happens the valve on your water bottle is probably going to freeze shut, so even if you have 18 ounces of liquid in your bottle you still won’t be able to get a drink. One solution is to use a Klean Kanteen Wide Mouth Insulated Water Bottle instead of the water bottle you use during the warmer months. The Klean Kanteen Wide Mouth Insulated Water Bottle is a 100% food-grade stainless steel bottle with high performance vacuum insulation. The folks at Klean Kanteen claim this bottle with insulate hot beverages for up to six hours, and iced drinks up to twenty-four hours. The six-hour time frame for hot beverages is accurate if the bottle is stored at room temperature, but outside in near zero degree weather it is not going to last that long. However, if will keep you liquids drinkable for at least four hours. Since this is a wide mouth bottle you never have to worry about a small valve freezing shut in the winter. However, you will need to stop your bike in order take off the cap and get a drink (that’s not uncommon in winter cycling).

The Klean Kanteen bottle will fit in most bicycle water bottle cages. However, these bottles are a bit wider than normal bicycle water bottles, and if your water bottle cage is made of aluminum it will scratch the Klean Kanteen bottle to pieces in no time at all. To keep from scratching my bottles I replaced the aluminum bottle cages on my winter bikes with a flexible composite cage. Since most composite cages have a small “lip” to keep the water bottle in place, I took a Dremel rotary tool and removed the “lip” so the bottle would slide in easier. The 20-ounce Klean Kanteen Wide Mouth Insulated Water Bottle retails for $28 and is available in several colors, including Black, White, Wild Raspberry, Blue, Gray and Brushed Stainless. This product comes with a lifetime warranty (see the Klean Kanteen Website for complete details).

Skratch Labs Hydration Mix

Skratch Labs Hydration Mix

Now that you know how to keep your drinks from freezing during a ride, what drink is the best to use? I enjoy hydration mixes from both Skratch Labs and Osmo Hydration—most of the their drink mixes taste great either cold or at room temperature, but very few drink mixes taste good warm. Fortunately, Skratch Labs has recently introduced a new flavor that is designed for both winter and summer use, Apples and Cinnamon, and this mix tastes great when served cold and even better hot! When mixed with hot water the flavor reminds you of a cup of warm apple cider.

Another one of my favorite winter drinks on the bike is hot tea with honey. I always use decaffeinated tea because tea has a diuretic effect and that effect is compounded with caffeine (and when the temperature is well below zero you don’t want to stop to answer the call of nature any more than is absolutely necessary). This is one time when you don’t have to be shy about how much honey you add to the tea—you need the carbs!

Honey Stinger Chocolate Waffle, Certified Kosher and Organic

Honey Stinger Organic Chocolate Waffle

For several years I’ve taken Honey Stinger Waffles with me on nearly every bike ride and can’t imagine cycling without them. If you have not tasted a Stinger Waffle your life is sad and lacking. Without the slightest bit of exaggeration, these are the best tasting items you will ever consume on a bike! Each waffle has 160 calories, offers 21 grams of carbohydrates, are all organic and certified Kosher. Two packages of waffles take up about the same amount of room in your jersey pocket as a single Clif Bar. As the outside temperature drops these waffles become brittle. The best way to keep the waffles soft is to put them in a jersey pocket under your cycling jacket. When the temperature drops to below 20 degrees (which is most of the time in the winter) I put these waffles in my jacket pocket along with a chemical hand warmer. These waffles taste great at room temperature, but when you are riding on a snowy day and pull one out of your jacket that has been warmed up, well, you have a treat fit for a king!

Hammer Gel 26-Serving Jug and Flask

Hammer Gel 26-Serving Jug and 5-Ounce Flask

I don’t normally like using carb gels in the winter because they are too hard to open with gloves or mitts on—and I hate taking off my gloves before I get home from the ride. However, Hammer Gel not only sells their product in individual packages, but also a 26-serving jug of gel for $20 (this comes out to just .77¢ per serving). You can use the gel from the jug to fill your own flask—but the Hammer Gel 5-Ounce Flask is your best bet—it is made of high-density polyethylene and has molded finger tip groves. This flask is incredibly easy to use while on the bike—I can get the gel out faster from the flask than I ever could with a single-serving package. In addition, small packages usually spill a few drops of sticky gel into my jerseys, but the flask seals lock-tight and you won’t spill a drop! I have been carrying this flask in the vest pocket on my jacket—when it gets colder I’ll add a chemical hand warmer to the pocket.

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2013 in Sports Nutrition, Winter Cycling

 

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The New Rules Of Lifting: Six Basic Moves For Maximum Muscle

The New Rules of Lifting: Six Basic Moves for Maximum Muscle

The New Rules of Lifting: Six Basic Moves for Maximum Muscle

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am a cyclist, not a bodybuilder—I lift weights because I have to, not because I want to. This past Saturday the temperature outside was in the low 40′s (5 Celsius), the wind was gusting at 30 MPH and it was pouring down rain—and I decided that a few hours outside on the bike sounded a lot more appealing than lifting weights inside. However, I do recognize that weight lifting is an important part of overall fitness. If you not a weightlifter but would like a great book to help you develop a weightlifting routine I would strongly suggest that you pick up a copy of The New Rules Of Lifting: Six Basic Moves For Maximum Muscle by Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove.

The problem most cyclists have with weightlifting is simply time—they think that time on the bike is more beneficial than time spent in a weight room. However, while cycling will improve your aerobic fitness and endurance it will very do 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). Strong lower back and abdominal muscles are crucial if you want to ride very long in the drops. Without a strong core you are going to have trouble every time you ride!

Schuler and Cosgrove have been able to create a great workout plan that will stress all the body’s major muscle groups—and they have condensed it down into just six basic movements (the squat, deadlift, lunge, push, pull, and twist). For each of these movements they offer numerous variations to achieve the goal. For example, with the traditional squat they offer variations such as the heels-raised back squat, one-and-a-quarter squat, front squat, and quarter squat.

The basic premise of the book is that by doing these six basic movements you will work all of your major muscle groups. While this approach will not satisfy professional body builders, it will do wonders for the rest of us! Let’s face it, do you really need a special exercise to improve the abductor pollicis brevis muscle? (In case you are wondering, it is the muscle that runs from your thumb to the center of your wrist).

The authors show how to perform these exercises is several ways—with barbells, dumbbells, weight stations, etc. Until two of my sons move out of our house I am not going to be able to have an entire room set aside for weight lifting, so I do my weight training with a set of Bowflex SelectTech 552 Adjustable Dumbbells. Each Bowflex SelectTech 552 dumbbell adjusts from 5 to 52.5 pounds (in 2.5-pound increments up to the first 25 pounds). Because of the beautifully designed dial system you can change the weight of a dumbbell in a matter of seconds. Each dumbbell has fifteen different weight settings available (5, 7.5, 10, 12.5, 15, 17.5, 20, 22.5, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, and 52.5 pounds).

The New Rules Of Lifting: Six Basic Moves For Maximum Muscle is a paperback book (7.5×9″ with more than one hundred photographs) and has 301 pages. This book retails for $18, but is available on Amazon.com for $14. The Kindle edition sells for $12. This book is published by Avery (a member of the Penguin Group).

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2013 in Book Reviews

 

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