Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Cycling in the winter wonder land

I used to love winter. Being out in the cold, training cross country skiing or thundering down a ski slope. After all, Norwegians are born with skis on their feet they say. Well, I'm not so fan of winter any more. If it derives from the fact that I am older and not play outside I don't know. Could be my interest in cycling as well, I have stated that I will reside in Nice or around there. Partly because it is nice and warm, partly because I can bring my bike. A great combo.

As you can imagine I like cycling a lot. This year I bought meself a turbo, installed it in the basement and have been using it. I find it slightly boring I must admit, but it is better than not riding at all. I also can look at some movies or follow one of the DVDs that followed the package from Evans.
But I have been feeling rather angry and disappointed by meself reading stuff on twitter, like: "just came back from a 2 hrs easy spin outside" or  "the essence of cycling is found outside now folks!". And the worst is that many of these don't even live in the Southern part of France or in Mallorca for that matters, they who do don't count and they don't get free points for winter training. No no, these people live in "winterly" places, Britain, Canada, Germany, Belgium or Norway.

So I have decided to buy some wheels with spikes for training outside, even if I have to buy meself a new wardrobe. My Rapha kit is spring/summer/autumn-only... I will have to use my MTB for winter training but so be it. I'll pack some kilometres in the legs anyway, and winter is long here. I rode my final outdoor ride on my roadbike early in November, still the snow will be here until April.

But there are those who fight the cold here a long way from the south of France. At the same time logging those essential kilometres. Actually, a Norwegian guy got selected during the annual Rapha festive 500.

Check out some of the winners here, the rest of the winners know who you are. Chapeau.

Rapha has a nice article here as well, take a look!

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Carbon vs Alu vs Steel vs Titanium

What to wear?

Downloaded from, here.

Yesterday, @FlashingPedals asked a question on Twitter that caught my interest: "Bicycle Trivia: name the last rider to win a classic using an Aluminium framset." 

Many besides me tried to answer that one, including @sprinting4signs, @inrng and @euanlindsey, probably more as well.
The question has many interesting nuances; the brands and their wish to influence us consumers is one, economics is another, fashion a third.

The basics
Cycling is one of the easiest sports available, basically you just need a bike (preferably a helmet as well...) and your off to let your mind drift, work out or see the countryside. Simple as that. Or not? Some people will ask you how often do you plan to train? Do you have a certain goal? Depending on the answer, you can easily find yourself walk out a shop €3000 lighter, even if you plan to use the bike only during the weekend. It is a jungle out there, and to navigate through a jungle, it helps having been in a jungle before. How about that paradox? The solution I suggest is to consult some "experienced" guys/women on twitter, explain the situation and get some answers. They could recommend stores where the staffers are known to be frank, known to put the customer where they should be and never to sell equipment over your scale (provided you're not lying in the first place...)

Weight vs performance
"Everybody should be riding carbon", I hear from time to time. A guy at a bike shop told me this just a couple of months ago, and I knew immediately that I wouldn't be buying a bike there. Weight is important but it get way to much emphasis. Can't believe people who only want what the pros have, or those select a carbon bike 1,5 kilograms lighter than an alu bike just because it is lighter. Especially if that person carries a couple of kilos extra behind his belt. Now that is where you can shave some kilos my friend!

Bikes perform differently depending on material, on riding style and function. The quality of the frame, the quality in the work merging the different parts together reflect the bike far more than just the material. A steel bike can be just as good, and far better for a rider, depending on several factors. The bike have to ride good, it have to feel good. If you can get a customized aluminium or steel frame, the chance of that being far better than a mass-produced carbon bike is very high.

People often focus too much on the frame and what groupset is on the bike. How about wheels? Where do you think you can make an effort with limited money? Like everything this is all part of an equation. Find out what you like, what you need is probably the most important. Seek some qualified expertise and buy yourself a bike that suits your need. Who knows, maybe you'll get surprised?

Enjoy this great video directed by Ben Ingham, made by RSA and Rapha. Brought to my attention by @FlashingPedals

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee

Cycling is very dangerous, yet it has the simplest of actions. Something most of us learned while being a small child. I suspect most have some memories of sore knees and elbows, gradually earning the selfesteem needed to pedal on our own.

There are many things which can happen during a ride. Like one of my nightmares; a sting from a wasp or a bee. I have been able to get a fly into my eye a couple of times, but they do not sting. Oh yes, they do hurt while descending in 70 km/h, but at least my face does not look like Jonathan Vaughters' in 2001.

Cortisone you said? Why?

Photo by Brian Jew, downloaded here.
Back then Vaughters was riding on Crédit Agricole, the French bank which for a long time supported a team in cycling. The team was doing a training ride, Vaughters participated in his third Tour, when a wasp stung him just over his right eye.
Now, cycling in the tour alongside some 180 riders in the peloton is one thing, up and down mountains. Doing that without any depth-sight is just stupid. Safety comes first so he withdrew from the race and finally took cortisone so his face "doesn't look like a basketball", according to this great article by Velonews.

The gentleman on the picture below actually came to my interest as I googled "Vaughters" and "sting", because I knew I'd seen a picture of Vaughters earlier. On this forum, he claims to be Jonathen (sic) Vaughters re-incarnate. And I can see why. Apparently, he got a stung by something. Whatever that was, I wont be near to find out.

Note the guy in the back calling 911 or his mates to come over with popcorn and 3D-glasses.

I don't know if everybody will have a reaction like this if stung by a bee, wasp or anything else. Maybe you have to be allergic to that particular insect or its venom.

I do know this; this is why cyclists wear glasses while riding. Do yourself a favour, buy some glasses and at least you will have minimized the risk.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Tour of Oman v.1.2

Flowers to the people
Tomorrow the Tour of Oman 2011 begins. Last year Team Sky did what they could to influence the race with Edvald Boasson Hagen leading cycling's brand new hot-shot team to a podium, knocking out Fabian himself on the TT on the 5th stage.

As a pretty new pro, Boasson Hagen also made a mistake in the race. Having the overall lead, he stopped on a "natural break" some 50 kilometres from the finish on stage 4. Two Cervelo riders increased the tempo significantly, causing the other teams to respond, leaving Boasson Hagen way behind struggling in the crosswind, losing the lead jersey. Some says it was a way of saying "get back in line" from other teams, because Team Sky allegedly have pedalled hard through the feeding zone earlier that day, causing stress and anger from other teams. later described this incident as a "controlled experiment" and that it came as research to "aggregation to marginal gains". Apparently, Team Sky was working with a Professor Primo del Mese, to see how Team Sky could benefit from a proposed two-way radio ban by the UCI. Read more here.

Eddy Merckx deemed Boasson Hagen favourite for this year's race, but I think there are many more who can make it exciting. The race is different this year, far hillier than last year. A hilltop-finish on stage 4 will be hard to master for the sprinters and could indicate changes on the overall podium. Gesink, Rodriguez, Pozzato, Boonen and Taylor Phinney are all contesters for the overall lead.

I hope that the battle for "marginal gains" continue, but that any pee breaks will be respected according to the unwritten laws. That said, it is allowed to carefully examine when the proper time and place is for a break as well.

It seems like the written rules struggle these days, just more reason to follow the unwritten ones.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Why most probably need a turbo instead of a roller

Came across this video today showing a guy testing his newly bought roller what appears to be for the first time. I know why I prefer my turbo...

Think he deserves some credit for taking it as easy as he does, me I would be yelling and swearing after no time. You can actually tell after 10 seconds of cycling that this is not going to be the most intense workout this guy has done..

And this guy have probably done a bit more time on the roller, hope he has found the time to actually work out as well.

Monday, 7 February 2011

How to ride the Queen of the Classics


Picture by Jered Gruber
Paris-Roubaix. The majestic race mean different things to different people. The race draws hundreds of thousands of international spectators and an even broader television audience. Some 270 kilometres on the roughest cobbled roads in the world, over six hours on the bike. Many riders fear the cobbles, knowing that their bodies will be beaten. The more experienced riders do not fear the cobbles but the panic they cause as the riders and teams battle for the lead positions before the sectors begin. The possibilities for grim conditions frame the races with a uncertainty the riders hate.

Riders train together for months prior to this and other classics, it takes time to establish the respect, trust and the experience needed to float over the cobbles as a team.

A win will change a rider's career for life, placing him in the history books, a better economic future and eternal fame. An attack can earn a rider respect, something the crowd appreciates, and it can keep a sponsor happy.

Everything can be lost in a second if the rider does not have the proper attention needed. A flat or a mechanical failure at a critical time, can make a rider loose the race. Most of the riders just try to survive the race, while a small number of riders give all they have on that particular day, in that particular week, for the glorious win. This week, the first in April, is probably the hardest week in cycling. Ronde van Vlaanderen, approximately 250 kilometres of cycling in Belgium and the Paris-Roubaix the weekend after, expose the riders for potentially pain beyond recognition.

Climbing can be brutal

Picture by Jered Gruber

The equipment
Mechanics prepare the bikes with meticulous accuracy, some bikes get two layers of handlebartape, some get three, just to give the riders a better shock absorbing ability. A thicker handlebar also make the rider not clinching the handlebar too tight when riding on the cobbles, this can cause problems with his arms as well as hampers the steering. Some riders tape their fingers as well, blisters can easily occur.
A tight bottle cage might come in handy as the cobbles easily can throw a bottle out.

Many use different bikes than the traditional road bike. A road bike is usual as stiff as possible, something that will make your journey over the cobbled sections a bumpy experience. A bike can absorb some of the shocks coming. but much can be done with a different geometry of the bike, not necessarily different materials. Different geometric also opens for a longer wheelbase, which again make the distance from wheels to crank larger than normal. This might come handy if the conditions are wet. The rain turns the sand into mud and if there's one thing you don't want into your gear system. Longer wheelbase also gives the riders a possibility to change the tubulars. Riders use thicker tubulars when riding on cobbles, normally around 27mm.

How to ride
Finding the least treacherous route is crucial, that could be on the top of the cobbles or at the side in the hard sand or grass. Since the roads have been used for many years by tractors the sides of the road are somewhat sunken while the middle of the road is peaked. The sides of the cobbled road could be full of potholes and large distances between the cobbles, adding the uncomfortableness.

When riding you will benefit from riding a bigger gear than normal. The tricks is to relax as much as possible while riding in those bigger gears, floating over the cobbled sectors. The first thing you should do when the cobbled sectors are done, unless you're on an attack, is to shift to those lighter gears, spinning the lactate acid out of the legs.

Washing off the Paris-Roubaix Grime

Picture by Jered Gruber

The showers at the Roubaix Velodrome are famous. The riders use them to rinse off the worst dirt, and they do so in the presence of other historical riders. The showers look like animal pen, the grim concrete look and the painting on the walls is falling off. On every pen, a small golden plaque states a winner's name and the year he won it. Apparently, Eddy Merckx' plaque is quite popular, it keeps getting stolen.

Tom Boonen once said that: "..when I stand in the showers at the Roubaix Velodrome, that's when I start preparing for next year's race."

That's it, the most prestigious Classic race in the world. The winner get a cobbled rock, his name on a golden plaque, but more importantly; a place among the very best of riders.

Jered Gruber was kind enough to give me his permit to use his pictures in this post. Check out more of his fantastic pictures on Flickr here.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Classics season - bring on the cobbles

Just do it
Picture downloaded from

My appetite for cycling is closely linked to the classics. I've never really managed to make up my mind whether the Tour or the classics is my favourite, but then again, they're like apples and pears so why choose?

How many classics are there?
It depends on what calendar you are watching, the UCI World Tour calendar or the ASO calendar. Over the years, there have been many disputes between the UCI and ASO regarding the classics, in 2008 many of the classics as well as none of the GTs were part of the UCI Pro Tour as it was called back then. Even before that, all the classics were located under one calendar; the UCI Road World Cup. Perhaps that is somethig to establish once more, an independent body side by side the UCI?
On the other hand, I would prefer a different and well functioned UCI, the last thing cycling need now is different agencies. Imagine Boonen vs Hushovd, Boonen being WWCU winner of P-R and Hushovd carries the belt of IUCF? Just like boxing or wrestling. No thank you.

The Monuments
You also have the "Five Monuments of Cycling"; Milan-San Remo, Ronde van Vlaanderen, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Giro di Lombardia. According to wikipedia, only three riders have won all five races during their career, Eddy Merckx, Roger De Vlaeminck and Rik van Looy. Now these three fellows have something in common, their Belgique nationality. The Belgians have dominated in the classics, and since the majority of the classics take place in Belgium, the supporters have a reputation for being crazy and the organisers keep serving beer to the fans.

The other classics 
Many more races than the "Monuments" are my favourites. The famous classics and semi-classics like Ghent-Wevelgem, Amstel Gold Race, La Flecha Wallonne, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad or Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne can provide just as much fun as the monuments. Huge events, gathering many spectators making it difficult hearing yourself when the riders pass. By the time the peloton pass, you'll probably find yourself screaming just as high, eating sausage and drinking Belgian beer while waving a Flemish flag.

You remember K-B-K of 2010 when Traksel won? Not many riders came to the finish line then, the Broom Wagon was full from the first feed zone due to horrendous weather. So semi-classics can be just as hard on the riders as the classics.

Why classics
The pictures says it all. To me it is the essence of cycling; long, extremely challenging courses and some times the weather plays a huge part as well. The reconnaissance might be done on dry land, the cobbles tight pushed against dry sand. On race day, it can be muddy, the cobbles as slippery as ice, pushing clothing and equipment to the test.
Proximity to the spectators are another aspect I cherish. The races are packed with fans, just see pictures from the Muur. Riders have sometimes complained about fans throwing beer on them and this has happened to other fans as well. It is a giant Fiesta, so if you don't like get beer on your caps, try moving to another spot not so full of people.

Me first!

Downloaded from:

You also have the constantly Game of Fortune. I like to believe that the strongest rider win in the classics, we have all seen those mano-on-mano battles over the cobbles, history is full of examples. George Hincapie has been close to winning Paris-Roubaix several times. Perhaps the closest he came was in 2006, when he experienced trouble with the steering, flew over the handlebars and broke his collarbone. All while being in the lead group with a team mate close.

So sometimes luck is in somebody else's hands.

Next cobble season post: How to dress up yourself and the bike for the cobbles.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011


Feel sorry for Taylor Phinney, one of my picks for this year's season. He's an incredible rider, strong in both TT and track, as well as doing quite good on the cobbles as well, 2 times U23 Paris-Roubaix champion and a U23 WC title speak for themselves.

Taylor outsprints the others on the velodrome
Picture from

Why do I feel sorry for such a rider? On his blog today, Phinney described his injury and how stressful his first camp at BMC was. I can imagine what went through his mind, meeting his teammates, most for the first time in his life, they probably have as big expectations on his behalf as he got himself. Only to be left on the side of the road with team doc and a DS. What a feeling.

As I mentioned on twitter he's not the only pro getting injuries of various kinds early in the season. Last year Edvald Boasson Hagen struggled with an achilles injury, putting him out most of the classics, as well as loosing precious time on the bike during the spring. There are many who get injured on the bike, the majority recreational riders. These results are valid, i.e. compared to the actual number of riders, but I'm gonna focus on some potential reasons why cyclists get injured early in the season.

The bike
Some argues that the bike could be the reason. Being "adjusted" to one bike for many years, with one set of pedals doing thousands of repetitive movements can make the body too accustomed. A small change in the bike fit combined with very small variations in frame could provoke an injury. Now, I seriously doubt a pro would say that "yes, it was the sponsor's bike which got me injured, it gives me a slightly different position on the bike". That would create some lifted eyebrows from the sponsor, so there can be other reasons like...

Right size?
Does not need much text to explain this one, with 1/4 inch tires and 70km/h down mountainsides, this happens. Also driveway injuries, who have not been able to un-clip their shoe correctly one or more times during their cycling career? 

Overuse injuries
Giving it a bit too much too early in the season, i.e. large gear, excessive hill work, too fast or too long are all factors that will enhance the probability to get injured.

If you combine overuse injuries with a new bike, that can make you tip over that egde. I'm not a dr. or a physician, so I can not say that this is the cause of the injury Taylor Phinney has. I just hope he heals up nice and fast, he's a star already but he has got many promising years ahead.

If you want to see data for overuse injuries for road cyclists you can read more here.