Wells Ave racing starts in one week

The Boston Road Club’s Wells Ave training race series has been going on since 1981 (30 years! wow!). It’s a criterium race series that is geared to help new racers get into the sport and seasoned racers sharpen up for the season. And to stay sharp – the series continues every Sunday through the season into September.

Races are broken out into different categories, competing along a 0.8 mile circuit in Newton with wide corners. “D” racers (juniors and women) go first at 8:30AM, followed by “C” racers (novices) at 9:00AM. Each of these races is 12 miles long, or 15 laps.

At 9:45AM and 10:45AM, the “B” and “A” racers compete in 24-mile and 32-mile races, respectively. These races are for more serious and seasoned racers, and you’ll even see local pros in the “A” race from time to time, sharpening up their skills.

Racing is a great workout. You’ll likely never push yourself as hard as when you’re competing – even if you have no chance of winning. And even if you drop off the back, racing can be a great incentive for workouts. After all, you can come back the next Sunday and test yourself again for improvement.

The 2011 season starts on Sunday, March 13th. Check out the full details on the Boston Road Club website page on Wells Ave Racing.

Photo credit: thisisforever

Crack o’ Dawn riders not flustered by tough winter

Not so long ago, I posted with admiration for many downtown Boston riders (and riders all over Massachusetts) who brave it out through the winter. Especially a tough winter like this year.

Check out this report from WCVB-TV (a 1:48 video clip) on the Crack o’ Dawn riders – up and out at 5:45 AM all winter, logging 500 miles per month. Wow. That’s great. And they’re also supporting the Pan Mass Challenge.

That sort of extreme training is not necessary to make it through the PMC, but it’s great to see that these riders are out on the road, undeterred by winter weather. At one point in the interview, Bruce Kalow says that he’s ridden in temps as cold as “minus 3.” Brrrrr…

You can find more info on the Crack O’ Dawn riders at their official website.

Different Lenses for Different Riding Conditions

Looking good is important in road cycling. Style matters; that’s part of the fun. Functionality is important, too, though and that’s where you’ve got to consider lens choice carefully for your rides.

On a bright sunny summer day when the daylight is almost endless, you can just throw on a pair of standard dark shades and be off. But, if the weather or lighting is going to change, you may want to consider a couple of other good choices.

Amber lenses can greatly improve contrast on cloudy days or if you’re going to be riding into the twilight. Amber lenses are also particularly good on winter days where the bright sun is reflecting off of white snow all over the ground. Again, the contrast provides a much sharper and clearer view of everything.

Sometimes the light is such that no protection from bright lights or additional contrast is needed to see clearly. There’s a good choice for those rides too – clear lenses. Clear lenses protect your eyes from the wind and any other debris that may fly up into your eyes on a ride – sand, rocks, etc. Protecting your eyes while riding is important, to avoid damaging your eyes directly, and also to avoiding a crash if you should get some sort of debris in your eye that hinders your vision while riding.

Photo Credit: Dan Quieroz

February Sunday Rides

Looking for some Sunday rides this month? Well, the Charles River Wheelmen have one for every Sunday of the month, including Valentine’s Day.

Holliston, MA on Sunday, February 7th
Lincoln, MA on Sunday, February 14th
Framingham, MA on Sunday, February 21st
Acton, MA on Sunday, Febrary 28th

So, if you’re looking for some fun winter outings, you won’t have to ride alone. Get all the details at the CRW web site.

Photo Credit: Nadya Peek

Winter Bike Maintenance

Rusty bikeA little extra attention is needed for bike maintenance in winter time when riding outside. The Boston area conditions can be nasty to delicate bike parts. I recently came across a great blog post at bostonbiker.org that details pretty thoroughly many issues related to winter bike maintenance, along with providing specific recommendations for the perfect winter bike setup – a fixed gear aluminum bike with full fenders and a sealed bottom bracket and only a front brake. Read the article and find out why.

Photo Credit: Rowan of Ravara

Finding The Right Balance With Rollers

Balance Riding the rollers can help with winter training doldrums. A little more lively than the trainer, they give you much more of a real road feel. Riding the rollers also requires a bit more concentration which can help to keep you mentally engaged during a workout.

Beyond providing a little mental balance, you can get in some effective cardio workouts on the rollers without straining your legs. You can ride intervals, working up to tempo or threshold zones, and really get a great aerobic workout. But, since there isn’t much resistance on the rollers, your legs won’t be required to generate a lot of watts. That can be really great this time of year when your legs really aren’t ready for a lot of strength training yet.

So, dust off those rollers to achieve a little balance – mental and physical – this winter.

Photo Credit: SeeMidTN.com

Harpoon Indoor Time Trial

Cycling and beer go well together. Nobody seems to know that better than the folks at Harpoon Brewery in Boston. The Harpoon Indoor Time Trial takes place two weeks from Saturday, providing a great mid-winter goal for many competitive cyclists and recreational riders alike.

Though I’m not a competitive racer, I raced in the first Harpoon ITT last year. The event provided great motivation for off-season training and provided a good mid-winter personal training assessment and baseline.

It was a lot of fun too. The folks at Harpoon did a great job with all the logistics, from sign-up to warm up to the racing action. Fast Splits provided two 8-unit banks of Computrainers so 16 racers were able to compete in each heat. Real-time action was projected onto two large screens overhead. A DJ kept music pumping while a live announcer shouted play-by-play and encouragement for all the racers. It was a really great, fun scene, all taking place right in the middle of the brewery.

The brewery also has a working bar, and there’s nothing better than a cold, fresh beer after an intense ride. Two free beers were included with each race registration.

This year the event is taking place on a Saturday instead of a Sunday, and the schedule is shifted to run from the afternoon into the evening. This format should make it even better. They’ve also organized the heats a little differently in order to group the most competitive pro, collegiate, and club teams together.

Find out the rest of the details by checking out the event web page here. Also check out my post on last year’s event, which includes a photo from the race floor.

Photo Credit: bdjsb7

Essential Equipment: The Base Layer

The base layer is essential. Something like this little number from Pearl Izumi works well in the winter. It will help keep your core warm by trapping heat and wicking moisture away from your skin. It’s the first thing you put on (after your heart rate monitor) and it should fit snugly. From there you can put on your additional layers – maybe a long-sleeve jersey and a soft-shell jacket, depending on the weather conditions.

Choosing the right options for the specific weather conditions of the day is a bit of art and science, and can only be fine-tuned through personal experience. It takes time to develop, so pay careful attention to what your wearing, how your feeling, and the precise weather conditions of your rides. Always dress in layers so that you have some flexibility to adjust out on the road, and pay attention to how those adjustments work for you.

You want to be a bit cold when you start your ride as you’ll warm up soon after you start pedaling. If you can stand outside for 10 minutes without riding and you’re still nice and warm, you’re overdressed and you’ll be uncomfortable out on the road (sweaty, then freezing as you remove layers).

If you pay attention and experiment with different options you’ll develop your own personal strategies to help make your rides more comfortable in a wide variety of conditions. A couple of options that work well for me are my cycling vest and arm warmers. I find these little additions can really help on colder days – the vest because it blocks the wind and the arm warmers because they fit tighter than a long-sleeve jersey. The one item that is included for every ride, however, is the base layer.

Of course, I’ve only talked about the core here. There are many more items to consider for cold weather rides (gloves, head gear, tights, shoe covers, etc.), but I’ll leave those for a future post.

A Little Winter Riding Inspiration from Minneapolis

For a little more inspiration on winter riding, check out this blog post from a Minneapolis rider who’s been doing it for 20 years. There aren’t any Nor’ Easters out that way, but they surely get their share of cold and white winters.

If you watch the video, you’ll see that much of the commute is on cleared bike paths, which we are fortunate to have in the Boston area. However, if you’ve ever ridden along the Charles you’ll notice the absence of tree root bumps every 30 feet.

Liven up your commute this winter and travel by bike occasionally. You’ll surely be invigorated when you arrive at the office, and spring weather will seem that much warmer.

Spice Up Winter Training: Ride Outside

Getting outside on the road in the winter can be a refreshing break from basement workouts and indoor cycling classes. While there are many virtues of indoor training, cycling was meant for the open road. And, you’ll burn more calories in the cold weather, improve your handling skills on sloppy roads, and gain some bragging rights.

If you’re interested to try some outdoor winter riding but not ready to go it alone, find a group to ride. Many groups shut down for the winter, but there are several groups that ride all year round.

The Charles River Wheelmen (CRW) are have a busy calendar of rides planned for January. Yesterday offered the traditional New Year’s Day ride in downtown Boston. Each Sunday has rides in a variety of locales across the state – Concord, Wellesley, Brookline, Quincy, and Natick.

Dress warm. Dress in layers. Get some booties, long-finger gloves, and a skull cap. Then, get out on the road.

Photo Credit: k.steudel