Even a carefully built-up running program can leave you with sore legs. A soothing antidote is The Stick, a self-massage device consisting of a flexible rod with handgrips on each end and rolling cylinders in the middle. Designed to promote healthy muscle tissue, it can work virtually all parts of your body, from quads to calves, hips to back, neck to forearms. Tired cycling muscles seem to like it, too. Available in various lengths/flexibility, including: 17 inches ($26), 20 inches ($30) and 24 inches ($40), RPI, 800/554-1501 (GA); www.thestick.com
Blisters are to running as saddle sores are to Cycling. Fortunately they’re treatable, if supremely annoying. Many of our running friends are becoming partial to Bodyglide. Made from plant waxes, it’s a natural lubricant that protects skin against irritation. It’s easy to apply (tike a roll-on deodorant), water- and sweat-proof, hypoallergenic and petroleum-free (which makes it good for use with wetsuits, too.) It also goes on cleanly and has no odor. Bodyglide costs $6 for a half-ounce container. Sternoff, 888/263-9454 (WA).
Your feet carry a heavy load – namely you. Superfeet footbeds are designed to improve comfort and support by cradling your feet in specially shaped liners that fit in running shoes. (They also offer footbeds for cycling shoes.) Features include rear and mid-foot control points, a support bridge and shock absorption. Cost: $29 per pair. They’re a good alternative for those who can’t afford custom orthotics, which can cost more than $200. Superfeet, 800/6346618 (WA); www.superfeet.com
HELPS YOUR CYCLING BY:
* Giving you a great workout in a short time
* Keeping you lean while traveling
* Offering a low-tech fitness alternative
Get stronger and faster by cycling against the clock
Of course, the best part about doing a multisport event is the bike leg, where you get to pass all those people whose strengths lie elsewhere (like on the run, where they’ll pass you). Time trialing develops your power, serves as a great gauge of your fitness and presents a perfect way to feed your competitive urges without fear of group carnage.
Both an art and a science, time trialing demands special equipment, training and bike setup. John Howard whose resume includes multiple national cycling championships and a world land-speed record knows a thing or three about this craft. (For details on his Cycling School of Champions, call 760/944-3787; CA.) Howards’s advice:
Get down, get aero. If the budget’s tight, adjust your road bike for time trialing by installing a bolt-on aero bar and moving your saddle forward (about 1 inch to start), tilting it a couple of degrees below level. The goal is a flat back and bent elbows. If you can afford it, get a time-trial bike with an aero bar and a steep seat angle (75 to 78 degrees, versus the traditional 73 degrees) for increased power and better aerodynamics. To save time and avoid hassles in the long run, consider buying an extra seatpost and saddle, adjusting them for your time-trialing position, then swapping them with your standard post and seat for TTs and triathlons. (For more on aero bikes and positioning, see “The Need for Speed,” August.)
Make time for trials. If a local club stages mid-week time trials, get your butt out there every other week. Or do solo efforts against the clock of, say, five miles. Pick a course that’s safe, flat (so you can concentrate on all-out speed rather than climbing and descending) and out-and-back (to get used to riding with a headwind and tailwind).
Spin your own spin. Gear selection is an individual choice, but Howard says it should yield a cadence of 80 to 100 rpm. To determine your optimum cadence, do a series of practice time trials using different gearing in each. Track your time and heart rate to find what gears work best.
Jam for the fitness. Intervals provide some of the best training. Howard recommends two or three two-minute jams at about 10% below your anaerobic threshold with about one minute rest in between. Do these twice a week, outdoors or on an indoor trainer.
Take a long ride home. Combine intervals with one weekend day of steady, long-distance (longer than your race) riding of three to four hours. On the other weekend day, do a brick workout (which is triathlon-speak for combining sports).
For instance, ride a few miles, run a 1/4-mile, and repeat. This accustoms your body to switching muscle groups. Reserve other days for recovery cycling (and hard efforts in other sports).
Syntace C2 Streamliner
Forget space-age frame materials and exotic wheels. The best, most cost-effective way to cut drag is with an aero bar. We’ve used Syntace’s C2 Streamliner in TTs and triathlons and found it stiff, easy to install, comfortable and simple to adjust for optimum aerodynamics, The $109 bar weighs just 460 grams (small). Available in three lengths with easy-to-adjust padded armrests. Syntace, 800/796-8223 (CA); www.syntace.com
Profile Fast Forward Seatpost
It looks like the result of a nasty wreck, but the Fast Forward post is supposed to be bent like that. This roughly 270-gram, $70 forward-bend seatpost moves you up to 40 mm ahead for increased power and greater comfort while on your aero bar. It’s a good solution if you can’t afford a dedicated tribike with steep seat angle. The 6061 aluminum post comes in 273-mm length and in three diameters: 26.8, 27 and 27.2 mm. Profile, 800/852-5952 (IL); www.profileinc.com
Why not use a regular waterbottle? Two reasons: 1) The bottle itself, mounted on your down- or seat tube, disrupts that aero profile you’ve so carefully cultivated; and 2) Reaching down to grab said bottle and tilting your head back to drink further shreds your wind-cutting position. Not only is the Nxt bottle aerodynamically shaped, but it mounts on your aero bar so you can sip from your tuck (through the straw). For events with long bike legs, stow a conventional bottle out of the wind in a behind-the-saddle cage and use it to refill the Nxt through its large, spill-proof opening. The Nxt holds 28 ounces and costs $23. Distributed by Syntace, 800/796-8223 (CA); www.syntace.com
More Cycling-Friendly Sports
Not satisfied with just swimming and running? Try one of these sports that stoke your cycling power plant.
SNOWSHOEING ON SNOW OR SAND
WHY: Nothing raises your heart rate faster than walking or running through deep snow or sand with your feet suddenly twice their normal size. Plus it’s one of the least gear-intensive winter activities you can do, besides sipping a hot toddy by the fire.
HOW: Snowshoeing, unlike skiing or snowboarding, is surprisingly easy to learn. If you can walk, you can snowshoe. And with modern, lightweight snowshoes, which have a narrower profile than their predecessors, you don’t have to duck-waddle like the old-time voyageurs. Walk for a moderate workout, run for a lungbuster.
According to Skip Hamilton, a cycling coach and BICYCLING Pro Advisory Team member, even riders with bad knees that preclude running on pavement can safely run on snowshoes because of their cushioning effect. He also suggests using poles when snowshoeing, because they’ll increase upper body involvement and thus the aerobic benefit.
No snow in your neighborhood? No problem – snowshoeing on sand is a great alternative. We’ve even heard of some races on sand dunes.
GEAR: Lightweight snowshoes and bindings cost $200 to $300 but last for years. Wear running shoes or light hiking boots, cycling tights and jacket, tote a hydration pack and you’re all set. In high mountains, brush up on survival skills and avalanche awareness.
WHY: Mountain bike racer Bob Roll lives to hike when the aspen leaves start turning. “It calms my mind,” he says. “It helps me stay interested in cycling because it’s good not to be on the bike all the time.”
HOW: Roll suggests beginning with an easy stroll of no more than an hour. “Your leg muscles are used to riding a bike, not going up and down on steep trails,” he points out, Too much hiking too soon can give even the most fit cyclist sore legs and feet. Roll carries a pair of running shoes in his pack for a mid-walk change in case his hiking boots rub blisters. U.S. Postal Service team pro Tyler Hamilton agrees: “Hiking is a great activity that increases your power and threshold levels. Go hard on the way up the mountain but take it easy on the way down. Downhills are dangerous for the knees.”
Autumn is also hunting season in many states. Roll wears an orange hat, vest and pack cover. “I know where the hunters go, so I avoid those trails. In Colorado, most hunters aren’t here to hunt, they’re here to party. Once you get off the beaten track, they thin out quick,” he says.
GEAR: Bare minimum? lightweight hiking boots ($60 to $120) or trail running shoes ($75 to $110), loose shorts or tights, a T-shirt made of a moisture-wicking technical fabric and a light jacket. Add a fanny pack to carry water bottle and a few sundries. Backpacker magazine (www.backpacker.com) is a good starting place. Try their GearFinder, too (www.gearfinder.com).
WHY: Great aerobic demands and a super upper-body workout are what you get when you cross-country ski, using techniques called the skating method or the diagonal stride. (Incidentally, for the powder-deprived, inline skating offers similar benefits, and you can even use poles for variety.)
HOW: It’s best to get instruction so you develop a smooth skate-skiing stroke early. In this sport, technique is everything. “Cyclists have gravitated towards skate skiing because it’s easier to learn and you can muscle the skis more than in classic technique,” says Connie Carpenter-Phinney, ’84 Olympic road race gold medalist and member of the BICYCLING Pro Advisory Team.
Adds Bob Roll: “Skate-skiing is best for mountain bike riders because it teaches balance and develops power and aerobic conditioning. I did a lot last winter and felt stronger on the bike in the spring. Classic or diagonal stride cross-country skiing is better for road riders.” The heart rate doesn’t get quite as high because there’s less upper-body muscle involvement. Be sure to ski without poles occasionally to reduce the upperbody bulk you put on.
Which technique is best for you? Carpenter-Phinney’s husband Davis Phinney, a retired pro cyclist, does 50% skating and 50% classical technique, but considers the classical technique to be a better all-body aerobic workout because it stresses more than just the quad muscles in your legs (which means you can exercise that way more often).
GEAR: Expect to spend about $500 to $600 for top-of-the-line cross-country gear. Many cyclists ski in their cold-weather cycling clothes.
WHY: Letting gravity do the work doesn’t sound like a workout, but there’s at least one good reason to ride the chair lift – hitting the slippery slope can make you a demon descender when you get back on the bike. Just ask Davis Phinney, two-time Tour de France stage winner and BICYCLING Pro Advisory Team member.
“I spent an off-season becoming a downhill ski instructor, working on alpine skiing skills to improve my descending and cornering on the bike. Figuring our how to weight and unweight skis translates directly to turning the bike.” A hard downhill run in the bumps, on skis or a board, is a killer quad workout, too.
HOW: If you’re a novice, get instruction, period. Nothing will cement bad habits (or nagging joint and bone injuries) faster than going out on your own and trying to teach yourself. Fortunately, once you know the basics, you don’t even need a ski area with its astronomical ticket prices and lift-line waits. Hit the backcountry instead, getting an aerobic workout on the way up, a quad workout and cornering practice on the way down.
Roll, who’s blessed with hundreds of square miles of backcountry terrain near his house, says, “Snowshoeing up and boarding down is a more specific cycling workout than just snowshoeing through the woods. You need a really steep slope to make snowboarding fun, and packing down a track to the top takes some real work.”
GEAR: Going downhill on snow is an expensive sport. Figure up to a grand for skis or board, boots and bindings (and poles if you’re skiing). Then there’s the style issue – all the duds can set you back another $ 500. Get fitted at a pro shop for best results, but don’t overlook secondhand sporting goods stores.
BUT WAIT-THAT’S NOT ALL…
ALL-TERRAIN SKATEBOARDING. Big-wheeled and clunky-looking, all-terrain boards are the offspring of a skateboard and a monster truck. Ski resorts are even luring skaters to the slopes where they can try their mettle and, like any decent sport, risk huge amounts of epidermis in the process. All-terrain boards cost about $500.
BASKETBALL. Finally something that lets mountain biking off the hook: Pick-up hoops was called the most abusive thing you can do to your body by Men’s Health magazine. For cyclists it builds eye-hand coordination to improve technical riding skills, while the jumping and direction changes enhance leg power. So go ahead, perfect that spin move. You already know you could whup Michael Jordan on a climb…
TABLE TENNIS. Another eye-hand coordination sport that’s surprisingly aerobic once you have the skills to keep volleys going. BICYCLING’s tech editor Jim Langley is an accomplished tournament player.
HANDBALL, RACQUETBALL, SQUASH. Speed, aggression and competitiveness distinguish these balls-off-the-walls sports from their wimpier brother, tennis. That is, if you can tolerate smelling someone else’s sweat in a small windowless room all winter.
FLY FISHING. No known (verifiable) physical benefits, but rambling along a stream and flicking a fly into pockets of still water is one of the most relaxing activities you’ll find on Earth. Many pro mountain bike racers pack a rod in the car and on those endless drives to the next race they stop at likely looking water for some R&R. Try fishing in the winter if the stream’s unfrozen. It’s a good match: semi-dormant trout and hibernating cyclists.