Friday, 5 June 2015

If you've never been a climber, can it start today?

I will admit that I have a BMI which does not match with Contador.  Not even in the same universe.  And by no means would I ever compare myself to any elite rider who can ride a bike for a living, or even race at an amateur level for that matter.  I just want to make the point that there is no way in hell that I could ever climb like a climber.  I am just under 5'10" and I carry more weight than I should - I think of myself as stout with big quads.  Therefore, my power to weight ratio is a "challenge."  Even if my legs are full of power, they are never going to be strong enough to haul this fat ass up a hill with any great speed.  On the other hand, flat roads or downhills are pretty good for me.  But if the grade goes above 3-4%, my speed drops tremendously.

I think everyone who rides wants to get better and faster if they enjoy road riding.  Whether they want their top speed on the flats to rise, their descending skills to improve, or to be able to keep up to their group on moderate climbs.  Nothing difficult comes easy, right?  I'm not scared of hard work and I realize the only way to get better at climbing is to do it, over and over.  In addition, losing a few pounds and strengthening my cardiovascular system should help right?  Here's the problem ... I really do believe that some people are just not meant to be climbers.  I have been riding a lot over the last 6 years and forever before that.  Climbing still sucks.  I love the torture of it and the challenge, but the results seem to be out of reach!

I'm at the point now where I have to do one of two things.  Either, I need to hire a coach and nutritionist to point me in a new direction (unlikely).  Or, I need to accept the fact that I'm the guy who will pull the group in the wind on the flats until the climb starts, and then fade off into the sunset as they leisurely pull away from me up the hill.  If I can at least keep a decent pace up the hill, maybe my fat ass will help me descend back close to the group before they hit the next climb.  Maybe this is a defeatist attitude, but I see no actual value in deluding myself.

I tried to lighten my bike to help with the hills.  Yeah I know ... "it will never turn you into a climber."  However, I enjoyed spending money on light weight components and making my bike look great.  At 15 lbs, it isn't the lightest, but it's pretty light.  In fact, I'm sure there are thousands of people who have done exactly the same thing as me, and have similar results.  In fact, I see every group ride why this is false hope brought on by the marketing geniuses of the bike industry.  There are riders in my group who are over 6 feet tall, weigh less than me, have bikes that are double the weight of mine (one even has a single speed bike), and they are MUCH faster climbers than I.  I also believe that they are all younger than me too, but that has nothing to do with it though, because I refuse to age.  Just ask my wife about the childish behaviors I exhibit most of the time.  

In the end, I don't take cycling too seriously.  I love riding.  I even love climbing.  But really, I love the bikes, the tech, the group riding, the gran fondos, working on my bikes, and wearing tight clothing that makes me look fast (fat?) when I'm standing still.  I also really enjoy supporting charities through cycling events that raise funds.

Just remember, if I pass you on the road with a serious look on my face, it's only because I know you will kick my ass on the next climb.

Hope everyone is having a great riding season here in the northern hemisphere.

Monday, 9 February 2015

The cycling social life

Part of what makes life interesting is sharing your experiences with those around you that can appreciate your stories.  That's why we build cultures that attract like minds.  However, it isn't always that easy, especially with new social media taking the place of actual social spots.  The pubs and social drinking holes are still busy ... because of alcohol?  But how about hobby and sports clubs that require you to actually get out of your house and drive or ride to a club or meeting place to sit around and shoot the shit about something you love.  I think it's pretty rare nowadays.  I have also seen people melding their interests with giving back.  I don't mind being a poster board for a good cause! Once again, cyclists prove to be innovative, creative, and responsible.

I am intrigued and impressed by social clubs that build the love of cycling and the outdoors in general.  A recent and great example is Rodeo Adventure Labs ( Not only do these  guys keep an active social media presence, but they have a web store for products, group rides that sound inviting, and they even design and create bikes.  Founded in 2014, this group is about racing, riding, and everything cycling.  If you know of them, you know what I'm talking about.  If you don't know of them, then you should check them out.  It is a model for the new social club. Their specially designed kits are produced by Castelli and carry with them a unique flavor of design and individuality.  The latest design came in 5 varieties to capture each rider's own flavor of riding style.  I was about one click away from ordering the "Trail Donkey" kit when my wallet guardian (ie. my wife) told me the last thing I need is a another cycling jersey (she's wrong by the way).  I would like to give these guys a huge thumbs up for doing something that is positive and creative and focused on cycling!!  Not to mention, I think their marketing genius is very apparent. They have built a brand that is awesome ... recognizable, cohesive, and fresh.

Rodeo Adventure Labs Kit 2.0

Another recent discovery of mine which merges cycling and social interaction / responsibility in a super positive way is The Rescue Project (  Namrita Kumar is a cyclist and obviously an animal lover, and she started the project in 2013.  This organization retails Castelli kits and accessories where the proceeds are sent to a local animal shelter of your choice.  The designs are done by Straydog Branding out of Vancoucer in BC - cool looking kits that deserve support.  Since I love cycling, Castelli and animals in general ... my wallet will be forced to shell out for this one when the next design comes out.  Again, a huge shout out to The Rescue Project for making a difference and doing it through something we love.

The Rescue Project
I've said from the beginning of this blog that my goal is to spew my ramblings about cycling, but ultimately, I hope to find an avenue in the world of cycling that will allow me to move from one career to the next.  The current career took a lot of schooling to get to, and hence, it is hard to walk away from to venture into the unknown.  However, the introspective me knows that the passion is still fueled by fresh air, two wheels and caffeine.  I have friends and colleagues that ride, even more than me, but they love it for the exercise more than the entire lifestyle of the bike culture.  I could sit and watch bike racing for hours after riding for hours.  I could tinker with my bikes and talk about new parts all day.  I would love nothing more than to buy a travel frame, fly to somewhere warmer and see that  new place on two wheels.

I hope everyone is having a great rides or dreaming about spring time when the roads and trails are clear depending on your location.

Monday, 26 January 2015


Watching the Tour Down Under is one of the most exciting races of the year and it keeps getting better!

One of the most compelling and obvious reasons to watch the race is because it's the first of the new season.  We get a glimpse into the new teams, kits, and riders who will be fighting it out for each squad.  Australia didn't have many of the superstars on display, but there were several key riders who look like they are going to be great this year.  Rohan Dennis looked strong and very capable for BMC, hence the first overall place.  Dumoulin looked like he is going to be a star this year.  If he gets the team support for some of the big races, he could be a fantastic all around rider.  Of course, he may be overshadowed by the sprinter Marcel Kittel who may have usurped Cavendish as the world's fastest man ... and his hair is definitely superstar quality.  Impey, Pozzovivo, and Porte looked very competitive.  The best kit award goes to ... Team Cannondale - Garmin.  They looked sharp with the green argyle and POC accessories.

Ryder - looks fast.   Source: Cannondale - Garmin website

The TDU takes place in a great location with some decent climbs and some strong winds to test the riders.  It was a fast race which made for some exciting action, and a few scabs along the way.  The television coverage was fantastic, the background information about south Australia was really well done, and the geography makes me want to visit as soon as possible. 

The Saxo Team is going to be tough this year, and it's main rival will be the Sky Team.  There are so many strong riders on these two teams.  Movistar will be good too, but I won't predict too many big wins unless there is an upset in the major tour races this year as Quintana is a climbing machine. Cannondale Garmin will look good, but not to many wins this year.  Although I do have high hopes for Talansky and Martin, and Ryder is always my favorite for his laid back attitude and nationality reasons.

I want to head down under now more than ever!  Happy Australia Day!  

Monday, 5 January 2015

Western Colorado mountain biking - blue skies and blizzards

Every other year it's the time to head to Colorado for Christmas with the in-laws.  There are a few great things about this biannual trip, primary of course is visiting family.  A close second is the nearly hundred percent chance that I will get to ride a bike outdoors for a week or so.

This year, the temperature in western Colorado was not as warm as most  years, but  it was still much warmer than in Canada.  I had to wear the full gear from gloves to tights to a skull cap, but it was still so much better than the trainer!!

My favorite shop in Grand Junction is The Bike Shop on North Ave.  The guys there are not young punks, but they are young at heart and have a ton of experience.  I usually ride on the road there because I miss the miles during the winter.  However, with it being so cold, I decided to forego the skinny tires and demo a mountain bike. 

This turned out to be a great decision for 2 reasons.  First, the temperature was cold enough that a road ride would have caused significant shrinkage due to cold ambient temperature and wind resistance.  Secondly, I demo'd a Niner Jet 9 Carbon which was surprisingly awesome.

Day1. Beautiful day, beautiful bike, smiles.

I was lucky to get a beautiful day on the Redlands, a reddish colored area of mesa type dunes covered in trails of all sorts.  I'm not a crazy downhiller or jumper or technical junky; I like to ride XC, climb, and collect views as I go.  The skies were a perfect blue and I only saw two other people on my trail that day ... very peaceful.  The second day of riding was a little different ... it started cold and cloudy, and soon became a snow storm with poor visibility. So snowy in fact, that a pair of ski goggles would have been perfect.  That said, the trail was in great shape and offered great views even in the snow storm (not so much for my camera though).

Day 2. Blizzard, smiles on the inside.

The Jet 9 was also a highlight.  After the theft of my Ibis Mojo, which I haven't been able to replace yet, it was fun to ride something new. The Jet 9 was spec'd with SRAM components, Stans NoTubes rims, and a carbon bar - a few things which I have wanted to try first hand.  I believe the handling of this 29er was superb.  Anything from switchbacks to narrow balance sections to fast downhill sweepers - it performed flawlessly.  I'm not sure how much the 29" wheels had to with it versus the frame design, etc, but it was much better than my old Mojo.  It was even the same obnoxious orange color that the old Mojo, but just a little nicer with the shiny paint appearance.

The other thing I noted about riding in Colorado, was that the locals idea of challenging for mountain bike trails is different than here in Alberta (at least where I ride).  The shop guy said "try the kids practice trail first, if that's OK then you should be good anywhere in that area."  Glad I did try that first.  The "kids" trail required balance riding on cliff edge trails, narrow rock bridges over gullies, and climbing up slick rock steps around blind corners.  At home, that would have freaked most of us out.  I belong on the road, but I still have fun scaring myself once in a while - keeps me feeling alive.

If you have a chance to ride western Colorado, stop by The Bike Shop, and see the Redlands before going to the Kokopelli trail.  Awesome times.