Advanced Skills

Local Knowledge is Indispensable

Before riding in the Tour de Wyoming last summer, I thought I knew all I needed to know about cattle guards. I grew up in Missouri, and on hunting trips out in the country around my hometown of Independence (a K.C. suburb) I had seen plenty of cattle guards at the end of long farmhouse driveways. Before that ride, I also thought I knew all I needed to know about tar snakes. I'd ridden on a few roads up in the mountains of north Georgia that feature the dreaded chip seal, which is bad enough, and asphalt roads that have some small cracks filled in with tar. I was wrong on both counts.

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On the Rivet, Part 1: Learning to Focus

When I started riding in the 1970s we all wore wool shorts and jerseys, used sew-up tires and rode on Brooks leather saddles with a rivet in the front. The term “on the rivet” comes from those days, meaning to slide forward on the saddle and to ride hard. In this new series of monthly columns I’m going to teach you the mental side of riding “on the rivet”; i.e., to be a better rider. Your best could be doing better on the course you regularly ride. Or riding 10 miles longer than you are used to riding. Or setting a personal best in a time trial. Or anything in between.

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On the Rivet II: The Importance of Progressive Relaxation

Riffing off one of Yogi Berra's famous quotes, an RBR reader wrote me with his own riding equivalent: "Cycling is 25% training, 25% planning, and 95% mental." That sounds about right to me. We often overlook the importance of the mental side of cycling. Today, we'll talk about why learning to focus and relax is useful for roadies. And I'll teach you how to use progressive relaxation to manage your emotions for optimal performance.

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On the Rivet III: Keep Falling! Keep Getting Up!

I'm writing this column on January 1. Today, my wife and I went skiing — my 26th day this season — to build fitness to enjoy our upcoming XC skiing holiday. I’d fallen hard several times today, and I’d interpreted that to mean I’m a bad skier. I remembered what Davis Phinney had told my friend, Pat, when he was teaching her how to descend on cross-country skis. “If you aren’t falling, you aren’t trying!” Are you making any New Year’s resolutions? Here’s mine: I’m going to keep falling! The only way I can continue to grow as an athlete is to keep trying … and failing … and trying … and failing.

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On the Rivet IV: Improving Performance Through Positive Thinking

What you think influences how you feel, and how you feel affects your performance. For example, on my trainer I can put out about 5% more power if I’m thinking, “I feel strong and I can nail these intervals” than if I think, “This is really going to hurt”! Further, I’ll put out more power if I get on the trainer and really focus on my intervals than if I’m thinking about something else, letting my mind wander. Psychologists call this the Arousal Curve. As a rider gets more focused and excited, his/her performance improves until the rider gets too nervous, and then performance declines.

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Riding the Katy Trail: Tips for a Great Tour

As summer ended and fall was upon us, it was time to dust off the cross bike and hit the trail. This fall my riding companion and I looked for a new adventure within a day's drive of Chicago and decided on the Katy Trail in Missouri. The Katy is the longest developed rails-to-trails path in the country, and the surrounding area is rich in history and natural beauty. What follows is a recap of our ride, along with numerous tips and suggestions should you decide to ride the Katy yourself. 

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Learn How to Panic Stop

Being able to stop suddenly in a short distance can get you out of big trouble. Think about those times on a ride when you are happily pedaling along and need to "stop on a dime." It could be that a car suddenly pulls out in front of you off a side street. Or comes around you and cuts you off. Or a rider in front of you approaches what seems like a clear intersection and then yells out: "Car right." If you're not able to safely stop almost immediately, things can get very bad very fast.

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Tour de Wyoming Holds Lessons for All

I've done week-long tours before (including the TdW two years ago), but last week's Tour de Wyoming was different in a fundamental and important way. And because of that, the feedback and lessons I have to share with you today are a mix of universal lessons that apply to all of us and specific lessons about taking on a big event coming back from an injury. As most regular RBR readers know, I badly fractured my clavicle in a crash mid-April, had surgery to repair the fracture in late April and have been recovering since.

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On Tour, Part 1: Riding Like the Pros

Rather than driving the 167 miles from our home in Boulder to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, last weekend, I decided to drive out of the congestion of the Denver metro area and then load up my bike and ride the rest of the way. My credit card tour isn’t nearly as long as even a Tour de France stage — 100 miles over two days — and I’m much slower than the pros, but the same principles of riding the multi-day Tour apply to my mini-tour – and to any back-to-back days of riding.

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How Can I Avoid Exhaustion on a Hard, Hot Ride?

I've ridden Colorado's Triple Bypass several times and churned up and down the Pyrenees and Alps. But last August in the Raid Pyrenees (28 passes in 10 days) I had to stop due to severe exhaustion – a combination of 112F-degree (44C) heat, dehydration, overtraining and apparently a mild bug picked up on the airplane. What a surprise and disappointment. I want to return this year. Can you help me avoid these problems?

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